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Turning 50; worse than the alternative?

So I have noticed something about birthdays…if you live long enough, another one comes your way! (It only took me 5 decades to figure this simple fact out.)  Surprisingly, people, as we approach 25 or so seem to want to deny their age. I, could, for example simply deny being 50. I might say “I am 18 with 32 years of experience.”  Of course, that doesn’t change the fact. 🙂

My favorite way people use to cope with another birthday is to say “Well, it’s better than the alternative.” This is a clear indication that the alternative is death! I might even agree with this if death were, indeed, the alternative. However, when one thinks about it, what is the alternative? Life here is good. But the alternative?

For the Christian, one who follows God faithfully, the alternative is eternal life. So, is living worse than the alternative?

This was the dilemma that Paul found himself in when he wrote to the Philippians while he was in jail waiting to see if he would be executed.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. (Php 1:21-24)

Faced with an uncertain future, Paul was torn between his desire to depart this world and be with Christ (“which is far better”) and the desire to stay in this world to help encourage those in Philippi (‘which is more needful for you”).

The clear lesson to be learned is that there is work to do in this life. However, this life is not the best we will have. When we act, say, or think that dying is not preferable to living we miss the whole point of being in Christ!

One of the things we say is, we want to go to heaven but not today. We have more life to live. One friend (many years ago) said “The Lord can return but I hope he waits until after I get married.” Marriage is an honorable institution but really, are the joys of being married to be compared to being in Heaven?

In many ways, we are this short-sighted. We are told to set goals and most of the time, those goals are earth bound: Job, marriage, possessions, travel, etc. We want to go to Heaven but how much of a goal do we make of going to Heaven?  Three things should be on our mind in relationship to going to Heaven.

  1. Make sure we get there-Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Are you seeking God’s ways or your own pleasures? If you are poor in this life, you will still be rich in the life to come. You may, or may not, be poor but let God bless you in ways He knows you can handle and be content on your journey.
  2. Make sure others get there-Not all of us are preachers and teachers but we can  till the soil for the evangelist through hospitality and by letting our light shine in the way we live our life.  We can also support the preaching of the Gospel. If you were to send $20 a week to someone who preaches the Gospel, it may not be a lot but when coupled with 10 others, it would have an impact.
  3. Long to get to Heaven. Develop the desire that Heaven is where you want to be and the sooner you can get there, the better! Live like you are going to Heaven at any moment. Be like Fred Flintstone (who, while working hard) waited for that quitting time whistle so he could head home. This longing will help you to refrain from doing some things in life that you might otherwise engage in while thinking, “I can repent later”. It will allow you to tell Satan to take a hike when he whispers how much more fun his way is than God’s.

There are other things to keep in mind, of course, but mostly we need to learn to think, eat, drink, and sleep going to Heaven.

So the next time someone says “I woke up today, I guess that is better than the alternative”, you might ask them if they are sure about that! (and if they are…tell them about Christ!)

Photo Credit: takomabibelot

Seek ye first…

As is the case with verses memorized when I was a child, I can’t seem to get rid of the “Ye”. But included or not, one of my most favorite verses is Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

We really like the promise of this verse; that all these things will be added to us. We love that God will take care of us and we love that he will provide for us the things we need. In the context, it is clear that he is discussing food and clothing and yet, we can easily expand it beyond food and clothing when we read “Are you not of much more value” than the birds and lilies.

We take great comfort and rest in the idea that God will just do what we need. We seem to forget something too. That all of those people in the world, you know, the ones who are NOT seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness…they also are getting food and clothing.

Mat 5:45    For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

So it isn’t like we are getting special treatment in the food and clothing area, is it?

No. What makes the difference and what makes us different is that we follow after God. Jesus said to “Seek”. This is a word that we do not use often today and which most people would equate with “look for” but I would like to suggest that it should be “diligently look for”. There is an effort and urgency in the word “seek” There are also two things we are supposed to seek.

1)His kingdom (or His rule). that is, the way he wants things done, a place where His laws stand and are followed.  2) His righteousness, that character or quality that is His of being right or just.

No matter how you slice it, you will soon discover that this means we look to follow God and we look to become like God. It doesn’t happen overnight but that is what we should put our efforts into. You will also note that “first” means before all other things.

Too many Christians are focused on the food, clothing and temporary things. They are focused on the education and the degrees they can get. Our highest calling is to serve God and further His kingdom. If we can do that and get a degree then ok, but God comes first. If we can do that and accumulate wealth, great, but God comes first.

If you do not know what to do, it is a good sign that you are not reading enough of the Scriptures because the Scriptures can equip a godly man/woman to be prepared for every good work. 2 Tim 3:15-16

Seek more, trust more. Read more, Do more.

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