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Friday, November 11, 2016

WHAT WE DO IN LIFE, ECHOES IN ETERNITY ... OR NOT.



Life is so short. We live and then we die. On your tombstone there will be a date, a dash, and then another date, chiseled into it. 

Typically, what transpires during the dash is what will be remembered of your life. I’m reminded of what Maximus Decimus Meridius said, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity” ... or it won’t.

My greatest fear is being 85 years old, body aged, strength diminished, unable to reach for words and thoughts like I one time could, yet know I didn’t accomplish what God had called me to accomplish. Me having regrets when my family starts contemplating the date that will be chiseled on the right side of my dash is my worst fear. What will I leave behind? Will my life matter? Will my children be affected positively or negatively?

We all leave something behind, whether it’s good or bad. Eventually, you will fade from the memory of those that come after you. I don’t even know my great grand parents' names; I can tell you very little about my ancestors. Although they are nameless to me, I am aware that they have influenced my life; I just don’t know how. Did their influence affect my work ethic, faith in God, musical inclination, and/or my desire to see the world changed for the better? Or did they pass their depression, anxieties, doubts and fears to me? Was it a combination of all of the above?  I guess eternity will tell.

I can’t do a single thing about what was passed to me from my forefathers, but I can do something about what I pass on to my children. I can do something about influencing my generation. The world may never know my name, my city may not know my name, but it must feel the effects of the dash that will remain chiseled into my cold, granite, head stone for the next 200 years.

How about you? Do you want to leave something behind that brings beauty and strength to your family and community? Do you want great grand children that change the world partly because of something awesome you passed down to them? Do you, like myself, desire to break dangerous generational cycles you were thrust into? You can, but you’ll have to make some changes.

Let me submit three things you can start doing immediately!

1. DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST

The Bible says:

Php 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

That’s a powerful verse, but what do the words "through Christ" really mean?

Sunday afternoon, around 2:35 pm, I’m going to walk to the pulpit and preach. But right before I do, I’ll grab my microphone. Once I have turned it on, I will lift it to my mouth and begin speaking and I won’t set it down until I’m finished. The invention of the microphone and amplifier was God’s gift to preachers and singers!

First, it allows me to achieve what would be my natural voice’s peak volume without having to actually exert the energy and force required to achieve it. I may be whispering, but the people in the back of the room can still hear me.   

Next, it allows me to project my voice much farther and louder than I would ever be able to attain in my own ability. 

“Hey, Brother Sound Man, give me some monitor, please! A little more?” 

Preaching through the microphone multiplies the power of my voice exponentially. I like that!   

Let’s apply this same principle to us living our lives through Christ. Living our lives through Christ should empower us. It should enable us to do easily what we could never do in our own strength. Living the Christ-life should simplify things. The Christ-life brings peace, joy and victory. We are able to throw all of our worries and doubts upon His all powerful shoulders and be free from their heavy burden (1Pe 5:7). In a very similar way that speaking into a microphone (connected to an amplifier) makes the natural voice hundreds of times more powerful, living through Christ will allow you to go far beyond your own strength and ability!

Many of you are weak because you won’t live through Jesus!

He asks us to step out, to try, to serve, and to do what is right. He also knows that our voices (our attempts) will fall far short of those things He has asked us to do. Here’s the beautiful thing, Jesus isn’t a microphone and amplifier. He doesn’t just take our strength and make it greater, He adds His voice, His strength to ours. Trust me ... that’s much better! His power is unlimited. We are connected to Him, working with Him. We are powerful through Him. He demonstrates His power through us! We are, in fact, His microphone! We are a duet! Chew on that for a while!

Some of you are drowning. Life is choking you out. A strained marriage. Unruly children. Work. Financial stress. Sickness. Depression. Anxiety. You are running out of steam.

YOU NEED TO STOP!

YOU MUST START LIVING THROUGH CHRIST! You have to walk close to Him. Set aside some time every day to pray and read the Word of God. Meditate upon Him daily. Go to church faithfully. Fill yourself up with God and those things that are connected to Him. Exercise faith in Jesus. Let go and let God. Your countenance will change. You will be happier. You will be holier. You will be more joyful. It will impact everyone in your life. The light that will shine through you will infect others and they will find hope in your new found life!

AND YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO LET JESUS FIGHT YOUR BATTLES!
Take a pen and piece of paper. Make three categories consisting of the following: 1) Everything that is robbing you of your peace; 2) Everything that you can fix; and 3) Everything you cannot fix. Next, draw a line through the section of things you can’t fix. Give those to God; let Him deal with those. Then get busy fixing the things that you can!

You have to live your life through Christ or you will remain miserable!

I’m reminded of the young man and his first week working at a lumber mill. The first couple of days he was cutting down more trees than anyone there. By Wednesday he was struggling to keep up. By Friday he didn’t even take a break. He chopped trees for nine straight hours, but was far behind the expected quota. When he went in after work Friday, his boss handed him a check and told him he was fired. The young man said he didn’t understand. He had cut down more trees than anyone on Monday, but by Friday he couldn’t keep up no matter how hard he tried. His boss realized the problem.

“Son, did you sharpen your axe each day?”

He had not. He was too busy chopping trees to sharpen his axe. So ... He was chopping down trees with a dull axe.

I fear that many of you are chopping at trees with a dull axe; trying to live life with a dull axe. It’s nearly impossible. Things you used to do easily, things you used to overcome easily, are now getting the best of you! IT’S TIME TO GO TO GOD AND SHARPEN YOUR AXE! Take time to talk to God, to get things right with Him. Teach your children how to sharpen their axes. Sharpen your axes together. Pass it on. It’ll make a difference.

2) QUIT GIVING PEOPLE POWER OVER YOU

The power we give people over us is quite astonishing. We change our behavior and ways of reasoning because we fear what someone will think about us. We make decisions based on who will still “like” us afterwards; on who will still be our friend. We allow people to become chains that enslave us, hindering us, restricting us from reaching our destiny. Love people. Help them as often as you can. Be courteous. Be respectful. Be considerate. But stop letting them dictate your life. Your life is YOUR life. Do what God has called YOU to do. Be what God has called you to be. Anyone that would hinder that probably needs to be cut out of your life.

God has called me to spread light; to help and strengthen. I’ve spent a lot of time tearing things (and people) down. Oh, I did it all in the name of righteous indignation and holiness, but it was not righteous or holy, only indignant. I was mean. I was harsh. I was destructive. And unfortunately, I’ve discovered that the ministerial ranks are full of men that are mean, harsh, and spiritually destructive. I have also discovered that they can’t relate to kindness, mercy and patience. You ought to see them try to work through Paul's teachings in 2Timothy:

2Ti 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

"Whaaat? God doesn't think it's awesome when I put a spiritual beat down on the wicked? And make fun of them? And mock them? You mean I have to be gentle and patient with everybody? I don't know about that! That's Charismaniacal!" 

No, Pastor. It actually means what it says. You need to be gentle, patient and meek with EVERYONE, even those that disagree with you. It's hard, but you can do it!

.... And what’s really sad is I find myself wondering what guys like that will think if I show mercy to someone they feel is past mercy. I'm awesome like that! 

Should I take up for the weak and abused at the risk of having some spiritual war lord get angry at me? Should I speak up for the weak when I see them being manipulated by dictators even though I may become the target of said dictator? Quick! Somebody call the Wambulance!

The answer is YES. YES. YES. YES. I should do what is right and good no matter who likes it or not. I must be free to be everything God has called me to be. I can’t be a light thrower if I’m always concerned about what shade throwers are thinking.

You can’t go to the next level if you’re not willing to leave the level you’re at. You will also have to be willing to accept that there will be those that won’t go higher with you. It’s painful, but necessary. You will have to go on anyway, but don’t fret, you’ll find better friends at the top. You’ll find more fulfilling relationships once you get where you’re going. You will find friends that will help you do what you were called to do.

3) MAKE UP YOUR MIND AND THEN STICK TO IT

This won’t be easy. It won’t happen over night. You’re going to have to change the way you think. You will need to challenge yourself every day to think right thoughts. Refuse to allow your mind to dwell in darkness. Pray when you feel like it and pray when you don’t. Consume some Word every single day! Make up your mind that you will be what God has called you to be. You can do this!

Envision what you want your life, family, career, and marriage to look like in ten years (fifty years). Now ... map that out. Where you are now is Point A; where you are going is Point B. That is your vision. Next, map out smaller steps, set smaller goals, that will take you from Point A to Point B. Celebrate every mile marker. When you experience a setback, remember that there are more miles behind you than are in front of you. Get up. March on. 

Don't just go through the motions. Start a Bible study at your home. Go back to school. Take a night class. Read a book. Take an online course. Volunteer at a food bank or homeless shelter. Start a blog. Learn to sew. Start a podcast. Do something with your life. Thrive!

Be the father/mother you know you can be. Study what the Bible says about a godly home and then pursue it. Read some books on marriage and child rearing. Learn! Learn! Learn! Leaders are learners. A good leader is a reader. 

Lose weight. Eat healthier. Start walking. Join the gym. Drink more water.

YOU DON'T GO TO BED A BLUNDER AND WAKE UP A WONDER!

Change your life, in Jesus’ name! And work on those changes every day! It’s a slow, but absolutely certain process!

Don’t let life be a long series of waking up and going to sleep with nothing worthwhile happening in-between.

Don’t let your dash represent a life of nothing. 

LET WHAT YOU DO IN LIFE ECHO IN ETERNITY!

Peace. Love. Hope.   



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