Archive for the 'Purpose' Category

A New Year’s Resolution

new year

I’ve been thinking about the one thing I would tell followers of Jesus Christ to start off the New Year, and my decision will shock you!

Did that introduction make you want to click on a link to see more? Well, the good news is that you don’t have to click on anything to read what I’ve written, and I won’t bombard you with ads in any event (you can tell I’m getting a bit sick of the Internet lately, can’t you?). So let’s get to the point. The one thing I’d like to tell followers of Jesus to start the New Year is this: remember the Judgment Seat of Christ!

“Oh no, he’s going to preach! And if it’s about some sort of judgment, then I’m hosed. I don’t want to be judged, and, frankly, I’m not really keen on anyone else being judged either!”

I suppose at least one person out there may be saying or thinking these very things right now. Give me just a minute, though, and I’ll explain why you should really look forward to this particular judgment and why you should try to remember it every day.

I’ve been thinking about the Judgment Seat of Christ (also known as the Bema Seat of Christ) because I’ve been trying to figure out why God has me working so hard on criminal justice reform when I’m not so sure that we’ll even see true reform before the rapture and tribulation. If it’s true that we’re really that close to the end (like I think we are), then why bother, right?

The answer came to me as I awoke the other day. And it starts with an understanding of the exciting judgment for followers of Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

We know that there’ll be judgment even for believers of Christ because in the Bible, Paul wrote:

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.  (2 Corr. 5: 8-10)

On its face, this judgment can seem a bit intimidating, but if you read other parts of the Bible and various commentaries, it becomes clear that this judgment is only for determining a believer’s rewards in heaven. It doesn’t include judgment for sin, because sin is taken care of by Jesus’s death on the cross. I repeat – it doesn’t involve judgment for sin. Jesus is your proxy on that matter through your belief in him. Like Denise says, belief and faith in Jesus Christ is the golden ticket. Leave it to Denise to dream up a Willy Wonka reference.

So even though the passage above says that you’ll receive what is due to you for things done “good or bad,” it doesn’t mean morally bad. Instead, it means that certain things have eternal rewards in heaven (the good) and certain things don’t (the bad).

Think of it this way. You’re going to do a lot of things during your walk in the world, and you might consider some of those things to be really, really good things. For example, you might think that holding down a particular job your entire life is a pretty good thing. And to the world, it is. But it might not be the thing that gets additional rewards in heaven. That makes sense, right? The Bible talks about building a foundation on Jesus, and if you build your foundation on anything else, a fire will burn away all that is worthless, which will include things you may have thought were pretty good but that simply don’t measure up to reward-giving status.

Paul often likened our journey on earth as a race to be run, so imagine it that way for a minute. As a runner, you might do tons of good things to get ready for the race – lift weights, stretch, practice your starts – but in the end, you get a reward for winning the race. Those are the rules. It’s not that stretching was a bad thing – heck, it may have been crucial to winning – it’s just that you don’t get the reward for stretching. You get it runnerfor crossing the finish line first. Likewise, there are certain things that God finds deserving of rewards, such as winning souls, developing your spiritual gifts, showing love and sacrifice to others, etc., but there are also things that you might think would be deserving of a reward and aren’t. So when you think of the distribution of rewards for “good and bad” things done in the body, think of it simply as receiving rewards for eligible things that you actually did in the world. If those things weren’t eligible, or if you didn’t do them even if they were eligible, then you don’t get the additional rewards.

Remember when you were a child? I don’t know about you, but when I was a child and I did something I thought was a big deal, I went running to some adult to tell it to. Usually that was my mom or dad. And when I told them what I did, I found out that sometimes it wasn’t a big deal at all to my mom or dad. But sometimes it was. And when it was, I got a reward. And man, I wanted to get those rewards! Even when I was fifty years old, taking care of my dying dad in the world, I was constantly trying to impress him, looking for those rewards – like a smile or a laugh. Believe me, when I get to heaven I want that same feeling of “reward getting” from God as I got from my dad here on earth.

“Hey wait, does all of this mean that I’ll be compared to other people?” No, so you should think of the race as being your own personal race, like running against the clock. This is between you and Jesus. You won’t be envious or jealous of others getting rewards, and, in fact, whatever regret you may think you feel from not receiving a reward that you could have received will ultimately be wiped away from the overwhelming joy of being with God. As Denise often says, it’s like having tickets to the Super Bowl. Your seat may be right on the 50 yard line, or your seat may be up in the nosebleed section. Either way, though, you’re at the freakin’ Super Bowl!

Now when it comes to figuring out what God will deem pleasing or not so pleasing in your life, I’ll leave it up to you to do some further biblical research. But you should remember the following cautionary note that has people like me needing constant reminders about what God thinks matters: Throughout the Bible, people were told that because they received an earthly reward for something they did in the world, they’ll receive no reward for it in heaven. Holy smokes! This makes everything a bit more complicated, doesn’t it? Oh well. As I’ve said before, Christianity is simple, but it isn’t always easy.

So what does all of this have to do with my criminal justice job and whether that job even matters? It matters because every day God gives us opportunities to add to the tally of things that will bring us rewards when we stand before Christ. That’s how much He loves us. And that love and those opportunities will continue right up until the day of Jesus’s return. Every day God allows us all to decide whether or not to do something that is pleasing to Him and worth eternal reward. And my work, helping people to see why we need criminal law reform, is just one more opportunity that God is presenting his children – through me – to do something eternally worthwhile.

opportunity

You and I are basically in the same earthly business when it comes to other followers of Christ – the “opportunity for eternal reward business.” Every day you will likely give someone an opportunity to do a good thing, and I or someone else will likely give you the same opportunity. And because every opportunity will only help the body of Christ, it should be our intense desire to keep expanding our business. Every day, look for opportunities to do things pleasing to God. Every day, look for ways to give other people those same opportunities.

So this year, remember the Judgement Seat of Christ! Work each day on earning your rewards. And, please, work each day to help me earn mine!

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Priorities

This is a moment of truth. Denise has been so busy that she asked me to take over writing about God. Then I became so busy myself that I had a hard time doing it, too. But that’s unacceptable.

I was recently reminded of what really matters when I was out of town at yet another gathering to talk about criminal justice reform. It’s what I do for my day job (piano just doesn’t always pay the bills), and so I travel around the country trying to get justice leaders to take more of a compassionate look at how they treat people who get wrapped up in the criminal justice system.

At that particular gathering, a prosecutor – clearly upset at having someone like me questioning how he does his job – asked me (in a tone that only a prosecutor can take), “How do you define ‘justice’”?

He interrupted me to ask it, and the question clearly was designed to throw me off, because that’s a tricky term for anyone to define. There are regular dictionary definitions, legal definitions, famous people definitions, and collaborative definitions, but I asked him, and he made it clear that he wanted my personal definition of the word justice.

And for a second, it did throw me off. But at that moment a small voice inside me (quite obviously the Holy Spirit) said, “Just tell him the truth.” And so I did. I said that I was a Christian, and because I had a biblical worldview, I defined justice in a way that would honor God. I told them that perhaps the best way to encapsulate it would be through an articulation of the Golden Rule.

Well, a few things happened because of that. First, it silenced the prosecutor. It’s hard to argue against the Golden Rule, right? Second, several people came up to me afterward and said, essentially, that they were followers of Jesus, too, but they thought that I’d been brave to say it out loud. I hadn’t thought it as brave – I just figured it was what the HS wanted me to say. Third, I started getting some flak from people who didn’t think I should have said it at all. I fretted about that last thing a bit, but then I quickly remembered Matthew 10:32, which says, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father.” It was then that I realized that I had done a bit of ministry that night, and that it was worth any negative consequences.

It turns out that the ministry was primarily for me. When I came home, I told Denise that I was sick of being too busy to talk about God, sick of being too busy to learn about God, and sick of being too busy to worship God. Long story only somewhat shorter, I’m taking six months off starting in June to focus on God. I’m going to complete my fourth album, read and write about God, and basically get my priorities straightened out. I’d tell you to wish me luck, but we all know luck has nothing to do with any of it. Instead, pray that I can set aside all the trappings of the natural world to do what I think God really wants me to do.

God bless all of you!

Heart Dis-ease

I had a dream last night. I dreamed that I was in one of those mega churches – you know, the kind that looks like it meets in a hockey arena. The regular pastor wasn’t going to speak, and somehow I knew this so I started walking from the middle of the congregation to the front. I was taking off my coat and I noticed I was carrying a bowl of cereal with me (I will come back to this later, but at least now you can really tell it’s a dream). As I started up the steps I saw my husband sitting on the stage smiling at me. As he did, I started to speak the following message (embellished a bit for you).

I said, “We all have things in our hearts, and some of those things are ugly, such as the virus of mean and hateful thoughts, the cancer of un-forgiveness, the brokenness of loss, the disorder of disobedience, the sickness of hope deferred. All of these illnesses are diseases of our heart and they cause dis-ease in our spiritual walk. Each and every one of these diseases are curable by our Father, who can take his precision scalpel and carve them out of our heart to make room for His desires for us such as peace, joy, health, hope, and purpose. Let your heavenly father perform surgery on your heart to remove the disease (dis-ease) so that He can fill it with His healing desires for you and you can have beautiful, healthy heart and hold onto the desires He has given to you.”

It was a dream about the so-called “desires of our hearts.” Lately I’ve heard a lot of speaking, encouraging, and teaching on these desires, which, when they line up with God’s will, are most definitely from Him. But I’ve also had many conversations with people lately about the specific desires placed on their hearts and the doubts that they feel as to whether they actually come from God.

Proverbs 13:12 states, “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” I believe that this speaks to the hope of wanting a purpose, and of wanting to know that God has a plan for you. When you recognize that the very desire you have in your heart is from your loving Father, you have that hope. And, as the proverb says, you have life.

Think about your desires. Some of these desires are probably HUGE and take your breath away. These are the things that you want to do, but that you might feel you aren’t qualified for. These are your life-long dreams, but you might feel you aren’t prepared or equipped to even attempt them. Well, as the scripture so often says, “do not worry and do not be afraid.” Our Father never purchases anything that He can’t pay for. Because He has placed the desire within you, he has a plan to see it through, and he can already see you fulfilling your own dream. He knows the end way before you do.

The enemy places fear, frustration, impatience, and doubts in our mind to keep us from recognizing and pursuing our God-given desires. But if you let God take his scalpel and remove the dis-ease from our spiritual beings, these desires become brighter and supernaturally attainable. His plan is perfect, and it only requires your faith in Him to carry it out. Stop and pray to God to remove the diseases of your hearts so that you can know with certainty that your dreams and desires are from Him, and that, with His help, they will most certainly come true.

Now back to my dream – did you figure out what the bowl of cereal represented? Well, I decided that it represented a tasty morsel of encouragement from God. I was eating it in the dream, and now, by reading this, you just ate it, too. I hope you enjoyed it!

Why did God have me eating cereal in my dream? Why not cake? Well, I have a theory on that, too. I’ve been limiting dairy and grains in my earthly diet lately, but this week I broke down and had cereal with milk for dinner. Honestly, it was heavenly.

 


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