Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From 'How' to 'Who'

Reflections on our culture's pursuit of Happiness
For Thou Art my hope; O LORD my God, Thou are my confidence from my youth.” (Ps 71:5)
Sometimes when I feel down, depressed or even desperate, I will turn to the Psalms for help. Ps 1 reaffirms the solid foundation of the Word of God. Ps 2 tells us that while everything around us may be in turmoil, God is there for us to take refuge in. Ps 3 begins with direct threats coming at David, and ends with a trust that God’s people will ultimately be blessed regardless. By reading each psalm as it is, I cannot help but be amazed at the scope of emotional openness one can adopt before God. The 150 psalms together provide a treasure-house of praise & worship, joy & ecstacy, comfort & encouragement, affirmation of faith and expression of despair. No other book in the world could compare with the range of emotional experience encountered and shared by the psalmists. The psalms invite us in to share the journey, to experience the ups and downs of being human, and the utter joy to have God as our strength and refuge in our times of trouble. In our era, it is not always easy to approach the Bible with an attitude of God-seeking. This is because our present culture is one that is often filled with how's.
  • How do I make more money?
  • How do I have better relationships?
  • How do I make better presentations?
  • How do I design a winning plan?
  • How do I solve this computer problem?

Such a mentality sometimes affect our reading of the Psalms. We begin to ask about how to use the Bible to meet our own needs. We become caught up with the techniques of reading that we fail to appreciate that God is not a method but a person. Part of the reason for this 'how' mentality lies in our lifestyle of consumerism. We use electricity at home. We eat food at least three times a day. The cars we drive consume fuel. Studies in 2005 have shown that close to 80% of the world's resources are consumed by the wealthiest 20% of the world's rich nations. When we live most of our hours 'consuming' stuff, what is there to ensure that when we open the Bible, we are still wearing the hat of consumerism?  If that is the case, we read the Bible as if it is a Do-It-Yourself spiritual perk-me-up pill, or a daily dosage to 'balance' our busy careers and lifestyles. The Bible becomes as follows:
  • Suffering: "What does the Bible say about suffering?"
  • Jobless: "What does the Bible say about unemployment?"
  • Bad Relationships: "How do I get my spouse to treat me better? Is there a verse to convict him/her that I can use?"
  • World Events: "How does the Bible prophesy about these events?"
Such an attitude immediately straitjackets the Bible to conform to our own ideas and expectations. We flip from one verse to another looking for the 'right' answer. We sacrifice reading in context so that we can catch the 'right' verse to meet our most immediate emotional need, even though it means reading OUT of context. In other words, if we approach the Bible from the perspective of how, we can easily get frustrated when we do not get what we want. Sometimes we think that when we know the 'how,' our journey to happiness is set.

Unfortunately, such methods do not last. They are but temporary fixes.  Worse, it tells God the kind of person we are. I remember a time when I was first introduced to multi-level marketing. I have not met this friend for many years, until we bump into each other at a shopping mall. After exchanging standard pleasantries, we gave each other our contact information. A week later, I got a call to meet up for lunch. Happily I agreed. Soon the lunch turned into a major sales pitch about the multilevel marketing scheme and product. My protests landed on deaf ears. My friend had me cornered at all angles. As I think back, I shudder to imagine subjecting my friends to similar treatment. That day, I felt used. It is one thing to share a product or service one has. It is yet another to keep pushing it even when I have expressly said no.

Fortunately, not all salespeople as persistent as that friend of mine.  I like one particular quote from an insurance salesman. He says
"When you see me, do not think of insurance.
When you see insurance, think of me."
I appreciate that. It puts the desire for friendship before the insurance. Likewise, when we read the Bible, we must not think of our reading in terms of looking for answers to our own personal problems. Doing that only scratches the surface of our true needs. That will be using God's Word to meet our own ends. When we read God's Word, think of God.

In “On the Spirit of Happiness," a community of monks in New York commented:
Today’s culture idolizes technique. How-to manuals literally overflow the shelves of bookstores. We are so conditioned to the genre that we automatically seek out books on whatever interests us, fully expecting that we can achieve whatever results we might desire simply by finding the right recipe – learning the technique.” (The Monks of New Skete, In the Spirit of Happiness, p95)
It is a rebuke on our world's infatuation with solutions and techniques. Wisely, the monks lead us toward the true source of happiness: Jesus.
Being happy involves the intense struggle of entering intimately into all that we do. And that is in our very nature; it’s what God has placed in us. This is what the Transfiguration is about. It’s not some pious story about going up a mountain and having light shine on everything. It has to do with the apostles gaining an insight into who Jesus really is.” (Monks, In the Spirit of Happiness, p313)

Let me conclude: The psalms point us back to God. True happiness must be in God alone. Scriptures remind us that only God can provide true comfort and true happiness. True happiness does not lie in the technique or the how of living. One can follow all the formulas of the self-help books and still be unhappy. Remember that there are 3 common letters in the word ‘how' and 'who.’ The next time we ask H.O.W in our pursuit of happiness, shake them loose like scrabble letters and rearrange them by putting ‘W’ in front of HO. True happiness lies in seeking the W.H.O, not the how. Let us come to God just as we are, ready to put aside our selfish agenda, and to be willing to be obedient to God's agenda.

Come to me, all who are weary and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

THOUGHT: Reading self-help books or following positive formula can be useful at times. Reading the Bible to meet our needs can be appropriate at times. Yet, when they become the main staple of our lives, they can become addictions, or idols. How do you know if they (or your good self) have taken over the place of Christ on your throne? Have you been guilty of using other people toward your own ends?


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When We Are Discouraged

Staying Up When One Feels Down
But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.” (Exodus 1:17)
This week has been rather challenging. There are projects to work on, books to review, people to meet, and obligations to keep. While these things do not normally stress me out, mood swings do. They amplify the smallest speck of error. They intensify a simple task into one big chore. They can petrify the meek in spirit into a weak midget. Like a microscope, tiny organisms normally invisible to the naked eye suddenly become huge trolls that threaten to jump and engulf everything that we ever stood for.

Do not be surprised. Even people like me, who are trained in theology, pastoral care and Christian spirituality do get discouraged. Like rains that fall on the whole land, no one is immune from the treacherous tentacles of discouragement. When caught, one of the first things that gets squeezed out of us is hope. As I was praying, and needing some encouragement, I was led to Scripture. I asked, “How do people in the Bible cope with discouragement?

I decided to read Exodus, to see how the Hebrews cope with Egyptian persecution. It is so ironical. After years of prosperity and fruitful multiplication, the Jews who were welcomed with open arms during the reign of Joseph, suddenly become the scum of the Egyptian hierarchy. The Bible did not specify the exact date, but we can estimate based on Exodus 1:6 that this period is after the demise of Joseph and his brothers, and their entire generation. Hence, we are dealing with a new generation who not only did not know Joseph, but sees the immigrant Jews not as a valuable asset but a huge liability. They forgot that it was through Joseph, that Egypt was used as a channel to save both Egypt and its neighbours from a devastating famine. The Pharaoh forgot who is Joseph. The Egyptians forgot how the Jews have blessed them economically. Such absentmindedness made the Egyptians exchange a hand of friendship for a fist of oppression. In the midst of rising persecution, there is a group who remembers the Source of all life, the God of all nations: the midwives.

Imagine having received an imperial order and willfully chose to disobey it. It is like Rahab who told a lie to keep Joshua’s spies from capture (Jos 2:4). It is like the Magi who chose to trick Herod to protect baby Jesus from being apprehended and killed (Matt 2:16). It is already hard to do the right thing all the time. However, to do the right thing at the risk of being caught and prosecuted takes courage. Like the midwives, Rahab, and the Magi, doing the right thing, and doing it the right way requires godly fear. Let me first deal with two other forms of fear.

Firstly, doing the right thing can sometimes be motivated by fear of earthly powers. It is like fearing for our jobs if we disobey the top bosses. It is like fearing for our lives when we defy vicious hooligans and gangsters. It is like fearing for our relationships if we do not please their expectations. Sometimes, these fears can drive us to perform better. Other times, it sucks the joy out of us, and pumps us back with feelings of being coerced, forced to do what we do NOT want to do. Their actions are clothed with fear of earthly powers.

Secondly, doing the right thing can sometimes be motivated by a higher purpose. It is like a boss who tells his employee to falsify the accounts before the auditors arrive. It is like Schindler who deceived the Germans so that he can protect the Jews he is sheltering from imminent death. It is like fearing a loss of our own sense of righteousness. Backed by higher principles, we justify defying the higher authorities. However, what if we got caught, and our family members get implicated in the process? Will we then back away from our ‘higher’ principles so as to save our loved ones? Highly principled actions are driven primarily on the basis of refusing to break personal values. Sometimes, actions that flow from higher principles resemble more of a negative fear of breaking them rather than positive desire for keeping them.

Fear of God
The first two types of fear have something in common: they do not last.

The midwives in the first chapter of Exodus did what they knew best. Their actions are driven by godly fear. Godly fear is not something that happens because one is afraid of retribution by worldly powers. The midwives were clearly risking themselves and their families to defy the greatest power in Egypt: Pharaoh. John Bunyan, (author of Pilgrim’s Progress), in his treatise on the fear of God, reminds us that fear of God has many faces. It is the beginning of wisdom. It is the utterly detesting sin. It is fully embracing the love of God. It is also that keen awareness of the trickeries of the evil one. I believe the actions of the midwives reflect all of them.

The feeling is strange. I started off feeling downtrodden. After reading and reflecting on the simple and courageous faith of the midwives, I felt the motivation to look not just inward (due to fear), or outward (due to principles), but upward (godly fear).

David Livingstone’s life (1813-1873) is an example of one that burns for God. As a missionary to Africa, he has witnessed countless difficulties and hardships. His physical body bore the brunt of the harsh environment. When he was invited to speak back in his homeland in Glasgow Scotland, he walks with his broken shoulder slumped, half-deaf, half-blind, but fully alive in God. He gave his all to share the gospel with many in the Dark Continent. A medical doctor, he battled against the terrible illnesses afflicting the poor Africans. Sometimes he succeeded. Other times not. Yet, one thing remained. He held the God’s promise close to his heart, that Jesus is always be with him (Matt 28:18-20). Indeed, the verse commonly quoted by people pursuing the Great Commission tends to focus too much on the ‘Go ye therefore,’ and not so much on the ‘Lo! I am with you always.’ May I humbly suggest that the key to godly fear, lies in the reverse. We go forth in faith, be uplifted in love, knowing that God is with us. Always.

Thought: If you are to list all your current pursuits, concerns and anxieties and label them either as “Fear of earthly powers,”, “Fear of betraying one’s principles,” and “Fear of God,” which list is longer?


Friday, October 16, 2009

Trust and Obey

For I was afraid of the army, and I followed their wishes.” (1 Sam 15:24b)
King Saul had just won another major victory. Not only were the Amalekites defeated, the Israelites humiliated their leader King Agag. In jubilation, thinking that the LORD will be happy with the precious loot, they decided that it is appropriate to keep the best, and destroy the rest. It seems perfectly normal and logical. Why waste something when it can still be recycled?

Under ordinary circumstances, there is nothing wrong in keeping good stuff. However, the context of the biblical passage is something more serious than recycling. The retention of things exposes the idolatry of the first king of Israel. Which is Saul obedient to? All of God's instructions or some of them only. By rationalizing himself out of it, Saul justifies his actions by saying that the LORD will be pleased with his offerings. Unfortunately, in every gift, every work and every sacrifice, God's eye looks first at the heart, before anything else.

Saul's Heart
For Saul, the choice is clear: Obey God or disobey God? He thought that obeying half-way is enough. He was dead wrong. There is no ambiguity in the LORD's command. King Saul was told to annihilate the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:3). This is consistent with God's promise to protect Israel (Exodus 17:16). Throughout history, the Amalekites have one main objective: Totally blot out Israel from the face of the earth. It follows that If Israel does not totally destroy the Amalekites, the Amalekites will decimate the Jews. It is a tough choice for God who has promised to protect his chosen people, for the sake of the whole world. God decides to act by sanctioning the destruction of the Amalekites: through King Saul.

Instead, what did Saul do? He underestimates the depth of evil of the Amalekites. He undercuts God's clear instructions by adopting a half-way obedience. He undermines God's purposes and in the process threatens the entire Jewish nation. For Saul, his main desire is short-term gains over long-term obedience. The temptation is too great. This displeased Samuel. In the prophet’s mind, one thing stood clear: “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” Without respect for God's instruction, how can the leader lead God's people? Without an attitude of obedience, the leader surrenders the privilege of headship. Without reverence for God’s wishes, how can Saul lead Israel to be the ‘father of all nations?’

What About Our Obedience?
I have heard many Christians tell me, that they want to do God's will. Whether it be the kind of work to do, who to marry, where to live, which ministry to be involved in, the desire is similar. Words are nothing until they are put into action. How far are we to go the distance? Will we give up mid-way, and rationalize our actions according to our own interpretation of God, like Saul?

Who sits on our throne determines who we obey. If it is possessions, then our obedience will be based on how to collect more stuff. If it is our family, our obedience to God will be secondary to this primary concern. If it is our job or career, God takes second place down the pecking order of importance. If it is our children, obedience to God is ranked lower than our children. What happens when we put idols before God? One quick symptom of idolatry is fear. Fear of not possessing things tempt us toward unhealthy fixation on material things. Fear of not receiving family acceptance prevents us from honesty with family members. Fear of losing our jobs tempts us toward covering our backs over standing up for what is right and ethical. Fear of our children's future leads us toward greater control of them.

  • Will God be pleased when we use the profits from shady business deals to tithe to his Church?
  • Will God be pleased when we curse and swear at our neighbor, and with the same breath sing praise and thanksgiving to God?
  • Will God be pleased when we strive to keep our jobs at all expense, even compromising God's standards in the process?
  • Will God be pleased when we help our children to cheat in their schoolwork or exams, so that they can achieve our own definition of a better life for them, and then give God the glory for the distinctions that they obtain?  

If God is first, there is no fear. A truly God-fearing person never does things out of worldly fear. A sign of a godly person lies in full obedience. Do not be like Saul, who feared his people and allowed his fear to dictate his actions.

The December 1981 issue of Reader's Digest tells of an interesting story of obedience and devotion. There is a housekeeper who works for John Kenneth Galbraith. One day, the US President, Lyndon Johnson called, asking to speak with her employer Galbraith, who had earlier instructed his housekeeper to hold all calls.
President: "Get me Ken Galbraith. This is Lyndon Johnson.'
Housekeeper: "He is sleeping, Mr. President. He said not to disturb
President: "Well, wake him up. I want to talk to him.'
Housekeeper: "No, Mr. President. I work for him, not you."
When Galbraith finally called back the President, instead of indignation, Lyndon Johnson was rather pleased about the devotion of Galbraith's housekeeper. The President admired the housekeeper so much that he wanted to see her in the White house!

Thought: Who do we work for? Can we be so devoted like the housekeeper, that everything else is subjected first and foremost to the obedience of our Lord and Savior Jesus? Indeed, obedience is better than sacrifice. 
"Trust and Obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." (John Sammis, 1887)


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

True Hospitality

A Welcoming Heart
"Let love of the brethren continue.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." (Heb 13:1-2)
When my family first came to Canada in 2004, there was apprehension about many things. Thoughts revolve around lifestyle choices, worries over ability to cope, concerns about affordable housing, questions about safety on the streets. Uprooting ourselves from our comfortable setting in Singapore was easier said than done. Amazingly, God was there walking with us, as we embarked upon a journey of uncertainty. How do we know? He was there speaking the language of hospitality. 

There were three comforting arms of hospitality. Firstly, we know we came with the prayers and love of our friends and family in home, church and colleagues. Secondly, we were embraced by a loving community at Regent-College. Thirdly, Vancouver for all its flaws, is still a very welcoming city. This three-fold hospitality is a major factor in helping us to adjust: Assurances from Home (personal level), Warmth within the new Community (neighborhood level) and a welcoming culture at large (society level). (That is one reason why Vancouver has been consistently ranked among the top best cities to live in.)

As I was pondering about the word 'hospitality,' I cannot help but feel that this is also the heart of evangelism. Conventional evangelism methods focus on something like tract distribution, mass rallies and even 'friendship' evangelism. These things have worked in the past, but are getting less popular. Moreover, many cities are now adopting a secular and pluralistic culture, meaning it is no longer that easy to share the gospel in the traditional sense. Even if the rallies and 4-spiritual laws manage to bring people to the faith, many new converts fail to sustain their initial fire for God. Some went back to their old ways. Some were let down by what the modern church has to offer or not offer. Some lost their faith. The few that remained, did so because they have experienced hospitality in some way. 

Flying 8000 miles meant that we have to give away many things. From furniture to cutlery, from electronics to books and for the kids, from clothing to toys. For me, I have to surrender the privilege of having a domestic helper as well as the conveniences of affordable food delicacies. We miss our friends, our family and even our business associates. In our hearts, we were preparing to rough it out in faith. With our hands, we were prepared to work. I managed to find some work amid my busy studies, at $10 per week! A simple cup of Starbucks coffee would have wiped out nearly a quarter of my earnings. The whole experience may have been low in monetary payback, but high in community acceptance. 

Imagine our surprise when neighbors start to knock on our doors, asking if we need stuff. Graduating students donated things like DVD player, plates, cups, chairs. Some sold off their stuff at unbelievably low prices. We were invited to meals. We were greeted with warm hugs and mugs of coffee when we visit churches on cold Winter Sunday mornings. Even the society at large welcomed us by not discriminating us based on skin color, or citizenship. For example, at the public libraries, we can borrow up to 50 items on a free library card, as long as we can produce a local residential address that proves we are residents. We do not need to be citizens or Permanent Residents. Our kids too did not need to pay school fees while we are there. It felt immensely comforting to be welcomed into a strange and new land.

What does it take to build a welcoming culture in the Church? 
For Patrick Keifert, he thinks that we can build a welcoming culture by 'welcoming the stranger.' In his book of the same name, he argues that worship and evangelism are not separate works but one. He observes that churches are often very unhospitable to people who are different from the rest. He extends the word 'stranger' to include those who attend churches but fail to be accepted within any group inside the church. Like it or not, church people tend to distinguish one another based on class, race, age, or life situations. People generally gravitate toward those who are more or less like them. It is thus common to feel like a stranger within the church home. While trying to be in church on time, trying to serve in the various ministries and trying to participate meaningfully in Sunday worship, have we forgotten that worshiping God also includes 'welcoming the stranger?' That was what Abraham did when he saw the three strangers outside his door (Gen 18). That was what Jesus did when he saw Zacchaeus the tax collector shunned by the community. That was what the writer of Hebrews urged us to do, to welcome strangers by showing them hospitality (Heb 13:2).

In our affluent society, what is most needed is not more money, more time or more things. These are important, but let them not become more important over people. Jesus did not die for money, for things or for more time to pursue our businesses. He died for real lives. We need a little more love and understanding. We need not more time to ourselves, but to give more time to others. We show hospitality when we realize that it is not about us. It is not even about others. It is about our love for God, that is reflected through our love for others and then ourselves. True hospitality means building bridges to make meaningful connections. True hospitality encourages. True hospitality opens up our homes and our hearts. True hospitality welcomes the stranger. May we adopt eyes of hospitality to reach out and touch someone who is hurting or needy today. Perhaps, the first step is to ask them for permission to let us help them.

Thought: Who are the strangers within your circle of influence? Can we like Jesus ask them to 'invite us' into their homes?
"He who practices hospitality, entertains God himself." (anonymous)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Quick and Good (lies in Being Prepared)

A Quick and Good Society
"And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:17)
I remember a time when many people, including Christians, lambast our culture of instant gratification. They complain about the way people rush through life expecting immediate returns for instant gratification. They lament the deterioration of relationships that were impacted by such a instant mentality. Whether it is through the pen or via the pulpit, the effect is similar. People despise instant gratification mentality, yet they often are the very practitioners of such an attitude. When the pack of chips fail to be released within 5 seconds, we start rocking the snacks machine. When a web page fails to load quick enough, we re-fresh the same page several times. When we ring customer service and if the call is not picked up within 3 rings, we get irritated. A complaint typically goes like this;
In our culture of instant gratification, instant news, instant download, instant coffee, instant everything, who has the time to practice the virtue of waiting?”
Even movie stars, whose lives are hyper-busy, learn to inject humor amid the sarcasm. Meryl Streep, an emmy award movie star says:
"Instant gratification is not soon enough."
Not to be outdone, Carrie Fisher claims,
"Instant gratification takes too long." (Carrie Fisher, of Star Wars fame)
JK Jones, a Professor at Lincoln Seminary gives a typical evangelical response to the topic of instant gratification.
"Our society does not tend to applaud the long obedience required to conform to the image of Jesus. We live in a time of instant gratification. If something can't be done quickly, we often find ourselves uninterested. The computer, as wonderful as it is, has helped to foster a spirit of importance. If we can't get on-line quickly or find that web site immediately, we become frustrated, even angry." (JK Jones, Reading With God in Mind, Heartstring Publishing, 2003, p49)
Essentially, the key point in his book is that one reads in order not to be alone. In other words, when we crouch up on our favourite chair to read, we are participating in the words and lives of the author who write the book, as well as the Spirit of God leading our thoughts. Jones applies this instant mentality to the way that we read books. I feel that we can also apply the same principle to how we read modern culture. Are we reading our modern culture with a learning attitude? Are we reading modern culture with Someone in mind?  One famous quip among my business colleages is:
"The deadline for this project is yesterday." (meaning you're already late so hurry up.)
Let me offer a futuristic equivalent. "The LIFEline of our project on earth is tomorrow." (meaning, we need to live our present lives based on a hopeful tomorrow.)

Indeed, we cannot live on the fuel of yesterday. Neither do we concern ourselves only with the matters of today. We live on the basis of a better tomorrow. In other words, if there is no tomorrow, why hope at all? We prepare ourselves in our heads and hearts for the kingdom of heaven to come. We get ready for our Coming King who will arrive in glory and full honor. When the time comes, we must be ready to be quick-and-good for the Coming king.

Positive Side of Quick-and-Good
If you are like me, you will recognize the negative fallout of a quick-fix society. People become more impatient, in turn testing the patience of others. Drivers insist on their right of way, leading to rude honks and ugly stares. Customers demand immediate and high quality attention, else they walk. However, let us pause and think. Is quick-and-good mentality all bad and absolutely no good? No. There are still some virtues. Key to a quick-and-good story is something very elementary: Being Prepared.

Quick-and-good makes good business sense. Who wants to queue up for a plate of fish and chips when one can get another faster? Just take a look at the popularity of fast-food restaurants. If we were to think about it, restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC pride themselves as specialists in the business of quick-and-good. Quick-and-good is a highly important attribute for businesses that operate within a tiny window of opportunity. If 80% of the daily revenue comes from the lunchtime crowd hours of 12 to 2pm, will it not make sense to maximize production at these hours? A quick look at the processes behind fast food production reveals a trick behind their efficiency. Many things were pre-cut, pre-packed and even pre-cooked. Pop drinks like Coca-Cola and Sprite come in ready to use canisters. Timers constantly beep when each batch of French fries are ready. Meat patties were ready cut and the oven kept at a temperature for immediate cooking. Bread is pre-sliced and ready to be served. Kids’ toys are all prepacked. The whole process is so meticulous that even cleaning duties in the entire restaurant is regimented at frequent intervals. Leaving nothing to chance, many fast food restaurants pride themselves in a quick-and-good image, to satisfy the cultural craving of instant gratification.

Be Prepared
Although I dislike a culture of instant gratification, there is also much to learn from the quick-and-good wisdom behind the successes of McDonalds, KFC and other fast-food corporations. (Maybe some people may say quick but not good, but that is another story altogether.) Businesses often do scenario planning and different what-if’s situations. What if a busload of schoolchildren rush into the restaurant during lunch hour? What if a slow inexperienced cashier is holding up the line? What if the bread runs out? For these reasons, I admire business corporations for their aptitude in addressing these different scenarios. Sophisticated planners will even examine the daily sports page to anticipate surges in demand from delivery calls or rushing traffic to a nearby stadium where the restaurant serves. Key to every success in fast-food restaurants is the attitude of readiness and an aptitude of "Being Prepared."

What about our own spiritual lives? Are we readying ourselves for the coming kingdom of heaven? How prepared are we to answer the King of kings and the Lord of lords?
  • Have we prepared our first words to Jesus, when we see Him?
  • Have we prepared our first dollar to give to a needy person?
  • Have we prepared our first hug to give a family member?
  • Have we prepared a phrase of asking for forgiveness, while waiting for the right moment to appear?
  • Have we prepared a place for our children to grow spiritually?
  • Have we lived a life so full of thankfulness that our family and friends will remember us in terms of how we love the Lord, rather than how much we love our things or riches?
  • What will be the words you want engraved in the obituary page, or on our tombstones?
Thought: We have many deadlines to meet in our often packed calenders. What about our deadline for the sharing of the gospel of Christ? What is our LIFELINE for our project of sharing the love of God?