Losing a Day

Three years ago, today didn’t exist for me. Seriously.

If you’ve ever flown west over the international date line, you’ve experienced this phenomenon.  I boarded a plane in Los Angeles the evening of May 5th, and got off the plane in Auckland the morning of May 7th. It was a long flight, but not that long.

Sometimes, I wonder what happened to that day. I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t missed that day. Kind of a “two roads diverged into a yellow wood” moment here; what if I went to sleep on May 5th instead of getting on that plane, and woke up on May 6th in my own bed. My life would certainly be different, but better?

I arrive in Auckland early in the morning, eager to stretch my legs after the long-haul flight over the Pacific. It all feels like a dream as I make my way through customs. There’s a little hang up over my visa, but it’s sorted out soon enough. I smile as I look at the fresh new stamp in my passport; I get to stay 12 months.

Lydia is waiting, patiently, for me as I enter the arrivals area. It doesn’t seem real, not just where I am, but also why I’m here. I’m not sure anyone in the entire airport was smiling as big as we were. We embrace; time stands still.

There were only two people in all of New Zealand that knew about the ring in my bag. Me, obviously, and the customs officer who asked me if I had any valuable items to declare. He wasn’t impressed. I, on the other hand, was eager to show just about anyone willing (or unwilling) to take a peak at what had to have been the smallest diamond engagement ring that Tiffany’s sold. Remind me to tell you the entire story about “the ring” someday 🙂

Seven months later, I experienced the other phenomenon that occurs when traveling over the international date line. I left Auckland on a Friday evening, and arrived in San Francisco Friday afternoon. There was a gently used diamond engagement ring in my bag; it didn’t seem real, not just where I was, but also why I was there.

I’ve replayed it over and over in my head, and have gone through all of the “what if” scenarios. I’m thankful for losing that day. What I have gained these past three years, what God has taught me and shown me, has out-weighed what I lost. Eventually, it will cost me everything—indeed, my very life—to stand in the presence of the King. I must hold on to the things of this world with a loose grip.

Does He Know You?

I was talking to a co-worker today about Judas, and how we both felt that he kind of gets painted as an obviously wicked person in sermons today, when he actually is no stranger to the Church.

I think (these are just my thoughts here) Judas really believed that Jesus had come to rescue Israel, but only in the physical sense by establishing a kingdom on earth (this wouldn’t have been all that uncommon at the time). I get the feeling that Judas had placed all his eggs in one basket, this new physical kingdom, and when he started to see this unraveling, he panicked and tried to secure some sort of future for himself. By believing in the lie (that Jesus had come to establish a physical kingdom) Judas’ belief was really unbelief—he didn’t believe in the real Jesus. This unbelief opened him up to be used by Satan (see John 13:27).

Church, where have we placed our hope? In the Christ of our own hearts, or the true Christ of scripture? Does Jesus just ‘love everybody the way they are’ or does he want us to repent and be forgiven of our sins? Would Jesus really send people to hell just for not getting the whole ‘believing in him’ exactly right?

It saddens me to think about this verse:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23

“I never knew you”. My heart sinks to think that Jesus will say these very words to some who attend church. Some who teach Sunday school; some who even start churches. Just like Judas, you can be very near to Jesus, do many great things and witness the work of the Holy Spirit, having never really trusted in Him—having trusted in an imposter, sometimes created by our own deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) hearts.

So is there no assurance of salvation? Can we ever really know? Consider the following:

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” John 10:14

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30

“And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.” 1 John 2:25

“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” 1 John 5:11

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

This barely scratches the surface, but hopefully it is enough to prove the answer is an emphatic ‘Yes!’, we can be assured of our salvation. We can be assured because it isn’t dependent on our work, but on Christ’s work on the cross.

And this is what Judas didn’t understand, didn’t believe: that Christ’s work was not on an earthy throne, but on an old rugged cross. He couldn’t believe that Israel’s salvation was to come through the humilation and death (and resurrection) of Jesus. Because of his unbelief, Jesus will say to him “I never knew you”.

For You Are With Me

The whole 23rd Psalm can be summed up in five words: for you are with me. Christian, the Good Shepherd, Jesus, is with you. He is near, close by, even tonight. Dwell on this truth.

Are you enjoying green pastures or do you find yourself beside still waters? You did not stumble upon them on your own. You weren’t told how to get there, you didn’t get a map in the mail. Sheep do not follow directions, they follow the shepherd. (Side note: They’ll also follow anyone with food and can be a bit pushy; I have a long weekend’s worth of experience caring for sheep, but that’s another story…). The Good Shepherd must be close by because he makes you to lie down in green pastures, and he leads you beside still waters.

Are you overwhelmed by worry, doubts, fear, anxiety? Don’t be afraid. Why? Because “God has it all under control”? While that is very true, it is usually not very comforting because we have very little capacity for comprehending God’s control over cancer, earthquakes, violence or a million other things that keep us awake at night.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

We need not be afraid because Jesus is with us! If you trust in Christ, there are a lot of things to rejoice in (salvation, justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification) but what you may need to dwell on tonight to drive away your fears is the nearness of Christ.

Maybe you don’t feel that he is close by; trust him. These are not empty words. I would argue that the greatest distance he could possibly be is an arm’s length away. Verse five says: “You anoint my head with oil.” He doesn’t pour it on you from heaven, he doesn’t sprinkle it on you from across the room, he anoints you with oil; his hand is on your head. Believer, even if you don’t feel very close to him tonight, take him at his word, he is near, he is with you.

puzzle pieces

I never intend to be a different person around my different groups of friends, but it sort of just happens. When we last talked, and when we first met (be it yesterday or twenty years ago) will determine which ‘me’ you know. Very few have the full picture.

A little mysterious, eh?

I love to tell stories, so if you hang around long enough, I’ll hand you more and more puzzle pieces. Today’s puzzle piece: I love country music. I love to listen to it, sing it, play it (I play guitar). Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, Cory Morrow, Gary Allan, George Strait, Garth Brooks… Ask me nicely, maybe I’ll sing you one more song, about old San Antone…

I didn’t always listen to country music. I grew up hating it, not that I had ever given it a chance. As the youngest in my family, my input was never needed when it came time to choose a radio station. I was converted on the road to Nacogdoches. I left for college in the fall of 2000 and by the time I came home for Thanksgiving, I had one or two of my presets set for country. If you’ve ever been to East Texas (no, Deep East Texas), then you understand. It was inevitable.

To this day I still firmly believe that country musicians are among the world’s best storytellers. I challenge you to listen to a song and not know what he or she is singing about. Nothing can be more obvious than country music. And that’s why I love it. I don’t have to think, I can just listen to the story.

carless

I sold my car three years ago and have yet to replace it. I never really intended to be carless, it just kind of worked out that way. I guess I can say that since I sold it, I haven’t really needed to buy another car. It obviously has been something I can live without and it has been, more often than not, an enjoyable experience.

Being carless means fewer things to worry about. I no longer worry about hailstorms, shopping carts, speed bumps, pot holes, tree sap, the price of gas, careless drivers, slow drivers, insurance premiums, oil changes, dead batteries, flat tires, depreciation, toll tags, speed traps, inspections and vehicle registration. Because I don’t have these worries or expenses, if you’ve given me a ride somewhere I’ve probably bought you food. I’m happy to buy you food. In fact, if you’re ever passing through Waco, let me know and I’ll buy you lunch, or dinner, or coffee, or groceries.

Being carless has made me a smarter shopper. Online shopping and being carless has pretty much killed the drive-to-the-store-and-get-it-NOW desire in me (which usually ended in disappointment when something wasn’t in stock, and then regret when I’d end up buying something else as a substitute). I’m now perfectly happy to wait a few days and have things delivered to my door.

Since I end up having to walk more, I need get to invest in proper footwear. Now I buy shoes from places like this, and socks from places like this.

All in all, it’s been a fun experiment. Humbling, but fun.