Thinking Out Loud

December 31, 2018

Of Lives and Years; Of Beginnings and Endings

Have you made your New Life’s resolutions?

As I was thinking about how to wrap things up for 2019, it occurred to me that there might be four different possibility for how your year has gone; and those are the same four which can be applied to the longer span of our lives. For some context as to what I mean by this, here’s something I wrote in 2009. A small portion of this is actually appearing for the 4th time; much of it for only the 2nd time, and some is new.

I’m certainly not one of those “Everything happens for a reason” people, but I do believe every book in the Bible is there for many reasons, and with II Kings, the clearest message that I see is that when it comes to their relationship with God, not everybody ends well.

living-bibleIn II Kings we see a succession of leaders, many of whom are relegated to the most minimal of mentions. In the original The Living Bible, Ken Taylor in his most paraphrasial — ya like that word? — moment in the entire work actually lapses into point form in the later chapters. Those chapters could be called the “bullet point translation.” One could think that perhaps Taylor tired of the various Kings simply not getting it. Basically there are four main types of stories told and each King is representative of one of them:

  • Started badly, ended badly
  • Started well, ended badly
  • Started badly, ended well
  • Started well, ended well

There are several benefits to reading this. It should make you want to end well, to leave a legacy of faithfulness and devotion to God, His word, and His work. But if you’re not solidly signed up with the eternal security camp, it also means you must end well. It allows the possibility that I can blow this Christ-following thing, with severe consequences.

Of course it helps that God, by His Holy Spirit is constantly nudging us closer to His ways. There are times in our lives however, when we don’t respond to His prompting. In the Revelation given to John, a message to the church in Laos ascribes three possible states of response: hot, cold, or lukewarm. Although the descriptors here apply to the local church as a collective noun, I believe the same terms can also apply to us individually.

heat-sensitive-imageMany of those who are cold or even lukewarm will recommit themselves down the road, but in terms of the here and now, if you were to take a picture of the spiritual temperature of people using a “spiritual heat sensitive” camera, you’d find that not everyone is responding to what the Spirit is suggesting. Or demanding; God’s not big on suggestions! Some just love their sin too much. Others are just spiritually apathetic. Some are just too busy.

One of the biggest myths in the Church (capital ‘C’ this time) is to suggest that “It’s all good.” To me, that’s not dissimilar from the Universalist perspective. It’s all good if it all ends well. Right here, right now, in the middle of the story, we don’t see so clearly how it will end. We have absolutely, positively no idea what’s going on in the lives of people at the deepest level, so we can’t begin to assume what God may be doing, or what He may be using to work His purposes, but if II Kings tells us anything it is that even Kings, representing the highest their country has to offer, can refuse to see the need to make God part of their lifelong equation.

lifes-journeyAnother myth is to say “We’re all on a spiritual journey.” The Greeks held that there were four core ‘essences:’ Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Knowing their list didn’t account for everything in the world, they held that there was a fifth essence, ‘quintessence,’ representing ‘spirit.’ Unfortunately many people live lives that are dominated by earth or air or fire or water or whatever modern equivalents represent our modern passions. Their journey can’t be characterized as spiritual at all; or if it contains elements of spiritual life, it appears to be a journey to nowhere.

In Jesus time, we see life represented in the phrase, “heart, soul, mind and strength;” both in terms of Jesus early life in Luke 2:52, but also in how we are to love the Lord with all our being. Some people allow their lives to be dominated by mental or intellectual accomplishments (mind) or physical prowess (strength) or their physical or emotional passions (the eros and philios loves; soul) rather than by a focus on their own spirit and the spiritual side of life.

Of course, it is not for us to know what God is doing in everyone’s lives. We are responsible for the ending to our own story, not that of anyone else.

I want my life to be spirit-focused; to be quintessence-focused. I want the center of that focus to be Jesus Christ. I want to end well. I want those around me to end well, too.

So while we’re caught up in what is really the ‘micro-focus’ of how a particular year began or ended or both, we need to also consider the ‘macro-focus’ on the overall progression of our lives. 

It’s a time for New Year’s resolutions, but also a time for New Life resolutions.

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September 15, 2016

Career Peaks and Valleys

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:37 am

life's journey

What will your life be remembered for?

Probably about 99% of the reading that I do is Christian literature in some form, but last night I finished reading the autobiography of a guy I went to school with, who went on to achieve fame in the music business. There was no faith element to this — but for one reference of him marrying a “practicing Christian’ — though I did once give him a Randy Stonehill album because I thought their styles were similar.

Some elements of the story were known to me, especially those from the early days, where there were mentions of people I knew including my next door neighbors. The story chronicles the highs and lows of a career that is subject to the fickle whims of everyone from record company execs to consumers. It also contained the predictable sidebar of financial gains and losses that seems so commonplace in narratives of this type.

Fortunately, after his singing career peaked, he was lucky enough to have a second life as a successful songwriter…

…Everyone’s life is a story and just because you grew up in the same part of the world doesn’t mean your journey is on a trajectory similar to your school friends. There is a branching out that takes place after graduation, and if you go on to college or university, another that occurs after that graduation ceremony. Our life paths are all unique.

The general expectation is that when one finally gets around to entering adulthood, they will work at a particular profession and continue there until retirement, right? Not any more. In the new, often turbulent economy, people may undergo career changes quite frequently, with the result that our lives are not too dissimilar to the actors and novelists and pop stars of the world…

…When I read something like this biography, I often wonder how my life would read bound between the pages of a hardcover book. My friend’s career peaked when he was still in his mid-twenties, but there are stories of people, like KFC founder Harlan Sanders, whose life really didn’t take off until he was 60.

What will your life be remembered for?


I wrote this when I was much younger from the perspective of an older man who nearing the end of life — or having a mid-life crisis — who wishes he had lived life differently. It was written with music, so the rhythm bends a bit to accommodate the lyrics, but hopefully just reading it doesn’t distract from the content.

The time has come to look around
Just before the daylight ends
Wish I could have accomplished more
The life I lived seems empty
Now I wish it had been full
What will my life be remembered for?

Some men have built great buildings
Some men have written songs
Others were heroes in a war
I’m not a writer or inventor
Nor a teacher or a preacher (so tell me)
What will my life be remembered for?

Some men have found diseases’ cures
Others ways to lighten loads
Some gave leadership, and more
Doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs
I’m neither one of these (so help me)
What’ll my life be remembered for?

Society bears the mark of ones
Who contributions made
To boldly go where no man’s gone before
Butchers, bakers, candle-makers
Libraries list their names (but not mine)
What’ll my life be remembered for?

Some men make it in Who’s Who
While others write on walls
While astronauts and pilots higher soar
The Guinness Book of Records
Shows what other men have done (but not me)
What will my life be remembered for?

If I could leave a painting
Or a book or an idea
Or maybe sail uncharted shores
Entertainers, living legends
Athletes, immortalized
No famous quotation have I to share
So what’ll my life be remembered for?

I’d like to be in pictures
And no introduction need
And give of my time, talents, wealth and more
The hour glass runs out of sand
No moments for me
A lonely poor man cries out loud
“What’ll my life be remembered for?”


Psalm 90: 12 Teach us to realize how short our lives are.
    Then our hearts will become wise.  (NIrV)

Luke 12:16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? (NIV)

Psalm 139:6b    … all the days ordained for me were written in your book  before one of them came to be.  (NIV)



 

February 25, 2009

Why II Kings is in the Bible – Besides the History Thing

I’m certainly not one of those “Everything happens for a reason” people, but I do believe every book in the Bible is there for many reasons, and with II Kings, the clearest message that I see is that when it comes to their relationship with God, not everybody ends well.

I wrote about II Kings on February 28th last year; and that article was based on a piece that first circulated in 2007; this is the third time around for these thoughts, so obviously it matters a lot to me.

living-bibleIn II Kings we see a succession of leaders, many of whom are relegated to the most minimal of mentions.   In the original The Living Bible, Ken Taylor in his most paraphrasial — ya like that word? — moment in the entire work actually lapses into point form in the later chapters.  It could be called the “bullet point” translation.   One could think that Taylor tired of the various Kings simply not getting it.  Basically there are four main types of stories told and each King is representative of one of them:

  • Started badly, ended badly
  • Started well, ended badly
  • Started badly, ended well
  • Started well, ended well

There are several benefits to reading this.   It should make you want to end well, to leave a legacy of faithfulness and devotion to God, His word, and His work.   But if you’re not solidly signed up in the eternal security camp, it also means you must end well.   It allows the possibility that I can blow this Christ-following thing, with severe consequences.

Of course it helps that God, by His Holy Spirit is constantly nudging us closer to His ways.   There are times in our lives however, when we don’t respond to His prompting.   In the Revelation given to John, a message to the church in Laos ascribes three possible states of response:  hot, cold, or lukewarm.    Although the descriptors here apply to the local church as a collective noun, I believe the same terms can also apply to us individually.

heat-sensitive-imageMany of those who are cold or even lukewarm will recommit themselves down the road, but in terms of the here and now, if you were to take a picture of the spiritual temperature of people using a “spiritual heat sensitive” camera, you’d find that not everyone is responding to what the Spirit is suggesting.   Or demanding; God’s not big on suggestions!   Some just love their sin too much.   Others are just spiritually apathetic.    Some are just too busy.

One of the biggest myths in the Church (capital ‘C’ this time) is to suggest that “It’s all good.”   To me, that’s not dissimilar from the Universalist perspective.  It’s all good if it all ends well.   Right here, right now, in the middle of the story, we don’t see so clearly how it will end.   We have absolutely, positively no idea what’s going on in the lives of people at the deepest level, so we can’t begin to assume what God may be doing, or what He may be using to work His purposes,  but if II Kings tells us anything it is that even Kings, representing the highest their country has to offer, can refuse to see the need to make God part of their lifelong equation.

lifes-journeyAnother myth is to say “We’re all on a spiritual journey.”   The Greeks held that there were four core ‘essences:’ Earth, Air, Fire and Water.   Knowing their list didn’t account for everything in the world, they held that there was a fifth essence, ‘quintessence,’ representing ‘spirit.’   Unfortunately many people live lives that are dominated by earth or air or fire or water or whatever modern equivalents represent our modern passions.   Their journey can’t be characterized as spiritual at all; or if it contains elements of spiritual life, it appears to be a journey to nowhere.

In Jesus time, we see life represented in the phrase, “heart, soul, mind and strength;” both in terms of Jesus early life in Luke 2:52, but also in how we are to love the Lord with all our being.   Some people allow their lives to be dominated by mental or intellectual accomplishments (mind) or physical prowess (strength) or their physical or emotional passions (the eros and philios loves; soul) rather than by a focus on their own spirit and the spiritual side of life.

Of course, it is not for us to know what God is doing in everyone’s lives.   We are responsible for the ending to our own story, not that of anyone else.

I want my life to be spirit-focused; to be quintessence-focused.   I want the center of that focus to be Jesus Christ.   I want to end well.   I want those around me to end well, too.

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