Monday, April 29, 2013

When Does Forever Start?

When does forever start?

That’s the question that has been on my mind for the past couple of days. The question in itself is mind-blowing to me, because I feel like there could be numerous answers:
  1. Forever starts when you die. The after-life is the beginning of eternity for the individual.
  2. Forever is now, has always been, and will always be. We exist in time, but God has always been outside of it, existing in eternity.
  3. Forever doesn’t exist. Time is a natural limitation and everything is boxed in by it. Everyone and everything has a definitive “end.”
I think I'm the cookie...
You might think this question weighed on my mind as a result of heavy, spiritual issues. Perhaps you imagine me poring over my Bible, flipping through the pages, madly trying to determine when I first taste eternity. But you would be wrong. This question came to me as I pondered the arrogance of a phrase that I use all the time: BFF. 

Best. Friends. Forever. 

My BFF, June,  (of the “we-almost-died-in-Baltimore” and other blogs) is moving away this week. Driving off to Austin, TX…never to be seen or heard from again. OK OK. I’m sure I’ll see/hear from her again, but currently it feels like the “forever” just dropped out of our happy acronym.
And crazily, this made me think more about Abraham and Sarah. 

Prior to June’s declaration that she was moving…I didn’t doubt the “forever.” Our friendship was good. But then circumstances started to change, and everything started to feel “short-term.” And so it was with Abraham and Sarah. I think in the beginning their faith in the promises and constancy of God was really strong. But then circumstances began to change: Sarah started to feel old, heck...she started to actually BE old, and suddenly the eternal promise of God had an expiration date. 

I read somewhere that short-term thinkers tend to be desperate. I think they tend to be crazy. I say this because there is a ticking clock in the background of their every moment. Imagine that if you will…a loudly ticking clock counting down your chance at happiness, and you can hear it every second of your waking life. Such a person is on-edge to say the least (i.e. never at peace). On-edge people say and do DUMB things. Sarah offered another woman (Hagar) to the husband that she loved in order to produce an heir that God told Sarah she would give birth to. How did TWO extremely faith-filled individuals do something so rash? Their focus shifted. Their focus shifted off of the promises of God and onto their situation. It shifted off of God’s power and onto their frailty. It shifted off of God’s sovereignty and onto their knowledge of the natural order. It shifted from eternal to short-term. 

And we do this all the time. Imagine the area of your life that is super manic. And realize it's because of short-term thinking. We need to identify those areas because it is in short-term thinking that mistakes get made. But it is in thinking eternally that we can find true peace and rest on God's promises. And so this blog is a call to think and to live eternally. But there has to be a starting point.  

Which leads me back to my question: When does forever start? 

all these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own... But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them - Hebrews 11: 13 - 16 (excerpts)

This scripture says they died in faith, yet the scripture speaks about them as if they are alive. They “desire” in the present tense! But this is the clincher: God is not ashamed to be called their God:

“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” - Luke 20:38

He’s the God of the living. So the only question then is: Are. You. Alive? 

How is it that Abraham and Sarah came to live eternally? By faith. By thinking eternally. In the previous blog, I spoke on how God had turned Sarah (and Abraham too) back to faith, and it was in the interest of eternity. God's plan for us is about more than the carnal promises. It was about more than creating a physical bloodline. But it was about them “seeking a country”! God wants us thinking eternally so we can live eternally WITH Him! 

Just as with Abraham and Sarah, so it is with us. Forever starts with belief. 

…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. - Colossians 2:12

People are always telling me to live in the moment…but why? Why would I live in a moment when forever is available to me? Just saying. 

But wait! What about June?! The situation with June, it is an earthly one. I was thinking short-term because it’s hard to imagine maintaining the same level of relationship from 1,513 miles away, but I believe in us. And forever starts with belief, right? To be 100% honest there is only one way to ensure that we are legitimate BFFs. And that is for both of us to access “forever” through faith in Jesus Christ. Then, we are guaranteed forever, in some capacity. I say “in some capacity” because we know that there is no marriage or giving in marriage in heaven (Matthew 22:30), so maybe there’s no best friends or pinky swearing to best friendship…BUT I certainly hope that there is. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I recently went to Max Major's magic show, and he did a particular trick that got to me. Max told us it was a trick BEFORE he did it (which may be part of the trickery). So he took a newspaper and said: "I'm going to take this newspaper, and it's going to seem like I'm tearing it up, but when I drop the pieces to the ground, it will become apparent that I never tore it all." I'm thinking that he's ruining it, but then he commences to folding the newspaper and he starts tearing along the creases he made. I can seriously HEAR the ripping sounds. Then he makes a lazier fold and starts making jagged tears. I can SEE the edges of torn up paper (or so I think)...and he goes on folding, ripping, sounds continue to be made. At one point he tears across diagonally right through a photo, and I'm like THE PAPER IS TORN! But when he goes to drop the paper's a a whole newspaper again.

I was astounded, and kept saying dumb things like: "How did he do that?! He tricked  me!" Beyond  that I paid good money to, in fact, be tricked, that statement was dumb because he did not trick me. He TOLD me flat out what was going to do. He was the creator of the trick; he was the person actually in control of the newspaper...yet I believed my eyes and ears over what he told me.

 Which leads me back to Hebrews 11 - Faith Hall of Fame continues.
I was all set to write about Abraham, but then I was tripped up by this: 

By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. 
 - Hebrews 11:11

My first thought was: What is she doing in here? If there's one thing we is this: Sarah laughed. God TOLD Sarah that she would give birth to a son, and we know that Sarah didn't believe! She was super old and she trusted her senses over what the God of the universe told her. So what is she doing in the Hal of Fame?!  I'll come back to that.

I try to get inside what Sarah went through. When she first found out that she was going to have this amazing son, this seed of a nation...she had to have been so hype! She had to think: "and day now." Then a few years pass, no big deal. God does everything in HIS time. He's an on-time God. Then, a few more years pass and she starts worrying about her "last egg" but it's cool. God can preserve. And then...menopause. For Sarah, menopause had to have been like watching the paper get torn diagonally. You see now, that the gig is up! For you to present me with a whole newspaper at this point would be a miracle! We're often afraid to believe that God is in the business of miracles. Hope on that level is scary. Ellis Boyd said it best: 

"Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane." 

After so many years, I think Sarah chose sanity. I don't even think she realized that her faith was broken, until God called her out on it. 

Then one of them [of the three angel messengers] said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening...Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

This returns me to: what is Sarah doing in here?! But, don't you see God re-ordering Sarah's thinking? This entire exchange was for Sarah. The messengers made sure that Sarah was nearby where she could hear before they spoke (Genesis 18:9), and they addressed her unbelief in order to eradicate it.

Is there anything too hard for the Lord? 

That is what Sarah needed to hear! She needed to be reminded of who was in control of her situation. God confronted Sarah with her doubt so that she could leave it in that tent. And Hebrews 11:11 tells me she did just that. She found faith again. Not in her body. Not in her "last egg".  Scripture says she considered God faithful. She didn't know how it was going to happen, but I believe that from that moment in the tent...her doubt was gone. And her faith put her in the hall of fame. Blessed.

Note: A part of me still believes he tore up that paper and somehow replaced it with an identical untorn paper...I have no idea what happened. For me it was incomprehensible. All I know is at the end he did what he told me he would do: he produced a newspaper in perfect condition.

Trust the magician. Be amazed.