There is No Plan B

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Ephesians 4:1

There is no Plan B. For the message of the gospel to reach the multitudes, we have to share it. Those of us who profess Christ must take the message of the gospel into the world. God didn’t say, “Well, if you guys aren’t up to it, it’s fine. I’ll just use cats. Yes, cats are my go to plan.”

thGod won’t use cats. I love cats, but they would be a horrible Plan B anyway. Have you ever tried to herd cats? So since there is no alternate plan for getting the message of the truth of Jesus out to the world, the Bible tells us to live as children of the light. Paul told the Ephesians that their job was to live differently from the godless folks around them. As followers of Christ, people should be able to see a difference in us. We used to walk in darkness, but those days are done.

Now we are to be ever ready. Like the batteries. Whenever someone asks us about the hope that we have in Christ we must be sitting at the ready to talk about it. And we are supposed to do this with kindness and gentleness. None of this beating people up with the Bible. People tend to listen less when they are being beaten. It closes the ears as well as the heart right up.

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So how do we walk as children of the light? What does that even look like? It means that we live the way Jesus lived. Jesus gave up his right to be God while here on earth. When we decide to follow Jesus and accept his gift of life, we give up some things, too. We give up the right to think of ourselves first. We give up pridefulness and offense. We give up the plan we had for our lives, and go with the plan God has for us.

When we identify ourselves with Jesus to the world, we must learn to walk as children of the light. It is the responsibility we bear. Each day we are tasked with representing the Kingdom of God well. I know it can be hard. I really do. There are lots of things I would often like to say or do in certain situations, but I am learning that the cost to the Kingdom is too great.

Those who are skeptical of the gospel are looking for us to fail, and when we do, it gives them reason in their minds to keep running from God. Instead, we are to live lives that cause non-believers to see our good deeds and praise our God in heaven. (Matthew 5:16) That’s a tall order. When was the last time someone praised God in heaven because of something I did or said? Ouch.

We can live by the lie that says faith is a private thing, and we shouldn’t talk about it openly. Hey, if no one knows we are followers of Christ, then they won’t stumble at our failings to follow Him well, right? I have a friend who discourages her Christian husband from putting a fish sticker on his car because he is such a rude driver. We laugh about it, but it’s better. It’s better than putting it out there and then acting like a jerk behind the wheel.

But hiding our faith is not what we are asked, commanded even, to do. What would be best for my friend’s husband is for him to stop being a rude driver. Sticker or no sticker.

On a recent trip in to downtown Birmingham one morning, a wreck had turned I-59 into a virtual parking lot. I finally managed to maneuver into traffic from the merging lane, and decided to make room in front of me for someone else to pull over. The driver who did only pulled partially into the lane in front of me. Then I watched her, three times, dart back into the merging lane to block other cars from getting around her. At first, I just thought she was trying to decide if she was going to head on down the merging lane and slide into traffic a little further down, but no. She was literally trying to block others from getting ahead of her, and nearly running them off the road in the process.

And then I saw it. The cross sticker on her rear window. I had some pretty unholy thoughts of my own at that moment. Really? You’re going to display the image of the cross on your car and then proceed to act like that? If I am remembering correctly, I wanted to smack her.

It was a good reminder. While I don’t choose to put any Christian symbols on my car, I don’t make it a habit of hiding my faith from those around me. If I choose to follow the command to share the good news of Christ, then I bear the responsibility of living a life worthy of that calling. (Ephesians 4:1) I don’t always get that right, but I always feel the weight of the burden.

Life is a Dress Rehearsal

I’ve been on a bit of a quest this last year or so.

In less than two years, I’ll be fifty years old. Fifty. The thought of it amazes me, really. Like, how did that happen?

But in light of eternity, fifty is nothing. It’s not enough to be even a drop in the eternity bucket. So this quest I mentioned has to do with eternity. As believers in Christ, we talk a fair amount about it, and yet most of us live as though it isn’t real. We focus ourselves on the here and now, really behaving no differently than non-believers. You see, those who have not chosen to put their faith in Christ, at least most of them, think this is all there is. So their focus is here. Do everything you can, accomplish everything you can, and have everything you can… because this is all you get.

I know lots of Christians who find themselves living within that mindset, too. We talk some about eternity, but we don’t live our lives like we really believe it’s real. We live our lives for this life, almost completely neglecting the life to come, and in doing so, we starve the very part of us that will step into eternity and keep on trucking. We starve our souls.

We do believe in the life to come, don’t we? That age where time is no more. That existence where there is no more pain, no sadness, no disappointment, disease, sorrow, or evil. That place where we are fully known and know fully. The realm where time is gone and forever is a reality; where believers in Christ exist and reign with him forever. We do really believe that stuff, don’t we?

I’d venture to say that most of us spend precious little time thinking about that. It can be hard to wrap our minds around the concept of forever. But I’d like to propose that if we did, it would change the way we see things today, tomorrow, and the day after that. It would put to bed a lot of the issues that we carry around from our yesterdays. I’d venture to say if we thought more about eternity, we’d spend more time on the things that really matter. And here’s the truth, only the things that matter for eternity really matter.

We get so caught up in how people treat us or what opportunities we deserve. Christians can be some of the haughtiest people I know. Haughtiness is the Christian’s Aquilles heel. Haughtiness means to be condescendingly proud.

I know. I googled it. 

What does God say about the prideful? In James 4:6, the Bible says God opposes the proud. When we are haughty and prideful, God stands in opposition to us. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have God standing against me.

So how do we overcome haughtiness? Our mission here on earth, in this present darkness, is to walk in humility. It is humility that leads us to God’s grace.

I have heard that in this life, there is no dress rehearsal. I’d like to propose that this life actually IS a dress rehearsal for eternity. This is our training ground for forever. There will not be any one of us who will pass into eternity without standing before our Creator to give an accounting of our lives here. All this stuff we think we are due, or things we feel we deserve, will suddenly pale in comparison to hearing from our Maker’s lips, “Well done my good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your master!”

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In that moment, no promotion, recognition, award, commendation or opportunity will matter so much as those words. Our mission here, for this dress rehearsal, is to get it right. As the prophet Micah put it, we are to live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Living life in full view of eternity changes a person. The things that matter to us so much, begin to seem silly. We start to see our own silliness in others around us. We could point a finger at it all, but we might as well point it at ourselves.

If we strive to live as Jesus lived, a life of humility, simplicity, and peace, then when we actually do step from this life into the next, we’ll be walking into familiar territory. And forever will feel a good bit like home.

If this concept of eternity is striking a chord with you, let me suggest some resources to help you on the journey. Soul Keeping, by John Ortberg is a great one, as well as You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan. That one looks a lot like a marriage book by the cover… but you know what they say about judging a book by its cover!

And here’s a pretty good video that might help you become eternally minded.

Let’s Do This

Setting goals. We hear a lot about goal setting at different times, but I think most of us just find ourselves too busy to do it. The problem with not setting goals is that it slows our forward motion.

My husband is a goal setter of sorts, and he encourages our kids to do the same; especially as they get ready to fly solo. He will actually have them write down their one, two, and five year goals and give them to him. He asks them to set financial goals, professional goals, and relationship goals. At the first year mark, he will share their goals with them so they can be reminded and check their progress.

When I married my husband, he had an education goal. He wanted to have completed his doctorate by age thirty. It was a lofty goal. I am proud to say that while he did not meet that goal, he is going to begin work to complete that degree very soon. It’s almost never too late.

New Year’s resolutions and goal setting are similar, but different. Most New Year’s resolutions are kind of ambiguous. “This year I am going to exercise more. This year I am going to be a better daughter. This year I am going to read more and watch TV less.” Goals tend to be more specific.

I often run across people who are at a loss in life. They just don’t seem to have a lot of direction. I recognize this in others because I know personally what that looks like in my own life. We can often find ourselves so caught up in the busy-ness of life that we allow huge blocks of time to go by without our making any real progress in any real intentional direction.th

Setting goals can help defend us from lack of direction. When we set goals, our focus becomes clearer. We are distracted less by meaningless things that make bids for our attention. We can set our eyes on the prize and begin forward motion. Goals lend meaning and purpose to our lives.

I have the pleasure and honor to serve at my church on the ministry team for women’s small groups. The philosophy of ministry there is that we strive through leadership to help move women one step at a time in their faith journey. We want them to take just one step toward their goal of looking more like Jesus. We can’t expect to move every person by leaps and bounds. That can happen for a few, but for most of us, we need the one step method.

Let’s say you wanted to start a catering business, and you are starting from scratch. 🙂 The thought of the finished product might just be more than you can handle mentally, emotionally, financially, and physically- so you never have gotten any traction.

Years ago, Matthew and I were building a house. I visited on the day the brick layers were there. It seemed like a daunting task to me. I said, “How will you finish all this?” The Brick Mason simply said, “One brick at a time.”

thSome of us are afraid to set goals because we are overwhelmed at the sight of all those bricks. But most of us could handle one brick at a time. It’s the same way you eat an elephant… one bite at a time. Any of us could eat an elephant that way… although I don’t really know anyone who would want to ate an elephant at all…

I have a friend who is a Life Coach and she asks the question, “What step are you taking today to get you closer to your goal tomorrow?”

What is something you have always wanted to accomplish in your life? Are you putting it off because the thought of it overwhelms you? Let’s think through it together.

Set the goal. Just do it. Say it out loud. Talk to the Father about it. Make sure this goal lines up with what He has created you to do. After all, if it does, what can really, ultimately, stand in your way?
Then set mini goals from the big one. Bite sized pieces. Can you manage one bite a day? One a week? One a month?

Map it out.

Then move the majority of your focus time on the next step. We don’t ever want to lose sight of the end goal, but that, as we have said, can be overwhelming. So spend most of your time focused on the next step.

And make sure someone else knows your plan. Let’s face it, we are all so easily distracted. I can forget all about my next step and find myself engrossed in something that steals me away from the things I truly want to accomplish. Yet when that call, text, or email comes asking me how I am progressing towards the goal I set… I am immediately refocused… and often disappointed in myself!

So let me ask you…

What is it that you have always wanted to accomplish, but haven’t yet? Where do you want to be a year from now in regards to that goal? Have you mapped out a plan to get there? Have you talked to the Father about it? Have you shared your plan with someone who will hold you accountable to it? Alright then.

Let’s do this.