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  • Featured Image Forever Young

    Forever young
    I want to be forever young
    Do you really want to live forever?
    Forever, and ever

    Hello.  My name is Jeff.  And I like 80’s music.  And Napoleon Dynamite. And I may be treating this song with too much seriousness, but the sentiment is strong today – many people are living in the past.

    After rewatching Napoleon Dynamite for perhaps the 15th time, I remembered how much I liked this song – “Forever Young” by the not-well-known-here band Alphaville.  It was a reminder to me of high school, and all the fun I had there.  For me high school was not the terror filled, anxiety ridden, roller coaster that it is for many.  I had good friends, real friends.  I had no enemies.  I got along with nearly everybody.  In many ways, I was atypical.

    But I also screwed up.  I was not as nice to some as I should have been.  I went with the crowd sometimes, and laughed at people I should have been befriending instead.  So, even while I was atypical, in many ways, I was also typical.

    Songs like “Forever Young” are a call back to simpler times, to times where we felt as if we had the world on a string and could enjoy life for everything it offered.  No worries.  No deadlines.  No expectations.  No responsibilities.

    All fun.  For the most part.  A time I would be happy to revisit.

    But I’d never stay.

    I would have to give up so much that I have gained to relive those times.  I do not want to be forever young.  Not in a million years.  You have no idea how much better I have it now than I did at any time in my history.  Even my yesterday is not as good as today.

    Why?  Because my wife told me “I love you” today.  Because I got to be with my children and watch them care for little kids at church.  Because I am seeing my children mature into responsible kids (and adults).  Because I got to talk to my oldest daughter who is away at the moment.  Because I got to sing the praises of my Savior, who rescued me from the ignorance of my youth, who saved me from my sin and myself.  Because I got to do that with my kids.  Because every day, I am growing, changing.  Every day I lose a little more of the wretch I am, and gain a little more of the Jesus who loves me gave Himself for me.

    Because every day is truly a joy, because my joy is not found in temporary things.  It is found in the God who has given (and still gives) me those temporary things to enjoy.  I reject outright the oft spoken lament – “my best years are behind me.”  The simple fact that God has redeemed me makes that statement utterly false.  My best day ever was today.  And tomorrow will be better still.  And it will all culminate in that great and glorious day when Jesus returns for His church.

    And then my forever with Him will be a reality, not a shadow.

    No, I do not want to be forever young.  Not for a million dollars a day for a million years.

    But I think that this song shines a light on how people typically see this.  Could the desire to be “forever young” stem from a fear of losing temporary happiness, as in this, the first verse …

    Let’s dance in style, let’s dance for a while
    Heaven can wait we’re only watching the skies
    Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst
    Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?

    The scene is a high school dance with your sweetheart near, dancing the night away, wishing it would never end.  Even postponing heaven – heaven can wait, I’m having too much fun here, especially if the worst happens, and she decides to break up … the bomb.  It’s not the end of the world, but you think of it as the end of yours.  The eternal bliss of heaven is weighed against the end of a fleeting relationship and guess what wins?

    Heaven can wait.

    But why would you want to wait for this?

    Revelation 21:1-5 [1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. [2] And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” [5] And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (ESV)

    If you will put that on hold for the joy of a relationship in the here and now, even as you fear its end, then your problem is bigger than desiring to be “forever young.”

    Let us die young or let us live forever
    We don’t have the power, but we never say never
    Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip
    The music’s for the sad man

    At least there is an admission – we don’t have the power to decide to live forever or not.  But we still fight against the inevitable – we never say never.  Even as the desire to remain young, to remain in this moment forever, holds us captive, we realize that we can’t control it – it’s a fantasy to dwell in the now – if only I could stay this way forever.  Forever young.  This verse reflects some powerful truths … one: that we do not control life …

    Acts 17:24-27 [24] The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. [26] And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, [27] that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, (ESV)

    … and two: that life is short …

    James 4:13-16 [13] Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—[14] yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. [15] Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” [16] As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (ESV)

    The words of the song here remind us that we are ultimately not in control of our lives.  Which serves to make living in the now, forever young, much more appealing.  It is comfortable, we are happy, why risk it?  Especially if risking it results in the temporary pain of a lost relationship that was never permanent to begin with.

    Ahh, the temporary bliss of young love…certainly real, but certainly not worth putting heaven on hold for.

    Can you imagine when this race is won?
    Turn our golden faces into the sun
    Praising our leaders, we’re getting in tune
    The music’s played by the, the madman

    But yet even in our desire to remain forever young, there is still an excitement about the future (can you imagine?).  Since we know that we cannot remain forever young, we look forward to the end.  When the race is won, and we turn our golden faces towards the sun (or, more rightly, the  Son)…

    2 Timothy 4:6-8 [6] For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. [7] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. [8] Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (ESV)

    1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 [16] For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. [17] Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. [18] Therefore encourage one another with these words. (ESV)

    At that trumpet, we will turn our faces towards the Son and see Him in all of his glory and majesty.  And we will join Him!  He alone will be the leader we praise.

    The next couple of verses ask important questions, questions like “No matter who you are, one day, everyone will be gone, why don’t they stay young?”  “Am I growing old without a cause?  Am I perishing like a used up horse?”

    The sad admission being “I fear growing old.  I fear being used up and forgotten.  I fear being useless.”  And that fear is realized in this lyric …

    Youth’s like diamonds in the sun,
    And diamonds are forever

    Youth shines bright like a diamond.  And diamonds are forever.  Why isn’t youth?  Why can’t it be youth!!

    But after much musing about the fleeting nature of youth, the desire to stay young forever and the impossibility of it all, and about why people might want to stay young, the song finally speaks to the real truth behind why so many want to remain forever young …

    So many adventures given up today
    So many songs we forgot to play
    So many dreams swinging out of the blue
    Oh let it come true

    … it’s regret.  Look at everything I’ve lost.  Look at the things I forgot to do.  Look at the wasted opportunities.  Look at my sad life of regret.  I wish I could live it all over again – I’d do better.  I’d be better.  If I could only remain young … forever young … everything would be different.

    2 Corinthians 7:9-10 [9] As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. [10] For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (ESV)

    Living a life of regret is miserable, it leads to worldly grief and death.  You fantasize about being young forever because you hate your now.  And when you fantasize about being forever young, you begin to live a life of regret.  And that mindset rejects the growth through trial – it rejects the joy in living life for God, always being changed, always finding purpose, always being fulfilled in knowing that you are not working for “the now” – for work that will be burned up like so much wood, but work that will last for eternity, because you are investing in the lives of those who will actually live forever.

    Romans 8:28-30 [28] And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. [29] For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. [30] And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (ESV)

    Would you choose to remain as you are forever, and therefore reject God’s work in your life?

    All of this, of course, is predicated on you belonging to Jesus.  The question asked by the song …

    Forever young
    I want to be forever young
    Do you really want to live forever?
    Forever, and ever

    … is a good question, but it is incomplete.  As I mentioned, everyone will live forever – so the question is not “do you want to live forever?”, but “where will you live forever?”  Because everyone who has ever lived, is living now, and will ever live, will live forever and ever.

    There is only one answer to that question.  No, you will not “cease to be” as many think.  No, not everyone will “go to heaven” as many believe, not even the “good people” are guaranteed heaven as you can never outgood your bad.  Never.

    You will either be with God forever (in heaven) or apart from God forever (in hell).  But even that’s not strong enough.  This is perhaps better:

    You will either enjoy all of the benefits befitting a child of the King of the universe, all of His love, all of His splendor, all of His goodness, all of the riches of His majesty, and enjoy it forever because you have been redeemed, forgiven, and adopted into His family, with all of the blessing that befit an heir of infinity.

    Or you will suffer an eternity of paying a debt that you cannot ever hope to pay, of incarceration for your crimes against an infinitely holy God whose rules you have willfully broken over and over again throughout your entire life.  You will never experience the joy promised in Revelation 21 because you have chosen to say “Heaven can wait.  I’m happy right here.”

    Being forever young.

    Like the fool…

    Luke 12:13-21 [13] Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” [14] But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” [15] And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” [16] And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, [17] and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ [18] And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. [19] And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ [20] But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ [21] So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (ESV)

    … rather than forever His.

    1 Corinthians 6:19-20 [19] Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, [20] for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (ESV)

    1 Corinthians 15:53-58 [53] For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. [54] When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” [55] “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” [56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    [58] Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)

    Do you still want to be forever young?

    I don’t.  I’d lose far too much.



  • Featured Image A stone of stumbling…a rock of offense

    Romans 9:30–33 (ESV) (30) What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; (31) but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. (32) Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, (33) as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

    In case you hadn’t heard, the gospel is offensive.

    1 Peter 2:7–8 (ESV) (7) So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (8) and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

    The gospel (good news) actually begins with bad news. Very bad news.

    That bad news? You are a disobedient criminal (sinner, wicked, corrupt, pick whatever synonym you want) by nature and by choice.  Wanna hear worse news?  Payment for your crimes is demanded and will come due.

    Can it get even worse?

    Consider this … that payment that is due is made throughout eternity, with no chance of parole. No bail. No visitation.

    Offended?

    Nobody wants to hear that they are a criminal facing an eternal prison. Nobody wants to hear that no matter how hard they try, their best will never be good enough to earn them a stay of execution.

    There is no reduced sentence for good behavior.

    And lest you think it’s “just them”, this prison sentence isn’t just for Joe who thinks he’s a woman, Sue who married her girlfriend, Jim who he beat his wife, or Bob who’s a creeper, it’s all encompassing – the gospel leaves no room for “acceptable” rebellion …

    Romans 3:10–19 (ESV) (10) as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; (11) no one understands; no one seeks for God. (12) All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (13) “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” (14) “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” (15) “Their feet are swift to shed blood; (16) in their paths are ruin and misery, (17) and the way of peace they have not known.” (18) “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (19) Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

    Notice carefully what Paul says it is that causes of all of this – not that “Joe thinks he’s a woman” or “Sue married her girlfriend” or “Jim beat his wife” or “Bob looks at women lustfully.”

    Far from it!  By quoting Isaiah, Paul says that the reason everyone has “become worthless” is not the individual ways in which sin manifests itself in our lives, it’s this:

    “All have turned aside.”

    We have all turned aside from and rejected God. We have all spit in his face. We have all thought that we know better. We have replaced the true God with ourselves.  Even when we thought more highly of ourselves.  Even when we thought that we didn’t really hate God when we only ignored Him most of the time.

    Yeah … that was hatred.  Calling it something else to make yourself feel better about your rebellion doesn’t change what it is or was.

    Rebellion.  God is your king regardless of whether or not we acknowledge it.

    And we replaced Him with anything else because “Ain’t nobody telling me what I can and can’t do!”

    And that rebellion, no matter how it plays out in our lives, is worthy of death.  Which leaves us with only two options (that is, if we don’t want the death penalty):

    1. I can pay for my own crimes for eternity
    2. someone else, someone who is able, can pay for my crimes

    And here is why the gospel is good news.

    The good news, though it starts off with a death sentence, ends with the hope of freedom! That the death sentence that we all deserve was already carried out, on a cross, 2000 years ago, on a hill outside of Jerusalem.  Executed by the only righteous judge in the entire universe, against the only person in the entire universe whose humanity demonstrated that he deserved life – someone who willingly chose to take the bullet for his enemies.

    Romans 5:6–11 (ESV) (6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— (8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (11) More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

    There is only one way to be pardoned, one way to be free, and it goes right through the person of Jesus the Messiah.

    Acts 4:8–12 (ESV) (8) Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, (9) if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, (10) let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. (11) This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (12) And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

    And yet, even in that great news, there is offense…

    John 14:1–7 (ESV) (1) “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (2) In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (4) And you know the way to where I am going.” (5) Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (6) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (7) If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

    The “no one” that Jesus is referring to is literally “no one.”  Not one person in existence.  Not one person who has ever lived, is currently living, or who will live from now until the end of time.  Not you, not me, not anybody in the history of forever has any hope throughout forever except through faith in Jesus.

    Could it be that some of the best news of the gospel is perhaps the most offensive thing about it?  That you can do nothing to earn grace, nothing to deserve a pardon.  You can’t “out-good” your bad.  You can’t work off your sentence.

    And perhaps the saddest thing is that we try so hard.  Only to fail so miserably.  It never ends well when we try to do Jesus’ job for Him.

    And oh how we try.

    Remember Paul’s admonition?  Remember the condemnation he proclaimed?  That we have all turned away from God?

    Now hear the hope – turn away from yourself and trust in Jesus as your only hope of pardon, as your only escape from the eternal prison that awaits you, and set your eyes on this…

    Revelation 21:1–5 (ESV) (1) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (2) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (4) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (5) And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

    He is powerful to make all things new.

    Even you.



  • Featured Image Jesus is Sacrifice…

    Simple entry tonight on this, as one friend called it, “the best worst day in history”.

    Please think on who you believe Jesus to be and compare that to who the bible says He was and is and forever will be.

    Matthew 1:21–23 (ESV) (21) She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (22) All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: (23) “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

    1 Peter 2:21–25 (ESV) (21) For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (22) He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. (23) When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (24) He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (25) For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

    If you don’t believe that we are all sinners in need of a savior, if you don’t believe that Jesus is God in the flesh who died to save His people from their sin, then you may as well believe that unicorns will come and sweep you away to a land full of Skittles, because that’s all the hope you have.

    Read this carefully, because it tells us who we are…and it ain’t pretty.  But it also shows us our savior!  Here is Jesus…born to die…born to save His people.

    Isaiah 53:1-12 (ESV) (1) Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? (2) For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. (3) He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (4) Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. (5) But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (7) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. (8) By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? (9) And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. (10) Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. (11) Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. (12) Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

    As you remember the darkest night in history, also remember Him.  Remember the pain He suffered.  Remember the reason He suffered.  And if you belong to Him through faith, rejoice that the wrath of God meant for you was laid upon Him instead.

    John 14:6 (ESV) (6) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

    I’ll say it because it needs to be said – faith in Jesus is the only way you’ll avoid hell.

    There’s no alternate.  He’s it.  Do you believe?