The Good Life, part 3: Fireworks and Wishes (4th of July)

FirecrackerLast night, standing in the parking lot of my church, I heard loud, popping sounds behind a screen of trees. Apparently, the children next door were celebrating the Fourth of July  two days early.

It fit in with my thoughts. I had wanted for this week’s blog to relate to Independence Day, so was seriously considering interrupting my series on The Good Life. But then I saw that the events of July 4, 1776, were a perfect illustration of what was on my heart to say next about “the good life.”

In 1776, many Americans  were ready to be done with English rule. They desired “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Does that sound like “the good life”?) But the 57 men who signed the Declaration of Independence didn’t just wish for the freedom to pursue these things, they did something about it. Over ninety declarations of independence were circulating around the colonies at that time. But these 57 men sent their declaration directly to the king of England. In so doing, they laid on the line their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor (as the last line of the Declaration says).

They are examples of what the previous blog said about The Good Life: they desired something passionately, and that desire motivated them to achieve something that made their lives worth living.

They also show that desiring things is a necessary beginning, but it’s only the beginning. As the old nursery rhyme says, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

Wishing, alone, will get a person nowhere. Some people wish for something with all their hearts and feel robbed because what they desire never happens. But things do not become ours just because we want them. It doesn’t work that way when we go shopping, does it?

“Well,” some people might object, “I’m not just wishing for something to happen. I have faith that God will do it.” That’s an excellent statement in the sense that only God can guarantee good outcomes. But it implies that God fulfills His promises all by Himself.

One of the events that says otherwise is the story of the Israelite’s possession of the Promised Land. God had promised it to them. But the first generation of Israelites didn’t receive their promise. They didn’t think right–they believed the giants in the land were more powerful than God. They had no faith in Him.

The second generation did have faith in God, but their faith was not passive. They didn’t camp on the east side of the Jordan and wait for God to give them the “all clear” signal. No, they understood that God had guaranteed them the land, but He required them to play a part in taking possession of it–a part that required faith and courage. It took faith and courage to show up for battle. It took faith to follow God’s unusual battle plans. Then, after He performed a miracle (like causing the walls of Jericho to fall), they needed faith and courage to follow up on that and complete the conquest.

As James 2:20 says, “Faith without works is dead.” In other words, faith that does not do its part, is not really faith. It’s wishful thinking.

When Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites, the Lord said to him,

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8 NKJV).

Hmm! There’s a part for us to play if we want to experience the success God has promised.

Fireworks&PeopleThere’s a reason why our memory of the Fourth of July, 1776, is emblazoned on the skies every year with multi-colored bursts of fire. On that day, a group of men rose above mere wishful thinking. They placed “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” then courageously played their part in birthing the great nation known as the United States of America.

What kind of “good life” do you desire? If it is, indeed, a good desire; that is, a healthy, God-inspired one, don’t say it couldn’t happen. Don’t doubt your ability to partner with God in reaching such a goal. You will no doubt need new attitudes and behavior in order to be successful, but God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). If you let Him, He will make you a person of faith and courage who can lay hold of The Good Life of your desires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EASTER: Dare to Look

When I opened up Office.com Images to find an illustration for this post, colored eggs, chickies, and cherry blossoms popped off the screen. Easter! Spring! Love it, love it.

Beautiful to behold. Unlike what came before Easter–the Cross. That is hard to behold, at all. But one day I did, and here’s what I saw.

Three crosses On the Cross

Read Colossians 1:21-22; Luke 23:26-46.

There’s a reason why the Cross is the primary symbol of the Christian faith. On the Cross, Jesus gave his life to redeem mankind from sinfulness and rescue us from the tyranny of the evil one. It was the turning point of history on this planet.

In remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice, I have worn a cross around my neck, taken Communion, and fasted during Lent. But I never had the courage to look squarely at Jesus suffering on the Cross.

That is, until Cheri Brisbin, my “Life and Teachings of Christ” instructor, caused me to look. As she described the scene, I saw a Man big enough to bear the Cross and still support Peter, and the women of Jerusalem, and his executioners, and the thief on the Cross, and his mother…and me.

I kept looking at the Cross, and I wondered how Jesus’ sufferings and demeanor on that day affected his disciples. Peter had marveled when Jesus had said they were to forgive seventy times seven times. But after Calvary, I’m sure none of the disciples ever again wondered if that was possible: they saw Forgiveness incarnate, Love that could not be offended.

And then there was the matter of servanthood. Jesus’ washing of their feet was startling enough that the disciples probably finally got the picture that love and service were the ways they would have to operate to please him. However, that was insignificant compared to the demonstration of servanthood they were going to witness in the next 24 hours.

He gave his very life; and even in the midst of his agony he did not allow the pain to keep him from reaching out to the last few people who needed his encouragement and salvation. Truly, when we perform great labors of love and suffer for Jesus’ sake we are still like children helping their daddy: our work is small compared to his. He did, and still does, most of the work. And our part we can do with grace, because he’s right there to help.

I used to think that it was the strictly the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that made lions out of the disciples who had scattered like sheep at Jesus’ arrest. But now I can’t help but think that some backbone was put into them at the sight of Jesus taking the worst that hate and evil could dish out, behaving like a prince, and coming out a victor.

Instead of being afraid to look at Jesus’ agony, let’s look—and weep—but catch his love and his courage. In the light of the Cross, let us see the pettiness of sin and carnality and accept the grace to live as he did.                               Celia Willard Milslagle

9781425978358_cover.inddFrom Streams of Living Water: A Daily Guide to Devotional Meditation on God’s Word  by F. Burleigh Willard Sr. and Celia Willard Milslagle.