The Better You’ve Been Longing For

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Welcome to part 3 of this lovely series on why happiness eludes you, experiences disappoint you, and dreams deceive you.

In case you’re just joining in, I’ll give you the bottom line — it boils down to the idea of better. You can read parts 1 and 2 to catch up or fall asleep, your choice.

For those picking up after part deux, you were left with but a centimeter of your posterior hanging on the edge of your seat, wondering what in the world happens in Hebrews 11 to these men and women who lived by faith and died in faith, having never witnessed or grasped that for which they so deeply longed.

There are two helpful summaries about these men and women in relation to better.

Summary 1 is Hebrews 11.13-16.

These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth14 Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland15 If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. 16 But they now desire a better place—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. 

Summary 2 comes at the end of the chapter in verses 39 and 40.

All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.

So these faithful men and women who’ve gone before us by thousands of years, listened and obeyed God–not perfectly–but to the point that it was clear their better was not a better to be grasped in this world.

This feels like that moment where the preacher has no application and leans hard on  aren’t you glad heaven is waiting? Now, let’s stand and sing eight stanzas of I’ll Fly Away into Beulah Land somewhere over Jordan!

So yes, no wool to pull over your eyes, the better is forever. It’s eternity. It’s with God in His presence for eternity.

But I don’t think that is the main point for the writer of Hebrews. There is a pursuit of better here and now. The letter doesn’t continue on with a charge to suck it up until you die. 

Chapter 12 carries on with physically vigorous exercise words like lay aside every hindrance/weight and run the race with endurance. There’s no passive laisse faire spiritual gobbly goop there.

Run. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. He’s the one who got you started, and he’s the one who will get you across the finish line.

And oh that moment. That moment when your race is done. That moment when I fall into the arms of my Savior. That moment.

Having never laid hands or eyes on that which we longed and lived for, we will know in an instant that nothing was done in vain. We will be reassured one billion times over that there was nothing or no one on earth worth trading for a city that only God can build and an inheritance that only God can afford.

  • That moment will be better than whatever awkward bliss you can achieve with your girlfriend or boyfriend in your car or your apartment.
  • It will be better than whatever subdivision you dream of living in but can’t seem to afford.
  • It will be better than that car or lifted truck or boat or house or outfit or purse or batting average or GPA that you think will satisfy your itch for better or make your dad proud.

What’s it all mean?

May I be blunt? Of course I can; I’m writing.

There is no better this world affords that will be better enough.

It feels wrong to say it, type it, read it, believe it. But it’s true.

The only better that will satisfy is the better that lasts forever.

An obsession with that better will yield a life of beauty and purpose here and now. There is something about looking out and walking the path of long obedience that, invisibly and invariably, satisfies in the end.

For lack of a better word, it’s better.

I  will conclude this series next time with my own grasping for better story.

Until then.

 

Seeking a Better Better in a World of Imposters

So you’ve been bamboozled by the idea of better your entire life, as I mentioned in the last post. Nobody said that’s what was happening, but it happened. And it carries on.

Right now, some of you reading this are thinking about the better job or car or shoes or purse or blog (shame on you for that last one). But it’s in us. We want better. We crave better. We have anxiety over better and imagine ourselves living in, driving, or sleeping with better.

We shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that better is so alluring. The first advertising campaign on earth had to do with better.

It took all of three chapters in Genesis for Eve to be convinced that she could be

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Just one bite?

better and life could be better if she’d just eat of the fruit from a specific tree.

Both she and Adam took the bait of better, hook, line, and sinker. And then everyone blamed someone, but that’s a different topic.

Better is that low hanging fruit, right there in front of your face non-stop. It seems so reachable, so pleasing to the eye, and it must be wonderful to experience. 

  • With ladies, I think about social media and the gnawing sense that her life is better. It’s constant.
  • For the gents living in a hypersexualized culture, it’s evident that the Internet thinks you can get better, and for cheap. Why bother with real people when virtual people will fulfill your fantasies?

Better is everywhere. It wears many masks.

It may be worth noting here that my hope is NOT that you would abandon better. I want you to believe in better. There is a reason that longing is in you. It just may be a wildly different better altogether. It’s a better that, in an election year, will make people frustrated and simultaneously prevent you from slinging mud on the facebook…because you don’t think better will be won at the polls, at not the better folks are slandering, lying, and cussing to grasp.

I found myself some time back re-reading through the letter of Hebrews in the New Testament, which really reads best if you do it all at one time. It’s more like a sermon.

Hebrews chapter 11, in particular, is where this is all coming from.

This chapter is sometimes called the hall of faith because it is replete with the names and stories of some of the who’s who of the OT

Enoch. Noah. Moses. Abraham. Sarah.

The refrain of the chapter is by faith. By faith Noah–by faith Abraham–by faith Israel…

In order to not be confused about what faith is, God is kind enough to tell us exactly what faith is at the beginning of chapter 11

Hebrews 11.1 Now faith is the reality (confidence) of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. (CSB) 

> The glaring oddity about faith and your walk with Christ is that it’s wrapped up in things not seen.

It’s not that the empirical, visible, or tangible doesn’t matter. But rather, that the transcendent, intangible, and invisible matter more, at least in terms of what governs the way you live.

As you might expect, this is a pervasive theme throughout the Bible. That we live amidst the visible and invisible.

It’s this tension that makes so many college students and academics uncomfortable.

It’s what drives attempts by Bible professors who’ve spent nearly a decade in doctoral programs to explain away the supernatural.

And yet much of the focus in Hebrews 11 is on these men and women who were faithful even when they didn’t see what was promised to them by God in this life. Those who were captivated by the invisible, by faith.

  • Abraham didn’t see descendants as numerous as the stars.
  • Moses didn’t see the Promised Land in all its glory.

In the next post, I will point you to a summary of several of these lives and their having died without seeing the better they so longed to experience. Faithful men and women who, thousands of years before we ever cared about a thing, listened and obeyed God, not perfectly, but to the degree that it was clear their better was vastly different than the better we’ve become accustomed to chasing.

Here’s to a better better.

Two significant lies about significance, part 1

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There are at least two lies Satan will whisper in your ear about your significance.

LIE #1: You’re not important.

There are 7 billion people in the world (give or take a few several handfuls of millions).

What makes you special? You aren’t significant, especially compared to that significant person over there.

Sometimes we’re able to shut down such thoughts…other times, we’re crushed. We follow the road most traveled. Destination, self-pity.

The answer to Lie #1 rests securely in your identity.

That you’ve been created in the image of God. You and every person you meet are image bearers of God. “We are God’s workmanship,” wrote the Apostle Paul to some folks in the 1st century struggling with identity.

Just like art curators and experts identify works of art based on certain characteristics or styles of an artist, you are identified as this remarkable work of God because you bear His image. You have the capacity to think and feel and love and imagine possibilities of what could be.

King David captures this beautifully in Psalm 139.13-14

For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well.

I know. It should say “fearfully and wonderfully…” You start using fearfully in everyday conversation and I’ll change it.

For now, though, you are awe-inspiring, worthy of reverence, distinct, distinguished, set apart. Just how you felt after your last screw up, right?

Think about the fact that the Spirit of the living God inspired David to write that about you, of all people! You. You are remarkable and wondrous. A work of God.

But sometimes you don’t feel remarkable, do you?

Our failures have a way of reminding us how unremarkable we can be. It’s in those moments we feel this thing called SHAME.

SHAME tells its own lies: (Brené Brown gave a TED talk on this that went viral)

  • Shame says you didn’t just make a mistake. You are a mistake.
  • Shame says you didn’t just fail. You are your failure.

And in those moments when shame or guilt or fear or insecurity crowds in and starts telling you lies, that’s when you have to proclaim these gospel truths:

  • I am a work of God.
  • I am loved by God.

Until you are able to embrace the deep reality that you are loved by God simply for being, you will always struggle to feel significant because your identity is not secure. More than likely you will seek identity in what you do, a responsibility of some kind.

But in God’s economy, identity precedes responsibility.

It’s why God came to Abraham and established a relationship before sending Him out. It’s why God established a relationship with Moses and Israel b/f giving the law.

You have been created by God…You couldn’t be loved by God any more than you are in this very moment. Drink it in.

I’ll post Lie #2 soon enough, so check back. Better yet, subscribe and have each new post sent straight to your inbox.

Good Will Hunting and God

One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is in Good Will Hunting (set in Boston, starring Bostonians Damon and Affleck–#GetBeard–#GoSox!!) when Sean, played by Robin Williams, is assuring Will Hunting, played by young Matt Damon, that all the events of his past are not his fault. Sean begins: “It’s not your fault.” Yeah, I know. “It’s not your fault.” I know. “No, no you don’t. It’s not your fault.” I know. “It’s not your fault…” Good.Will.Hunting.1997.XviD.DTS.CD3-WAF.avi_001529070

The scene goes on until Will breaks down and his otherwise tough facade crumbles.

What if someone approached you and repeatedly said, “You’re not God.” I know. “You’re not God.” Yeah, I know. “No, no you don’t. You’re not God.” I know!

I feel like that’s what God does to me when I respond in a less than stellar way to the unexpected.

So much of life is unexpected.

Unexpected circumstances, be they tragic or triumphant. Unexpected people, be they pleasant or petty. Consider how much of your life is spent encountering the unexpected.

I like routines, schedules, plans, and honestly, predictability. But God is constantly messing up my plan and schedule and the predictability of life. And how do I usually respond? Anger. Anxiety. Aggravation. A litany of alliterative A-words.

But what if, in all the  unexpected, God’s doing something better than my plan? What if he’s growing me through the unexpected in a way that just wouldn’t have happened if I got my way? Can I possibly bring this back around to Good Will Hunting? You bet I can.

Will didn’t expected anyone to ‘help’ him because he didn’t think he had a problem. Eventually the barriers were broken down, as I so passionately illustrated above. But even more unexpected was the change in Sean–the bearded Boston Red Sox fan therapist.

See, Sean hadn’t taken any chances or really lived life since his wife died a few years before. But his unexpected relationship with Will changed him. He tried to resist the impact Will was having on him, but after a while he embraced it and stepped out with a renewed sense of hope.

The next time your plans are interrupted or someone slows you down, take a breath and consider whether the God of the unexpected is trying to do something unexpected in your life.