Five awesome quotes from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

5-awesome-quotes-from-charles-dickens-2

If you’ve never had the opportunity to read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, I want to encourage you to do so this Christmas season.  We’ve all seen this story in one form or another on TV (my favorite version features the Muppets), but there are corners of the heart books seems to touch that films simply cannot.

Here are my five favorite quotes from the book:

1.

but-i-am-sure-i-have

That last part really hits me in the gut.  It’s both sad and encouraging.  We’re all “fellow-passengers to the grave,” so why show favoritism toward one person over another?

2.

they-were-not-a-handsome

One of the things I’ve been really learning from the Bible lately is that it is better to be content with what you have than to constantly want something else.  I mean, if you’re happy with what you have, why spend so much time and energy struggling after something you don’t need, something that won’t bring you satisfaction?

3.

i-wear-the-chain

This one’s all about personal accountability.  We can choose what we want our lives to be, and what our lives consist of in this life will ultimately impact what our lives are like in the next.  We’re either building chains for ourselves, or breaking them through the power of Christ.  Which are you doing?

4.

mens-courses

I love this thought!  As long as we have breath in our lungs, it’s not too late to change.  It’s not too late to become a better parent.  It’s not too late to change how we treat our spouses.  It’s not too late to put your faith in Jesus.  It’s not too late, and though you may have built up many chains for yourself, if you change course and turn to Christ you can leave all of those chains behind, forever!

5.

some-people-laughed

This is an attitude I aspire to have.  Who cares if people laugh at you for doing good?  Who cares if people mock you for turning down a better path?  Do what is right, what is best, and let men chatter while you live at peace.

Advertisements

A new (and better) way to work

top-20mobileapps

It’s pretty audacious for me to proclaim I know of “a new way to work,” especially since Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, teaches us that “History merely repeats itself.  It has all been done before.  Nothing under the sun is truly new” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Yet just because something isn’t new to the world doesn’t mean it isn’t new to us.  I like to go shopping at a second-hand store located just outside a wealthy community.  Why?  Because it gives me a chance to glean gently used, high-quality clothing for a fraction of the original cost, and that which was deemed “old” by its original owner suddenly becomes “new” in my possession.

The same is true of wisdom.  The most valuable insights are of ancient origins, yet when applied to our condition they become fresh again in our lives.

How does this apply to work?  Well, let’s look to the wisdom of Solomon once again.  Ecclesiastes is a book he wrote about his search for meaning on this earth.  Early in the book, Solomon details how he “had everything a man could desire” (2:8), and how he had become greater than all his predecessors, yet at the end of it all he was still disappointed.

In Ecclesiastes 2:9-11, Solomon writes:

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

How tragic!  To spend so much precious time and energy, only to look back disappointed at the meaninglessness of the your work!

But later in the chapter (verses 24-25) Solomon the Wise comes to an interesting conclusion.  He states:

So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?

Here’s what I’d like to draw out of this text: he says it is from the hand of God that we enjoy our work, not the product of our work.  It is a blessing to find pleasure while working, not just in our off time after our money has been earned.

In other words, it is a blessing to enjoy the process, not just the product, of your work.

As a writer, sometimes I just want my work to be finished.  My projects are becoming longer and longer, because I used to almost exclusively write articles and now I’m writing books.  But God has blessed me to do something that I enjoy, and it is crucial that I don’t overlook the process when writing longer works, because it is in the process that we grow, and it is in the process where he grants us joy.

The same is true of our lives in general.  Sometimes we just want to give up on ourselves, on who we’re becoming, because we just want God to transform us, to make us like him, instantaneously.  But I think he often keeps the destination out of reach, at least for a while, not because he’s cruel or unloving, but because it is the journey that prepares you for the destination.  And if you can find joy in the journey–with all of its hardships and struggles–then know that joy has been given to you by God.

One final thought: There is a limit to how much we can enjoy the things of this earth, because we were not made for this earth but for the Kingdom of God.  If you find your work to be meaningless it is probably because you, like Solomon, have learned it will not last.  But those who serve God faithfully can know their lives are a ministry that is making an eternal impact.

Here is my word of encouragement to you, words Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:58:

 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

Strength and Beauty Are Not Opposites

“Real strength never impairs beauty or harmony, but it often bestows it; and in everything imposingly beautiful, strength has much to do with magic.”

-Herman Melville

untitled-designThe above quote from Moby Dick refers to a whale’s tail, of all things, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the same could be said of God.  He’s almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, the one who holds the universe in his hands.  We describe him as omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere at once), and omnipotent (all-powerful).  He has no equal, and there’s nothing within reason for us to compare him to.  Our minds simply cannot comprehend his wisdom, presence, and might.

But at the same time, Jesus showed us God is no power-crazed war-monger.  In Christ, God stepped down from his throne in heaven, taking the form of a servant, in order to extend his grace to us.  He showed his gentleness by not roaring in like a lion ready to devour us because of our sin, but by laying down his life as a lamb so as to take the hit for us.  His gentle gesture was the most beautiful the world has ever seen.

I love the way the wise woman from Tekoa put it for David in 2 Samuel 14:14.  “All of us must die eventually,” she said.  “Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.”

How much more gentle could he be?  Despite being able to easily “sweep life away,” he instead makes plans to gently reconcile us with him — now that’s beautiful.  Although we’re undeserving, he gives us a chance to be made right with him.

Like God, I aspire to be tough and tender too.  I enjoy training and competing in boxing and mixed martial arts.  I like movies like Gladiator and Ip Man.  I want to be strong and be able to protect my family from people who would try to harm them.

But I also want to be gentle in the way I speak and act toward my wife.  I want my son to know I’m not afraid to be affectionate, and that it’s okay for a man to show some emotion.  David was a vicious warrior who played the harp!  I think I’m in good company if I can both fight and enjoy a good sunrise.

So be strong and beautiful.  Be tough and tender.  They’re not the antithesis of each other.  In fact, as God has shown, there are few characteristics of a person that are more complementary!

Living in the Moment – A Lesson from Leo Tolstoy

Good stories are more than just entertainment; they have the power to be life-changing. Jesus understood this, and at times chose to let his illustrations be the sermon rather than just a part of it. In his parables he spoke of what were most likely some fictional characters and events, yet his works of fiction conveyed more truth than the combined contents of stacks of autobiographies.

From now on that will be the focus of Faith Nerd Blog: keeping an eye out for God’s truth in stories, especially works of literature. It’s a blog at the intersection of reality and make believe, reading everything through the lens of the Gospel.

Tolstoy’s Tale

Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy wrote a great little story called “The Three Questions” in which a king theorizes he can avoid failure if he knows three things: the right time to begin everything, the right people to listen to, and the most important thing to do at any given moment.  

He surrounds himself with wise men who try to answer the three questions, but they have conflicting ideas so he decides to consult a hermit who is known far and wide for his wisdom.

The king disguises himself in order to talk to the hermit because the wise man will only receive “common folk.”  The hermit is digging in the ground in front of his hut when the king approaches to ask his questions, but when the hermit doesn’t answer, the king takes the spade and offers to dig a while so the hermit can rest.  

After hours of working the king becomes impatient.  He demands the hermit answer his questions, but just as he does so a man runs out of the woods bleeding from his abdomen.  The king washes and bandages the wound as best he can, but the blood keeps flowing.  So again and again he washes and bandages the wound, until finally the blood stops and the man’s life is saved.

By this time the sun has set and the wounded man is thirsty, so the king brings him some water and, with the help of the hermit, carries the man to the hermit’s bed to let him rest.  Afterward the king is so exhausted from his hard day’s work that he falls asleep.

When he awakes in the morning, the king finds the wounded man already awake.  The man apologizes to the king, not because he had been an inconvenience, but because he had actually come into the woods to avenge his brother’s death (and the loss of some property) by killing the king!  He had been wounded by the king’s bodyguard while on his mission, but is both grateful and astonished that his enemy would take such good care of him.  

The king not only forgives the wounded man, but says he will send his own servants and physician to care for him and will restore the lost property.

The king is happy to have made peace with his enemy, but still has some unanswered questions.  He asks the wise man one last time to answer his questions, and the man responds, “You have already been answered!”  The king, still confused, seeks more clarity, so the old man explains:

“Do you not see…If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug those beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business.

“Remember then: there is only one time that is important– Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!

Learning from Leo

I love the message this short story delivers: one of the most important things you can do is live in the moment.  Even believers, who have the hope of eternal life in them, have to keep in mind that while heaven and perfection are our future we still live in the now, so we can’t neglect it or the people in front of us.

The most important time for you is right now.  One of my personal mantras is, “You only have today.”  It’s a constant reminder that you can plan ahead and reflect on the past, but you can’t possess any moment but the present.  So go out and carpe the crap out of your diem!  Don’t rest on the laurels of your faith by over-reflecting on what God did yesterday or get stuck waiting on what He’ll do in the future.  Today is the only opportunity you have to act.  Right now is the only time you have any power.  Use your now wisely!

What’s Your Next Step?

What's Your Next Step

My church offers something we call “Next Steps” to help guide our guests through the first few milestones of their faith. These steps include things like salvation, baptism, serving, giving, and getting involved in a small group.  What I love about our Next Steps is they provide a clear path for those who are new to the church but are unsure of how to answer the question, “What’s next?”

But regardless of how long you’ve been a believer, all of us should be trying to figure out our next steps. Proverbs 4:26 (NIV) says, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”  In other words, don’t just keep wandering through your life without considering where your feet are taking you!

As we mature in the faith it can sometimes require more prayer and patience to discern where we should plant our feet next, but that shouldn’t stop us from putting forth the effort. Quite the opposite, actually, because when we truly “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) God can take us places we previously thought it would be impossible for us to go!

Not only that, but I think failing to take your next step is to take your salvation for granted. Let me explain:

The first few verses of Acts 3 talk about a man who was born lame, unable to take a single step in more than 40 years of life. Each day he would beg for cash at the Temple, until one day Peter and John came along and Jesus healed the man through them.  The man’s response to the miracle was appropriate: “He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them” (Acts 3:8, NLT).

Not only is this an amazing and praiseworthy biblical event, but it’s also a powerful metaphor for our own spiritual condition.  From the time we’re born we are spiritually lame, and salvation is the first step our souls ever take after they are miraculously healed by Jesus.  But how ungrateful would we have to be to experience a miracle like that only to take one or two steps and then quit?

When you recognize it's a miracle you can even walk, every step is special.When you recognize it’s a miracle you can even walk, every step is special.  So as you consider your paths and prepare to take your next steps, don’t do so out of mere obligation, but walk, leap, and praise God for the miracle he’s performed in your life!

Need help figuring out your Next Step?  Click on the “Contact” tab to let me know and I’ll be happy to help!

Trust Fixes Troubled Hearts

image

When I put my son on my bed, he has a tendency to run fearlessly toward the edges, not realizing how dangerous it is to fall from that height.  He does this, in part, because he trusts me completely — every time he’s ever gotten to the edge I’ve caught him, so he has no reason to be afraid or worried.

In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples that the prescription for a troubled heart is trusting him. Those who trust him completely will have peace, and people who are at peace can also live confidently.

How to Live with Confidence

How to live with confidence

Have you noticed that the word “confidence” has basically become a synonym for the word “swagger”?  Confidence today is being equated with cool clothes, sharp wits, and an egotistical attitude, and many of us don’t have any of those things!

But I think the confidence most people are searching for is the kind of confidence that doesn’t bring coolness, but comfort.

It’s the kind of attitude that tells us it’s okay to forge ahead, taking risks for God, all while knowing that no matter what happens everything will eventually be alright.  We just want to be free from worry so that we can live our lives to the fullest.

I recently stumbled upon a simple truth that I hope can help you to live confidently, and it’s this:

Faithfulness builds confidence.

Think about it.  Confident spouses are those who know their better half is loyal to them.  Confident children are those who know their parents aren’t going to forget to feed them or take care of their needs.  Confident friends are those who know that when they’re in a pinch their friend is always there for them.

Faithfulness builds confidence.

This concept is foreign to many people, in part, I believe, because many people think confidence is something that comes from within us.  We’re told that we can have confidence if we just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and start acting that way.  Confidence is a major buzzword in the worlds of fitness and fashion in particular, but the truth is making physical changes will only take our confidence so far.

Often confidence, then, is more so a product of our relationships than a conjuring of our inner strength.  More specifically, those who live with the greatest confidence, I believe, are those who understand the unstoppable faithfulness of God.

Paul writes the following in 1 Corinthians 1:8-9:

He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.  God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is just one of a number of verses that highlight the faithfulness of God.  Time and time again throughout the Scriptures, God demonstrates that his words, intentions, and actions are perfectly aligned, and because he’s made such extravagant promises to always be with us and support us in times of trouble, we can live with an immeasurable amount of confidence — not in ourselves, but in the One whose faithfulness knows no bounds.

My prayer for you is that you would stop trying to find confidence within, but rather that you’d find your confidence in him!

Like Faith Nerd Blog?  Subscribe to the blog to receive email updates, “like” my Facebook page, and follow me on Twitter @FaithNerdBlog.