Tag Archives: eternity

A Book for our Times

 

LivingBackward_Front_Cover_300

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to interview Angelique Cooper McGlotten whose recently released book Living Backward: The Gift of Hindsight in Building A Truly Significant Life inspires me to persevere and stand strong in the cultural winds of the twenty-first century. After you get to know Angelique, I am sure you will want to read this book.

  1. Please share with my readers what it means to “live backward.” How did you arrive at the insight that inspired your book by the same name?

We all know that GPS works backward to get us from where we are to where we want to be. To live backward is to apply this reverse principle to our lives: imagine the kind of life you want to build and then work backward, wisely redeeming the time in order to create that life.

Two realities are intrinsic to the idea of living backward. First, time is fleeting. Second, this earthly existence is our one and only opportunity to make our mark on eternity, a truth we all too easily overlook. The concept of living backward is meant to counter the mind-set that we have time on our hands, which leads to a subtle but grave pitfall: it predisposes us to put off leading purposeful lives precisely because we assume we have time on our side.

Living Backward challenges us to reorient our minds and view time as elapsing. With each passing year we haven’t just gained more time—we’ve also lost more of the precious, irretrievable time that we have been allotted to create significance in our lives. I came up with the title Living Backward because I wanted to capture the idea that what will matter in eternity is what should matter to us now. By leveraging the gift of future-oriented hindsight, we’ll be able to look back on the sum total of our earthly lives and realize that our reasons to rejoice are far greater than our regrets.

  1. Your first chapter title is “In Pursuit of What Matters Most.” If people learn what that might be, will it be of any help to them personally when they face a culture that utterly scorns Christians? Will knowing what matters most help them explain themselves to a secular culture?

Great question, Katherine. Absolutely! When we understand and pursue what matters most, we come to view life through a different lens. This lens or eternal perspective shapes our entire outlook on life, including the way we engage the dark and corrupt culture all around us.

According to my Christian worldview, God is the beginning and the end. Because He is sovereignly in control of all things, we can trust that nothing enters our lives outside of His will. In addition, we also know that all things we experience—including trials and difficulties—are working together both for our good and God’s glory (see Romans 8:28). This knowledge enables us to stand firm when we are scorned for our faith.

We also trust Jesus’s own words, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Moreover, this eternal perspective changes what we seek after and how we live. For example, it shapes our values, ideals, goals, plans, use of time and money, etc. We do not settle for the brass of this world when we know that a life lived in pursuit of God’s glory means that in losing our lives we will save them and in the end get the gold (see Matthew 16:24-27)!  Hence, knowing what matters most enables us to not only explain our worldview—why we believe what we believe—but most importantly, to walk out those beliefs in the midst of a secular culture. It enables us to live as true ambassadors of God’s kingdom–to be the living epistles or walking advertisements that God has called us to be (See Ephesians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 3:2).

  1. Contemporary culture utterly rejects the concept of a personal, authoritative God. When Christians face moral choices, the culture will look askance at their sense that they should talk with God about the decision. How does the concept of “living backward” shape the way they view their options?

Essentially, to live backward is to live our fleeting lives for the glory of God, our Creator and Sustainer. It is to live according to the precepts, instructions, and commands found in the Bible—God’s user manual for the people He created for His good pleasure. Therefore, everything we do and every choice we make should be shaped by and predicated upon Scripture (God’s revealed will for our lives), not what we or others think is right. Any option we pursue must be God-sanctioned.

  1. In one chapter you talk about “pursuing our God-given dreams and aspirations.” Secularists say, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” What is the real difference between those two concepts?

Secularists tell us to rely on human wisdom and reasoning to determine what is best for our lives. This includes the dreams and goals that we pursue. If we apply ourselves, do the right things, and work hard enough (and long enough), then we can self-actualize and become anything that we desire. On the contrary, Scripture teaches us to seek God’s pre-ordained plans for our lives, plans He has prepared for us even before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 2:10). When we are surrendered to God’s will and seek His unique purpose for our lives, the dreams and goals we pursue are God-breathed or initiated. We will succeed in these plans because they have already been blessed by God (see Philippians 4:13).

  1. In one chapter, you write extensively about the importance of Bible study. Secular thinkers, and even secular Christians, say that the Bible is just one of many sacred books that document ways to connect with the sacred. Why are you so adamant about the Bible? Don’t you respect the other sacred books? What would you recommend to someone who said she had really found herself after she read the Tao te Ching?

I would ask her if there is anything in her life that she knows for sure to be true. For example, I’d ask her if she believes that stealing is wrong. Assuming she says, “Yes,” I’d then ask if she’s ever experienced anything that she knows without a doubt to be real. For example, touching an actual flower.

Assuming that she again answers in the affirmative, I’d proceed to ask her the following hypothetical situation: if you saw a child on a street who couldn’t see or hear a truck that was coming toward him, would you warn the child to get out of the way? Probably, she’ll say yes. I’d then go on to explain, for example, that while Taoism embraces nature and appreciates its beauty, the natural world did not create itself. God created it and He created you.

And just like all appliances come with instructions from the manufacturer, our manufacturer has given us a user manual—the Bible. It is there that we discover the meaning of life, not in any other manual. Although there are many sources that provide good information and can even help us know how to live, they can never equate to or take precedence over the Bible. I’d then tell her that outside a relationship with God, life is meaningless. He created all humans in His image because He desires an intimate relationship with each of us. If we choose to reject rather than accept His love, after death we’ll end up in a place of unimaginable suffering and torment, eternally separated from His presence. That place, called Hell, is like the truck I mentioned in the example above. I know it exists even though you can’t see it (don’t know of it or perhaps deny its existence). I desperately want to warn you before it’s too late.

  1. When Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, because she wanted to be obedient to God, some people accused her of trying to “push her beliefs on others.” Would you say that Kim Davis is “living backward?” Why? Or why not?

I would say that Kim Davis is living backward. As I mentioned above, living backward is to live in such a way that our thoughts, choices, actions, and decisions bring glory and honor to God. If a man-made rule is opposed to God’s desires, then we must obey God rather than man (see Acts 5:29).

  1. Secular thinkers contend that the only way to know if something is right is to determine if it makes you, the individual, feel good. Therefore, they say, what’s right for you may not be what’s right for me. If you are going to “live backward”, how will you decide what is right?

Similar to the above response, you will decide what is right by living your life according to the precepts of Scripture. Followers of Christ are not called to live by the standards of this fallen world. To the contrary, the Bible commands us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Yet the things of this world continually beckon to us, constantly enticing us to live for ourselves and to find our pleasure in temporal allurements. Much like we have to continually adjust a misaligned grocery cart to keep it from taking us in a different direction, we must purposefully choose to go countercurrent to the patterns of this world in order to not be conformed by it (see Romans 12:2). Unlike the secular world, our choices and decisions must always be rooted in God’s Word.

  1. One of your chapters is titled, “Life is but a Vapor.” Secularists say that this life is all there is, and that is why we must make the most of it. On what basis do you deal with the transient nature of life?

Picture the steam coming from a kettle of boiling water. It rises into the air, but in a matter of seconds you no longer see it: this is the sheer brevity of our lives. I take this truth to heart. I’ve also heard eternity described as a line extending forever with no end; relative to eternity our lives are but a teeny, tiny dot on that line. Yet we focus on and live for the dot, forgetting that it’s the endless line that really matters. So I engage life, being ever cognizant that not only is life brief, but it’s also fragile and uncertain. The next breath is not promised to any of us. In a sense, our “real” life begins when this one ends. I want to redeem the time wisely so that what I do here endures beyond my earthly years.

  1. How do you explain yourself when secular thinkers challenge you on this point? I’ve heard it said, “Life is a dress rehearsal.” If this means that this life is preparation for what comes after, then there’s much wisdom in this maxim. However, it would be false and very misleading if we interpreted this saying to mean that we get a second chance to do an actual (or another) performance here on earth. According to the Bible, we get only one shot at this temporal life. That’s it—this life is our one and only opportunity to impinge on all eternity. There’s absolutely no second chance after we take our final breath. There’s no purgatory, no reincarnation, or anything else of the sort. If this were not true—if we were allowed another chance to “do it again” in “another performance”—then there’s no incentive for us to maximize our time and live according to God’s Word in the here and now. Living backward would be meaningless. Because of its finality, it might be even better to think of this life as both the dress rehearsal and the actual performance all wrapped up into one. Each of us is on center stage with a specific part to play, and our “performance” is incredibly brief—far briefer than we tend to think.

Although Living Backward posits that we must live ever mindful of the end of our temporal lives, I, nevertheless, emphasize that this does not preclude us from wholeheartedly embracing the journey. In fact, the very idea of living backward encompasses both the process and the result.

  1. One last question: the world is a big mess right now. Why would a Christian benefit from reading your book?

The world is indeed in a mess. But more importantly, there’s coming a day when the things of this world will be no more. Many of us are basing our limited earthly time on the Fleeting Success (FS) factor—living for or amassing things, titles, and wealth—rather than the Eternal Value (EV) factor—living as though how I’ve lived in this life will absolutely determine everything about my eternity. The truth is, there’s a world of difference between a successful life and a significant life. We must all take to heart that in eternity only what God deems significant will matter. Unequivocally, any significance that we find in the brass of what the world considers important will not matter to God.

In light of these certainties, we cannot compromise on the truths in God’s Word if we expect our aggregate choices during our brief life to be counted significant in God’s forever kingdom, or to meet His criteria for a life that has truly counted for His glory. Instead, we must take God at His Word and cultivate the mindset that what will matter to Him then is what should matter to us now. If we desire true significance—wherein our earthly achievements last beyond this world—we must live with a backward orientation of time as we seek to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. Besides laying a solid foundation, cultivating the five principles in Living Backward provide the brick and mortar for us to build and uphold the edifice of a truly significant life—one that ultimately counts in God’s estimation. Deep down, you desire nothing less.

Living Backward: The Gift of Hindsight in Building A Truly Significant Life is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and Hastings. To watch the book trailer, learn more about the author, read a free sample chapter, as well as get a free e-book, visit www.livingbackward.com. Angelique would also love to connect with you here.

 

Is That All There Is?

What if this world is not all there is?

Many years ago, a mournful song made the Top Ten list in my neighborhood. I remember little about it other than its doleful character and the repeated cry, “Is that all there is?” The person who sang it exuded despair, and I doubt anyone could hear it without feeling deep sadness. Over the years, as I have heard more and more people declare that God is my imaginary friend, I know that more and more people must be facing that dark moment when the question arises: “Is that all there is?”

Christians are often criticized for their focus on heaven. One frequent complaint is that Christians use heaven as an excuse not to care about this world. While the preponderance of evidence reveals that Christians exhibit leadership in caring for the weak, the hungry, the sick, the homeless and other people in profound need, there are still many people who claim that Christians only care for people in order to corral them into joining the church. Another complaint is that religious people make the ludicrous demand that people sacrifice present joy for some uncertain future.

Why do Christians care so much about heaven?

The answer lies in a fundamental truth for every follower of Christ. Jesus himself said, “If the world hates you, it is because it hated me first.” Jesus made it very clear that being a Christian is not a picnic, nor is it intended to be a picnic. It may have been the case in the fifties that a Christian in the US could expect little interference with his intention to obey Jesus in daily life, but a Christian in 2014 must expect and live through a great deal of resistance to his desire to be like Jesus. Even in the US, the pressure has increased beyond anything imaginable in 1952, and beyond US borders, it is very dangerous to be a Christian.

Heaven is a valuable and necessary part of Christian understanding. Why? If this life is all there is, a person is wise to make the best deal he can for comfort and peace. If there is no heaven, if this world is all there is, then why would a person refuse to recant his faith in Christ? Without heaven, Christ’s resurrection is nothing more than a dramatic resuscitation.

Think about it. The significance of Christ’s empty tomb is that there is something more to life than this world. Is that all there is? Christ’s resurrection says, “NO! There is much more.”

Christians around the world declare emphatically, “This world is not all there is,” when they stand firm like Meriam Ibrahim and declare, “I am Christian, and Christian I will remain,” even though the outcome may be death. In Nigeria, a Boko Haram militant brutally hacked a six-year-old boy with a machete before beheading him. The boy professed Christian faith and refused to recant. His parents were forced to watch the gruesome execution, and they, too, refused to recant. Would anyone be able to sustain faith in Christ through such horror if this world is all there is?

In Iran, Pastor Behnam Irani was arrested and held for eight years, mostly in solitary confinement. If he were willing to recant his faith and become a Muslim, he could be released. Because he refuses to do that, he has recently been charged with a new crime, “spreading corruption on earth,” a capital crime. If heaven does not exist, then he is insane for holding on to his faith in Christ. Why should he suffer solitary confinement, torture and ultimately death if there is no heaven? Why would he do it?

Secular thinkers are not persuaded. They actually are beginning to promulgate the notion that religious faith is a mental illness. To date, this proposal has not gained much traction outside of hardcore atheist conversations, but in the former USSR, the idea had a following.

The book of Revelation reminds us that heaven is not only real, but it is profoundly more than we can imagine. It is a present reality and a future hope. Today, it is where God is seated in the heavenly throne room where he reigns in ineffable light surrounded by a rainbow. At the end of time, Christ will marry his bride the church and come to live in the new earth, which is a humanly incomprehensible new and perfect world where there are no more tears.

Christ himself is our evidence, the hope to which we cling because of his resurrection. The resurrected Christ transcended time and space, and then he ascended to heaven from which he will come again to judge the living and the dead. The new world he sets up after that judgment will be beyond anything we can imagine. And that world will truly be all there is.

A Hymn for Meditation

hymnalAbide with Me

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

By Henry F. Lyte

  • This hymn was written by a man who suffered a terminal illness. When he looked forward, he saw death, and this was his response. Name some of the positive things he sees in his future.
  • How does the change of perspective from time to eternity change the way things look in verse 2?
  • What elements in these verses apply equally to all followers of Christ at all times?
  • What symbol is the key to the power of the faith expressed in this hymn?
  • This hymn debuted at a memorial service for its author. Think of three other occasions on which this hymn would be appropriate.

A Verse For Meditation

From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised. Psalm 113:3

  • Think about the relationship of the earth to the sun. When is the right time to praise the Lord? What conditions preclude praising the Lord?

Read the verses which precede today’s verse:

1     Praise the Lord.
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord.
2     Let the name of the Lord be praised,
both now and forevermore. Psalm 113:1-2 

  • Think about the word “praise.” Give praise to the Lord right now. Do you do this often? Daily? Notice the phrase “now and forevermore.” When will we stop praising the Lord?
  • Think about the way this psalm transcends the limits of time and space, giving us a view into the realm of eternity and infinity.

4     The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
5     Who is like the Lord our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
6     who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth? Psalm 113:4-6

  • What name for God encompasses the description of God in this psalm? At what high level does God live? We read that he stoops down to look at even the heavens. What do you suppose motivates God to do that?
  • God may look at time and space, but he is not limited by it. What does this psalm say about our integration into God’s eternal view of things?

7     He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
8     he seats them with princes,
with the princes of their people.
9     He settles the barren woman in her home
as a happy mother of children. Psalm 113:7-9

  • What is God’s view of poor people? If this psalm speaks truth about God, is a poor person a victim? If he is not a victim, then what is he in God’s eyes?
  • What is God’s perception of the value of children? How can someone value children and not value unborn children? If a woman is barren and has no children of her own, what does this psalm suggest as a blessing to her?

 

 

 

A Verse for Meditation

Torah ScrollFor now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

  • What is the difference between a mirror image and a face to face image? Why would the face to face image be preferable?
  • What does the author (the apostle Paul) mean when he says that he has been fully known? By whom? In what manner did this happen?
  • Read the context, 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. How does the context clarify and enhance your understanding of this verse?
  • As an adult, do you believe that you no longer think like a child? Have you put away childish ways?
  • What is Paul looking forward to in this verse? In what way is Paul’s worldview different from that of people who believe that nothing exists except what science can measure? What does any of this have to do with your daily life?