Trying to Live Where We Are Not!

Group of friends at a restaurant with all people on the table occupied with cellphones

I once heard Dr. Tony Evans say something to this effect: He said that most people are being crucified between two thieves: The regrets of yesterday and the anxieties of tomorrow! When we attempt to live our lives, burdened with yesterday’s regrets and/or tomorrow’s worries, we sacrifice the present day! Attempting to live life in this manner is stressful because it is a vain attempt to live where we are not!

Trying to live in the past is an impossible feat! It’s like trying to drink milk that has spilled on the floor! It’s like trying to stand in the same molecules of water in a river that is flowing! It’s like trying to cash a check that has already been cashed! NO! Yesterday is spilled milk! Yesterday is water under the bridge! Yesterday is a cancelled check! There is nothing, absolutely nothing we can do to re-live yesterday! Many people are stuck because they stubbornly refuse to let-go of yesterday. But whether it’s yesterday’s regrets or even yesterday’s victories; yesterday is gone and we will never live yesterday again!

But just as attempting to re-live yesterday is an impossible feat, so is attempting to live tomorrow before tomorrow comes! Now, we can prepare for tomorrow, but we can’t live tomorrow today! We can ‘prepare’ to cross the bridge, but we can’t actually cross the bridge until we get to the bridge! In a sense, ‘tomorrow’ will always be a day that we will never live! Why? Because, when we get to ‘tomorrow’ it will no longer be tomorrow; it will be; ‘today!’

Realistically and practically speaking; yesterday and tomorrow are actually days that have no real substance! Let me show you what I’m talking about! When we were experiencing ‘yesterday’ it wasn’t yesterday, it was today! As stated earlier, when we get to ‘tomorrow’ it will not be tomorrow, it will be today! Therefore, the only day we can actually live in and do anything with, is ‘today!’ Yesterday is a cancelled check and tomorrow is just a promissory note! The only day that we can ‘spend’ is today!

That is why the attempts to live in yesterday and tomorrow are so fruitless and in many ways; detrimental! First of all, it is an impossibility, because we can’t live where we are not! Secondly, it is detrimental, because when we attempt to live in yesterday or tomorrow, we sacrifice and waste today! In fact, many of the regrets of yesterday and the anxieties of tomorrow are caused by the neglect of the present day! We don’t do what we should do in the present and that is what causes the regrets of yesterday and the fears of tomorrow! If we learn to discipline ourselves to ‘live in the moment,’ our lives would be less stressful because the ‘moment’ is the only time we can actually live!

But, in addition to trying to live where we are not, in regard to yesterday and tomorrow, there is an addition stress of trying to live in a ‘place’ where we are not! Have you ever witnessed or been part of a conversation in which a person standing in your presence is preoccupied with a conversation or even a game on their smartphone? You hear them say something, but when you respond, they tell you that they weren’t talking to you but rather the other person on the phone! The crazy thing about it is that, more often than not, just as they neglect to give their full attention to the people who are standing right in front of them for a conversation with the person on the phone, when they are standing in front of the person on the phone, they do the same thing to them by talking to someone on the phone! They are ‘here’ but they are not really ‘here!’ They are trying to live where they are not!

Have you ever been to a restaurant and notice two people or even a group of people sitting together at a table, but each and every person is preoccupied with their phone? They are present, but they are not really present! They are together, but they are not really together! Why? Because they are trying to live where they are not!

May I make a radical suggestion that just might make life a little less stressful? Instead of trying to re-live yesterday or pre-live tomorrow, why not just focus on the present moment! Focus on the only time you can actually live; the present moment! Now, I know what it is like to be worried about tomorrow! But it’s a fruitless activity! You see, when we worry, that breeds frustration. And when we are frustrated, it shuts down our ability to think clearly. Let’s just supposed that your electricity is going to be cut off tomorrow. Instead of being consumed with worry and bemoaning over what it is going to be like without electricity tomorrow, focus on what you have and what you can do right now! What can you do? You can go buy some ice and a cooler to store your food when the refrigerator will not be on! You can go to store and buy candles, flashlights, or lanterns for alternative lighting when the electricity is cut off! You can also just choose to simply ‘enjoy’ and take advantage of the hours of electricity that you have left! Finish reading the book! Wash a load of clothes! Take advantage of the electricity you ‘now’ have with an attitude of gratitude! Who knows, by tomorrow, a means to pay the bill that you hadn’t thought of before may materialize? You might be able to work out an extension with the power company. At lot of things could happen between now and tomorrow! So, the best thing to do is not cause additional stress by trying to live tomorrow today! Live today to the fullest and allow tomorrow to take care of itself!

Now, this is not to say that we shouldn’t plan for tomorrow, by all means, no! In fact, sometimes the best use of ‘today’ is to plan for tomorrow! But the point is to make the best use of ‘now’ and not allow the past or the future to prevent us from fully enjoying and taking advantage of the present moment! Give full attention to the people who are in your presence! To do otherwise is not only impractical, it is also downright rude and disrespectful to all three parties; the people in front of you, the person on the phone, and yourself! Starting today, discipline yourself to live where you are: Discipline yourself to consistently live in the ‘here’ and ‘now!’

Forever Human

It was a beautiful service, with multitudes of flowers and a massive gathering of family and friends. The casket was elaborate and no expense was spared in giving the dearly departed a grand send-off! I can’t tell you the number of times  I have personally observed such an occasion. But the thing that sticks with me long after such occasions more than the memory of the beautiful flowers or the elaborate casket, is the gross biblical ignorance displayed by Christian laymen and preachers at the funeral! The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep. . . .” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 KJV) Yet, in spite of Paul’s writings and other passages in Scripture that provide insight into the state of the dearly departed, most people today are still ignorant of what the Bible says about death and the future eternal state of humanity!

You would think it was true according to what many, supposedly ‘spiritual people,’ say at funerals, but people don’t actually die because God wants or needs them in Heaven to enhance the ‘flowers of Heaven’ or to keep Him company! The Bible says; “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12 ESV) Death occurs because of sin! Not necessarily because of the particular sins of the person who died, but rather because we live in a sinful fallen world! Jesus said: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV) So often, when someone dies, we attribute the death to God. We say things like: “The Lord took him!” or “It was just God’s will!” or the classic: “We loved them, but God loved them best!” (The absurdity of that statement is that we are actually implying that God loved them so much that God killed them, which is utterly ridiculous!). But, as in the case of the parable of the enemy who sowed the tares among the wheat while men slept, the truth of the matter is that when it comes to death, the real cause is; ‘An enemy has done this!” (Matthew 13:28).

But let me get back to my main purpose for writing this post! I think one of the greatest fallacies perpetrated when someone dies and on funeral occasions is the notion that people somehow turn into angels when they die! This false notion is illustrated by a depiction of the deceased, floating in the clouds with angel-wings on their backs! But there are at least two things wrong with that picture! First of all, where did we get the notion that even real angels have wings? It is certainly NOT from the Bible! The only heavenly or spiritual beings portrayed in the Bible as having wings are the Cherubim and the Seraphim! The fact that these two beings are specifically designated and their specific function indicates they are not the same as angels! Whenever and wherever angels are encountered in the Bible, they are always depicted as looking like normal men! No wings! No halos! And definitely No harps!

Secondly, angels are depicted in the Bible as ‘messengers.’ In fact, both the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated as ‘angel’ in our English Bibles actually mean; ‘messenger.’ So, in a sense, the word ‘angel’ is not actually a designation of identity, but rather a designation of function! Just like, the term that we use for the person who delivers our mail doesn’t really say anything about who they are, it just tells what they do!  It is not their identity, it is their function!  As humans, we are the object of God’s love and the crown jewels of God’s created order. Therefore, for humans to turn into angels would actually be a ‘step-down’ not a step-up! Hush! I hear you! You are saying: “But what about Psalm 8:5, where the Bible says that man was created a little lower than the angels?” Well, the word that is translated as ‘angels’ in that verse is not the same Hebrew word that is translated as; ‘angel’ everywhere else in the Old Testament. In just about every other place in the Old Testament, where we see the word ‘angel’ or ‘angels’ in our English Bibles, the Hebrew word is ‘malek’ which means; messenger or representative. But in Psalm 8:5, the Hebrew word is ‘elohim’ which is actually the term used to refer to Yahweh God (the LORD God) or gods! Thus, what the Psalmist actually said was that man was made, not a little lower than ‘angels’ but rather a little lower than God! Therefore, for humans to become angels at death would be a demotion rather than a promotion! And think about it! If it was God’s intention for humans to become angels, why did God make them human? He could have made them angels in the first place! But God made angels to be angels forever and humans to be humans forever!

 We are forever human! In fact, the Bible states that the dearly-parted will one day come back to earth to reclaim their total humanity! (see1 Corinthians 15:13-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) [I use the term; ‘total’ because, according to the Genesis account, man was created as a union of spirit and body. Therefore, absence of a body, makes the dearly departed somewhat incomplete and not their total selves!] That’s what the Resurrection is all about; to reunite the spirit/soul with the body! For if we read the Bible carefully, we will discover that the redeemed will not spent eternity in the Heavenly realm in a spiritually disembodied state as the dearly departed are now, but rather on the earth in glorified bodies! (see Revelation 21:1-5) Notice the wording of the Revelation text, particularly verse 3 where John says: 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. (Rev. 21:3 ESV) It is repeated three times in just one verse; the emphasis is not on man being with God, but rather John wants us to know the plan is for God to spend eternity with us! Why? Because that’s the way God made us! God did not create man to dwell in Heaven, God created man to dwell on the earth. When Adam communed with God, Adam didn’t go to Heaven to see God, but rather God came down to earth; to the garden to commune with Adam; the being God made to be forever human!

Sleep: The Practice of Death and Alternative Reality

Have you ever considered the fact that every time we go to sleep, we are in a sense, dead to the world? I mean, think about it: When we are asleep, we are not aware of anything that is happening around us, and life as we know it, goes on without us! When we are asleep, we do not participate in any of the activities or functions of people who are awake! When we are asleep, we are totally unaware of the world around us. So, in a sense, when we are asleep; we are dead!

However, during sleep, while we may be ‘dead to the world,’ we are by no means in a state of total unconsciousness! The medical community says we don’t go to sleep without dreaming. I read one report that said everyone is thought to dream 3 to 6 dreams each night with each dream lasting from 5 to 20 minutes! The report also said that about 95 percent of the dreams are forgotten by the time a person gets out of bed and that dreaming can help a person learn and develop long-term memories.

Think about it! Not only are we dead to the world every time we go to sleep, but also, every time we go to sleep, we participate in and experience an alternate reality! Yes! We participate and experience! The report said; we don’t remember 95 percent of our dreams, but the 5 percent we do remember often have a lingering effect upon us after we wake up! Have you ever had a dream that you were falling and you woke up in a cold sweat; screaming and clutching the sheets? If you were not alone, someone probably assured you that everything was all right and that you should go back to sleep because it was ‘only a dream.’ But when you were experiencing it, it didn’t ‘feel’ like it was ‘only a dream’ to you! It wasn’t like you were in a movie theater or just watching television. No! You weren’t merely watching it; you were experiencing it! You were an active participant! You had stake in how things turned out; so much so that your body reacted in the same way it would if you actually had that experience during your conscious waking hours!

Now, I don’t know about you, but in the dreams I remember, I was always able to do things I could not possibly do in my waking conscious state. For instance, in one particular dream, I was able to move from one location to another in a matter of seconds by just thinking! I was able to fly and do other things that were physically impossible to do in my conscious state. The weird thing about it was that in my dreams, I didn’t think of those things as impossibilities, they were normal, because in my dreams, I was actually doing them!

Now before you brand me as a heretic or as being unstable, I’m qualifying what I’m about to say as just musing. But what if the lyrics of the song: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” are more true than we realize? What if this life, as we consciously experience it for 70 years or so, is merely ‘but a dream?’ What if, when we close our eyes for the final time and experience physical death, at that point ,we wake up to real life and discover this life was but a dream? Only time will tell, because those who have actually experience it don’t come back to tell; it’s a one-way journey! But in the meantime, every night and every time we go to sleep; we are practicing death and experiencing alternative realities.

Eternal Life

What is eternal life? Well, the Greek word that is translated as ‘eternal’ in the New Testament is a word that means: “1) without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be 2) without beginning 3) without end, never to cease, everlasting.” Using those definitions, we can readily see that number one and two apply to God and definition number three is applicable to eternal life as it refers to the prospective fate of saved humanity. But as we read the Bible, we discover that definition is not so cut and dried as it seems. For instance, in the book of Revelation, there is a descriptive scene in which the devil, the false prophet, and all those whose names were not found in the Book of Life, will be cast into the lake of fire and tormented forever. Now, the last time I checked; forever and everlasting were terms that meant basically the same thing! Hence there must be more to eternal life than just living forever, because, according to the Bible, everyone; the saved and the lost, will live forever! The question is where?

Another wrinkle in the equation comes from the revelation in the Bible that eternal life is not something that believers get when they die! The Bible teaches; eternal life is a present-possession of the believer! Jesus said, in John 5:24:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (ESV) Note the use of the past-tense; ‘has eternal life’ and ‘has passed from death to life.’ The beloved Apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:14-15: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (ESV) Again, note the verb tense; eternal life is not something that is awarded to the believer at death, eternal life is a present-possession!

Therefore, since there is more to eternal life than just living forever and eternal life is something that believers presently possess, then apparently eternal life must also have something to do with the ‘quality’ of life! Jesus gave an insightful definition of eternal life in John 17:3. In his high priestly prayer in Gethsemane, on the eve of his passion, Jesus said to the Father: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (ESV) According to Jesus, eternal life is knowing the only true God and knowing Jesus Christ who was sent by the only true God!

Now, this ‘knowing’ the only true God and ‘knowing’ Jesus Christ, who was sent by the only true God, is more than just an intellectual knowing. In the Bible, the terms; ‘know’ and ‘knowing’ are often used as euphemisms for intimate sexual relations. In the Genesis 4:1, we read: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” (ESV) It is obvious from the context, that the birth of Cain did not happen simply by Adam finding out all he could about Eve! No! The phrase; “Now Adam knew Eve his wife” meant Adam had ‘carnal knowledge,’ Adam had sexual intercourse with Eve and as a result; Cain was produced! In John 17:3, of course sexual intercourse is not in view, but rather an intimate spiritual relationship is suggested! Eternal life is an intimate spiritual relationship with the only true God and an intimate spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ, who was sent by the only true God!

Of course, the primary way to facilitate this spiritual relationship, from the human stance is to begin with intellectual knowledge. But, isn’t that how all relationships begin? People who are married, and even those who aren’t, didn’t become sexually intimate at first sight! (At least, they shouldn’t have, but it’s a different world these days!) No! Usually couples get to know one another first! And how do they get to know one another? They do so by the exchanging of ideas and thoughts through verbal and written communication. They talk to one another and they write notes and letters to one another! Well, in the same way, God speaks and communicates to humanity through His love letter; the Bible! In the Bible, we can read about what God is like, what God likes and what God dislikes! In the Bible we discover God’s character and attributes. As we respond to what we read in God’s love-letter to us, we follow God’s instructions and dictates and begin to communicate (pray) with Him. As we comply with God’s terms of the relationship as expressed in God’s love-letter, God gives us His Spirit to live within us and the relationship deepens to the level of spiritual intercourse through worship. Just as you can’t really make love (you can only have sex with) to a person you don’t know; we can only praise and worship God as we get to know Him. The acts of praise and worship (including prayer and the various other spiritual disciplines) strengthen and intensify the spiritual relationship that promotes and fosters, what Jesus called: eternal life!

As a result of eternal life, the believer lives a life that is qualitatively different and superior to the unbeliever who does not have eternal life. This eternal life is characterized by love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) The believer consistently experiences, from day to day, God’s supernatural favor and grace in ways that cannot be rationally explained! Eternal life is not just a ‘retirement plan’ for life in Heaven nor just ‘fire insurance’ to insure against life in Hell; eternal life is the Kingdom life God originally intended and created man to have on earth, as outlined in Genesis 1:26-28. Because of sin, death (the physical separation of the body from the spirit/soul)  is the experience of all men! However, eternal life provides the means and assurance of victorious living in the present and in the future; eternal life is now and later!

Life-Giving Spirits

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:45: “. . . The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” The first Adam (Adam of Adam and Eve) received life; the last Adam (Jesus the Christ) gives life. In the first Adam, all die because of sin, in the last Adam, all can live because of righteousness. Jesus is referred to as “the last Adam” because he was and is the Genesis of a new humanity; human beings who have been “born again” by the Spirit of God. Consequently, those who have been born again, or saved, or who are true Christians, have the Spirit of Christ (Holy Spirit) dwelling within them. Therefore, just as Jesus; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit, those who are in Christ are, in a sense, life-giving spirits.
Note, I said; “in a sense.” A person who is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ is not a life-giving spirit in the exact sense that Jesus is because of the unique and sinless character of Christ. However, since the Spirit of Christ dwells within that person, and that Spirit has life-giving qualities, then it stands to reason that the person or people who have that same Spirit should also have some life-giving qualities in some limited way. 
So, if you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, a person who has been born again and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, do you give life to those around you? Are you a life-giving spirit? Let me further clarify: There are many people in the world who are takers and vampires! They are always trying to get what they can get and if you are not careful, they will suck the very life out of you! These are the people who leave you depleted and drained, after just a brief encounter or conversation with them. They are always needy and always want something from you. Do you know anyone like that? Well, they are just the opposite of a life-giving spirit.
When a person is a life-living spirit, they make you feel better about yourself and about life when you are around them. They are encouragers and motivators and they help to make you a better person. They pour into you; life, joy and happiness. They speak life into your life! That’s what I’m talking about when I refer to life-giving spirits. There are too many users, drainers, blood-suckers, and vampires in life! We need more people who are life-giving spirits. That is exactly what the followers of the Last Adam, who became a Life-Giving Spirit should be! Those who have the Spirit of the One who is a Life-Giving Spirit should themselves be; life-giving spirits.