Thursday, February 18, 2010

Excerpt #4 - What's Your Bottom Line?

"God destines us for an end beyond the grasp of reason."
-Thomas Aquinas

          Do you find yourself thinking that your salvation is merely a route to an eternal life? Did Jesus forgive you just to make you feel better as you live your life? Obviously, salvation does bring a spirit of peace and healing with it, but when it occurs, do we simply think of the bottom line, of what the end result will be?
          Consider the following verse from Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Paul doesn’t tell the Galatians that they should hang out on this earth waiting for death so they can live eternally. If Christ lived in Paul and Christ lives in us, then shouldn’t we automatically and always feel close to Him. The bottom line, the ultimate outcome, is so important, but it is not the only important part of the plan. What we are doing after the moment we come to know Christ and for the rest of our eternal lives requires that we draw near to God for strength, confidence, love and wisdom. It’s easy to slip into the thought process that today I am mostly Christian, but I am also human, so God can’t expect me to be constantly aware of Him. But He does! He has called us to advance His kingdom, to love one another and most of all, to love Him. We can’t answer any of those calls without being close to Him.
          I am a task oriented person, often focused on completing a project or a job. About the time I am nearing the end of one project, I begin planning the next. I feel most useful and fulfilled when I am doing something. My bottom line is not about money or success, but about task completion. This type of bottom line allows me to excuse the fact that I neglect relationships and put projects before time with those people I love. There is safety in my projects. I have control (or feel I have) of the results, I receive recognition for completion and I get to feel accomplished.
My brother is very talented with money management. He views the world from behind financial glasses, seeing the value of work as how much money may be acquired. He feels best about life when he is making money and using that money to make even more. He invests for the sole purpose of making money and he believes that power develops from the acquisition of money. In many ways, in a worldly sense, he is absolutely correct. Money can result in power and control. His bottom line is defined in dollars and sense.
Climbing the corporate ladder is an American dream for some business professionals. Their bottom line is success and for many people, the cost along the way isn’t relevant.  The means fits the end. Entertainers seek a bottom line of success, but in a very different way. Their success is less related to title and more connected to exposure. Even negative exposure is acceptable as long as it leads to their overall popularity.
Parents may create a bottom line in raising their children. Seeking acceptance and accolades from others by having well behaved and highly educated children can become more important than the actual character being developed. The outcome becomes more important than the process of getting there. Unfortunately, most children remember the journey more than the results, carrying emotional baggage for a lifetime. They seem so healthy on the outside because they’ve been trained to do so while on the inside, they’re hurting and confused.
One major mistake we’ve made in recent generations is creating a bottom line of fun and self-indulgence. Many of our children will do whatever it takes to indulge in unhealthy activities that they deem as “fun.” I recently saw a news report where young people were strangling one another just up to the point of passing out because they enjoyed the effects. Drugs have always been an issue in human society because people are constantly seeking entertainment and indulgence. The bottom line becomes a high or certain physical effect and how they get there isn’t a consideration as long as it works.
How does my bottom line affect my relationship with God? What am I missing when I develop a bottom line based on completing tasks? I am getting things accomplished and I’m not hurting anyone in the process, right? Is that really my standard, “As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else…” sounds awfully worldly to me, and yet, I still fall for it at times. When I leave this earth and stand before God, will He say, “I am so proud of you. You completed more tasks than most people. Way to go!” I am thinking not! When I am more focused on the project, when I obsess over deadlines rather than dwell on my Lord, life becomes skewed. I deplete my energy for service and find myself complaining about the value of my life because my heart is unhappy about the loss of spiritual interaction with my Creator!
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (Philippians 2:12-16)
Paul tells the church of Phillipi and us to work out our salvation. How can we do that without God by our side and Christ in our hearts? I can’t, that’s for sure! God gave me this life on earth. He gave me eternity as well. He expects something of me and I certainly do not want to think that I have run or labored for nothing.  As I write these words, it has never been more apparent to me that God called me to write this book for myself and hopefully, for others, to draw nearer to Him, to never forget that He centers us, He strengthens us and He loves us more than I deserve!
God bless you and keep you as you examine your bottom line!

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