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3 Questions

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One of the classic “disciplines” of the Christian faith is that of self-examination. Closely related to confession of sin, it is nothing more than the development of a daily habit of asking pointed questions to help uncover the presence of sin in our lives. If asked proactively, the questions may enable me to avoid some of those “sins which so easily beset us.” Some of my “heroes,” like Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley, were deeply committed to self-examination.

For a number of years, I tried to end each day by asking questions that would lead me toward confession and forgiveness. More recently I have learned that if I start the morning with some simple questions, my “results” at the end of the day seem less painful! Here are three “morning questions” you may find useful.

Today, will I live for myself or for others?

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I have long vowed that I will live for His glory and not my own. This is the basic orientation of every believer, but life has a funny way of changing our perspectives. That is because we are sinful beings, whose default position is self-preservation.

We need jobs, especially if we have families to support. That means we need money and then more money. Most of us are married (and having been married for 40 years, it is an institution I highly recommend). And in that state of wedded bliss, too often, the only thing we really crave is a spouse who adores us and caters to our every whim. At work we want our heroic contributions to be appropriately noted—and rewarded. A bit of recognition goes a long way! And the further we move down the well-trodden path of life in America, the more faintly we hear Jesus’ words: “The Son of man came not to be served, but to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Recently I re-read the biography of one of the most incredible men God raised up in the C&MA: E. D. Whiteside. He was the visionary founder of one of the first C&MA churches in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was actually a rescue mission, and he and his wife, Annie, lived in the same house with the people they swept off the meanest streets of “Steel City.” As the church grew, hundreds of men and women were discipled and sent out to begin scores of other churches and ministries. E. D. and Annie moved a lot, but in every house they hung a plaque over the central fireplace. It had just one word on it: others.

Each morning I ask: “This day, this unique day, will I live for myself—or for others?” We all know what the right answer is. We all know what Jesus would say. But tomorrow morning, what will you say?

Will I live for time or for eternity?

The real world changers, the men and the women whose footprints will remain in the sands of time long after the tides of change have washed away all others, are those who recall the words of the apostle Paul: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

With each new day, it matters a great deal what I decide to look at. If I look at the great American dream—a big bank account, a fancy house and a two-Lexus garage—then I can pretty well predict the path I will take. There may be nothing wrong with those things; it’s just that there is so much more to life than all of that. Jesus said: ‘“Don’t lay up for yourselves treasures on earth. There are problems with those things—specifically moths, rust and thieves; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”’ Do I want to have treasures on earth or in heaven?

Every day I have to ask this question: “Today, this day, am I going to live for time or for eternity?” That’s the question world-changing disciples ask.

Will I live my life by fear or by faith?

It used to be true that the very best savings account you could have was a house. Houses were giant piggy banks. Apparently that is no longer true. Who changed the rules?

When I went to college, corporate recruiters came to the campus three weeks before graduation to hire the best students for well-paying jobs. And there was pretty good reason to believe that job would be the one they retired from. That seems to have changed as well.

When I grew up, there was an excellent chance that the wonderful person you married would become the mother or father of your children; 50 years later you would still be together. There was work involved in keeping the marriage healthy, but the expectation for that golden anniversary was there nonetheless. It’s a new world now. And it is not a better world.

But, lest we feel too sorry for ourselves, the world has always been a scary place. Isaiah lived thousands of years ago, but his world was pretty shaky, too. The Middle East in his times was a “powder keg,” with everyone worried about the political ambitions of the Assyrian nation. Israel’s King Ahaz sought a political alliance with Assyria—but that was like hiring a hungry crocodile to be the lifeguard at the neighborhood pool. Then King Hezekiah decided that it would be a better idea to trust the good intentions of Egypt. The message of God to Israel was very clear: “‘Do not fear what they fear. . . . The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy. He is the one you are to fear” (Isa. 8:12).

Tomorrow morning the world will still be a very scary place. Here is the question you and I will need to answer: Am I going to live today by fear or by faith?

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