Tag Archives: desire

Why did the US death rate jump sharply in recent years? – First Sunday of Advent 2019, Part 1

2 Dec
Photo by Kyle Johnson on Unsplash

If you could say in one word what you want more of in life, what would that be?

What this question gets at is longing.  This Advent, we are talking about longing. 

Advent is a season of longing.  Ancient Christians created the season of Advent as a four week long preparatory time for the great celebration of Christmas.  Advent means “coming,” and it looks back to the first coming of the Messiah, when Jesus was born.  It also points forward to Jesus’ second coming.  As Jesus taught us, we need to be ready for his second coming.  There is a sense, then, in which Advent is a period focused on longing for Jesus to return, and so we would do well to evaluate our longings.  Are we longing for the right things?

I read an article this week in which the author asked the same question of her readers that I asked you: in one word, what do you want more of in your life?  This is just another way of asking, “What do long for?”  Nearly 800 people responded, and the results were fascinating.  I’m going to list the top 8.  What do you think nearly 800 people in our society said they want more of? 

  • 8 – Confidence
  • 7 – Fulfillment
  • 6 – Balance
  • 5 – Joy
  • 4 – Peace
  • 3 – Freedom
  • 2 – Money
  • 1 – Happiness

People have many longings.  This is no surprise.  What is alarming is that there seems to be a growing sense in our culture of longings going unfulfilled.

Another article I read talked about this.  The article studied the death rate in the USA from 1959 through 2017. The general trend: the death rate improved a great deal for several decades, particularly in the 1970s, then slowed down, pretty much leveled off and has recently reversed course after 2014, increasing dramatically since then.

The article reported sharp especially among those in mid-life, ages 25-64.  The report showed the trend to be true both genders, all races and ethnicities.  By age group, the highest relative jump in death rates between the years 2010 and 2017, a jump of 29 percent, was people age 25 to 34. What is going on?  The title of the article is “There’s something terribly wrong.” 

One person in the article said:

“Whether it’s economic, whether it’s stress, whether it’s deterioration of family, people are feeling worse about themselves and their futures, and that’s leading them to do things that are self-destructive and not promoting health.”[1]

This is alarming because, we are the richest country in the history of the world.  We’re not in a major war.  Our health care is amazing.  We have loads of connection through social media.  We are more educated than ever before.  We have so much opportunity.  Yet there is deep despair in so many in our culture, leading to self-destructive behavior.  What is going on?  Perhaps at the root is a epidemic of unfulfilled longing.

As I answered for myself the question above, “What do you want more of in life?” I’ll admit that “peace” and “money” were the first two words that came to my mind.  Let us consider this: How many of us thought of Jesus?  How many people are longing for Jesus? 

We might actually find that a bit odd.  “What do you mean, ‘longing for Jesus,’ Joel?” What I am referring to is the long-held Christian idea that in Jesus and Jesus alone is where we will find the answer to all our longings.  But is it true? Keep following the blog, as our next few post will look into that.


[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/theres-something-terribly-wrong-americans-are-dying-young-at-alarming-rates/2019/11/25/d88b28ec-0d6a-11ea-8397-a955cd542d00_story.html

The one crucial step that must come before doing God’s will

28 Aug

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

What is the will of God?

Yesterday we looked at the surprising weapon Christians are to arm themselves with: the attitude of Jesus, which was an attitude of following the will of God for his life no matter what.  As we continue studying 1 Peter 4:1-6, Peter goes on to say in verse 2 that we Christians will no longer live for evil human desires, but rather we live for the will of God.

What is the will of God?

Here is what the will of God is not: Peter is not talking about some special plan that God has for our future.

Very simply, living for God’s will is doing what God says.  Another great word for this is obedience.  We followers of Jesus are committed to obeying God, and Peter says that means that we no longer obey evil human desires.  What are evil human desires?

Another way to translate the words “evil human desires” is the word “lust.”  The scholars tell us that the word Peter used means “to strongly desire to have what belongs to someone else, and/or to engage in an activity which is morally wrong.” (Louw & Nida)

When you put verses 1 and 2 together, Peter is saying that through the suffering he mentioned in verse 1, disciples of Jesus are no longer living for selfish human desires, but we are to live for the will of God, which means we obey his desire for our lives.

This the key to living as followers of Jesus: we live to obey the will of God! To obey God’s desires.

To understand this further, Peter uses the word “Flesh” multiple times in these few verses.  In the NIV you see it as the word “body” and as “earthly life”.  What Peter is talking about is that there are so many desires that our flesh has.  But so far in verses 1-2 Peter has been saying that when we experience suffering in our flesh, it really puts things into perspective, and sinful desires pale in comparison.  Thus followers of Jesus make it our focus to live according to God’s will and desires for us.

Let’s talk more about living for God’s will.  It is such a foundational concept to Christianity.

But how to we follow God’s will?  It can feel a bit forced.  Peter is saying, “Do God’s will.” Or, “Just obey.” Is that all there is to it?  Just obey.  Can we just choose to obey?  Is it that easy?

Maybe you have a personality where if God says it, then you are good to go with obeying it, period.  No questions.  You are okay with it.  And you genuinely seek to obey.

But there are others of you who have a different personality or approach.  You hear, “do God’s will,” and you know that it is a good thing, but you are wondering, why should we obey God?  Or is that all there is to it? Is there a reason for it? Can’t God tell us more about this?

I would suggest that there is more.  And that Peter knows there is more.  And that Jesus taught that there is more.  And this is what is more: obeying God’s will is intended to flow from a heart of love for God.

When we love someone, we are inclined to respect them, serve them, treat them well, help them.  God doesn’t want us to obey him begrudgingly because he is the supreme power of the universe, and we are his creatures.  As if God is some dictator.  Or a master with slaves.  God wants us to do his will out of love for him. He wants to be in a real loving relationship with us.

I wonder, do you love him?

Of course we would say “yes” to that.  But perhaps we say, “Yes, I love God” too quickly, without examining our hearts and minds.

I use some phone apps to guide me in reading scripture and praying.  One is from the Book of Common Prayer, and it has morning, evening and night prayer services that you can read through and pray.  It includes plenty of Scripture and the Lord’s Prayer, other written prayers, spaces for silence and your own prayer requests as well.  One of the written prayers that is in there every single day always gets me thinking:

“As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you, now and forever, amen.”

And then yesterday, another app I use had this prayer,

“Dear Lord, instill in my heart the desire to know and love you more.”

In a week when I was thinking about a passage that emphasizes obeying God, these two prayers hit me hard.  Do I love God?  Of course, I love God.  But really, do I love God?

I thought of Peter, not long after Jesus was arrested and taken away.  That evening, Peter is following from a distance, watching, fear rising in his heart, as they put Jesus on trial.  Then Peter is spotted, and pointed out as one who had been with Jesus.  Peter allows fear to overtake him, and he denies knowing Jesus, once, twice, three times.  Vehemently Peter denies knowing Jesus.

Then the rooster crows, and Jesus looks out across the way, locking eyes with Peter.  Peter, who had only hours before made bold claims about dying for Jesus, now has denied him. He flees the scene, weeping bitter tears.  But a few days later, Jesus rises from the dead, and Peter is a changed man.

Jesus reinstates him, saying Peter, “Do you love me?”  Three times, one for each denial.  And each time Peter says “I love you.”

This is a different Peter now.  Having acted out of fear instead of love, Peter is now set on a trajectory of loving Jesus that will carry on for the rest of his life.

Jesus transformed his life. Jesus wants to do the same in your life.  He wants to restore a loving relationship between you and him.  He is not a taskmaster forcing you to do his will.  Instead, he wants you to know, out of mutual love for one another, that loving him leads to obeying him which is the best possible way to live.