Enoch’s 4 Keys to Smooth Transitions

An important attribute for having a happy and successful life is the ability to make smooth transitions. Why? Because transitions are one of the most inescapable features of life.

Instead of remaining a baby, we transition to childhood. After childhood, we encounter numerous changes as we shift into our teen years. After that, we’re invited to mature into an adult…a senior citizen…and, after we die, a citizen of eternity.

There are many other transitions along the way, and they’re never stress-free.

While it may be exhilarating to go from singlehood to matrimony, the transition isn’t easy. And sometimes the marriage ends, either because of the spouse’s death or an unwanted divorce, requiring a whole new transition.

You probably have experienced numerous other transitions. Perhaps you’ve been downsized at work and have bounced from job to job. Or maybe you’re navigating the opportunities and perils of retirement. Or perhaps you’ve come to point of losing your independence to assisted living.

Each transition has its own unique challenges. Although we sometimes go kicking and screaming into the next phase of life, there’s no way to keep things the same forever. Like it or not, we must keep moving on in our journey.

Enoch’s Amazing Story

Recently I found myself thinking about the remarkable transition made by a famous man in the Bible: “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24).

The Good News Translation says, “He spent his life in fellowship with God, and then he disappeared.” And The Message paraphrase explains that after he “walked steadily with God…one day he was simply gone: God took him.

Even though we’re not given much additional information about Enoch’s startling transition, the New Testament puts him in the Hall of Fame of Faith: “It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying – ‘he disappeared, because God took him.’ For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5 NLT).

Most people just get old and die, but Enoch was snatched off the earth seemingly in the prime of his life. No reason is given, except that God chose to take him.

Despite the sketchy details of how this happened, Enoch’s story can teach us some very important lessons about handling life’s transitions:

  1. As much as possible, prepare yourself for the transition.

Enoch was as ready as he could be for his sudden departure. He had walked closely and consistently with the Lord, lived a life of faith, and maintained a reputation as someone who pleased God. Perhaps his abrupt passage into heaven could be explained by the fact that he had passed the tests of his earthly sojourn and was now ready to advance to the next phase of his journey.

Nothing prepares us better for heaven than to faithfully serve God’s purposes while on the earth. You’ve probably met people who are living for the devil today, yet plan to give their lives to Jesus on their deathbed. Bad idea! Today is the day of salvation, and if someone hardens their heart now, they’re unlikely to repent “just in time” for heaven.

But Enoch’s story isn’t just about “getting to heaven.” Instead, it illustrates that the line between heaven and earth is actually a lot thinner than we may have thought. Enoch was already experiencing a certain amount of heaven in his daily relationship with the Lord, having so much fun that eternity probably seemed like an unexpected bonus.

Did Enoch experience any trials and tribulations along the way? Undoubtedly so. However, nothing prepares us better for the unexpected catastrophes of life than to follow his example of already having a firm foundation of trusting and obeying the Lord (Matthew 7:24-27).

His example also encourages us to avoid spiritual stagnation or getting “stuck” somewhere in our journey. The description of Enoch “walking with God” implies motion – a life of continual growth and progress. Sometimes Christians focus so much on their “new birth” experience that they fail to do what’s necessary to keep developing in their faith. In contrast, Enoch was growing in intimacy with God right up to the time his earthly life ended.

In recent years, I’ve been intrigued by the “suddenlies” mentioned in the Bible – stories about God giving people a dramatic breakthrough in a moment of time. Enoch certainly experienced one of these “suddenly” moments when the Lord unexpectedly snatched him from the earth. But notice: Years of preparation occurred before this breakthrough moment. Enoch had willingly undertaken the slow, steady process of walking with God before his sudden transition to the gates of heaven.

This is such a great lesson for us. If we’re hoping for a supernatural breakthrough in our health, finances, emotions, or family, God may require us to patiently prepare our hearts and take small steps of faith before the miracle happens.

  1. Experience the next phase in advance.

To the watching world, Enoch’s sudden translation into heaven probably seemed to come “out of the blue” and without warning. He was just out taking a walk, after all! He wasn’t even sick when God decided to take him.

However, maybe the transition wasn’t nearly as sudden as it seemed. Reading between the lines, it’s apparent that Enoch had already tasted of heaven during his daily walks with God. You see, even in this present life, we can experience “the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5).

Once again, the story provides a principle about transitions. Before the day when we enter fully into the portals of heaven, we can have heavenly encounters with the supernatural realm. Remember the ladder between heaven and earth that Jacob saw in Genesis 28?

It’s also interesting that the Israelites tasted some of the fruit of the Promised Land before actually entering into their inheritance there (Numbers 13:20).

So let’s get practical in applying this lesson to life’s transitions:

  • If you’re getting ready to be married, you’re wise to spend time being mentored by those who already have strong marriages.
  • If you’re about to become a parent, it’s important to learn from others who’ve successfully raised their children.
  • If you’re planning to launch your first business, it’s vital to spend time with entrepreneurs who have displayed wisdom in building their own company.
  • If you sense God calling you into some role of ministry, it’s smart to find others who are already functioning in that same calling.
  • If you’re getting ready to retire, there’s much you can learn from those who have already successfully made that transition.

The point is this: Before you transition into a new chapter of life, you should do the best you can to get a taste of that next phase in advance.

  1. Let go of your present circumstances so you can embrace the upcoming stage of your journey.

While we don’t know much about Enoch’s circumstances, it was clearly necessary for him to let go of his earthly life in order to move forward into his heavenly life. I’ve always loved the analogy of a trapeze artist, who must let go of one trapeze in order to transition to the next. But although it may be exhilarating to watch a trapeze artist, the process is much more hazardous than it looks.

Yes, people often cheer when a preacher says, “God is doing a NEW thing!” But let’s get real: Most of the time, we would prefer to hang on to the familiar and the comfortable. Moving into unfamiliar territory is usually frightening, and perhaps that’s why God warned the Israelites, “You have not passed this way before” (Joshua 3:4).

Years ago, I experienced a stunning example of this requirement to “let go” in order to experience God’s next assignment. My Grandpa Fraggiotti had congestive heart failure and eventually passed into a deep coma. This went on for a number of days, and there was no change in his condition. We sensed that, out of sheer determination, he was fighting to stay alive. Perhaps this was caused by fear of the unknown, or maybe he simply didn’t want to leave his loved ones.

Even though he was unconscious, we decided to share with him some comforting words about the transition he was about to make. We reminded him of God’s love and of the fact that he had publically given his life to Christ many years before. We also assured him of our love and of our confidence that we would one day all be together with him in heaven.

Surprisingly, within about an hour of our “conversation” with Grandpa, he simply quit breathing. After many days of fighting to hang on to life, he peacefully relinquished himself to God (Luke 23:46).

You probably aren’t yet facing a crossroads like Grandpa Fraggiotti was that day. However, his story beautifully illustrates the necessity of letting go before you can move on. This principle applies not only when you’re standing at death’s door, but to every other transition along the way.

  1. Pour your life into the next generation.

Many other people in Enoch’s generation outlived him. From an earthy perspective, this may seem sad, or even unjust. Yet this shows that the real question is never the amount of years in our life, but rather the amount of life in years. To be honest, some people live lives that are so inconsequential that it’s as if they never lived at all.

When you dig a little deeper into Enoch’s story, you find that his son Methuselah lived longer than anyone else who ever lived! What a great lesson about raising up kids, grandkids, or other young people who can go much further in life than we ever could.

For example, remember how Elijah mentored Elisha? Although Elijah was an incredible man of God, the Bible records that twice as many miracles were performed by his protégé Elisha.

Likewise, Jesus made an astounding prediction about the impact His followers would have: “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father (John 14:12).

At first glance, you may not see any connection between equipping the next generation and getting ready for your own transitions. But think about it: Until others are raised up to do what you are currently doing, it makes no sense for you to transition into some greater role. Preparing the next generation for success is a critical component in transitioning to the next phase of your journey.

Fear Not!

If you follow Enoch’s four principles, transitions never again need to be a scary process. You’ll be well prepared for each new step in your journey, confident that God is moving you “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV).

So go ahead and walk with God today and every day. If you do, your earthly life will be filled with “goodness and mercy,” and someday you’ll step into eternity – able to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).

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Surprised by Heaven’s Serenade

After a hiatus of several decades, I decided to pick up my guitar again. The ramifications have been revolutionary…almost shocking at times. Although my singing and strumming are as bad as ever, the experience has caused me to make some unexpected discoveries about the nature of true worship.

On the most elementary level, worship begins with singing songs ABOUT God. Many of today’s most popular praise songs include the phrase “Our God…” In songs like that, we are singing about our Lord’s many great attributes, but we aren’t necessarily interacting with Him.

On a somewhat higher level, our worship must move into songs directly TO God. This is described in a wonderful line in Misty Edwards’ song, “I Won’t Relent”:

I don’t want to talk about You
Like You’re not in the room
I want to look right at You
I want to sing right to You

Too often, church services are characterized by lots of talk ABOUT God, but not enough genuine interaction WITH God. No wonder people walk away uninspired and unchanged. They needed a touch from the living God, and all they got was a history lesson instead.

Lately, I’ve been surprised by several other insights about the nature of worship—not just during church gatherings, but in my personal times with the Lord as well.

One of my recurring word pictures is an orchestra prior to a concert. If you’ve ever been early to such an event, you’ve heard the strange sound of the orchestra members tuning their instruments. Before they attempt to perform together, they must first make sure they’ve individually tuned their instrument to the right pitch.

The apostle Paul describes the church as the body of Christ, with uniquely gifted members who work together for the common good (1 Corinthians 12). Perhaps if he was writing today, he would also note that the church is meant to be like an orchestra, with a variety of instruments that can function together because they’ve been tuned to a common pitch.

Why is there so much discord in the church? Because we haven’t individually taken time to tune our hearts to the Master’s perfect pitch.

Recently I’ve sensed God’s desire to draw me into a level of worship I haven’t experienced for a long time. Beyond just singing ABOUT Him or even singing TO Him, I’ve been startled to hear Him say that He wants to sing back to us.

Yes, as amazing as it may sound, the Lord wants to SERENADE His people! The Bridegroom wants to sing love songs to His bride!

Wow. Do you see how revolutionary this is? It’s not enough even to sing songs TO God, for He wants to speak to us during our worship and sing back to us.

If you find this mind-blowing and hard to believe, I understand. But it’s in the Bible (and not just in the Song of Solomon!).

Zephaniah 3:17 says:

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing (NIV).

The Message paraphrases this, “He’ll calm you with his love and delight you with his songs.”

Isn’t it incredible that the God of the entire universe would take time to sing love songs to you and me? Yet that is exactly what the Bible says.

Still not convinced? You can find this same principle in a number of the Psalms (e.g., 91, 95, 32, and 2). The psalmists begin by addressing the Lord, then He breaks in and speaks back to the psalmists.

Psalm 91 starts with He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Adding to this beautiful picture, the text goes on to list some of the awesome blessings derived from living our lives in God’s presence.

However, in the final three verses of the psalm, God Himself breaks in with His own commentary and promises:

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
    “I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
    if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
    I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
    give you a long drink of salvation!” (vs. 14-16 MSG)

Not only does God want to serenade us, but He says He wants to throw us a PARTY! He wants to speak to us…encourage us…and even DANCE with us!

In the process, He will repeal “Spiritual Prohibition” and gives us “a long drink of salvation!” No wonder the early Christians were accused of being drunk (Acts 2:13-15). And the lovers in the Song of Solomon had a similar experience: “Oh, lover and beloved, eat and drink! Yes, drink deeply of your love!” (5:1 NLT)

So my friend, if you’ve found “worship” to be a dry and empty exercise lately, I encourage you to go deeper. Don’t stop until you’ve heard heaven’s love songs. Soak in the Lord’s presence long enough to get intoxicated with His love.

When your heart is tuned to the Bridegroom’s serenade, everything around you will begin to change. When you hear His love songs, you’ll have no alternative but to dance with Him.

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The Strange Case of Copycat Cities

Thanks to National Public Radio, I learned something new recently: China has spent billions of dollars constructing buildings—and even entire cities—to replicate some of the world’s most renowned architecture.

If you live in Beijing or Shanghai, you no longer have to travel to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, for there’s now a copycat version in your own country. If you’ve always wanted to visit Manhattan, you can see a replica nearby, complete with Rockefeller and Lincoln centers and even a Hudson River. And for those looking for something more serene, the gorgeous Austrian town of Hallstatt has been replicated in all its picturesque beauty.

In most Western cultures, people look down on you for being a copycat. Not so in China. They take pride  in their replicas, whether the replicas are of watches, electronics, missiles, or cities. Psychologically, it probably feels as if they have conquered  the objects they’ve recreated.

Personally, I would much rather visit the real  Eiffel Tower than see a cheap imitation. And I’ve never been very attracted to Rolex watch knockoffs, because I know there really is a difference between the real and the counterfeit.

If everyone followed the Chinese copycat philosophy, we would soon reach a point where nothing  was real. Creativity and innovation would be a thing of the past, because all we’d ever do would be to copy from one another. In such a world, Steve Jobs could never have created Apple, because there was nothing yet to copy. It’s as if he saw something unseen to model his products after.

But my biggest criticism of China’s copycat cities is this: The Chinese are seeking to copy the wrong things.  Sure, Paris and Manhattan are iconic places in the human scheme of things. Yet why not shoot for a higher  model these earthly places?

Here’s what I mean…

I think the Chinese ought to take some time to read Augustine of Hippo’s famous fifth-century book about the contrast between the City of God and the City of Man. While the well-intentioned Chinese builders are spending lots of time and money to duplicate the best architecture the world offers in the City of Man, a much better quest would be to reflect the heavenly city whose designer and builder is God”  (Hebrews 11:10 TLB).

Why try to copy each other and replicate earthly models, when our objective should be to model the kingdom of heaven? Yes, it’s certainly easier to reproduce Paris or Manhattan. But in the end, it’s much more rewarding to reflect God’s architecture instead of man’s.

However, before we’re too hard on the Chinese, we should all ask ourselves some hard questions: What are we  building? What model are we patterning our  lives around? Are we living for earthly things or for God’s eternal kingdom?

These questions are at the very heart of the prayer Jesus taught us to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Our prayers and our lives should reflect a glorious quest for His kingdom to come and His will to be done—modeling on earth what is already happening in heaven. In the end, that’s the only city worth replicating.

So go ahead and be a copycat. People shouldn’t have to go to heaven to see what it’s like. They should be able to look at your life and mine.

 

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Welcome to the Royal Family!

Since the birth of a new prince to William and Kate, there has much talk about England’s “royal family.” The whole world took notice of the birth, and commentators opined that the new baby signaled hope for the royal family’s future.

Although I’m glad George Washington and America’s founders shunned the whole “royalty” concept, there’s a lot we can learn from the monarchical model. First of all, the Bible says God has a KINGDOM, not a republic or a democracy. And while the kings, queens, princes, and princesses in England are basically figureheads  these days, God is a King who still reigns with full authority.

The new prince in England obtained royalty simply because his parents were descendants of the House of Windsor. In contrast, no one is a Christian because of who their parents are. It is a personal choice, not a right of inheritance: To those who receive Christ and believe in His name, “he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”  (John 1:12-13).

Yes, in order to become a part of heaven’s royalty family, we must be “born of God.”  No matter the rank or circumstances of our human parents, we don’t enter the kingdom of God until we are “born again”  and “born of the Spirit”  (John 3:1-8).

While it’s an incredible privilege to be part of God’s royal family, it’s also a great responsibility.  Just as the new prince in England will be under the daily scrutiny of the paparazzi, we as Christians are under the constant scrutiny of a watching world. Will we live up to our birthright as citizens of heaven? (Philippians 3:20)

It’s time to remind believers of their high calling in Christ, just as Peter reminded the Christians of his generation: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light”  (1 Peter 2:9).

So, if you belong to Jesus today, you never need to hang down your head in shame or low self-esteem. You are royalty, after all!

But also notice that Peter says we should be boldly declaring God’s goodness to others who aren’t yet a part of the royal kingdom. You see, when new “babies” are born into God’s family, there is great joy in heaven (Luke 15:10). And every new birth signals hope for the expansion of God’s kingdom in coming generations.

 

 

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