What do you think the husband was thinking when the doors were closed?

Standard

If you are ever in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, let me recommend visiting the Billy Graham Museum.  For me, it was a pleasure and just fascinating  to marvel at the impact that this very humble man, empowered by a single life ambition (to tell of the amazing grace of God) had on millions and millions of people.

Speaking of impact, while I was there I heard the following true story that still leaves me deeply stirred.

A husband and wife were taking a trip to Charlotte.  He wanted to make it special for her. So, he told her that whatever she wanted to do, they would do.

Being a Christian (he was not), she exclaimed that she would like to go to the Billy Graham museum.  “Are you sure?  Would you like to do something else?” he asked her with a hope she would change her mind.

“Nope. That is what I’d like to do”, she said.

“okay”, he agreed.

In the final room of the museum, there is a powerful message from various crusades from Billy Graham, which are shown with an invitation given for all to  receive the free gift of salvation  through Jesus’ death on the cross.

After the invitation was given, a door automatically opened up where some lighted crosses could be seen, along with a heavenly kind of image.  The wife  walked through the door, but when the doors closed, her husband was not behind her.

Her husband had stayed in the room while the invitation was being given and was unaware his wife had left the room without him.  By the time, he got up, the lights had gone out, and the door was closed.  There were no handles on the door and the man realized he had been left behind.

The wife, alarmed that her husband was not with her, got some staff help to open the door to the room her husband was in.  When the door was opened, they found the husband with his head bowed down and weeping.

The dramatic impact of realizing that what had happened in the room moments ago, where he was separated from his wife, could really be true, but for all eternity shocked him and brought him to the place where he believed the truth that now is the day of salvation and that there are no second chances.  He understood the eternal danger of delaying making a decision today to accept Jesus’ death on a cross as a payment for his sins. He knew he needed right then to get right with God (and he did).

I love that story.  I hope you recognize the same truth that the husband did. How utterly horrible it will be for anyone who comes to that awful awareness that he is standing outside of Heaven when the gates are closed.

What about you?  If something tragic were to happen to you today, would you be entering through the gates of Heaven knowing that you have given your life to Jesus Christ by simply believing in what He did for you on a cross, or would you be on the outside, fighting through all your fears and meaningless efforts to justify your own goodness?

My prayer is that today, if you haven’t already, you would recognize that “God so loved the world that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life”.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith and not of yourself. For it is the gift of God not of works lest any man should boast.”

 

Advertisements

Look closely…. do you see a stop sign?

Standard

Check out this picture—do you see a STOP  sign?

Well, let me come back to that in just a minute.  This post is meant for “born again” Christians. You know who you are.

It is meant for those people who one day recognized that they were distant from God and that God, in His graciousness and mercy made a way for us to be reconciled with Him through Jesus Christ as He gave His life as a substitute for us.  Approximately 2000 years ago, Jesus took upon Himself the punishment that we deserved because of our selfishness, and rebelliousness towards God and in the Great Exchange offered us forgiveness and peace with God, as our relationship with Him was restored.   I hope you never get tired of hearing this gospel message.

Backing up just a minute as a way of explanation —before a person is saved, a person finds them self alienated from God.  They are led by their own selfish desires. In addition to their bondage to their fleshly instincts, an unsaved person comes under the slavery to the evil influences of the Devil and his demonic cohorts, as well as slavery to this world system that seeks independence from Almighty God. Habits of sinful behaviors and selfish motives and attitudes become ingrained.  Without doubt, the word “darkness” characterizes so well the life, and future potential of an unsaved person.

But, one day, as a believer in Jesus Christ can testify to, God brings in light.  Through no doing of our own, a saved person recognizes that they are alienated from God due to their sinful, selfish, and rebellious ways and they repent.  They change their ways and in humility they seek out a relationship with God.

With the assistance of the Holy Spirit of God now living in the person, an awareness of the power and wisdom of the Living Word (the Bible), and the support and training of the church community, a new believer grows in their understanding of the faith.

One of the key principles of our faith that every believer needs to understand is that the mandatory bondage to sinful habits of your former life are gone.  The Bible says, “we are new creations in Christ”.

The Bible says in Romans 6:6 (nasb) that “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away (or another version says, “rendered powerless) with so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.”

In other words, as the New Testament speaks of so often, “it is for freedom that Christ has set you free”.

HANG IN THERE WITH ME —THIS IS GOOD STUFF!

Let’s go back now to the picture of the STOP sign. For probably 30 years, I have been driving down this street and I’ve come to a STOP sign.  Its been right outside a big hospital.  But the hospital has been taken down with the exception of just a few doctors’ offices and the city recently decided to remove the STOP sign.

What I found interesting is that over the past week or so, I have stopped numerous times at that intersection, but the truth is there is no STOP sign there.  In other words, although I am free to just keep on driving, a habit has been formed in my mind and every time I go that intersection, these habits  of the mind tell my will how to behave.

Can you follow the spiritual application that this STOP sign illustration is to our spiritual walks?

When I get tempted to take a second look at a pretty woman (an old, frequent habit), I don’t have to because I now free in Christ. The power of that old habit has been broken. I am a new creation in Christ.

When I get tempted to  get angry at a person who I feel didn’t respect me for some reason, (an old, frequent habit), I don’t have to because I now free in Christ. The power of that old habit has been broken. I am a new creation in Christ.

When I get tempted to covet the nice things that a friend might have that I can’t afford, (an old, frequent habit), I don’t have to because I now free in Christ. The power of that old habit has been broken. I am a new creation in Christ.

Just writing these words is exciting for me and I hope they are for you, as well.   If you are a Christian, the new you is not the old you.

God’s best for you is that you not only believe that, but that you act like it.

Why stop along the road of life when you are free to just keep on driving?

 

If a turtle lost its shell…

Standard

I don’t know if you ever thought about this, but did you ever wonder, “can a turtle live without its shell?”

I’ve thought about that and the answer is “no”.  Its outer shell is not something it just carries around, it’s actually a part of its body.

The turtle’s shell is vital to its survival. Not only does it protect the turtle’s life from predators, who most often are not able to break through the hard shell, but that shell is bone with blood vessels and nerves. The turtles rib cage is actually fused with the top of a turtle’s shell which protects the turtle’s lungs.

Interesting, huh?  But, is there any further take away for us today other than gaining a little knowledge?

How about this?

Christians, we too, have an outer shell. Did you know that?   This outer shell we have is our flesh. It is that DNA in us that wires us to be enslaved to selfishness, rebellious to authorities, and independent-minded.  It seeks to lead us away from dependence on God and absorbed in a “life revolves around me” mindset.  Rather than worshiping God, the flesh seeks to exalt “me”.

One of the benefits of Jesus dying on the cross was that our bondage to the flesh (our outer shell) was broken.  The life,  truth, and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ disarmed the flesh’s power over us.

BUT, here are a few things to understand.

The outer shell (the flesh and all its attractions to the world around us) are still alive, it’s just we don’t have to obey its promptings.

Once someone submits their life to Jesus Christ by admitting their rebelliousness to Him and accept His loving forgiveness, we are given the Holy Spirit of God to live within us.  Through God’s Sovereign leading in our lives, He enrolls us in a war against our outer man and any pockets of its presence still doing guerilla warfare in our life.  God allows circumstances in our life to reveal areas where we still want to carry the shell of pride, or lust, or bitterness, etc

What the Holy Spirit does in our life when we encounter difficult circumstances  is shout out us to continual reminders that we are “FREE”.  We don’t have to listen to or respond to any outer shell/fleshly promptings.  The Spirit tells us carrying our obedience to the flesh will  harm us and because we are loved, He wants to spare us from that.

Unlike the turtle who can not live without its outer shell, the Christian is called to be intentional about putting it to death.  This is the path of the normal and powerful Christian life.

In John 12:24-25 (esv), Jesus says, “truly, truly,  I say to you, unless a grain of wheat  falls into the earth and dies ( I’ve added this note to this verse: where the seed’s outer shell breaks down), it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world  will keep it for eternal life.”

Christian brother or sister, you have been called to the truth that you no longer need to carry the weight of your outer shell – that part of you that wants to go solo through this world.  Because of His amazing grace, He wants you to understand that your greatest joys in life will come when you realize that your protection, and purpose, and identity are all found, not from any outer things, but all from the internal things of a right alignment with the one, true, Living and Loving God.

“Off” with the old, and “on” with the new!

 

For further study, please read, Galatians 5, Colossians 3, Ephesians 4 & 5, and/or memorize Galatians 2:20

 

 

 

I think its worth you asking yourself this question, ” who will …?”

Standard

Did you ever read a book that stops you in your tracks so that you either have to re-read it, or just put the book down and think over what you read.  Well, I just did.   Beware–I think it might just stop you as well and give you something to think about.  The excerpt is from a very insightful, and excellent book, “Addictions—a banquet in the grave”  by Edward T. Welch.

“The Bible asks the question, Who will be king?  The one true God or worthless idols?  Curiously,  the answer wasn’t very straightforward for the Israelites (just like it isn’t straightforward for any of us).  They started moving  toward idols very gradually  by rubbing shoulders   with foreigners.    They found they weren’t  so bad so they moved closer.    They they began to see that their gods made some promises that were very appealing; rain and fertility in particular. Maybe, they thought, they could worship both God and idols, and in so doing  get what they wanted. But the promises  by the other gods were false promises. Gradually, these foreign gods demanded and received worship , and the children of Israel started walking in the dark.  Let me put it this way. The story of the Bible  is entitled, “Whom Will You Worship?” The story of our lives  has the same title. And ultimately, the idols  we worship  are shaped by our  own desires.”

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Friends, let me encourage you to really wrestle with this question, and pray about it as well.  Keep in mind that in this spiritual war that we are in, only God, the holy, sovereign, living and loving God deserves our best. (remember, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind”?  Yet, due to our sinful nature, we can all so easily allow people, or things, or ambitions take first place in our hearts and minds, so that our worship of God as numero uno, gets pushed aside to a second, third, or lower priority.    He will not tolerate it and your life will not be satisfied by these false substitutes.

I need to confess …

Standard

This is one of those occasions when I can’t really believe I’ve missed it for so long–it’s been a massive blind spot in my life.

Wondering what it is?
It’s this–awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.  That’s right- the third person of the Godhead who lives not only within me, but every single person who has put their faith in Jesus Christ to be their Savior..
Let me be very transparent, I am a person who would immediately  raise my hand if I was asked by someone, if I believe in the Holy Spirit.  Being pretty familiar with the Bible, I understand that there is a Holy Spirit, and that He lives within me and that His role in my life is to comfort me, to help me exalt Jesus Christ, and  to guide me.  He is the giver of spiritual gifts. He convicts me of my sin, the righteousness of God, and eternal consequences of a life disobedient to the Almighty.  I get all that.
HOWEVER, am I really aware on a daily basis of His literal presence in my life?  Sadly to say, “no”, I’m not.   But, things are changing.
Let me share some additional thoughts I’ve been having.
Picture yourself about to take your 4-year-old son, or grandson (or daughter/grand-daughter) on a walk. So, you start to drive to the park.  As you are driving, some other driver cuts right in front of you.  You can almost sense the angry words coming out of your heart about to make their way out of your mouth and then you stop those words from coming out.  Why? It’s because you don’t want to expose the precious young one  in the car with you, to your harsh words.  It wouldn’t be a good thing for them. Right?
Finally, you get to the park, and as you start your walk in the park, you see two young people having a very, very public display of affection. Again, what do you think your first instinct will be?  My guess is that like most people, you will veer off your course and go a different direction so the child with you doesn’t  have to see something that they won’t understand and that is not a polite or respectable behavior in a public setting.
So, what’s my point and what’s the tie-in to the Holy Spirit?  It’s this.  In a fairly similar way to my awareness to exercise self-control and discernment to shield a child from an inappropriate behavior, I believe I need to grow much more in exercising that same discretion because of the awareness of the Spirit of God’s presence in my life.  But the deeper level motivation is different though in one major way between not exposing a child to something harmful and not exposing the Spirit.
Shielding a child from negative behaviors is a protection for them.  Shielding behaviors from the Spirit isn’t about protecting Him, but really about protecting me.  It’s about looking for, depending on, and obeying His instruction. Afterall, the Holy Spirit is the one who identifies that certain behaviors are not holy.  I’m thinking of activities,  such as swearing, or losing my temper and cursing someone, or watching people take off their clothes and commit acts that should strictly be between a husband and his wife, etc.  But, I’m realizing it goes well beyond that.  For instance, if I do something for someone with a selfish motive, the Holy Spirit is right there, witnessing my plans play out, trying to help me realize my motivation for doing what I’m thinking about..  He gently seeks to speak truth to me.    If I find myself staring longer at a pretty woman than I should be, again, the Spirit is there to whisper to me “do I really want to be doing that?”  and “right now, are you thinking more about your self, or respecting the other person?”
I am learning that the Holy Spirit is wanting to help me understand His purity and the goodness that can come from following Him and His loving and wise ways.  He wants to protect me. He desires to warn me of behaviors that are not good for me to be exposed to and that will bring about consequences and impressions that are not good for me.  Best of all, He is there every step of the way with me.
To understand that God Himself, as the Holy Spirit lives within me is just so awesome!
It is so cool and then again, such a struggle.  Why?  Because just like a child wants to not always listen to their parents and assert their independence, I too, have a nature that craves power. I want to do my own thing.  I want to do what I want, when I want, and how I want.
The question for me (and you) is that of trust.  Can I, can you really trust the Heavenly co-pilot to give us directions throughout our day, every day and acknowledge, look for and submit to His ways?
The thoughts in this post today are challenging me in a big-time way.  I hope they challenge you as well.
One final thought I felt led to share.
All I have written about up to now has been to those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ and now need to learn how to walk in a closer way with the Holy Spirit.
However, there may be some of you who have never really given up control of your life to Jesus in the first place. As of yet, you have never accepted from Him, the forgiveness of your sins because of the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.
You might believe there was a person in history called Jesus Christ, but to be honest, your belief in Jesus Christ as a historical figure is no different from your belief in the person of George Washington.  Neither one is really making any difference today in the way you live your life.
My friend, if you are in the place where your belief in Jesus might be academic, without any real heartfelt knowledge or experience of His working in your life, I would encourage you right now to get alone with Him.
The thief on a cross next to Jesus understood that he was a sinful man, deserving of justice and punishment.  However, as the thief observed the behavior of Jesus (and maybe, was aware of His godly reputation), the thief could sense that he was in the presence of deity. In great desperation, the thief sought grace and mercy from Jesus.  And he (the thief) said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he (Jesus) said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43 esv).   
Have you ever spoken words of humility to God asking for His forgiveness, and mercy to you?  If not, is it time? 
I believe its time for God to have the rightful place in all of our hearts (not just our minds) and for us to live our life “all in” trusting Him with our lives.

1000th post—–well, let me tell you a story

Standard

1000 posts! Its hard to believe.  It has been so enjoyable (even therapeutic at times) to share so many thoughts that have been going on in my head.  1000 celebration photo

Thank you to so many of you who have “liked”, or “shared”, or “commented” on these posts.  I have appreciated your encouragement.

Well, as I thought about this milestone, I thought today’s post needed to be something personal and something different.  Some of my readers have to wonder who I really am as I write about topics as varied as quotes, book reviews, parenting, finances, faith, poetry, work, etc.   Well, sit back and let me tell you a story:

I grew up like most kids back in my day.  I loved being outside playing sports. Some of my fondest memories in my life involve playing baseball with my friends. I couldn’t get enough of sports, especially baseball and soccer.

As far as faith went, our family went to church nearly every weekend and I was confirmed at 12 or 13 years old.  As I look back at that time, I would say, I believed in God, but in a similar way to believing in George Washington.  I believe they existed, but also that they had little relevancy in life.

Throughout my teen years in the early 70’s, a new kind of interest was developing for me: girls and partying.  I won’t go into all the details of those years but I will summarize it like this:  sports (and mostly soccer at this point), which had been a huge passion of mine, was being replaced by my own selfish and foolish pursuits. Fortunately, my soccer talents were still good enough that a college gave me a scholarship to play soccer there.

While at college, and basically living on my own at campus, I was free to indulge my carefree passions, which I did with an intensity.  Again, the details are not important other than to say, I cared little for anyone else, just the pursuit of my own pleasures.  Looking back now over that 5-6 year period of time, my heart is weighed down by so many regrets. I have since apologized to many people who I know, in my selfish ways, I hurt during that time.  I am so sorry for so many things I did.

Beside my focus on just looking out for my self,  the result of that reckless period in my life was:  almost total hopelessness, a heavy feeling of loneliness, and despair.   The life that my heroes (the rock ‘n roll bands I listened to) described was not turning out to be the “endless Summer” kind of life I thought it would be.  Instead, it was a very, very  dark time for me.

Then, things changed.  In December of 1980, I was partying with some guys at school when someone came in to our smoke-filled room to say that John Lennon of the Beatles was just shot and killed.  Wow!   Although I enjoyed the Beatles’ music, I was never a total zealot, but this news rocked (no pun intended) my world.  I got up and said to the guys I was going back to my room to write.  Say what?

I had never done anything like that before, but I cranked out in no time at all a paper on Lennon’s death, called “Stillness in the Air”.   From that moment forward something crazy happened.  By writing that Beatles’ piece, it was like I had turned on the creative faucet.  Going forward, I had an incredible urge to write in poetry the things that were on my mind.

In classes, or in restaurants, at pool sides, or in the middle of the night, while driving, etc. thoughts were pouring out of my head and I had to write them down.

Initially, the poems were very dreary. They were very depressing.  During that early stage I had a feeling I would be sharing these writings with others, and so I felt a need to filter them so that they didn’t reveal to others how confused and messed up I really was. But, then one day, it was like I was standing in front of a mirror to my soul and the thought came to me, “you’ve been lying to so many people for so many years now, you can’t even be honest to yourself”.   Wow!  Those words were piercing!

Like John Wayne, pulling up his bootstraps for the final showdown with the bad guys, I told myself I needed to be honest and see where this all led.  The poems continued pouring out of my heart. But now, I didn’t filter them in any way.  What I was thinking came out on paper.  The poems continued to relate a mix of my partying adventures along with times of reflection and it was during these soul-searching times, that I could see the growing depth of my loneliness, confusion, and despair.

But one day,  a new poem came out,  Spirit by the Sea   and that poem marked a change.  In that poem, a person leaves the shore and gets in a boat, only to find himself about to drown, but then miraculously is given hope and new life by a dove flying above his head.  From that point going forward, my poems started to reflect life and a change of heart.

In fact, during this season of an outpouring of poetry, I knew deep down that poetry from a searching heart would come out of it. Those poems, “Emotions”, “Change of Heart”, and “Aaron” are the poems I share on Friday and Saturday nights.

The next massive change in my life came in June of 1982.  I was at a restaurant in Rockford, Illinois.  It was about midnight. I was studying for a Summer class I was taking at a community college.  A friendly guy, a stranger next to my table started a conversation with me and soon had me at the edge of my seat with our conversation.

He told me of his life. He mentioned to me that he was a musician who frequented a bar quite a bit. At one point, he was offered a record deal by Motown records, but at the last-minute, his deal fell through.  It led him to great depression.  His frequency at the bar escalated, until he was a mess. While frequently being at the bar, he developed a friendship with a guy who saw that he was down in his luck and he offered him a job–to join him in being a professional art thief.  You know, the kind of guys who do the million dollar art heists.

My new friend at the restaurant went on to say, he was kind of shocked by what this guy at the bar was telling him.  He was never aware of anyone personally who really did those kinds of things.  He then asked his bar friend what would be involved in a job like this. His friend said two things: 1) you can’t be involved with a woman (because if you break up, she could turn us in)–that made sense and 2) you have to sell your soul to the Devil.

“Uhhhh!–I can’t do that” my new-found friend replied and the conversation was over between the two bar buddies.

Continuing then in his declining ways for many more months, this stranger at the restaurant went on to tell me how hopeless he was and that he saw little else to do, but to go kill himself.  So, he left his mother’s house (in either Indiana or Pennsylvania, I can’t remember) and left in his pick up truck to go kill himself.  While driving, he remembered he forgot the item he was going to kill himself with, so he went back to his mom’s house.

While there, he met his sister who lived in Texas, who was a Christian.   As the sister and brother talked, she said that she felt overwhelmingly like she was being led by God to go back to her mother’s immediately, though she didn’t know why—but she obeyed God’s prompting.

“I don’t really know, but I really felt like God was wanting me to come home for some reason” she told her brother.

Not too long afterwards, the brother revealed what he was planning to do and the sister knew why she was sent home—to share about a living and loving God who was wanting to save her brother from the darkness he was in and the death he was considering and to offer him forgiveness, and peace, love, and life.

The brother welcomed that news and gave his life to Jesus Christ by confessing his rebellious and sinful ways and believed that Jesus Christ had died on a cross to take his punishment and through Christ’s resurrection, to offer Him new life.

His story left me speechless. Although I was aware of God, even from my childhood days, He tended to be a historical figure.  But, here I was, hearing something totally new. I was hearing about a God who is alive and who was personally willing to get involved in people’s lives today.  He is a God who desires to demonstrate His love for each of us and willing to reveal His life  to us, if needed, in dramatic ways to those who were open to giving Him a chance.  My restaurant friend gave me something to read (a Bible or a tract, I can’t remember) and that night in June of 1982, I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Since that time, I have been regularly overwhelmed by His love for me and His truth and glimpses of the amazing God He really is.   I have appreciated His patience with me as I still struggle at times with surrendering my will to Him and trusting Him, but He is always faithful and always there if I just turn to Him.

I have also developed my passion for life coaching to help people understand the importance of making wise decisions now, instead of living a life of regrets.  Because I have seen the consequences of living a self-centered life, I am, all the more, energized to help people recognizing the need to strive for excellence in all areas of their responsibilities.

Well, that is my story, really it is just a continuance of His story that He is revealing every day.

So, where do you fit in to this story?  Who are you like in the story I just told  and why do you think that?

Are you seeking to live in a way like I was in my late teens and early 20’s, a kind of life that our world endorses, whether it is life bent on pleasure or power, or material goods, that seems so meaningful, but realistically offer no lasting satisfaction?

Are you living in way like me in my early 20s’s when I was just trying to figure out alone what life is really all about, meanwhile getting further and further into a rut of despair, loneliness, and hopelessness?

Are you like the sister who is walking in obedience to God and willing to obey His promptings, even in what could appear to be a radical or “over the top” kind of way just to be used of God in whatever way He so chooses?

Or are you like me in June of 1982 when I was coming to understand that I am a lost and sinful person before a holy God?  Are you coming to realize that you have been living in a way that has been independent of God and not pleasing to Him?  Have you come to a point where you now see that He is alive and loves you very much, more than you’ll ever know and that He has made a way for you to be forgiven of your sin, and brought in to a relationship with Him through the death of His Son on a cross, and through His resurrection?  Are you ready right now to receive this Good News—then do it!  Don’t wait”

With a post like this, where I have opened up my life to you, my hope is that you will share with me your response.  I’d love to hear your story.

Well, on to the next 1000!

Are you “Experiencing God”? Study Review

Standard

IN 5 MORE POSTS, I WILL BE WRITING A SPECIAL 1000TH POST!—-CHECK IT OUT

“One of the greatest tragedies among God’s people is that, while they have a deep longing to experience God, they are experiencing God day after day but do not know how to recognize Him.”

quote from Henry T.Blackaby/Claude V. King- “Experiencing God”

 

The Christian God is not a god of Deism. That belief basically said God created the world, then flung it away from Him to let it take care of itself.   However, our God is the Sovereign One,  active and engaged in this world.

How often are you depending on Him to accomplish His will and not your own?

How often are you relying on Him to reveal His ways to you?

How often are you asking Him to reveal Himself to you?

How often do you recognize God’s movements in your life?

 

One resource that can help you to develop a closer walk with God is the classic Bible Study:  “Experiencing God.”  It is an excellent Bible Study that gets you reading the Bible, memorizing a weekly verse, filling in blanks, encouraging you to reflect on the lesson, pray about it, and act on it.

Many people will remember doing these lessons back in the 90’s (like me) and I would encourage you to revisit these lessons and go through it again.  For those who have never done this study before, you are in for a treat.   Doing this study will be worth your time!