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

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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.”

 

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Celebrating the baby who was on mission

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Merry Christmas.

Beyond all the gifts, the holiday shopping, time spent with family and friends, etc., the celebration of Christmas has to do with the historical account of a most awesome time in human history–the birth of mankind’s savior–Jesus Christ.

He came into this world as a baby and on mission to live a perfect life, only to lay it down approximately 33 years later as a holy sacrifice, a payment to satisfy the righteous demands due for your sins and mine.   Jesus’ resurrection, three days after his crucifixion would confirm His sacrifice was accepted by God, the Father and as such, the way of true peace and forgiveness are now available for all who will accept this baby Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

In recognition of how eternally grateful I am for what He has done, and is still doing in my life, I share with you a poem I wrote many years ago in His honor:

J.C.

Everywhere I travel,

everywhere I go,

always a constant reminder,

of a man, I’d like to know.

Spiritual in heart,

spiritual in mind,

He cares for truth and beauty,

He gives sight unto the blind.

This Man is Jesus Christ,

a man of total love,

He’s at the right hand of the Father,

as they watch us from above.

The purity of faith,

and the security that I feel,

it’s more than just an illusion,

I know it to be real.

Jesus is on my side,

He helps me to see the light,

living a life of goodness,

living a life that’s right.

Paving a way of contentment,

traveling the road to Love,

This Man is by far my best friend,

as He guides me from above.

I’m amazed at all His power,

and His purity in His heart,

I’m just an apprentice of Faith,

and a follower of His heart.

But “what if…” ?

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I don’t know about you, but it seems my mind is racing these days with “what if?” kinds of thoughts:

What if this person becomes President? or this person?

What if the Zica virus spreads?

What if these current racial tensions escalate?

What if the economy collapses?

What if they outsource my job?

What if I need to find another job?

What if my health fails?

What if….?

It doesn’t seem to end. The “what if…? questions just keep on coming.

As I’ve been thinking about these things a lot lately, a few thoughts came to mind that I hope you too, will find helpful:

  • “these things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world”  – john 16:33 nasb   (in the midst of all my worries, fears, and stresses, I need to remind myself of both truth and perspective.  In the big scheme of things, this time on earth is just a vapor. It just goes by so fast.  I believe that God’s desire is for to me to be at peace, not so much because things will get better in this world, but because He is in charge of it.
  • “casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” -1 Peter 5:7 nasb  – I love this verse. It’s a reminder to me that my faith is not so much a religion as it is a relationship with a living God.  How awesome is it to know Almighty God cares for me (and you) and invites me to lift up to Him in prayer the things that weigh heavy on my heart.  I don’t ever need to feel alone because in truth, I’m not. I can always have hope because He lives.

and then this line from, I’m not sure where:   “the past is just a memory, the future is a fantasy, but the present is a gift.”

Let me encourage you my friend in the midst of these turbulent times to not only strive to enjoy the present as a gift, but even more so, the Giver!

 

What about those “no answer” times in prayer?

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It is a precious thing to know that throughout the trials, frustrations, and joys that come in life, we can always go to a living and loving God in prayer.  He is always there to listen to us, but even more than that, He is always there to respond to our prayers in love.

However, there are situations when we pray and no guidance or response seems to come from Him.  How do we deal with these “no answer from Him” periods of time.

I believe all Christians will experience times like this and with that in mind,  I believe you will find these excerpts helpful from “Experiencing God” (Henry Blackaby and Claude King):

 

“Then the Spirit of God began to help me understand something. It seemed to me as if Jesus had said to Mary and Martha:  ” you are exactly right (speaking from the story about Lazarus in John, chapter 11).  If I had come, your brother would not have died. You know that I could  have healed him, because you have seen me heal many, many times.   If I had come when you asked me to, I would have healed him. But, you would have never known any more about Me than you already know.  I knew you  were ready for a greater revelation of me than you have ever known in your life.  I wanted you to come  to know that I am the resurrection and the life. My refusal and My silence were not rejection . It was an opportunity for Me to disclose to you more of Me than you have ever known.”

When that began to dawn on me, I almost jumped straight out of my chair. I said, “that’s  what happening in my life!. That what’s happening!   The silence of God meant that He is ready to bring into my life a greater revelation of Himself than I have ever known.  I immediately  changed my whole attitude of my life toward God. With great anticipation,  I began to watch for what God was going to teach me about Himself. I then had something happen in my life that I might never have responded to without that kind of readiness and anticipation.

You can respond to the silence of God in two ways. One response  is for you to go into depression, a sense of guilt, and self-condemnation.  The other response is for you to have an expectation  that God is about  to bring you to a deeper knowledge of Himself. These responses are as different as night and day.”

 

 

What (or Who) are you looking at?

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I love my Christian Faith.   It continues to amaze me.  It is personal practical, and powerful!  (sounds like a good 3 point sermon, huh 🙂

Just curious– would you describe your relationship with God in that same way?

What kind of brought this subject up to me was that I was thinking about how simple our faith in Jesus Christ really is.  It is a personal relationship (not outward “going through the motions” kind of faith, its practical (He wants to do life with us and wants us to submit to His leading and His wisdom in all areas of life), and His ways are powerful ( His ways are not our ways and there is always hope  because He is all-powerful and loving–He is the Sovereign One).

However, although our faith is very simple, yet because of the opposition that comes to our walk with God because of our sinful flesh, a world culture (looking to remove itself from the acknowledgement of a Holy God), and a living Devil, life can get very challenging.

Today’s post is just a reminder.  It’s a passage from the Bible  that I hope encourages you, as it has me to keep on looking to Jesus, instead of the many, many distractions, temptations, and pressures of life.   Having that kind of faith can bring peace and joy to our soul, and is powerful enough for us to move mountains and walk on water:

 

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

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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!

I don’t know what’s in the future, but…”

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Are you a planner?  Are you a worrier?  Do you like to be in control of things?

To some extent, I am all of those three. I think there are many positive things that come from being that way.  Planning and preparation are beneficial.  Thinking beyond the short-term and looking forward also can be a helpful perspective.

However,  I’m increasingly understanding a lot of downsides as well. One of the major negatives is that a majority of the time and energy I put out in thinking through the “what-if’s” never happen.  So, what have I gained from all my contemplating—not that much.

What I’m beginning to settle in on is a mindset of really trying to be in the moment of what I’m doing.  Putting forth my best effort and if it makes sense to consider immediate next steps, than that makes sense to do that as well.

With that said, one of the most freeing realizations I’m having these days is to move away from worrying about my future.  What if I lose my job?  What if my health gets worse?  What if something should happen to a loved one? etc.

Do what I can today to the best of my abilities.

Consider immediate next steps where it makes some sense to be prepared for it?

Camp out on the belief that you will not know what’s in the future, but through a belief in Jesus Christ and a trust in Him, you can know who holds the future——and you are in good hands!