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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I need to confess …

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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.

Do you understand the extent of the access you really have?

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about many Biblical truths, such as the holiness of God, the Sovereignty of God, the fear of God, His being the Creator God, His being a miracle-working God, and on and on. Just thinking about how unexplainable  and great He is, how utterly amazing, just leaves me, literally speechless.

When I have these thoughts about how incredible God is, it does not take me very long to recognize how utterly sinful I am.  When His piercing eyes look upon me, I see, how apart from Him, how selfish I can be, how greedy, how rebellious, how devious, how lustful, how prideful, how I can be so compassion-less, and on and on it goes.

When I think about Him and all His over-the-top attributes, and then look at who I am apart from Him, I see myself  at the total other end of the spectrum.  I clearly can see how wide the gap is between this holy, beyond-words living God, and myself, a selfish, me-first creation (one of 7 billion or so that are currently living).

How about you?  Do you ever consider where God is on the spectrum of life, and where you are on that same spectrum.  Do you see yourself deserving to be very far away from Him when it comes to importance or do you see yourself fairly close (you know, God has His concerns and I have mine–we are both important?).

For me, I recognize how totally unworthy I am to come anywhere near His presence, BUT what I’ve been describing is only half the story.

As incredible as it is, He has built a bridge between my total depravity and my rebellious kingdom of self  and darkness and made a way to Himself, where truth and His love reside.  Yes, His grace is still amazing.

Let me give you a picture of something that catches just a glimpse of what I’m trying to describe.  Its a picture in history of arguably the most powerful person in the world at the time, President John F. Kennedy in arguably the most important room in the world–the Oval Office in the White House.   As I think about the importance of the job of president and the vital decisions that are made in that office, I am literally in awe.  JFK-and-JFK-Jr-Oval-Office-Desk-PX-65-105227

But, as important as that image is, it doesn’t even register as a blip in importance compared to the person of the Holy God and standing before Him in His presence.  Agreed?

But, let’s go back to the picture of JFK.  Do you notice something interesting in this picture? There is another person also in that office–it was his son. John F. Kennedy’s son was playing in that office with his dad.  He was not scared of the most important person in the world because to the boy, JFK was his dad. The son could go into the presence of the most important person in the world at that time with no fear, knowing that if had a scrape on his elbow, his dad would be concerned.  The president loved the boy.

Friends, it can be the same for us, as unbelievable as that is.  If we can acknowledge our sinful and rebellious ways before this Holy God, and recognize that God demonstrated His great love for us in that while we were still yet sinners, Jesus Christ died for us, so that we could be forgiven of our sins and reconciled back to the Father.

God tells us to cast all our anxieties on Him because He cares for us.  He tells us to “come unto Him, you that are heavily burdened and He will give us rest. He tells us to come boldly in His presence. He tells us to reverently call Him, “Abba Father (Daddy)”.

Is the message of Christianity awesome or what!  He is a good, good, God.

No matter how hard life might be for you at various times, please remind yourself that you have access to the throne of God Himself!    Now, knowing that you will be with Him forever, perspective-wise, how big are your problems right now?

Blessings

 

Are you ready for THEE INTERVIEW ?

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Yes, I’m talking about the really big interview.  I’m not referring to your next potential job, but rather that moment when you stand before God.   Wow!  Now, that’s a sobering thought, huh !

I don’t know if you’ve given that much thought, especially because none of us know when that interview will happen.  So, how will you get ready for that experience?

Well, one scenario might look like this:

A person  would stand before Him and have with them a box.  As God looks at them with both loving and piercing eyes, He would say, “why should I let you in to my Heaven?”

For some, that would be the clue to kneel down to a box they brought along.  Soon they would be pulling out a certificate showing that they were a member of the National Honor Society in High School. They might also show the badges they earned in Boy Scouts.  For some, they would reach in their box and pull out their letters of appreciation from a nursing home they visited a few times.  Oh, and then there is a card showing how much blood they donated at the local blood center.  For some, they might decide to strengthen their cause by pulling out their Income Tax forms to show that they had made occasional donations to some cancer foundations and sporadically to a church.

Finally, when all the documents are removed from the box and a few trophies as well, they would stand before this holy God confident that they are a good person.

But, then in a firm voice, Almighty God might say to this person, “thank you for presenting all your evidence to show you are a good person, but I now have a few questions to ask you as I cross examine you and your defense that I should let you live in Heaven with me.”  He might then ask:

  • Do you understand that Heaven is a place of perfection—-how do you compare with that standard?
  • Have ever sought to live independently from Me?
  • Have you ever taken my name in vain, and used it as a cuss word, or in some unflattering, demeaning kind of way? Huh!
  • Have you ever thought yourself better than others and looked down on the less fortunate, the under-resourced, the poor, or the lowly? Huh!
  • Have you ever lusted after a member of the opposite sex? or even the same sex?
  • Have you physically hurt another person with either your fists, or your words?
  • Have you kept bitterness against someone else in your heart, and were unwilling to forgive someone else?  Huh!
  • Have you ever been ungrateful for all I have provided for you, so that you coveted what others have?

I could then see God looking at the person in that scenario with both sadness and directness saying, “all your life you lived independently from Me and had no interest in getting closer to Me, or reading my Words (as found in the Bible), why then, now  would you want to live eternally with Me ?

The person in this scenario, sadly to say will have failed the interview.  It doesn’t get any more terrible than this.

However, there is another scenario that has much more of a positive ending.

This person also stands before God with a box filled with his life’s best moments, and biggest accomplishments. Again, God asks, “why should I let you into My Heaven?”

The person in this scenario looks down at his box, then looks at the splendor, and the holiness of God and immediately understands that he’s got nothing to say for himself.  He’s got nothing to present to this holy God that would make him favorable before God.  Rather than pleading his case before God, the person in this second scenario drops to his knees and cries out in utter humility for forgiveness and mercy.  This person begins to rise to his feet and says to God, “My Father, I don’t deserve to stand before you on my own, however, I have looked to Jesus Christ, your Son to be my Savior.  I understand that He died on a cross so that my sins would be forgiven by You and because I know He was resurrected from the dead, I know you have accepted what He did as payment in full for my sins (and for all who place their faith in Jesus).  So, because of my belief in what Jesus did on the Cross that is why you should let me into Your Heaven–because your Bible says that I am a part of your family”.

Let me end this post today by saying it is the person in this second scenario who will have passed their interview and who will hear the comforting words of a Living and Loving God saying, “Welcome to My Paradise”!

What made the difference?  It was this.  It was recognizing that even on my best days, I am still a sinner, undeserving to stand before Him. But, it is also recognizing that He is a merciful and gracious God who loves mankind (that is why He sent His Son to be the Savior of it).  But, He is not a God who will force Himself on anyone. People have a choice.

Dear post reader,  although I probably don’t know you, I’m pleading with you to take this post to heart.  This interview, you have to pass–your eternity depends on it.

And if you are still hesitant to make an “all in” decision and  believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins, then let me encourage you to really consider what Easter represents in all its fullness.  If you do, I can’t even imagine coming to any other conclusions then believing in the whole Cross-Resurrection story of Jesus Christ as true–it happened.   And if it happened, then there is nothing more important than how you act in YOUR INTERVIEW.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life – John 3:16

 

Poetry: Spirit of the Sea

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For those who are used to receiving my typical posts, you will find something different in this post. This is a poem that is a part of my Poetry collection that comes from a time of searching.

Spirit of the Sea

Searching through this maze

looking for some relief,

trying to find myself

trying to find my beliefs.

I think – I got sucked in by the bad

even though I was watched over by the good,

struggling through this jungle

the only way that I could.

I trusted the people

that came in contact with me,

and from disappointment and neglect

dark clouds covered my sea.

And the waters got rougher

I was thrown every which way,

my ship now a raft,

I was beginning to pay.

I fell to the bottom

I could go down no more,

My last glimpse of light

saw a seagull as it soared

It hovered around in circles

gliding overhead,

surprisingly- I started rising

as the Seagull  softly said,

“have courage and faith

my beautiful son,

I am the Holy Spirit

of the three we are one.

Feel thy body  lifting

offer me thy hand,

we will leave  the water  flowing

I will help you to reach land.

So I gave my hand

to this Spirit of the sea,

He carried  me to safety

as we sat beneath a tree.

My body all a tremble

my mind in total daze,

again the Seagull  gestured

as he told me of His ways.

“I have given you  a gift

the earth on which we stand,

I have given you a companion

to reach and share your hand.

All I want  from you

is loving and respect,

My love for you endures

of this I can’t  neglect.

Help your neighbors see

the beauty of My light,

it will guide you through your jungles

even in the cold of night.

Your heart will warm you

and you’ll make it through the night,

your brothers will come tomorrow

they’ll  be drawn  unto your light.”

With those  last few words of wisdom

He soon departed me,

My life  this bird has saved

that Spirit of the Sea.

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It really is a Wonderful Life !

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My guess is that the majority of my readers have watched “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It’s a holiday classic.  Having just concluded another holiday season, this movie is fresh on my mind.   ItsAWondrflLifestill2-300x225

It gets me wondering about my own life, especially who I am as a Christian, and how really grateful I am for having a relationship with a living and loving God.

Although I am doing fairly well in my walk with Him, life can still have a sort-of routine about it  that can stir my emotions of wanting something more.  Can you relate to that?

However, even as I write that, my mind races back to a time when I really had no one to answer to.  At that time, I felt I was in control of my life. I did what I wanted to, which was primarily to please myself first, others second (if at all). I remember a restlessness in my soul because I knew there had to be more to life than what I was experiencing and what I was striving for, but what was it?  As I looked around at others, I recognized they were also trying to make sense of life, but deep down, I knew they were only searching as I was.  We were all looking for something that would satisfy our souls at the deepest level and trying many different things in hopes of getting to that place, but all we found were temporary “rushes”. Like a beach ball held under water by all of our efforts, when we get tired, the beach ball (our feelings of emptiness) launched themselves again to the surface.

As I start my new year, I thank God for having memories like these.  Although they contain many emotional scars, they stir up within me shouts of thankfulness that I am saved!  Feelings come and feelings go, but in the deepest part of my soul,  there is a peace with God and a peace with myself because I know I’m a part of God’s family.

What’s totally amazing is that I recognize that I was so undeserving of His kindness, yet despite any efforts I might have tried, He demonstrated His love for me by giving up His life to pay a ransom price for me, so that I could be adopted in to His family. I’m now a child of the living and loving God.

With this new family relationship comes many perks:

I’m recognizing that this family of God is huge. It is made up of other foster adults and children who have also been adopted like me

I’m recognizing the reality of His presence as the Holy Spirit is living within me 24/7

I’m recognizing my importance as I’ve got security detail watching over me and ministering to me in unknown secretive ways by His angels

I’m recognizing there is a playbook to making sense in this life.  The Bible reveals to me God’s wise, loving, and righteous thoughts on how best to navigate the choices I have each and every day

I’m recognizing my life has purpose to it as well as He has designed good works for me to be involved in to be a blessing to others and to point people to look in His direction to better understand How incredible a God is

I’m recognizing that beyond all these benefits that I can experience right now, that this is just a sampling of what is to come.  He has promised me an eternal lifetime with Him and His children in an environment free from the corruption of sin

 

Yeah, I think my life is pretty wonderful.

Friends, if you are at a place in your life where you are searching, trying to experience a lasting satisfaction and peace, let me encourage you consider the benefits of being in a relationship with God that I have just mentioned.   But, before you can legally claim them as your own, you have to believe that you are not worthy of any of it.  All you (and I) really deserve from this Holy God is judgement over your sinful actions, yet miraculously, He is willing to forgive you if you just acknowledge your unworthiness before Him and ask to receive His free gift.

What holds you back, even now from taking that step and experiencing a Wonderful Life?

 

 

 

Why settle for this sight?

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I would imagine that I’m not the only one who enjoys seeing a bunch of wrapped presents under the Christmas tree.  christmaspresents

I would take it one step further and say that I’m like most people in that I want to know what gift is under each of the wrapped-presents. Am I right?

Yet the reality is that when it comes to the biggest gift of all, actually the reason for Christmas in the first place, most people settle for just observing the Present from a distance.  Some people display a bit more curiosity and even go to a church service during the Christmas season, but still choose to resist the Giver’s invitation to open the Gift for themselves.

Friends, there is a much deeper message to the Christmas season, the “reason for the season” if you will than hanging out with family and friends, exchanging gifts, and watching classic movies.

The Christmas message is about love–a Divine Love. It’s about healing and starting over. It’s about “RESTORATION”.  With that in mind, I wanted to pass along a message for you from  James MacDonald – Final Resolution .  It’s the concluding message in a series, but I thought this message of “restoration” was a bulls-eye for the holiday season.

It will take you about 45 minutes to unwrap, but a lifetime to enjoy.

Blessings.