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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Are you focusing on building sand castles?

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Looking out at the ocean, my mind was filled with wonder.  So much water.  It just went on and on until the horizon–such an incredible a sight.  On top of the awe I felt in looking out over this marvel of creation, I found myself also basking in the warmth of the sun, and the almost perfect temperature balance of the cool water on my toes.

Suddenly, my dreamlike experience was interrupted by some commotion further down on the beach.  “What was going on?” I wondered.  As I got closer, I could see that a crowd had built up around a bunch of kids playing at a sandcastle.  Their laughing, smiling, and energy was bringing joy to everyone admiring them.   

But, just to be clear, this was no ordinary sandcastle.   This thing was so big, there were rooms in it. The kids also built some tunnels that they were able to pass some of their toys through. Wow!  One of the fathers was also playing with the kids because I believe it was his idea that had conceived the suctioning of water from the ocean through some kind of contraption that the kids could then use to soak each other (and imaginary armies attacking their castle).  It was an incredible sight to behold.

Now here’s the point to me telling you this story—-it’s just a story.

Actually, I’ve  been thinking about this story for the past couple of weeks because I think that’s how life is.  Stay with me on this.

In this story, the kids (and the father), as well as the onlookers were having fun.  They were enjoying themselves and that is a good thing. Life should be like that. I hope you are enjoying your life because whether it’s with amazing sights of creation to behold, or amazing foods that dazzle your taste buds,  or fragrances that make your nose come alive, or any other experience in life that invigorate our senses, all of us should find pleasure in living life.

But, with that said, there is a need for balance to just  enjoying the individual moments of life and that is perspective.  The reality is that when the tide rises, the sandcastle in this story will be destroyed and be no more.  Just like that, the dream will be over.

Life is like that too. How much longer will you live before the high tide of life comes in?  40 years, 20 years, 5 more years, 1 more year; 30 more minutes?—none of us know, but the certainty is there.   Then, what?

My friend, I apologize if you were looking for a fun, little post about kids on beaches, and then got whiplash to thinking about “deep things”.

To be honest though, my heart seems pretty heavy these days as I’ve perceived people getting overly focused BUILDING SAND CASTLES.  In what they talk about, what I see their time being spent on, etc., it all seems to be focused on the here and now.   Just to be overly communicative,  I believe life should be enjoyed.   Personally,  I am finding greater and greater appreciation for every day I have and the sights and sounds that make up my days.

But, something inside of me, blares out through posts like this one to encourage others not only seek to enjoy life now, but to prepare yourself for the eventual day when this life is over for you and the next life begins.

Have you given that any thought lately?

For some, they have never  thought about life beyond their time now on the beach building bigger, and cooler sand castles,     If that is you, let me encourage you to pause from your beach building and consider your unworthiness to stand before the holy God who created the vast ocean next to your little project.  Before Him, you, like I am, are unworthy. The Bible says we are all sinners, and all we deserve is separation, death, and judgement. Instead, this gracious, and loving God offers us forgiveness and mercy.  What He offers to all who will accept this free gift is His kindness.  Have you accepted His generous gift made possible by the death of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection?

For others, you accepted His gift a while ago, but you have gotten so distracted by building sand castles that you have lost perspective. You have been so captivated by building the coolest sandcastle that you have made this the priority in your life.  You spend extra resources on your project. You talk with others about their sand castles to get ideas on how to improve yours.  You tend to do a lot of looking at others to judge your own to improve your feelings of importance.

If that describes you, you need to look beyond your sand castle to the ocean behind it.  Let me encourage you to once again consider the awesomeness of the One who created that vast ocean in front of you and Who has made a provision for you to come to know Him (as you once did). You need to get perspective to remember this bigger picture of life.  Yes, we are to enjoy each and every day, but we are also to live with eternity in mind and prioritize our behaviors now based on that eternal perspective.

How are you living your life, my friend?  Are you able to not only enjoy your sandcastle, but the Creator of the ocean behind it?

 

 

 

Aaagggghhh! I can’t believe this…

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I don’t know about you, but in these troubling days, I have come close on several occasions, after listening to the news in the car, just wanting to yell. I so often have a feeling that our world is spinning out of control. I can’t believe what he said. I can’t believe this new report on what she did. I can’t believe this football player did this and that now others are increasingly following his example. I can’t believe another police officer has been shot. I can’t believe another innocent child in Chicago has been shot. I can’t believe that this train station was just bombed. On and on it goes.
Should I be concerned about these things – definitely!

What I believe God is clearly showing me is that I need to keep things in perspective.
Should I be praying for my leaders? yes.
Should I be praying for the prosperity in my land and for peace? Yes

BUT, what I too often am losing sight of is that this earthly existence where I am now living is not where my home, that is, my eternal home will be.  I have a citizenship, in reality in another place.  This time on earth is a like a vapor. It is here and then gone.

My concern and for other Christians as well is that we can too easily make it a priority to be all-in emotionally and mentally to all that is going on in the world that we are basically being distracted by what is of first importance, our relationship with God and leading others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

I wonder what most of us spend more time doing: listening to radio talk shows, or reading in the Word and being involved in ministry?

In Matthew 14, the disciples saw Jesus walking on water and Peter blurts out, “Lord if it is you, bid me to come to you”. Jesus says, “come” and Peter gets out of the boat, walking on water, as he is intently gazing at Jesus.
However, Peter soon recognizes what is actually happening. He also gets distracted by the winds and waves around him and fear begins to overwhelm him and taking his eyes off Jesus, he begins to sink.

That story describes pretty well what I am going through. I find myself too easily distracted by all that is going on in our world. As my eyes and ears get so dialed in to the crazy stuff going on in our world, I find my heart turning away from the Lord.

Christian, be sober-minded that the more the Prince of darkness can get us focusing on the temporal things of this life, the more he gets us distracted from being about our business of maintaining our personal walk with God and looking to boldly be reaching out to others with an eternal-life affecting message of salvation.

Look for more to come on this theme as I can’t think of any message more important for the church to be focused on than this.

Don’t look back (remember Lot’s wife)

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There is a very tragic account written in the Bible. In Genesis 18, Almighty God communicated with a man, Abraham of His plans to judge the people of the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. Although God’s patience with sinful people was, and is so great,  the consistent sinful attitude and actions of the people in these towns finally hit a breaking point.

Yet, even though God was going to destroy these towns with a downpour of burning sulfur. He was willing to spare the lives of Lot and his wife, his daughters, and his future sons-in-law.  God was even willing to spare His judgement if there were just 10 righteous people in these towns, but there were not.

Lot was able to get out-of-town with his wife and two daughters (his future sons-in-law thought he was joking, so they stayed behind) before the fury of God’s judgement came crashing down.  With one final warning, it was told all of them by holy angels, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain!  Flee to the mountains or you will  be swept away!” (from Genesis 19:17- niv).

Lot and his family were told clearly not to look back at the destruction that was going to happen.  This was more than a literal command, it also carried great symbolic meaning.  This awful time in their lives was meant to be left in the past and they were to look to the future, to a new chapter in their lives where they could start over, committed to walking in obedience to God and enjoying Him.

Interestingly enough, there will be a time in the future of mankind (who knows when, maybe soon), when Jesus Christ will come back to gather up all those who have believed in Him.  They will be raised up and will meet Him in the air.   This event is known as the Rapture of the Church.  Although it sounds so incredible and hard to believe, yet be certain of it, for it will come to pass. God’ Word is true.

2 immediate applications come to my mind regarding the Rapture:

  1. Lot warned his sons-in-law of the coming judgement of God, yet they thought he was joking. Sadly, to say, they would find out he wasn’t. Please continue to press on towards sharing the Gospel to whoever you can, wherever you can. Abraham pleaded with God and His angels to not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if He found just 10 righteous people (initially He told Abraham 50).  Plead with God to lead you to share Jesus Christ with those who are searching to find truth and peace in this life.  Act with an urgency to share Christ!
  2. Although Lot, his wife, and his daughters were told not to look back at the pouring out of God’s wrath on these two towns, nonetheless, Lots’s wife looked back. For her disobedience, God judged her immediately by turning her into a pillar of salt. Ugh!

Here’s the  point I want to get at:  As followers of Jesus Christ, our perspective about life should be changing.  We should be realizing that humanity lives on this earth in a lost condition, damaged by our sinfulness and rebellious attitudes and actions toward a holy God.We need saving.   And once we understand that God has made a way for us to be saved by believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who took on Himself, the punishment we deserve, we can be saved. It is a message of His grace.

From then on, our lives should be primarily motivated by an enthusiastic attitude of gratefulness for saving us and His love for us, as well as a strong desire to serve others, blessing them with grace and mercy, just like  we too have received.

So, I wonder how many Christians when they are being lifted up in the clouds upon the returning of Jesus Christ, rather than looking at their coming Savior, will look back on earth with a sense of loss;   at all their worldly goods , which they will be parting with.  That to me, is tragic. Their Savior is before them, but their heart really yearns for their “stuff”.

To take it one step further, what about today?  In 2 Peter 3:12, we are to be as those “looking and hastening the Lord’s return”.

Titus 2:13 (nlt)- “while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ will be revealed”

What is the condition of your heart today?  Do the eyes of your heart tend to be looking upward, looking for His return, or do they tend to look on a  horizontal plane, looking at your stuff?

Friends, learn from Lot’s wife and “don’t look back”.

Whatever happened to …

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I was with a group of people last night opening up about our lives and seeing what encouragement and guidance we might get from the Bible.

One topic that came up a few times that I don’t really give a lot of thought to is “mourning over my sin”.  Do you think much about that?

The Bible says:

In Matthew 5:4 (ESV), “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”    – what is interesting is that this verse comes right after the verse that says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  In other words, when we are “poor in spirit”, we are utterly dependent on others.  Much like a beggar is dependent on others and cries out to them for whatever they would be willing to give him, so too, it is here.  Jesus says in Matt. 5:3, you will be blessed when you have this dependent attitude towards me.

But now, Jesus goes on verse 4 and says, not only will you be blessed if you depend on Me, but you will also be blessed if you “mourn over your sin (and the awful ripple consequences of our sin)”.  You will be blessed and you will be comforted.

Isn’t that interesting?  I’m sure Jesus was not saying to the disciples back 2000 years ago, or to us today that He wants to see a bunch of stressed out, somber people wandering around with their heads bowed down to the ground.  What I do believe He is saying though is that when we understand the ugliness of our sinful natures so that it brings us to a state of sorrow and mourning over its ugliness that is a good thing.  It’s good to have that revelation of truth that our selfish and independent ways of life, apart from God are awful.

It is also so uplifting then to not only have that glimpse of truth over the terribleness of sin, but He says He will comfort us then.  He will bring to our minds and hearts the complete story.  That is, that “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8 ESV.

He knows we are sinners.  He knows we have a bent toward wandering away from Him. He knows we seek to please ourselves above others, or even God Himself.  But that is what the Gospel is all about. He loves us despite our sinning ways (and nature).

When we mourn over our sin, we are really in a good spot because we can follow that grief up with gratefulness as we recognize that God did something about our sinful ways. Jesus died on a cross so our sins could be forgiven.  He brings us comfort with this truth.

One other passage that comes to mind from last night is found in James 4:9-10 (esv):   “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

The same principles are taught here.  Be humble towards God. Understand the depth of your sin so that it cleanses you as you mourn. But recognize as well that we are not to remain in this sorrowful state, but rather we should explode with gratefulness as we understand His love and mercy toward us.

The last point is that in the hectic pace that so many of us live in, finding quiet time to allow God to speak to us will be hard unless we are intentional about making the time to spend with Him.

So, enjoy some time with God.  Enjoy the range of emotions from mourning to joy.    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

 

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?