Can You See Heaven?

Eternity. Heaven. Home.  Those are not just words in my Christian dictionary: they are lifelines!  Living in the ‘valley of the shadow of death’  causes me to think often of the promise of God.  What a silly young man I was when, in my arrogance, I would smile about what I referred to as  ‘Heaven talk.’  I was young and strong, death was far going-home-600x300-1away (I thought) on the horizon of time, so it seemed to me that talking about Heaven was an escape from the realities of life. I wondered, ‘why do those old Christians get all misty eyed and claim to want to be in a place where they have never been?’  Oh, no more!

A friend died last week. A young man from our community took a hit on the football field on Friday night and died soon thereafter. I will help his family cope with their grief at a service this week. My wife stands at the gate of Eternity as I write.  The only way my heart can find comfort is to remember what God, through Christ, guarantees. Jesus says,  “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3, NIV)

African Americans, in the time of slavery, led hard lives, full of sorrow. How did they keep their spirits alive? They sang of God’s sweet home. Songs like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “There is a Balm in Gilead” and “Marching Up the Heavenly Road” and “Gonna Shout All Over God’s Heaven” sustained their hearts with hope they could not find here in this world. My Pentecostal ancestors, people who were generally poor and struggling with difficult lives, sang of Heaven, too. “When We all Get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be, when we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory” they sang out on Sunday morning; and they meant it!

Heaven is not just a dream. It is home!  Sitting next to Bev yesterday as she exists in the twilight kind of consciousness that is common to the dying, I murmured over and over to her – “Honey, there is no fear because you are going home, home, home;   no more moving, no more friends left behind, no more storms, temptations, or sorrows – home!”  The Bible says “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. . . .  They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16, NLT)

Peter tells us to keep our hearts set on our true Home. “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” (1 Peter 2:10-12, The Message)

I heard preachers warn of being ‘so Heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good!‘  I think they were wrong!  He who sets his heart on Heaven will be the most effective servant of God here on earth. He will not waste time trying to hold onto what will inevitably be torn from his grasp. He will not attempt to build a kingdom here, knowing that his reward is secure in an Eternal Kingdom. He will not fear – Hell, Storm, Devil, or Death – or whatever may come into his life. Why? Because he knows that this life is a pilgrimage, only the prelude to the Story written by His Eternal God.

He know he is not HOME yet, but that there is a home ready for him.

The word from the Word today –
“This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way.
All that’s left now is the shouting—God’s applause!
Depend on it, he’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming. ”
(2 Timothy 4:7-8, The Message)
___________________________

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

 You call me out upon the waters,

The great unknown where feet may fail.

And there I find You in the mystery,

In oceans deep, my faith will stand.

 

And I will call upon Your name,

And keep my eyes above the waves.

When oceans rise,

My soul will rest in Your embrace,

For I am Yours and You are mine.

 

Your grace abounds in deepest waters,

Your sov’reign hand will be my guide.

Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me,

You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.

 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,

Let me walk upon the waters,

Wherever You would call me.

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,

And my faith will be made stronger,

In the presence of my Savior.

I will call upon Your name,

Keep my eyes above the waves.

My soul will rest in Your embrace,

I am Yours and You are mine!

Joel Houston | Matt Crocker | Salomon Ligthelm

© 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

For use solely with the SongSelect Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. http://www.ccli.com

CCLI License # 810055

Just 3 questions that will change your life

trials“Breaking my neck in an auto accident … caused me to reexamine my marriage my faith, and how I planned to spend the rest of my years.  As I lay strapped to a backboard awaiting word on whether a major artery had been punctured – in which case… I had mere minutes to live – I could only think of three questions worth pondering:  Who do I love? What have I done with my life? Am I ready for whatever comes next?”  (The Question That Never Goes Away, Why?,  2013, Zondervan, Philip Yancey)   That paragraph would not leave my mind after I read it.

Who do I love?

Jesus told us the right answer for that question. ”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV)  Most Christians learned that in the first days of their Sunday School or discipleship classes. But, do we put those two loves in the first place of daily life?  When the end is near, I do not think that loving your motorcycle, your reputation, or your pleasure will be enough, do you?

What have I done with my life?

Legacy is a word I think about from time to time.  My name will not grace a bridge or library! It won’t even be a footnote in history books. But, is that really what the question is about? Jesus taught that the real work is done for people, building lives!  At the Judgment some will hear this: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”  Will it be because they have built great cathedrals, written dozens of books, or amassed a fortune?  I think you already know the answer, don’t you? “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ . . . ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40, NIV)  He is saying – put people first!

The work of Jesus is not reserved for pastors and those employed by charitable organizations. His work of building people is in great demand in your neighborhood, extended family, and place of employment, too.  We are tempted to think that there will be another season in life when ‘service’ will be easier, when there will be fewer demands of us.  “The tyranny of the urgent will keep us from doing the important things” unless we let the Spirit show us the world around us through His eyes.

Am I ready for whatever comes next?

I know what is next – eternity!  Jesus stood with Lazarus’ sisters and told them (and us) this: “I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all.”  For some even the thought of dying is grim, frightening, to be avoided at all costs. How foolish that is.  Mortality is a fact. 100% of people die.  The fear is removed by the promise of eternal life.  I hope your assurance is not misplaced in church membership, baptism, or personal morality.  Each of those choices are commendable.  The door of Heaven will not open to us because of what we have done. Our ‘welcome home’ is based on Who we know! Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life.”  (John 14)  Do you know Him beyond the walls of your church, in a way that goes deeper than the creed, as Savior, Lord, and Master?

Yancey’s revelation came in a crisis and he has been blessed with additional years to refine the answers to those questions.  I do not want to wait until I’m staring at the finish line to ask them, do you? I want to live today as if it were the last one here on earth – no loving word left unspoken, no time wasted on sin or selfishness, passionately seeking to know my Savior.

The word from the Word sums it up:
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3, NKJV)

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” (1 John 3:14, NKJV)

“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” (1 John 3:18-20, NKJV)  “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (1 John 3:23, NKJV)

_______________

I went sky divin’!

I went rocky mountain climbing!

I went 2.7 seconds

On a bull named Fu Man Chu!

And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,

And gave forgiveness I’d been denying.


And he said “Some day I hope you get the chance

To live like you were dying!”

Like tomorrow was a gift,

And you’ve got eternity to think about.

What you’d do with it?

What did I do with it?

  • Tim McGraw

Live Like You Were Dying

Faith? Do you possess it?

Is your ‘faith’ healthy? Let me explore the question with you. No, I am not asking if Christianity is in good shape or even  if your local congregation is thriving.  Is there evidence of faith in God, hope in Christ, and fullness of the Spirit that others can see?  What we claim as our ‘faith’ is revealed by what we do! Our profession of faith in Jesus Christ is confirmed, not by our confession alone, but by daily choices that reveal our true convictions.

faith-4Mark tells us that when Jesus’ fame was beginning to spread as He did God’s work at one point He went back to His hometown. Despite the evidence, the people there would not accept Him as a Man full of God’s Spirit. “When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” (Mark 6:2-5, NIV)  His ability to share God’s blessing with them was shut down by their refusal to exercise real faith.  To the people in that little village He was just Mary’s son, the carpenter.

Who is He to you?  Is He just ‘the good Teacher?’  Is He the Savior for Heaven, but not the Lord of life? Like the people of Jesus’ hometown, most of us have gaps in our faith that we do not see in ourselves!  We may find faith to trust Him with for our financial needs and yet fail to trust Him to forgive us some sin of our past.  We may be able to live with total assurance of Heaven and yet live with terrible anxiety about tomorrow. Mature, healthy faith creates a beautiful wholeness. Inconsistencies disappear and an admirable, rock solid, Christ-centered, life emerges like a butterfly from a cocoon.

So, how does a Christian gain faith that is beautiful and whole?

We ask for it!
Faith is a gift of God.  The Holy Spirit works in us to draw us to God, to cause us to desire Him and to live in a way that pleases Him.  A man who was in desperate need came to Jesus seeking healing for his tormented son.  He realized that the most basic need he had was for greater faith and his prayer was direct – “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!”  (Mark 9.24)   We must not pretend to own a greater faith than we do.  Such hypocrisy blocks us from asking for the very thing we need most in time of need – the gift of faith.

We inform our minds with godly truth!
The fertile soil of a strong, life changing faith, is the Scripture.  In the pages of the Bible, God is revealed to us.   When our minds are shaped around God, when we understand the world with a spiritual view, faith grows.   The Psalmist said, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11, NLT)   What does he mean?   That he had taken time to integrate the truth of God’s Word into his thought life so that his actions would be consistent with faith.

We invite the Spirit to school us, to develop faith.
“When your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:3-4, NLT)    In The Message, that passage reads – “You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (James 1:3-4, The Message)     When life kicks you around, when people fail you, when the future looks dark, when to all appearances there is no way to turn for relief- you are in the school of faith!   You can relinquish control, quiet your soul, and put yourself in God’s care, OR you can kick, scream, and create your own solution.

We keep the focus on Jesus, not ourselves!
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” the inspired writer says. (Heb 12:2) You cannot ‘work up’ more faith! I cannot make you believe. Faith grows with devotion.  The Greek text (the New Testament’s original language) has a slightly different connotation than we might think. “Author” comes to us from a word that means “captain, prince, leader.”  Jesus is the Captain of Faith. He is leading the way, calling the cadence for our lives. IF we walk in step with Him, faith grows.  “Perfecter” is a word that tells us that His faith is complete and worthy.  We can aspire to be like Him!

If you choose to exercise faith, God will make a way.   It might not be the way you would choose, but it will be the way that brings honor to Him. Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself in anguish when your faith is being formed.  Even Jesus was pressed to the limit.  When He faced the Cross, He prayed for release, but then released Himself to God’s plans, not with resignation to fate, but with a faith surrender to His Father’s will!

There is no easy road in the life of faith.   The natural man craves security, affirmation, and vindication of self!   The spiritual man is secure in the Spirit, affirmed by God, and is willing to wait for Heaven’s revelation. It’s a faith thing!

___________

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word.

Just in simple faith to plunge me,
‘neath healing, cleansing flood.

 Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er.
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus –
O for grace to trust Him more!

-public domain

When prayer is hard and words fail

prayer3In the quiet darkness of the early morning, I prayed …  well, I tried to pray.  My habit, in those first moments the day, is to offer simple prayers about the immediate concerns of the particular day, the needs of the people I know.  Those ‘first light prayers’ come more from my heart than my mind. But this morning, I awakened to stormy emotions: anger, raw and unfocused; sorrow that rested like a boulder on my chest.  I wanted to pray but there were no words that seemed right.  So, I simply breathed “Jesus,” that Name, again and again.

The Spirit directs us to “Pray without ceasing!” (1 Thess. 5:17) In obedience to Him, we can discipline our heart and focus outside of our pain or preoccupation.  We can overcome the tumultuous emotions, the hiss of the Devil, and the sneers of the world that try to keep us from talking with our Abba.  When God says, “pray all the time,” He is not asking us to only say nice prayers, or short prayers, or long prayers, or beautiful prayers.   God wants us to keep those lines of communication open.  Prayers, even the fumbling ones, even the simplest “Jesus,”  allows us to enter the sweet fellowship that is the one thing we need most to quiet our fearful hearts and calm our angry minds!

In another passage, the Word instructs us that we must not worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.” (Philippians 4:6-7, CEV)

When prayer is difficult, there things we can (should I say must?) do.

Use the words of another!
When words fail me, I turn to the Psalms or a borrow a song.  An old hymn came to my mind as I tried to shape tumbling feelings into coherent prayer this morning.
From the far recesses of my memories, I could hear the echoes of the voice of Ethel Waters singing:

“When the storms of life are raging, stand by me.

When the storms of life are raging, stand by me.

When the world is pounding me, like a ship upon the sea;

Lord who rules the wind and water, stand by me.”

Let others pray for you!
Pick up the phone and ask a friend to lead as you murmur in agreement.  In church, ask a circle of friends to carry you to the Lord and soak in their prayers as you listen.

Pray simply, using a single phrase!
When tempted, I might pray over and over, “Purify my heart.”
When standing near a suffering saint, I sometimes repeat, “Lord, have mercy.”
Even the name of Jesus, whispered to Him reverently, again and again, is a prayer.

Let the Spirit lead!
We can kneel and be still.  We can stand and open our hands to receive from Him, a wordless expression of prayer.  We whisper, “come, Holy Spirit,” and wait. The Word gives this promise of His Advocacy on our behalf. “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (Romans 8:26-27, NLT)

When we pray, we open up our lives to the power of God and, in ways that defy our understanding, we become co-laborers in His work of building His Kingdom here on earth. Pray first, not last. Pray often, not seldom. Pray boldly, not tentatively. Pray faithfully, knowing that He is faithful, even when you cannot discern His ways or hear His voice.

Here are some words from the Word.  Oh, may the Spirit of God make them His Living Words for us today.
“But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you. Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping.
For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.”
(Psalm 39:12, NIV)
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.”
(Psalm 56:8, NLT)
“I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.
For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.”
(Psalm 56:12-13, NLT)
____________

Sweet Hour Of Prayer

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,

That calls me from a world of care,

And bids me at my Father’s throne,

Make all my wants and wishes known.

In seasons of distress and grief,

My soul has often found relief.

And oft escaped the tempter’s snare,

By thy return, sweet hour of prayer.

 

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,

Thy wings shall my petition bear,

To Him whose truth and faithfulness,

Engage the waiting soul to bless.

And since He bids me seek His face,

Believe His Word and trust His grace,

I’ll cast on Him my ev’ry care,

And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer.

William Batchelder Bradbury | William W. Walford

© Words: Public Domain

Jerry D. Scott, Pastor

FAITH DISCOVERY CHURCH

www.FaithDiscovery.com

A Gospel for the rest of us

valueThere is a lady who work in the housekeeping department of the small hospital near us.  Her body is bent and twisted and her face shows that life has been hard, with not much kindness.  To many she is ‘invisible.’  In my visits, whenever I encounter her, I stop and speak with her, exchanging greetings. She remembers me and the fact that Bev has been a patient there.  She always asks the same thing:  “How’s your wife?” But, the best part is that I can see that the attention I give her, though very small, makes her happy.  A smile breaks out when I call out to her!

Our world is not generally kind to those who are deemed ‘broken’ in some way.  Ask the kid with some disability about his daily experiences at school.  Ask the girl who does not meet the beauty code! Ask the man whose business failed.  Ask the person with chronic disease. Ask the elderly person who cannot move or think as quickly as they once did.  A few weeks ago I counseled with a person who has lived with a mental health issue for many, many years.  She sought acceptance in several churches over the years and has met rejection or been ignored in each one.  Is she easy to deal with? No, and she knows it. Does she act in ways that make others uncomfortable? Sometimes, and she knows it. But, her deepest pain comes from being ‘that’ person, the ‘invisible’ one, too broken to love.

Jesus was always aware of the needs of those others considered ‘broken.’  He touched lepers.  He engaged with those who were devil possessed. He let prostitutes into His company-  a scandal, right?  He looked up into a tree and saw a social outcast, a man short in stature, whose heart was aching for love, and He went to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner. As Jesus became more well-known, the rich came to Him, but He was not seduced by their money, power, or influence. He remained the champion of the broken.  His mission statement was not just for publication, He lived it.  Quoting Isaiah, He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19, NLT)

The radical Gospel follows His path which is, truly, the ‘narrow road and few find it!’  Many Christians develop romantic notions of ministry to some needy part of our world. They are going to feed the hungry, house the homeless, love the orphan – and they do, for about 6 months. When they find that the pit of human need is bottomless, that people do not always (I might even say seldom) respond with gratefulness. Change is slow in coming.  When their ‘service’ loses the shine, when excitement fades, too many retreat to the company of the whole, the together, those that fewer demands.   It is even worse when the Church takes the broad road of the ‘world’ and only loves the lovely!

Let the words of James guide you today and always.  He learned from the Lord of the Lowly and teaches us to care for the invisible. Let’s do it, for God’s sake

“My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith.

If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges.

This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind?

Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?  You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it.” (James 2:1-9, The Message)

Jesus offers a Gospel for the rest of us!
Yes, in the end, we are all imperfect, broken by sin, scarred and marred – and He loves us wholly!

__________

Sharp eyes?

clearvisionScott Harrison was a nightclub promoter in New York City for a decade. He writes I was “for the most part living selfishly and arrogantly. Desperately unhappy, I needed to change. Faced with spiritual bankruptcy, I wanted desperately to revive a lost Christian faith.” He volunteered to serve with a medical missions agency (Mercy Ships) in East Africa and saw, first hand, how miserable life was for people without access to clean water.  Something we Americans never give a second thought- fresh, clean water – can make the difference between life and death.  Harrison saw a need and a vision formed in in his mind. He founded charitywater,  an agency that connects donors with projects to provide water to people in impoverished nations.  (Read Scott’s story)  Vision is what causes us to sacrifice, to reach higher, to achieve great things.  How’s your vision, Christian friend?

The Word tells us “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  (Proverbs 29:18, KJV) The Message puts it this way: “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” (Proverbs 29:18, The Message)

Visions are powerful, yet fragile.   They motivate people to change, but they die without constant tending.  The Lord calls us to faith and reminds us that without it we cannot ‘see’ His vision for life. Lacking vision, we will not fulfil His purpose in life. What a tragedy it is to go through a whole lifetime, eyes to the ground, seeing only the dust underfoot.  “Lift your eyes!”  Pray for sight. Gaze on His beauty in worship. Be inspired by great art. Listen to stories like that of Scott Harrison.  Start to serve, using the gifts of the Spirit, where you are.

Jesus warned us that a kind of blindness can overtake us without us being aware of it. He offers “salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” (Revelation 3:17-18, NIV)  One day in Samaria, the men traveling with Him wondered why He was in such a forsaken place. “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” (John 4:35, NIV)  His vision allowed Him to see opportunity where they only saw desolation!

What vision has God given to you?
Are you keeping it sharp, tending it, actively pursuing the Spirit’s gifts to turn that vision into reality?

Here is a word from the Word –
“I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. 

Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your old men will dream dreams.

Your young men will see visions.
In those days, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, men and women alike.”

(Joel 2:28-29, NLT)
_________

Father, give me VISION that sees the promise, the possible, and not just the probable.

Heal my eyes so that I can see into eternity, heading for the Promised Land.

When I start to love my food, my TV, my comfort – more than I love You, Your callings –
forgive me and send me healing with the salve of faith and revelation that renew spiritual vision.

Make my life a credit to the Kingdom,
my choices a reflection of Your wonderful beauty.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Love them like Jesus!

2This week, while Bev and I were walking through the deep water of her illness, our home was visited by Jesus!  For you who think literally let me make it clear –  the Presence of Jesus is always with us and He did not walk into our living room in the flesh.  Or, maybe He did.  He came with a loaf of fresh baked bread for our dinner one day. He came to help out and sit as company through long, pain-filled hours. He came with prayers of encouragement.  There are those who question the value of being part of a local congregation or who move every couple of years to the church where ‘the Spirit’s moving.’  I hope they never need the support that we are finding in long-time relationships, built with God’s people.

The gifts of encouragement that come our way – hugs, prayers, cards, visits, calls – are the only thing that keeps us going some days. This week, my knees were wobbling, my heart so crushed that I thought I could not go on and then somebody would send a text or extend the love of Jesus.  In their encouragement, I found the strength to go on.

Joseph, who we meet in Acts 4, sold his possessions and gave the money to the church to help those in need. He came alongside of Paul, when the church was still very suspicious of the motives of the former Pharisee and offered his endorsement.  Over time, people forgot Joe’s real name. We know him as Barnabas.  Why that name? “Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.” (Acts 4:36, NLT)   Barnabas loved people and was Jesus with skin on to many, so they called him – Son of Encouragement!  What a model for us.

The Bible says, “If your gift is to encourage others, do it! . . . And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. . . Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” (Romans 12:8-10)   It is so practical and in the hustle of life so easily forgotten.  Again, the Bible says, “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24, NLT)

So, how you might be an encourager today?

  1. Send a note of sincere appreciation to someone.
  2. Take note of a ‘servant’ somebody working behind the scenes and compliment their efforts.
  3. Offer to pray with a friend that seems overwhelmed by life, then pray a positive prayer full of words of blessing.
  4. Go beyond the job description and do what needs to done, joyfully.
  5. Listen when someone needs to talk. You do not have to ‘fix’ them with advice. Often they just want to know somebody hears their voice!

I do not know who said it first, but I love the phrase. “Be Jesus with skin on.” 
Love like He did. Forgive like He did. Serve like He did.
You never know who is ready to give up on life, who will be saved by your genuine expression of concern.

Here’s the word from the Word – “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” (1 John 3:11, NLT)  “If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.” (1 John 3:14, NLT)

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.” (1 John 3:16-20, NLT)

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Love Them Like Jesus (Link to song by Casting Crowns)

The love of her life is drifting away,

They’re losin’ the fight for another day.

The life that she’s known is falling apart,

A fatherless home, a child’s broken heart.

You’re holdin’ her hand, you’re strainin’ for words.

You’re tryin’ to make sense of it all,

She’s desp’rate for hope,

Darkness clouding her view,

She’s lookin’ to you.

 

Just love her like Jesus, carry her to Him.

His yoke is easy, His burden is light.

You don’t need the answers

To all of life’s questions.

Just know that He loves her

And stay by her side,

And love her like Jesus,

Love her like Jesus.

 

The gifts lie in wait in a room painted blue,

Little blessing from Heaven would be there soon.

Hope fades in the night blue skies turn to gray,

As the little one slips away,

You’re holdin’ their hand, you’re strainin’ for words.

You’re tryin’ to make sense of it all,

They’re desp’rate for hope,

Darkness clouding their view,

They’re lookin’ to you.

 

Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him.

His yoke is easy, His burden is light.

You don’t need the answers,

To all of life’s questions,

Just know that He loves them,

And stay by their side.

And love them like Jesus

 

Lord of all creation,

Holds our lives in His hands.

The God of all the nations,

Holds our lives in His hands.

The Rock of our salvation,

Holds our lives in His hands.

He cares for them just as He cares for you.

 

So love them like Jesus,

Love them like Jesus.

You don’t need the answers,

To all of life’s questions.

Just know that He loves them,

And stay by their side,

And love them like Jesus.

Bernie Herms | Mark Hall

© 2005 Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

My Refuge Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

No more fear, child of God!

The woman coped with a physical problem that made her ‘unclean’ in her culture.  For 12 long years she was the object of rejection, her malady causing many to believe she was a sinner and her sickness the judgment of God.  I wonder how many tears she shed alone and afraid. Had she started to believe that God had turned His back on her, too?   But, then one day there was a flicker of hope, a wisp of faith that stirred her to a choice. She “had heard about Jesus. She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.” (Mark 5:27-29, The Message)

mark-5-34

Jesus knew this woman’s need went beyond the physical. Her heart needed a touch, too. The rest of the story is, to me, even more wonderful.  As the woman tried to slip away, thankful but still ashamed and fearful, He stopped and asked, “Who touched Me?”   “His disciples said, “What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you’re asking, ‘Who touched me?’ Dozens have touched you!” But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story. Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”  (Mark 5:31-34, The Message)

Daughter! Nobody spoke to her with endearing terms like that. But, He, the esteemed Jesus, made it clear to her and the crowd gathered around them that she was a daughter of God, that she was not a reject or worthless. In that moment, she found her complete healing!

So, do you deal with being ashamed, fearful, or guilty?

Christian, even though Jesus has forgiven you, gave you the gift of eternal life, and invited you to ‘’come boldly to the Throne of grace to find mercy,”  are you still praying timid prayers, hiding, afraid to accept His love?  Perhaps  you have been told – with actions if not with words – that  “You are too ________ (fill in the blank – ugly, stupid, fat, old, sinful) to be valued.”  Maybe you grew up in a home where words of value were rare as diamonds, where criticism was the norm.  It may be that you did fail spectacularly at some point, falling into sin.  After all this time there are those who remind you of what you did or just maybe you still have a hard time forgiving yourself.

Then, too, perhaps you come from the other side of that equation. With rigid self-discipline, you have pursued accomplishment, controlled your impulses, and made all the right kind of choices.  You got the right degree, live in the right neighborhood, married the right person, drive the right kind of car, dress in the right style …  Yes, your life is enviable because you ‘have it all together.’  But, you are afraid because that kind of life, built on being better, is just one slip from disaster and you know it.  You think that God loves you because you keep on doing more, but you wonder how long it is before you collapse.

Failure or ‘perfect’ (Nobody really is, by the way), God loves you because He is good.  The One who knows you best, loves you most!   God’s Word assures us that “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings…” (Romans 5:1-4, NIV)   If we receive the grace of God by faith, accepting that we are justified; not excused but completely made ‘just as if we had never sinned,’ we are set free from feelings of shame, worthlessness, and guilt that keep us from running to the arms of our Abba and we actually learn to rejoice in the hard times because He is there with us.

Jesus Christ came to bring you home to your Father.  Accept His love.  Find freedom to live the ‘abundant life.’

Here is a word from the Word. “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world. Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us. We love each other as a result of his loving us first.” (1 John 4:16-19, NLT)

Listen He is inviting you to His Table – child of the Heavenly Father!

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A Child Of The King

My Father is rich in houses and lands.

He holdeth the wealth of the world in His hands.

Of rubies and diamonds, of silver and gold,

His coffers are full, He has riches untold.

 

I once was an outcast stranger on earth,

A sinner by choice and an alien by birth.

But, I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down,

An heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown.

 

A tent or a cottage why should I care?

They’re building a palace for me over there.

Tho’ exiled from home yet still I may sing,

All glory to God, I’m a child of the King!

 

I’m a child of the King,

A child of the King,

With Jesus, my Savior,

I’m a child of the King!

Harriet Eugenia Peck Buell | John Bunnell Sumner

© Words: Public Domain

Investment advice – more than double your money

Ever hear of a “Ponzi scheme?”  Wikipedia defines it as “a fraudulent investment operation where the individual or organization pays returns to its investors from new capital paid by new investors rather than from profits earned.”  Bernie Madoff put together a swindle that stole an estimated $18 billion from investors over a long time.  His scheme finally collapsed in 2008 and since then his dishonesty has brought him a 150 year prison sentence, caused one of his sons to commit suicide, and destroyed his family. Thousands of individuals and organizations were financially ruined by Madoff’s fraud. What attracts most people into a Ponzi scheme? Usually it is a friend’s recommendation of a ‘fund’ that pays higher returns than average.  Often it is just an additional 2 or 3 percent higher promised return on their money, and for that, they risk it all!

The investor’s ‘rule of 72’ is fascinating. Want to know how long it will take to double your investment, if you allow the interest to compound?  Just take the interest rate and divide 72 by that number. For example, if you invest at 6%, it will take about 12 years to double your original investment.  God does so much better than that!  If you invest in His plan, you will never regret it.  It will take sacrifice, will cost you everything, but the return is beyond amazing! The returns are not merely doubling. They are a hundred fold. That’s right, 100x!  God’s never a debtor and what we invest in Him will find an amazing, rich reward. Here’s the prospectus:  “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Matthew 19:26-30, NIV)

Many people never realize a return on investment because they cannot ‘see’ that far into the future. Even though I lived on a small salary while raising a family each month I took a small sum and placed it in an account where I ‘forgot’ about it.  Some of those dollars have been there for 30 years! When I look at the balance sheet from time to time, I am fascinated by the growth of the fund.  I am a conservative investor so I have never enjoyed the large rates of return that some see, but I have not lost great sums either.  God willing, those savings will help to support me in the years when I am no longer working.

Some Christians cannot ‘see’ the value of investing in eternity. They love Jesus, but mostly for what they can enjoy in Him today. They do not tithe, serve, or consistently give themselves in worship preferring to spend their resources for temporary things.  He counsels a longer view. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.” (Matthew 6:19-21, NLT)

Are you investing in eternity?  Are you anticipating a rich reward?  God is never a debtor!  What we put in His care is never lost and will find a hundred fold return on investment!

Here is the word from the Word – “ Jesus said to the disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, NLT)

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AIN’T THAT GOOD NEWS?

I ‘ve a crown in the Kingdom!

Ain’t that good news?

I’ve a crown up in the Kingdom!

Ain’t that good news?

I’m going to lay down this world,

Going to shoulder up my cross,

Goin’ to take it home to Jesus.

Ain’t that good news?
W. Work, 1940

So you want to quit your job?

faithful“I hate my job” is a fairly common complaint.  Many people confuse their frustration with the thing they do with a dislike of work itself. Some escape into dreams of a life where they do nothing, have no responsibilities, and meet no one’s expectations.  God created us to create, to serve a purpose, to work. Making order out of chaos, wherever that may be, is a gift He has given to us.  Some of you are rolling your eyes in disbelief, aren’t you?   A person I knew grew more and more frustrated by his occupation and longed for the day when he could turn in his keys.  Finally that day came and he was overjoyed. Six months later he was bored and miserable.  “Doing nothing” was not what he thought it would be and he started a whole new life at age 65, built around serving the needs of other people. He became joyful again when he accepted God’s gift of purpose!

Did you know that work existed in the Garden of Eden? “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15, NIV)  The story of Creation and the paradise that existed before sin entered the world includes a reference to living with purpose. Those opening chapters in the Bible go on to tell of Adam and Eve making the choice to disobey their Creator. Their sin turned work into labor, disconnected effort from result.  Adam heard these awful words which we understand in the context of our lives to this day – “All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. All your life you will sweat to produce food, until your dying day.” (Genesis 3:17)

Despite the frustration of missed expectations and failure, there is a special kind of joy found in completing a task. Yesterday I toiled for 2 hours in my yard and looked over the results of my efforts with satisfaction even though I knew full week the grass would require mowing in a few days and that the weeds would grow again.  Ask a craftsman how he feels when he completes a project. Talk with a chef who makes a meal that brings appreciation from those who eat it.  Yes, that desire to make a difference that God put in us is still there.

Some of you are still skeptics about the value of work! “Jerry, if you had to go to work where I spend each day, you would share my feelings.”  True enough. Some of labor in miserable situations. Others work for people who are tyrants.  Many of us never feel valued or get to see how our job connects to the finished work at the end of the assembly line.  The curse of Genesis 3 is all too real for many.

Still, Christian, there is a place for work and God’s gift of purpose is yours to receive.  How?

Work to please God!   “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” (Ephesians 6:7-8, NIV)  The words are in the context of slavery of the first century, but the principle applies to us. Most of the labor in Paul’s time was done by people who were not free to choose, who were servants.  Those servants were coming to Christ and some thought that their new-found spiritual freedom also released them from work.  The Spirit’s wisdom was that their work mattered to God!  Even if no man appreciated what they did, God saw and would reward their diligence.  Will you believe that and take a new attitude to work today?

The best rewards will come from a Higher Master!   Jesus told a story of three servants who were given money to use on behalf of their Master. One received five shares, one two shares, and one just one share.  Each one received what he could faithfully manage. The first two worked diligently and doubled their shares.  When the master returned they were commended and rewarded. “‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’ ” (Matthew 25:21, The Message)  The servant with one share did nothing!  And the rebuke that came his way is nothing short of terrifying. “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least?” (Matthew 25:26, The Message)  “Throw him out into utter darkness.’” (Matthew 25:30, The Message)

The Lord does care about you and how you live.  Your life is an investment. Your situation is well known to Him.  Seek His purpose, today, where you are.

Here is a word from the Word. May it give you encouragement to live ‘on purpose.’  “So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do.” (Ephesians 5:15-17, NLT)

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