Saturday, April 19, 2014

Heaven is For Real; So is Hell

"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

     Todd Burpo, the boy whose heavenly experience is recorded in the book, "Heaven is for Real", is one of many who have had such an encounter and told their story to others.

     In her book, "My Glimpse of Eternity", Betty Malz was clinically dead for approximately twenty-five minutes. During that time, her guardian angel lead her through vibrant fields of living color to a place of complete love and everlasting peace. There have been several other very descriptive accounts that I have read and I am grateful for their glimpses into what I already know to be true. Jesus told me he is preparing a place and He is the only way to get there. It is not a figment of imagination, nor is it a mental state; it is a real place.

     In the New Testament, Jesus spoke more often of hell than he did of heaven, calling it a place of weeping, gnashing of teeth and eternal punishment. In his parable of the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16: 19-31,  both men die. Lazarus is carried to heaven by the angels, but the rich man went to hell, where he was in torment. He longed for Lazarus to be returned to earth so he could warn his brothers of this very real place, but he was told: "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." (Luke 16:31)

     Jesus himself rose from the dead. His body was never found. He showed himself to hundreds of eye witnesses and dispatched his disciples to go into the world and share this wonderful news. All of them died as martyrs with the name of Jesus on their lips.

     God has told us about creation, man's fall from grace, Jesus' death and resurrection, eternal life in heaven or eternal torment in hell.

     Are you listening?

The Breath of God

"The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."
Genesis 2:7

"Again, Jesus said, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"
John 20: 20 & 21

     When God made the world, he spoke and it became so. Only with man did he form the creature from the dust and gave him his own breath. The mammals all breathed, but only man received the very breath of God. Why?

     I believe it's because he wants us to know the origin of every breath we take. All the rest of creation die and return to the dust, but we are made in God's image, set apart as something special. We have a soul.

     After Jesus' resurrection, he commissioned his disciples to spread the gospel, but before he ascended into heaven, he gave them his breath of life from his Holy Spirit. They were already physically alive, breathing with their lungs, but now they were empowered with spiritual life.

     With every rise and fall of my chest, I am reminded of the origin of my physical life and my eternal, spiritual life.

Keep In Shape

"Therefore, my dear friends...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
Philippians 2: 12 & 13

     I have a physically demanding job, so before I report to work, I take time to stretch and exercise a bit. If I don't stay in shape, I cannot perform well and an injury might occur to set me back.

     God has also given me a spiritual body that I must exercise. Feeding on scripture, staying vital through prayer and connections to the family of God are ways to stay in shape and be alert against evil enemies.

    Do not become a Christian couch potato.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lead On, O King Eternal

"Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death."
1 Corinthians 15: 24-26

     Who ever heard of King Asa, King Abijah or King Omri? If you are well versed in the pages of the Old Testament, you may be familiar with these kings of Israel.

     In the days of Jesus, the Israelites were waiting for a king to come end the misery of Roman dominion, so when they thought Jesus was the conqueror, they welcomed him with a grand procession on that first Palm Sunday in Jerusalem. However, Jesus had much more to conquer than just the Roman Empire. He will reign victorious over ALL dominion, authority and power - that even includes our number one enemy, Death. Had Jesus been only an earthly king, his name would have become as obscure as Omri, yellowing the pages of history.

     There's an ad that claims, "You're in good hands with Allstate." While this may sound comforting, we've all dealt with insurance companies to know this is untrue.

     The good hands that hold me bear the nail marks of the cross. He will not let me go, rather he will hand me over personally to God the Father after he has the victory over all his enemies.

     Jesus is my hero!

I love this stanza from the hymn, Lead On O King Eternal:

Lead on, O King eternal,
Till sin's fierce war shall cease,
And holiness shall whisper
The sweet amen of peace.
For not with swords loud clashing,
Nor roll of stirring drums;
With deeds of love and mercy
The heavenly kingdom comes.

Jesus Is Mightier

"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry."
Matthew 4:1 & 2

     Adam and Eve lived in a beautiful garden planted by God himself, so one can only imagine the wealth of lush bounty therein. They sated themselves in a paradise of plenty, so one would think when that serpent called Satan slithered into their lives, they would have looked around at the good life they had and told him to buzz off. But it is common knowledge they did not.

     When Jesus was tempted by this same Satan, he was in the desert, alone, starving and extremely thirsty - yet, he withstood temptation three times. Jesus Christ proved himself infinetly stronger and mightier than any of us, so when we are faced with temptations, we can draw on His strength to be overcomers.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

God is my Dispatcher

     After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples, showing them his hands and side - infallible proof that he was the risen Lord. Then, he invoked peace and gave them a mission:

     "'As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.' Then he breathed on them saying, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"  (John 20:19-23)

     As a Christian, what has transpired here is meant for me as well. I have a mission to perform and my dispatcher is God.

     When a person is in distress, they dial 911. A dispatcher answers phone. It is that person's job to connect the distressed party with a saving force.

     This is how prayer works. The calls come in; the Dispatcher must have capable, properly equipped forces to send in response.

     Lord, may I always be ready and dressed in the full armor of God so I may go where and when you send me. For, this is not a game; this is a serious battle against all evil. If I am at home, sick with sin when that call comes in, what good am I? Remind me throughout the day of my important mission, my share in this saving force against evil. The Holy Spirit was breathed upon me so that I may emphatically say, "Send me! I wanna go!"

Friday, April 4, 2014

Are You Ready?

"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet and the door was shut. Later, the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!,' they said, 'Open the door for us.' But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
Matthew 25: 10-13

The Parable of the Ten Virgins
 
     Ten virgins. All had lamps. All went out to meet the bridegroom. But, half were wise, half were foolish. The wise ones were ready; they brought extra oil in jars so their lamps would not go out. They knew it was their personal responsibility to be ready at any hour. When the bridegroom came at midnight, though all ten were asleep, the wise ones were ready. They went to the wedding banquet while the foolish ones were tearing around, looking for oil. Unprepared, they'd wanted to sponge oil off the wise ones, but the bridegroom came while they were at the hardware store.
 
     Each person must accept Christ and thereby receive his saving grace for themselves. Your parent's faith won't cover you. The belief of the crowd you hang with will not matter. Membership at a church or philanthropic deeds won't do it. The Lord looks upon the heart.
 
     What's in your heart? Are you ready? It would be a horrible thing for the door to be shut and the Lord to say, "I do not know you." Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Repent of your sins, invite Jesus into your heart and life and you will have the peace that passes all understanding. Then, you will be ready for anything!