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Archive for May, 2015

Your heart is a hardworking muscle weighing between 10 and 12 ounces. It receives blood filled with oxygen from your lungs, and distributes it out to your entire body through your arteries. Believe it or not, it beats approximately 100,000 times every single day. Multiply 100,000 times the 365 days in a year, and then multiply that number times the number of years you have lived and you will know how many million times your heart has beaten since you were born. But know this: one day your heart will beat for the very last time.

Have you ever considered what it would mean to face your last heartbeat? Perhaps you have not done so because it causes you to have fear. Some try to hide their fear by making light of the event. Woody Allen once said, “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens” – he will be! Actor David Niven said of dying, “I won’t go. I’ll kick and scream and make a terrible fuss” – as if that would help.

Yes, we will all die – unless Christ comes first. Whether death happens as the result of an illness, an automobile wreck, a plane crash, or some other unforeseen tragic event, it will happen. We may try not to think about it, but that will not keep it from happening. When that day arrives on your calendar, where will you spend eternity? Try as hard as you can, you will never be able to ask a more important question than that. It is even more important that you have the right answer when that day arrives.

For that matter, why are we even on planet earth? What is the purpose of our existence? Many people think it is to go to school, find a job, get married, have children, accumulate wealth, try to become famous, enjoy what the world calls “the good life”, retire, and die. None of these things provide a valid reason to spend a few decades of life on earth doing little more than breathing.

What has been most important to you during your lifetime? What will be most important to you on the day your heart beats for the last time? You will, no doubt, treasure: your family, your friends, and many other things that you have valued highly during your lifetime. I submit, however, that when the sun in your life goes down in the west for the very last time, the most important thing you will have at that time will be the knowledge of where you will spend eternity. You will leave your body behind, but what about your soul?

What do you believe will be on the other side of your last heartbeat? Hinduism teaches that an individual is almost endlessly reincarnated over and over until the soul is absorbed into a divine essence. Islam teaches that there is a paradise and a hellfire, with martyrdom the only sure ticket to paradise. Buddhists believe that, through enlightenment, the soul is continually reincarnated until it reaches an ultimate state of non-existence called nirvana. Atheists believe there is no afterlife – one atheist referred to death as a “celestial dirt-nap.” The New Age movement encompasses many varying beliefs.

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior you will be prepared for your last heartbeat whenever it happens. Jesus gave comfort and assurance to His disciples with these words: “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 also be where I am” (John 14:1-3).

I want to live on earth as long as I can be healthy. I suspect that you do as well. But if you believe the wonderful promise found in John 14 that Jesus made to His followers concerning what He called “the Father’s House,” you will be prepared for the day when your heart beats for the very last time.

 

 

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Dr. Les Parrott, professor of clinical psychology at Seattle Pacific University in his book, Shoulda Coulda Woulda, says that we derive our sense of self-worth as a child from only a few people: our mother, father, brother, sister, close relative, neighbor, or teacher. The way these people listen to us, treat us, and talk to us, affects how we see ourselves. By the time we have reached our early teens, how we view ourselves is largely established.

Dr. Parrott points out that we will keep this picture in our minds for the rest of our lives. As we mature into adulthood, we will begin to wrap that inner child with the trappings of adulthood: education, families of our own, and careers. But underneath all the adult sophistication lies our self-concept. We may be six feet tall, have an important executive position, or have the figure of a fashion model, but deep in our psyches we are dominated by the attitudes we acquired as children.

A few years ago a cartoon in a magazine pictured two cows in a field looking over the fence at a milk truck passing by on the road. On the side of the truck are the words, “Pasteurized, homogenized, standardized, Vitamin A added.” One cow sighs and says to the other, “Kinda makes you feel inadequate, doesn’t it?” Like the cows in this cartoon, people are influenced by what they see, and learn to have feelings of inferiority and worthlessness.

If you were constantly criticized when you were a child, one of the attitudes with which you may have to constantly deal is a feeling of rejection. “You never listen!” “You will never amount to anything!” “Why can’t you make good grades like your sister?” If those are the kind of words you frequently heard when you were growing up, is there any wonder you have to constantly battle the feeling of being rejected? An additional fact is that adults who endured constant verbal abuse from their parents when they were growing up often find it easy to verbally abuse their own children.

Those who were shamed as children also learn to have feelings of emptiness that make it difficult to relate to others in a healthy way when they become adults. If you are a stranger to yourself, you will very likely be estranged from others also. You may work hard and be considered by others to have succeeded greatly in life, but you will likely not be able to see yourself as being successful.

Children who are constantly criticized by one or both of their parents can also grow into adults who are desperately lonely. The German theologian Paul Tillich said, “Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.” For many adults in today’s world, loneliness is a serious personal problem. They may have the desire, but do not have the strength, to reach out to people. Rather than risk rejection, they withdraw. As a result, they suffer loneliness. Loneliness builds walls rather than bridges.

Even though our sense of self-worth is influenced in childhood by those who are closest to us, and can cause serious problems throughout our lives, it does not mean we cannot change. No one has to say, “I am what I am, and there is nothing I can do about it.” Many things in life are beyond our control – eye color, race, hurricanes in the Atlantic during the summer, etc. – but belief that you cannot change is not one of them. You can choose to change the way you think – and especially the way you think about yourself. God stands ready to become your partner in this adventure.

You don’t have to live on a dead-end street!

 

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Lots of people in today’s world are concerned about money. You may also be concerned. It is estimated that money (the love of it, the lack of it) is the primary cause of forty percent of the marriages that fail. Colleges report that students are forsaking the study of Liberal Arts for courses in accounting, engineering, law and business because these fields pay better. Newspapers devote entire sections to the subject of money.

Many people think about money to the point of desperation. If the stock market goes down precipitously they can’t sleep at night. People tend to worry when they have too much month left over at the end of their money. A mail carrier tells of greeting a four-year-old boy who stood in front of his family’s mailbox, and would not budge. With his feet spread wide and his arms folded, he said to the mail carrier firmly, “My mom said she can’t take any more bills.”

All of us are concerned in one way or another about money – and Jesus knew that! It is why He had so much to say on the subject. Money is mentioned in the Bible in 1,539 passages; praying is mentioned in 523 passages. This doesn’t mean that money is more important than prayer. It simply recognizes the fact that money is an important part of our lives – food, clothes, home, transportation, communication, recreation, and other things are purchased with money.

Jesus, in one of His stories, tells us about a rich man whose land was so productive that he did not know what to do with the surplus. He resolved his problem this way: “I will pull down my barns and build bigger barns; and there I will store all of my grain and my goods. Then I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry’” (Matthew 12:13-21). You likely know the end of the story: God called him a “fool.”

Notice that God called him a “fool” – not a sinner, not a reprobate, not a sorry good-for-nothing-so-and-so” – but a “fool!” If you were to call someone a “fool”, that wouldn’t necessarily make it so. But, you can count on the fact that if God calls someone a fool, he (or she) is a fool! Let us examine four reasons why God would call this man a fool:

First of all, he very likely paid a high price, physically, emotionally and spiritually to gain his wealth. People have sacrificed their marriage, their relationship with their children, their involvement in their church, and their reputation in the community in order to spend all their time grabbing for as many almighty dollars as they can grab.

Second, like so many others then and now, he very likely put off living until it was too late. That well-known trilogy is so appropriate here: making a living, making a killing, and then making a life. It is so easy at first to be satisfied with just making a living. But as the income rises, so do our perceived needs (a bigger house, a more luxurious car, a better school for the children, etc. ad infinitum). Then as the income increases even more, it becomes easy to cut corners here and there, and put off real living until later. Later sometimes never comes. There are three reasons the rich man in the story Jesus told put off living until it was too late: he was greedy, he spent his money selfishly, and he placed more value on money than on persons. It is a mistake made by millions of people today.

Third, he never understood how to get real joy out of his wealth. Those who hoard their money and spend it selfishly have no real joy; those who invest it in the work of God’s kingdom and in other ways to serve the needs of others experience lasting joy. That which you invest in accomplishing selfish goals will be left behind when you die; that which you give to glorify God and to meet the needs of others is in the bank of heaven and will be one of the prime reasons Jesus will one day say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of eternal life.”

Fourth, he did not take into consideration his accountability to God. All that we have is a gift from God, and we are stewards of it. One day we will give an account of our stewardship. The man Jesus mentions in Matthew 12 didn’t realize that. God called him a fool. Please don’t make the same mistake he made!

 

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An eight-year-old lad made his way into the lingerie section of a big department store to buy a Mother’s Day present. “I want to buy my mom a slip,” he told the clerk, but when it came to giving information as to size, he was totally at a loss.

“It would help,” the clerk suggested, “if you could tell me whether your mother is tall or short, or large or small.”

“Oh,” said the boy, “She is just perfect.” So the clerk wrapped a size 34 in a gift box and gave it to him. And he gave it to his mother on Mother’s Day morning. The following day, without saying a word to anyone, the mother went back to the department store and exchanged it for a size 42. You see, perfection in a mother is not dependent on size or shape. Wonderful mothers, thank God, come in assorted sizes and shapes.

Mothers are given special recognition every year on Mother’s Day, and they have earned it. But it is also a good time to talk about the Christian family and the role each member of the family plays. How can your family be a Christian family? The answer: By letting Christ live at your house! Houses contain families where mamas and papas and children live. Houses contain Christian families where those mamas and papas and children let Christ live within the home. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I will be in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). So, who lives at your house?

Finding the answer to this question is of the utmost importance. Thus, it is not absurd to ask, “Father, do you live at your house?” Many fathers use their home as little more than a rooming and boarding house, for they live elsewhere, and drop in where the family lives occasionally. Take, for example, fathers who are alcoholics, workaholics, playboys, or professional jocks.

How about you, mother? Do you live in your house? In today’s world many wives work outside the home, and in many instances this is a necessity. But the workplace should never become more important in a mother’s life than the place where her children grow up and learn to live. A father cannot become a mother, and a mother cannot become a father, but neither fathers nor mothers should be so preoccupied with their responsibilities that they forget the importance of living together with their family in the home. A wife and mother who works at a fulltime job outside the home has every right to expect . . . (Are you ready for this, dad?) . . . that her husband share some of the domestic responsibilities within the home.

How about you, young people? Do you live in your house? James Truslow Adams once said, “Any astronomer can predict with absolute accuracy where every star in the heavens will be at half past eleven tonight. He can make no such prediction about his daughter” – nor about his son, I might add. Today’s youth live in a world of many influences that have an adverse impact on their lives. The only way peace and happiness can reign at your house is that you do your best living with the members of your own family.

Of the greatest importance, your home should be a place where God lives. God will be permanent resident in your home if you allow Christ to be Lord of all that takes place there. The atmosphere of your home will be changed. The character of your family will be different. Your goals and those of each member of your family will be raised. In addition, the ultimate destination of every member of your family will be heaven.

Does Jesus Christ live in your house? If not, you need to know this: He only lives where He is invited.

 

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