Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The belief that we will live forever somewhere has shaped every civilization in human history. Australian aborigines pictured the afterlife as a distant land beyond the western horizon. The early Finns pictured it as an island in the distant east. Peruvians and Polynesians believed they went to the sun or the moon after they die. Native Americans thought they would hunt the spirits of buffalo.

An ancient Babylonian legend refers to a resting place and hints at a tree of life. In the pyramids of Egypt, maps were placed beside the embalmed bodies as guides to the future world. The Romans believed that those who were righteous would picnic in the Elysian Fields while their horses grazed nearby. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, said, “The day you fear as the last is the birthday of eternity.”

Although these conceptions differ in many ways, the unifying factor between them is a belief that life after death is possible. Anthropological studies suggest that in every culture throughout history there has been a belief that this world is not all there is. It was not until the closing days of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ that the dream of and the desire for a meaningful afterlife became more than just a dream and desire.

Jesus, when He knew His crucifixion would soon take place, told His disciples that He was going to leave them. When they heard this, they became deeply troubled. It was at this point that He said to them, “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 14:2-3, NIV).

What a fantastic promise! To every person who accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord He makes the possibility of eternal life more than the expression of a dream or an aspiration. According to Jesus, who defeated death by rising from the grave, heaven is a real place. It is not a product of religious imagination, or the result of a psyched-up mentality, looking for “pie in the sky in the by and by.” Heaven is the place where God dwells and where Christ today sits at the right hand of the Father.

Heaven is described in the New Testament as a kingdom (2 Peter 1:11), as an inheritance (I Peter 1:4), as a country (Hebrews 11:16), as a city (Hebrews 11:16), and as a home (John 14:2). Jesus referred to heaven as “My Father’s house.” It is also “home” for all of God’s children. The Greek word that is translated “mansions” in John 14:2 and “abode” in John 14:23 simply means “rooms, abiding places.”

Jesus was a carpenter (Mark 6:3) during His early years on the earth, and now He has returned to glory. He is building His church on the earth and a home for that church in heaven. He promises to return to the earth at a time of God’s choosing. Some redeemed believers will go to heaven through “the valley of the shadow of death”, but those who are alive when Christ returns will never see death (John 11:25-26).

When the apostle John tried to describe heaven, he almost ran out of symbols and comparisons (see Revelation 21-22). Finally, he listed the things that will not be in heaven: death, sorrow, crying, pain, night, etc. What a wonderful home it will be — and those who are redeemed will enjoy it forever along with their loved ones and others who throughout Christian history have already gone to heaven.

Do you have a room reserved in the “Father’s House”? If not, I suggest that you go to a hill called Calvary, repent of your sins, lay them down, accept Christ as your Savior, turn right, and keep straight ahead.

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

J. Allan Petersen’s book, “The Myth of the Greener Grass,” contains a lot of truth that our generation needs to hear. After nearly forty years of counseling married couples, he points out the tragedy caused when one or both partners in a marriage are unfaithful to their marriage vows.

Infidelity is so common that it has invaded Christian churches – in many instances big time. The increased secularization in today’s world, fertilized by a chipping away at society’s established patterns for successful and happy marriages, fewer eyebrows are raised than in prior generations. The head is unbowed. The heart is unbroken. The further one travels on the road toward Sodom the easier the journey becomes.

According to Petersen, “A call for fidelity is like a solitary voice crying in today’s sexual wilderness. What was once labeled adultery and carried a stigma of guilt and embarrassment is now an affair – a nice sounding, almost inviting word wrapped in mystery, fascination, and excitement. A relationship is not a sin. What was once behind the scenes – a secret closely guarded – is now in the headlines, a TV theme, a best seller, as common as a cold. Marriages are open; divorces are viewed as creative.”

Magazine racks, bookshelves, billboards, movie theaters, television and the Internet have all become cesspools for the portrayal of sex outside of marriage. This results in infidelity becoming more common and acceptable. Fidelity, not infidelity, needs defending in our sex-saturated society. People who proclaim and practice the virtues of faithfulness are often regarded as either mid-Victorian or as a religious fanatic.

An article in Redbook Magazine co-authored by Robert J. Levin and Alexander Lowen mentioned three ways in which infidelity can totally destroy the future of any marriage:

First, infidelity causes pain to the other. A solid marriage between a man and a woman is bound together not by law, but by faithfulness. Without singularity of commitment, a marriage tends to fall apart. The cheater’s pleasure causes great pain to the partner who is betrayed.

Second, infidelity masks the real problem. To whatever extent infidelity temporarily relieves the discontent in a marriage by either a husband or a wife, it camouflages the real malady and permits it to grow larger. The betrayed partner either hides the hurt or seeks separation and divorce.

Third, infidelity is destructive of the self. A healthy marriage is never based on deceit. The grass on the other side of the fence may look greener, but it isn’t. The principles that lead to a successful and happy marriage found in God’s Word are right. Infidelity by a marriage partner is not just an affair. It is adultery. And it has serious consequences.

Marital infidelity at its core is dishonesty and a sin – a sin against the marriage partner, a sin against God, and a sin in the life of the guilty partner. But even after that, there is a way a broken marriage can be healed. Healing can only happen through total and honest confession of sin. “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8). Notice that the word is “all” unrighteousness, not just “some” unrighteousness.

Healing can take place only if and when the partner who has sinned submits to God for cleansing, and the injured partner accepts his or her sincerity. Then the two of them together must totally rededicate themselves and their marriage to God and to each other in a way that will produce consistent spiritual growth. It is a starting over, and with God’s help it will work. I have in counseling situations seen it happen.

 

Read Full Post »

I read recently a fable about a couple who celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary by going to London. They liked antiques and pottery — especially tea-cups. They saw an antique store and went inside. Spotting a gorgeous tea-cup, they asked, “May we see that? We have never seen a tea-cup so beautiful.”

As the shop owner was speaking to them, the tea-cup suddenly spoke, “I’m glad you like me, but I want you to know that I have not always been a tea-cup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. The potter took me and rolled me, pounded me, and patted me over and over until I yelled out, “Don’t do that! I don’t like it! Please leave me alone.” But the potter only smiled, and gently said, ‘Not yet!’”

“Then . . . WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel, and suddenly I was spun around and around. ‘Stop it! I’m getting dizzy! I’m going to be sick,’ I screamed. But the potter only nodded and quietly said, ‘Not yet!’ He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me into a new shape, and, if you can believe this, he put me in the oven. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. ‘Help me! Get me out of here!’”

“I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side, ‘Not yet!’ When I thought I couldn’t bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! Ah, this is much better,” I thought.

“But after I had cooled he picked me up and brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. ‘Oh, please; stop it, stop it!’ I cried. He only shook his head and said, ‘Not yet!’ Then suddenly he put me back in the oven. Only this time it was hotter than the first time. In fact, it was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up. Just then the door opened and he took me out again and placed me on the shelf, where I cooled . . . and waited, ‘What is he going to do with me next?’”

“An hour later he handed me a mirror and said, ‘Look at yourself.’ And I did. I said, ‘That is not me; it couldn’t be me. It is beautiful. I’m beautiful!’ Quietly he spoke: ‘I know it hurt to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I left you alone, you would have dried up. I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled. I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I had not put you there, you would have cracked. I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I had not done that, you never would have been shaped properly. You would not have any color in your life. If I had not put you back in the second oven, you would not have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began to shape you.’”

The moral of the story is this: God wants only the very best for us. He is the Potter; we are the clay. He will shape us, and expose us to enough pressures of the right kinds so that we may be made into a flawless vessel to fulfill His good, pleasing and perfect will. Therefore, when life seems hard, and we are being pounded and patted and pushed almost beyond endurance; when our world seems to be spinning out of control; when we feel as though we are in a fiery furnace of trials; when life seems to be more than we can bear, know this: we are in the hands of the divine Potter who loves us and knows what He is doing.

At this point I suggest that you brew yourself a cup of your favorite tea and pour it in your prettiest tea-cup. Then, sit down and think of “The fable of the beautiful tea-cup” — and spend a little time talking to the Potter. “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (I Peter 3:12).

 

Read Full Post »

When you got out of bed this morning did you sing “O What a Beautiful Morning,” or did you sing “Make the World Go Away?” Does it seem that everything is coming apart at the seams? If so, you probably have a case of the blues. Some days you are on top of the world; other days the world is on top of you. It is when the world is on top of you that you will have the blahs. You will feel helpless, hopeless, humorless and hurt.

All of us have lived on this street at one time or another. People have different names for the experience. The psalmist called it “the depths.” Apostle Paul called it “losing heart.” A poet called it “the dark night of the soul.” Psychologists and psychiatrists call it “depression.” Lots of people call it “Monday.”

When life comes apart at the seams it leads to negative thinking. I suspect that even the nationally known Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of several volumes built around the theme of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” had some days when events did not work out very well. If he did have days when his thinking was negative rather than positive, I wonder if he had to check into a motel under an assumed name.

What is the best way to battle the blues? First, you must realize that you are human, and all humans will have some difficult days. Knowing this, you can prepare for them before they arrive. Unless you are Superman, and don’t have any kryptonite around, there are going to be days when nothing goes right.

When Muhammad Ali was in his prime, about to take off in an airplane, a flight attendant reminded him to fasten his seatbelt. He brashly retorted, “Superman doesn’t need a seatbelt.” She quickly replied, “Superman also doesn’t need an airplane to fly.” Ali fastened his seatbelt.

Charles Lowery tells the story of a pastor visiting a hospital ward for the terminally ill. While he was there he asked three patients what they wanted said at their funeral. The first one said, “Tell them I was a family man.” The second one said, “I would like it said that I was a loyal husband.” The third one said, “At my funeral I want the first person who looks down into the casket to exclaim, “Hey, everybody! I saw him moving!” Even though he was fully aware he would soon die, he had not lost his sense of humor. He had not thrown up his hands in defeat. He refused to sing the blues.

I read some years ago the story of a time when the devil decided to put his tools up for sale. On the date of the sale he laid them out for public inspection, each having been previously marked with its sale price. They were a treacherous lot of implements – hatred, envy, jealousy, deceit, lust, lying, pride, etc. Laid apart from the rest was a harmless-looking tool, well worn, and priced very high.

What is the name of that tool? asked one of the purchasers, pointing to it. “It is discouragement,” the devil tersely replied. When asked why he had it priced so high, the devil replied, “Because it is more useful to me than any of the others. I can pry open and get inside a person’s heart with that, when I cannot get near him (or her) with the other tools. Once I get inside, I can make him (or her) do what I choose. It is badly worn because I use it on almost everyone, since few people know it belongs to me.”

When you have days when you are battling the blues, think of the tea kettle. Though it is up to its neck in hot water, it continues to sing. But the most important thing you should remember is to not give up. Instead, look up, grow up, get up, and get busy doing something worthwhile for others. It washes the blues away.

Try it! It works!

 

Read Full Post »

For Christians the model prayer, the prayer that Jesus gave in order to teach us how to pray, is called the Lord’s Prayer. In it we ask God to “forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Some Bible translations use the word “trespasses” instead of “debts.” Both words stand for the same thing – sins or failures.

One of the most glorious facts about God is that He forgives us when we are genuinely sorry for both the wrongs we have done in the past and those in which we are currently involved. What we find easy to forget is that there is something we have to do in return for God’s pardon – we must forgive those who have hurt or injured us. Only then can we fully experience the joy of being forgiven by God. An unknown author expresses it this way:

“If an unkind word appears,
File the thing away,
If some novelty endears,
File the thing away.

“If some clever little bit
Of a sharp and pointed wit
Carries a sting with it,
File the thing away.

“If some bit of gossip come,
File the thing away.
Scandalously spicy crumb,
File the thing away.

“If suspicion comes to you,
If your neighbor isn’t true,
Let me tell you what to do.
File the thing away.

Do this for a little while
Then go and burn the file.”

A prayer for forgiveness is God’s prescription for gaining authentic peace. The petition in the Lord’s Prayer that asks for God’s forgiveness is also found in Ephesians 4:32 – “Forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Let me encourage you to attend church next Sunday. Join sincerely in the confession of your sins. Accept the assurance of God’s pardon. But, when it is received from God it must be given to others. Forgiveness is a two-way street.

 

Read Full Post »

God not only commends humility in His people, but Jesus displayed it in His humanity. “And being found in the appearance of a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even the death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). Jesus demonstrated humility in every aspect of His life: He was born in the humblest of circumstances; He was obedient to His earthly parents; He said, “I am among you as one who serves”; He washed His disciples’ feet on the night of His betrayal; He was obedient to His Father’s will in His death.

The promises of God toward those who are genuinely humble are breathtaking: He promises to dwell with them, to esteem them, to give them grace, to lift them up, and to exalt them. Humility is the soil in which the other traits of the fruit of the Spirit grow. It manifests itself in our relationships – with God, with ourselves, and with others. It is the proper attitude to have as we approach every relationship and circumstance.

There are several ways humility is evidenced in the life of the believer. To begin with, if you are genuinely humble you will accept others, because you have accepted yourself. This does not mean you necessarily agree with what they believe or do. When others succeed, you will be happy for them; when they fail, you will try to encourage them.

A lack of humility on the part of the disciples of Jesus was a constant source of friction, and it must have grieved Jesus. The disciples argued among themselves as to which of them would sit on His right hand when Jesus entered into His kingdom. The presence of pride in their hearts is why they came to Jesus to ask the question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1). Our Lord placed a little child in their midst and told them that they had to become like a child in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Another evidence of humility is that you will accept circumstances. When circumstances do not go your way, do you become angry and critical? Do you always try to manipulate people and circumstances to either benefit or comfort yourself? The Apostle Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). This does not mean you should never try to improve your circumstances, for that would be complacency, not contentment. But it does mean that you will not spend the majority of your time complaining.

A third evidence of genuine humility is that you will have a healthy attitude toward things. The person who possesses genuine humility does not find satisfaction in things: he can do with or without them. He does not measure anyone’s worth by how much wealth he (or she) owns, for “a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he (or she) possesses” (Luke 12:15). If things can change your attitude, then they can be your master, not your servant – and that is the sin of idolatry. It is not how many things you own, but whether or not those things own you.

Material wealth is either a window through which we see God or a mirror in which we see ourselves. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we brought nothing into the world, and that we can carry nothing out. (I Timothy 6:7). As a pastor I have presided over literally hundreds of funerals, but I have never seen a Brinks truck in a funeral procession carrying the wealth the deceased person had accumulated to a destination beyond the grave. No matter how much you accumulate in this life it will be left behind – literally all of it!

Only what you have done for others and for the glory of God will be in the bank of heaven waiting for you when God chooses to call you home. It is why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit (humble), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

 

Read Full Post »

I grew up in Chester, Georgia. According to the 1940 census, its population was 340. That was less than a dozen years after the 1929 stock market crash. People didn’t have a lot of material things. Everybody believed that having enough to meet their basic needs was enough – everybody, that is, except one man.

He owned the only bank in town plus stock in several other banks. He owned the biggest grocery store, lots of stock in several industries, several thousand acres of farmland, and virgin timber scattered across Georgia. As many people would express it today, “He had a lot of stuff.” But, to him it still wasn’t enough. One day I heard him say, “I don’t want all the land in the world; I just want all the land next to mine.”

If he had owned all the land next to what he already owned it would likely still not have been enough. He was not a bad man. I never heard anyone say he was dishonest. He was a member of one our town’s churches, and he attended church on a fairly regular basis. But his primary focus was on the “stuff” to which he held a deed. He had more than enough, but to him it was not enough. He died and left it all!

Avarice is one of America’s sins. There are well over 30,000 self-storage facilities in our country offering over a billion square feet for people to store their surplus stuff. Fifty years ago this industry did not even exist. Americans currently spend almost $15 billion a year just to store their extra stuff.

William Randolph Hearst, for example, was a “stuffaholic.” He had 3,500 square feet in which to put his stuff. At one time he owned 50 miles of California coastline. His house contained 72,000 square feet in which he kept 3,500-year-old Egyptian statues, medieval Flemish tapestries, centuries-old hand-carved ceilings, and some of the greatest works of art of all time. Then he died. How shortsighted of him! We all will die one day.

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-20). One day we will all give an account for what God has entrusted to us. That will be either an occasion of great joy or one of deep regret.

Apostle Paul reminds us: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (I Timothy 6:9-10a). Even so, all of us have mail-order catalogs delivered to our homes in the mail. There are over 40 billion (that is right – billion). And every one of them has as its goal to influence us to buy more and more “stuff.” It is how things in the “want” category get moved up to the “necessity” category. It is what could be called “catalog-induced-anxiety.”

Yale theologian Miroslav Volf says that there are two kinds of richness in life: “richness of having” and “richness of being.” Richness of having is an external circumstance; richness of being is an inner experience. When we focus on the richness of having it is because we have been led to believe that this is where happiness lies. Nothing could be further from the truth. John D. Rockefeller once said, “I have made millions, but they have brought me no happiness.” J.J. Astor said, “I am the most miserable man on earth.”

Multitudes of people in our country have no soul satisfaction. But I have some good news: the richness of being is always available. You can have very little stuff, and with God’s help, still be rich in the ways that count. It is what will enable you to become compassionate, generous, grateful and joyful.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »