Life.

Life.  That is the only word that comes to my mind at this moment.  I reflect back on the last month or so of changes in my life, also leading me to think back on my childhood and everything else in between, and I have come to this one conclusion: Life.

Life is living – the happy, sad and challenging times.  It is not perfect.  Don’t beat yourself up trying to make it perfect, or even fair.  We have a perfect Savior in Jesus Christ, and that is all we need to make sense of our sometimes tangled lives.

Life is relationships.  Put down the stuff.  Jesus Christ was all about relationships.  Jesus did not continue to dwell on our past sins and transgressions, but rather what are we going to do right now.  If you want to have an idea of what God is truly like, just look at Jesus’ life and actions.  Love, relationships, restoration, living.  He never sought fame or things.  Jesus knew what was truly important and lasting in this life.  Only the One claiming to be Son of God Himself could have led such a perfect example.

Life is temporal and eternal.  I know that sounds like a contradiction, and maybe it is for a little while.  Life on this earth will end, and probably unexpectedly.  If that is all there was, it would be terribly unfair and cruel.  But the God of life, love and relationships did not create us that way.  We have a choice.  Choose to follow the God of life.  It makes all the difference at a funeral.

My Dad ~ 1930-2017

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life.  I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
– John the Evangelist, 1 John 5:11-13

I know this testimony is true.  I saw it.

My dad laid in the hospital bed of the Intensive Care Unit after having a massive stroke.  IV tubes and oxygen machines were hooked up to him.  He could correctly answer a few questions while laying there, but his mind seemed to be mostly reminiscent of past times in the 1950’s and 60’s.  He was restless and tried to get out of the bed, pulling off his tubes.  My dad never even wanted to be in a wheelchair so I understood.  He was a Navy veteran and strong to the end.  But there was also something else.

I stood beside my Dad’s hospital bed.  He wasn’t able to move his arms very much or focus on people’s faces.  Then suddenly he began reaching his arms up into the air, to the left of where I was standing, and grasping both hands in an open-and-close movement as if he was trying to hold onto something.  He saw something the rest of us did not.  Maybe it was the angels waiting to take him home, or maybe it was Jesus comforting and speaking to him.  It is life’s great mystery that we will not be privileged to know until it is our time.  But I do want to know the God of eternal life and His Son Jesus at that time.

After that, my Dad was more peaceful.  A few days later he spoke his last words, “Goodnight“, and slipped peacefully into the loving arms of Jesus in heaven.

Jesus said to the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on My way to wake him up.”  Then the disciples said, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will get well.”  So Jesus then told them plainly, “Lazarus has died.  I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him.”
– John 11:11-15

In Jesus’ Words: Heaven and Good Deeds (final part of Olivet Discourse on End Times)-Matthew 25

I read a statistic recently that said about 75% of Americans think “being good” will get them to heaven. That must include a lot of church-going people in that statistic! In response, my analytical mind always wants to ask, “How good do you have to be?”  Is one really good heroic deed enough?  Or does the good have to outnumber the bad – and if so, what is considered bad, because that is equally important to the equation. And do little white lies count as bad?  You get the idea.

Ironically, the statistics on charitable giving and doing is far less than the 75% who think being good will get them to heaven.  Do most people generally think they are a good person, and that in itself will be enough?  If people truly believed good deeds are the way to heaven, then there would be a lot more of it in the world.  I think most people intrinsically know there is something more than just that.

In Jesus’ message below, we should definitely take to heart what He says about caring for the hungry and the sick, but it is to be done as an outcome of our belief and love in Jesus Christ – the One who saves us and genuinely cares for all – and not as a means get to heaven.

Every word and statement in the Bible has meaning, and not a single world is carelessly placed. Right before Jesus’ tells his example about caring for the less-fortunate, He makes this statement in Matthew 25:34: “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  The kingdom of heaven is a gift from the beginning (salvation), and not based on anything we do ourselves.

~ Matthew 25:31-46  Final part of Olivet Discourse (End Times) preached by Jesus ~

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

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 took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!

For I was hungry
and you gave Me nothing to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me nothing to drink;
I was a stranger
and you didn’t take Me in;
I was naked
and you didn’t clothe Me,
sick and in prison
and you didn’t take care of Me.’

“Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’

“Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’

“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

*If you are interested in knowing more about who Jesus really is, or how you can have Jesus as a personal friend and Savior for your life, check out the Jesus Booklet series from Godlife.com.

In Jesus’ Words: The Living God (Matthew 22:29-33)

Jesus was asked a question about marriage in heaven: If a man dies, having no children, and his brother is to marry his wife, whose wife will she be in heaven?

Jesus’ reply to the Sadducees was directed more toward their heart than just answering their question.

~ Matthew 22: 29-33  Jesus speaks of the Resurrection ~

“You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.” For in the resurrection, they will neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven.  Now concerning the resurrection of the dead, haven’t you read what was spoken to you by God: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob?  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
And they were amazed at His teaching.

God of the Living.  The Living God.  Simon Peter confirmed this in Matthew 16:16 when he said, “You are the Messiah, the son of the Living God.”  Joshua mentioned this in the Old Testament when he said, “By this you shall know that the Living God is among you.” Joshua 3:10.

And Psalm 42:2 beautifully illustrates this by saying, “My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God.”

When we pursue and get to know the Living God, we can know that we will spend eternity with Him in heaven, and that our life and soul is created by a Living God, the only One who can give life and conquer death.  For it is not the knowledge about heaven that gives us this assurance, but it is in the knowledge of God and who He is.

In Jesus’ Words: How to give and pray in secret (Matthew 6:1-8)

jesus-quotes

 

It’s been an incredibly hard week.  I’m sure we’ve all had a week or two like this… It starts out normal, with the usual routines and the usual hello’s, and the promise of making plans – a party to attend, a get-together for dinner, that work project… and then wham!  Something unexpected happens.  Plans stop, you begin to remember the last conversation you had with someone, and suddenly life takes on a whole new meaning.

This week, my Bible study teacher passed away at a too-young age.  Sunday morning, I sat in my regular chair listening to him talk about Jesus with a smile on his face.  He talked about how life is a vapor and we should be spending our time and talents on the things that matter in heaven, not on the empty things which do not last, for none of us know how much time we have left on this earth…  On my way out, he asked how my family was doing, always thinking of others.  Less than 24 hours later, he was in heaven.

Though it was a complete shock with no satisfactory answer for his quick passing, I too would want my last 24 hours to be spent talking about Jesus with a smile on my face.  Jesus never promised us a long life, but he warned us many times about making our days count.  I would rather have 40 years of living for God than 80 years living without.

So as I come to the next passage on my journey of reading through Jesus’ words in the New Testament, it seems to be a very appropriate one on how we should live our lives:  Give to the poor. Give in secret, so your motives are like Jesus. Pray. Pray all the time, in secret, just between you and Jesus.  We may not always get everything we ask, but we will never walk alone and will be closer to Jesus for having done so.

~ Matthew 6:1-8  How to give. How to pray. ~

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.”

My grandfather was an old country preacher.  There aren’t many like him any more.
It’s been told that when he was on his deathbed in his old age, surrounded by family, he took his last breath and then opened his eyes from an unconscious state, looked up toward the hospital ceiling and smiled.  I believe he saw Jesus at that moment, coming down from heaven to greet him and take him home.  I cannot think of any better way to leave this life than to know you will be greeted by Jesus and that he knows you personally.  Jesus will say to God, I know him. He’s with me and he’s been forgiven.”

This is the statement of faith we proclaim: If you confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  Romans 10:9,13

How not to become bitter in your old age

old man

I waited in the morning rush hour line at the local coffee shop.  My laptop was in one hand and my work bag in the other, while I searched around for my debit card.  An older gentleman stood beside me.

“You can go ahead of me”, he said with a smile.  “You look like you have something important to do.  I’ve done my time already, and besides, you’re probably paying for my social security too”, he said with a grin and a chuckle.

I laughed at the thought.  “Yes, I guess I am.”

“I’m so old…”, he continued, “I remember when the Dead Sea was only sick.”

I let out a big laugh.  He seemed pleased at my response, as if he had done his job for the day.

Throughout the day, I retold that joke to several more people, and they each had a good laugh too.  This one old man had spread a lot of joy that morning.

I want to be like that when I get old, and I began to wonder what was his secret.  I’ve observed that people usually take one of two paths when they get older: either they become bitter and depressed and generally unhappy about most things, or they live their life with a happy-go-lucky, not a care in the world attitude.  I want to be the latter.

So how do we make sure we do not become bitter?  It starts with how we live our lives today.  What are our priorities?  Do we put our families first, or do we emphasize work too much?  Have we learned to forgive?  Can we let go of things at the appropriate time and trust God for the rest?

I try to practice all these things but I still wanted some solid advice, some kind of script that I could follow to be sure.  I know money isn’t the answer; I see lots of unhappy rich folks.  Good health is not guaranteed for any of us and much of it is out of our control in our later days, so there must be something else.  Then I ran across this passage while reading one day:

“How do we ensure that life gets better and not bitter as our days advance?  Our treasure must be above. When our treasure is laid up in heaven, we go to our reward. We are not leaving it.  Keep life and its treasure in perspective.  It will make a difference now and forever.” – Randy Ray

That was the answer I was looking for.  We are going to something.  And it is never too late to start on the right path.  There is always more we can do on this earth.  Sometimes it’s as easy as brightening someone’s day in the coffee shop line, and making them stop and think.

The one who does God’s will remains forever.  I John 2:16

feet with waves cropped