Tag: eternal life

Camping is nice, but it’s not like home.

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Camping is nice, but it’s never like home.

Growing up, I didn’t go camping much, maybe once or twice. Oh sure, us kids played tent in the dining room a few times; draping an old sheet over the table.

I camped a couple of nights in Rocky Mountain National Park, up around Manitou Lake, when I was a teenager. From our tent we had a gorgeous view of Pikes Peak’s north slope.

Camping is nice, but compared with a place called home, there’s no way it can measure up.

You see, camping is at most temporal. No matter great the tent is, it isn’t designed to last forever. The material eventually wears out, begins to leak, and must be discarded.

When that happens, the resident must move out.

And go home.

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1 ESV)

The Apostle Paul referred to our human body as a tent. Just an outward shell, a temporary house. Not the forever one everyone gets someday.

Man is a three part being; spirit, soul, and body. Our spirit and soul are the eternal parts, while the body is the temporal.

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 – 5:24 ESV)

God’s plan, as demonstrated through His Son Jesus’ death and resurrection, is for you and I to make the most of our “camping experience”, by learning to hear His voice, trusting Him explicitly, and obeying Him unreservedly.

In other words, allowing Jesus His rightful place as Lord of our life.

That way, when the tent finally “gives up the ghost”, and mortality yields to immortality, our final home will be Heaven.
However, without Jesus’ Lordship and righteousness, the best a person can hope for is to keep patching the tent for as long as possible.

But may I remind you, your tent will not last as long as you (spirit and soul) will.

When you finally leave the tent, there will be a momentary visit to Heaven, but it won’t be home.

It will be an appearance before the Judge of the Universe,

Jesus.

So, let’s review a few certainties:

1. Your tent won’t last forever, but you will.

2. You will have a face to face encounter with Jesus; on His terms, not yours.

3. You will go to Heaven sometime after you die; for a brief visit, or as a permanent resident.

4. As only a visitor, you will be judged for your sin, with the penalty being eternity in hell.

5. As a resident, you’ve already been judged for sin, but the Blood of the Judge was shed in your place. Faith in Him has brought a not guilty verdict from the Judge.

Therefore, how’s your tent? Are you ready to move in to your permanent home? Do you know where it will be?

I hope so.

If not, let’s talk about it.

Puppets and People 

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Have you ever watched a puppet show? The shows where the puppets are worked by strings? Marionettes, I believe they’re called.

Marionettes are quite fascinating to watch. Especially when you’re far enough away that you can’t see the strings. It appears the puppets are acting on their own; dancing, twirling, bowing, and skipping.

I see a resemblance between puppets and people. Puppets only do what they are manipulated to do.

And that’s exactly what people do.

So you think I’ve gone off the deep end?

Follow me for just a few moments.

People call themselves free thinkers; those who believe they alone control their lives. They think for themselves; no one influences their opinion.

But they aren’t free thinkers at all. They’re actually under the control of the god of this world, the devil.
Manipulated.

Please stay with me just a bit longer.

When God created mankind, there were no strings attached. 

None.

Man was given instructions, but he was allowed to make his own decisions.

Man chose wrong. 

THAT’S when the strings became attached. And ever since, man has been manipulated by the one whose only desire is to steal, kill, and destroy.

A dark, evil, rebellious nature replaced the one Adam was initially given. That nature is directly tied to the nature of the evil one himself.

People lie because it’s their nature. They steal for the same reason. Murder is simply the result of unrestrained lust, greed, hatred, or some other emotion or desire.

And it’s tied to the puppet master.

The devil.

But Jesus cut the strings!

People are screaming these days about freedom. They demand to be allowed to live the way they want.

And that’s why Jesus came!

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)

“…By nature…like the rest of mankind.”

It’s one thing to sit and enjoy a puppet show. But it’s another thing altogether when you’re the puppet.

Are you tired of the way you’ve been dancing lately? Have you wondered how your life will end; after the show is over?

It’s time for the strings to be cut!

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-8 ESV)

When Jesus went to the cross for our sins, our rebellious nature, He broke the devil’s right of ownership and control.

By faith in Jesus, and obedience to His word, we find ourselves with a brand new owner, a brand new nature, and brand new life!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

We GET to walk with the Creator of the universe; the Lover of our soul.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV)

“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8 ESV)

“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12 ESV)

Puppets and people. So much alike. No wonder we can become so entangled with ourselves we can no longer think or act straight.

No wonder.

But he whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

The Gambler

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He calmly walked into the room; just a slight hint of swagger recognizable. Dressed in casual fit jeans, scuffed Tony Lama’s, and a denim shirt one size larger than needed, he was dressed for the role right down to his dark shades and Chicago Bears ball cap.

Gambler.

The game didn’t matter; not as long as he could feel the adrenaline surging through his pronounced veins. Cards, dice, horses, sports; it was all the same to him. He was a gambler.

Sure, people had tried to reform him. Plenty of times. But they just couldn’t understand; he didn’t gamble because he enjoyed it any more than he enjoyed breathing. No, he gambled because that’s what gamblers do. And that’s what he was.

A gambler.

In the past he had tried to tally his winnings and losses. Maybe that could shake something loose, causing him to possibly change. But he never could remember all those figures. I mean, how does a person begin to remember how many breaths they’ve taken in a lifetime? It’s just something they do.

It’s what he does.

Because of who he is.

Gambler.

As he stood inside the large, shadowless room, something struck him as odd. Every other game room, poker parlor, and smoke-filled casino he’d frequented in the past had contributed to his gambling urge; stoking his inner fire, feeding his untamed desire to risk it all. There was nothing he wouldn’t sacrifice for the opportunity to win big. And he didn’t really need to win each time; not if he could keep running the risk, playing the odds, feeling the rush.

The gambler’s rush.

Yes, this room was different. It didn’t stir the urge or settle him down. Actually, it unnerved him; maybe even scared him a bit. He’d met a man earlier that day, a man who seemed to appear out of nowhere, who invited him to a high stakes game. The man gave him the address, and after reminding the gambler to bring everything he had, turned and walked away. Intrigued by the sudden appearance and the strange invitation, he decided to check it out.

Peering through his dark glasses, he scanned the room for any familiar faces. What? Where is everyone? Where are all the other gamblers? Am I early? No, right on time, he thought as he glanced at his wristwatch.

Just then, appearing as suddenly as he had earlier, he saw the man who had issued the invitation.

“I see you found the place.”

“Yes, but where is the game? Where are all the other gamblers?”

“You’ll find this game is different. Tonight’s game is for you only. Did you bring everything?”

“Oh sure. Do you take checks?”

“Sorry. Money isn’t what’s being gambled tonight. You’re not risking your finances, your car, or your home. Not this evening.”

The gambler tried to keep his composure, but even wearing his dark shades, one could see his poker face morph into a pale, nervous, twitch. He was definitely spooked.

“Who are you?”, he asked the man.

“Never mind that, right now anyway. Are you ready to gamble?”

“I, uh, I guess so.”

“Alright. I’m going to ask you a question. Answer correctly and you win. What are you willing to wager?”

“You already told me I can’t use money. What can I use?” The gambler couldn’t believe how nervous he was feeling.

“Only one thing. Your life. All or nothing.”

“But…”

“Silence! Don’t you realize what’s happened to you? You actually died earlier today, without warning, without any fanfare. The game you thought you were playing is over. No second chance. No borrowing from the bank. You’re flat busted, dead broke.”

The gambler’s glasses were off, lying on the floor. He just stared at the man, wanting to speak, but no words came out.

The man continued, “You have gambled away the most precious thing you own; your life. I sent people to you at various times in your life, trying to get your focus away from winning things, people, or money. I’ve spoken to you as you were sleeping, while you were driving, and yes, during some of your high stakes games. I’ve tried to get you to understand my love for you. I love you so much, but you treated my message as a game.

“I asked you the question over and over, ‘What will you do with the One called Jesus? What will you do with the gospel?’ You gambled, played the odds as you saw them. And you lost.”

As the man finished speaking, the gambler was turned by an invisible hand. No longer was the room flooded with light. It had become dark and dank, yet heat and flames were beginning to rise through the door he had walked through not long before.

He gambled because that was who he was. Only now, he was no longer a gambler.

He was a loser.

If I Was To Die Tomorrow

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I’m not intending to sound morbid or morose, but I’d like to talk a little about mortality.

Specifically, my mortality. And yours.

No, I’m not sick. I’m not sick of living, either. I have a great life, a wonderful wife, and I’m blessed beyond what I deserve. I love our son and his wife, as well as the rest of my family.

God has redeemed my life from destruction, even though I was hell bent on destroying it as a teenager. He has crowned me with his loving kindness and tender mercies, though I haven’t always responded appropriately.

Sure, there have been tough things to deal with. But that’s life, isn’t it?

All in all, I am one blessed dude.

So why the thoughts about mortality? Because someday my body is going to shut down, expire. I won’t, but my body will.

So what would I do if I knew tomorrow was my last day on earth?

What would you do?

I know of people who preplan, and prepay, for their funeral. They plan the music, the preacher, the pall bearers; the works. But yet they get offended if someone asks them where they plan to spend eternity. I just hope you’re not that way.

So, if you knew tomorrow would be your last day on earth would you wonder, even for just a bit, about the places called Heaven and Hell?

If I found out tomorrow I’d be leaving this life, I believe I’d be the most kind, considerate, and loving person I could be. Not to earn my way into Heaven, or to try and escape Hell. No. I just want to be remembered as someone who loves people. After all, if I don’t love people who I CAN see, how can I love God who I CAN’T see?

I would try and listen more to others. Sure, I need to listen closely to the Holy Spirit, but would you like to know something? The Holy Spirit sometimes speaks through people I don’t really care for. But I’d better get used to it, for I feel Heaven just may have a few people there I wouldn’t have approved of.

It would be wise if I made the most of my time. Sure, I’ve heard time means nothing in Heaven. But I’m not convinced. After all, one of the marks of a mature believer is time management. Oh, you’re not sure? Well, we’re told to be wise, understanding what the will of the Lord is. We’re told to be circumspect, not throwing ourselves at every fad and fancy. Paul said for us to redeem the time, or make the most of it, because our days are full of evil. Jesus said to make sure our heart isn’t overcome with cares, drunkenness, partying, or greed; which means I must pay attention to how I’m using my time. Time management has much to do with how my time is spent. Spent for temporal pursuits entirely? What about the life hereafter? Maybe time isn’t a big deal on the “other side”, but maybe we just can’t understand it. After all, eternity, even in the next life, is a long, long, long time.

If I was just about to run out of opportunities to help prepare others for their inevitable journey, I’d write, preach, visit, dialogue, sing, yell, pester, and get in people’s space just so I could be sure they heard something good, and ultimately life changing! I’d probably be labeled a nut, and a bible-thumping goofball; whatever. People just may thank me, someday. At least they won’t have to curse me.

Tomorrow I may die. Maybe even tonight. I don’t know.

And neither do you.

But what if YOU knew tomorrow was your last day on earth? Would you be ready?

I’ve already confessed Jesus as my Lord, and I believe in my heart God raised Jesus from the dead; so according to the most reliable Authority, I’m prepared.

Are you? Have you? Will you?

It will allow you the extra time to maybe mend a few fences before you say goodbye.

Now since I don’t know for sure just when I’m to leave, I believe it would be good for me to not wait until I know it’s time. So I’ll love like I’m supposed to, I’ll listen to others as if they really are as important to me as I tell them they are. And, I’ll use my allotted time to invest in things that really matter.

Things like people. People like you.

So, what would you do? What have you done?

What are you doing now?

What if tomorrow was YOUR day to say goodbye?

Exchange

20140325-193022.jpgA word came to my heart. A word of action, and requiring action. A word of liberty, and yet a word allowing someone to own you. To be owned by love; overwhelmed by love.

The word? Exchange.

Exchange one life for another. Is it possible? Can it be done? What if one life is practically destroyed, used up, ridden hard and put away wet?

It’s beyond possible. It’s promised.

How can it be?

What does your life consist of? Are you just flesh, blood, and bone? Oh no, you are more. Much more!

Exchange.

Exchange your emptiness for God’s fullness; your sorrow for his joy. Your thoughts can be in harmony, in agreement, with his thoughts.

Exchange your way of reasoning with his way of believing.

Exchange your skepticism for assurance in your heart. The jealousy, envy, and bitterness which has all but consumed you can be exchanged for his everlasting love and peace that passes all understanding; beyond comprehension, but not beyond experience.

Exchange your past with all its sordidness and inordinate affections. Exchange it with someone who gave his perfect life for you.

But how? Where?

Exchange by recognizing your need; your absolute inability to raise yourself to the new life offered by God Almighty, through his son Jesus Christ.

Exchange at the cross of Christ. The place God the father met his son that dark day on Golgotha’s hill. There he accepted his son’s offer and now grants eternal life to all who believe and receive.

And he proved it when he raised Jesus from the dead.

His resurrection is your resurrection!

Exchange your empty future of hopelessness for his glorious and blessed hope.

What have you got to lose?

Everything!

What is there to gain?

Everything, plus more than can be imagined!

I Wonder…

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I have had the holy and extremely intimate privilege a few times in my life. Sitting beside the bed of a loved one, as they near the end of their earthly life. Seeing the faraway look in their eyes makes me wonder what it would be like to view the world as they see it.

Or to be able to see into both worlds; the one I’m leaving, and the one I’m entering.

To be so close to the door of death and just a step away from the heavenly welcome, but still trapped in a body that’s shutting down.

What is it like? How does it feel to have my body actually kick me out of its house?

To see my sons and daughters, grandkids and friends, talking, laughing, crying and embracing while I lie in my bed. What is it like?

Is it consoling to watch people come and go, staying long enough to look into my fading eyes, force a smile and whisper, “I love you”; then pat my hand and hug my family? What kind of feeling is that? What is it like?

Though it’s hard to speak, and even harder to listen, is it possible to remember the joys I’ve experienced and the storms I’ve weathered? Will my tears of thanksgiving truly depict my love to my family, and for my Savior?

Can I recount God’s faithfulness though I may not remember anything else, including my own name?

How quickly do I leave my body after my last breath is gone, and my heart ceases to beat? Will I float or soar? Will I see those huddled around my bed? Will they hear me when I say goodbye?

I wonder what it’s like.

Is it possible to see angels approaching while I stare at my loved ones? Can I hear Heaven’s choir above my silent din?

Are the hours I’m asleep just my way of saying I’ll be gone soon? Or am I busy in my dreams, visiting with my heavenly guide, preparing for my final trip?

Will my eyes see clearly, once the dark film of this life is finally removed?

What will it be like to see Heaven for the very first time?

I wonder what it’s like to see but not focus, to hear but not discern. To lay my head down for the last time, and then, like I’m being drawn by an invisible magnet, rise to the One who’s called Jesus.

To me, it’s a mystery much larger than life, though I know what I believe. And though I believe, there’s still the unknown world I’ve yet to see.

I can’t explain it. I can’t describe it.

Neither can I know what my loved one is seeing, thinking, or feeling as they sleep, hardly breathing, barely alive.

Then again, perhaps they’re more alive than I am!

For as this life fades, the next one grows clearer and closer, until finally, the anchor of hope is removed from the heart of the redeemed. Hope no longer is needed to steady the traveler; they’re finally home.

“For to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

Death is overcome by life.

Eternal life.

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Rick Stratton – Alive Forever!

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I’ve been thinking about something lately; well, for the last couple of days. A friend of ours, a preacher named Rick Stratton, went to Heaven when his body just wouldn’t function any longer.

Rick is quite a guy. We met him when he was a traveling evangelist. He was preaching for a pastor friend of mine so I went to hear Rick preach. Powerful word, good singing; and I think he blew all the finish off that horn of his. Our friendship began that evening and has lasted for over 25 years!

I don’t remember how many times Rick preached for me, but I know it was a lot. And there’d be times when he was just passing through that he’d stop in and visit a few hours. Always a delight to have around.

He loves music, and I can still hear him singing that old Rusty Goodman song, “Who am I?” I imagine he’s doing a lot of singing now; that great, booming voice of his can probably be heard clear across Heaven! He’s crossed the chilly Jordan, and is camping in Canaan’s happy land!

I know something about Rick that many preachers don’t, or are too embarrassed to mention.