The thirst for eternity

Ben, “Will you hold my hand?”

Me, “I will always hold your hand.”

Ben, “I will always hold you in my heart.”

We thirst for eternity.

In this short, short life, we thirst for eternity.

When we’re thirty, we want to be twenty.

When we’re fifty, we want to be thirty.

When we’re eighty, we want to be fifty.

We long for more time.

More time for romance.  More time for family.  More time for friends.  More time for achievements.  More time for plans.

We thirst for eternity.

Why?

We were created to be eternal creatures.

In fact, everything God ever made was created to be eternal.

We fell from our eternal state with Him when we broke truce with Him.

We said we didn’t want eternal life with Him.

We got what we wanted.

Only now that we have it, now that we see it up close, we don’t want it.

We thirst for eternity.

I’ll be thirty this year and I’ll be thirsty this year.

I don’t want to grow old.

I don’t want to die.

I don’t want for my body to break down.

I don’t want for my last breath to leave my lungs.

I don’t want for the last beat to pulse in my heart.

I don’t want to die.

I want to last for all eternity.

But there’s only one way I can:

If God reverses what I did in my rebellion.

If He takes the curse I deserve for my sin and places it on Himself.  Only He, as the Eternal One, can take the eternity-away-from-Him that I once asked for and destroy its effect.  He can do this, because in addition to being eternal, He is infinite.  He is able to take the infinite consequence for eternity in a finite span of time.  He did this on the cross.  The rest of us, because we are not infinite, nor qualified because of our unholiness, would have to pay the infinite consequence eternally.  Only He can pay it in a finite amount of time.  And only He can take away the burden of death from us forever.

I receive this work of His in my life.  I receive His eternal payment and I know that I can now live forever with Him.

Ben and I will certainly not be married in Heaven.  Heaven is much better than the sweetest romance we have on earth.

But could we hold hands in Heaven?  I think maybe we could.

And it could be (off and on) forever.

But we can’t hope for this because of sentimental feelings on romance cards or flighty hopes in romance movies of foreverness-even-though-it-really-isn’t-ish.  We can hope for this (or something even better) only because of Jesus Christ.  He is our forever.

Forever. ❤

For the believer:

. . the truth lives in us and will be with us forever. (from 2 John 1:2, NLT)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (Jesus, quoted in John 14:6b, NLT)

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Location, location

Location matters every moment of our day and night.  If my car breaks down on the side of the road, I hope I’m on a well-lit city road and not a rural country drive!

If I’m hungry, I don’t go to the nearest library to pick up food.  And when I wake up in the morning, I expected to find myself in my bed rather than in a swamp swarming with alligators.

  • Location distinguishes where we are, and what could happen to us there.

An astronaut isn’t going to be attacked by a bear while visiting the moon.

An oil refiner isn’t going to die of heat stroke in Antarctica.

A whale isn’t going to swim in the desert.

A cake isn’t going to bake in the freezer.

A prisoner isn’t going to find a Ferris wheel in a maximum security prison.

Location matters.

When Jesus was here on earth, He talked about location.  He talked about the most important location of all:

where we will go when we die.

I don’t know about you, but I for one am very interested in where I go after I die.  I have no idea how long I’ll live on earth, or if I’ll even make it through today.  Rarely does anyone have the opportunity of advance notice on the date they’ll die.  Even if I have a great lifespan, and I live to be a hundred, hey, I’m already almost thirty.  That’s only seventy more years.  That’s not very much time.

I hear people talk about estate planning, but I’m not nearly so interested in who gets my house and stuff after I die as I am in planning for where my posthumous estate will be!

What I want to know is where I’m going.  Where’s my location going to be?

According to Jesus, there are only two places I could wind up:

Heaven or Hell.

Jesus gave us descriptions and word pictures of what both places are like.  And He made it clear that our souls will go to one place or the other, and there’s no in-between.

Jesus wanted us to know where we are going if we die without Him, and what we can expected when we get there.  If Jesus had just stopped there, His purpose would have been to cause us terror, grief, and fatalism.  But Jesus didn’t stop there.  He told us how we could avoid Hell.

People who think Jesus was mean to talk about Hell are not really thinking it through.  If Jesus had told us we were doomed for Hell and that was it, He still wouldn’t have been mean, because that is, sadly, what we deserve.  But this is not what Jesus did!  Jesus warned us about Hell so we would NOT have to go there!

The way we don’t go to Hell switches our focus from location to Person.  Although we deserve to be in Hell like a guilty criminal deserves to be in prison, Someone already took our place of punishment.  Jesus endured true Hell on earth so that we wouldn’t have to.

Since we are finite, we would have to pay the consequences for our infinite sin  in an infinite amount of time.  But here’s a cool fact: since Jesus is infinite, He was able to pay the consequences for our infinite sin in a finite amount of time.

Jesus takes our focus from location to Person.  The best part of Heaven isn’t our rescue from the location of Hell, but that our new location will be with the Person of Christ.  We will be with our Rescuer day and night, without end.

Location matters.  Eternally.  But the most important news isn’t about a location at all.  It’s about a Person!

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.” (Revelation 21:3, NLT)

Jenga

If I stage this right, I can make it look like the blocks fell on Ben’s turn and not on mine . .
Jenga Ben 7

Jenga 3 Do you ever feel like life is toppling down around you like a game of Jenga? Sometimes, I certainly feel like the tower’s wobbling. I’ve even had the “big lollapalooza crash” before. Uh, more than once.

There’s this stereotype out there that Christians pretend this doesn’t happen to them, or that they’ve got it all together . . hey, no way. To be a Christian is to identify yourself as a toppled-over mess in need of Christ! When my tower falls down (and it still does), or when it’s tilting precariously . . I get scared, too. And when the pieces of my life tumble to the ground . . I’m disappointed and angry, too.

I don’t have a magic wand that stacks the pieces back up perfectly, or a faith that never trembles. But what I do have is a God who sees, and loves me anyway. It’s really cool and very unexpected, but who does the Angel of the LORD appear first to in the Old Testament?

Abraham? Nope.

Hagar. Hagar, a slave who in that time was pretty much seen as worthless.

To make matters worse, she was a runaway slave. To make matters even worse, she was pregnant and in the desert.

Where was she going to go? What was she going to do? Her tower had gone KAPLASH right on the ground.

And who should show up but the Angel of the LORD? He spoke to her, and revealed that God knew her and had a plan for her baby. He promised her countless descendents.

Now, there were a lot of ‘important people’ God could have sent the Angel of the LORD to. But He sent His Angel to a ‘nobody’ in the middle of a desert.

That’s just like God, isn’t it? He cares about our toppled towers, even if we’re ‘nobodies’. He notices when our support is trembling, and He sees when we can’t hold the pieces of our lives together anymore.

And there’s more. God doesn’t just watch; He acts. He moves in to pick up our pieces and restore our souls. This is the movement of Jesus Christ. His life, piece by piece, is the perfect Tower. He built Himself as the one solidly righteous, the one without the slightest quiver of sin.

Yet, He let sin topple His life–OUR sin. Why? Because He didn’t want Hell to do that for you and me. He didn’t want the consequences of our bad choices to demolish us. He didn’t want us to end our life in shambles.

Whenever my tower shakes, or the pieces fall splatter helter-skelter all over the place, I see a) my frailty, b) my sin, c) the devastating state of the world after sin, and d) hope of restoration through Jesus Christ.

I know that, as God saw this ‘insignificant’ slave woman who otherwise would have been erased from the memory of history . . God sees me. And as God intervened through the Angel of the LORD to give hope to Hagar, God intervened through Jesus Christ to give eternal hope to the world.

Today, right now, and this century, my tower still trembles. My tower still shakes. And my tower still falls. But one day, in eternity, I will be perfectly set upright, NOT because I pulled it altogether in this life, but because I am built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

I did nothing to earn it, and nothing to work for it . . but my soul rests on ROCK. The chaos of this life and my struggle through it will cause temporary crashes, but my eternity is locked in Jesus Christ.

Do you know Him? Or is your eternity still looking like a mess?

Jenga Ben 1

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)

Housebuilders

In Jesus’ parable about two housebuilders, one man discovered that his life mattered . . and the other man discovered that his life didn’t.  One man found his faith solid in the worst time of trial he’d faced.  The other man found his faith eroded in the same trial.

One man had his faith in the real save.  The other man had his faith in the false save.

Here’s how it went down:

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great! ”(Matthew 7:24-27, HCSB)

There is no man in this parable who didn’t hear the words of Jesus.

The two men in the parable heard the same message from Christ.

They had the same opportunity for salvation.

They both made decisions.

And then they both continued on with life.

But this is where their commonality ends.

__________________________________________________________

Since the one man—we’ll call him Bill–made a decision to follow Christ, his entire life’s work changed.  He moved land plots.  Rather than building a house in the ever-popular neighborhoods of Career Cul-de-Sac, Rebel Road, Acheivement Alley, Lust Lane, Popularity Park, Family Farm Road, Amusement Avenue, Indulgence Isle, Materialistic Mile, or any of the other popular real estate plots, he picked up and left all these places for the Rock of Christ.  It wasn’t a very popular place, and he wasn’t sure his family would join him, or that his friends would ever pay him another visit, but he moved there anyway.  He was sure about where he needed to build.  He’d listened to the words of Christ and he believed.

In the meantime, since the other man—we’ll call him Joe–made a decision to passively listen to the words of Christ, maybe even respect Christ and feel sentimental about the preaching he’d heard, but not really let the message penetrate him, he didn’t move from where he was already building.  After all, he had a lot of time and resources tied up in that house.  He didn’t understand why Bill had abandoned his prime real estate.  It looked like a lot of wasted effort and inefficient use of resources to Joe.  And besides, hadn’t the real estate agent promised that the property would triple, even quadruple in value in the next fifty years?

Joe did what everybody said was the smart thing.  He stayed steady and true to the home he was already building.  His children loved him, his wife adored him, and he had cookouts every weekend.

Bill did what everybody said was the stupid thing.  The halfway built house he’d started before his new life in Christ crumbled over time.  The foundation cracked, and spiders and snakes and foxes lived among the ruins.  Bill’s wife had left him to start a house on prime real estate property with somebody else.  He got to see his children every other weekend.  Most of his old friends never answered the phone when his name came up on the caller id, and nobody ever came to his house for a cookout.

Bill only had a few neighbors, and they were all broke like him, buying strange building supplies that nobody else used and following building plans that none of the engineers in town understood.  The Rock of Christ seemed like a lonely place, and the real estate agent had warned everyone who built there that it would never go up in value and was worthless.  Some did wonder if the agent said this just because there was no money to be made on the property–it was free to Bill and anyone else who built there.  Others never stopped to think about it, and made fun of Bill whenever they saw him out and about.

Then one day, fifty years to the date the two men had heard the teaching of Christ, something happened.  Something neither man was expecting.

They both died.

Bill was driving home from work when he got in a car accident.  Nobody was too clear on the details, just that a young driver had accidentally hit him head-on.  He died instantly, the paramedics said.

Joe, on the very same day, had a heart attack.  Nobody even knew he had heart trouble, although the doctor had warned him about high cholesterol.  Although he was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, the damage was just too massive.

Both men’s funerals were on the same day.

Bill’s friends from the district of the Rock of Christ came.  His children were there–one even decided to build his own home in the same neighborhood where his father had lived.  Even though it was well-attended, there was only a small service since Bill never had much money and his friends didn’t have much to donate.

Joe had a bunch of coworkers come to his funeral.  He’d been really successful at work, and he had a lot of acquaintances who showed up out of respect.  His family was there, and there was a beautiful ceremony.  Everyone said it was very professionally done.  There was even a few police officers to direct traffic when the service was over.

Twenty years went by, and not many friends were left who had known Bill or Joe.  Their children remembered them, of course, and their spouses (or in Bill’s case, ex-spouse).

Another fifty years went by, and a few of Bill’s descendents took an interest in ancestry.  They did some research on the internet and found out his name, but they didn’t really know anything about him.  One of Joe’s great-great-great-great grandchildren did a family tree project.  She found Joe’s name in an old photo album and included it on the tree.

Even though Bill and Joe had faded away from the history of the town, there was a memorial to each of them.  No, it wasn’t their gravestones.  Bill never afforded one and Joe’s gravestone, though it was a mighty monument, only got flowers on Memorial Day when the dutiful boy scouts came by.

Yet, there was something of theirs that had remained in town.  Something the townspeople passed by every day.  Though they didn’t know who the houses belonged to, there wasn’t a person in town who hadn’t walked or driven to at least one of their houses.

Bill’s house–well, it wasn’t known as Bill’s house anymore.  Currently, it was Jim and Kate’s house–they’d moved in with their four kids after elderly Mr. and Mrs. Rogue had died.  Before that there’d been newlyweds Paul and Christine, and, let’s see, before that there was Jamar and the backyard club he’d started.  It’s hard to really remember everybody who, when they decided to build on the Rock of Christ, build an addition onto Bill’s house.  Of course, they didn’t know whose house it was, but, over the years, the small house had become one of the marvels of the neighborhood.

I think it was Harriet, who’d first owned the house after Bill had died (she was Bill’s daughter, and she’d come to Christ at her father’s funeral) , who’d expanded the kitchen.  It was her husband, Peter, who re-shingled the roof.  Their children, Tom and Larry, mowed the grass every week until they went off to college.  When Harriet and Peter died, Tom moved in with his wife April, and they’re the ones who cultivated the garden out back.  They didn’t have any children, but a boy they’d mentored–that was Azad, I think, built the sun room on when he moved in.

Over the years, families kept building onto that house.  The kitchen was updated, the living room refurnished, the walls repainted, the fireplace converted from wood-burning to electric when that was the phase, and then back to wood-burning when it came back in–but the foundation was never touched.  Extra rooms were built on–including that extra big living room Jamar added for the college kids to have their Bible study.  Mr. and Mrs. Rogue took out the skee-ball machine and sold most of the board games at a garage sale, and they added carpet and paintings of flowers and turned the room into a Bible study for widowed women.

Yes, the house went through change after change as each new generation added something to Bill’s home, but there was one thing no one ever, never once, had to change.  That was the foundation.  Even hundreds of years later, the house stayed as strong as it had been the day it was built.  Whenever any of the kids or younger couples in the neighborhood worry about termites or earthquakes or wildfires or, worst of all, the bad flooding that came through the valley every now and again, the older residents will reassure them they have nothing to worry about.  It is, after all, the Rock of Christ.

People are influenced by Joe’s building, too, but not in the same way.  The year after Joe died, there was a terrible flood, and the house completely collapsed.  No one in the neighborhood said they’d ever seen anything like it.  The real estate agent apologized, but said the other houses were better built than Joe’s had been.

But Joe’s house–or, really, the lack thereof–is still effecting people.  People scavenged his demolished house for a while.  He’d been a rich man, and he had lots of nice nicknacks.  But since they’d gotten soaked in the flood, only vagrants ever took off with them.

Kids used to walk through the ruins as a shortcut on their way to school.  The ground eroded so many times, it became terribly unsafe.  Nobody seemed to notice until a first-grader fell into a surprise sinkhole.  If his brother hadn’t gotten ahold of his arm in time, it would have been too late.  Since then, there’s barbed wire around the old place.  That hasn’t stopped ne’er-do-wells from dumping their trash there, of course.  I’ve heard all manner of unsavory animals live their now.  The city council was trying to figure out what to do with the old lot until the wildfire came through and left a mass of charcoal and scrap metal in its path.  Now the council’s voting on what to do with the scrap metal.  And I think they’re planning to put a concrete wall up, to keep children out.

__________________________________________________________

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great! ”(Matthew 7:24-27, HCSB)

“a way that seems right”

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 16:25, ESV)

After church today, I was supposed to go out for pizza with a few of my friends.  I didn’t have my cell phone with me, so I asked for directions and figured I could get there myself.

That was a mistake.

I glanced at my GPS and thought I knew what I was doing.  I took a left turn on Lone Pine that seemed oh, so right.  I was so sure it was the correct turn.  I should have remembered that, in the Bible, the goats are on the left and the sheep are on the right.

As I traveled down the road, my GPS kept saying, WHEN POSSIBLE, MAKE A U-TURN.  I did not believe my GPS.  This looked oh so familiar.  I passed by the little ice cream shop, the veterinarian clinic, and the park.  I had been to each of them.  I knew where I was going.  I thought.

As time went by, and the road seemed to be parallel to an elevated highway, I began to wonder.  Was I really getting to Sunshine?  What was going on?  My GPS had said it was only 5 minutes away from my church.  But then, I hadn’t been going by what my GPS was saying since the left turn, so why start now?

I kept going, and sure enough, this was not looking right.  But I trusted myself.  (Why, I have no idea.  I have been known to get lost on my way to work, much less a pizza place I haven’t been to in at least a year.)

Then, startlingly, it looked at if the road was ending.  Ending?  Ending??  Lone Pine did not end!  How many times had I been on it as a child in the car with my family?  It must only look like it ends ahead, I thought.

Then, in what was a rather creepy moment even though it was the middle of the day, two things happened:

  • The road ahead clearly ended.
  • And the only place to go, other than the steel railing, was a graveyard.

I know it sounds like I probably made this up for point of illustration, but, really, I learned today that if you make a left turn off of Battlefield onto Lone Pine, you wind up either at a dead end or turning into a graveyard.  A graveyard.

Had I made a right off of Battlefield onto Lone Pine, the road would have intersected with Sunshine and I could have been at the pizza place at a table on the side of the pizza place with the glass roof edge and glass wall, where the sunlight streamed through.  I could have been looking over the menu by now.

But I was oh so not at the pizza place.  I had trusted my own instincts and ‘experience’ and pride rather than my GPS, and now I was at a graveyard.

I didn’t have to stay at the graveyard, and because God blesses me with gracious friends, they had waited for probably 20 minutes before ordering.  When I got there, I was able to sit with them at the table where the sunlight streamed through the roof’s edge and the wall, and I was able to order cheese pizza.  I got another chance.

In life, we can usually get more chances when we make wrong turns and make bad decisions.  Even after flunking a class, losing a job, wrecking a car, filing for bankruptcy, divorcing a spouse, or committing a crime, we usually get more chances. Even seniors in nursing homes and terminally ill patients and death-row prisoners can turn their life around.  Most of us get chance after chance after chance without even really realizing it.

But what we cannot get another chance at is life.

When we die, we do not get to come back and have another chance.

The idea of reincarnation is popular partly because there is no real accountability for anything.  Everything is fluid in the ‘karma’ world.  Even if you are the worst person on earth in one life, in five hundred lifetimes you might work your way up to being a hero.  Or, if you are a hero, in five hundred lifetimes you might lose ground until you’re the worst person on earth.

But God’s Word tells us that when we die, we do not get another chance.  There is no finding salvation after death.  There is no one more chance.

I drove the wrong way today and wound up at a graveyard.  I had started out so sure I was right, only to end up so sure I had been wrong.

If you have never asked Christ Jesus to save you, if you are not His child, why not?  Are you too proud to admit your need for a Savior?  Will you admit your need only when you have found yourself at the mouth of Hell?

We are saved through the work of Jesus Christ by faith.  Faith is not something that will be available after death.  We will see exactly how it really is, like the angels and demons do, and we will not have the ability to have faith anymore.

You can probably afford to make a wrong turn now and again here on earth.  But you cannot afford to make a wrong turn with your eternity.  Please, please, make sure that you are traveling the right direction.  You don’t want to end up in Hell instead of Heaven.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 16:25, ESV)

But here is what Scripture says “about God’s approval based on faith”.

Moses writes about receiving God’s approval by following his laws. He says, “The person who obeys laws will live because of the laws he obeys.” However, Scripture says about God’s approval which is based on faith, “Don’t ask yourself who will go up to heaven,” (that is, to bring Christ down). “Don’t ask who will go down into the depths,” (that is, to bring Christ back from the dead). However, what else does it say? “This message is near you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart.” This is the message of faith that we spread. If you declare that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God brought him back to life, you will be saved. By believing you receive God’s approval, and by declaring your faith you are saved. Scripture says, “Whoever believes in him will not be ashamed.” There is no difference between Jews and Greeks. They all have the same Lord, who gives his riches to everyone who calls on him. So then, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:5-13)

Eternity

“Eternity” is either one of the best common nouns in the English language or one of the worst.  Whether it is of the best or of the worst is totally dependent upon whether you know the best proper nouns, Jesus Christ and His Father and Spirit.

Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, You are God. (Psalm 90:2, HCSB)

This Moment

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” (Paul, Acts 17:24-28, ESV)

I look at the computer screen, not because the neurons in my brain and the rod cells in my eyes are working, but because Jesus chooses that I see.  When He chose to heal the blind, He could have healed any problem of the eye or brain–or He simply could have had them see without the use of either.  He is God.

I press keys with my fingers, not because the nerves and muscles in my fingers and my nervous system are working, but because Jesus chooses that I feel.  When He chose to heal the paralytic, He could have healed any problem of the legs or spine or brain–or He simply could have had them move without the use of them.  He is God.

I hear the keys as I tap them with my fingers, not because my ear drums and the translation to my brain is working, but because Jesus chooses that I hear.  When He chose to heal the deaf, He could have healed any problem of the ear or brain–or He simply could have had them hear without the use of either.  He is God.

The breath in my lungs, the pulse of my heart, the thoughts in my mind are only possible because every moment–this moment–Jesus is giving me the gift of time.  Though I can take every precaution in the world to keep myself healthy, nothing can stop God from taking me when my time is up.

Man’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. (Job 14:5, NIV)

Photograph by Mauro Sartori

I cannot, for all the positive thinking in the world, will myself the ability to think even one thought.  I cannot, for all the exercise in the world, protect my heart from ceasing to beat for even one moment.  I cannot go to any surgeon in the world who can sustain my life for even one day when it is my time to go.  I cannot by any amount of shopping, friendships, success, or vacation give myself even one extra breath of life.

I am totally, utterly dependent on God.  Though I can pretend I control my life, only He determines exactly how long I live . . and when I die.

Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began. (Psalm 139:16, HCSB)

The miracle of the moment . . God is giving you the miracle of this moment . . to come to Him.  He is giving you the miracles of this moment to place faith in Him.  He is giving you the miracle of this moment to worship Him.

He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9b, NIV)

He is giving you this breath in your lungs, this pulse of your heart, this ability to think in your mind for you to seek Him for everlasting life.

He has extended His mercy scepter to you in this moment; you are free, totally free, to trust Him right now.

You are free, totally free, to trust Him right now.  Not even Satan with all his forces of fallen angels can stop you.

But if you do not trust Him . . if you wait for the next moment, you gamble that you will have a next moment.  No one knows when God will withdraw His breath of life from their body.  No one knows when they have taken the last breath into their lungs.  No one knows when their heart has spent its last pulse.  No one knows when their mind has brought its last thought.  No one knows when God’s breath of life will go out from their body, and the decay of sin’s curse take its final hold on the physical.

Christ didn’t go into a holy place made by human hands. He didn’t go into a model of the real thing. Instead, he went into heaven to appear in God’s presence on our behalf. Every year the chief priest went into the holy place to make a sacrifice with blood that isn’t his own. However, Christ didn’t go into heaven to sacrifice himself again and again. Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the world was created. But now, at the end of the ages, he has appeared once to remove sin by his sacrifice. People die once, and after that they are judged. Likewise, Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of humanity, and after that he will appear a second time. This time he will not deal with sin, but he will save those who eagerly wait for him. (Hebrews 9:24-28, GW)

If you are a believer, and you are sinning in this moment, if you are failing to follow God this moment, if you are neglecting His will for your life this moment, then you, too, are gambling.  You are gambling that you will have more moments to serve Him.

If you are wrong, you will wake up in eternity ashamed that you have spent your last breath, your last heartbeat, your last thought, on something that did not call anyone to meet Christ, did not draw yourself or any other believer closer to the Father’s chest, did not speak of the great love you feel for Him in your life.  Your last opportunity for your last love letter will be gone; you will have missed it.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, NLT)

This moment.

This moment.

This moment is precious.

Can any of you add a single hour to the length of your life by worrying? (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 6:27, ISV)

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Photograph by Mauro Sartori, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/topastrodfogna/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.
See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

150,000

“An average of 150,000 people slip into eternity each day.  The vast majority of them aren’t prepared to stand before God.  They don’t know His Son, Jesus Christ, who died to rescue them from their sin.  Without Jesus, the Bible says they are ‘without hope and without God’ (Ephesians 2:12, NIV).”

–Franklin Graham

Learn more about peace with God –> http://peacewithgod.jesus.net/

Does Jesus offer salvation to me? Is the invitation for me? Or am I not on His list?

I’m teaching a craft class at my church for children right now.  This week, we have three choices of designs they can choose for their project.  I asked each of them last week which design they wanted, so it would be ready for them.

Suppose, though, that I already knew exactly what each child would choose.  Imagine that I got the craft ready, knowing what each would choose, but–without showing them the choices I already knew they would make–I asked them what they wanted.

So, who made the choice for what craft they would do?  It might appear to have been me, as I got the craft ready beforehand, but it was actually them.  Not only did I base what craft they would get on knowing what they would each choose, but I even let them choose without revealing to them beforehand what they were going to choose.

This is an important point.  Although I could have told them beforehand what they were going to choose, I let them discover what they were going to choose for themselves.  This is a simple illustration of a little bit of how the omniscience (all knowingness) of God might work.  Me planning for the craft ahead of time is not fatalism.  I based the choice of craft on what I knew the children would choose; I did not ‘program’ them to choose something, and I even gave them the opportunity to know what they would choose without seeing it first.

Does Jesus already know if we are going to receive Him and spend eternal life in Heaven, or whether we will reject Him and spend eternal death in Hell?  He does.

He could hand our parents cards at birth that said Heaven or Hell.  He could have our eternal destination branded on our cheek.  We could look around and read foreheads and think, “Oh, that person is going to Heaven.  That one is going to Hell.”

There would be no need for evangelism.  No need for missionaries, no outreach to the public, no witnessing to friends.

But isn’t God good!  Thank God, this isn’t what He does!  I have so much respect for God’s kindness  He wants us to know that we choose, and so He gives us a life with total mystery on our part as to our eternal destination.  The only way we solve this mystery is if we receive Jesus Christ.  Otherwise, we will solve it the moment we die and find ourselves in Hell.  But God never tells even one living soul that we are destined for Hell and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Even when Jesus spoke about Judas’ betrayal, He never used his name to identify him.

“But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me.” (Luke 22:21, NLT)

While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” (Matthew 26:21, NLT)

Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!” (John 13:21, NLT)

When Judas asked Him if he was going to be the one to betray, let’s listen to what happened.

Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:25, ESV)

Did Judas feel hopelessness?  A feeling of destiny overcoming him?

If he did feel that way (and I doubt he did), it was because he had no faith in Jesus’ teachings.  After all, he had been one of Jesus’ disciples.  He had most likely heard Jesus say,

“Nothing is impossible with respect to any of God’s promises.” (Luke 1:37, NLT)

and,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NIV)

Jesus promised–anyone who came to Him would receive His rest.   But Judas did not come to Jesus.  Judas wanted money.  I don’t think he was feeling fated.  I think he was feeling greedy.  We can’t know what thoughts and feelings motivated him to do what he did, only that they were feelings and thoughts from Satan himself.  And rather than resisting Satan, he listened to him.

I think about Jesus’ words,

“You have said so.”

If Judas had wanted to repent, he could have confessed what he’d been planning to do right then and asked Jesus for His forgiveness.  But he didn’t, because he didn’t want to.  His heart was turned towards Satan.

Later, when he realized his sin, he wanted despair.  He did not beg to be forgiven or ask Jesus how he could turn from the path of Hell he was on.  He could have, but he didn’t.  Jesus as still alive when Judas realized his mistake.  He could have run to Jesus in the courtyard of the mock trial, or he could have fallen down at His feet when He was on the cross.  But Judas didn’t.

Maybe he doubted Jesus’ teachings.  Maybe he was so focused on his sin that he didn’t have room for the love of God.  For whatever reason, Judas chose to hang himself rather repent.  He was sorry for what he had done, but he did not ask Jesus to forgive his sin.  Instead, he chose to end his life.

This very moment, God knows where each of us is going to be spending eternity.  But He didn’t make our choice for us.  What a blessing to know we have the free choice to choose eternal life!  Max Lucado in his book He Chose the Nails makes an amazing point.  We complain to God about our metabolism, family makeup, big nose, bad back, and poor singing voice.  But would we take all of the genetic things we didn’t have control over and ask God if He would trade with us and we could choose our biological makeup and He could capriciously choose our eternal destination?  Of course not.  God left the most important choice of our eternal destiny up to us!

God isn’t capricious.  Everything He does, He does for reason.  And His reason is always good.  God isn’t running an inventory list and deciding their needs to be more people in Hell.  The Bible tells us, unequivocally, that God wants everyone to receive forgiveness and spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6, NIV)

And He makes this promise when talking to Israel about His nature:

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” (from Ezekiel 33:11, NIV)

So does Jesus offer salvation to me?  Is the invitation for me?  Or am I not on His list?

What we need to fear is not God’s response to our cry for salvation, but rather whether or not we are crying out for salvation!

God has promised He will receive those who come to Him for rest.  He does not break His Word.  He does not lie.

God made a promise to Abraham. Since he had no one greater on whom to base his oath, he based it on himself. He said, “I will certainly bless you and give you many descendants.” So Abraham received what God promised because he waited patiently for it. When people take oaths, they base their oaths on someone greater than themselves. Their oaths guarantee what they say and end all arguments. God wouldn’t change his plan. He wanted to make this perfectly clear to those who would receive his promise, so he took an oath. God did this so that we would be encouraged. God cannot lie when he takes an oath or makes a promise. These two things can never be changed. Those of us who have taken refuge in him hold on to the confidence we have been given. (Hebrews 6:13-18, GW)

If you sincerely want to believe in Jesus as your Savior, know that He will not fail His promise.  His list includes everyone who receives His gift of salvation, a gift He willingly paid for us when He was on the cross dying for our sins.

The question is not whether or not Jesus is offering His free gift of salvation to you, but whether or not you will receive it.

“WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” (from Romans 10:13, NASB)

‘AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’ (Acts 2:21, NASB)

The Best Age

The best age for change . . .

is right now.

The best time for change . . .

is this moment.

Wherever you are, whoever who are, whatever you’re doing . . . wherever you’ve been, whoever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done . . .

Now is your chance.

“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14b, NIV)

Photograph by Jim Linwood, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/brighton/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on October 18, 2011 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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