When we are young, we are invincible; immortal, we will live forever, unscathed. Death, if we even recognize its existence is but a badly blurred picture on the horizon of our life that is itself just barely visible. As we age, there comes a time when that horizon is visible and the picture of our death becomes increasingly sharper in focus. Eventually, we come to the point where we embrace death.
Whether we have reached the point of embracing death or not, at some point in time we find ourselves asking what it means to die. There is of course, the physical definition of death that says that once the body ceases to function there is nothing else. On the surface this seems like a satisfactory answer to the question but, somehow it seems incomplete.
The apostle John quotes Jesus saying that our earthly death is not the end. He goes on to say that it is a beginning of the next phase of life – eternal life that all will experience.
Scripture tells us, however, that there will be a difference in the type of eternal life that will be experienced. For those who deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God their eternal life will be very different from those who do make this confession.
For the non-believer, he or she will experience an eternity separated from God, experiencing the wrath that Christ felt on the cross. There will not be any path of appeal to this sentence.
For the believer, however, life will be completely different. His or her life will be an eternity spent in the presence of God in which peace will be the order of the day and suffering will no longer exist.
Scripture: John 5:19-47
What does it mean to love?
God has much to say about the answer to this question in Scripture. For instance, He tells His children that they are to love Him with all their minds and hearts. He goes on to say that not only are they to love Him, they are also to love their neighbor, i.e. one another. He is not finished, however, for He tells husbands that they are to love their wives and conversely, that wives are to love their husbands and their children. He even tells them that they are to love their enemies!
We are told to love but again, what does it mean to love? How would we recognize the act of love?
We are able to recognize it because He first showed it to us when He loved us. He broke into man’s world and gave His only begotten Son, all that He had to give, as the final sacrifice for the satisfaction of the grief that out sins caused Him. Because He did this, husbands are able to place the wellbeing of their wives and children above their own. We are able to forgive the offense of a neighbor, treating that neighbor as if the offense never occurred.
The examples of love are all around you if you will but take the time to look for them.
Scripture: Proverbs 10:12
When was the last time that you went, glass in hand, to the water faucet, turned on the tap, and only muddy, foul, smelly water flowed out? It does happen, even in this country, but it is the exception rather than the rule for most of us. Clean, drinkable water is truly a blessing that comes from God. He made the water pure and gave the skills to some of His children to keep it that way when it flows into our glass.
The fact is, we take clean water, or any of the other blessings that He has bestowed on us, for granted. We even do this with one another. The fact is that far more times than we care to admit, we just don’t appreciate the blessings that God has bestowed upon us.
We are often reminded that we don’t truly appreciate something until we lose it. The Israelites were the perfect example of that statement. They bemoaned the loss of food and drink that they had while in captivity in Egypt. They complained bitterly, and often, until God restored what they needed for survival as opposed to what they wanted for comfort.
While the story of the Israelites in the Wilderness may be a bit extreme, it does illustrate the point that we should never take God’s blessing for granted – they just might disappear someday.
Scripture: James 1:17
THE JOY OF THE CHOCOLATE BUNNY
Never met anyone who did not like a creamy, milk chocolate bunny for Easter. Large, small; it doesn’t matter what size as long as it is sweet and melts in the mouth.
Easter morning is a lot like that delectable chocolate bunny. It is sweet and it brings great joy (without adding more pounds from the sugar). We dress up in our finest and we enjoy the fellowship of others who have done just as we’ve done. We pull out all of the “stops” in our worship of God, joyfully singing, praising Him and spending time in His Word.
So, why can’t we, don’t we, continue this sweetness and joy for the rest of the year? Maybe it’s because it is just too hard to keep this level of joy going. Perhaps what happens is that we just slip back into the problems of this sin-broken world often without realizing that we’ve done so. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily needs and pressures of life. We often run out of energy before we run out of day.
There is a solution to this problem that can be just as sweet as that chocolate Easter bunny. Why not turn over those things that weigh us done. Turn over to Him what you can’t, or don’t want, to handle. Ask Him to strengthen you, to give you patience, and for help in placing the priorities of your life where He would have them be.
Scripture: Psalm 16:11
THE GREATEST GIFT
Most people, over the span of their lifetime, have received that one very special gift that has left a permanent impression. The nature of that gift can be anything and is highly subjective, varying from person-to-person.
Perhaps what is important is not the gift itself, but rather the impression that it leaves on the receiver himself, or herself. As has been stated, the gift itself may be insignificant until it is coupled with a number of factors: the intent of the gift, the giver, the timing to recognize just a few of the possible factors that come with the gift.
Many consider Christmas to be the time when they’ve received that “greatest gift.” There is no doubt that Christmas is important, especially for the Christian. It is the time when we recognize that God has fulfilled His promise to send a Savior.
There is, however, one day that is far more important to the Christian than Christmas. That day – Easter. This is the day when your sins are forgiven and never to be recalled by God. You stand before Him in the state that He created man before the fall.
Can you think of any gift, no matter what type, that is more valuable than Easter?
Scripture: John 3:16
Your checkbook and credit card statements will show what is important and conversely, what is not. The order in which you spend your money and the amount spent say a lot about what is, and is not, important.
Matthew records the words of Jesus who states that “for where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He is speaking about storing riches in heaven as opposed to on earth where they can be taken away.
So, what do your financial statements tell you? Are you using the gifts that God has given you to glorify Him or to glorify yourself? One way to help answer this is to apply the 10/10/80 rule. The first 10% goes back to God, the next 10% goes to you (think savings) and the remaining 80% of your income pays for everything else that you need and/or want.
Scripture: Matthew 6:19-21
Spring Has Sprung
One of the beauties of God’s creation is the ever-changing rotation of the seasons. With each new day, each new season, God’s handiwork is displayed anew.
It has often been said that “I will only believe in God if you can prove that He exists.” For the Christian, there are a number of problems with this statement which follow from the fact that man cannot possibly prove the existence of his Creator any more than a piece of pottery can prove the existence of the one who made it.
The seasons, however, raise some interesting questions concerning the existence of God.
- Is it a cosmic accident that the crocus comes up the same time each year clothed in majestic colors?
- What causes the crabapple tree to be covered with beautiful blossoms?
- What is the source of the rain, or snow, that falls to nourish the earth?
- Who designed the process of conception that produces the newborn calf?
As much as man says that he is responsible and that he fully understands the mechanisms, it is only God that can make these things happen.
So, when you spot that first crocus bloom, don’t forget to take time to thank God for His handiwork.
Scripture: Psalm 104
Even a superficial reading of the Old Testament leaves one with the understanding that the basic unit of God’s structure for man is the family. Whether you are married or single, we all belong to a “family” of some type. The problem today is that those family relationships are being tested, and in far too many instances, broken. This is a problem with long-term consequences.
God intended the family, marital or otherwise, as the place where values are taught, where love is expressed, where there is safety, to name just a few of the facets of family life. It is a place that is bathed in love.
Each of us is a tablet upon which the other members of our family can write. When the family is intact, strong, and functioning well what is written is always couched in love. When the family is broken the messages are couched in anything but love.
The only way to keep the messages that are written on the tablets of our loves ones positive is to keep the bounds of the family intact. Can you live with strangers writing on the tablets of your loved ones with messages that are contrary to what you know should be written?
If not, then work at keeping your family healthy. Solve the problems that arise, don’t walk away from them only to carry that baggage into your next relationship.
Popular wisdom states that a couple should enter marriage wearing rose-colored glasses so as to not see the imperfections in their spouse. Perhaps we’ve got this backwards.
Over the years, experience has shown that it would be better, and healthier, for the marriage for both parties if they began with an honest appraisal of their spouse – warts and all. As the normal events of a new marriage unfold, and we learn to live with those imperfections, then it is time to don the glasses so that we can look past the flaws and concentrate on the good things that attracted us to our spouse.
The truth is that we are all sinners and no matter how much we love our spouse, he/she, like us, is going, to be flawed by sin. The consequence of that flaw is that we will fight, we will say angry things, and we will go to bed angry even though we shouldn’t. It says that there will be difficult days in the life of our marriage. This is a natural outcome of two sinful, loving people living in intimate contact with one another.
However, when we re-read what Paul has to say concerning the roles of a husband and wife in the marriage, obedience to what he has written automatically demands that we don the rose-colored glasses.
Have you got yours on and how are they fitting these days?
Scripture: Ephesians 5:15-32
That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine
That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine is a song that dates back to the early 30’s, co-written by Gene Autry and Jimmy Long. It’s the lament of a son for the difficulties that he caused his father in growing up. He recognizes that it’s too late to atone for what he had done to his father. He wishes that God could give him back the time that he lost so that he could do things differently but he knows that that’s a futile request.
Could “he” be you? In recalling your relationship with your father, or mother, do you lament not having been a better son or daughter? Everyone has some things that we wished that we had done better, or kinder, or more gracefully. That’s just a part of being an adult.
The point is this: we only have one chance before time moves on and the opportunity to correct a mistake is gone, never to return. So, don’t waste it. Keep in mind that the four most important and powerful words in the English language are these: “I’m sorry” and “forgive me.”
Scripture: Exodus 20:12