It’s Just a Wedding Ring!

This Saturday Shirley and I will celebrate twenty-three years of marriage. I remember back in 2004 when we were celebrating our ten-year anniversary. Over the previous few months she had been trying to convince me that I needed to buy her a ten-year wedding ring to mark this special occasion. My reply had been consistently the same during the six months leading up to our anniversary, “I gave you a ring when we were married so I don’t think you need another one.” I know that may seem mean to some of you, but that ring had special meaning to me. As the months went on, I kept up my resolve to not buy her a ring, well, at least in front of her. Secretly, I had been putting money away so that I could get her the anniversary present she wanted. Shirley had no idea what was coming that special night.

I remember we were sitting in the restaurant talking about how wonderful the past ten years had been together. We made it through college; we were serving God at a wonderful church; we had a nice house; two dependable cars; we were healthy, happy, and deeply in love with each other. To make things even better, Shirley was pregnant. Doctors had told us just a few years before we wouldn’t be able to have children and yet here we sat on our ten-year anniversary just months away from our first child’s birth. Life was great!

After dinner we continued to talk about all the wonderful things we had experienced together, and I slid the box with the ring across the table and told Shirley how much I loved her.  She immediately started crying, put the ring on, jumped up from the table, and started hugging and kissing me right there in front of everyone! She was overjoyed.

For her the ring was a symbol of my love for her. She didn’t love the ring but was grateful for what the ring stood for—my unconditional love and commitment to her. The rest of the week she was showing off her new ring. She never said to people, “I am so in love with this ring” or “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with this ring” or even “This ring has made me the happiest person in the world.” Instead, she was saying things like, “I am so in love with Bob and look forward to spending the rest of my life with Him. Being married to him has made me the happiest person in the world.” She understood the ring was a token of my love. It is a constant reminder that regardless of what comes our way I will always be by her side until death do us part.

I share this story because it taught me a wonderful truth about God and heaven. I often hear people talk about how great it will be to go to heaven. They talk about its beauty and splendor and about how there will be no more pain, suffering, sickness, separation, or sorrow. They eagerly anticipate seeing their loved ones once again. They go on and on talking about heaven when the truth is it is just the wedding ring!

Heaven is going to be great not because of the streets of gold, the pearly gates, or getting to spend forever with our loved ones. Heaven will be unbelievably satisfying because we will be in the presence of God forever. We will be able to behold our Savior. We will be holy and righteous before Him. We will spend eternity with our one true love. Heaven will be great because we get God!

Heaven, like my wife’s anniversary ring, is simply an expression of God’s love for us. We won’t fall in love with heaven, we won’t develop a relationship with heaven, nor will we worship and glorify heaven. We will love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We will develop an ever-deepening relationship with our Lord. And we will worship and glorify Him without end!

I am thankful that Jesus is preparing such a special place for me to spend eternity; however, I am overwhelmed at the promise of spending eternity with the one who gave everything so that I will get eternity with Him!

Why Practice Spiritual Disciplines?

whyIn Donald Whitney’s post “Remember, Every Spiritual Discipline Is About Jesus” he asks and answers some great questions.

Whitney writes:

Why pray when it appears that your prayers go unanswered? Why keep on reading the Bible when it seems like you’re getting little from it? Why continue worshiping God privately when you feel no spiritual refreshment? Why persist in keeping a journal when writing your entries bores you? Why engage in fasting, silence and solitude, serving, and other spiritual disciplines when you sense meager benefits from doing so?

It’s easy to forget the real purpose of anything that’s as habitual as the activities of the spiritual life. And purposeless spiritual practices soon become . . .

To continue reading follow this link to The Center for Biblical Spirituality.

 

I Don’t Know What to Do!

Prayer (2)Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t know what to do?  You’ve tried to straighten things out but regardless of your efforts things seem hopeless. All you want is relief, so you ask the simple question, “Now what do I do?”

In 2 Chronicles 20, Jerusalem is surrounded, and Jehoshaphat knows that he is powerless to stop the enemy. What did he do? In 20.6-11, he reminds God of all His promises and then in 20.12 he prays, “…we know not what to do, but our eyes are on you!” He didn’t look at the size of his problem, he looked to the One Who is greater than any problem and trusted Him to take care of everything.

Jehoshaphat gives us a great example to follow. Before trying to fix things, put out fires, or clear our name we need to pray, “Father, I don’t know what to do but I am looking to You.”  This prayer reminds me of a song we sang growing up:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

It is amazing how simply looking to Jesus puts everything into perspective.

Don’t know what you’re going to do next? Try looking to Jesus!

I’m Bored!

Life LinesI’m bored! It isn’t often that I’m able to take two days off in a row, but this week everything fell into place and I am off work today and tomorrow. The problem is I AM BORED! I have already completed my list of things to do today. I’ve finished the laundry, taken out the trash, paid the bills, balanced our accounts, completed my bible study, and had my prayer time. It is only noon and I just don’t know what to do next.

There are several things I would like to do, but I just can’t seem to get excited about them. I don’t feel like watching television, Netflix, or renting a movie. If the sun would come out I might consider golfing. I could get online and check out the posted Black Friday sales, but I like going first thing Thanksgiving morning to buy a paper, looking through the deals, and then drawing up a plan of how to put my head into the mouth of the retail lion that is Black Friday! I could also go over to the mall and try to get my Christmas shopping done early; however, my son’s list is anemic at best and I don’t want to have to make two trips, so I’ll just wait until later. I just don’t have anything to do, so I AM BORED!

So, in my boredom I began to think about what it must have been like a hundred years ago when you worked from dark to dark. You had to get up before the sun, get the fire going in the house, go out and feed the animals, milk the cows, collect the eggs, get the horses ready for working in the field, and then you could sit down and enjoy a quick breakfast. After breakfast you worked out in the field until someone brought you lunch. After your short lunch-break you would get back to work until dusk. Then you had to get the animals back into the barn, feed them, and make sure they would stay warm over night. Then you had to collect enough firewood to get you through the cold winter night, fill the lantern so you could see in the morning, and then sit down for a quick dinner. Following dinner you would spend some time with the family. Then finally it was time for bed to get a few hours sleep in preparation for another day of what you just did today, yesterday, and everyday before that!

I wonder what it was like to live that type of life? What was it like to live life knowing your survival meant doing the same thing every day? That’s when it hit me, “I know exactly what it was like.” It was SATISFYING! Without a doubt it was hard work, but to sit down at night and see the work you had completed with your hands had to be satisfying. Think about it, a creative God made us; thus it only stands to reason that we are creative beings. We find satisfaction in completing things. They may not always be easy or even what we want to do, but there is great satisfaction in marking something off your to do list. Regardless of whether you point to a white board, type on a computer, farm, or run a machine all day it is satisfying to know that you made a difference.

I spend way too much time at work each week for it to only be something I do so that I can have money to spend on my 24-48 hour weekend of “Me Time!” Life as a whole should be satisfying from Sunday through Saturday. Looking back each evening at the work of our hands should bring a smile to our face and sense of accomplishment. “Look what I was able to do today!”

It may not be working a farm, it may not have anything to do with our surviving another day, but today I finished several things that will ensure my wife has plenty of free time tomorrow to do what she wants. And, for better or worse, I wrote this post. It’s not long, it’s not deep, but it is something to think about. And that is SATISFYING!

So, what have you done today that has brought a little smile of satisfaction to your face?

What Is Our Goal on Sunday Mornings?

Graceway MediaI came across this article over the weekend and wanted to share it.

What should be the goal of our preaching and singing together on Sunday mornings?

Should preachers try to have the clearest, most engaging, entertaining
message they can? Should the worship team seek to have the coolest arrangement,
the most passionate singing, the most exciting sound?

These things are not necessarily bad in themselves, but they are not the
goal of our Sunday mornings. Jonathan Leeman shares this great illustration in
his book Reverberation:

A group of American Christians in the nineteenth century planned to visit London for a week. Their friends, excited for the opportunity, encouraged them to go hear
two of London’s famous preachers and bring back a report. On Sunday morning
after their arrival, the Americans attended Joseph Parker’s church. They
discovered that his reputation for eloquent oratory was well deserved. One
exclaimed after the service, “I do declare, it must be said, for there is no
doubt, that Joseph Parker is the greatest preacher that ever there was!”

The group wanted to return in the evening to hear Parker again, but they remembered that their friends would ask them about another preacher named Charles Spurgeon. So on Sunday evening they attended the Metropolitan Tabernacle, where Spurgeon was preaching. The group was not prepared for what they heard, and as they departed, one of them again spoke up, “I do declare, it must be said, for there is no doubt, that Jesus Christ is the greatest Savior that ever there was!”

Here is the goal of our preaching and singing together on Sunday mornings:
That we proclaim Jesus Christ, our glorious Savior and all he has done for us,
and urge everyone to respond to him appropriately.

When people leave our churches tomorrow, may they not say, “What moving
worship, what a great worship band, what an incredible preacher, or what a cool
building” but may they say, “What an incredible Savior.”

(Written by Mark Altrogge)

How different would the world view the church if the only purpose for church every Sunday was to simply lift up and glorify the name of Jesus?

Child-like Faith

And Jesus said,
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child
shall not enter it.” (Mark 10.15 ESV)

A few weeks ago we were watching a story on the evening news about a
car that had hit a motorcycle.  The motorcycle was on fire, and its rider was trapped under the car.  The flames were consuming the bike and had spread to the engine of the car, and yet, people were desperately trying to get the young man out from under the car, thus putting their own lives in danger. Dozens of people rushed to the car, lifted it up so that another man could pull the injured rider to safety, set the car down, and backed away from the dangerous fire.  It was an act of selfless heroism.

 As I sat in my recliner watching this unfold I just kept saying, “That is unbelievable!  In today’s world you just don’t expect people to react like that.” I was truly pleasantly surprised that people would rally together, put their lives in jeopardy, and then do what was necessary to save someone else’s life.  No sooner had the words left my mouth when my seven-year-old son said, “Dad, isn’t it great that God sent all those people to help that man!”  Needless to say, I now was speechless.  Child-like faith has a way of putting things into perspective.

 In Mark 10:15, Jesus tells us to enter His Kingdom we need child-like faith.  Children believe what we tell them.  The Bible says God is gracious, merciful, kind, loving, generous, our defender, supplier, and meets all our needs.  In spite of this, adults tend to get caught up looking at the problem instead of the problem solver.  We end up focusing on the seen rather than unseen.  We walk by sight rather than by faith.  Children do not have that problem–they simply believe what they are taught and walk by pure faith.

 As you go about your day, keep your eyes of faith open to see the wonders which God is working all around you. You never know, it might be your hands that God uses to rescue someone from perishing.

The Way to a Peaceful Mind

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4.4-9 ESV).