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!

Mercy in Disguise

heaven-jesus-father-holy-spiritAs a kid I always loved singing the song “When We All Get to Heaven.” Even as a six-year-old I looked forward to the day when Heaven was a present reality. I looked forward to spending eternity with family, friends, and most of all with Jesus. I can still remember the joy that would fill my little heart every time we sang the words, “When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.”

After fifty-one years of experience in living, I have a whole new appreciation for Heaven. I long to be with Jesus, be like Him, and spend eternity worshipping Him with a pure and holy heart. I look forward to all traces of my sinful nature being removed so that I never again have to confess my sin and repent of my rebellion. I long for the day when this incarceration in human flesh will end, and I shall awake in the beautiful, glorious, radiant presence of Almighty God. That will truly be a day of singing and shouting the final victory!

I also look forward to the day when there will be no more suffering. Personally, I do not like to suffer, nor do I like watching others try desperately to make it through trying times. There are many verses in the Bible that are meant to comfort us during the testing of our soul. One such verse is 1 Peter 5.10, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Did you catch that? “After you have suffered for a little while…” That is the key phrase that gives most of us trouble. Our  idea of “a little while” and God’s never seems to match. I think “a little while” means five seconds or less; whereas, God’s idea is usually quite a bit longer. The distance between these two ideas have caused many to turn away from God and venture out in life on their own.

As a Christian, we are to have a different outlook on suffering. Is it easy? No! Nevertheless, we should allow suffering to create in us a greater desire for the day when we finally see Jesus. Not too long ago on my way to church I heard the ending of a song that caught my attention. It is by Laura Story entitled “Blessings.” Here are the closing words, “What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy.  What if trials of this life—The rain, the storms, the hardest nights—Are your mercies in disguise.” What a beautiful view of suffering.

The thirst that suffering creates in our heart is a longing to get to Heaven and spend eternity with Jesus. Suffering in this life should drive our hearts to long for the day when there will be no more difficulty, discomfort, distress, disappointment, discouragement, depression, debt, divorce, disease, or death. Suffering in the life of a Christian should produce a deep longing to leave this place we are visiting and go to our eternal home in Heaven. It is there we will live in the perfect peace of our Savior, our Lord, and our God!

I hope you enjoy “Blessings” by Laura Story.

One of Those Days!

outrageous loveHave you ever had one of those days when you feel all alone? You don’t feel close to anyone. It’s like you’re the only person on the planet even though you’re surrounded by a multitude of people. These feelings usually continue down the path of doubt. You doubt your importance, your worth, or even if anyone loves you. You’re alone, hurting, and feel like there is no one who cares that you are alive.

Sometimes you might be led down the path of confusion. You are suffering in so many different ways that you can’t imagine life ever getting better. This usually leads to wondering if the trials are because of something you’ve done. Confusion leads to questions you already know the answer to: “Are things so difficult because I’ve made God angry?” “Is this punishment for not going to church, giving, serving, reading my Bible, or praying enough?” “Does God really love me?” It is not uncommon for those who have suffered for a long period of time to be confused. You are so tired, weary, and worn that nothing makes sense, so you begin to wonder “What have I done to bring this pain upon myself?”

I believe the paths of doubt and confusion are two trails Satan has cut off the beaten path of faith to cause us to question God’s love. Just like Eve in the garden, Satan is still asking questions to cause us to misinterpret God’s Word and forget His promises. He wants us to believe we’re all alone so we’ll try to solve our problems on our own. He wants us depending on self instead of the Savior.

If you’re having one of the those days and about to leave the path of faith, stop and remember the cross. There is no greater sign of love in all of creation than the cross of Christ. God’s outrageous love for you was proven at the cross. At the cross your sin-debt was paid in full. At the cross anything that could bring condemnation upon you was placed upon Jesus. At the cross we can see that our suffering in this life should make us long for eternal life in heaven all the more.

So, if you’re having one of those days, know that our trials, troubles, and tribulations are not a sign of God’s displeasure. They are a sign that we live in a sinfully fallen world that will eventually end. When this world comes to an end, those who are believers in Christ will be ushered into one eternally long peaceful day where we dwell in the presence and love of God!

Then I saw a new Heaven and a new earth, for the first Heaven and the first earth had disappeared and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride dressed in beauty for her husband. Then I heard a great voice from the throne crying, “See! The home of God is with men, and he will live among them. They shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death shall be no more, and never again shall there be sorrow or crying or pain. For all those former things are past and gone.” Then he who is seated upon the throne said, “See, I am making all thing new!” (Revelation 21.1-5)

“Homesick for Heaven” by Randy Alcorn

Seeing the UnseenThis book by Randy Alcorn has become a source of great encouragement this year. In a fast-paced world it is not uncommon for us to get too focused on the here and now. “Seeing the Unseen: A Daily Dose of Eternal Perspective” helps redirect my thoughts to my real home—HEAVEN! Everything God has created is good, but it has been given to us as a gift to draw our attention to the Giver, the Creator, to God Himself. This book will help keep your mind focused on the eternal.

I would recommend adding this book to your library.

On “Day 10” Alcorn writes:

When I travel, I find particular joy in those places that remind me of my lifelong home in Oregon. Likewise, one of the greatest joys that Christian pilgrims find in this world is in those moments when it reminds them of Heaven, their true home they’ve read about and dreamed of. They live with the exhilarating assurance that at this very moment their beloved Savior is making it ready for them.

The Bible tells us we are pilgrims, strangers, aliens and ambassadors working far from home. Our citizenship is in Heaven. But we’ve become so attached to this world that we live for the wrong kingdom. We forget our true home, built for us by our Bridegroom.

Nothing is more often misdiagnosed than our homesickness for Heaven. We think that what we want is money, sex, drugs, alcohol, a new job, a raise, a doctorate, a spouse, a large-screen television, a new car, a vacation. What we really want is the Person we were made for, Jesus, and the place we were made for, Heaven. Nothing less can satisfy us. “Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts” (Isaiah 26:8).

Perspectives from God’s Word

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2–3).

“My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

Perspectives from God’s People

“To come to Thee is to come home from exile, to come to land out of the raging storm, to come to rest after long labour, to come to the goal of my desires and the summit of my wishes.” —Charles Spurgeon

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” —C. S. Lewis More

Watch the video Homesick for Heaven: www.epm.org/homesick

Source: Seeing the Unseen: A Daily Dose of Eternal Perspective by Randy Alcorn

Are You Ready?

I have been reading through David Jeremiah’s book “Searching for Heaven on Earth.” It is a thirty-one day study through the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. This is my second time to read the book; nevertheless, every day I find new truths for life that makes living here on earth that much more enjoyable.

I pray that this passage from chapter eight will cause you to think deeply about where you will spend eternity. People often say they are afraid of death, but what they should really be afraid of is their being judged by Almighty God. Are you ready to meet the Judge?

In recent years, doctors and social scientists have been studying deathbed scenes and interviewing people who have had near-death experiences. Dr. Maurice Rawlings, a Chattanooga cardiologist, has written about his research. He observes that death survivors tell us that the moment of death is absolutely painless, regardless of every instinct we have about it. “Feels like fainting,” survivors say, or “like a missed heartbeat” or “a lost breath.” Many have a sense of their souls leaving their bodies on a tranquil voyage down what seems to be a tunnel. But not all the stories have happy endings. Dr. Rawlings was an agnostic and a cynic when something happened to him that changed his life. One day he was examining the heart of a forty-eight-year-old mail carrier named Charles McKaig, from LaFayette, Georgia. McKaig was on the treadmill when his heart monitor became erratic, then flatlined. Surprisingly, Charlie continued to talk for a moment, unaware that his heart had stopped. Four or five seconds later, he looked suddenly dumbfounded. Then his eyes rolled up in his head and he fell, the treadmill sweeping his body away like so much trash, as Dr. Rawlings later put it. Rawlings immediately began applying CPR. As Charlie’s heart began beating, he screamed, “Don’t stop! I’m in hell! I’m in hell!” Rawlings thought the man was having hallucinations. But Charlie continued, “For God’s sake, don’t stop! Don’t you understand? Every time you let go, I’m back in hell.” Charlie begged Rawlings to pray for him, but Rawlings told him to shut up. “I’m a doctor,” he said, “not a minister.” The nurses gave Dr. Rawlings such terrible looks that even while applying CPR he said, “All right. Say it! Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Go on and say it.” Charlie said those words, and a strange thing happened. He was no longer a wide-eyed, screaming, combative lunatic. He was relaxed and calm and cooperative. He survived the experience, a changed man from that moment on. He went on to live a committed Christian life. The experience shook Rawlings deeply. He began a long-term study into near-death experiences, and out of his research Rawlings himself became a Christian. What he discovered in his research is that near-death experiences are often horrifyingly negative and terror filled when the person has no relationship with God. Dr. Rawlings summed up his findings, saying, “Most people are deathly afraid of dying. They say, ‘Doctor, I’m afraid of dying.’ But I have never heard one of them say, ‘Doctor, I’m afraid of judgment.’ And judgment is the main concern of patients who have been there and returned to tell about it.” We need to be careful about building our theology on the ambiguity of near-death incidents. Even so, it is interesting that such information often harmonizes with what the Bible tells us. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,” says Hebrews 9:27. And one chapter later we read this sobering verse: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).