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!

The Fruitful Life

whyI like to be effective in everything I do. I want to know that my efforts are influencing or helping others to be their very best. It always brings me great joy when I can look back and see that I was able to pour into someone and help them.

As believers we should find that same joy in living a fruitful Christian life. In 2 Peter 1.5-8 the great Apostles says:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter tells us to live a life growing or increasing in moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. When this is happening, we will be living a fruitful life in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Living in “true knowledge” means living in the facts of how Jesus says we should live.

One of our best witnesses, as believers in Christ, is to live a fruitful life. A life that has been changed from the inside out always gets people’s attention. Eventually they will ask why the major change in your life, which leads to an opportunity to tell them about God’s love as demonstrated through the sacrifice of Jesus.

So, make an effort to live out who you really are in Jesus. Someone full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. And just wait, someone is going to notice and ask you “WHY?” Then the overwhelming joy of a fruitful life will guide you as you tell YOUR story of how you met Jesus and are now living for Him!

A Memorial of Love

Love Is the Cross-powerpointI have always wanted to go to Washington, DC and see the many memorials honoring different people or events throughout the history of the United States. Personally, I would like to see the Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and the WWII Memorials. These memorials and museums offer a glimpse back in time. They may not be able to take you back to the events, but they can help give you a better understanding of history.

In all of creation there is no greater memorial of God’s love than the cross. Whenever we are struggling we can always look to the cross and be reminded of God’s unconditional love for all those who are His children. The cross is our hope, confidence, and peace that we have passed from death unto life. At the cross all our sins have been judged and now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

At the cross we see God’s love as His wrath for our sin is poured out upon Jesus. Why? Because Jesus not only died for us, but he also died because of us! He took upon Himself the punishment for our sin. Now, when we believe in His finished work upon the cross and commit our lives to Him, we will have forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven.

Regardless of the struggles, pains, or uncertainties we face in this life we need simply look to the cross to be reminded of God’s surpassing love. The cross moves our perspective from the temporal to the eternal, from the earthly to the heavenly, from the painful to the peaceful!

As we move into this Memorial Day weekend, let’s be sure to remember LOVE IS THE CROSS!

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.

Tears of Joy

William 0 monthsI can still remember the day my son was born. I had been praying for him for twenty-four years and now  he was finally here! The nurse had just finished wrapping him up when she said, “Mr. Pittenger, would you like to hold your son?” I nodded my head yes with tears of joy streaming down my face. The joy I felt that day was more than I could ever have thought or imagined.

On January 20, 2013 I had the privilege of baptizing my son. He had chosen that dateWilliam Baptism because it was the same day I was baptized in 1974. I had started praying for his salvation way back in 1980 when I was 16, and now at the age of 48 I was seeing the fruit of all those prayers. I baptized him and as he came up out of the water once again my eyes were filled with tears of joy—uncontrollable JOY!

Today was special day at church. Pastor Alex Himaya explained in simple terms the importance of baptism and salvation. At the end of the service he invited anyone who accepted Christ or who had never been baptized to do so today. I watched as 23 people made a public commitment to follow Christ through Believer’s Baptism! I saw people whose eyes were filled with tears of joy as their loved ones were baptized.

tC BaptismAs I left church today I was overcome with tears of joy from seeing so many people join the family of God. I don’t know any of their names, where they live, or what they do for a living, but I do know they are my family—my eternal family!

Thank you Jesus for such a wonderful gift that produces beautiful tears of joy!

LOVE IS A VERY SPLENDID THING

Love is a very splendid thing

It has been said that “love is a very splendid thing.”

Of the endless list of splendid things I could say of my love, Shirley, one that comes to mind today is all the love and care she has put in over the years to record our lives in pictures. We have a cabinet full of photo albums that hold the treasure of our journey together.Cabinet of Photo Albums

Every once in a while we will pull out an album, sit side-by-side, and look through the pictures and talk about our memories of each picture and how much fun we had. When we finish that album, usually one of the three of us will suggest looking at another specific vacation or event. The pictures are a reminder of the love, joy, happiness, adventure, fun, and laughter we have had throughout the years. It also reminds us of how far we have come over the last 22 years.Family Photo Albums

The love and anticipation that we felt when we stood at the altar and exchanged vows doesn’t compare to that which we have now. Why? Because now we have experienced the events of life that have been built upon the foundation of the love and anticipation we felt all those years ago. We now have hindsight into what it took to get to this point.

It is remembering that in all the joy and sorrow, happiness and sadness, peace and pain, accomplishments and failures, hopes and disappointments that we can make it through together until death do us part.

There is another picture album I like to look through when individually I am struggling—it’s the Bible.

In the Bible I see one picture after another where the grace of God empowered and equipped men and women just like me to accomplish great things, even in the midst of fear, pain, and tragedy.

Some of the pictures of grace I see are:
• God’s grace upon Adam and Eve after they sinned. (Genesis 3)
• God’s grace upon Cain after he killed Abel. (Genesis 4)
• God’s grace upon Noah of wisdom for the message to preach and how to build the ark. (Genesis 6)
• God’s grace upon Moses to be able to speak and stay humble in the midst of great victories. (Exodus)
• God’s grace upon David to go from shepherd to king. (I Samuel 16)
• God’s grace upon the 12 disciples to leave their possessions, follow Jesus, overcome fear, preach the Word, spread the good news of Christ, and endure martyrdom. (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts)

Regardless of what we are going through, we can pick up the Bible and find pictures of God’s grace being poured into the lives of His children to help them through every possible challenge.

God’s grace still empowers believers today, just as it did those in Biblical times.

God’s grace is truly amazing. But not only is God’s grace amazing, it is also timeless.  In tomorrow’s post, we will explore 1 Corinthians 1.4-9 and see pictures of God’s Timeless Grace.

What challenges have you walked through where you found God’s grace poured out into your life? What struggles are you currently going through that you need an extra measure of God’s grace to help get you through?

God’s Timeless Grace is Part 2 in the Sermon Series Church 101: A Study of 1 Corinthians at Living Oaks Baptist Church in Tulsa, OK.

Join us at 10:45 AM each Sunday for contemporary music and worship as we continue the series Church 101.Saving a seat for you

Living Oaks Baptist Church 8855 E 91st St
Tulsa, OK 74133

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.