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!

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!

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…

Love is...Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends…13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13.4-8, 13)

Which Jesus Will You Choose?

drapedOnTheCrosstitleWhen you think about how excited the crowds were as Jesus triumphantly entered the city of Jerusalem on Psalm Sunday, it is hard to believe the way they demanded His crucifixion just five days later. What could have happened that would change public opinion so drastically? Why did they choose Barabbas over Jesus? The Savior they were looking for was within their midst, and yet they chose someone else. Why? Answers to these questions can be found in our Easter Sunday sermon, “Which Jesus Will You Choose?

I hope you will take the time to listen to the message and then examine your own life to see which Jesus you have chosen to follow. To hear the message please follow this link: “Which Jesus Will You Choose?

Come Drink the Water of Life

water of lifeI love to hear others talk about how they came to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Their stories always cause me to reflect on that day thirty-nine years ago when I became a child of God. They also remind me that we are never so far gone that God’s grace cannot reach us, we have never committed so great a sin that His mercy cannot forgive us, nor have we ever fallen so far from our walk with Him that His love will not restore us.

Regardless of what you have done, the new life in Christ is within your reach. Call out to Him and He will offer you life-giving water. This water brings an abundant life of joy and peace; even in the midst of a terrible tempest you will be able to rest knowing that Jesus is always with you.

This morning Ray Comfort shared part of his testimony on his Facebook page. I think he painted a beautiful picture of how Christ Jesus brought him to life.  I hope this blesses your heart as it did mine.

Comfort writes:

I love the scene in the movie “Ben Hur” where a Roman soldier is marching condemned galley-slaves through the desert. They stop in Nazareth for a break, but as the thirsty slaves are being given water, the head honcho says that Judah Ben Hur wasn’t to have a drop.  Judah collapses on the ground and gasps “God help me…”  Suddenly, a shadow comes over him and a hand gently lifts his weary head from …the dirt, and pours water into his parched lips.  I have watched that scene numerous times and have never failed to sob like a child, because what I see is so similar to what happened to me in my conversion experience. At the age of 20, I began to think deeply about life. I was very successful, financially secure, extremely happy, healthy,  I was my own boss, had a loving and beautiful wife…and I was suddenly very aware that, despite all my happiness, I was waiting around to die.  It seemed that the whole of humanity was in a long line, moving closer and closer to a 1000 foot cliff, and was, one-by-one, jumping off to their death. It was as though everyone accepted the inevitability of it, and so no one was trying to get out of line. So I, ever so reluctantly, stood in line and waited for my turn. At the age of 22 I heard the gospel for the first time. I am not exaggerating to say that I was like Ben Hur laying hopelessly in the dirt, and Jesus turned my head and poured the waters of life into my parched lips. I cannot express the relief and joy I found when I received the gift of everlasting life. To try and explain it to a non-Christian is like trying to explain light to a man who has been born blind.  To use another somewhat lacking analogy, it’s like looking at a crying newly delivered baby. You know what he is crying for, so you put him on the mother’s breast, and he immediately stops crying. He is suddenly gratified. He was born with an instinct to suckle, but he had no idea what he was looking for because he had never experienced it before. I had no idea that in my darkness I was searching for light, until I found it in Jesus Christ (see John 8:31-32).  He is the one who said “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” And Jesus is the only one who can say, “… whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13).
To learn more about receiving Christ’s life-giving water,visit www.NeedGod.com or read God’s Purpose for You.