Monday, June 30, 2014

Stay Strong

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I’ve been a Christ follower now for over 45 years. Let me tell you, I’ve seen more than a few changes in our culture. It has gotten darker, more menacing, and more cynical than ever. Along with that, there’s internet porn, materialism gone amuck, celebrity worship, and insistence on instant gratification. Let’s not forget the scandals; clergy scandals, teacher scandals, politician scandals, and more. All of these things have contributed to a general fear of the future. They are like toxins that have poisoned the cultural air that we breathe. How is it possible to survive, much less have an impact on our culture? 

That is where the Bible speaks directly to our hearts. It reminds us that a focus on our own strength ends in weakness, but a focus on the Lord, and His Word, will end in strength. 

How is that possible, you ask? Because the Word leads us to repentance. Like David of old, we cry out, “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” [Psalm 51:7].  

When we have that kind of confidence in God, we rest in Him. And when we find our rest in the Lord, we will be strong—to the very end! 

God will keep you strong to the very end. Then you will be without blame on the day our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 1 Corinthians 1:8

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dependent On A Great God

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I’m not an artist, nor do I have the slightest understanding of the subject. When I was in Jr. High School, Art was a required subject for graduation. I was failing the class when my teacher sent me to the office thinking that I was purposefully messing up my assignments. She knew I was a straight-A student and didn’t think there was a legitimate reason for my failure. 

Believe it or not, I had to sit with the school psychologist for a couple of weeks while I endured a series of tests. She recorded what I already knew, Art was not for me! So they allowed me to take an extra music class to satisfy the Art requirement.

That’s why I have some serious questions for legitimate artists, especially those grand artists of the past. For example, when did Michelangelo know that the Sistine Chapel was perfect, and that it was time to stop working on it? How in the world did Leonardo da Vinci know that he got Mona Lisa’s smile just right? Or how about Rodin? When did he know that he shouldn’t add another pound of bronze for the casting of The Thinker? It really is amazing what mere mortals can do. 

It’s even harder trying to grasp how God, in creating the universe, came to the conclusion that one more star would be too many, or one less star would be insufficient. Not only that, but the Scriptures declares that He gave each of them a name. Mind boggling! 

A Christ follower is truly blessed to be dependent on such a One. This great God gave His Son to redeem us from our sins. This great God gives assurance of His providential care. This great God constantly reminds us in the Sacred Text that He loves us, and that nothing, absolutely nothing, is able to dislodge us from the clutch of His deep love for us.

Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out one after another, calling each by its name. And he counts them to see that none are lost or have strayed away. Isaiah 40:26

Monday, June 23, 2014

Promises, Promises

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I’d really like for you to be honest with me. If I were to say to you, “Hey, Bill [pretend your name is Bill], I’m going to die this Friday. And, oh, by the way, I’ll come back from the dead and pay you a visit on Monday,” what would you think? Would you be kind and say, “Rick is a little off today and needs to adjust his medication?” Or would you be brutally honest and say, “Rick has completely lost his mind?” Truth be told, I’m guessing you picked option 2. 

Now, what would you think if Friday came and, sure enough, Rick was in the obituary of your local newspaper. And, lo and behold, on Monday, I came by your house to join you for dinner. Now I’m guessing you’d really be amazed, or pretty much scared out of your wits. But there is one thing you would have to admit, Rick kept his promise.  

That was a poor parable because it would be laughable of me to make such a claim. But that is exactly what Jesus said, and DID! 

There is a great truth here, and it’s one that I cling to desperately: You can trust each and every promise that Jesus made. He said our sins are forgiven, and they are! He said He will always be with us, and He is! He said that He is presently preparing a place for us in heaven so that we can be with Him forever, and we will! You can count on it, Jesus will keep His promises—every one of them! 

How do I know that? Because He rose from the dead, just like He said He would do. 

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple He had spoken of was His body. After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. John 2:19-22

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Start Your Week Fear Free

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

We needed a perfect Savior and we got Him. His name is Jesus. He had to be human as we needed a Savior who could submit Himself to, and fulfill the Law of God perfectly. He had to be human so that He could experience death for each of us. And Jesus, sharing in our humanity, did just that.

But we also needed more than a mere “earthling” to be the perfect Savior; we needed one who is truly God. That perfect Savior must suffer a death that would count for all people. Jesus did that just as John said, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. [1 John 2:2]. Not only that, but a mere man could not overcome death, but God certainly can, and DID! Jesus did overcome death because He was “very God of very God.”

And one final thing; we needed a Savior who could defeat the very powers of evil. Our precious Jesus did that too. John wrote, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil [1 John 3:8b]. He is the true God who destroyed Satan and his death grip on us.
Today starts a new week. Live today, and every day, without fear of sin, death or evil.  Jesus, your perfect Savior, has freed you from their power.

Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15

Friday, June 20, 2014

Jesus is Different

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I started a business many years ago, and so did Bill Gates. Who would you go to for business advice? I have invested money in the Stock Market, and so has Warren Buffet. Who would you go to for investment advice? 

There are many teachers and preachers in the world today. Jesus taught and preached. There are some who think there is little difference between the two, or they think Jesus was above average at teaching and preaching, thus gaining in popularity. That may be the rationale for thinking that we don’t have to regard Jesus differently than any other preacher, teacher. When He says something I agree with, then I’m all ears. But when He says something that is difficult or goes against my way of thinking, then I can disregard it. Frankly, there are too many selective listeners, and doers, of Christ’s teaching.

Jesus said He came to rescue the “lost” of the world. He can do that because He was more than merely a popular teacher. He said He was the Son of God—God in flesh. The Bible highlights that point by describing what Jesus did; preaching and teaching the Good News of the kingdom, and healing people from sickness and disease. 

Jesus was no ordinary teacher. He repeatedly, and consistently, said that He spoke only what His Father wanted Him to speak. Even the religious leaders of His day recognized it. They said that Jesus “taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” [Matthew 7:29].

We are human. Jesus was human. But thankfully, we are not the same. We are sinful humans in need of a Savior. Jesus was sinless and had/has the power to save. I’m grateful He saved me. I say, “Hallelujah!” What do you say? 

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. Matthew 4:23

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You Gotta Have Hope

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Part of the lyrics from Peggy Lee’s 1959 hit song, “(You Gotta Have) Heart” says, 

You gotta have hope
Mustn't sit around and mope
Nothing's half as bad as it may appear
Wait'll next year and hope

She’s right, you know; “you gotta have hope!” Who wants to live without it? Honestly, if there is no hope of a better tomorrow, why would anyone want to go there? And if there is no hope for life beyond this life, then living is merely an exercise in futility. The real question, then, is where do we find hope? What source will satisfy our thirst for enduring hope? 

Christ followers have an answer to the age old question of hope. It is found in the entire body of Scripture. That’s right, the encouragement of the sum total of Scripture is a well-spring of hope. Why is it a source of hope? I’m glad you asked!

Where else are we taught how to be freed from our sins? Where else are we introduced to the loving Creator of the universe—our Creator? What better source is there to know the full extent of God’s love? What other writings reveal the truth about the person of Jesus? What we find in Scripture is the unfathomable message of God's gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Only in the Bible can we find the instruction manual for life and the road map to heaven. 

Yes! You gotta have hope! Thankfully, in the Scriptures, God gives us every reason to be hopeful.

Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

A Thought about Thoughts

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I thought I left my keys right here. I thought I left early enough to make it to work on time. I thought I knew my Bible pretty well, but then I couldn’t remember where a passage was located. I thought I was a pretty good Dad, but I know my life examples haven’t always been the best. 

There is a simple fact about our thoughts; they come from a fallen mind. By fallen mind I mean, sinful. The same is true of our ways; they aren’t always godly. They, too, are part of our fallen condition. Now hold on for just a second. That doesn’t mean that all of our thoughts and ways are bad, but it does mean that we cannot always trust them to be holy and righteous.

God spoke to the people of Israel at a time when their thoughts had led them to forsake the Lord and to question his love and wisdom. As a result, they went the way of idolatry and began to worship false gods. It became a way of unbelief and rebellion. And God had every right to punish them. 

But God didn’t, at first. Why? Because His thoughts and ways aren’t tainted and spoiled by sin like ours. His thought, His way, was to continue to love an unlovable people. So He sent them prophets who urged them to repent and incline their hearts to God so that they could receive His mercy, pardon and forgiveness. 

The same is true of us. We deserve punishment for our waywardness, our sins. And God would be just to exact immediate punishment. But instead, His thoughts and ways—His love—moved Him to send His Son Jesus into this world to be the Savior, not for our sins only, but also the whole world’s [1 John 2:2].

God sent His only Son into this sinful world to live, die, and rise again for us. And it’s proof that His loving thoughts and forgiving ways are so different than ours. So, don’t trust your thoughts and ways. Trust your Lord and Savior’s thoughts and ways. Why, you ask? Because, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” [Isaiah 55:8].

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on Him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:6-9

Thursday, June 12, 2014

There Is A Place for Anxiety

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Not long ago, NBC News did a report on anxiety in America. “We’ve become a very tense and anxious nation,” the reporter said. Over the past thirty years, anxiety disorders have jumped more than 1,200 percent. According to some studies, as many as 117 million adults report high levels of anxiety.

What is anxiety? A Columbia University professor of psychiatry described it quite simply. The main symptom, she noted, is constant worry or tension over various issues, such as work or family problems, money or health. Such worry or tension, according to the National Institute of Health, can show itself in various ways, including difficulty concentrating, fatigue, irritability, sleep difficulties, and restlessness.

Since anxiety is at such high levels, we must turn to the Bible for wise counsel as to how to deal with it. What does the Lord have to say about the matter? 

For starters, anxiety is nothing new. From the moment Adam and Eve opened the floodgates of sin, human beings have been drowning in anxiety. King David felt the sting of anxiety thousands of years ago. He wrote that a period of his life felt as if his bones were wasting away through his groaning all day long—all caused by his sin [Psalm 32:3]. In this poisoned, sin-sick world, the threat of anxiety is a fact of life.

The tough question is, what do we do with anxiety when it knocks on our door? The NBC reporter suggested turning off the TV and the computer an hour before going to bed. Don’t you feel better already!

The apostle Peter, writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, really cut to the chase. Knowing what it was like to experience extreme anxiety, he said to a group of Christ followers — as well as to YOU and ME — “Cast all your anxiety on Christ because He cares for you.”

There is a place for anxiety — His name is Jesus. He invites you to throw your anxiety on Him. He is tireless and strong. And one last thing, notice that Peter didn’t say to cast some of your anxiety, or even most of it. He said to cast “A double L” — ALL of it on Christ.

There is a place for anxiety. Put it where it belongs.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Rich in the Word of Christ

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Let’s do a little pretending right now. I want you to imagine that you just finished a sumptuous meal at an expensive restaurant and you ordered their house specialty dessert: Chocolate Lovers’ Supreme-Triple Chocolate Lava Cake. After working on it for a while, you finally admit…“Sorry, but I can’t finish that specialty dessert. It’s just too, well, chocolaty for me.”

How would you describe your specialty dessert? Loaded with chocolate. Thoroughly full of chocolate. Oozing chocolate in every direction. The most chocolaty thing I have ever seen or tasted. Maybe the easiest thing to say is, “That dessert is very rich in chocolate.”

That’s exactly what Paul had in mind when he told the Colossian Christ followers to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly [in abundance]...” He wants us to be rich in the Word of Christ; our mind loaded with the Word, our hearts completely full of the Word, the Word oozing in every direction as we apply it to every circumstance in life. When a Christ follower is filled with the Word of Christ like that, he is calm during times of turmoil and humble during times of blessing. 

To be rich in the Word of Christ means more than memorizing it, as important as that is. Paul said to let the Word of Christ “dwell” in you—to make its home there, not as a guest, but as a family member with access to every room in the house, even the closets! 

When the Word of Christ dwells in us, we cherish it, listen to it, and live it. We don’t try to change it to fit our purposes, we allow the Word of Christ to change us so that we can become what God wants us to be. And when the word of Christ is dwelling in us richly, there’s only one outcome: deep, abounding gratitude to God. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, now and always. 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Many times throughout the Scriptures, we’re told to be joyful, even when we don’t feel like it, because we are so blessed. Paul told the Philippian Christ followers to, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! ” It’s almost like he thought they wouldn’t get it the first time; “Rejoice. I repeat, REJOICE!” 

Our fallen nature often takes its mind off God’s true word and turns it toward the ups and downs of life. The other day I asked a guy, “How’s it going?” He said, “Life stinks right now!” 

So, what stinking thing is happening to you that keeps your heart from rejoicing in the Lord? Perhaps a loved one has passed away. Maybe that bully is picking on you again. Have you been marginalized because of your faith in Christ? There is a myriad of joy-sappers in this world. And when we find ourselves wrapped up in the middle of them, our old nature tends to lose sight of God’s great love for us.

The trouble with listening to our old nature, especially when it comes to the trials and tribulations we face, is that it is routinely and drastically wrong. Instead of listening to the flesh, hear Jesus speak in the pages of your Bible. You have a reason to be joyful regardless of the garbage that life, or others, dish out. He is our Savior. Through His sovereign work of redemption on the cross and His powerful resurrection, you have been forgiven all your sins. If that were all, it would be enough for decades of rejoicing. But wait, there’s more! He has made you His own dear child. He is preparing a place for you in heaven, the comforts of which far outweigh the earthly troubles you have now. 

In His great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that blessed people [you and me] are meek and merciful. Blessed people are pure in heart and peacemakers. Why, you ask? Because ours is the kingdom of heaven. 

Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Those blessings come from the heavenly world. They belong to us because we belong to Christ. Ephesians 1:3 [New International Reader’s Version]

Monday, June 9, 2014

Wisdom, Not Information

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

We have more information at our fingertips now than ever before. I’m old enough to remember the days when if you wanted to research something, you had to head down to the library, search through the card catalog, and find a book with the information you were looking for. A little later, and if you were lucky to have a modern library, you might even find what you wanted on microfiche. Not today! Now we simply turn on our computers, laptops, iPads, and even our cell phones, type in a few words, and in a matter of seconds, we have more information than we can handle.

Long before the internet, Albert Einstein said, “Information is not knowledge.” If you want to go back, say 3,000 years, the wise King Solomon, author of the Proverbs, took it a step further. He said that information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom. In fact, he wrote that wisdom is knowing God and His desires, and then to live accordingly. Wisdom isn’t found in the most complex scientific theories or in the latest discoveries in sociology or psychology. Neither is it learned in philosophy or explained by the arts. True wisdom, like grace, comes from God.

Solomon said, “The Lord gives wisdom and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” [Proverbs 2:6]. The best demonstration of God’s wisdom is revealed in the cross and the message of forgiveness that comes through Christ. It is foolishness to most, but to those who trust in Jesus, it is the wisdom and power of God [1 Corinthians 1:18]. It is exactly that wisdom that motivates us to search out what it good and God-pleasing in our lives.

Christ followers have received more than just information and knowledge; God has given us wisdom—wisdom to recognize that Jesus is our only hope of salvation. 

Here’s a question for you. What does wisdom look like? James, the Lord’s brother, said it best, “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” [James 3:17]. 

The Lord gives wisdom. Let’s live in it! 

My son, if you accept My words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones. Proverbs 2:1-8

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Junk Food

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

OK, it’s time for confession. Do you have a favorite, unhealthy snack food? You know, the one you enjoy so much that you salivate at the mere mention of its name. Did you know that companies spend millions of dollars studying the science of addictive food? I read an interesting article that said Frito-Lay employs over 400 chemists, psychologists, and technicians, and spends a whopping $30M a year to find the “bliss point” for their junk food! [The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, Michael Moss] 

Some companies hire “crave consultants” like Dr. Howard Maskowitz, a Harvard PhD and American market researcher and psychophysicist. He helps companies determine their “bliss points,” the point where food companies can “optimize” our cravings. 

So to honestly confess, my craving has got to be Cheetos. One food scientist said that Cheetos is one of the best constructed foods on the planet. It has, what he calls, “vanishing caloric density.” All that means is, Cheetos break down so quickly, your brain thinks that there are no calories in them so you can eat all you want. 

We know that junk foods are not good for us, I think we can all agree to that. But have you ever considered that there is a force far more sinister than junk foods, which tempts us only with things that are bad for our souls? Our adversary is highly trained, skilled, if you will, at making things look good, but that lead to despair, pain, and regret. Oh sure, we feel good momentarily, but in a heartbeat, we’re back to craving the same old things. 

The best way to be really satisfied in life is feasting on the good things of God. Here are a couple that you can crave all you want!

I am the Bread of Life. he who comes to Me will never hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst again. John 6:35 

Like newborn infants, crave the pure, spiritual milk of God’s Word. It will help you grow up as believers. 1 Peter 2:2

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Heaven and Gary Plueger, V

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Ribbons! That’s what I usually got as an award for contests that I entered. Someone else walked away with the Grand Prize—the trophy. Me, I got used to the ribbons and started to particularly like the blue ones - not because they represented where I finished in the contest, but they reminded me of Dodger blue.

And then there is the joy you get when someone recognizes your achievements. I have two favorites. When I graduated from Morse High School, I was awarded The Greater San Diego Industry and Education Council Award for Academic Excellence. [Say that fast 5 times!] What an honor that was. Then on graduation day at West Coast Bible College, I was awarded The R. Leonard Carroll Award for Academic Excellence. It was a proud moment for me as well.

Things like that are examples of earthly rewards. Did you also know that there are eternal, heavenly rewards as well? I’ve been thinking about that since my dear friend Gary Plueger passed away this week. I’ve heard it said several times, “He has gone on to his ‘eternal reward.’”

The Bible describes some of the eternal rewards we receive in terms of a “crown.” There is debate among scholars as to whether or not they are literal crowns or merely symbolic. That debate is irrelevant for the purpose of this eDevotion. One day, Jesus told His disciples that they were not to do their righteous deeds to be seen and applauded by men. Rather, just do your righteous deed in secret because, even if they are not seen by people, they will indeed be seen by God. Then He said this, "Your Father who sees in secret will Himself one day reward you openly" [Matthew 6:4].

Here are a couple of the crowns that will be awarded to faithful Christ followers:

The “Crown of Life.” "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" [James 1:12].

The “Crown of Righteousness.” "Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" [2 Timothy 4:8]. 

What we can only speculate about down here, Gary now recognizes in its fullness in heaven. There are eternal rewards awaiting the Christ follower. Knowing Gary has received his rewards, as well as a host my loved ones who are there with him, really makes me homesick for heaven!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Heaven and Gary Plueger, IV

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I remember walking through a Jerusalem antiquity store in 2008. I wanted to buy something to remind me of my trip, as well as to have an object lesson for future sermons. In the end, I purchased an ancient oil lamp, which pre-dated Herod the Great [pre-65 BC]. As I was looking at all the items available to purchase, I saw a beautiful, translucent, bluish miniature urn. It was small, but also an intriguing piece, so I asked the dealer what it was. He said, “That is a Roman ‘tear bottle’.

“Really,” I responded, “a tear bottle? I’ve never heard of that before.”

He went on to tell how the Romans believed that the tears they collected at the passing of a loved one would be recorded in heaven. After hearing that, I wanted to buy the bottle, that is, until he told me its price! [That’s why I got the lamp!]

To be very honest though, I had heard of tears being collected, but not by the Romans. What I knew of the collection of tears came from the writing of the Psalmist who, speaking about God, wrote, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” [Psalm 56:8 - New Living Translation].

The thought of God collecting the tears of our sorrow has been a real comfort to me this week because I’ve shed quite a few of them at the death of my good friend, Gary Plueger. But what brings me even more comfort is my faith that he is in a place of wholeness once again.  

I plan to join Gary in that place some day. It’s called heaven. And you know what else, everyone who lives there will never have to tear up again!

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. Revelation 21:4 - The Holman Christian Standard Bible

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Heaven and Gary Plueger, III

Encouragement for your daily walk with God DEVOTION FOR 

There are many references to heaven in the Bible, two of which are my favorites. One of them allows my imagination run wild when it says we can’t come close to figuring out what heaven is like [a loose translation of 2 Corinthians 2:9]. The other is an encouraging word from Jesus to not get discouraged while we wait for our heavenly reward [another loose translation of John 14:1].

As I’ve been thinking about my friend, Gary Plueger who went to his reward this week, my mind has replayed many of our conversations. And in the last few weeks, our talk seemed to center around how easy it is to get discouraged, even weary, as we are waiting for the day of heavenly celebration, especially when this old body of ours is wracked with disease. But that is really the point of our Savior’s encouragement. The old King James Bible begins John 14:1 by saying, “Let not your heart be troubled...” Easier said than done, right? To be sure, many things in life can make for a “troubled heart.”

The apostle Paul wrote a letter to Christ followers in Corinth, Greece, which included these powerful words of encouragement:

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won't last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God's richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever [2 Corinthians 4:16-18 - The New Living Bible].

To be sure, heaven is not an “extreme makeover” of Beverly Hill or La Jolla, California, but it is a place of many residences that Jesus has been “preparing for us.” What they must look like — after all, He has been working on them for a couple of thousand years.

I can only imagine!

No mere man has ever seen, heard, or even imagined what wonderful things God has ready for those who love the Lord. 2 Corinthians 2:9 - The Living Bible 

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:1-3

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Heaven and Gary Plueger - A Second Thought

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

In all honesty, we Christ followers think more about NOW than we do about THEN—more earthly than heavenly. Maybe it’s because we were raised believing the adage, “to be heavenly minded is of no earthly good.” There is some truth to that. But it is also true that you can be so earthly minded that you forget that heaven is being prepared for you, and you are being prepared for heaven. 

Concerning heaven, Randy Alcorn wrote, "We live between Eden and the new earth, pulled toward what we once were and what we yet will be."

Some people think that heaven is merely the product of man’s wishful thinking. Even if that were true [and I don’t for a nano-second believe it], some giants of mankind kept the hope of heaven alive. Take Abraham, for example, who lived about 4,000 years ago. The Bible declares that, even when he reached the land that God had promised him, he thought of himself as “tent-dweller” while he looked forward to a celestial place designed by God.

Why does man keep on believing in heaven? Why is heaven the ultimate hope of Christ followers? The wise Solomon said that “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” [Ecclesiastes 3:11].

As I have pondered heaven these past couple of days because of the passing of a dear brother in the Lord, Gary Plueger, I’m reminded of an old-timey hymn which says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through.” Yes, I’m here, planted on planet earth momentarily, but there is a day when Christ followers will experience what is now only the “hope of glory.” Here’s how the Apostle Paul put it, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 

I can hardly wait!

Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. Hebrews 11:10 - New Living Translation

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Heaven and Gary Plueger

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

Yesterday, a dear friend and brother in the Lord, Gary Plueger, went to his eternal reward in heaven. As I spoke about it to one of our townsfolk, they asked me if I really believed in heaven. I’ve talked about heaven before, and I’ve preached about it as well, but the person’s question did cause me to pause in the quietness of last evening and ponder the thought of heaven.

I believe heaven is a real place! Some people see it as an ethereal, translucent, spiritual jam session where angels sit on clouds and play harps all day. That’s not the heaven I think about. In many ways I think of heaven in earthly terms. I love the beauty of the earth, the love of family and friends, the adventure of life, and so many other things. These things are a mere image of the divine end. In my mind, heaven is not a copycat of life on earth, heaven is the original and earth is the copy.

When the grand Temple was built in Jerusalem, all eyes were fixed on the earthly; the building, the rituals, the priests, the grandeur. But the author of Hebrews said they were a mere “copy and shadow” of the eternal [Hebrews 8:5].

C. S. Lewis wrote, "All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of [heaven]—tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. . . ." The real thing is heaven.

Heaven is the real place for real peace. So, Rest in Peace, dear Gary. And one day, I’ll see with you again in a real heaven!

Here is the main point: We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There He ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands. Hebrews 8:1-2

Monday, June 2, 2014

We Need Christ

Encouragement for your daily walk with God 

I have a theory that all people instinctively know they are fallen and long to be forgiven, restored—they want to change their behavior and get better. The great question is, How? Many have turned to “guilt-gadgets” to help in their pursuit of change. What are guilt-gadgets, you ask? Well, there was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Sit Up Straight, and Other Advice From Big Mother.” The article was about a new wave of electronic gadgets and apps that remind, cajole, pressure, threaten, judge, and nag us about what we’re supposed to do and how to punish ourselves when we fall short.

How about this one, a smart utensil, the HAPIfork. It measures how fast you eat while it encourages you to chew your food slowly. Another company developed a device that will chirp when you drive too fast, slam on your brakes, or other things your Mother wouldn’t like you to do behind the steering wheel. Or how about PostureTrack? It will beep when it catches you slouching. 

The truth is, we have all “fallen short.” That’s what Paul told the Romans: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23], and no electronic device will help us with the real change we need—a new heart. The real change we need comes through Christ, when we put our full and complete confidence in what He accomplished at Calvary’s cross. By faith, He fills our life with His presence and our lives change, not through performance, but through His grace. A Christ follower doesn’t need a gadget or app to change because we have Christ in us, “the hope of glory!”

For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27