I am just floored by another annoucement of an acquaintance passing away... If we walk on this planet long enough, we will see friends, family, and others we know separate from us. It's always painful, it's always introspective. One of them ridiculed me a few months back for bringing my Bible. That just thoroughly breaks my heart to consider that she may not have known Jesus personally... Update. We've had two more heart rending announcements. A friend of ours that had 'pneumonia' for months was doing more poorly. Imagine all of our shock to find that this was a misdiagnosis. He really was in late stage four lung cancer and never left ICU after his scan until he left this planet. He is younger than my husband. And then, we were at a friend's wedding and his best man, a 27 year old army captain, three days later was backed over and killed during a military training exercise. We had just been talking to him THREE days prior. He left a wife and three children as well as his parents. Thankfully, we know that he had a solid trust in Jesus so it is our loss but not his. We DO NOT KNOW the number of days we have on this planet.
As much as I love and am passionate about my husband, my creatures, my gardening and my herb work, there is One that I love even more. He is the One who sticks to us 'closer than a brother' , 'never leaves us or forsakes us', and One who ''cares for YOU'. I would be sadly amiss if I spent my time on earth merely educating and attending to the physical needs of humans and creatures, but neglecting the eternal spiritual needs that are felt deep within us. Who is this One I am talking about? I'd like to introduce you to Him if I may. His name is Jesus.
You see, when God the Father created this planet and universe, it was a Utopia. It was perfect. It had never been tainted by harm, selfishness, greed or other harmful actions or emotions. Adam and Eve were placed in this amazing garden, the Garden of Eden, where they were allowed to walk with God, converse with God, befriend the animals as they were not fearful of man, partake of all of the plant foods available, in season, at peak ripeness all of the time. Imagine the perfect greenhouse environment, the sights, the sounds, fragrances with each step, the incomparable beauty. All of this was a free gift from their loving Father and Creator. After a time, the devil, who had fallen from heaven, due to his own wanting to be his own god above God, had a bone to pick with God. He now hated God. The only way He had to get back at an all powerful God was to pick on His beloved children. So he took an opportunity to question God's wisdom and goodness to Eve, and Eve was deceived into breaking the only rule that was placed on them. This rule, to avoid only one tree in the entire garden, was there to see if the man and woman would truly show their love for God through their obedience, even when they were confused; or question God's goodness, wisdom and provision. So they chose what appeared to look and sound good for themselves and disobeyed. Thus enters what we call the fall of man... Sin entered rapidly as the man and woman irrationally decided to hide from God and Adam began blaming God and the woman for his own decision and action. Man was now required to cultivate the ground to provide his own food. He was shunned from the garden to protect him and his wife from eating from the Tree of Life, which would have left them in this state of separation from God eternally. Immediately they received the promise from God that He was going to provide One who would again make this situation right. The old testament of the Scriptures follows the family line that brings this One to us. The new testament or 'new covenant' reveals this One to us, what His mission was while here and how He purchased us back for God, righting the wrong in the Garden. The remainder of the new testament gives us wonderful freeing instruction on how to choose to live to bless ourselves, others, and God, and of course teaching on how things on this planet will end...
Please consider Jesus... He was born to the virgin Mary so that He could not inherit the sinful nature that we inherit from our father's seed, He walked on this planet for 33 years living a perfect life in his heart and outwardly that I nor you can ever do. He did many miraculous things- never for His own benefit but always for the benefit for others. Many of them were healings of many different kinds. He is still a miracle worker today as evidenced by changed lives and other miracles. I'm a walking, talking miracle, having been the only survivor of a small airplane crash into a mountain in 1995. Medically speaking, I am not supposed to be here, let alone be functional. But the biggest miracle is my changed & filled heart and life when I chose to follow Jesus in 1991.
Through a series of illegal events, Jesus was nailed to a cross after an outrageous nearly fatal whipping. He willfully went knowing that He would be purchasing you and I back to God for eternity. It cost Him everything. If our sins (the bad things we do and the good things we know to do but fail to do) could have been paid for any other way, believe me, Jesus would not have gone through this. He took on my sin and paid for it. He took on yours- no matter what you have done. He even forgave the men that beat Him to a pulp. Imagine being able to have the frame of mind to do that after having no sleep the night before, going through illegal trials, being beaten until internal structures were visible, carrying a 100 pound rough cut cross piece that was digging into his raw flesh, and being hung from spikes hammered through his wrists and ankles that He would have to push and pull on to breathe for the three hours before He willingly gave up His life for me. For you. Medically speaking He died of a burst heart. We say a broken heart as He experienced separation from God for the only time in His life. Three days later, He rose again and was seen by over 500 witnesses and then a few weeks later ascended back into Heaven where He waits for you and for me.
I'm ready- are you? We ALL are eternal beings. It is where eternity is spent that is the difference. An all loving God will not force anyone to live with Him for eternity and with those that love Him, that does not want to live with Him now. That would be punishment to that person. So they have to, by their choice, go to the only place that God and His love will not exist. No love, no light, no peace, no comfort, no joy, no kindness, no compassion, separated from God and from all others. Forever. Yes, Hell or Hades. Jesus taught about it even more than Heaven because He wanted to warn people about that place and teach them that they did have a choice in where they spend eternity. You see, God never created that rotten place for people, but for the devil and his fallen angels- the demons. Everyone can choose to not go there by turning themselves over to Jesus, but unfortunately there are those that will not choose Jesus. Then there is no place for them except where Jesus will not be.
Here's some things to consider. These verses are quoted from the New King James Bible.
Romans 3:23 tells us that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". In simple terms that means that I (and everyone else) blow it and have blown it. I'm not perfect. Because of that we can not be in God's holy pure presence on our own. 1 Peter 1:16 gives us God's standard for us "Be holy, for I am holy". He does not grade on a curve, we can't compare ourselves to how we are doing compared to our friends, coworkers, family or others we know. We can only compare our level of perfection to Him. Your 'score' must be 100% to reach that standard.
Romans 6:23 tells us what we earn as a result of us having hearts that lead us astray into sin " For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord". So what I earn because of my sin (where I have missed God's standard) is death, BUT the awesome news is that it was paid for- the gift that cost Jesus everything is offered for FREE to us. It is Free to set us free. But we have to accept the gift. He won't force it on anyone. He'll never force you to follow Him, but He is always waiting for you, that you will love Him and want to. He's waiting right now.
Romans 5:8 tells us: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God doesn't just holler from Heaven saying He loves us and sorry for the mess down there on earth but too bad, you are on your own. He DID something about it. Jesus came, lived the life I can't live, willingly died a death I could not have handled, rose again to show His power over death and to prove that He is capable of offering eternal life to those who accept His free gift. Now that is demonstrating love!
Romans 10:9-10 says: "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." So if you really do believe what Jesus has done for you, the natural thing will be to confess it to another person, to not be ashamed of Jesus. And the faith you have for that type of belief is the real faith you will have that results in righteousness before God. Jesus takes our sin and gives us His righteousness. Amazing. And more than that, I expect that the weight of guilt from sin that we often can feel, will be lifted from your heart.
If you are wanting to accept this priceless wonderful gift of abundant life, here's a short prayer you can say... Remember God sees the heart, but it's that verbal confession that we NEED for ourselves... "Dear Lord Jesus, I want to thank you for dying that horrible death on the cross to pay for my sin. Thank you for loving me so much that you were willing to go through everything just for me so that I can one day live with you forever. I believe that you rose from the grave, proving that you are able to conquer death- for yourself and for us. Thank you for this gift, help me to stay close to you, to learn from you, and to learn more in my heart about you. Amen." If you really mean this in your heart then you are what we called Born Again. That means you've had two births- one physical and one spiritual, and you'll only see one death- the physical which is just your body staying behind but your spirit- YOU- the living part of you- your personality and mind moves to Heaven instantly. We get new bodies. That's great, I don't need this broken up one permanently :) . For those that decide they don't want Jesus or God in their lives, they have had one birth, and will have two deaths- one physical and one spiritual... Sad indeed when everyone has the choice to choose life.
A verse I absolutely love, it is my 'herd verse' is: John 7:38: "He, who, believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." In other words, those that place their trust in Jesus for eternal life, will have His life and His joy flowing out of them. When I stay 'plugged in' reading God's Word, the Bible, and talk to Him just like I'm talking to you now (prayer) and stay in fellowship (time talking with other Believers about Jesus) then my life will be so full that it overflows and impacts others with meaning, life and joy. I make this choice each day and I encourage you to do so. If you are not sure where to start reading in the Bible, a great place to start is the Book of John, in the New Testament. Then just keep reading through. I try to read through the entire Bible each year. See Jesus in action, see how he relates to people around him- there is a contrast between the regular people and those down and out with the pious religious and proud rulers of the day that did not want anything to do with a poor Messiah who was a leader by SERVING others.
I have a prayer acronymn I like to use....
ACTS (like the book of ACTS from the Bible) A- Adoration- I'll start my prayers by thanking God that He is Holy, Wonderful, True, Loving, All Mighty or any other descriptions of His character that come to mind.
C- Confession- I will tell Him my sins, where I have messed up or fallen short. He knows it already but it frees ME from the guilt that goes with it.
T- Thanksgiving- here is where I get to list (I journal these) everything I'm thankful for. I have LOTS to be thankful for right down to baby goat kisses...
S- Supplication- a big fancy word for praying for our needs and the needs of others, our country, etc. I also pray for other people that I want to see come to know Jesus and be set free by His love.
I like to say that Jesus saved me from myself- He saved me from emptiness, from not having purpose, from destructive thoughts and actions, from broken relationships, from the pride of thinking I might be better than someone else when we are all created by the same God who loves us all...
Do seek out fellowship with other Believers. Find a church or fellowship (I use these words interchangeably) where teaching is right out of the Word of God (the Bible and only the Bible). That is the only book that is life changing that can meet the needs of your soul and your life. I prefer churches that teach straight through the Bible without skipping around, so that you get the 'full counsel' of God. This way pastors/teachers can't get stuck on favorite topics and avoid other topics that might be less comfortable to teach about. It's all inspired, it all needs to be taught so that one can be balanced... For instance, our fellowship is teaching through Ruth on a weeknight and through Galations on the weekend. I attend one other study where we are going through Genesis at this writing. Approximately one chapter of each per week, though sometimes one can go thru 2 or 3 chapters in a week... Just a suggestion. Anywhere you go that teaches the Word of God where people genuinely love each other is the place to be. And remember, except for Jesus there is no perfect person or perfect church, but find one that seems to be a good fit for you in your heart. You'll know when you are there, it will feel like you are home.
May your heart be FULLY BLESSED! I hope to see EVERY one of you in eternity...