Tag Archives: heaven

Keep Looking Up

Totality

Now that it’s been a little while since the Great American Eclipse of 2017, permit me to share with you a thought.

Do you remember the first time you saw something for the first time face-to-face, something which before you had only seen in pictures? For example, how excited were you when you drove over a hill and caught your first glimpse of the Washington Monument, the entrance to Disney World, the tops of a mountain range, or the ocean horizon? Didn’t you heart leap within you?

My daughters and I took part in a meeting at Bryan College on the day of the eclipse. Little did I know – because we had forgone attempts to make it to Hopkinsville, KY (the perfect viewing spot) – that in Dayton, TN, we would also be able to view “totality.”

Fortunately, my wife had gotten some viewing glasses a few days before, so we were ready when the moon started creeping across the sun. We, along with hundreds of others, stood around in the field adjacent the college and hung out in the heat, continually wondering if this was going to be worth all the hype. After all, it was hot outside that day.

But it got darker…and darker…and cooler…and cooler. It wasn’t too long before the crickets started singing and the street lights started coming on. It seemed all the world was confused at what was happening, all except for those of us who were… looking up.

I could stop right there and preach! It just occurred to me what I wrote as I was writing it. Hallelujah!

Anyway, the light from the sun grew dimmer and dimmer as the moon slowly crept in front of it. We kept looking up… more constantly, now… and then all of a sudden all of the light disappeared. I could see nothing as I looked through the glasses.

Then it happened… I was totally unprepared for what I was going to see with my own eyes… no darkened lenses… (is there anyone out there feeling the way I’m feeling as I write this for the first time?) … with my own eyes I saw the splendor of totality… like a light switch just came on and all of a sudden a big, blazing, golden ring hung in the darkened sky!

What I was then viewing made me immediately realize that all the waiting was worth it. No picture in a book… no description… nothing anyone had said about it from a scientific standpoint… nothing could have prepared me for what I saw, for it was like nothing on this earth could ever capture or replicate.

A once-in-a-life-time event that was totally worthy of the hype.

Heaven

As I stood there looking up at the eclipse, the following thought (not very spiritual) went through my mind: “This must be what it would feel like should a person actually be confronted with an “Independence Day-like” alien encounter…like, I never believed, but there it is.” Being a preacher of the gospel, I don’t know why I thought that, other than the fact that I was completely dumbstruck.

Later, when I describing this to an older, fellow believer, he replied, “Imagine what it will be like when we first see heaven.”

DUH! ABSOLUTELY!

Dear friend, there is coming a day when all descriptions will go out the window like worn-out chewing gum. Heaven, the place we’ve heard about all our lives, will actually come into view. And not only that, the Person who created us, loved us, and saved us, will step out, eyes blazing brighter than “totality,” and say, “Welcome, child, to your new home! Come see what I’ve prepared for you!”

[shouting time]

There, right in front of your eyes, totally beyond the description of eyes and ears, will be the ultimate reality…it will be real…it won’t be a dream…what Jesus Christ has gone to prepare. Totality like you never could have imagined!

But just think of stepping on shore
And finding it heaven
Of touching a hand and finding it God’s
Of breathing new air and finding it celestial
Of waking up in glory and finding it home

– from “Finally Home,” by Don Wyrtzen and L. E. Singer

Just keep looking up! TOTALLY worth the hype!

 

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, God

Escapist or Expectant?

As I was lying in bed this morning, shivering in the cold – the house is like a dadgum freezer – I proceeded to do an mental inventory. No, it wasn’t an inventory of all the things that need to be organized and packed for our upcoming move in a few days. I wasn’t even thinking about all the bills that need to be paid with money we don’t have (that’s a growing list too depressing to think about). Actually, it was a mental inventory of pain. 

It’s the last day of 2016 – this is the last post of the year – and with every day that passes I’m acquiring a new pain. As I lay there covered up, not wanting to get out of bed, I came to the realization that there was not one part of my body that didn’t hurt – literally. 

I’m not yet fifty years old, but I hurt from head to toe. Seriously, I’m looking forward to that “new body” the Bible says I’ll have one day. Maybe that is why I’m not as critical as I used to be of certain hymnals that have more songs about heaven than other, more weighty themes. Maybe it’s because I wake up and go to sleep with pain that I look forward heaven a little more than my younger, healthier theologians. 

One of the criticisms leveled at Christians is that we are “escapists” (i.e., those who care more about escaping this world than saving it). Sometimes we are accused of being so “heavenly-minded” that we’re no earthly good, all because we believe there’s a place to go after the cares of this life are over. Well, I’ve got news for everybody: I’m ready to go!!

No, I don’t want to die. No, I don’t want to give up on reaching the lost in order to selfishly escape to paradise. However, with each new day that passes by…with every New Year’s celebration that comes and goes…I’m that much closer to my faith becoming sight. …And no more pain. 

No, I don’t want to escape, but my expectations are pretty high. I’m looking forward to what God has in store for those who love Him… and believe it or not, that includes 2017. 

Happy New Year, my friends! 

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Filed under current events, Future, the future

Why Hell?

You Prayed

This weekend I asked if you, my friends, would pray for me. I asked that you would pray because I was going to be preaching on a very difficult subject, the subject of Hell.

Well, I believe you did. Thank you.

I Preached

Not many people preach about Hell anymore. Aside from the occasional street preacher, few pastors, especially television jet-hoppers, even dare suggest such a place. Most focus on your “best life now,” or ask for multiple “seeds of faith” so they can travel the world and you can reap a “harvest.”

However, I preached about Hell. I preached that Hell is a real, horrible place where those who reject Christ as Saviour will spend eternity in torment. Is that popular? Uh, no! (I could have said “hell no” but that would have been too easy)

Unfortunately, it’s not just the unbelievers who mock the idea, but much of the Christian world now scoffs at the idea of a literal place of torment where the lost will dwell. Even Jesus said it is a real place, so how is that even possible?

But, believe me, preaching on Hell is not easy. It’s depressing, draining, and haunting. That’s why I appreciate those who prayed.

The Sermon

So, for those of you who’d like, I am attaching the audio of the sermon I preached Sunday morning. The title of the message is “Why Hell?”

I really can’t say that I hope you “enjoy” it, but I do hope something in it will challenge you live out your faith with more urgency.

Many people argue over whether or not the rapture will happen any time soon, if at all. They argue over when the “end of the world” will come, if it all. However, whatever you believe about end-time prophecy, Jesus said that it is appointed unto man once to die…the end of this world is coming for all of us, sooner or later.

Are you prepared? Are you ready? Do you need a reason to share your faith with others sooner than later?

Then listen.

IMG_4225

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Filed under Life/Death, Preaching, salvation

Preparing My Heart for a Sermon

No Selah

If you expected to see another “Selah” post this morning, I apologize. I really did want to have the next one finished for this morning, but I was unable to do it. However, I did preach on the subject of the next verse, and so I know it is a good one.

So, next week’s study through the “selah’s” of Psalms will be on Psalm 9:16. Look it up and see what you come up with, and then we can compare notes. Hint: there’s a very unique word which will play a big part.

Preparing

Tomorrow morning (Sunday) I am going to be preaching a sermon on a very difficult subject – Hell. I know that some of you may have a different take on the place Jesus mentioned far more than heaven, but it’s something that needs to be preached.

Today I’ve been listening to some old sermons by some great preachers of the past. One was an audio version of Charles Spurgeon preaching a sermon called “Heaven and Hell.” Another was a 1985 recording of a sermon entitled “Hell Has No Exits,” by Leonard Ravenhill. In addition to my own notes, I wanted to hear what others had said, and the way they said it.

And, oh, how my heart was not only stirred, but greatly burdened!

My father used to tell me when I was young, “Son, never get behind the pulpit unless your mad, sad, or glad.” In other words, get up to preach with the appropriate emotion for the subject at hand – don’t be dull, drab, or apathetic. After hearing the above sermons, in addition to my recent study on Hell, my heart is breaking…not just for the lost, but for the rest of us who have forgotten what those without Jesus will one day face.

Just a Glimpse

Folks, if we could only catch a glimpse of Hell – forget Heaven! If we could just see for a second that horrible place! If we could only for a second comprehend the terror of our friends and loved ones that moment before they are “cast” into eternity.

Everything Heaven is, Hell will be the opposite (I’ll save that for a future post). Just ponder that for a moment! Everything you look forward to in Heaven, the opposite will be what the lost will endure.

Leonard Ravenhill said in his sermon that much of us think what’s wrong with America is that so many people don’t believe in hell anymore. He said [quoting loosely], “I’ve got news for you! YOU don’t believe in Hell! If you did, you’d live differently, preach differently, pray differently, and worship differently!”

Pray for Me

So, would you take a moment and pray for me? Pray that God would speak through me in the morning. Pray that His power would fill me. Pray that my heart and my mouth might be prepared in such a way that those who hear the sermon will respond appropriately to the Spirit’s leading.

Most importantly, pray for that soul who might be present in the morning; that soul who is lost. Pray that he/she/they might feel the same convicting power which flooded over those when Jonathan Edwards preached. May they cry out before the sermon is over, “What must I do to be saved??”

God bless. Y’all go to church somewhere on the Lord’s Day, you hear?

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Filed under Church, Life/Death, Preaching

When Heaven Becomes Real

My city has been in the news a lot because of the deaths of five brave servicemen. The last of the funerals was held yesterday.

I have been to a whole lot of funerals as a minister. Even when I was young I had to go to a lot of funerals because my dad was a preacher – and guess who performed all the funerals for family and friends? It seemed like every other week someone would call on my father to preach someone’s funeral, and most were people I did not know.

Unbelievably, however, there are a lot of people in this world (especially America) who have never had to deal with the loss of someone really close, like a parent, sibling, or spouse, not even a grandparent. There are a lot of adults who have never even been to a funeral. For them, as it was for me, heaven is just a place they may believe in, but it’s not really thought of much in terms of an actual destination – like it’s only a metaphor.

All that changes in an instant when a believing loved one dies.

One evening in 1991, shortly before me father died, I went to hear and evangelist speak at my home church. He preached on heaven that night, and one thing he said has stuck with me for the past 24 years. He said, “Heaven will never be as real to you until there’s someone there you want to go see.

Four days later I knew what he meant.

For me, heaven is a real place, a place where I long to go. Over the last few years more and more people have gone on ahead of me and are waiting.

Right now there is a silhouette of golden light tracing the edges of the dark mountain before me. What is on the other side I can barely imagine – I’ve only heard stories. But one day, maybe not long from now, I will receive the call to cross over. There my faith will be made sight.

It’s just a matter of time before I learn what “real” is all about.

 

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Filed under Life/Death

Going Home

A Change of Plans

This morning I had planned on writing about a silly dream analyst I saw on Dr. Oz (totally pathetic). I had even contemplated writing a piece actually defending …da, da, da… Joel Osteen (yes, I know that’s a shocker). But when I sat down at the computer and took a minute to scroll through recent posts on Facebook, I saw a video, and wept.

However, it is the reason for the tears that I wanted to share a video with you. Yes, I cried tears of happiness for all those little children, wives, and moms and dads who were reunited with their brave dads, husbands, and sons. But I also cried for another reason – the anticipated reunion I will have with my own dad.

Funerals

I have preached many funerals. I have seen many loved ones laid to rest in the cold earth. People have looked to me for comforting words as I have stood beside the lifeless body of a recently passed loved one. All I can tell you is this: the only hope I can offer is the hope found in Jesus Christ.

In the 1 Corinthians 15:19, the apostle Paul said, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” So, to put it another way, if trusting in Jesus is only good for this world, like for making you a better person, then what’s the point? Why follow a dead man to the grave?

Real Hope

But Paul adds in the next verse: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” In other words, trusting in Jesus means that this life is NOT all that there is…that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones…and Jesus’ resurrection is the PROOF!

It has been over 20 years since I last saw my dad face-to-face. I never had the chance (except in a dream) to say goodbye. So let me assure you, when I set foot on those celestial shores…when I breath that sparkling air…when I finally reach Home…there is going to be a celebration like this world has never seen.

That’s why I cried.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Faith, Future, salvation, the future

Getting Old and Scaring Wives

Pains of Aging

If there is one thing in life that stinks, it’s getting old. On the other hand, if there is one thing in life that is sweeter than honey, it’s getting old (i.e., not dying).

There are a lot of pains and aches associated with aging. One of those pains is the pain in the rear that comes with having to go to the ER every time I feel pain in my chest. I get so tired of all the questions, needles, sticky things that painfully remove hair from my chest (I am a manly man, you know), and freezing while waiting for a doctor to tell me I’m not having a heart attack – he thinks.

But there are other pains, too. There’s the pain of hearing your youngest daughter ask, “could this kill you?” There’s the pain of having to hug your girls as you leave for the emergency room, knowing, if this is it, they will be suffering unimaginable pain, but you won’t be there to help. There’s the pain of looking into your wife’s eyes, wondering how she will cope if you don’t make it through the next few hours.

I went through all of this, today.

Perks of Aging

But, there are some perks that come along with aging, too! One is being able to walk on a college campus wearing a sweater vest and have all the college girls (and guys, but not as many) open the door for you (because they think their grade may depend on it). It’s fun. I say, “Have you got your presentation ready for tomorrow?” Ha! Such fun!

Ultimately, getting older means the train is getting closer to the station. I have my bags packed, and my ticket punched. The longer I stand still and listen, the more I think I can feel the vibration on the tracks. It won’t be much longer. I will finally get to go to that land where I will run faster and faster, farther in, and farther up.

I just pray that my train is not too far apart from my wife’s train. She’s scared I will leave too soon. Maybe, if we wait long enough, we can ride in the same dining car together. I’d love to see her eyes when we see for the first time the place we are going. The light will reflect beautifully off of her grey hair.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Faith, Life Lessons, the future