You can choose to go to Heaven

To me the best salespeople aren’t the ones who try to pressure me into doing what they want me to do.  To me the best salespeople are the ones who give me the facts and respect me enough to let me make up my own mind.  One of my former pastors, Rev. Dave Terhune, used to say that he’s in sales and God is in management.  My pastor presented Jesus, told how much Jesus loved them (by dying in their place, and rising from the dead to give them new life forever), and their response and the consequences of their response (surrender to Jesus and live with Him forever; decide not to surrender, or decide not to decide, and be separated from Jesus forever (Hell)).

Pastor Dave never saved a single soul using this method.

But God saved hundreds of people, using Pastor Dave, using this method.  Give people the truth.  Give them the options and consequences of those options.  And let God do the rest.  Because only He can do the rest.

Contrary to what much of what our culture believes, God loves you and everyone else.  In eternity past He thought: I want to make a Jim McNaughton.  Now God knew before He made me that I would reject Him and need to have my mind taken away from me for ten years before I would be humbled enough to accept Him.  He knew that I would hate Him when I was in that pain, for what He had done to me .  He loved me enough that he was willing to endure me and my rebellion, until at last I surrendered to Him.  Now I realize that all that indescribable pain was worth it.  On the other side of ignorance and pain is the realization that God suffered with me and for me and I was never alone.  Mental Illness was a gift packaged in pain that changed my attitude from pride to humility.  Looking back the pain was infinitely worth it.  And I would go through it again if that was the only way to know Christ.  But… I definitely would not want to go through it again if I didn’t have to go through it again.

I think it was King David who said, “Strike me, it is a kindness.” And his son King Solomon that said, “The wounds of a friend can be trusted.”  Just because I was in the worst pain I have ever experienced didn’t mean that God didn’t exist, that God was powerless to stop the pain, or that God was evil.  God exists, He gave me the pain, and He made it work together for my good.

Millions of people suffer infinitely more than I have.  I don’t know why God allows so much pain.  But, I believe that when someone hurts, He hurts.  I watched the movie, God’s Not Dead, a few hours ago and they brought up our Free Will.  God chose to give us a choice as to whether we believe, trust and obey Him.  Or, whether we do not believe, trust and obey Him.  When we believe, trust and obey God we experience peace, joy and love.  All that is going on around us may be chaos.  But, on the inside, we enjoy God’s presence.  When we choose not to believe trust and obey him we experience evil, or the absence of God.

God wants you to choose life, to choose Him because He knows He is the best thing for you.  He made you because He wanted to love you and wanted you to experience His joy in receiving and giving love.  But He respects you and your right to choose.  He will not force Himself on you.  When He made you He placed you in times and circumstances that would best influence you to search for Him and find Him and realize that He loves you.  But He also allows you to choose to ignore Him, and pretend He does not exist, and die without Him, forever.  He is not wrong for allowing this.  It is the outflow of having a Free Will.  If you say to God, “Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone,” (active rejection), or decide not to decide, (passive rejection), He will do what you want.  And an eternity without God is Hell.

God is desperately pleading with you to choose Life, to choose Him.  But the only guaranteed time you have is today.  His arms are stretched out to you, His hands open wide.  But it is up to you.  Will you return His love?

What is Jesus like?

What is Jesus like?  The Bible says: 

He is the [exact visible] image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15a, KJV, brackets mine)

What is God like?  The Bible says

…God is Love. (1 John 4:8b, KJV)

What is Love like?

1If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
4Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
5Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
6Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
7Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. 9We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. 10But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love.  (1 Corinthians chapter 13, The Message)

This is what Love is like.  This is what God is like.  And this is what Jesus is like.  He never gives up on us, He’s always looking for the best in us, He doesn’t keep a sin scorecard (our sins are wiped away when we trust Him that He paid the penalty for them), He doesn’t think He’s better than us, He’s not stuck up, He doesn’t force Himself on us,  He doesn’t have to be first, He cares more about us than His own life.

This is one amazing Love…

This is one amazing God…
This is one amazing Jesus.

He’s not what you may think

There are many definitions of the “Glory of God”.  To me the greatest attribute of God’s glory is his humility. God chose to humble Himself and love me when I was arrogant, boastful, insulting and rude; to others and especially to Him.  If God had not endured my disrespect, I would probably be in hell by now.  And rightfully so.  

My greatest weakness may be “Pride.”  I wrote evangelistic advertisements for a newspaper.  The ads ran every Saturday.  I did this for two years until my pride was such that I couldn’t hear from God any more.  I didn’t write again for 8 years.  I knew I was getting proud.  I didn’t want to get proud.  I thought I confessed my pride to God.  But I was proud.

Pride is the opposite of love.  Love gets its joy from helping others.  Pride thinks only about itself.  I still need to die to myself.  Every day.

On the other hand, God’s humility is amazing.  His depths of self-denial are so great that if I loved like He does I would feel embarrassed.  Like the father of the prodigal son, God undignifies Himself and runs after us to love us.  Where I would feel humiliated to love someone who treated me like I treated God, His strength-of-self knows no such weakness.  He voluntarily throws aside the respect due Him, in order to meet my need.  And He has.  And He truly has my Respect.

How about you?  Did you think God was stuffy, formal and pretentious?  Did you think you were too low for Him to come down to meet you where you are?  He’s already there.  And He is waiting for you to ask Him into your life.  And He wants to give you His love.

A sign from Heaven

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day demanded He give them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove He was the Messiah:

Matthew 12 NKJV
38Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
39But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. 42The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

The spectacle of miracles was not as important to Jesus as changed lives through the demonstration of God’s loving character.  Soul healing through the loving sign of physical healing was the goal of Jesus’ miracles for those who believed in God’s love.  Irrefutable proof of His divinity thrilled those who loved God and confounded those who did not.  His works of love proclaimed Him Messiah, Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh.  Jesus said that those confounded would not be guilty if He had not come and done what no one else has ever done.

John 15 NKJV
22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. 25But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’

Jesus told His followers that the works that He did they would do, and even greater:

John 14 NKJV
12“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 

John 15 NKJV
26“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

 Control the wind and the waves?  Change water into wine?  Multiply bread and fish and feed thousands from one person’s small lunch?  Grow back missing limbs?  Heal the sick?  Raise the dead?  Greater than these?  I might think that impressing the masses with these spectacular miracles is Jesus goal. But Jesus’ ultimate purpose for doing miracles was to give Life to the spiritually dead and introduce them to a relationship with His Father who loved them.  This He could greater accomplish by loving multitudes of people through multitudes of His followers who love by the power of His Spirit living within them.  That is greater than any spectacle.

So what is the final proof that Jesus is God?  Ask one of His followers what He has done for them personally.

I’m Listening

Have you ever noticed that we don’t have any “problems” anymore?… we only have “issues”?  I think we are so much better off.  And we don’t “make progress”, we “move forward”.  I know I’ve benefited immensely from that change.  But seriously, new words to old concepts bring a new perspective and help us freshly rethink meaning.  But the concept hasn’t changed.  We have.

What is the difference between “truth” as I perceive it, as you perceive it, and as it “Truly” is apart from distorted perception?  And, if you believe there is “no absolute truth”, do you believe that that statement is absolutely true?

Joshua 5 NIV84

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
15 The commander of the LORD ’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Jesus’ Truth does not belong to Republicans or Democrats, conservative evangelicals or liberal universalists.  Jesus disciples included a former political freedom fighter (Simon the Zealot) and a former political oppressor (Matthew the Tax Collector).  They included common uneducated fishermen (Peter, James and John) and the intelligentsia (Paul).  Jesus loves all.  And all can be transformed by His Truth.

Steven Covey implied that you can only hope to influence another if you risk being influenced by them.  Why don’t we agree to disagree and still love each other and talk to each other.  Instead we accuse each other of “hate”, call each other “sinners”, refuse to listen to the other’s point of view, and refuse to allow ourselves to be influenced by the other’s pain.  Are we so insecure in what we believe, that we that we can’t allow ourselves to learn from each other?

Jesus’ enemies hated Him because His Truth exposed their flaws.  The people who loved Him (the common people) loved Him because they had the courage to acknowledge their flaws and accept His forgiveness and acceptance and healing.  In His Truth they saw the power of God’s love to change their life.  He didn’t ask them to first be perfect.  He asked them to trust His love to change them by following Him.  His enemies (the self-righteous religious crowd) didn’t want anything to do with Jesus’ love and Truth changing their life.  They loved themselves just the way they were.  They were right.  They were perfect.  Sound like anyone you know?  I know it sounds like me.

I was in the depths of severe mental illness for ten years while God proved to me I was a sinner.  It took that long, not because He is cruel, but because I refused to see the Truth.  I had to admit my flaws and my need of His forgiveness and new Life.  I wouldn’t wish mental illness on anyone.  But I would go through it all again if it was the only way for me to meet Jesus.

Our society is polarized to the point of dysfunction.  The answer does not lie in waiting for “the other side” to wise up.  The answer does not lie in political force.  The answer lies in the listening ear of Jesus.  And because He values you enough to listen to you, I value you enough to listen to you.  Do you value me enough to let me listen to you?

God "embarrasses" Himself with Love

Luke  15:11-32 NKJV

11 Then [Jesus] said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

God, our Heavenly Father, the Creator of the Universe, loves us with such intensity, that He “embarrasses” Himself in His pursuit of a relationship with us.  There is nothing so undignified or beneath Him that He won’t do it to win our hearts to Him.  (I am not talking about sin of course).  In the above parable the son disgraced his father and himself and trampled their relationship by demanding his inheritance while his father was still alive.  Yet his father loved his son, kept watch for him, and ran to greet him as soon as he saw him coming back.  In Jesus’ day and culture a dignified adult man would not run, it was considered beneath him.  Yet Jesus portrays God, Jesus’ Heavenly Father, as someone who loves us so much that He is willing to “embarrass” himself by running to greet us to communicate His great love for us.

Of course, this was ultimately shown when He hung naked, brutally beaten and bloody, nailed to the cross, dying, so that he could provide a way for us to spend eternity with Him.

Love doesn’t get any greater than that.

When you die and meet Jesus He will not ask you about the size of your bank account, what neighborhood you lived in, the car you drove, whether you never smoked, drank or danced, how much you gave, whether you never missed church… etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

He will ask you, however, what did you do with “Him”. He gave you His all.  He gave you Himself.  He does not condemn you.  He does not demand perfection.  He wants surrender.  He just wants you.  He wants an unhindered love relationship between you and Him.

What are you telling Him everyday by how you are living your life now?  Go back to Him.  He is waiting for you.  And when He sees you turn, He will run to greet you.

Satan’s lie about God

Under traffic sources in the statistics part of this blog’s background functions are what I believe are sources of entry for those who read this blog.  I clicked on one of them and it went to a porn site.  (I quickly closed it and told my wife who was sitting in the living room with me).  Before I became a Christian I viewed pornography.  I eventually recognized its destructive influence on me and got rid of it (even before I knew Jesus).  But like an alcoholic who becomes sober and then stays away from alcohol I stay away from pornography.  And that’s why I quickly closed it and told my wife.  She knows the password on my computer and I don’t hide anything from her, in order to protect myself from falling back into slavery to pornography.

If you view pornography I do not condemn you and God does not condemn you.  God and I do, however, condemn what is destroying you and that is the pornography.  God loves people but He hates sin – because sin hurts the people he loves.

Sin is an attempt to get our God-given needs met outside of God’s will.  Sin provides pleasure for a season but it will never satisfy the human heart’s longing to be satisfied by God.  God is waiting for you to give up satan’s worthless pleasure and seek Him to truly meet your needs.  God said, you will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart.  Satan comes only to kill, steal and destroy.  Jesus comes so that me and you can have real life!  Jesus called Himself the Bread of Life, the wholesome nutrition for our souls that we might have true pleasure, true satisfaction, true life.

Satan will tell you that God is no fun.  God invented fun.  Satan will tell you that God is trying to steal the little pleasure you have left in life.  God is trying to introduce you to real pleasure that builds you up, not satan’s counterfeit that tears you down.  Satan is trying to destroy us with pleasure-coated poison.  God is trying to give us food for our souls, what we truly need to be happy.

In the end, it’s your choice.  But remember, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

If you want help please consider going to XXXchurch.com.  I have never gone to the site myself (for fear I would get targeted with spam from the porn industry) but I have heard good things about it from others.