Looking to an Eternal Future Gives Hope

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This was the view from outside my building yesterday. It snowed Friday evening and Saturday morning. It was a good snow for making a snowman. I did get out for a little while, but spent most of the day relaxing after a busy first week back to teaching after my winter break. During a cold snowy winter day, people often wish for spring to come and bring things back to life.

When we have something to look forward to, it can help us to not get too down about the problems of our current situation.

A post I read yesterday caused me to think of the passage in Hebrews 11:

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

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If I were to only look at my present situation, it would get me down and perhaps I would stay down. But thinking about my eternal future in heaven and how I want others to join me there, gives me the motivation I need each day to get out of bed, put up with the pain and stiffness throughout my body, and not focus on other problems. There are refugees and immigrants in my city who I want to share the love of Christ with.

The post I read was by a new blogger, Grace and Pink. It was a bit of a light hearted reflection on the fact that heaven awaits those of us who have come to Christ. You can read it by clicking on- The Log.

Jesus taught that we should invest in our eternal future, not to earn it because it is the gift of God to anyone who will come to trust in Jesus, but rather to store up for our eternal future. Jesus taught about in Matthew 6:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Everything in this life is temporary. I remember when I received my van in 2009 how excited I was to be blessed by others donating it for my ministry. Now it is 13 years old and wearing down. But I did put it to good use giving people rides to church, rides to the airport, and helping people move. I also took people to the Immigration Office for U.S. Citizenship test. So though the van is wearing down, the lives I was able to touch because of it will be remembered. Hebrews 6 says:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them”

So then the question is really more about what my focus is on. Is it on my current circumstances? The daily pain? The financial struggle month to month of being in ministry? The struggle with depression? Oh my, if my focus is on those things, throw in the towel.

But my focus is on the Lord. He has blessed me with a life full of meaning and purpose. He has forgiven me. He has changed my life. Best of all, I have an eternity in heaven with him and all of those who know him. That makes getting out of bed and facing the day and the problems in life worth it all.

Thank for reading. God Bless

 

 

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The First Christmas- The Perspective of the Angels

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Imagine that you are one of the angels created by God and stayed faithful to God. You have seen Jesus on his throne in heaven. He is the one who created you. He is the one you have worshiped since he created you. He is the one that has sent you to do his bidding to serve human beings, sinful human beings.

As an angel you have seen Jesus in all of his power and glory and you know he is the creator God.

Now imagine coming to the manger in Bethlehem where Jesus is a human baby who has just been born. If I was one of the angels, it would BLOW MY MIND. The all powerful Son of God who created everything is now a human baby.

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The angels were perhaps astounded by it all. He left his throne to become one of the humans that dared to sin against God and who are weak and vulnerable and yet God loves them so much that sent Jesus to be their Savior. You are well aware that there is no Savior or salvation for the fallen angels.

Perhaps you are one of the angels sent to be the announcement choir to the shepherds, lowly men who smelled bad because they were with the sheep all day every day and God chooses to announce the birth of the one you have seen on his throne in heaven to these shepherds.

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Is it any wonder that Peter wrote of the angels in 1 Peter 1:

“Even angels long to look into these things.”

What things? The things pertaining to the gospel our salvation according to the context of the chapter.

They long to understand it all.

But they are not created in God’s image. Only human beings are. They are not called God’s children. Only human beings who have received Jesus are.

I think if we stop and try to comprehend the true first Christmas from the perspective of the angels, it will amaze us.

John tried to describe what he saw when he was taken up into the throne room of Jesus in heaven in Revelation 1:

 “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars,and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance”

 

No wonder John’s reaction was:

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.”

Fortunately for John, Jesus put his hand on John’s shoulder and said It is me don’t be afraid.

That is the Jesus the angels had seen for thousands of years on his throne in heaven. No wonder they long to understand how Jesus could become a human baby to be our Savior. That is the core of the gospel. Because he loves us, Jesus left heaven to be born to grow to die for us and defeat death for us through his resurrection.

If you take time to ponder this, please share your reaction.

Thank you for reading, God Bless.

Music Mondays- How Many Kings by Downhere

Situations and experiences in life can leave us wondering if anyone cares. Depression can cause people to feel isolated and wondering if there is hope. Addiction can leaves us feeling trapped. Losing a loved one leaves us grieving. Divorce leaves us feeling betrayed and abandoned. Family problems can leaves us frustrated, hurt, and wounded.

I love the message in this song about the real Christmas. As I listen to the lyrics, I am filled with wonder at the extent that God showed his love at Christmas and continues to show his love. The questions the song ask in the lyrics are so beautiful to ponder:

“Cause how many kings step down from their thrones
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?”

The message of the song is all about how Jesus gave it all up for us because of his love for us. That is the true whole message of Christmas.

It is easy to feel warm around a baby. Christmas is in a way a non-threatening celebration because focusing on a baby does not require a response from us.

But the whole story is that Jesus is our creator. He left his throne in heaven to be born as a baby for the purpose of growing to be a man to die for our sins on the cross. Then he defeated death for us through his resurrection. He ascended to heaven and will come back again.

The true Jesus, the whole story, requires a response on our part. Will we receive him or not?

Reflect on Jesus. Because of his love, he left it all to come to us. There is no leader in world history, no religious leader in world history, that gave up what Jesus gave up to come to us. He did it because of one reason- HE LOVES YOU AND ME.

That kind of love, the all consuming self sacrificing love, is what I long to be filled with, surrounded by, healed by, and embraced by. The older I get, the more I realize I need Jesus and his love for me. The greatest comfort there is for me as I struggle with autoimmune problems is that one day I will be with Jesus because of his love and grace not because of me. That encouraged me when depression set in. Jesus wants me with him forever. That is the reason I get out of bed in the morning. I want to share his love.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

Whatever the Problem, It Is Not Permanent.

It is coming. Two weeks from tomorrow it is coming. What is it? My next doctor’s appointment. What’s the big deal?

I have what doctors refer to as white coat syndrome meaning when I see a doctor, I feel anxious. Something about hearing doctors say things in the past like, ‘your liver test is not good’ or ‘your cholesterol is 413’ or ‘we don’t know what us causing your pain, we need to run more tests’. Something about going to seven different specialists in one year, or having lost memory because of being sick etc etc.

This life is full of ups and downs. For some there are not as many downs and for some, like me, it can seem like one prolonged down. I understand being sick, regrouping in life, having depression, wondering what the future will hold and how to get there.

I can’t imagine going through what I have in my life without Jesus being with me. He is the reason I get up and get moving on a day that isn’t a good one. He is the one I seek in prayer for strength to show his love to refugees and immigrants.

I am learning not to focus on the down times or the problems such as waking up with a neck so stiff I need a heating pad for an hour before I go teach. I wish I could say I always manage to not focus on it, but then I would be lying. But there is another focus that is stronger. JESUS.

In any situation, Jesus is greater. Sometimes he moves the mountain and sometimes he helps us over it. Ever situation in this life is temporary. The only permanent reality is our eternal destiny with Jesus. That mindset is what has been the most helpful for me to remember that whatever happens, it is temporary. I have an eternal home to look forward to. I am just passing through this life hoping to bring others with me to the eternal home. I love how Hebrews 11 describes the people in the Old Testament.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them”

They had their eyes on their eternal home and that kept them going through all kinds of difficulties.

Whatever we face in this life, it is temporary. I like the way Kristina Kuzmic put it in one of her videos regarding the struggles she went through in life. She told herself this isn’t permanent, it is only right now. It was her way of reminding herself the pits in this life are not permanent.

So dear readers, if something starts to feel overwhelming, maybe take a breath and tell ourselves this isn’t permanent. Maybe I will try that at my appointment. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless

 

Time

Time change weekend here in the U.S. as in the good time change that gives us an extra hour of sleep. It meant figuring out the new time for my video chat English lessons with a student in China. It also meant figuring out a different time to chat with a friend in Brazil who will come here in December. Brazil had its spring time change this weekend moving ahead one hour, so now we have a four hour time difference instead of two.

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I am a Tolkien fan. I have read Lord of the Rings several times. I watched the movies several times. In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf told his hobbit friends, “ All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” I love this quote because it expresses a profound truth. Our lives are short here in this life. The question is not how much time we have in this life as in how long we will live. If we compare 75 years to eternity, we realize this life is so short. The question is what we do with the time we are given in this life.

Jesus’s followers asked him after his resurrection if he was going to set up his kingdom on earth at that time. In Acts 1 Jesus’s answer was:

 “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

In other words, Jesus told them it isn’t for them to know the time, but to get busy going out to share him with the world.

What will we do with this day we are given today? Will we show the love of Jesus with those we encounter today? Will we share his message? Will we live for him today?

What will we do with the time we are given?

Each day we are given opportunities. Yesterday instead of watching my college football team play in an exciting game, I spent time with a family from Iran that is grieving the loss of a relative who died of old age in Iran. I sat with them, drank tea with them, ate a fish lunch with them, and talked with them. It was well worth my time to be there for my friends.

But then last night as I did laundry, I got lazy and didn’t do much. After a busy week, I needed some down time to relax.  I felt it was okay. I spent my morning teaching English at my church and my afternoon with my friends. However, as I think back on yesterday, I realize I could have made better use of my evening yesterday.

Giving our time to someone can be a precious gift to them. Visiting grieving friends, visiting someone who is sick, having a cup of coffee with a friend, taking time to read with a child, stopping to talk with a neighbor, there are so many ways to share God’s love with people.

Any time that we give to others to share the love of Jesus will be blessed when we run out of time here on earth and enter our eternal home in heaven.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Word Wednesday- Treasure

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What do we treasure in life? What do we value most? There are good things to treasure like family and friends. The are things that can compete with family and friends for our attention such as career and money that seem good, but can ensnare us if we aren’t careful. Sadly people can also treasure negative things that eventually lead to our ruin.

Whatever we treasure in life is what we give our time, attention, and devotion to. Whatever we treasure is where our heart is. Jesus said as much in Matthew 6:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”

Things in this life can lead us down the wrong path. Even things that seem good such as career can distract us from the most important things in life namely family or friends. How sad to come to the end of one’s life and regret neglected relationships.

Much more tragic would be to come to the end of one’s life and realize we have neglected the most important relationship we could have, which is one with God. We can only choose God in this life by believing in his son Jesus. Rejecting Jesus leads to eternal peril. But what of those who do believe but focus on other things in their life neglecting the fullness of relationship with Jesus. Jesus also said in Matthew 6:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Serving Jesus in this life has eternal benefits that we cannot comprehend yet, but that day will come.

Serving Jesus means that we have an eternal treasure to offer to everyone. Imagine the feeling of seeing someone in heaven and knowing that part of the reason they are there is because you showed them Jesus by how you treated them and shared the gospel message about Jesus with them.

Paul was a man who understood how valuable the treasure was that he shared with people. He endured hardships that we might faint in the face of such as being shipwrecked, being beaten, being thrown in jail and more. His attitude was expressed in 2 Corinthians 4:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

What better way to live than to live for Jesus and serve him in this life? God rewards those who seek him, live for him, and serve him. We see in Hebrews 11:

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

God will reward us. We are instructed to not only believe God is there, but also that he rewards. It is not a selfish thing to trust that God will reward us. Jesus is the one who told us to lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven. We do that by seeking God, serving Jesus, and loving others in his name.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

My Dream House

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If I were to have a dream house, one that could be a place the both represents me and one that I would enjoy, it would be as follows:

1 big office for me with a map of the world on the wall, a big globe on a table, room for my books on bookshelves, a desk big enough for my computer and to study at, and of course a VERY comfortable chair for me and some chairs for guests.

1 room for entertainment with a big screen TV, a nice sound system, many comfy recliners, a small fridge for refreshments, and some game tables.

1 kitchen where someone else cooks for me because I am a terrible cook.

2 pools, one indoors for the winter and one outdoors for the summer

A big deck outside for barbecues

A large living room with many comfy chairs for conversation

A nice Master bedroom

Several Guest bedrooms

Okay, so that will not happen in this life. At least I don’t foresee it happening.

BUT

My real dream house, or home, is the one Jesus talked about in John 14 when he told the disciples:

“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

This life is temporary and anything we have in this life is temporary. Even the nicest homes in this life will be gone someday. But the home Jesus is preparing for those who believe in him will be eternal and I am sure will BLOW our minds. We cannot fathom how awesome the home is.

An interesting aspect of the culture Jesus was speaking to was that when a man and woman were engaged, the father of the groom would add a room onto the house. When the room was ready, the father would tell the son it was time to bring his bride home. SO when Jesus spoke the words- “In my father’s house are many rooms” and I will come to take to where I am” it would have been a very clear meaning to his disciples.

Yes, it has been 2,000 years, BUT God doesn’t forget us or his promises. When the time is right in God’s eyes, he will say to Jesus, Go get my children, and Jesus will come for us. This post is not about the various views regarding it. This is only an encouragement that one day Jesus will come for us.

A song I love is midnight cry. It is about the moment when God the Father says to Jesus, “Go get my children.” I hope that day comes soon. Today would be great. 🙂 I love this video of the song being sung in a church. Hope you have a blessed weekend and remember that day is getting closer. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Just Passing Through Hoping to Bring People Along

When I teach my classes and they ask me how old I am, my age is on a sliding scale. Whatever the age of my youngest student is, that is my age for that class. For example, in one of my evenings classes I have two young women who are 19 years old, so I say I am 19 too.

Here is a picture of me at the zoo.

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I tell my students I color my hair white to look like a teacher and this is a picture of me in disguise.

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For some reason my students don’t seem to believe me. 🙂

Whatever I look like in this life doesn’t really matter. This life is temporary. Our bodies in this world are ones that will get old and eventually die of something. If this life and how we look is all we have to go on, it is depressing.

But there is much more than this life. I love the way Paul teaches about it in 2 Corinthians chapter 4:

“16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

I have a certain milestone birthday coming up and it has me thinking about the fact that this life is so short, but there is so much more in store for us in heaven. We are promised resurrection bodies because of what Jesus did for us. We are all foreigners and strangers looking forward to a heavenly home like Hebrews 11 talks about.

Yes this life is short and is nothing compared to what can be in our eternal future if we come to Jesus. But this life is important to me in the sense that I want other people to enjoy that resurrection body too. As I get older and have battled autoimmune, I think more about what Paul said about absent from the body, home with the Lord but that being here means more fruitful ministry. There are days I wish Jesus would take me home to heaven, but there are refugees and immigrants who need help, need to hear about Jesus, and need someone to pray for them.

So I am just passing through in this life and hoping to bring people with me to that heavenly home.

I just hope the resurrection body for me will be more like the first picture not the second one. 🙂

Brazil Gave Me My Best Friend When I Was A Child.

Maybe writing about being attacked by a dog yesterday made me think about my best friend when I was a child. Her name was Taffy. It was because of Brazil that I had my best friend Taffy.

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Taffy was a golden retriever, not the one in the picture above, and she was my best friend. It was because of a friend’s family moving to Brazil for his father to be a medical missionary that Taffy became part of my family. They couldn’t take Taffy with them, so the plan was for me to have some sleep overs with my friend from 3rd grade, Steve, so Taffy could get to know someone in my family.

The result was that Taffy followed me around the house when I was home. She slept in my bedroom, I brushed her, took her for walks, and fed her. We were inseparable when I was home. If I called her name, she came to me even if she was playing with my siblings.

Taffy was part of God’s grace for a boy in a crazy family life. I am not sure if dogs go to heaven, but if they do, I want to see Taffy.

During my last trip to Brazil, I spent time with my students or other professors on the weekends. Two of my students had a golden retriever named Maya. They thought it was a bit crazy when I asked to go with them to the park in Rio do Sul on a Saturday morning to help them walk their dog.

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I shared with them the reason why. When I heard they had a golden retriever, I just had to walk with them in the park. It seemed so fitting to walk and play with a golden retriever in the country that was the reason I had my best friend as a child.

It was a small life comes full circle kind of moment for me. When I meet Brazilians, I always seem to have an instant connection of friendship. I have several Brazilian friends on facebook and all I have to do is post something about Brazil and I will get at least 50 likes.

I am so grateful that God led me to teach English and meet people from all over the world. Brazil planted the seed of interest in other cultures a long time ago when I was child. The reason is that because of Brazil, I had my best friend as a child.

 

3 Day Quote Challenge Day 1- Music Mondays- I Can Only Imagine Sung by Aliyah Moulden on The Voice

Wow I woke up and found that while I was sleeping, I had already had my best day for views and visitors and ALSO that I have been nominated for the 3 Day Quote Challenge by Amy Blount in her blog A New Life.  You can click on her name in blue to visit her great blog where she shares about her life overcoming difficulties with her faith and being a mom. I enjoy reading her posts and think you will too. The 3 Day Quote Challenge is for a blogger to write a post 3 days in a row using a quote that means something to them.

So for my first quote in the 3 day quote challenge I would like to share one from Billy Graham one of my heroes of the Christian faith. “My home is in heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.” I try to have this perspective on life and after having been through 2 health crises in my life the reality that God has a far better home waiting for me gives me the desire to live for him in this life. This also leads me to one of my all time favorite songs for Music Monday I Can Only Imagine.

I Can Only Imagine was written by Bart Millard and originally recorded by Mercy Me. Aliyah Moulden sang it on the show The Voice in May 2017. Her father died when she was in infant, so it is no stretch to think that as she sang, she might of thought of her dad being in heaven. I love the song whether it is the Mercy Me recording or a cover by someone else because the song reminds me that this is much more beyond this life. As someone who has had one serious health crisis 20 years ago and another one not quite as serious more recently, the realization that there is so much more waiting for us in heaven is a blessing I cannot adequately describe in words.

 It is Monday which means one of my favorite TV shows will be on this evening. I love watching The Voice but perhaps for a different reason than most. Yes, I enjoy the singing and watching the performers, but the thing I love most about the show is seeing the coaches, musicians themselves, mentor the performers on the show.

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I think I should mention that I am not a country music fan. It just simply hasn’t been a genre I have enjoyed, not that I have anything against it. So Blake Shelton is a singer whose music I have never listened to unless he performs on The Voice and I have never bought any of his CDs or downloaded his songs from iTunes. However, I am impressed with how he cares for singers on his team, mentors them, and is all in for them. The connection he has with each of them is obvious. As a result, I often find myself voting for people on his team.

So I hope you have a blessed Monday and that maybe this video helps you along on a Monday. God Bless and thanks for reading my blog 🙂

For the 3 Day Quote Challenge I would like to nominate Ana who has the blog Beauty Beyond Bones where she shares about how her faith helped overcome eating disorder and also about her life. I have learned a lot from her blog and think you would enjoy it too.