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Posts Tagged ‘Eternity’

Darkness obscured the noise.
Glass crashed and shattered across the floor.
A brick wrapped in brown butcher paper, decorated with hate speech scribbled in black and tied with a string, fell to the floor.
Unable to move, a frightened boy gawked. His saucer-sized-eyes reflected the horror exploding inside him.
Torched by a man saturated in hate, a flaming match ignited the gasoline he’d doused on a cross, illuminating a black football jersey with his brother’s number 22—hung there to fry in hell’s fury.

I sat in the shadows and shook and sobbed as the above scene flashed across the wide screen. Unable to restrain the gush of anguish. Transported fifty years in the past—my early teens—to a street corner in Jacksonville, Florida, just after dark. Where A gang of unruly men in white robes with pointed hoods. Shouted death threats. And burned another cross.

My brother and I were glued to the horror, but unable to look away. Daddy explained these were evil men. “But that’s what America’s all about,” he offered. “Freedom to demonstrate and say whatever you think, even when it’s wrong and folks don’t agree.”

I didn’t believe those words then and I don’t believe them now. Hate is not an acceptable synonym of freedom. If your actions harm another person, those actions aren’t legitimized because you live in America. Those actions testify of the perpetrator’s bondage to lies, hatred, and sin. But like Daddy, many in the 50’s and 60’s rejected the Klan’s evil, but hedged ignorant suspicions on the side of prejudice about anyone not like them. And the black community did the same.

Racial prejudice knows no boundaries.

First John

Unaware of the imprint those images etched in my soul, I watched this true story played out in HD in the movie, Woodlawn. Those turbulent years in our nation’s history, and the vile words and actions of then governor of Alabama, George Wallace, echoed off the screen and through the years.

I saw again the faces of those satiated with hate on that street corner so long ago, but I also heard and remembered the words of justice and peace spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King. And the maker of this film told the true story how six words transformed the lives and futures of the Woodlawn football team, the school, and the town. One afternoon in Birmingham, Alabama, the entire team of integrated, but deeply divided, angry young men uttered those life-changing words—I choose Jesus and I forgive you.

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Thousands of years ago, in the Book of Deuteronomy, God recited before the people the blessing and the cursing and allowed them to likewise choose.

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it…I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19-20 NAS).

The same God who created the heavens and the earth, is the same God who spoke through Moses to the nation of Israel, and is the same God this nation has worshiped and served over two hundred years. This same God who blessed America would have continued to bless our nation had the people of this land chosen life and blessings and obedience, rather than death and cursings.

King Solomon was right when he said, “Behold there is nothing new under the sun.”
And here we are in 2015 having crossed that same despicable threshold. Again.

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The fabric of faith has been contorted and twisted and shredded across America by the continual lies and rebellion of the enemies of God and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

I listen to the continual words of this president, and those who surround him, and the media, who, like those KKK men of the past, spew their divisive, hate laced words, dividing, vilifying, and separating Americans. Daily choosing death rather than life.

And we see this consequential death displayed in each major city in America every day. We have been sucked back in time and have allowed days of the hideous history of hatred to rekindle and reproduce in our land. Fueled by a willful ignorance of God’s Word, people of every race and creed, deceived by the times and tunes chanted by Satan and his vicious demons, dance to the melody of deception.

They fail to understand fear of The Ku Klux Klan was just another wicked lie established in the South by deceived Democrats intent on keeping the black populous from voting. Democrats controlled the South during those years. The word Republican was whispered, but not on the ballot. And did you know one of the oldest Democratic members of the U.S. Senate was a past Dragon of the Klan? Who knows how many other leaders swore allegiance to the Klan?

But that was the way of the south in the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s—or so my Daddy believed.

And if we don’t discern and aren’t diligent to seek God’s guidance, 2016 will be the same song, umpteenth verse of this ditty of deception.

God has answered our prayers and raised up a trio of godly patriots, well qualified to seek the office of President. Men who aren’t ashamed of their faith in Jesus Christ. Men who have the courage to speak the truth. But, it’s hard to fight free stuff. Because we’ve raised a generation of folks who believe their have a right to free, refusing to care or comprehend someone has to pay for their free. Scripture instructs, “If you do not work, you do not eat.”

 Thessalonians

What’s the point, you ask? The Klan no longer exists.

Really? Are you sure?

Jesus tells us, “If we say we love God and hate our brothers, we are liars and the truth is not in us.”

Anyone who hates another human enough to kill is like a current-day-member of the Klan. Just as despicable and evil. And God says we’ve murdered them in our hearts first. Anyone who chooses the lie of the father-of-lies, rather than obeying the commands of the Lord God, will inherit the eternal consequences of their choices.

Make no mistake, for there to be a heaven, there must be a hell. But God sends no one to that eternal place of torment…they choose hell because they refuse to acknowledge and believe and choose Jesus and refuse to forgive others.

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I highly endorse the movie Woodlawn. And would suggest it for family viewing and discussion.

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“Mama, I sure do miss you and wish I’d said ‘I love you’ more often.”
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I’m sure each one of you reading this post feel the same way if your mother isn’t with you this Mother’s Day. But a blogging friend of mine sent a post this morning from “Home’s Cool,” 2009 08 04 206_edited-1entitled “What Would Your Mother Do?” And as I wrote a comment to her post it triggered memories. Memories I’d like to share, hoping we will guard our hearts every moment of every day. Because the Word tells us what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart.

My Mama had a beautiful voice and she loved to sing. And in the spring and summer, when the windows were opened, I could hear her singing a block from home. So could the neighbors. It was no secret Mama loved Jesus.

She also loved to cook and give parties. The proverbial DSCF2942hostess with the mostest, (Be sure to read my December 2012 blog entitled The Invitation.) Mama was kind enough to passIMG_2368 041 her cooking genes and her recipes on to me, her grandson, and her granddaughters. TopThought we might incorporate some of Christine Nickels’ recipes in future blogs, maybe even publish Nana’s Cook Book.

Like everyone else, our family was far from perfect. But there were fun times with Mama and Daddy. And times she made certain I memorized God’s Word. And those words, hidden in my heart, saved my life for eternity.

Alzheimer’s began its attack on Mama’s mind before her great IMG_1574 202grandchildren were born, but she had years to pour her love IMG_1564 210onto her grandchildren, and pour she did! Mama said grandchildren were her reward for having children and she loved them “to the moon and back.”

In the final days of her battle with that dreaded disease Mama was hospitalized. We lived in Texas at the time, so my visits were by phone with her nurse. One evening her nurse related Mama had been groaning all day. She had given her medicine, but the sounds continued.

I asked the lady if she was familiar with the old hymns. She replied, “My daddy’s a Baptist pastor.” We laughed and I asked her to lean close to Mama and listen to what she was saying. I waited while she checked.

In a few moments she returned to the phone. “You won’t believe this.” Excitement spilled from her lips. “Your Mama’s singing! Amazing Grace! She’s not groaning, she’s singing!” And we wept, long distance, together.

Alzheimer’s robbed Mama’s memory of her family and her life, but this thief couldn’t steal eternal melodies imprinted in her heart.
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And I find myself weeping as I write today. Not tears of pain and grief this time, but tears of thankfulness and joy. Joy in knowing what was in Mama’s heart her last days here on earth. Joy2009 08 04 148 in knowing she’s with our Lord Jesus. And thankfulness for the Mama God chose for me and knowing His promises are true—we will all be together again. Forever.

What is being imprinted in your heart that will last for eternity? Giving thanks or murmuring? Joy or sorrow? Truth or lies?

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their whole body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:20-23 NAS).

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Ever throw a party and no one showed up? I have. It’s humiliating. But have you ever heard of not having a party and everyone came? It happened at our house one Christmas Eve many years ago.

My earliest memories of Christmas Eve were Mama and Daddy’s annual Christmas Open House. Invitations went out the first of December, addressed, with times staggered, so folks would arrive in small groups because of the size of our modest home. But every year they came, fifty, sixty, seventy-five of them, all arriving early and staying ‘til…

Laughter, singing, and joyful conversation filled all the rooms of our house and Christmas Eve became a Rockefeller-Center-event for my brother, Andy and me.

Mama’s food would have made Paula Deen proud. The house sparkled, the tree shimmered, and the table—always a picture out of Southern Living. My brother and I were as excited about the party as we were the gifts under the tree. And we were allowed to stay up late while other kids had to go to bed. Daddy said Santa made an exception for us and placed our house on his last-stop-list before returning to the North Pole.

But one Christmas Eve in the mid ‘50’s, my parents decided not to have their annual Christmas Eve party. No polishing silver, no party preparations, no delicious smells from Mama’s kitchen. It didn’t even seem like Christmas to my brother and me.

Andy and I moped over Christmas Eve dinner and prepared for a gloomy evening with the folks and the sentence of an early bedtime.

Until headlights shined in the driveway, followed by a second set of headlights, and then another and another. The doorbell rang and a crowd of expectant-party-goers shouted “Merry Christmas”.

Daddy opened the door and after an awkward moment of silence between the guests and would-be-hosts, Mama and Daddy’s smiles lit up as bright as our Christmas lights and they ushered the confused guests into our living room.

There would be a party after all.

Mama’s Christmas cookies were rushed to the table, and the fresh coconut cake ready for tomorrow’s dinner would soon be gobbled. She was the poster model for magic chef. Within minutes the table miraculously filled with delicious tidbits from Mama’s fridge and pantry.

I heard ladies tell her over and over, “I thought my invitation was lost in the mail.” And, “it wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without gathering at your house.”

Next day we ate left-over’s for Christmas dinner and laughed and agreed it had been the best party ever. Mama and Daddy pledged never to cancel their party again. They couldn’t—the people would come even without an invitation.

How times and relationships have changed. I marvel at these precious memories. A night so many years ago filled with good news. The good news of friendships—love and delight in just being together. The good news of  Mama and Daddy who gave us a home where grace and love and friendships trumped all else. The good news of confidence that all who came to our table would be blessed and welcomed by my folks.

How appropriate is this loving memory of my parents tonight, at the beginning of the 2012 Christmas celebration.

Yet, over two thousand years ago, another invitation was issued by an angelic choir in the skies over Bethlehem. An invitation first given to shepherds who received the Good News of Jesus.

God’s invitation, brought by His Son, who guarantees a place at God’s table. A table in an eternal home, with a forever family where mercy and grace and a loving relationship wait to be lavished on any and all who will come to Jesus.

Have you accepted your invitation? It’s not lost in the mail, it’s in the Word and in your heart. He promised, there’s a seat at His table—just for you. Your name is engraved on the place card and the smiling face and loving arms of Jesus are stretched open to welcome you.

The date’s been set. The preparations are in order. Will you be there?

Award winning article in North Texas Christian Writers 2012 “Write Before Christmas” contest.

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Have you ever given serious thought to why Jesus would weep when He stood with Mary and Martha at their brother’s tomb?

God would honor His command and Lazarus would walk from the grave. Resurrected. Alive. And Jesus knew this would happen.

So why the tears?

Could it be that He looked into the hearts of His friends and others mourning and in His humanity became overwhelmed with their sorrow? Could it be He looked back through the corridors of time and saw the centuries of tragedy and anguish that sin and death had inflicted on His creation? Could it be He saw His own sacrificial death looming on the horizon? Could He have gazed into future millennia and seen the wars and disease and destruction that must be completed before the end of this era?

Perhaps Jesus also saw how life could have been. God said creation was very good. A perfect relationship, between God and His creations. A perfect life and a perfect future. With no death.

And He wept.

God tells us that the final enemy is death. And anyone who comes face to face with that adversary weeps.

Still that old “if only” rhetoric springs to our minds. If only Adam and Eve hadn’t made that stupid choice. If only I’d been there, I wouldn’t have listened to Lucifer. If only, if only… But the truth is, if we’d been present at creation, we would have made the same choice they did. Look around. Folks still choose death. Every day.

Glance in the mirror. We all make those wrong choices.

I think about the number of times I have deliberately rebelled against God. Knowing what He said, I made the choice to disobey, and have repeated that defiance over and over again. Continually casting my vote for death.

God told Adam and Eve, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die,” (NKJ Genesis 2:16-17). And they did. They ate. They died. Spiritually and physically. Since that time the sin gene has passed from generation to generation. The Word says, “The soul who sins shall But God had a plan to redeem us to Himself. And His plan was and is His Son—Jesus Christ. God’s righteousness demands judgment. We can’t do anything to save ourselves or to pay that price, because we have birth defects. Perpetual sins that need healing. We’re not perfect. And that’s why Jesus had to die.

Hebrews 9:11(b) tells us “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” from sin. That’s why God killed the animals and used their skins to cover Adam and Eve. A blood sacrifice. That’s why those Hebrew children had to watch their fathers kill their perfect little lambs that first Passover night so long ago. So that when the death angel entered the land of Egypt, he would pass over the houses whose door posts were painted with the blood of the lamb. Another blood sacrifice. That’s why days after raising Lazarus, Jesus would become the once-for-all-time blood sacrifice.

The Lord Jesus Christ, our soon-to-be Passover Lamb stood at the grave site of Lazarus and wept.

This Immanuel—God with us, was born to die.

We want to skim over all that history and get to the good stuff. You know, about the resurrection, our new bodies, and heaven. But we can’t get to the good stuff without going through His blood. And to think there are churches today who never mention the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. They never mention sin. The blood that covers sin. The blood that cleanses. The blood that redeems. And Jesus knew that too.

And He wept.

Could His tears also have been for the multiplied millions who, through all of human time, would refuse to go through His blood? Perhaps He cried for their refusal to hear, their futile attempts to cleanse themselves through religiosity, their ultimate rejection of the only way to God the Father.

And He still weeps.

But the Father has set a day. A day, only He knows, when Death will die.

Dr. Paul Tripp says “We will all get to attend the funeral of Death. And that’s a funeral we will all want to go to. A date certain when we will all see Death placed in the coffin.”

There are two classifications of folks in this world when it comes to grief. Those who are grieving and those who will be grieving. Yes, at some point in your life, you too will stand at someone’s grave site and weep.

But, if your loved one who died was washed in the blood of Jesus, and if you’ve been washed in that blood too, there will be a reunion. God promises. All who have trusted in the blood of Jesus to cover their sins will be with Him. Forever. The curse will be lifted, and the earth restored. And when that day comes, there will be no more death. Death will finally die.

And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true,” (NAS Revelation 21:4-5).

 

PRESCRIPTION: Are you ready? Ready to cry? Ready to die? If not, please contemplate the words in John 3:16-17 and insert your name:

“For God so loved DiAne Gates that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus Christ) that if DiAne Gates would believe on Him (Jesus Christ), DiAne Gates would not perish but DiAne Gates would have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son (Jesus) into the world (the kosmos) to condemn the world (the human race), but that the world (everyone who hears and believes) through Him (Jesus) might be saved,” (NKJ John 3:16).

 

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, things that are not yet done. Saying, “ My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure”  (NKJ Isaiah 46:9-10).

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