The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree – Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today my Mom is celebrating her 98th birthday in Heaven, as we remember her special day with a mixture of joy and sadness here on Earth. I was looking in the mirror this morning, and I saw my Mom’s features in my own face – the way her face would crinkle with lines etched by life’s trials complemented by the wrinkles engraved from a lifetime of smiles. How her eyes would squint a bit when she smiled – one more than the other and with a twinkle in her eyes. I felt joy shoving my grief back into its corner. I am my Mom’s legacy!

Funny thing about the aging process. I am finding this season of life has challenges my younger version could not begin to fathom, but also blessings that I am very grateful for. I remember Mom’s jovial disclosure of her age on every birthday – “I’m 29!” I have chosen to keep my hard-earned wisdom highlights visible, whereas she had chosen to keep her red hair for several decades before letting go of her fiery crown. Either way, she was, and is, beautiful.

Mom had a hearty laugh and a great sense of humor. She lit up any room she was in and she took much joy in music. I love this video of Mom singing while Phil and I dance in our kitchen after coming home from a Christmas eve service.

When I look back on the impact she had on my life and her steadfast love, I feel so grateful that God gave her to me to be my Mom. Cheerleader, teacher, confidante, nurturer, she was always there with a smile, a hug, and a word of wisdom. She was also there through every bump I experienced, even when they were the results of my own poor decisions.

Mom had a strong influence in my life. She would often say: “You have to have trust and faith,” “Don’t worry twice,” “Take some honey,” “Think happy thoughts,” and always in times of trouble – “It’s not a forever thing,” and “Lord, grant me the serenity…” So when asked to speak at a ladies ministry event at Living Word Global Church last year – Mom came to mind and I knew it was a great opportunity to share with others the wisdom my Mom had garnered throughout her life. She leaves a beautiful legacy in all of the lives she has touched, which I was able to share in the video below:

Our time on Earth is short, and while we think we will have the opportunity to be with our loved ones, the truth is, the day the Lord calls them home will always be sooner then what we would want, even if we know that day is coming. Romans 14:8, “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” gives me much comfort – but I do miss her daily.

Don’t neglect time with your loved ones – because tomorrow is not promised to any of us. The cherished memories of our many times together provide comfort until we are reunited again in Heaven. I also hope you can find time to listen to Mom’s wisdom – her words have carried me through some difficult times and I think they will bless you, too. And when you are going through those hard times, tell yourself an important truth that I know my Mom would tell you: “It’s not a forever thing.” You will get out the other side to a place of blessing. It might take awhile – but stay strong and hold onto your faith. You will get there. And when you do that, I am quite certain my Mom will be smiling down from Heaven.

Happy Birthday, Mom! Love and miss you so much!!

A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven

Today is Palm Sunday – the beginning of Holy Week recognized by those, like me, who are followers of Jesus Christ. As excited as we all get about Christmas (the birth of our Savior!!) it runs second to the most exciting holiday of all in the Christian calendar. In the secular world it is known as Easter Sunday but to understand the meaning of Easter in all its glory – Christians refer to it as Resurrection Day – the day that Jesus conquered death after bearing incredible torture on our behalf – and all of this driven by His love for us. The Bible tells us in Romans 10:9-10, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Easter commemorates God raising Jesus from the dead. Palm Sunday is the day Jesus arrived in Jerusalem – knowing what was ahead, yet still choosing to do so.

May be an image of text that says 'everytbing tbere 1S a aиA a time to every pиoe ИИAeΥ heaven. -Ecclesiastess:'

We have all been living in tremendous tension for the past two years, as the world remains in a constant state of chaos and uncertainty and there seems to be no end in sight. This plaque hangs in our kitchen, bringing comfort even when the unfathomable happens. It reminds me of God’s purpose through His Son Jesus Christ for humanity: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We have a hope that is enduring, a Lord who loves us, and a purpose ordained by Him for our time on earth. Holy Week is a special reminder that God’s love for us is relentless, incomprehensible, sacrificial, and unconditional. Perfect and without sin, yet willing to die for us – that is the amazing love that God has for us.

You may hear a Christian exclaim, “He is Risen!!” on Easter Sunday – we just can’t contain our excitement. It really is an emotional time of gratitude for us and we are overflowing with joy as we contemplate the sacrifice of our Lord and how He overcame death so that we can spend eternity with Him. The usual response is just as enthusiastic: “He is Risen, Indeed!!”

What we find so amazing is that God is faithful even when we aren’t. The Bible tells us in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He doesn’t wait for us to clean up our acts – He loves us exactly where we are at, with a fierce love that knows no bounds. The baby born in the manger on Christmas Day is God’s greatest expression of love – His provision to deliver us from our sins so that we can spend eternity with him. He tells us in John 16:33, “‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.'”

I take tremendous comfort in this. My last blog post was titled “What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do.” It was helpful to be sure. But yesterday after a stressful week of having surgery, a minor reaction during recovery, and starting a new position at work, I found myself in need of more. I needed to be still. I needed Jesus. So I found myself crying out yet again, and again, Jesus met me at my point of need.

As we begin our journey towards Easter Sunday, and we focus on the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, it is good to remember to not only keep Jesus in Easter, but to also invite Him into our lives throughout the year. Jesus came down from heaven to save us from our sins. When we call out to Him, not only do we receive eternal salvation, we receive His peace on earth. Putting Christ in the center of our lives changes everything. Gaining the eternal perspective of heaven helps us walk in this world with all of its pain and suffering, and enables us to do so with joy. The joy we have in Christ overflows into our relationships and our daily lives, touching others even as it touches us.

God’s love for us is beautiful, extravagant, and unforgettable. Each one of us has a purpose under heaven and we are each given a season to live out that purpose. Our ultimate purpose is to love God and to love others. That looks different for each one of us because we are all unique, but the end result is the same: In whatever we do, let us honor God and seek to please Him, and love one another in both our words and actions. Life here on earth is both precious and short – Let’s remember to do that each and every day ❤️

If you would like to learn more about Jesus – I will be glad to send you a copy of an Advent Devotional I wrote (available on Amazon) for free. While it is directed towards the Christmas season it can be read any time of year and will give you a better understanding of who Jesus is and why Christians get so excited about Easter 🙂 Just message me your email address and I will gift you a free Kindle version. I promise not to contact you or use your email address for any other purpose. May you enjoy a blessed Easter season!

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do…

Saturday was weird. I worked all week and usually I look forward to Saturdays as a day to have an opportunity to sleep a little longer, be a little bit more leisurely, and reach out to family or friends I haven’t chatted with lately. While the week is filled not only with my day job, but evenings working on promoting Alien Neighbors, I also have lots of other irons in the fire – writing projects I am excited about, learning how to play my ukulele, and riding my bicycle on the greenbelt where we live. Saturdays are usually a welcome respite to do these things. But this Saturday, well…it seemed like the walls were pressing in.

I remember waking up and starting to pray for all of the people I know that are grieving a recent loss, asking God to comfort them. Many of the people on the list were struck down by covid-19, all of them gone too soon. I think what finally got to me was the length of the list. I stopped before I got through them all and cried out, “Why, so many, Lord? It’s too much to bear.” My thoughts turned to Ukraine and the unjust war being waged on that beautiful country. The image of a pianist playing one last song on her piano in her home before leaving it behind to become a refugee haunts me. The world has been chaotic for so long.

The day seemed unbearable. Peace was elusive.

I never did get my peace that day. But when I woke up Sunday, I made a conscious decision. I needed to do something different. It’s okay to have the occasional bad day (and not feel guilty about it) but not to stay there. My choices were fairly limited given we are still somewhat restricted (another frustration being the pandemic is not yet over, no matter how much we would all like it to be). I didn’t sleep in but rather, got up to close to my normal work day rise time. We turned on our favorite local church online service (we have not made the leap to in-person services yet) and received the blessing of being with our church family, worshipping God, and receiving an inspiring Word delivered by our pastor. But now what?

Even after church it felt fairly easy and a little bit tempting to allow myself to slip into the same funk that I was in on Saturday, but I refused. So what could I do to choose joy instead of despair? This was very uncomfortable for me. Usually I don’t feel the pangs of depression. Sadness, yes – I am grieving for my sister and for dear friends who have gone to heaven this past year. I miss them!! But I can usually turn my thoughts to the happy memories I have of them and not stay sad too long – there is so much to be done and I know they wouldn’t want me to over-extend my grief to a point that it interferes with daily life. I didn’t know what to do…

So I did something different. Usually I am stuck inside at my computer. Usually we eat inside. Usually I have an agenda that I follow so that I can get done what I need to. I have a post-it-note list of “to-do’s” for the day. But instead – I moved my day outside into our backyard. I cleaned off our patio table and set my computer up on it. I stayed outside ALL day. We ate outside. I read my book outside. I worked on my latest novel outside. And in between, I played ping pong with my husband, played soccer with my dog, and threw a frisbee. I grabbed my ukulele and practiced the chords I have been trying to learn. I laughed. I read the scriptures in our prayer garden. I watched the birds. I sang spontaneously. I reflected on how blessed we are. I didn’t finish my post-it-note list, but I found peace.

Sometimes peace is elusive. The trials of this world can be very hard to bear. If you find yourself pressed down, perhaps it’s time to do something different. Even a little different, like hanging out in your backyard (or a park if you don’t have a backyard). Or grab a ukulele and play a few chords…

My wish for you is to allow yourself to be human and grieve when your heart hurts – but don’t stay there too long. There is still much beauty around us, even in despair. God is still working on our behalf – even when it is hard to see, and He grieves with us. One last image comes to mind as I write this. A picture of light even in the darkness – playful guards and children’s laughter as they spread joy even in desperate circumstances. There is always light and it will overcome. Make sure to turn the volume on and enjoy the video below:

https://fb.watch/bWfrRJ2l4_/

Love was Born on Christmas Day!

As we journey through the Advent season, let us reflect on why Jesus came down from heaven to live and move among us. Matthew 1:21 says, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Yeshua, because he will save his people from their sins.” Yeshua is Hebrew for “the Lord shall save,” and can be interpreted to refer to the atoning work of Jesus at the cross. He came here to save us! Iesous is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua, and its English spelling is “Jesus,” the name we find in our English Bibles. As his name reflects, the birth of Jesus is part of God’s plan to save us from our sins, so that we may have eternal life with Him.

God gave Jesus his name and, by doing so, announced to the world that He had provided a Savior for us, a way out of the predicament that we all find ourselves in. Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God gave us the greatest gift of all on Christmas morning, in the humblest of surroundings: a manger. He sent His Son Jesus into the world to save us from the consequences of our sin, and Jesus willingly went. What kind of love drives that? What kind of love leaves the glories of heaven to be born in a stable and to walk upon a broken world and call it his home? Only an incomprehensible, unconditional, passionate love could do that. That was the love that was born on Christmas day!

Reflection: Think of all of the gifts you have received in the past. Many of them came to you in beautifully wrapped packages, or with some type of fanfare. Now imagine being handed a brown cardboard box. Don’t let its plain appearance fool you. You can’t tell a gift by its wrapping. Open it slowly and peer inside. See in your mind’s eye a baby, born in a lowly manger, God’s gift of eternal life to you, in Christ Jesus, accessible to everyone. The packaging isn’t auspicious, but the contents are precious beyond measure!

Simeon’s Moment is Our Moment, Too

I posted this recently on Facebook: My heart is so happy – I’ve been dreaming of having this picture hanging in our home for years and today it happened! He came for ALL of us! Every time I look at it, I feel incredible joy.

A good friend of mine asked me what this picture represents. The title given this picture by the artist Ron DiCianni is Simeon’s Moment, but it is a moment that we can all share in. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord and Simeon is holding the baby Jesus.

When I look upon Simeon’s face, I can see the inexpressible joy that he is feeling. God gave Simeon a very special gift which we can find in the Bible in the second chapter of Luke. Verse 26 tells us, “It had been revealed to him [Simeon] by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.”  What must it have been like to live a long full life and enter into old age while clinging to that hope! I can only imagine the incredible delight Simeon must have felt as he held in his arms the salvation of the world.

After living a long and faithful life, Simeon’s Moment represents the culmination of the promise that God has given to Simeon and to all of us: a way out of the desperate condition that we all share, a way out of our sins, so that we can be in fellowship with Him and have eternal life. Matthew 1:21 tells us, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Simeon holds our salvation in his arms – the light of the world come down from the heavens in the form of a helpless baby, because He knew we were all in need of a Savior. Simeon’s words (Luke 2:29-32) states it so well:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

But it’s not only the ecstasy on Simeon’s face that I can relate to, in which God’s promise for the redemption of humanity is being held in Simeon’s arms. I also love how the artist echoes Simeon’s words and created a global presence interwoven into the fabric of the picture, which shows that Jesus is not only for Simeon, but that He came for the entire world. It fills my heart with joy to see the expression of the Gospel in Simeon’s arms. Love has not come for just one people, but for all peoples, so that we all may be saved. Hallelujah!

Finally, the tear that Simeon sheds is subject to interpretation. Perhaps it is a pure expression of the emotion he is feeling. Perhaps it is a response to what he knew was coming – this man of God who surely studied the Hebrew Scriptures all of his life and understood the prophecies that were to be fulfilled glimpsed the future – that this precious baby that he held in his arms would one day carry the weight of the world’s sins upon His shoulders and the price of love would cost Him everything. Simeon’s words to the baby’s mother, Mary, in Luke 2:34-35 testify to this:

“This child [Jesus] is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

What must it feel like to hold your salvation in your arms? We may not be able to experience it the same way Simeon did, but we can surely experience it for ourselves – and if you choose to ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior and follow Him, I believe you will feel what Simeon feels. If you want to learn more about the babe in Simeon’s arms, the Book of John in the Bible is a great place to start. You may also want to consider reading about Jesus in this easy-to-read devotional that I wrote which celebrates His coming from heaven to be born in a manger on Christmas day, Taking Back Advent Moving from the Mundane to the Miraculous.

Available on Kindle and paperback on Amazon: Taking Back Advent

Love has come for all peoples. It is my hope and prayer that if you have not already experienced Simeon’s Moment for yourself, that you choose to do so someday.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13 is an amazing verse which speaks directly to sacrificial love. The same love that brought Jesus to the cross because He loves us so much, He couldn’t bear to leave us in our hopeless state of sin and its dreadful consequences. So how can we live out the words of this Scripture in our own lives? As we celebrate Memorial Day, we remember those who laid down their lives, so we could be free. Their example is one way for someone to lay down one’s life, and we are forever grateful for their sacrifice.

Pastor Chad of Living Word Global Church shared a wonderful way to celebrate Memorial Day. Rather than buy into the consumerism that sadly revolves around this day, do an act of service to honor God. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – something as simple as a phone call to someone who may be feeling lonely. As Pastor Chad put it this morning, we are all going to die someday. God didn’t make our bodies to be perfectly preserved, so that we survive unblemished into our eighties. We are called to stretch and go out of our comfort zones to help others and point them to Jesus. As we celebrate Memorial Day, it would be good to reflect on those who have sacrificed for us and on what we can do to sacrificially help others.

While we are not all called to make that ultimate sacrifice, we can lay down our lives for others in many ways – by serving them. Our lives should be how others see God – by seeking the well-being of others and loving them in His Name. When Josh was in first grade, he talked about this topic. May the pure faith of a child bless your understanding of living a life spent in loving others.

Cultivating Empathy

I have been wanting to talk about the difference between empathy and sympathy for a while now. I have been reflecting on my response to my mom in my younger years when she expressed the various aches and pains that she was experiencing. I recall feeling bad for her, but I don’t recall comprehending the depth of the pain that she was going through. As I’m getting older and experiencing my own aches and pains that is a natural part of the aging process, I have been reflecting on the difference between empathy and sympathy, how I responded to her back then, and how I would today.

One of my favorite scripture verses has always been 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

This is a perfect picture of empathy. Sympathy is recognizing that somebody is struggling and offering some words of comfort from a place that while sincere, does not actually comprehend the pain the other person is going through, at least to the same extent as someone who has experienced it themselves. This Scripture verse tells us that after we have gone through a trial, we can comfort someone else going through a similar trial with the same comfort God has given us. That is so powerful!

I personally have some regret because I wish I was more empathic to what my mom was going through as she aged: her painful back issues, her frustration at being limited physically in her golden years, and her unspoken feelings of isolation. But upon further reflection, I find that type of empathy is often the result of growing in wisdom and maturity. It is the exception rather than the rule for younger people who have not experienced the same issues or if they have, it was temporary.

I have come to understand that my mom would hold no grudge against my lack of empathy, just as I hold no grudge against my own children. They simply cannot comprehend what they have not felt for themselves. Indeed, as parents, we typically shelter our children from our infirmities because we don’t want to burden them.

Regardless of our season of life, we can all still strive to become more empathic. How do we do this? I recently heard of Brene Brown and the work she is doing in this area. I wanted to share this video because I think it speaks very directly to all of us as to how we can exercise empathy rather than sympathy, even in those situations where we have not experienced what the person is going through for ourselves. I think it’s worth watching – I hope it blesses you, like it has me, with a better understanding of how to be more compassionate to those around us.

And if you feel a little sad or guilty for not having more empathy for someone you love who is no longer with us, I have empathy for you, for I feel those things as well. I would like to share the comfort I have received from God. He loves each one of us unconditionally where we are at. I also believe those who love us (including my mom) knew we were not yet mature enough to understand. They would want us to continue to grow and learn as we move through each season of our life, gaining wisdom and increasing in compassion, without being weighed down with regrets. The best way to honor their legacy is to live the best version of ourselves each day, without letting the past hold us back from being a blessing to those around us, and by cultivating empathy for others.

Seven Sayings of Jesus From the Cross (Revisited)

I wrote this article a couple of years ago, but I love its relevancy to Good Friday, so I would like to share it with you again today. I hope it blesses you as we reflect on the sacrificial love of our Savior on this day that He gave everything for us. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

good-friday-cross

 

When someone dies, their last words are typically formed around what they hold to be most important, those things most dear to them. The person is speaking from their heart regarding their greatest concerns. Even in dying, we can see that for Jesus, His greatest concern was for us, rather than the excruciating pain that He was bearing. His desire to articulate His thoughts from the cross must have brought shock waves of pain as He struggled to lift His torn body upward against the nails, to draw enough breath to speak. Scripture records that Jesus spoke seven times. Let’s examine more closely these words He deemed so important, He uttered them from the cross in the midst of His passion.

I would like to share some insights garnered from a little book by Russel Bradley Jones called Gold from Golgotha. Jones writes “Everything at Calvary is significant, but in a very special sense the Savior’s seven words, spoken from the heart of His vicarious suffering, interpret Him to mankind.”

  1. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34

In the midst of great suffering, Jesus was thinking of others, not Himself. He had come for the lost and in that prayer He was asking His Father to give them a chance, instead of the condemnation they deserved. He asked God to allow them a chance to believe. Russel Jones points out that in the Greek original, “Then Jesus said” might be changed to “Then Jesus kept saying.” The verb is imperfect, indicating continuous action in past time. Jesus’ prayer was a continuous petition on our behalf in the midst of His suffering!

  1. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43

Jesus was faced with temptation just as He was in the wilderness and in the Garden of Gethsemane. One thief asked for physical release, goading Jesus by challenging Him to show His power and save them if He really was the Christ. The other thief appealed to Jesus to “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He wasn’t asking for release from his cross, but from his sin. What is amazing is the choice before Jesus – the cessation of torture or the prize of His agony: totally unworthy sinners such as the self-confessed criminal hanging next to Him – and each one of us!

  1. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. – John 19:26-27

Notice, Jesus said woman instead of mother. He assigned John as His substitute and in those words severed His earthly relationship with Mary, so she would be free to have the higher relationship of believer, with Jesus as her Savior. Heartbreaking as it must have been for both of them, it was necessary for Mary to lose her son in order to gain her salvation.

  1. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  – Matthew 27:46

2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus suffered for our sin at the cross, in the God-forsaken depths of agony. Jesus’ soul cries out as He descends into hell for us – His Father is no longer there.

In this terrible time of forsakenness, we see the evidence of God’s wrath towards sin. Because Jesus was assuming the sin of the world, God’s attitude towards sin forced Him to turn His back on His beloved Son. This speaks to the incomprehensible sacrifice of both the Father and the Son – all for the sake of love.

  1. Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” – John 19:28

Jesus said “I am thirsty” after “all was now completed.” What He set out to do at the cross was complete. There was nothing more to be done. Jesus was also fulfilling prophecy and identifying Himself as the Messiah in those three simple words. In Psalm 69 His suffering is predicted, and that of His thirst when He would be offered vinegar to drink.

  1. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:30

In the original Greek, “it is finished” may be translated as one word – “tetelestai” meaning “It was finished and as a result it is forever done.” There is nothing left to be done to complete the work that the Lord Jesus Christ perfected at the cross. “It” is the suffering of the full punishment of all guilt for all time. He paid the penalty due for sin with His perfect sacrifice. Sinners can now approach God through their faith in Jesus and because of His righteousness. A place in heaven is now possible because God’s divine justice has been satisfied. Nothing more is needed.

  1. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said his, he breathed his last. – Luke 23:36

The last words of Jesus show His death was voluntary, that He chose to give up His life for us. In His final words He is the Victorious Son, committing His all to His Father. This is the best example for us – a voluntary commitment of ourselves into the hands of God with all that we are and have.

We can’t understand everything that Christ said in His final hours, but there is much that we can and should study and reflect on. In Russel Jones’s words, “Golgotha is the place where the contrast between the Savior’s heart of grace and man’s heart of rebellion is most striking. Golgotha is the focal point of revelation and history and experience. There God did His best and man did his worst. There faith is justified, hope assured, and love conquers.”

Our Purpose Under Heaven

I have been reading of so many lives nearing the time when the Lord is calling them to their eternal home lately. My eyes were drawn to this plaque hanging in our kitchen today after hearing of yet another dear friend’s passing, and it brought unexpected comfort. Each one of us has a purpose under heaven and we are each given a season to live out that purpose. Our ultimate purpose is to love God and to love others. That looks different for each one of us because we are all unique, but the end result is the same: In whatever we do, let us honor God and seek to please Him, and love one another in both our words and actions. Life here on earth is both precious and short – Let’s remember to do that each and every day ❤️

To my Friends of all Faiths and Those with No Particular Faith

This letter has been many years in coming. It is a hard letter for me to write, because I love all of you so much and I would never want to offend you. But I feel compelled to write these words, because of that love – I want to see you in heaven.

If you know me, you know I have always been respectful of those who hold different beliefs from me. I have been so blessed to have made friends from many different countries and the most joyful times of my life have been getting to know people from cultures very different from my own.

Anyone who knows me, also knows I am a Christian. I do not take my commitment to being a Christian casually. While I am not always successful, I do my best to live according to God’s instructions in the Bible. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” My hope and desire is that my daily actions reflect the love of Christ to those around me.

Some important things to know about Christianity:

A Christian believes that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. In other words, whatever it says has come from God and is true. What I read in the Bible, I can trust.

God loves EVERYONE. Really, it’s true! It doesn’t matter what you have done in the past – you can’t change the fact that God loves you and He wants to be in relationship with you – that is why He created you! If you are worried because you have done bad things, sadly we all have. That’s called sin and it separates us from God, because He is holy and without sin. But the good news is, no one is so far from God, that they can’t be forgiven and enter into His family. God’s love is unconditional. It’s important to know that God’s grace is offered to all, but He gives us a choice. The only requirement is for a person to choose to accept it by believing in His Son, that Jesus came to Earth, died for our sins (taking the penalty of sin in our place), and was raised from the dead, giving victory over death and a place in heaven for those who believe in Him. If you do, your life will never be the same! You will have entered into a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. Our God is a God of relationship. He wants to have conversations with you. He wants you to depend on Him. He is always available to you. In fact, His Holy Spirit provides both guidance and comfort to those who believe. The Holy Spirit also convicts us, helping us to live a life pleasing to God. Mind-boggling, I know. It’s hard to comprehend, but it’s true!

We read in the Bible in John 14:6, Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

So from a Christian perspective, one must have a personal relationship with Jesus in order to “come to the Father” and gain entrance into heaven. In order to do that, they must ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior, and trust in Him for their salvation. Thus, my dilemma. I believe that in order to have salvation, one must accept the same things I believe, even if you come from a different country and/or was raised in another religion, or no religion at all. Even if you try to be a good person. No other religion meets this requirement and no one is good enough to get into heaven by their own efforts. Salvation is a free gift, but a person must choose to accept it and place their faith in Jesus. Knowing I believe this, if I am truly your friend and I love you like I say I do, I must be concerned about your eternal destiny. How can I not share this with you?

Putting myself in your shoes – my first reaction might be – how unfair! How exclusive! Why can’t all paths lead to heaven? Why does a Christian think they are better than everybody else?

My answer to the last question starts us on our journey: A true Christian KNOWS they are no better than anyone else. It is the same desperate need that we all have to be cleansed from our sin that makes us all equally in need of a Savior. Sin separates us from God. We can’t fix our situation – only Jesus can, by taking the penalty of our sin for us. Jesus offers to do that for each and every one of us. No other path provides the atonement required to satisfy God’s wrath because of our sin. No other path forms a bridge over the yawning chasm of our sin, so that we can enjoy God’s presence for eternity.

While the entrance to heaven is exclusively for those who call upon the Name of Jesus, Christianity is far from exclusive. God wants EVERYONE to be reconciled to Him. It doesn’t matter where you are from, your cultural background, what color you are, or what language you speak, ALL are welcome.

Does this seem unfair? I personally am grateful to Jesus that I am not treated fairly, because if I were, I would have to suffer for my sin. I am grateful that God so loved the world that He created a way for us to enter heaven by being unfair: He sent His only Son to die for us, in our place. In the Bible, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved THE WORLD, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” THE WORLD – all of us!

I can tell you about my own relationship with Jesus – how He has changed everything in my life for the better and walks alongside me, comforting and helping me through my greatest trials. How He is faithful even when I’m not, and He loves me despite all of my sin. I also know I am going to heaven with certainty, because I have placed my trust in Him.

When I expressed my concern to a dear friend of mine who is Muslim, regarding his eternal destiny, he responded: “Perhaps God will open my heart to Jesus. It is up to Him.” His words were so wise! That reminded me that I am not the one who can convince you about who Jesus is and the grace that He offers each one of us, that is up to the Holy Spirit to move in your heart. It is my prayer that He is moving, even now. I love you.

If you have read this, and I managed to offend you, I am truly sorry. But from my perspective, your eternal life is at stake. If I truly love you, I have to at least try to share this with you. If you are curious and have questions, I would be glad to answer them and if I don’t know, I will find out. Whatever you choose, ultimately the decision is yours and regardless, I will always be your friend. Thank you for allowing me to share my heart with you.

If you find yourself wanting to learn more – the video below is an amazing message because it teaches us about the incredible, extravagant, incomparable love God has for us, and it also explains the cross – something that puzzles many people. If you have ever wondered why the Son of God would allow Himself to be crucified on a cross – this is a great sermon to listen to. Spoiler Alert: It has everything to do with God’s love for us!

If you are short on time, the sermon begins at approximately 20 minutes. However, I think you’ll be especially blessed if you have the time to watch the entire service. God tells us in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” My prayer for you is that you find God and rest in His extravagant love for you. Amen