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1 Thessalonians 4:13-4:18
TONY EVANS ON GETTING UN-STUCK
Tony Evans, a popular black preacher from down in Texas, spoke of being on an elevator in a high-rise building. He said heíd never been particularly comfortable on such elevators. There was something about riding up and down in a little box several hundred feet off the ground that has never sat well with him. He worried that something would go wrong.
One day it did. The car he was riding in got stuck in between floors way up in the higher floors. He noted that some of the people in the car became frantic. They began to beat on the door hoping to get someoneís attention. Others began to yell in the hopes that their voices would get someone on the surrounding floors to come to the aid. But nobody heard their noise or their cries.
Then Evans quietly made his way to the front of the car, opened a little door in the wall and pulled out a telephone. Immediately he was connected with someone on the outside. He didnít need to beat on the wall to get their attention. He didnít need to speak loudly in the phone to receive their help. He could have whispered and they would have heard him.
Evans said that - in this world, weíre going to get "stuck" in places we arenít comfortable with. Some people begin to beat against the walls, others cry out in dismay. But the person who trusts in the power of confident prayer knows thereís someone on the other end who hears their call and comes to their aid.
Hebrews 10:19ff tells us that we now can have "boldness" (KJV) to enter into very presence of God because of the blood of Jesus. We can think this way only because Jesus has opened the way for us to approach Godís throne and earnestly ask whatever we desire according to His Will.
Heaven, an Inheritance
Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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... I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:1-4, 6)
The Holy Scriptures teach clearly that heaven is a real place, a permanent place, a personal place and a holy place. It is also an inheritance for those who say "yes" to Jesus Christ.
In his gospel, the beloved John conveys a powerful truth of what one must become in order to inherit eternal salvation. "...I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3) And once more, "...You must be born again." (John 3:7) Twice Jesus tells Nicodemus, already a Pharisee and religious leader, "I tell you the truth..."
The truth for you is that a preacher saying nice things, nor beautiful hymns being sung at your funeral, nor the local paper announcing that you were a member of such and such church, nor even being in church nearly every Sunday will gain you entrance into heaven. Being truly born again is a necessity.
Many Scripture passages tell what God will do for a person who through repentance accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Ezekiel 36: 26, 27 is one of the most clear. It has been used frequently by Dr. Billy Graham to explain what God wants to do in the hearts and lives of those coming forward to receive the forgiveness found only in Christ. The verses say, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep my laws."
A "heart of stone" is inflexible, unyielding and insensitive. It is not apt to receive from or have any devoted affection toward its Creator. A man with a heart of stone has no fellowship with the Lord. He does not do the will of God, thus, he does what seems right in his own eyes which will lead to his own destruction. God alone gives physical life and He alone can give spiritual life in what Jesus says is being "born again."
When God supernaturally gives a repentant person a "heart of flesh" and puts His Spirit in a new believer, that person becomes sensitive and alive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Only then can he determine and do the will of God. This enables him to know the joy that comes from obedience to the Word of God. Once the Holy Spirit of God has entered the heart and life of a repentant person, they are never the same! Guaranteed! The Bible says they are a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Jesus made these truths very clear to Nicodemus, and He desires to make them crystal clear to all who will hear even now. In heaven there will be only those who are born again, those who have trusted Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord.
The Holy Spirit moved the apostle Paul to write to (and about) authentic Christians, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9)
Will you receive Christ today?
At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized his picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t know Him.
But later on, when I met Christ, It seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in the back helping me pedal.
I don’t know when it was that he suggested that we change places, but life has not been the same since. When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. . . It was the shortest distance between two points.
But when he took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds, It was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said, "Pedal!"
I worried and was anxious and asked, "Where are you taking me?" He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I’d say "I’m scared," He’d lean back and touch my hand.
He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me gifts to take on my journey, my Lord’s and mine. And we were off again. He said, "Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight."
So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and still our burden was light. I did not trust Him, at first, In control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it; but he knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion Jesus Christ. And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says . . . "Pedal." - author unknown
There was a man who got lost in the desert. After wandering around for a long time his throat became very dry, about that time he saw a little shack in the distance.
He made his way over to the shack and found a water pump with a small jug of water and a note.
The note read: "pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it, if you do this you will get all the water you need". Now the man had a choice to make, if he trusted the note and poured the water in and it worked he would have all the water he needed. If it didnít work he would still be thirsty and he might die. Or he could choose to drink the water in the jug and get immediate satisfaction, but it might not be enough and he still might die. After thinking about it the man decided to risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began to work the handle, at first nothing happened and he got a little scared but he kept going and water started coming out. So much water came out he drank all he wanted, took a shower, and filled all the containers he could find. Because he was willing to give up momentary satisfaction, he got all the water he needed. Now the note also said: after you have finished, please refill the jug for the next traveller.Ē The man refilled the jug and added to the note: ď Please prime the pump, believe me it worksĒ!
We have the same choice to make...
On Sept 16, 1620 2 ships set sail from Plymouth Englnad, The Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell encountered much difficulty as they began their journey springing many leaks in the ship. So when the 2 ships went to Port in Plymouth England, the Speedwell decided to go no further and 42 passengers from the Speedwell joined the 60 passengers and 30 crew members aboard the Mayflower..
Of the 102 passengers on board the Mayflower the majority were devout Christians. They were coming to America to shake lose from the bonds of the church of England so they could worship God as they believed scriptures taught.
And with great excitement and expectations that set sail for a new land... It wasnít long before the trip became difficult for several reasons, as noted by William Bradford an historian on the Mayflower, who would later became Governor of the colony for 33 years.. Many of the passengers became sea sick as huge waves would crash over the deck of the ship... The nights were cold, damp and dark... Remember there was no indoor plumbing or electricity. And to make matters worse one of the crew, a very large man would constantly curse and abuse those who were sick... saying he was going to throw them overboard and steal all of their possessions... Bradford records, "BUT IT PLEASED GOD BEFORE THEY CAME HALF SEAS OVER, TO SMITE THE YOUNG MAN WITH A GRIEVOUS DISEASE OF WHICH HE DIED IN A DESPERATE MANNER.. AND SO HE HIMSELF WAS THE FIRST THROWN OVERBOARD. THUS HIS CURSES LIGHT OWN HIS WON HEAD, AND IT WAS AN ASTONISHMENT TO ALL HIS FELLOWS FOR THEY NOTED IT TO BE THE JUST HAND OF GOD UPON HIM.."
But their problems were far from over yet, they encountered many fierce storms which shook the ship with tremendous force. So fierce that many times they could not even keep the sail out and the force of the wind -- eventually cracked and bowed the main beams when they had just went over the half way point across the Atlantic. And although the passengers and crew wanted to turn back, Christopher Jones, the ships Master, assured all the vessel was "strong and firm under water." He ordered the beam to be secured. It was hoisted into place by a great iron screw that, fortunately, the Pilgrims brought out of Holland. AND Upon raising the beam, they "committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed." These 100 people; cold, wet -- on wooden ship in the middle of the ocean -- put their hope, trust and lives into the hands of God. The battered ship finally came within sight of Cape Cod on November 19, 1620. Two had died at sea and two had given birth. The Pilgrims scanned the shoreline just to the west of them and described it as, "a goodly land wooded to the brink of the sea," William Bradford writes, "AFTER LONG BEATINGS AT SEA THEY FELL WITH THAT LAND WHICH IS CALLED CAPE COD; AND THEY WERE NOT A LITTLE JOYFUL..."
Before going ashore they decided to write a document know as the Mayflower Compact.
At the heart of the compact lay an undisputed conviction that God must be at the center of all law and order and the law without a moral base is really no law at all.
The day the Pilgrims signed the May Flower Compact, according to William Bradford, "they came to anchor in the Bay, which was a good harbor...and they blessed the God of Heaven, who brought them over the fast and furious ocean... and a sea of trouble. And they read the following from the Geneva Bible (the Bible the Pilgrims used) "LET THEM, THEREFORE PRAISE THE LORD, BECAUSE HE IS GOOD AND HIS MERCIES ENDURE FOREVER."
This coming thursday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day... Many will be busy cooking turkeys, making stuffing, baking pumpkin pies.... and watching football games. And that is fun stuff -- it is important to get together with loved ones... But that is not what thanksgiving is really about -- itís not about food and fun... it is about giving thanks to the Lord God Almighty.
We usually picture the first thanksgiving in America, as the time when the Pilgrims and the Indians got together for a great feast (though I really donít know how they could of eaten pumpkin pie without cool whip). But I tend to look at that time when on the sea battered Mayflower anchored in the bay at Cape Cod, a group of weary and worn men and women were on their knees praising their God in heaven for bringing them safely through the treacherous sea to this new land, as the real first thanksgiving.
A minister was visiting an elderly man, whoíd been a Christian for most of his long life. The minister remarked, ďWell sir, after keeping the faith for so long, you must feel pretty confident of holding out to the end.Ē The gentleman replied, ďItís not a matter of me holding out; itís the Lord holding on to meÖand the Bible assures me that I can trust Him for that!Ē
Chuck Swindoll, in his book, "Living Above the Level of Mediocrity," tells about a church in the Soviet Union a few years ago that was forced to meet secretly because the holding of house church services was illegal.
They tried to be as inconspicuous as possible as they gathered on Sunday to worship the Lord, so they came at different times & casually walked into the house until they had all arrived. Then they would close the doors, pull the curtains, & quietly worship the Lord.
But one Lordís Day, right in the midst of their worship service, two soldiers broke into the room, & at gunpoint lined the Christians up against the wall. One shouted, "If you wish to renounce your faith in Jesus Christ, leave now!"
Two or three quickly left, then another, & then two more. Again the soldier spoke, "This is your last chance. Either leave now & renounce your faith in Christ, or stay & suffer the consequences." Another left, & then another, almost hiding their faces in shame as they went out.
But the rest stood their ground, children standing beside their parents, trembling, some even crying as their parents stood with their hands in the air, fully expecting to be gunned down or imprisoned.
After all had left who chose to flee, the other soldier closed the doors, looked back at those who stood against the wall & said, "Keep your hands up - but this time in praise to our Lord Jesus Christ. We, too, are Christians."
The two soldiers explained that some time earlier they had been sent to another house church to arrest the Christians there. But in the process, they had heard the gospel & had accepted Jesus as their Lord & Savior, too. But they explained, "We have learned that unless people are willing to die for their faith, they cannot be fully trusted."
For more from Chuck, visit http://www.insight.org
Faith honors God and God honors faith! A story from the life of missionaries Robert and Mary Moffat illustrates this truth. For 10 years this couple labored faithfully in Bechuanaland (now called Botswana) without one ray of encouragement to brighten their way. They could not report a single convert. Finally the directors of their mission board began to question the wisdom of continuing the work. The thought of leaving their post, however, brought great grief to this devoted couple, for they felt sure that God was in their labors, and that they would see people turn to Christ in due season. They stayed; and for a year or two longer, darkness reigned. Then one day a friend in England sent word to the Moffats that she wanted to mail them a gift and asked what they would like. Trusting that in time the Lord would bless their work, Mrs. Moffat replied, "Send us a communion set; I am sure it will soon be needed." God honored that dear womanís faith. The Holy Spirit mo...
Iím Sarah, Iím sixteen;
Last night I failed.
I prayed for more strength,
So why did I yield?
He said he loved me,
Brought me flowers and all;
Then he took me upstairs
And caused me to fall.
I feel so ashamed,
So dirty inside.
Heís taken my heart;
Now I want to go hide.
I let down my parents,
And they trusted me so.
Can God forgive me?
I need to know.
If I had it to do
All over again,
I think I would run
To a close, loving friend.
The pain hurts so bad;
I want you to know,
So you wonít give in.
Youíll know when to go!
Yes, God can forgive!
It says it right here;
Jesus died for my sins,
So I never need fear.
My past is all cleansed;
Iím whiter than snow.
Yet my sin is still sin;
Consequences donít go.
Today I start over,
My purity new!
Iím Godís little girl,
Straight through and through!
Abstain - yes, I must!
By Godís grace and power,
Iíll stay close to Him,
Hour by hour.
Hiding His Word
Deep in my heart;
When faced with temptation,
Next time Iíll be smart.
I know from now on
Iím determined to wait;
God has a man
Designed as my mate.
When that time comes,
And I know heís the one;
The day Iíll be married -
Now thatíll be fun!
But until then,
To the Lord will I cling;
At just the right time,
My husband, Heíll bring.
Iím trusting Him now
With all of my soul.
The Lord holds my future;
Thatís all I must know!
A young lady was speaking to an evangelist about consecration. She said, “I dare not give myself wholly to the Lord, because He might send me out to China as a missionary.” The evangelist said, ‘If some cold, snowy morning a little bird should come, half-frozen, pecking at your window, seeking shelter, and would let you take it it and feed it, thereby putting itself entirely in your power, what would you do? Would you grip it in your hand and crush it? Or would you give it shelter, warmth, food and car?” A new light came into the girl’s eyes. She said, Oh, I see now. I can trust God.” Two years later she met the same evangelist and reminded him of their conversation. She told him she had completely given herself to God. And then her face lit up with a bright smile. “And guess where He’s sending me?” she asked—“to China!”