God’s Map To Heaven

I am in the middle of leading a Bible Study using Randy Alcorn’s Heaven material.  I am learning so much!  I never realized how much the Bible tells us about Heaven (The intermediate Heaven ~ where my dear husband is) and our future Eternal Heaven.  The following is an excerpt from the book.  I was so impressed how concisely Randy laid out the map to heaven – I just had to copy and put it here for myself and others.  My prayer is that others will realize that heaven IS NOT the default destination for those who do not believe in and put their trust in Jesus, the Son of God.

John 14:6 ~ “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me”.

The following is taken from Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven (pages 33-35)

God’s Map to Heaven ~ His Good News!

What you Need to Know and Do

To sin is to fall short of God’s holy standards.  Sin is what ended Eden’s Paradise.  And all of us, like Adam and Eve, are sinners.  You are a sinner.  That’s the first thing you need to know.  Sin deceives us and makes us think that wrong is right and right is wrong.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.~ Proverbs 14:12

Sin has consequences, but God has provided a solution for our sin:

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” ~ Romans 6:23

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loved us so much that he became a man to deliver us from sin.

“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.”~ John 3:16

He came to identify with us in our humanity and our weakness, but he did so without being tainted by our sin, self-deception, and moral failings.

For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. ~ Hebrews 2:17,18

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. ~Hebrews 4:15,16

 We’re told thatGod made him (Christ) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~2 Corinthians 5:21

 This means that even though we are under God’s wrath for our sins, Jesus died on the cross as our representative, our substitute.  God then poured out his wrath on Christ instead of on us.  Christ, who stood in our place, conveyed his righteousness to us so that we are declared innocent of all our sins and declared righteous, so we may enter the very presence of God in Heaven and be at home with him there.

No other prophet or religious figure – only Jesus, the Son of God – is worthy to pay the penalty for our sins demanded by God’s holiness.

I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.  Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep!  See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed, He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” ~ Revelation 5:4,5

 And they sang a new song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” ~ Revelation 5:9,10

Only when our sins are dealt with in Christ can we enter Heaven.  We cannot pay our own way.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. ~ Acts 4:12

Being himself God and therefore all-powerful, Jesus Christ rose from the grave, defeating sin and conquering death.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures… ~ 1 Corinthians 15:3,4

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   ~ 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

When Christ died on the cross for us, he said, “It is finished.”

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” ~ John 19:30

The Greek word translated “it is finished” was commonly written across certificates of debt when they were canceled.  It meant “paid in full.”  Christ died so that the certificate of debt, consisting of all our sins, could once and for all be marked “paid in full.”

Because of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf, God freely offers us forgiveness.

“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities…As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” ~ Psalm 103:10-12

 Forgiveness is not automatic.  If we want to be forgiven, we must recognize and repent of our sins:

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” ~ Proverbs 28:13

Forgiveness is established by our confession:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” ~ 1 John 1:9

Christ offers to everyone the gift of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life:

Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” ~ Revelation 22:17

 There’s no righteous deed we can do that will earn us a place in Heaven.

...He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. ~ Titus 3:5

We come to Christ empty-handed.  We can take no credit for salvation:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” ~ Ephesians 2:8-9

This gift cannot be worked for, earned, or achieved in any sense.  It’s not dependent on our merit or effort but sorely on Christ’s generous and sufficient sacrifice on our behalf.  Ultimately, God’s great gift is himself.  We don’t just need salvation, we need Jesus the Savior.  It is the person, God, who graciously give us the place, Heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

A Man or Woman after God’s Own Heart

God called King David “a man after His own heart.”  I have heard that phrase many times during my life.  But it wasn’t until my time alone with Jesus this morning, that I found myself asking how a mere man (even though a king) would be honored to acquire such an intimate, loving description from GOD, the creator of the universe.

I began to ask God what was it about David that captured God’s loving heart?  And then, what about me God?  Am I a woman after your own heart?  I want to be.  Or will that coveted description require more from me than I am willing to give?  Or maybe even more than I am even capable of giving?

Anita Keagy’s study, The Joy of Seeking God First provided me with fifteen verses from the Psalms that gave a little insight into what David’s heart was like.  In my quest to dig deeper, I wrote them out and then extracted the qualities I found.  Here’s the list:

David…

Trusted God
Was not proud
Had room for God in all his other thoughts
Understood God
Sought after God
Was satisfied with God alone
Praised God
Received vindication from God
Recognized that God was his Savior
Talked to God LOTS
Desired to see His face
Desired to live eternally with God
Rejoiced and was glad in the LORD
Exalted His name
Loved God’s salvation
Unashamedly claimed God as his God
Thirsted for God
Longed for God
Gloried in God’s Holy Name
Relied on God’s strength
Kept God’s laws
Experienced God’s grace
Knew God’s promises

The temptation for many of us, especially those of us raised in the church, is to say, “I can claim most or all of those qualities.”

But if we are truthful…do we really trust Him?  Are we prideful?  Do we have so many thoughts in our heads that there isn’t much room for thoughts of God?  Are we fully satisfied with God alone?  Do we really know how to praise Him?

If you are brave enough to go through each one on the list and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your true heart, you might find yourself like I did, sadly falling short.

Search us O God and know our hearts; test us and know our anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in us and lead us in the way everlasting.  Make us people after your own heart.

 

 

I Choose Joy in the Middle of My Sorrow

Years ago my husband Dave recognized my desire to share Jesus with other women and he encouraged me to follow that calling. So I did. 

His passion was to bring hope to hurting couples by sharing our marriage success story together.  So we did. 

He was also the biggest supporter of my inconsistent blog writing.   He loved to read my posts and would often say I was to write a book.

I would never have thought that the serious writing would come after his exit to Heaven. But it did. Or at least it has begun.

I find myself suddenly eager to write and share  with others even tho each day I have to survive the uninvited “grief bombs” that invade my emotional and physical being with waves of fear, pain  and depression. 

I am so very, very, very sad and yet I feel an almost miraculous joy. I didn’t  say happiness – because I am not happy!  But I have the overwhelming joy that can only come from knowing and relying on Jesus. I believe the Bible is truth – so consequently I am jealous of Dave for being in the presence of our great King Jesus! And it is that belief that drives me to thank God for Dave’s new address and for the promise of mine also someday.

Joy fills the hole in my heart with truth, hope, peace, and strength.

The prophet Nehemiah tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. Nehemiah 8:10

Kay Warren in her study, Choose Joy, gives her definition of joy this way: 

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life; the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right; and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”

I have decided to adopt that definition as mine also.

Father, I believe that you can replace my mourning with dancing and I can become a woman who feels the sadness of life and loss but still chooses to pursue joy. Give me strength and courage to look for your blessings on this journey.

God Spoke To Me Today…

God spoke to me today.

He broke through my childish doubts with words of comfort and assurance.

“Hang in there; sit tight; stick to My course for your life.”

He said, “I will not let you down”.

He reminded me of how He cared for past saints, how He watched over them and kept them through their hours of suffering and uncertainty.

He reviewed for me my own life, His loving concern through the days of my youth.

He restated for me my commission and appointment, His trust in me as His servant in this sorry world.

He reiterated His gracious promises to stand by me, to empower and support me in the conflicts that await me.

I know that God is with me today ~ just as surely as He was with saints of old.

I have neither to fear nor to doubt the eternal love and presence of my Lord.

~ written by Leslie Brandt

Psalm 104

Oh Lord, how great and all-powerful You are!

And how beautiful is the world You created for our habitation!

 

Even before man was brought forth from the dust,

You prepared for him a place in which to live and grow.

And everything man saw about him

reflected the beauty and power of the living God.

 

There was clean air.

Pure water from snowcapped mountains flowed through green valleys

and gathered together to become great lakes.

The skies shone with a million lights.

The land brought forth flowers and fruits

to delight the eye and palate of God’s creature.

And every part of the land

and the waters that covered the land

and the skies that looked down upon the land

were filled with uncountable forms of life;

and the world was vibrant and alive.

 

Your power and Your beauty were spread throughout the universe,

but it was only upon the heart of man

that You imprinted Your image.

And this creature,

in his short stay upon this world,

was destined to be Your son and co-worker

in the ever-continuing process of creation.

~ Leslie Brandt

Give Me Some Solitude Please

As is often the scenario,  thirteen people of a variety of ages scrunched into a space better suited for eight, in a familiar restaurant for breakfast after church one Sunday morning,

The busyness of the restaurant and the various conversations going on at the same time, competing to be heard above the others who were also dinning, was for me a bit much.  Maybe I was tired; maybe I was tired of people.

I had just come off of a few days of shopping with a friend, visiting long into the night with my sister, attending a highly anticipated yearly reunion with old friends in the city I grew up in, lunch with a few high school girl friends, dinner with more friends, a very emotional celebration of life with about 500 in attendance, and a fun and chaotic few hours with our children and grandchildren.

I am sure some of you can relate to the weekend overload I experienced.

The Gift of Prayer

Sunday morning “after church foyer talk” is sometimes brief because of family schedules and plans. But on a recent Sunday, a common and all too familiar emotion was conveyed by a sweet woman of God as I asked the usual question, “How are you?”

Although this woman’s joyous countenance was reassuring, she offered a facial expression and comment that I could relate to.

“Oh, I am wonderful, but there are so many family concerns and needed prayers, aren’t there?” she said.

Her face lightened again as she went on to say, “What a gift we have to be able to pray. “What hope do people have who don’t know God?”

I agreed with her and we said our well wishes and goodbyes. But I have been pondering this thought over and over since that encounter. There is so much pain all around us; hurting marriages, illnesses, death, wayward children and grandchildren, mental disorders….the list goes on and on and on.

No one this side of heaven is free from it. What is the answer? My friend is right. The answer is prayer.

Prayer is a gift, a privilege, a confidence that gives us a joyous countenance in the middle of all the pain.

“Fearlessly and confidently and boldly I draw near to the throne of grace that I may receive mercy and

find grace to help in good time for every need – appropriate help and well-timed help,

coming just when I (and others) need it.”

~ Hebrews 4:16 (AMP)

I Want Bloody Toes

Information…
If you take the Word of God into your head and spout it out to others, but you don’t take it any further, that’s called information. The Pharisees were truly remarkable when it came to information, intellectually amassing all kinds of biblical data. But they neglected to apply it. They refused to live it. They never oriented their lives to it – even though they loved to teach it to others.
No wonder Jesus told His followers,

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.
So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.
But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”
(Matthew 23:2,3  NIV)

Information alone isn’t enough.

Inspiration…
If you hear an exciting message that makes you want to stand up and shout, but you take it no further, that can be called inspiration. Most of us are pretty good at this. We love to listen to stirring music and attend motivating seminars – but usually that’s as far as it goes. This makes for good conversation and stirs our intentions, but it leaks. This kind of inspiration alone isn’t enough.

Thorns, Thistles, Pain, Death and a Promised Gift!

Every time we fight with weeds and thistles in our garden, we can think of our own disobedience. And every time we experience pain or attend a funeral and suffer heartache from the loss of a loved one – we remember our prideful, sinful nature, and our great need of a Savior.

God tells us in Chapter 3 of Genesis that because of our disobedience He proclaimed this curse…

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it  you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

But oh I praise God for His other promise in that same chapter….(My paraphrasing)

Satan will wound Jesus, but Jesus will destroy Satan!  The severe wounding resulting in death ~ produced a glorious resurrection!  God’s victory – our victory over death and a wonderful promise to live eternally in a new heaven and earth – no thorns, thistles, pain, or death.

All of us born after Adam’s sin were born into sin but because God’s sacrifice there was a means of redemption for us – a rescuer of our souls – JESUS.  We only have to reach out and accept His gift of eternal life with God, our creator.

The evidence of our salvation is our humble obedience to Him.  (I can’t wait to share what I am learning about that humble obedience).

Dear Heavenly Father,

Please make us aware every moment of the price of your sacrifice.  And thank you for the extraordinary splendor of your free gift to us!

Amen

A Train Ride To Remember

The last train ride I had taken was when I was 16 years old, so although I was somewhat excited to ride a train again, years of only flying to destinations had spoiled me.  Like a presumptive senior citizen, I announced to the man behind the train counter that I wanted the largest bag checked and sent directly to my final destination, but I would be taking the smaller carry-on bags with me.

A condescending smile came over his face; his head went down slightly, his eyes focused on me over his spectacles…..”Mam, this is a train and you will be responsible for all of your bags for the entire ride.”  I processed this in my mind for a few seconds and then reworded my request, assuming he hadn’t understood my intentions…. but unfortunately, nothing changed.

So I dragged both suitcase, a purse, an ipad case, and my newly purchased fashionable lunch cooler full of snacks and water over to the waiting area.

I scolded myself for bringing so much with every step as I stumbled my way to an empty seat.  This wasn’t anything like I had remembered as a teenager!  But determined to make a positive adventure out of this, I waited patiently with a two hour train delay.

I knew that God had called me to this Speak – Up Conference in MI and I was ready for whatever He had for me. I was however beginning to wonder if I had prayed enough about my choice in transportation.

Finally, boarding the train, I struggled walking the length of 9 train cars to get to mine.  This is it, I told myself, I have got to get back to Curves when I get home, I am so out of shape!  With labored breath, I looked helplessly at the Porter for some help.  It must not be in their job description to lift suitcases onto the train.  But he finally took pity on me and lifted the big one up.  After much effort, the big bag was on and in the compartment they had us put them in, but then to my horror…

I had to carry the rest up the narrow winding stairs to the top level of the train.  The challenge was the small bag weighed almost as much as the one I had just stuffed into the shelves below and I had three other bags hanging from my shoulders and my neck making me get STUCK.  Unable to move up or down with people behind me waiting – a hot flash hit.  I pushed forward and upward with all the strength I could muster (the sweat from the hot flash probably helped) and I finally made it to the top.  Oh my – what a site!

As I reflect on that process, and visualize the ridiculous scene in my head, it makes me laugh.  There were more train and bus incidences for that trip that would provide comic relief but I want to assure you that God had some “Divine Appointments” on my train rides so I hadn’t missed HIM.  It all builds character, right?

But it also makes me think about the excess baggage we carry around in our adventure of life.
Baggage that trips us up, causes us pain, gets us stuck, and usually sends a distorted  view of Christianity.

The truth is, unlike the reluctant train porter, we have a willing and able God, ready to lighten our load, carry our burdens, straighten our paths, and give us confidence and a peaceful joy that redirects His great love and grace to others.

The ticket is…..to dwell in His Word, to claim His promises, to relax in His presence and trust HIM. Here are just a few scriptures that remind us of these truths:

Psalm 68:19

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

Matthew 11:30

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Psalm 55:22

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let
the righteous be shaken.

Exodus 19:4

You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt,  and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.

Nahum 1:7

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.

Blessings to you all….and for your information, I am now building up my sky miles.  🙂