Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Die before I wake

"If we have nothing to die for, we have nothing to live for."

Today God showed me how precious the life is that He gives to us, and how we must make the most of every day to share the gospel, spread His love to others, and glorify Him. How we must let others know that we love them.

I have learned the lesson: do not take this life for granted.

I have loved and lost. I have lost a grandparent and several friends. I have known others who have loved and lost. One of my friends lost her father last year in an accident, and almost lost her mother and sister as well. Another woman I have befriended laid 2 of her grown children to rest before she was old.

I am sure that they, like I, thought that the time would be longer. I am sure my friend imagined that she would come home, have dinner with her family, and then be tucked into bed by her father that night. I am sure that when the woman's son went to war, she thought that he would return, safe and sound. I know she hoped it, prayed it. They, like I, did not know the time or the hour when death would overtake those close to them.

But then, I remembered (we all remembered) that these things are in God's hands.

I found a very good quote by Stonewall Jackson on this topic:

"..My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as I am in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave."

There have been countless times when, if it were not for God's intervention, I probably would have and should have died. But God knew it was not my time yet.

God fixed the times for man to live and die long before we were ever born. He knows the work that He has for us, and how long it will take for us to accomplish it. We are safe in His hands, because He has ordained our every day and will not take us home a moment too soon or too late.

* * *

"If we have nothing to die for, we have nothing to live for."

I was pondering this statement, and I decided to write a personal mission statement. This is what the Christian life is about, and this is what I want my life to be about.

1. To glorify God in all areas and in everything that I do
2. To spread the gospel and proclaim God's word and invite the captives to be freed.
3. To be a godly example of Christ to those near me.
4. To love others as Christ loved.

Who are you living for? "Choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." ~Joshua 24:15~

Our bodies may die, but our souls are an eternal thing. If we are serving the LORD, someday when we die, we will stand before His presence and enter into His Kingdom where we will be with Him forever. If we deny Him, when we die we will descend into the lake of burning fire (commonly known as Hell), where we will be tortured forever. "Where you go" is not affected by your works, but whether or not you have accepted the grace of Jesus Christ and placed your faith in Him.

If we are serving the devil, we will quickly discover that what he promised is false, and our sins will be punished, as they deserve to be. But if we are serving the LORD, we have victory over sin and death, because God raised His only Son from the dead. During the 3 days when He lay in the tomb, Jesus descended into Hell, beat sin, beat death, and emerged victorious.

So can we be.

If you have not decided what to do with your life, (whom shall you serve?) please make up your mind. The choice is yours (but I’m rooting for you to choose Jesus.) Like Stonewall Jackson said, we ought to be ready. But we ought to live Victoriously, because we have the Spirit of God in us, making us brave. Death could not hold Him down.

If you have accepted Christ, please, don’t hesitate! Go out and do what he commanded. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the three in one, and surely I shall be with you until the very end of the age.” (the last chapter of Matthew). Don’t waste any time! You have only as much as God gives you. Live every moment to glorify Him!


Friday, June 8, 2012

Sermon Notes

-A Puzzling Picture

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don’t need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don’t need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. - 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (NIV)

A few weeks ago, I was blessed to attend a youth group with some of the sweetest people I know. The pastor was going through one of my favorite passages in 1 Corinthians. As he read the words above, I began to see a picture. Not just one of a physical body with many different members, but a different one. In fact, I thought of this passage in a way I've never thought of it before. I thought I would share it with you...

"....The body: Its just like a puzzle. There are thousands upon thousands of different pieces of this puzzle. No two are alike, but although they have differences, their differences are what make them fit together. Its important that all of the pieces accept each other..no matter their color, size or shape. If one piece rejects another, there's a whole in the puzzle, and the full picture cannot be completed.

* Don't reject other believers

*Be content with the part God has given you

One pieces of the puzzle should not desire to be the shape of their neighboring piece. Then they will leave their own spot empty. Another hole. God has selected us--Hand picked us for the part we are to play. He's flawlessly molded us to fit right where we need to be--and when we're content with how we've been made, when we don't reject other believers who fit right along side of us, only then will our picture--God's picture--will be completed and perfect.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Baseball and the Gospel

Dressed and ready to go, we showed up at the gates of the baseball stadium 45 minutes before it was ready to begin. We had been selected to sing the National Anthem as a precursor to the game.

As with any event, we needed tickets to gain admission. Lizzie, the woman in charge, said that she would give us free tickets because we were singing. She told us to go to the Customer Service right outside the gates when we arrived and pick up the tickets right there.

When we arrived, we went to the Customer Service and asked for our tickets. The woman at the desk looked through several envelopes before declaring that she couldn’t find them. Mom suggested several different names to look under, but to no avail. “Do you think they’ll let us go through without tickets?” Mom asked. “It’s pretty obvious that we’re the singers.”

We walked up to the gate and asked if they would let us through. But the gatekeeper said that she could not let us in unless we had tickets, whether we were singers or not. There was nothing to do but to go back and wait. The woman in the Customer Service desk was able to track Lizzie down through the walkie talkie system and asked about tickets. Lizzie herself came down, bringing 9 tickets for our whole family. This time when we walked up to the gates of the stadium, the woman smiled and let us through.

Later I found myself thinking what a great analogy this is of the gospel. I know that on A Time to Dance we try to focus more on giving helpful advice in the lives of believers, but if you are not a believer, or maybe if you think that you are but you haven’t quite understood it, I believe that you need to hear this. I’ll lay it out, point by point, below:

When God created the world, and when He created man, his original design was that man would live in Paradise (the garden of Eden) in close relationship with God, and man would be the caretaker of the earth. Sin had not entered the world yet, and the world was perfect.

One of the gifts that God gave man was freedom of choice. Scripture makes it very clear that the way that God wants us to love him is by obeying his commands. But love is not love if obedience is mandatory. There had to be choice. Man (or rather woman) listened to the lies of the devil and the first sin was committed. Man fell from relationship with God, because God’s eyes cannot look on sin.

But God still cared about man, so He devised a plan to save Him from ultimate destruction and wrath in hell. Romans tells us that the wages of sin are death. Instead of punishing the guilty, God sent his own son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and take our punishment for us so that we could be purified and live in relationship with Him again.

God has extended His grace to us... but it is only ours if we choose to take it. The way to be saved is to confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord and that He died to save us from our sin.

We need to note that we are not saved through anything that we can do, but through what Christ can do. Even if you think that you have never sinned, the truth of the matter is, you have, and you need forgiveness. You may have spent millions of dollars digging wells in Africa, feeding starving children, never broken a rule at school, or done whatever your parents told you. But have you always done that? Have you always obeyed your parents with a joyful heart attitude? Have you kept all the rules in your heart, or have you sometimes hated the kid who pushed you in your heart, even though you never pushed him back? If you have, you are guilty of sin and you need a Savior. Because someday, God will judge the world and all the inhabitants of it, and when you stand before Him, not even your best deeds can save you. You won’t be good enough.

And now back to my story and how it compares to all this. If the baseball stadium were heaven, we would be those standing outside it on Judgment Day. Without our ticket-- the blood of Jesus Christ-- we could do nothing. We would not be able to get in, not even though we were singing the National Anthem. However, when Lizzie brought us our tickets, she was being sort of like Christ, coming down and extending to us grace. Then, she could hold the tickets out, but they would not be ours unless we took them from her hands. When we did, we were able to show the tickets at the gates and pass through them to the other side.

That is the gospel as clearly as I can put it for you. I pray that you will take these words to heart and that you will decide to place your trust in Jesus Christ, if you have not done so already. If you aren’t sure quite exactly how to do that, you can contact any one of us here at A Time To Dance and we would be glad to give you any counsel or encouragement that you might need.

And on a side note, singing the National Anthem at a game of some sort has always been one of my dreams, and it was as much fun as I thought it would be. That is what Heaven will be like someday.