Is the Universe Collapsing?

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Photo courtesy http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=22672&picture=ce-space-scene-1Is our Universe on the verge of collapse? According to scientists we are headed for the end of the world. Well, I’m sorry to burst their bubble but those of us who are Christ Followers already knew that.

In an article that I read today, they talk about how a Danish university has “proven” scientifically that the universe is preparing to collapse and that in fact, the process may have already begun. That sounds like doomsday predictions that have been occurring for centuries, probably since the beginning of creation.

As residents on this planet, of course we would be concerned about what happens if the world ends. What happens to us? Will humanity cease to exist? Again, as believers we already know the answer. So when I hear these predictions I don’t get fearful or worried. I actually get excited.

According to the article, the theory called “the big slurp” predicts that the Universe will expand to the point where it cannot go any further and will then come crashing back to the center to be completely destroyed. “Yes, the universe will probably collapse,” and: “A collapse is even more likely than the old calculations predicted,” says the article.

Romans 8:22-25 “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

Picture a circle of people with large rubber bands and raw eggs. Each person has their egg in the rubber band and begins stretching it away from the center, as far as the rubber band will stretch. Finally when it can’t go any further the egg slips from each person’s hand then, suddenly propelled by the contraction of the rubber band, goes crashing with all the others into the center, completely destroyed. It’s an extremely simplified example but you get the idea. Can’t you just hear those rubber bands groaning as they are stretched to their capacity? And if we listen, we can hear all of creation groaning as it awaits God’s final redemption of His followers.

For 400 years Israel waited to hear from God, waited for the prophecies that promised a savior to come to pass. Ever since Jesus ascended into Heaven we have been waiting for his return. God told Zechariah and then Mary and Joseph that the promise was on it’s way. Could it be that God is again letting us know that the time for which we have been waiting is near?

Don’t you just love it when scientists think they’ve found out something new, only to find that they are proving scripture? That makes me want to shout!

2 Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”

So how does this apply to us? How can we possibly incorporate the end of the world into our daily lives? It’s really quite simple. We focus on doing what matters most. We spend our time furthering the Kingdom of God. We love and encourage each other while we still can, praying “come Lord Jesus.”

Hebrews 3:13  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Are You Peculiar?

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If you asked most people to define the word “peculiar” you would get some variation of this: “something or someone who is odd, strange, unusual or weird.” Most people would not appreciate being called peculiar. It definitely has a negative connotation in our current culture.

But looking at the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, I find the following:

Peculiar – One’s own; belonging solely or especially to an individual; not possessed by others; of private, personal, or characteristic possession and use; particular; individual; special; appropriate.

Our modern culture has shifted this word, peculiar, to mean something to be avoided or kept at a distance. No one wants to be called peculiar. They don’t wish to appear odd or strange. Most people would rather blend in and be inconspicuous.

But in the King James version of 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” This doesn’t mean strange or weird, it means they belong to God. Peculiar comes from the Latin word peculium which means “private property.”

We are a peculiar people! We belong to God. We are His and no one else’s. He claims us as His own. And maybe to the world that looks strange or weird. If belonging to God makes me seem strange to the world, so be it!

If following after Christ means you stick out and look different than the world, is that okay with you? How peculiar are you willing to be? Will you stand firmly on the fact that you have been chosen by God, no matter how that looks to the world?

The Secret to Overcoming Your Troubles

Original illustration by Jim SuttonI love the wisdom of Dr. Seuss. He had a way with words that cut to the chase. Take this quote for example.

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me!” -Dr. Suess

Can you just see one of his characters standing with a huge ball bat in his hand, poised to take on whatever is coming his way?

Of course, as Christ Followers, we don’t go out and buy a big bat. We have no need of one. We are already equipped with everything we need to face whatever comes our way.

This life is full of troubles. Everyone I know is going through something. And the troubles do seem to come from every direction. Sometimes we just want to raise the white flag and say we surrender, we give up, we’re tired and can’t fight anymore.  But we need to take the words of the good doctor and stand our ground, facing our troubles with confidence.

Since we don’t have need of a big bat, what do we have to fight against these troubles? We have a sword. According to the Bible, we have been given armor and a sword.

Ephesians 6:17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

We only need one weapon. The rest of that passage talks about items that are for protection. The only weapon we need is the sword of the Spirit which is God’s Word.The key to success is that we take the sword. We can’t just leave it lying on the ground and expect it to help us win the battle. We must take it up and use it with skill that comes from practicing with it daily.

When we have the sword and  face our troubles God has promised us the victory. And remember, we will never have to fight alone. God has promised to be with us.

Hebrews 13:6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?

Pick up your sword and move out with confidence. The victory is yours!

Are You a Name Dropper?

We are all familiar with name droppers.  The official dictionary definition of name-dropping is “the studied but seemingly casual mention of prominent persons as associates done to impress others.”

What if I told you that I once ate a meal at a fast food restaurant with Joyce Meyer? It’s true. It was in her early days of ministry and she was leading a woman’s retreat at my church. She was actually in my driveway as I happened to be riding to the event with the leader of our women’s group and Joyce’s van was to follow us. I also once sat next to the late D. James Kennedy at a banquet. He was a very interesting man to talk with. I enjoyed the evening immensely.

That’s name dropping. It sounds like I know both of those people. But if I were to meet Joyce Meyer today would she remember me? Highly unlikely. And I’m sure that Pastor Kennedy wouldn’t have remembered spending an evening chatting with me either. Those experiences were just brief encounters that I remember because they are well known people.

All of this leads to the obvious question, “So what?” So what if I met either of those people? Does a simple introduction and conversation amount to a relationship? Not at all. I couldn’t take someone to meet Joyce Meyer and introduce her as my friend.

What if you truly were friends with a very important person? What if you really did have a relationship with a president, or a king or even a movie star?  Wouldn’t it be amazing to tell all your friends?  But what would it get you?

You have an even more amazing relationship. You are on a first name basis with the Creator of the Universe. He’s not just an acquaintance, He knows you by name. He gives you His full attention when He knows you want to speak to Him. He’s interested in your problems, your fears, and your dreams. What more could you ask?

Be a name dropper! But not for the purpose of impressing others. Do it as a way to draw others into a relationship with the best friend they will ever have. Speak His name often. Tell everyone that you know Him and then… offer to introduce them.

Jeremiah 10:6  There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might.

Open Your Hand

There’s a story in a book called “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls that tells how you can catch a raccoon with a shiny object inside a log. You cut a hole it the log just large enough for a raccoon’s paw and put the shiny object inside. When the curious raccoon puts his paw inside the hole and grasps the object, his paw is now too large to come out of the hole and he is trapped because he refuses to let go of the object.

It’s an interesting story which some say they have proven to be true and others say is just an old tale with no truth to it at all. Either way, it’s a good picture of us, God’s children.

There are many things that we hold onto. It might be events from our past  or unconfessed sin that we can’t seem to let go of. Those things torment us and keep us trapped. The enemy uses guilt, regret and shame as his chief weapons to keep us from letting go.

There are other things that have a completely different kind of hold on us. We might be clinging to what others think of us or habits we just can’t seem to break. We might be holding onto possessions or status. It might be greed, or a stubborn heart that motivates us to hang on, refusing to let go no matter what.

But God wants to set us free from this trap. He has a plan for each of us and we don’t always understand it but if we know God at all, we know that He is good and anything that he asks us to let go of will be replaced with something much better.

I want you to try a little exercise with me. Make a tight fist with your hand, palm side up, and just look at it for a moment. Now think of a problem or circumstance that you are struggling with and picture it within your clenched fist. If you hold onto it, God can never do what He wants to do with it. If you are holding it, you are allowing it to hold you.

Now, open your hand and ask God to take it from you and do with it what He chooses. By letting go, you have freed yourself.

What are you holding onto that you could give to God? Open your hand!

Proverbs 23:26 Give me your heart, my son, And let your eyes delight in my ways.

A Life that Leaves a Mark

1185327_611885915500487_970469722_nA few weeks ago I wrote about being in Florida with my grandfather. We had gone there to say goodbye. At 97 he was ready to leave his earthly body which had failed him and he longed for Heaven. It was a long process that would cause him to be confined to a Hospice facility inching his way toward heaven day by day for six weeks. Finally on a Sunday afternoon, he would leave this life forever.

But what did he leave behind? Nothing he needed but much that we needed. He left a legacy to his family that cannot be measured. He left a mark on four generations of descendants who loved him and tried to live like he inspired us to. He was a quiet, simple man who spent his life trying to make other’s lives better.

If you went to his house and commented that you liked something you saw there, he would try to find a way to send it home with you. It was a good thing, when we made the trip by air instead of car so we didn’t have room to take so many things home with us. He was just as free with intangible things as well. He was quick to share a story from his past in order to demonstrate a life lesson to any of us who would listen. We spent a lot of time listening and learning how to live and love those around us.

This earthly life passes so quickly. If you’ve had children you know how fast they grow. They are adults and leading their own lives before we know it. My grandfather’s life went quickly too, even though it spanned almost a century. He filled it with meaning every day because he constantly looked for ways to serve others. Each of those lives, and there must be thousands, was changed because he was intentional about how he lived his.

At the end of his life, as he lay helpless in a hospital bed, he was still touching lives. One nurse told me that she’d never met anyone like him and knowing him had changed her. She had only known him for six weeks. How many people does she care for in a year? And yet this one man made a difference.

There’s a story in John, chapter 13, which is very familiar. It’s the story of Jesus at the last supper. He dined with his disciples and then did something none of them expected. He filled a basin with water, took a towel and washed the feet of those he loved. He could have been distracted by what he had to face the next day but he focused on those he was with. He served them in his most difficult hour. He set the example for all of us.

The last time I talked to my grandfather was to wish him happy birthday two weeks before he died.  Our last conversation was difficult. He struggled to find words, he stuttered trying to keep his thoughts together but I treasured every syllable. Finally when he was tired and ready to hang up he said, “Are you doing okay? Is there any way that I can help you somehow?” I was speechless for a moment trying to understand how he could be facing the end of his life at any moment but was still concerned for my welfare. I told him that I was fine and he didn’t need to worry about us. He’d taught us well and we would continue teaching the  generations to come how to live like he did.

After I hung up the phone I realized why that last conversation was so special. I had experienced the same thing the disciples had on that night at the table with Jesus. What I saw in my grandfather’s last words to me was the same thing the disciples saw in Jesus that night. I saw a glimpse of the heart of Jesus in my grandfather’s words, and in his life.

Grandpa didn’t have to do grand things. He just lived his life for others. He made a difference. He left a mark. He inspired me to do the same.

Do You Need to Vent?

2008-10-06 16:59 Photo by Brocken InagloryDo you sometimes find yourself in a situation where you just need to vent? Maybe things haven’t been going your way for a while and you are frustrated or angry about your circumstances. Maybe you need to get some things out of your system so you can take a deep breath and move on. You need someone to talk to that will listen and help you release all that’s been upsetting you.

According to the dictionary, the word vent, when used as a verb, has two meanings. The first is to “give expression or utterance to.” God understands our need to talk through our problems and He puts people in our lives that we can trust to listen to our venting and still love us. We weren’t designed to keep everything bound up inside.

The second meaning of vent is to “expose to cool or cold air so as to cool or freshen.” The vent in your car does a great job of providing fresh, cool air when you need it most. It sure feels good on a hot day.

I think both meanings apply to our need to vent when things aren’t going so well. On one hand we need to express what’s troubling us and on the other hand, we need a fresh perspective.

The important thing to remember here is that when we vent, we are seeking to get rid of what is stale and be refreshed. Only vent to people who will steer you toward a fresh touch from the Lord.  The Holy Spirit is the only true source of refreshment.  He’s that fresh breath of God. Sometimes we need another brother or sister in Christ to walk along with us for a little while, but they can never refresh us like God can.

Ephesians 3:16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. 

It’s not just about venting what is stale, it’s about breathing in a new perspective from God.

God’s Way or the Highway

Narrow PathWhen my husband and I take a road trip by ourselves we like to take the back roads, avoiding the interstates as much as possible. We meander through the countryside and are in no hurry to arrive at our destination. We enjoy the interesting scenery that isn’t visible from the freeway.

When we go to visit our grandchildren it’s a different story. We have no time for meandering, we have an agenda.  We are interested in only one thing and that’s seeing those adorable little faces that greet us after a full day of driving. We get there as quickly as we can, stopping only when absolutely necessary and then it’s a quick, no nonsense stop and back in the car again.

Why do most people choose the interstates to get around? It’s because we have an agenda and we need to get there in a hurry. No time for delays of any kind. We hop on and set the cruise control and zoom along. Sometimes when we go through large cities there can be eight or more lanes of traffic in each direction.  Everyone  is on autopilot, getting in the zone and flowing mindlessly with the traffic.

Have you ever taken a narrow, winding mountain road? There’s no zoning out or cruise control on this trip! You have to focus on the road as well as keep a close watch on the steep drop off on the side of the pavement. There isn’t much room to maneuver and little margin for error. But there are times when the road evens out and the scenery is breath taking. And the little towns that come along every once in a while are often worth a stop to explore for a little while.

Matthew speaks of another narrow road.

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

The freeway is plenty wide and you have lots of company. The narrow way can be lonely and difficult at times. But how much you miss if you take the freeway with everyone else  All of them locked in with their cruise control and moving along without any concern for their surroundings.

The narrow road is more difficult to manage, it has ups and downs, it has tight, blind curves that make you slow down. But if you manage to stay on the road, you will have a much richer experience.

And isn’t it that way with life? God’s road may be narrow, and the gate a tight fit but the things He will show you will leave you speechless. And the people you’ll meet will change you forever. So slow down and take the byway instead of the highway. The scenery is worth it and the destination is beyond imagination.

When is Heaven not Heaven?

We all long for Heaven. Scripture paints a picture of Heaven that makes us yearn for the day when we will be there. We picture the conditions described in Revelation. In Heaven there will be no more pain or tears or death. There will be joy unending. We see it as a place so different than what we experience in our earthly lives that we hope for the day when we will be there. We talk about the streets of gold and a sea of crystal. Living there will be paradise. Or will it?

Is that place we read about, the perfect place? If we were promised a home in such a place would we truly be happy forever? Only with one condition. No matter how beautiful Heaven is, no matter what amazing things we have been promised, it will only be Heaven….if God is there. He is the reason Heaven will be so wonderful. If God designed Heaven to be the amazing place He promises in scripture and if he allowed us to enter the gates we would still not be happy there if God was not there.

In Psalm 73:25 the psalmist says “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.” There is nothing in Heaven that will satisfy except the Father Himself. The rest is just decoration. Nothing we desire on earth or in Heaven compares to being in the presence of the Lord.

In the 26th verse of Psalm 73, he continues the thought. “My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

What does it mean for God to be our portion? A portion is the part set aside for each of us. Your portion is God.  All of Him. What more can you want? Nothing else will satisfy like the Lord Himself.

And when our flesh fails us and when our heart grows faint, He is the strength of our heart. He gives us strength in times of weakness. He is all we need in every circumstance.

He is all we will ever need, on earth or in Heaven.

Daddy, Can You Hear Me?

Man and DaughterThe little girl looks up at her father and speaks in her soft little voice. Her father leans down, putting his ear closer to her in order to hear her clearly. He wants to hear every word she has to say because he loves her.

That picture is what we need to see when we wonder if God is hearing our prayers. He is that father, who leans down, bending over and turning his face toward us, intent on hearing every cry of our heart…because He loves us.

Psalm 116: 1-2 I love the Lord, because He hears My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live. (NASB)

 I love the Lord because he hears my voice  and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! (NLT)

As a child, it is very important to know that someone is listening, that someone cares about what you have to say. As God’s children, we have the assurance that He is listening to us. What we say to Him is important to Him. And because we know He hears us, we love Him all the more.

Our God is a good and loving father!