Monday, November 27, 2017

Tom Petty's standing ovation at the Pearly Gates

A few weeks ago I was listening to a local classic rock station and there was a song playing by the late Tom Petty. When the song ended the DJ, like they normally do before a commercial break, transitioned with a few comments about the artist and the song. The first comment is what really caught my attention. The DJ started off by saying "Can you imagine the standing ovation Tom Petty received at the Pearly Gates?" I simply shook my head at the comment and changed the station not wanting to hear the upcoming commercials. 

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were an awesome musical group. With albums that went Gold, Platinum, Double and Triple Platinum, receiving the Billboard Century Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and many other honors, Tom Petty was more than deserving of a standing ovation in any room he walked in. His contributions to music are evidenced by the fact he sold over 80 million albums worldwide making him one of the top 100 best-selling artists of all-time. His greatness in the area of music cannot be disputed.

The real question that should jump out at us after hearing (or in your case reading) the remarks of a DJ on the radio is "Was Tom Petty deserving of a standing ovation at the Pearly Gates?" I don't pretend to know the spiritual relationship between Tom Petty and God, but if mentions of his belief in the benefits of transcendental meditation are true, then I doubt that Tom Petty was a believer in Christ. That being said, Tom Petty, and everyone else for that matter, can expect an ovation at the gates of heaven based on one thing and one thing only. This ovation is not based on record sales, awards, honors, how good a person you were, how much you gave to charity or the church. This ovation is not based on what you thought about God, how you treated your family or if you provided for your family. This ovation is not based in anything you can do on this earth as a result of your own power, intellect, or musical ability.

The only thing that needs to be done so you can receive a standing ovation at the gates of Heaven has already been done for you, but the ovation itself is based in what you do with what has already been done. The only way for you to be received into heaven, which will excite God, the angels, and every person there, is to trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Then and only then will there be a great ovation as you enter into heaven when this life is over. Jesus dying on the cross 2,000 years ago secured for you a spot in heaven. He's already done everything needed for you to get into heaven. The only way to claim that spot with your name on it is to believe that Jesus Christ is the perfect Son of God, who died on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins and was raised from the dead by the power of God three days later. If you believe this in your heart, and confess your sin, confess your need for forgiveness, and confess your desire for Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, then you will receive eternal life and a right relationship with God. When this life is over, you'll find yourself in heaven with a God and people who are excited to see you.

If for some reason you decide not to pursue a relationship with God and not receive the forgiveness Christ offers, then you'll find yourself on the outside looking in. To borrow from another classic rock artist, you'll find yourself "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and you won't be getting in. The sad reality is that you'll be eternally separated from God. This means you'll spend eternity in the tortures of hell. There'll be no standing ovation at the gates of hell only "wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:12, 13:42). My suggestion to you today is to put your faith in Christ and avoid this awful existence after this life is over. By doing so you'll enter into a place God has prepared for you, specifically for you, and enjoy fellowship with Him and other believers for all of eternity. 

You can find more information on starting a relationship with God through Jesus Christ here or here.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

A Few Reasons for Giving Thanks

With Thanksgiving on Thursday, the thoughts of most people have turned to those things for which they are thankful. I want to share some reasons for giving thanks in hopes of encouraging you to, as the Psalmist puts it, "give thanks to him and praise his name." 

Psalm 100:4-5 says “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (NIV).

In verse 4 the Psalmist tells us we should give thanks to God and praise His name. In verse 5 the Psalmist goes on to give us 3 reasons why we should give thanks. So here are those reasons to give thanks and praise to God.

God is good.
“For the Lord is good…”

What the psalmist is pointing out here is part of the character of God, part of what makes God…God. The goodness of God is part of His very essence. It is part of His very DNA. When it comes to goodness or something being good, we understand it to mean something is favorable and right, rather than bad, wrong or possibly even evil. With our understanding that God is good and what goodness entails, then we understand that in God there is nothing bad or evil. He is a holy God who loves us and shares His goodness with us. 

Many times in life we look at the difficult events in our life and we call into question where is the goodness of God in my situation. The loss of a loved one, a relationship that ends badly, a job that is downsized, and the list goes on. But just because we face a difficult circumstance here on earth or even live a life constantly filled with adversities and difficulties doesn't change the goodness of God. Ultimately it shouldn't give us a negative view of God or His goodness. What we ought to experience in those difficult times in life is a greater appreciation for God’s goodness to us. We ought to have an attitude of thankfulness to God for His goodness during those difficulties. If we see God for who He is, a loving, benevolent, good and holy God then we will be thankful for all that God does for us. Especially seeing us through those difficult times in life. Ultimately the goodness of God is a reason we should give thanks to God and praise His name. 

Another reason to give thanks and praise to God is because...

God loves you.
“His love endures forever…”

For us, one of the greatest things we receive from God and can be thankful for is His love. Like the psalmist says here in verse 5, “His love endures forever…”This is a reason to be thankful on so many levels. Think first about God’s love. God’s love for us is shown in many different ways. Through His provision, His care, His grace, His mercy and many other ways. The greatest way we've been shown God’s love was through Christ dying on the cross for all of us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NIV). God showed His love to you by allowing Jesus to die on the cross while you were dead in your sins, so you could have your sins forgiven, a perfect relationship with God, and eternal life. 

But verse 5 tells us that not only does God love us, but his love endures. This shows us the staying power of God’s love. It means God doesn't love us for a short time and then discard us or give up on us. His love endures all of the mess we put ourselves through by sinning and disobeying God. His love stands the test of time and we ought to be thankful for that. 

Finally we see that this love of God that endures all of our failures, it will endure forever. There is no end to the love of God. God has loved us since before time existed and He will love us into eternity, millions and billions of years from now. It is like God says in Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (NIV). The everlasting and enduring nature of that love is all the more reason to praise Him and give thanks to Him. 

Another reason to give thanks and praise to God is because...

God is faithful.
“His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

God has proven Himself faithful for thousands of years through the pages of Scripture, through the pages of church history, and ultimately in your life. His faithfulness to you is found in verses like Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." His faithfulness to His children is as enduring as His love we mentioned previously.

Notice what the psalmist says there in verse 5. He says “His faithfulness continues through all generations.” Basically the psalmist is telling us that from Adam & Eve until the final generation of people on earth God will be faithful to His people. There will never be a time when God is not faithful to you or to anyone else who’s ever lived. God’s enduring faithfulness to you is deserving of praise and thanks. 

God’s faithfulness to you in every aspect of your life deserves your thanks and praise. Consider His faithfulness to provide for you, love you, guide you, mold you, care for you, and protect you. His faithfulness through all of that and much more deserves at the least your thanks and at the most your praise.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Diffusing a volatile situation

Friday evening my wife and I found ourselves right in the middle of a volatile and potentially violent domestic dispute. This dispute was between two people we'd  never met before but somehow while minding our own business we were pulled into the middle of this dispute. I can't go into the details of the situation but while the two were separated, my wife was talking to the woman involved and I went to give something back to the man that the woman had with her. From his demeanor and language I could tell he was more than upset before I ever got close to him. As I approached him I could tell he was not going to calm down anytime soon. I tried my best to talk to him and get him to calm down. After a few tense minutes of not knowing how things would go, he decided to leave. As he started to leave I told him I was a pastor and that I would be praying for him. I was surprised at how the simple words that I would be praying for him tossed a tremendous amount of water on a volatile fire. Although he did not leave before doing some more yelling and cursing at the lady, when he finally left I hoped I was done with the situation short of praying for him and the lady. 

Often times we tell people we will be praying for them and that is the extent of it. We say the words and never go through the process of actually interceding for the person. We talk a good game. We sound real religious but our actions don't line up. Only when we see the person again do we whisper a silent prayer for them as we're reaching out our hand so we can say we've been praying for them. It is like an old comic strip that showed a pastor thinking "Here comes Bob. Oh I forgot to pray for him. Lord bless Bob." Then the next strip shows the pastor shaking Bob's hand while letting Bob know he'd been praying for him. We see on social media, like Facebook, where someone shares a concern or problem, while requesting prayer. People "Like" or use an emoji in response or even comment "Praying." But how often do we click the buttons and continue scrolling without pausing to pray. Many times we have good intentions of praying for a person but it just doesn't get done. We're busy with our own lives and things slip through the cracks, including praying for others. The best advice I can give you on this topic is some advice an old, wise pastor once shared with me. Simply put, he said if you tell someone you will pray for them, then do it right then and there. Don't put it off because you could forget. As long as the situation lends itself to you praying for that person in the moment then do so. Not only will you keep your word but you will touch the heart of the person you are praying over.

On Saturday, as I went through my day, I regularly prayed for different aspects of the situation we were pulled into on Friday evening. I prayed for the couple and have prayed for them from time to time since then. On Saturday afternoon the man caught up with me and apologized for the way he had acted and the things he'd said in front of me and my wife. He said the situation had caused him to act in a way that was out of character for him. Then he said something several times that got my attention. He told me he appreciated the fact that I was praying for him. I thought my comment the night before had landed on deaf ears, especially after the way the night ended. We never know how our prayers or our offer to pray for someone will impact a situation or impact a person's life. So if you say you will pray for someone, be sure to do it. You never know how it may impact their life.

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