Further Out

My husband and I were watching a movie the other night. A man had taken a woman on a date and asked her if she wanted to go for a ride in his boat. He then picked up his cell and tried to make a call. No coverage. He then told her they needed to go “further out” to get more cell coverage. She had no problem with that. What she didn’t know was that the man was trying to get her away from shore so that he could kill her. The audience knew it but she did not. We all wanted to say, “Don’t go further out. Stay near shore where there are other people and it is safe!”

The audience knew the man did not mean “further out,” he meant “further away.” Further away from safety. People that don’t have our best interest at heart want to do that. They try to isolate us from the people that love us, i.e. our friends and family, so that we have no one to turn to if we need help.

In life though, it is just not people that want to do that. As believers in Jesus Christ, we have an enemy that wants to isolate us from other believers. For a Christian, it is a dangerous place because we need other believers to pray for us and support us. During the pandemic, there was a time when everyone stayed home from church because the churches were closed. However, when they opened back up, everyone did not return.

According to George P. Wood in his article, “Six Reasons People Aren’t Coming Back to Church,” there are several reasons people are not returning. Top of the list is Covid Hesitancy. Many are afraid to return and be exposed to large groups of people. That is understandable. Others though are not returning because of Inertia. They have gotten used to staying home and it is hard to get them moving again to get up and attend church. The third reason is Weak Attachment. The people did not have a strong attachment to Christ or their church and the cares of the last year have strangled the little faith they had.

Anyone looking at those that are getting “further away” from their church know they are in a dangerous place. The seas of life are rough and we need other believers to help us through the difficult times. We need good solid teaching from the Bible to ground us during the uncertain times we live in. The Scripture speaks to us in Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as in the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.”

Are you in the boat? Is someone taking you further out, further away from other believers? Turn back while you still can! Better yet, get out of the boat and stay close to shore, close to others where there is safety in numbers. We don’t want to end up being a statistic. A statistic such as Lifeway Research found: After the Pandemic, 6 percent of churchgoers said they would attend less often, 2 percent said they would now attend rarely and 1 percent said they would never go back to church.

Further out? Further Away? Not on your life!

Six Reasons People Aren’t Coming Back to Church. George P. Wood. July 23, 2021. Influencemagazine.com

Image by jplenio. Courtesy of Pixabay.

The Hellevator

Marco looked across the bay. He loved watching the ocean from his office window. Today, there was no fog and he felt like he could see forever. The blue of the Pacific Ocean was stunning as it glistened in the full sun. It was late Friday afternoon and he was calling it quits for the week. He turned around and looked at his office. He smiled as he saw all of the awards he had received throughout his career as a real estate broker. It had been quite a ride and he was still enjoying the thrill as each sale closed and his company received its commission.

Tomorrow was his 50th birthday and he and his family were going to spend the weekend at his parent’s winery in Napa. He loved his parents but had chosen not to stay in Napa and work with his dad and brothers. Growing grapes and making wine did not compare to the thrill of making thousands of dollars from just one real estate transaction.

Marco walked out the door of his office and headed for the elevator. As he started to reach for the button, everything went black and he collapsed on the floor. He woke up as his spirit left his body and traveled upwards. In a few moments, he was in a room filled with light and millions of books. He looked around and saw what he believed were two angels. They looked at him and then turned and opened a gigantic door. A being filled with light entered and when his eyes adjusted to the light, he could see the most beautiful being he had ever seen. Not only was this person filled with light, he could feel love emanating from his every pore. He could see the scars on his hands and feet and he knew instantly who he was. This was Jesus, the Son of God that his parents had taught him about when he was little.

Marco could do nothing else but fall on his face and worship Him. Jesus came forward and lifted him up. As He touched Marco, love filled Marco’s being. He knew he was loved completely at that moment. A flash of fear coursed through Marco’s mind. What was he doing here? Had he died? What about his life? As those thoughts went through his mind, Marco began to see his life pass before him.

He saw the things he had done as a child and as a teenager. He saw his rejection of God in his college years and his obsession with money and his career in his twenties, thirties and forties. His life looked oh so shallow and self-centered. Had he done any good? He saw how he loved his wife and kids and how his company contributed every year to the homeless shelter near his office. He wondered, was that enough to get him into heaven?

No words were spoken as Jesus looked into the Book of Life that one of the angels held in his hand. He searched for Marco’s name but could not find it. “I’m sorry Marco. I created you to spend eternity with me, but you rejected every advance I made to offer you my love.” Marco then saw the hundreds of times that Jesus had protected him and spoken to him in a still small voice. He watched himself ignore those moments as he hurried on about his life, anxious to cut another deal and make another great commission.

Jesus turned and left the room. One of the angels pointed to the Hellevator and Marco knew that he was going to have to take it and live in a Christless eternity. He began weeping as he was escorted to the Hellevator. The door opened and he saw a demon waiting to take him to Hell. He tried to back up but a force just kept drawing him forward into the Hellevator. He started screaming, “No, No, I am so sorry.” He heard his voice echo off the walls in the Hellevator and the demon smile a wicked smile. Just as the door began to close, everything went dark again.

“One, Two, Clear.” A bolt of electricity shocked his heart. His heart began to beat and he heard, “He’s back. Let’s get him down the elevator and to SF General.” He could feel them lift him onto the gurney and he heard the elevator door open as they rushed him inside. In just a few moments, he was on the street and they were loading him into the ambulance. Someone was talking to him, “We’ve got ya buddy, just hang on. You’re going to be okay.”

Marco felt the weight of his body and knew he was back in it. His chest hurt and he felt weak, so weak he could hardly talk. He looked up at the paramedic and whispered, “Thank you.” He then looked up through the roof of the ambulance into heaven, “Thank you Jesus, for a second chance. I won’t let you down.”

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16-17.

Image by Gerd Altman. Courtesy of Pixabay

Irrevocable

A few weeks ago, I was flipping through the channels and saw a pastor playing the organ at his son’s church. I was a bit shocked as this pastor had a spectacular and highly public fall from grace in the late 1980’s. I had pretty much assumed that he was out of the ministry or at least the public eye. You know, kind of the “one and done” philosophy…one mistake and you are done.

I thought about him for a while and I realized that although that might be how the world looks at people, it is not necessarily how the Lord operates. If a person repents, gets counseling, does their time (if there is any to do), and is accountable to the church leadership and has proved over a period of time that he has truly changed course, there is the possibility that he or she may be restored to some type of ministry.

Why would anyone take the time to restore a person who had made a large mistake? This would be about love and grace, which are subjects for a different day. Besides the love and grace aspect, one would think that the Lord would just wipe his hands of someone who had blown it in a big way, but that is not true. The Scripture says that, “For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29

So, what exactly does that mean? Well, let’s look at what irrevocable means: “not able to be changed, reversed or recovered. Final.” Oxford Languages. In other words, when the Lord gives us certain gifts and calls us to do certain things, He doesn’t take them back.

What does that mean for us? Is there someone sitting out there reading this who feels like they have blown it too badly to ever be used by God again? Have you failed Him or quit on Him in a big way? Can He or will He forgive you? Do you think He has given up on you…you know, one and done?

Unbelievably, when we read the verse above, we know that God is not in the business of taking back what He has given us. Not the gifts that allow us to serve Him, nor the calling to do it. They are ours to do with what we can. Have you turned your back on God or do you think He has turned His back on you?

You are the one who needs to turn around and look into the face of God. You will find His grace and love waiting to restore you. If you are willing, He is certainly willing. Is that kind of grace hard to believe in? Do you need an example from the Bible? In Acts 15: 36-41, we find two disciples arguing over John called Mark. He had deserted them in Pamphylia and Paul, the apostle, was not willing to take him with them again. You know, one and done; but Barnabas wanted him to go and he eventually took John Mark with him to minister to the fledgling church in Asia Minor.

So here’s the takeaway if that’s you. Turn around and take heart. God is not done with you yet. It is still not too late to be used by Him.

Image by Harry Strauss. Courtesy of Pixabay

What if Our Conception is Wrong? — Mitch Teemley

My Featured Blogger this week is Gordon Couch, aka „Rocky,“ of The Fractured Rock. Rocky is a retired businessman, world traveler, and longtime teacher at his church. He and his wife of 50 years have the foothills of Tennessee’s spectacular Smoky Mountains for a „backyard.“ The story below, by an anonymous writer, has apparently been […]

What if Our Conception is Wrong? — Mitch Teemley

The Days of Noah

The other evening my husband and I were clicking through the channels on the television looking for something to watch. We happened to scroll by the local news and it had a special report on. Locally the hospitals are full, and they were asking people to wear masks and be careful to social distance. We kept it on for a few minutes and listened as one of the hospital administrators was describing what it was like in the hospital. He talked about expanding the morgue because they needed the space for more bodies. It was a pretty bleak picture.

The next day we went to the store. We expected that there would be lots of people wearing masks and following the directions given on the news. Surprise, surprise, it was not so. Hardly anyone was wearing a mask and at one store, even the checkers were not wearing masks.

So we get in the car and I say to my husband, “What gives? Am I living in an alternate reality? Is what the man said on television true or not?” He didn’t have an answer but as we drove home and I looked around, I thought, “These are like the days of Noah.”

You see, when Noah was building his ark, he was preaching to the people about the coming flood. He was warning them but they were not listening. It was as if he wasn’t speaking at all. Jesus described it this way, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24: 37-39

Most people have heard about the Lord’s return. They have been warned that they should get ready, but they are not paying attention; they are not listening. They have heard about it so much that they have grown dull of hearing. They are going about their business as usual, either unaware or unconcerned that in fact there will come a day of reckoning with the Lord.

Are you like that? Am I? Do we think that just because it happened yet, that it will not happen at all? Have we even become so hardened to the message that we have become scoffers? The apostle Peter talked about a time when men would be come like that: “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3: 3-4

It’s easy to hear a warning and ignore it. It’s easy to ignore something we have heard over and over again and think, “Not going to happen to me. Probably not going to happen at all.” Let’s not be like those during the days of Noah. Let’s be ready for the Lord’s return.

Image by Hany Alashkur. Courtesy of Pixabay

The Last Call

Have you ever taken a train trip before? When you are in the station, you wait for your train to be called so that you can board. After it has been announced a few times, then you hear, “Last call for Train #35 going to Torino.” That last call means that if you are in the station, you have a very short time to get on board before the train leaves. There will be no other notice that the train is leaving. You will hear the air brakes release and then the wheels begin to roll. If you are not on board, it leaves without you.

I look around at our world today and I believe we are hearing “The Last Call.” Everywhere I look there is violence, war, pestilence, plagues (including Covid), and disintegration of societies. I do not see our world moving in a positive direction. I cannot imagine that man, after all he has done to mess up this world, is going to make it a better place. Those that believe that man is capable of creating “an ideal society” are sorely disillusioned. Believe me, if man could have done it, it would have happened a long time ago.

Jesus talked about a time like this on the earth. He said, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.” Luke 21: 10-11.

Surely, anyone who is listening and looking around can hear the announcement: “We are nearing the end of the age as we know it. It is time to answer the call. Jesus is coming soon for his people. Turn to Him before it is too late.”

Have you heard the call? Are you just waiting for another and then another announcement, unaware that soon there will be no more and it will be too late to get on board? I hope not because surely what comes next is not going to be pleasant and no one wants to be around for the final act.

“For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say ‘peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman and they shall not escape.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 2-3

Please, I beg you, answer the call before it is too late!

Where the Bodies Are Buried

Have you ever started a new job and the person taking you around said, “Let me show you where all the bodies are buried.”? You know that what they mean is, “Here’s where the dead files are” or “Here is where the office secrets are kept.” In the case of the lab where I worked in my early twenties, there really was a place where the bodies were (down the hall and to the right).

When you travel to various cities, they also have places where the bodies are buried. Some have beautiful cemeteries and others have famous catacombs such as Rome and Paris. Those places can be quite eerie to walk through but that is literally where the bodies are buried.

When it comes to matters of religion, many religions can point to where the body of their leader is buried. Other sects that began in the distant past can only imagine where the body of their founder may be.

But for Christians, we cannot show you a place where the body of Jesus is buried. You see, He is not laying in any grave on this earth. He died and three days later he arose from the dead. This is a documented historical fact. When the women came to take care of his body after he had died, an angel said, “He is not here, He is risen.”

We can, however, show you where the bodies of certain saints are buried and where we believe others have been interred, but The Body…No. So the next time someone says to you, “Let me show you where the bodies are buried,” remember Jesus, the One Person who cannot be found in a grave and take hope.

Image by Pete Linforth. Courtesy of Pixabay.

THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING

AGIA PARASKEVI

Written by Vladimir Moss

John Huston’s film “The Man Who Would Be King” (1975), based on the novella by Rudyard Kipling, has much to teach us about our holy faith…

Two rebel soldiers from the British army, Daniel Dravot (played by Sean Connery) and Peachy Camehan (Michael Caine) seek adventure in an expedition to Kifiristan, somewhere beyond the Khyber Pass. By making themselves indispensable to the villagers, and accomplishing some pseudo-miracles, one of them, Dravot, is acclaimed as king. Moreover, when he is brought to the high priest of the region, who sees a Masonic amulet around his neck, he is acclaimed as a god and the long-expected successor of Alexander the Great (who considered himself the son of Zeus). At first, this new “god” does good to his worshippers, settling their disputes and leading them to undertake useful projects, while becoming very rich himself. When the snows melt, Camehan…

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Cost vs. Value

Have you ever thought about the way you determine the value of something? Isn’t it usually determined by its cost? Let’s look at a few examples:

MERCHANDISE: Let’s say you get a great deal on something of value; say a ring. You are really happy to have gotten it at such a good price but there is a part of you that doesn’t quite give it the same value it would if you had paid full price for it. It’s just the way our minds work.

INHERITANCE: Have you ever gotten some money through an inheritance? Maybe the people who left it to you scrimped and saved in order to leave it to you. But because it didn’t cost you anything, you may not give the money the same value they did. Possibly you might spend the money on that new truck you have always wanted instead of investing it into your mortgage. You see, free money doesn’t always have the same value as money we had to earn.

SALVATION: We have heard of God’s free gift of salvation many times but because it doesn’t cost us anything, we don’t give it the value it deserves. We want to earn our way to heaven, we want to pay the price for it but that’s not the way it works. Someone Else paid a tremendous cost for it and we must accept it as the free gift it is.

Think about it this way. Someone leaves you a beautiful house. It is free to you but it is going to cost you a lot to live in it and maintain it. That is the way Salvation through Jesus Christ is. He gives it to us freely, but we will be paying a cost as we go along. If we accept it, it will:

Cost us our friends at the bar when we quit hanging around there every night.

Cost us our popularity when we quit sleeping with every person we date.

Cost us our money when we quit selling drugs and have to get a minimum wage job.

Cost us our job when we quit lying for our boss who is stealing from his boss.

The list goes on and on. Each one of us can write a list of things that our salvation has cost us. But the value of it, the sheer eternal value of it is priceless.

Don’t confuse cost with value or you will miss the greatest life-changing opportunity you will ever get.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Matthew 16: 24-26

Image by Steve Bussime. Courtesy of Pixabay.