Thinking About Eternity

He has put eternity into man’s heart.

Ecc. 3:11b

Most of us at one time or another have wondered what it would be like to live forever. As the above passage tells us, God has planted the idea of eternity into our hearts. 

Yet, eternity is something that we as humans can hardly even begin to comprehend.

 Even if we live a long, full life, we can at best hope to be on this earth for a scant 100 years. That is nowhere near eternity.

In fact, our minds have no way of understanding what it is like to live forever. 

eternity

God gives us enough interest in eternity so that we can hope for it, although it is something we’ll never begin to understand until we reach Heaven and spend forever with the Lord. 

Eternal life is promised to those of us who have trusted our souls to the Lord Jesus. Without Him, we will face eternal separation from our creator. 

You see, we’ll exist forever one way or another, either being forever alive and in the presence of God, or enduring eternal destruction and separation in Hell without any hope of reconciliation with God.

The choice is ours how we want to spend eternity. 

Once we die, our decision has been made—there are no “do-overs.” We don’t get to go back and rethink our decision because at that point it’s too late; our fate is sealed. 

Think about it—we have the choice whether we get to live with God and worship Him for all eternity. 

We can live in Paradise with the God of the Universe or suffer in separation and agony without Him forever. 

There’s really no decision when you think about it. 

Even if you’re not totally convinced that Heaven and Hell are real places and that there is a loving God who wants us to live with Him forever, logically you have nothing to lose by choosing to make Jesus your savior. 

If Christians are wrong and you are right, you’ll simply cease to exist when life leaves your body.

However, if you’re wrong and Christians are right, you have all eternity to lose. And that’s a whole lot for a very, very long time. 

If you’ve never made the decision to let Jesus into your life, there’s no better time to do it than right now. 

Pray to Jesus, asking Him to forgive your sins where you’ve fallen short (because we all have) and letting him become Lord of your life. 

Proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God, then connect with a Bible-believing church where you can get baptized and begin the journey of learning more about what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Heaven

Then, the answer of where you’ll spend eternity will be settled. You can rest easy knowing that you’ll live forever with God. 

We don’t know many specifics about what eternity in Heaven will be like, but we can be certain that the experience will be far better than anything we can imagine. 

So, don’t just wonder about eternity. Make plans to secure your place with God by accepting Jesus as your savior today.

The American Dream – Is It God’s Will?

Freedom…that’s what’s at the heart of the American dream. As Americans, we’re granted the opportunity to pursue our desires. We have the liberty to live where we want to live, to work where we choose, to drive the kind of car we want, and to buy the latest fashions and walk around in style. Compared to many countries around the world, Americans have it pretty easy.

In fact, society actually compels us to pursue our freedoms. It’s practically un-American if we don’t demand our freedom and our rights to do as we please and live how we want (so long as we’re within the law, of course). 

However, is the American dream really God’s will? Does He support the great push for the individual freedoms that we’re guaranteed under our constitution? These are difficult questions to answer for sure. 

The essence of the American dream is rooted more in the rights of the individual than it is for the good of the whole. We are taught from a young age that it is our right in this country to be able to live as we so choose. It’s all about liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

However, you find a different kind of freedom mentioned in the Bible. We’re told that by becoming Christians, we’re then free from sin. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” 

Sin is what enslaves us, and by accepting Christ into our lives, we break free from the shackles of sin and death. 

This is a far different idea of freedom than what the average American spends their days dreaming about. While there is nothing inherently wrong with aspiring to live one’s life as you want, God tells us that true freedom is only found in Jesus, and that His freedom will make us alive again.

In thinking about the Biblical idea of freedom, we have to take into consideration the idea of strengthening the church (the body of Christ) through our actions.

Rather than living solely to better ourselves and to amass as many belongings as possible during our lifetime, the Bible instructs us to love others, help others, and build up the body of Christ. 

A few verses later in the same chapter of Galatians we are told, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

So, the freedom that we’ve gained through Christ is to be used to help our fellow man—not just for enriching our own lives. 

How often do we stop to think about our lives in these terms? Do we really take into account the welfare of our neighbors and value it as highly as we value our own freedom to live as we want?

I have a hard enough time grasping the whole concept of freedom in Christ, let alone figuring out how to use it to build up my next-door neighbor. Yet, that is exactly what we’re called to do as believers in Christ.

The goal is to lift up those around us, so that we’re all better off than we would have been otherwise. When we spend all our resources on ourselves, we end up contrary to the will of God, and quite often lonely and empty in the process. 

I’m talking largely to myself here, because I have been guilty of far too much self-focus for much of my life. If all I do is see how many toys I can buy, I’m not really accomplishing anything with the resources that God has entrusted to me.

Those around me, as well as myself, would be better off if I instead used my time, energy, and other resources to spread the word about the freedom found in Christ. 

That is true, Jesus-style freedom.

God’s Nature Vs. God’s Methods—What’s the Difference?

Is there a difference between God’s nature and God’s methods? I believe that God is infinitely good, but something inside me questions His methods—that perhaps they’re not always in my best interests. So, does that mean I don’t really think that God is all-good, after all?

I sometimes picture God as a mad scientist type, with white hair and a white beard, clipboard in hand and watching over His creation. All of us are like little mice, running to and fro through a gigantic maze. Some of the time it feels that God is controlling all the things going on in the maze. 

“Let’s throw a little rain at them and see how they respond. How about a little cancer here, a little car trouble over there? What do they do then?”

At other times it seems that God isn’t doing anything but standing back and watching everything unfold on its own. I know this deist view isn’t accurate, but sometimes it’s hard not to believe it’s reality. 

Admittedly, it’s hard to picture God as loving when I’m also picturing him as standing back from His creation, aloof and unconcerned about the goings-on of the individuals He is presiding over.

So why do I sometimes see God this way? I believe it’s the sheer silence that we get out of God most of the time. We pray and seek Him, yet for the most part He is silent. At best, we get a barely discernible whisper from within our spirit when He does speak directly to us. 

It seems that if He were interested in us, He would make himself more known to us. Seems like a fair assessment.

I realize I’m being hard on God with this line of reasoning. And I know that his thoughts are higher than my thoughts, so I’ll never understand why He does the things He does and doesn’t do the things he doesn’t. That’s just part of being human.

But just because I don’t understand God’s methods doesn’t mean that I can’t trust him completely. In fact, that is the very essence of faith, isn’t it—to trust God even when there’s no logical reason to do so? I believe that is a solid definition of faith.

In my heart of hearts I know that God is good. I’ve always believed that I think. But that doesn’t mean I always appreciate his methods. Often I feel like things that happen in life ought not to happen, that I go through hardships that I could just as easily do without. 

As they say, “God never wastes a tear,” which means that everything is part of God’s divine purpose and plan. Perhaps I should just accept that and move on. There is no sense getting upset when things don’t go the way I think they should. 

Either I trust God and His methods or I don’t. It’s that simple..

These are problems that I will probably always struggle with; it’s part of human nature to try to figure out the mysteries of life. However, we must not let these thoughts taint our view of the infinitely loving God who created us and who loves us unconditionally.

That’s where faith comes in. 

Quit Trying to Understand God

If you want to commit your life to God and walk in obedience to Him, you must forget what you think you know about how life works. As mere humans, we can never fully understand God’s ways.

We’re told in Isaiah 55:9,

For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

If you stop and think about it, nothing about God and His creation really makes any sense. 

For example, in our human way of understanding, everything has a beginning and an end. 

Just look at our lives. We’re born, we live a certain length of time, then we die. That holds true for every single human being. There’s no variance to this pattern. Some may live longer than others, but every person has a beginning and an end.

God is different, however. The scriptures tell us that He has always been. He was not created by another entity, and He has never not existed. There’s no time in history when God wasn’t around. He created the concept of past, present, and future as we know it.

Our human brains struggle to make sense of this. How can something or someone have always been in existence? It’s not possible, our minds scream. Yet, it’s true. 

If we can truly wrap our heads around this fact, then we’ve come a long way toward accepting all the truths we’re told about God in the Bible. 

If we believe that God is all-powerful, then surely we can grasp the fact that He flooded the entire earth, or parted the sea so His people could escape capture, or resurrected His Son from the dead.

We, ourselves, can’t do any of these things; it’s not within our power to do so. This fact makes it quite difficult to believe that these things are possible. We simply must suspend disbelief and realize that there are things that a divine being can do that we simply can’t. 

I believe that’s why the Bible begins the way that it does. In Genesis, we’re told in detail how God created the heavens and the earth, then populated the earth with a man and woman and a multitude of animal species. 

He just puts it all out there right off the bat. If we can accept the truths found in Genesis, the rest of the Bible shouldn’t be a problem for us. 

The question is, do you believe the narratives found in the Bible? If you struggle to believe what you read in scripture, ask God to strengthen your faith; He’ll do it. He wants us to wholeheartedly accept Him and His ways.

To do so, it’s necessary to put aside human logic and accept the fact that God’s divine nature can’t be explained using our limited logic.

If you can do that, you can begin to commune more fully with God and worship Him as the Divine Creator that He is.

Just remember—it’s not always supposed to make sense. If it did, we wouldn’t need faith. And we’re told in Hebrews 11:6a that without faith it is impossible to please God.

So exercise your faith today. Don’t worry about understanding God. Simply worship Him by pondering on His glorious attributes. 

Now Is the Time For Eternity

There’s really nothing more important than salvation and our eternal destiny. If we really stop and think about it, it’s horrifying to picture someone cut off from God forever, lost and suffering in hell. It’s almost too awful even to imagine it—the thought of eternal suffering with no end in sight.

As humans, we cannot fathom eternity. Even if we live a long life by human standards, most of us would be fortunate to see a century of life on this earth. This length of time in no way compares to eternity. We have no experience that can give us an inkling of what that is like.

But when I begin to think about eternity, I don’t want anyone to suffer for that duration. And I don’t believe God wants that either.

That’s why He sent Jesus, his Son, to be our Savior. He made a way for us, His creation, so that we might live with Him forever. He did that because He loves us, even though we are imperfect sinners.

We don’t really deserve God’s mercy and love, because of all the wrong things we do each day. Yet, he loves us anyway, despite our flaws. 

Because of Jesus’ human birth, death, and resurrection, we have access to God’s saving grace. Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins once and for all when he was crucified mercilessly on the cross 2000 years ago. 

If you’ve never accepted this grace, then now is the perfect time to do so. All you have to do is believe that Jesus is Lord over all and came in the flesh, invite Him into your heart as your Savior, repent of your sins, and ask Him to help you live a sin-free life.

Then, find a Bible-believing church to become a part of and get baptized as a sign of your renewed life. It will be the best decision of your life. You’ll then be a believer in Christ and can rest easy at night knowing that your eternal destiny is sealed.

Becoming a Christian won’t make all your trials and challenges magically disappear, as many times in the Bible we’re told that we’re likely to suffer for the sake of Jesus if we’re his disciples. 

But you’ll have the reassurance that God is with you every step of the way, through the good times and the bad.

I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Heb.13:5b

What could be better than that?

With God on our side, life can be a wonderful adventure each day, no matter what we’re faced with.

So, go ahead, make the decision to let Jesus be Lord of your life. There’s no better time to do it than now.

Turn Your Life Verse Into an Affirmation

What is your life verse? 

You know, the one that every time you read it or think about it, it just speaks truth to you. If nothing comes to mind, ask God to give you one—a verse that He wants you to hold on to, to make it our own, during the good times and the bad.

I’ve had various verses that have spoken to me personally over the years. For at least 25 years, Proverbs 3:5-6 has been at the top of the list:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Long ago, It felt like God laid this passage on my heart, prompting me to hold it close because I would need it someday.

And, oh, how I’ve needed those words. I’ve had to remind myself over and over to trust God completely and not to rely on my own understanding or beliefs about the situation at hand.

Here lately, God has prompted me to keep in mind a different verse—Romans 8:28: 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose

This verse reminds me every day that no matter what challenges I face, it’s all working out for the best in my life. It may not seem like it now, but God has a plan and everything is falling into place.

In fact, lately when I’ve felt stressed or overwhelmed, I just yell out (to myself), “Romans 8:28, baby!” That simple reminder is enough to reset my emotions, help me remember that God is in control, and keep me from spiraling into an abyss of doom, gloom, and depression. 

One technique I’ve used a few times is to take several key passages of scripture that truly speak to me and write them down in a personalized way on either an index card or small piece of paper that I can look at each day.

For example, using the two passages in Proverbs and Romans, I might write the following affirmation:

Today I trust in the Lord with all my heart and will not rely on my own understanding. In all my ways I’m acknowledging Him, and He is making my paths straight. In everything God is working for my good because I love Him and am called according to His purpose.

Philippians 4:4 and 4:6-7 are other powerful passages about God’s goodness and peace that I have often meditated on when life’s challenges feel overwhelming. I could personalize them as well and add them to my daily affirmation.

So, when I’m finished, I have the following written out:

Today I trust in the Lord with all my heart and will not rely on my own understanding. In all my ways I’m acknowledging Him, and He is making my paths straight. In everything God is working for my good because I love Him and am called according to His purpose.

I will rejoice in the Lord today. I will not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving I’ll let my requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

Prov. 3:5-6, Rom. 8:28, Phil. 4:4, 6-7

These are some of the verses that have greatly helped me over the years. Maybe they’re special to you as well. Or maybe you need to search the Bible and find your own verses that resonate with your unique circumstances.

Once you’ve personalized and written out your affirmation, take a moment first thing in the morning to read it, out loud if possible. 

Read it again while you’re eating lunch, and refer to it anytime during the day that you feel stress, anxiety, or depression creeping up on you. 

Bedtime is another fantastic time to read your affirmation and set your mind on God as you drift off to sleep.

Let God’s word soak into your spirit and drive out all the negative feelings and emotions that are trying to take root in your mind. Focus on God and His promises.

You’ll feel more joyful and hopeful if you do.

Are There Two Different Gods?

If you only read the Old Testament of the Bible, you might end up concluding that God is mean and wrathful toward His creation. 

Admittedly, there are many instances in the Old Testament where God exacts some form of punishment. Throughout its narrative, Israel is constantly sinning and making God angry.

Up until the time I accepted Christ as a teenager, I had read Genesis more than any other book of the Bible. 

The reason is because it is at the beginning and you always start reading a book at the beginning, right? Every time I would decide to read the Bible, I would open it at the beginning, Genesis. 

Consequently, my view of God was strongly shaped by what we find in the book of Genesis. I naturally grew up seeing God as a stern authoritarian.

While God is certainly all about law and order, there is also much more to Him. He is full of love and compassion for His people. Over and over, he forgives the Israelites for their sin and helps them out of predicaments they get themselves into.

For the most part, it is more difficult to see God’s love in the Old Testament, but it is there. You just have to look a little harder to see it. 

Of course, it’s easy to recognize God’s love when we read the New Testament. References to His love for His creation are abundant, with the crucifixion of His son depicted as the epitome of this love.

It is almost as if there are two different Gods — the stern God of the Old Testament and the loving God of the New Testament. 

There is of course just one God, the one Creator of the universe. The two testaments of the Bible emphasize different aspects of the nature of God. To get the true picture of God, you have to read both parts of the Bible.

In fact, the New Testament completes the image of God that is begun in the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament., the law is given, and in the New Testament, we see how it is impossible for man to keep the law and that there must be a penalty for his sin.

Christ’s death and resurrection satisfy the penalty of man’s sin.

With the two sections of the Bible taken together, we get the full picture of God and His plan for mankind. You have to read the Bible in its entirety to understand God’s love and see the full scope of His plan.

So why is God seemingly presented so differently in the two testaments of the Bible? I don’t have a good answer to this question. 

The Jewish people, of course, only recognize and read the Old Testament. Does this skew their perception of God?

As a Christian whose Bible-reading time focuses more on the New Testament than the Old, I can’t help but think that the answer is yes.

I believe that as a believer in Christ, we are supposed to read the entire Bible. Doing so will help us develop our faith and become the people that God wants us to be. 

If we read only one of the two testaments, we will not end up with the right foundation. 

We have to see the judicial side of God depicted in the Old Testament so that we can fully appreciate the loving side of God that the New Testament gives us. Christ’s death and resurrection complete the law and put the believer in right standing with God.

As we’re told in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

The Father’s loving nature shines through in this verse, as He provides a way (the ONLY way, in fact) for us to become righteous in His eyes.

He loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus as the once-for-all-time sacrifice for our sins.

Love doesn’t get more intense or deeper than that. 

And if you read only the Old Testament, you’ll never even begin to grasp the idea of this love.

However, if we don’t have the foundation of God’s justice laid in the Old Testament, we’ll never fully understand and appreciate how wonderful a gift it is that through Jesus’ sacrifice we stand forgiven in God’s eyes.

The two parts of the Bible work together to give us the full message from God. This message is that He loves us and has provided a way for us to spend eternity with Him.

All we have to do is use our free will to accept this gift by asking Jesus to be our Lord.

And that is the simple truth of the gospel.

God is Good All the Time

You may be like me in that you often struggle with doubting God. I hate to admit it, but far too often I don’t trust that God has my best interests in mind when things don’t go the way I think they should. 

In my heart, I know that I can and should trust God completely. After all, He created the universe, so He should be able to handle the affairs of my life, shouldn’t He?

Then why do I allow my lack of faith to bubble to the surface and keep me from experiencing all the peace of God that He wants for His children?

If you also struggle with a lack of faith, then I’ll tell you the same thing I tell myself: God is good all the time—all the time, God is good.

Try this. The next time you’re faced with a challenging situation and you’re tempted to question God and His motives, take a moment to reflect on a previous trial in your life. It may have been last week, or it could even be from decades ago in your childhood. 

Just make sure it’s a situation where you can clearly see God’s hand at work. Perhaps he worked out the situation supernaturally in a way you can’t explain. Or maybe it was something simple—just an affirmative answer to a prayer sent up to Heaven.

The point is to recognize God’s work in the situation. Think about and really appreciate how His touch worked out in your favor. Perhaps even thank God again for His help during this time, no matter how long ago it was.

Now, here’s the key. If you can truly see and appreciate God’s handiwork during this trial in your life, you realize He can be trusted. 

He’s got your back, as the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:28:

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

It doesn’t matter what kind of challenge you’re facing. We’re assured that when it’s all said and done, God is working it out for your benefit

Even if you’ve just lost your job, or a loved one has died, or your car has broken down on the side of the highway—something good will come out of this situation.

God, in His infinite wisdom and goodness knows what He’s doing. And as mere human beings, there’s no way we can possibly begin to understand His actions. Even though the situation may look like a total mess to us, it is completely under His control. 

In fact, in Ecclesiastes 8:17 we’re told that we can’t ever hope to have full understanding of God’s actions:

I observed all the work of God and concluded that a person is unable to discover the work that is done under the sun.

Also, in Isaiah 64:4 we read:

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

These are just two of the verses that tell us we will never comprehend the mysteries of God. Therefore, trust is the key. 

If God came through for us before, He can and will again. We shouldn’t worry or fret over the situation because God already has it worked out.

God exists outside of our human concept of time. While we can only live in the present—having already experienced the past and waiting for the future to happen—God is not limited in this way. He is in the past, present, and future all at one time. 

He knows exactly what is going to happen to us. To Him, it’s already settled. And while we can’t exist in the same nonlinear space that God does, we can surely trust Him that everything in our lives will work out for the best. 

Once again, if we can look back on our lives and recognize God’s activity during our times of crisis, we can rest solidly on the fact that He will do the same again. 

The outcome may not look like we’re expecting it to or think it should, but we can be certain that it’s all for the best.

God is loyal and He loves His children. Waiting patiently on Him is an exercise in faith. Our faith will actually grow during challenging times as we rest in our belief that God will work every situation out for our benefit. 

After all, God is more concerned about building our character than He is about our physical comfort. Certainly, he would much rather shape our attitudes about material things than give in to our request for more money, a newer car, or a bigger house.

That’s not to say He doesn’t want us to have those things, but if it comes down to either more income or a stronger Christian character, He is going to act in a way that builds our character.

That may not be what we want to happen, at least in the here and now, but in the end, we’ll be better off because of God’s plan.

So, when it’s all said and done, simply trust God. Trust Him that He loves us and that He wants only the best for us. He’s our loving Heavenly father. And what father doesn’t want the best for His kids? 

A toddler doesn’t understand his parents’ motives for telling him to stay away from a busy roadway, but avoiding the dangers of passing traffic is obviously for his benefit. 

The same holds true for us. Even though we don’t understand why things happen as they do in our lives, God does, and He’s firmly in control.

In that, we can be absolutely certain. Just as that toddler doesn’t have to worry about food and shelter, we don’t have to worry about our basic needs. God has everything under control. 

Remembering that God is good and that He’s working on our behalf will help us rest in peace no matter what we’re faced with.

It’s Easy to Be Mad at God

It’s easy to be mad at God. There are multiple opportunities every day to blame God and distance yourself from Him. 

I don’t know why life is this way. I suppose a theologian would say it’s because we live in a fallen world. It’s imperfect, so there are naturally going to be situations every day that we’re unhappy with.

And since God is omnipotent, He’s the one to blame for all our troubles, right?

That’s the trap so many of us fall into, myself included. 

Even though I know it’s wrong, I still often blame God for the little annoyances of life. Like when I went into a restaurant recently to pick up a carryout order and only grabbed one of the two bags I was supposed to get.

I thought to myself, Why couldn’t God have prompted me somehow that there was another bag I needed to pick up?

I mean, that’s a logical thought, isn’t it? He knew I was only picking up one of the bags. He could have whispered to me to double-check that I got everything, couldn’t He?

Certainly, He could have done that. But He didn’t. I don’t know why, other than that He was using the situation as a teaching tool of some sort. Perhaps He wanted me to learn something from the experience or to grow my faith. 

Maybe he was hoping that I would indeed have the thought that He could have prompted me about the second bag, but that I would then remember that it doesn’t matter because He is all good.

Alas, this isn’t what happened, because I found myself questioning Him and His ways.

But, at least I eventually did come to the conclusion that He is good, even though it took me a while. I’m a work in progress for sure.

What about you? Do you blame God when things don’t go exactly as you think they should? 

If you do, why not just go ahead and accept His goodness now, without waiting? Cut out all the steps in the middle and realize that He loves you and is looking out for you. 

I believe that’s what He’s hoping you’ll do.

The Christian’s Advantage

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

If you are a Christian, you have an advantage over non-believers. That’s right, the above verse says so. 

Christians are what this verse refers to as the called. So if we’ve chosen to follow Christ and we love God, we can rest in full assurance that everything that happens to us in our life is working out for the best. 

We don’t have to wonder if the future will work out, as we’ve been guaranteed that God Himself is at the helm of our lives, making sure things go exactly as He has planned.

Now, it may not always feel like things are working out for the best. We will have days when it seems that everything is going downhill. 

However, these are the times when our faith must kick in. We must have faith that God is still in control, no matter what the circumstances look like.

As James tells us, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Not only can we rest in faith, knowing that God is working everything out for the best, we can also count on the trials we face to cause our faith to grow. 

The next time we find ourselves in an unwanted situation, we’ll have that much more faith to stand firm during the trial.

The person who has never accepted Christ into their life does not have any of these assurances. 

When they face the trials of everyday life, they really have nothing to fall back on.

As Christians, we have the assurance that God is on our side—every day, all the time.

Does this make you want to share the gospel with someone you know?