Walking on Bare Concrete

From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay

Summer is back with a vengeance — so is the need to recover from the lazy non-summer months (which in Florida, are few) and tackle long-procrastinated-on home improvement projects here at the “Lizard Lounge.” (If you’re new to “Clay,” take a second and follow that link to find out where that name came from. You can also click here for the whole series.) And whether I’m having a DIY moment inside or outside, I have a lot of time to talk to or (even better) listen to the Lord. Invariably, by the time I put down the shovel, the paint brush, or the watering hose, I have an idea for a blog post.

Below is the first one for this season. Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?

• • •

Time has a way of getting away from me. (Hold that thought for a moment…more to come…)

The past few weeks I’ve been making final preparations for the book I’m writing. To date, I’ve made umpteen editing passes through my manuscript. I’ve also allowed 3 times that many days to go by without writing something new for Clay. (I’m not sure what 3 x umpteen equals. A scad? An oodle? A triscuit?)

Those famous, fortunate, and affluent authors who can hand a raw book manuscript over to a publishing company and then head to the beach while waiting for a formatted proof copy to come back ready for corrections and final approval don’t know what they’re missing. Or maybe they do; maybe that’s the reason they’re at the beach: they’re celebrating all that free time under their beach umbrella, waiting for their next cold beverage to arrive. The self-publishing rest of us are forced to do our own formatting and spell-checking and reading and re-reading and re-re-reading of our fledgling books while chained to a computer wishing we’d had the foresight to buy stock in Microsoft Word back when it was affordable.

In the end, though, it’s been worth every keystroke, as I’m happy with the progress on my book manuscript. I do feel bad that I put all blog activity on hold, though. My poor Facebook followers were subjected to republished versions of former posts while waiting for something new to come out. As I hadn’t sent out one of my “A new article on Clay” emails in a “triscuit,” one of my subscribers asked me if I had dropped him from the distribution list. Another friended me on Facebook just to make sure I was still alive.

Like I said, time has a way of getting away from me.

And now for the rest of the story…

*squish*

From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay

Below is the next installment in “The Lizard Lounge Series on Clay,” a wet-n-wild little piece about disasters—house AND spiritual varieties. Here is a link to the whole series, if you’re just tuning in. (And here’s a link that explains the whole “Lizard Lounge” bit.)

Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?

• • •

Stepping into my dark kitchen one evening after work I heard a sound I wasn’t expecting…

*squish*

*squish*? I thought. Tennis shoes on tile don’t usually make that sound. *squeak* maybe or *kerplop*—but *squish*?

I made my way across the room to flip on the light switch.

*squish*squish*squish*

That can’t be good

And it wasn’t. With the light on I could see that the kitchen was standing in water. While barely a half-inch deep (so far), standing water of any depth in one’s home is not a good situation. Not a problem on tile floors, but…

…wood floors. Please no, I prayed silently as I set out on a tour of the rest of the house.

And now for the rest of the story…

Why are you crying?

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“After three days I will rise again.” Matthew 27:63 NIV

It was Friday. The day before, she had spent Passover with family and friends in Jerusalem, feasting and celebrating like hundreds of thousands of other Jews in the city. Today, however, there was no celebrating. Today, she stood huddled with several other women watching a barbaric execution.

She was at Golgotha—“the skull,” an apt name for such a foul, place of death—helpless, trying to be strong, watching as He hung there dying. When He told His followers they would have to take up their cross, she never dreamed He would be the first to set the example.

For months she had taken care of His needs and those of His disciples, using her own money and resources to support Him and His ministry. He gave her her life back; gave her new life. Just like each of us who are His followers, she owed Him everything she had.

Most of His disciples ran and hid in fear; but not her. She forced herself to watch the Light of the World hanging there like a common criminal, determined to stay until that light was extinguished.

That Friday, Mary Magdalene was a witness to Jesus’ crucifixion.

And now for the rest of the story…

Once More, With Peeling

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

I’m having a horticultural “best of times/worst of times” moment in reference to an event unfolding in my hindmost landscaping bed (i.e. that patch of dirt out behind the carport). I’m watching one of my banana plants actually sprout bananas – one of the coolest and rarest things ever (at least in my particular plant hardiness zone). Out of the blue recently, a large, deep-red banana heart appeared at the top of my tallest plant. As each layer of the banana heart peels back like a petal, it reveals tier upon tier of tiny, finger-sized bananas.

Once the final petal has opened and the baby bananas have had time to ripen, I’ll have my own little bunch of Chiquitas. And they’re sweet – much more so than their store-bought banana brethren and sistren.

Makes me feel kind of like a parent (of really tall, green, and quiet children – who sprout bananas).

That’s the good news. The bad news is that a banana plant only has one bunch of bananas in it; after that, it dies. So no sooner are the tiny potassium- and vitamin C-laced babies ready to adorn a bowl of corn flakes than the plant I’ve fed and watered and nurtured from a pup suddenly takes an unceremonious, leaning-tower-of-Pisa-like nose-dive into the mulch.

Not a happy sight. But that’s the way God made bananas – bear fruit and then exit, stage left.

With just a cursory read of the Bible, you’ll discover that “bearing fruit” is also the perfect analogy for being a productive Christian. Many of the Biblical writers have a lot to say about bearing fruit, as did Jesus. (Of course, He’s generally not talking about bananas – at least I don’t think so. I can’t imagine one of the apostles slipping on a banana peel. That would give a whole new meaning to the phrase “the fall of man.”)

Paul had some pretty insightful things to say about bearing fruit, as well. In chapter 5 of his letter to the church at Galatia (in what today would be Turkey), he found himself in the unpleasant position of having to give the Galatians an “F” in “conduct” on their spiritual report card. He didn’t pull any punches when contrasting their fruits of the “flesh” – referring to their proclivity to sin – to fruits of the “spirit.”

Although Paul reminds the Galatians that they were called to be free, he warns them to not let that freedom take then down the wrong side street.

He writes:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21, NIV

That’s an embarrassingly l-o-o-o-ng list of possible sinful pursuits. He pretty much takes those Galatians to the woodshed – if you’re going to act like this, he says, you can jolly well kiss any chance of eternity with God in heaven “αντίο”.

But the God of all creation (including bananas) is also the God of new creations. In verses 22 and 23, Paul goes on to offer an encouraging “but” to those who belong to Christ Jesus.

“But,” he says…

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23, NIV

How d’you like them bananas? (or, you know, the fruit of your choice) Now that’s a list I can get into.

Sadly, though, it’s kind of hard to find many of the fruits on that list percolating through the world today. Just think about your latest drive home from work – did you see any joy or kindness or self-control out on the interstate? Me neither.

Earlier in his letter to the Galatians, Paul says:

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14, NIV

In other words, don’t tailgate or speed up just to cut your neighbor off and keep him from merging into your lane.

Love him…

  • Love that left-lane hogging driver with his turn signal on for the last 20 miles riding his brake and flicking cigarette ashes out the window while texting.
  • Love that person in front of you at the grocery checkout who waits until the cashier has rung up all her groceries and given her the total before she starts hunting for her credit card which is somewhere in her wallet which is somewhere in her voluminous purse – while texting.
  • Love that know-it-all in your meeting who, because he or she can’t get enough of hearing him- or herself talk, forces a follow-up meeting to be scheduled, since they ate up so much time nattering on (while texting). And if there’s two of them competing for air time? Ay-yi-yi… Pray for peace. And strength. And grace. And a stomach bug the day of that follow-up meeting…

So just like “fruits of the flesh” vs. “fruits of the spirit,” this whole “fruits of the banana” vs. “fruits of the Christian” essay is an exercise in contrasts. My banana plant only gets one shot at it. Once it’s borne its fruit, that’s it – it passes on, it’s no more, it ceases to be, it’s a stiff, bereft of life, an ex-banana.

For the Christian though, Jesus used a beautiful fruit-bearing analogy when He said:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” John 15:5, NIV

Not once, like my soon-to-be-finished banana, but over and over – as long as we continue to share His Gospel. In fact, if the fruit we bear leads others to a saving knowledge of God’s grace and results in eternal life for someone else, we can conceivably “bear fruit” forever.

I find that very a-peeling…

Free

Maybe you’re someone who reads “clay” regularly, or maybe one of those regular readers forwarded a link to this particular page to you for some reason. Whatever the reason, I’m just glad you’re reading. And not because my blog stats will register another tick mark on the “Today’s Views” graph but because I believe everything happens for a reason.

You see, I’m a Christian; a follower of Jesus Christ. And as a Christian, it’s pretty much a given that I believe in God. And in the time since I’ve been a Christian (which isn’t that long, actually), I’ve experienced first-hand that God is no light-weight when it comes to being able to do anything – even being able to direct someone to a blog post on how to become a Christian (the point of this post, just so you know).

So, yea – I believe you’re here for a reason.

My goal here is to tell you what being a Christian is all about without using a lot of unfamiliar words and phrases that Christians typically like to bandy about when we get together. I confess that some of the other stuff on this blog is full of “Christian-ese,” but this piece is meant to be much more plain and simple.

But in order to keep it simple and to the point, I need to ask you to agree to accept some basics up front. Actual proofs for these things have been the topics of entire books – multi-volume books – written by scholars and theologians with way more credentials than some guy with a blog; but this will go much quicker with less head scratching if we agree to agree that, for example…

There is a God

After all, you can become a Christian without knowing who Moses was or the names of all the apostles (I still get stuck on a few of them myself) but we need to agree that God is real – and that He’s nothing like you and me. (If you knew me, you would breathe a sigh of relief at that.)

No doubt you believe that all people deserve the same rights and opportunities, that we’re all created equal. And that’s true. But God isn’t the same kind of person we are. He’s not equal to us: He’s infinitely more than any of us could ever be. He’s holy, meaning He is pure good; there is nothing bad in Him. He’s perfect. He never makes mistakes. (Even creating mosquitoes.)

If one of us said, “I’m worthy of your praise – worship me” that would be the height of arrogance, because none of us is worthy of anyone else’s worship. God is, though, so He can say that. That doesn’t make Him arrogant – just truthful. He knows who He is and is honest about it.

Think of it this way: Suppose you were in a room with nothing but newborn babies; just you and a room full of day-old infants. You could say without any sort of conceit that your math skills are infinitely superior to anyone else’s in that room (even if you need a calculator to add 2+2). Each of those babies has great worth as a person; it’s just that, in the area of mathematics, they can’t hold a candle to you – not by a long shot. If you said, “I rock at math compared to everyone else in this room,” no one would think you are just being full of yourself.

That’s God. Think of us as the newborns and Him as the one who created math. He loves us and ascribes great value to each of us, but He’s never going to say, “I’m OK – but I’m no better than you guys.” He can’t, because that wouldn’t be true; He never lies or even fudges the truth a little. He knows who He is, because He knows everything.

Not only does He know everything, He can do anything. In fact…

God created us

…so it’s His prerogative to choose how things will be. (But because He’s perfect, those choices are perfect, too.) He gave Adam and Eve, the original people He created, a beautiful place to live and everything they needed. But He gave them the freedom to make choices, too – and they chose to defy Him, to deliberately disobey the one thing He told them not to do. No doubt you know the story. Eating that fruit when He told them not to may seem like a small thing, but to a perfect, holy being like God, it went against everything He was.

If, as a child, you ate a cookie one of your parents specifically told you not to eat, there might be some sort of punishment, but – because your parents are just people like you – that offense wouldn’t be worthy of death. A smack on the bottom or a time out – definitely. But not the death penalty.

But because it was God that Adam and Eve defied – perfect, holy, way-superior-to-mankind God – that offense took on a whole new meaning. It became a sin, an act of breaking God’s law. And because He is perfect and superior to us in a way we can’t even imagine, He couldn’t just overlook it and give Adam and Eve a time out. Breaking God’s law is an act that’s worthy of the worst punishment – death.

As a result…

We (the human race) brought sin and death into the world

When Adam and Eve defied God, something in them changed. And that change affected them and all of their descendants – which includes all of us. No longer were they perfect and innocent; no longer were they free from the cares of the world. The sin they committed separated them from God; the same God they knew intimately; the perfect, holy God who walked with them in that paradise He created for them.

It separated us from Him, too. Because we’re descendants of Adam and Eve, that separation is part of who we are as human beings. Although there isn’t a physical “sin” gene, our alienation from God is definitely a reality as far as our spiritual genetic makeup goes. You may be a good person and give to charity and drive the speed limit and treat all people and animals with kindness, but none of those things will cancel out the built-in sinfulness that keeps us from God and the good things He has for us.

But God loves us and is patient with our humanity; and because of His patience and because He loved Adam and Eve, He let their death sentence be carried out over the course of the rest of their lives, growing older until they finally died. They had to give up that beautiful place and struggle the rest of their lives for food and shelter and all the things God had previously provided for them. The same goes for us.

To sum up…

A real, perfect, holy God created the human race to have an intimate relationship with Him. (Be sure you understand that: God is not sitting way up there somewhere uninterested in us or our lives. His intention for us has always been to have a relationship with Him – to once again walk with us in a beautiful place He created just for us.) But because of Adam and Eve’s defiance and disobedience to Him, they and we and everything else God created are cursed with an innate sin nature; destined to be prisoners to our sinfulness; doomed to live and die without ever fully knowing Him.

One more thing: death does not mean we just fade into oblivion – it means we have to face the never-ending punishment we deserve because of our human nature. Maybe that doesn’t sound fair, but remember – God is holy and perfect. He can’t look the other way or wink at our sinfulness. He can accept nothing less than perfection.

Which makes the situation seem hopeless, because we can’t be perfect. I can’t, you can’t – no one can. We don’t have it in us.

But if we’re to keep from having to pay that debt we owe God ourselves (which we can’t, except with our lives) and suffering that never-ending punishment, someone has to die in our place who can pay for everything we’ve done…someone perfect.

The good news is someone has…someone perfect.

Which brings me to our final basic fact to accept…

Jesus is the answer

Everybody knows about the baby Jesus: we see Him lying in a feed trough in the manger scene in front of the church at Christmas surrounded by plastic wise men or played by someone’s baby brother (or sister) at the church Christmas play. But the Jesus depicted there grew up; and when He did, He was perfect and sinless – which means there was much more to Him than just being human. This is hard to explain but Jesus was God in human form; God who came to earth as the man Jesus. Again, multiple volumes have been written explaining that, but the best way I can say it is that Jesus was totally God and totally human.

So since God was perfect, Jesus was, too. He wasn’t just a good man – although, because He was God, He was good. He wasn’t just a great prophet or teacher – although He was great. He wasn’t just another religious figure like Krishna or Buddha or Mohammed or Joseph Smith or anyone else who ever lived. He wasn’t just anything.

What He was was God – God in the form of a flesh and blood man. And because He was totally human, He was an acceptable substitute to die in our place, freeing us from the debt we owe God, the debt we could never pay on our own. Because He was totally God, He was perfect and could satisfy the high cost God required for payment because of our sinful nature.

The death He died on our behalf was in the form of an excruciatingly horrible execution; He could have prevented it but He didn’t. It was what He came to earth to do, what God sent Him here to do. He knew what He was doing and He did it gladly: He was dying to free a world full of sinners from never-ending punishment.

Personally, I can’t imagine that. If someone told me I had to choose between dying myself or letting someone in my family die, I would gladly do it. But if they told me I had to choose between dying myself or letting some guy who had murdered a bunch of children die, I’m not sure I could. He committed those horrible acts; let him die for them.

I’m glad that’s not how Jesus felt. In spite of all the bad there is in the human race (and you know there are some bad people out there), He loved us; God loved us – loves us. He gladly died for all the murderers, pedophiles, and terrorists. He gladly died for all the drug dealers, televangelists who cheat the elderly out of their life savings, and lying politicians. He gladly died for all the people who give to charity and drive the speed limit and treat all people and animals with kindness. Somewhere in that range, you and I fall – and He gladly died for us, too.

When Jesus died, He made it possible for us to be saved from eternal punishment. But He also made it possible for us to start rekindling that intimate relationship with God that was lost long ago. When I became a Christian, I was just focused on not dying and going to hell. I never imagined that, even more wonderful, I would also have the chance to talk to God and feel His presence in my life. That part is amazing… Plus, I will get to do it forever.

So how do I know this…?

The Bible Tells Me So

You need to know that these aren’t just my ideas – I got all this from the Bible. And even though the Bible is written by a bunch of dead Jewish guys, these aren’t their ideas, either. They got everything they wrote from God Himself. If you’re going to believe He exists and that He can do anything, then it shouldn’t be too hard to believe that He inspired real people to write down what He wanted the world to know about Him and what He’s done to save us from ourselves.

I haven’t quoted anything from the Bible up to this point, but it’s time to let God speak for Himself. Here are some of the things He said and inspired others to say, all written in a pretty easy to understand way using contemporary language (No “thees” and “thous” and “hasts” and “haths”):

Are human beings really the reason there is sin and death in the world?

Death came into the world because of what one man (Adam) did. (1 Corinthians 15:21, The Living Bible)

I’m not that bad a person (at least not as bad as some) – isn’t being as good as I can be enough?

We’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners…and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us. (Romans 3:23, The Message)

But I don’t deserve to die for that.

Everyone dies because all of us are related to Adam, being members of his sinful race. (1 Corinthians 15: 22, The Living Bible)

So what’s the answer?

God showed his great love for us by sending Christ [Jesus] to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8, The Living Bible)

Is Jesus really the answer to our dilemma? Is there another way?

[Jesus said] “I am the Way… No one can get to the Father [God] except by means of me.” (John 14:6, The Living Bible)

Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one [the name of Jesus]. (Acts 4:12, The Message)

Why would God do this for us?

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. [God referred to Jesus as His son.] And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted… (John 3:16-18, The Message)

Powerful words…words of hope…

So… Do you feel something tugging at you right now? Something like a hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach? An emptiness, a feeling that there is so much more to life than what you thought you knew? Not sure you want to believe it but afraid not to?

Don’t ignore that feeling – that’s God speaking to you. That’s what it felt like to me in the days before I finally stopped trying to hide from God’s truth and surrendered my life to Him.

If this is all new to you, or you’ve heard it before and just never taken it seriously, take it seriously – right now.

Now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off… (2 Corinthians 6:2, The Message)

If everything I’ve written here is true – and I’m convinced without any doubt it is (plus, if you’re thinking – even a little – that it might be true, then you’re convinced, too) – then where does that put you?

What if you were to die before the end of the day? What would you face next – eternal punishment or eternal life and happiness?

There’s an answer to all those questions. Just like John said above, God sent Jesus “to put the world right again” – one person at a time.

Becoming a Christian, a follower of Jesus, means you understand that nothing you could ever do will be good enough to meet God’s high standards. You could build a church and give all your money to charity and memorize the Bible, but that wouldn’t make any difference. The only thing that will make a difference is accepting and trusting that Jesus is the only way to God and, ultimately, to an amazing life in Heaven, just like He said.

And the best thing of all? It’s yours for the asking, a free gift from Jesus to you. Do you want that? Do you want to respond to that tugging you feel? Do you want to surrender control of your life to a good and perfect God? Do you want what He wants for you and not what you want?

The choice is yours. Choosing Jesus will make you truly free, free from sin. Choosing otherwise will leave you right where you are: a prisoner of sin. Choosing otherwise long enough will leave you with no hope but to face death and punishment.

If you want the freedom Jesus offers, then just ask God for it. That’s where prayer comes in. Prayer is how we talk to God. There are no magic words or phrases you have to say – just talk to God like you would a good friend.

If you’ve never really prayed before or need someone to get you started, here are some thoughts you can put in your own words:

  • I understand that I’m a sinner – I accept the fact that it’s a part of my human nature.
  • I know there is nothing I can do by myself to change that.
  • I’m sorry for the things I’ve done that were anything but Christ-like. Please forgive me for those.
  • I want to let go of any control I may think I have over my life and turn it over to you.
  • I want the free gift of salvation that Jesus made available to me when He gave His perfect, sinless life.
  • I trust in the fact that Jesus is the only way to you and to heaven.
  • I want to be a follower of Jesus Christ – a Christian.
  • I want to be free from a life of sin. Please help me.

God will hear you – I promise. So does He:

 Everyone who calls, “Help, God!” gets help. (Romans 10:13, The Message)

What’s Next?

If you’ve asked God to forgive you, surrendered your life to Him, and trusted His freely-given gift of salvation because of Jesus’ equally freely given life, then that’s what’s happened: He’s forgiven you, agreed to be in control of your life, and saved you from eternal punishment. Now life really begins!

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17, The Living Bible)

Here are some things I found worked well for me:

Tell someone what just happened to you

…Preferably another Christian. (Another Christian – do you like the sound of that?) Someone who has experienced salvation will understand and be able to celebrate what’s happened to you. If you don’t know any Christians (or even if you do)…

Ask God to help you find a Bible-believing and -teaching church

Church is not just about sitting in a service and listening to someone preach (although now that you’re a Christian, you’ll listen to what the pastor says in a totally new way): it’s about being a part of a group of people who can encourage you and help you while you grow in this new-found faith. Don’t go it alone – listening to preaching on TV or the internet is fine if you can’t get to a church or just want to hear someone teach in addition to your own pastor, but it’s not a substitute for being with other Christians; it’s not what God had in mind.

Be baptized

Your new church will be able to take care of that. Think of it as making your “splash” as a Christian.

Get a Bible and read it

Find a translation that you can understand. Websites like Bible Gateway will let you read single Bible verses or entire chapters in dozens of translations in over 50 languages. Read a verse like Romans 5:1 (even better, read the whole chapter) in several translations and see which one God speaks to you through. I’ve included verses here from The Living Bible (TLB) and The Message (MSG), but I usually read the New International Version (NIV). My pastor preaches from the New American Standard Bible (NASB). I have an excellent Bible study guide based on the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). All of these versions are different, but all are good options.

Google “bible study guides” and follow some of the links to online programs for reading the Bible. Or just start with the book of John, who was a follower and close friend of Jesus. The story he tells is a beautiful presentation of Jesus’ life, the good news He brought us, and the gift He gave us through His death.

If you think reading about someone else’s real-life Christian experience would be helpful, then you’re in the right place. I’ve been a Christian since June 17, 2010, so this blog is pretty much a history of my time as a follower of Jesus. Click on the link at the top of this page that says “This is My Story” to learn about the days leading up to my own encounter with Jesus.

Pray – a lot

Paul, another follower of Jesus, wrote:

Always keep on praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:17, The Living Bible)

Ask God every day to guide you in your new life. Again, there are no magic words; just talk to Him. He doesn’t care if you use good grammar or if you admit that you have no idea what you’re doing. If you listen to Him as much as you talk to Him, you will begin to get a clear picture of the direction He wants you to go.

I can attest to the beauty of prayer, because I pray – a lot. In fact, I’m praying for you even as I write this; I don’t know you, but I’m praying for you. I want you to have what I have, to find what I found – and more.

Finally…

You’re free

If the Son [Jesus] sets you free, you are free through and through. (John 8:36, The Message)

Trust in God and His goodness

Open your eyes and see how good God is. (Psalm 34:8, The Message)

God is on your side – always

I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. (Joshua 1:5, The Message)

And He never will. May God bless you.

Happy re-birthday to me

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If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

Three years ago today around 10:00 a.m. EST I was reborn…became a new creation…became a Christian…got saved. No matter how you say it, my life changed in a way that I never would have imagined possible. Much of that change is discussed throughout this blog, with posts about experiencing God in a personal way, growing in faith, and truly understanding the meaning of God’s grace. If you’ve read more than a few words of “clay,” you know the changes in my life were significant.

Prior to June 17, 2010 I was mired in a life of sin. Having rejected God’s offer of salvation over and over during my 52 years—an offer I was well-versed in, as I grew up hearing the gospel preached time and again—I was without hope and bound to spend eternity that way. And, as I believe in a literal hell as described in the Bible, that’s where my rejection would have landed me.

Ponder that for a moment—I definitely have, especially today.

But there was hope—I didn’t have to continue in the life I was in; I didn’t have to spend eternity separated from God, from everything good. Because of that hope, I can spend eternity in God’s presence. If you’re not a Christian, I know it may be hard to imagine just how incredible that will be, but do this: think of the greatest thing that could ever happen to you—winning the world’s biggest lottery; being handed the keys to the house of your dreams in the location of your dreams with the car of your dreams in the garage; being able to travel the world for the rest of your life; having anything or anyone you want – and multiply it by the largest number you can think of.

Even then it will still pale in comparison to what awaits you as a follower of Jesus.

So maybe you’re thinking, “That’s fine—if you believe all that.” That’s fair and something that, on my pondering occasions, I’ve mulled over.

I would be dishonest if I said there hasn’t been a moment when I’ve thought: What if there isn’t really anything after this life? What if we die and that’s it—no heaven, no eternity? What if that’s just a dangled carrot to get us to love each other, to be good and kind, and to get us to dangle that carrot in front of everyone else?

I can say with certainty that this life isn’t all there is, but what if it were?

So what? It wouldn’t make a bit of difference.

There’s no way I would go back to the life I lived three-plus years ago. Those changes in my life I mentioned earlier have been the stuff I could only dream of before. Today, those dreams are reality. Today…

I have peace:

“The Lord blesses his people with peace.” Psalm 29:11

I have purpose:

“My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24

I have love and support, both from an army of mortal spiritual family to a host of the immortal:

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Psalm 91:11

I am blessed – abundantly:

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

I have a personal relationship with Jesus:

“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20

I have nothing to be afraid of:

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

If you’re not a Christian, maybe you just think it’s all about the “thou shalt nots”; that you would have to give up all the stuff you like to do. Again, that’s fair. That’s what the liar who whispers in your ear wants you to think. It’s easy to buy that lie. Sin can be pretty attractive.

Granted, I quit doing some things that I knew were not pleasing to God, but they were things I haven’t missed one bit. They were all unhealthy physically and emotionally anyway, so no big loss.

So even if all I ever experience as a follower of Jesus are the things I’ve experienced so far, that would be enough to convince me to give up everything I’ve ever had, ever known, or ever been—or ever will have, know, or be.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

That’s me—a new creation. And today is my re-birthday.

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Today can be your re-birthday, too. Maybe you’ve thought about it before and procrastinated, or thought you were OK, since you’re kind to animals and people and give to the Red Cross.

Or maybe not…

Do you feel a tug at your heart? An unsettled feeling in the pit of your stomach that all isn’t right? A desire for more than the father of all lies is offering? A gnawing that, if something were to happen to you, you’re not sure if you would be with God forever?

It doesn’t have to be that way. All that can change right now with a simple, sincere prayer. That prayer can sound something like this:

“Heavenly father, I admit that I’m a sinner and that I’m sorry for the life I’ve lived. I believe that Jesus is your son, and that He came here to earth to live as one of us—but a perfect one of us, one of us without sin. I believe that He freely gave His perfect, sinless life to pay the sin debt I owe, a debt I could never pay on my own. I also believe that You raised Him from the dead. I ask You now for Your forgiveness of my sins. I want Jesus to be in control of my life.

“Thank you for sending Jesus to die for me and for giving me eternal life. Amen”

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