RECEIVING THE LIFE…HEARING THE CALL

Two Years Ago

LIFE or life?

Does God send people to hell because they don’t meet his requirements? Because they don’t do….? Or because they do…? (Fill in the blanks.)

This came up in a conversation the other day, (and I have permission from the one who said these things to refer to the conversation) and I have been reflecting on this for a couple of days.

These guys called Saduccees came to Jesus one time to try to trick him into saying something that they could hold against him. (They didn’t actually believe in any kind of resurrection, which is sad, you see.)

So they made up a scenario where this guy marries this girl, and dies, without having any kids. In their laws, his brother was required to marry her to continue the family line.

So, they said, this guy had six brothers, and each one married her, then died, one after the other. (Sounds a little bit suspicious…. Maybe, the original black widow.)

Anyway, they asked, whose wife would she be in the resurrection?

Jesus answered that it was kind of a silly question; that they didn’t know the scriptures, or have any concept of God’s power.
In the resurrection their would be no marriage or getting married.

But then, he said something that you have to think about a little bit.

“And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God:

‘I Am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

Did you catch it?

Jesus mentions three guys who had been dead for centuries, and spoke of them to these people who were “alive?” as if they were still alive.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew the power of God, and had been given this LIFE, simply because they believed Him.

These guys, these Saduccees, had not received this LIFE, because they didn’t know His power, or understand His words.

They were dead.

Not physically.

They were walking, talking, eating, marrying, even going to church.

But, they could not see God, or His kingdom.

Or His Son.

Jesus said that one has to receive a second birth in order to see, to know.

Not get born again, but be born again.

By God.

Not by any self effort.

No one can do this for himself.

It is a gift.

The thing is, this heaven, this place of resurrection, this city of God, only has those that have this LIFE living there.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”

His disciple John said,”God has given us eternal LIFE, and this LIFE is in His Son. He who has the Son has LIFE. He who does not have the Son of God does not have LIFE.”

So, if God offers this free gift to everyone in the whole world, this gift of LIFE,

Free gift to anyone who will accept it

How is that cruel?

And, about the question of being sent to hell because we don’t do the God thing right….

When you have this LIFE, you want to please the One who gave it to you.

And, even that is His gift to you.

Want your life changed to LIFE?

“For God loved the world so much, that He gave His one and only Son, that WHO EVER believes, in Him has everlasting, eternal, forever LIFE.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the judgment; the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3: 16-21

Jesus said that if you are stuck, burdened, and weighed down with this life, He would give you LIFE, if you would only come to Him.

It will change you.

Forever.

LIFE or life
Three Years Ago

Alistair Begg, in his Easter sermon, used an illustration that I thought explained something that I have struggled with.

He said that he is unable to convert someone to belief in Jesus.

Illustration: You know, when you were a child and your family was getting ready to go on a vacation, you would finally fall asleep.
The next morning you would hear your name being called, and you would wake up.
You would realize that your mother, or father had been calling you for some time before you responded.

Why do some people respond to a message from God, and others remain untouched?

You cannot respond if He doesn’t call you first.

If you hear Him call you to wake you
You need to wake up.

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Delight

PROVERBS 28, DELIGHT

I have to be honest. I chose the subject before I read today’s Proverbs.

I think it works though.

Where does “delight” come from?

Delight as a verb means to take great pleasure in.

Delight as a noun is a source of great pleasure.

So, my question is, does delight fall upon you?

Or, is there some conscious choice you make to make something your delight?

I thought of a scientist who studies the cell.

At some point, he decides that this cell thing is a building block.

He wonders about how it works.

How important it is.

What do we know?

What do we not know?

He begins to study, with microscopes, stronger microscopes, eventually an electron microscope.

At each depth, he learns something new, something exciting, something he finds delightful.

He chooses to delight himself in this magnificent tiny thing, because it is a part of everything.

He has to share what he has learned.

He has to!

It is his delight!

I meet people every day that don’t seem to have a real delight.

Nothing has fallen on them to give them a delightful urge to pursue further.

Life happens. Deal with it.

But, some I meet have this presence, this “light”, this sense of “joy”as they walk through their day.

They have to talk about it.

They cannot stop thinking about it.

They work it into every conversation.

This thing has become their delight.

I believe that the delight begins when you “notice” something you haven’t noticed before.

You can walk away, forget it.

Or, you can look a little closer, and closer, and closer still.

Delight pours out at every new discovery.

You’ve got to tell somebody.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

You have to choose the object of your delight.

If you don’t get it why some people seem to love their God, His word, His people more than you do, be careful that you don’t try to do something to make it more so in your life.

If the joy is not there.

If the peace is not there.

If fear and uncertainty rule the day.

Try this.

**I will make my God my delight.**

I will look closer, and closer, and closer still…

Until I find the One I was created to love.

“Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched. Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”

Proverbs 28:14, 25-26 ESV

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WHERE WAS GOD WHEN THAT HAPPENED?

(March 24,2018)

Yesterday, Wendy and I saw the movie, “I Can Only Imagine” about the back story behind the writing of that very popular song.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t tough enough to keep from getting choked up.

I barely kept from bawling out loud.

But I guarantee, I couldn’t have spoken for five minutes or so.

So, I liked the movie.

A lot.

What I judge a movie by, is how “truthful” it is in the portrayal of life.

This one made me think about some people I know.

I have one friend who had such a traumatic childhood, that she just quit talking when she was in her early teens.

She has a genius IQ, and she didn’t lose the ability.

She just thought, “to heck (not exact word) with this life” and pulled into herself where she could “be in control.”

A godly man reached her.

Maybe a couple of them.

She received her new life.

Still has it.

While possessing this new life, recently she walked into the landing gear handle in a transport truck parking lot after dark.

(Oh, yeah, she is a truck driver) Some time later, someone found her lying unconscious on the ground.

Anyway, the concussion was way more severe than she ever imagined it could be, damage that inhibits her motor skills, her cognitive skills, and, she has super bad headaches.

She is ever drawing closer, even now, to the One who gave her her new life.

I have another friend who, while carrying this eternal life in her, found out that her pain in her mouth was some kind of horrible cancer, and she has had removal surgery, feeding tubes, and is facing round after round of reconstruction surgery.

She smiles, shares, and is ever drawing closer, even now, to the One who gave her her new life.

Another friend got so excited when she discovered God’s love was real, His voice could be heard, and that this second Life was more than she ever imagined.

Then, her husband of 25 years decided he was unhappy.

She lost her marriage, her home, and her safety net.

She is ever drawing closer, even now, to the One who gave her her new life.

All three of these women will tell you, “I couldn’t handle it. I wanted to give up. I just didn’t have that kind of strength.”

But, they knew the One who did have that kind of strength…whose strength is demonstrated best when the ones he created realize their weakness.

Then He shines…through them.

I have seen it.

It’s true.

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PHOENIX RISING OUT OF THE ASHES

This was the last house that Zoë and her mom spent the night in.

(See: THE DAY THAT FLIPPED OUR WORLD below this entry for background)

We lived here a couple more years after the accident, but when we moved to our current house, I just didn’t want to go to the lake house anymore.

I had seen Zoë change, at 6 years old, from a giggling entertainer to a quiet, introvert there, but who wouldn’t, at that tender age, after suddenly losing her mother?

A change of scenery seemed to be the thing to do.

So we put our lives back together in our house in town.

We stored stuff at the lake house, checked on it every once in a while.

It set vacant for about 15 years.

It had been broken into, the air-conditioning unit had been stolen, but I was kind of dead to the house.

Not anger.

Not sorrow.

Just, meh.

This Christmas, Zoë started to talk of the possibilities of her and Evan moving into the lake house.

Wendy and I were shocked. We never expected her to ever consider a move back to Hawkins.

So, in January, we began to start the process of emptying this old abandoned edifice.

It was sooo hard. A lot of things of Chelsey’s that we hadn’t seen in 15 years.

And, it seemed like so much work to do.

But we finally got to the point of being ready to start the repair process; new roof, new A/C, remove a tree that is about to fall on the house, and all the interior remodeling.

A/C guy would be coming in another week, so we went to the house on Saturday to prepare the room where he would put the new unit.

Zoë and Evan couldn’t come, so it was just Wendy and I.

I don’t know if you realize this, but I am starting to get old, and I have forgotten how to do a lot of things that I have done before, so every task is a bit intimidating for me.

Wendy is excited. “We can do it!” she says, and she starts to tell me all the things we are going to do.

I have to empty the attic, for the A/C guy to add the ductwork, so I pull down the disappearing staircase. We had had to shorten it in the past, so it would clear a new wall we had put up. (I barely remember doing all those construction things so many years ago, but, I know we did because we were too poor to have anyone else do them. Still are, I guess. Too poor.) Anyway, there is a little bit more space between the next to the last step of the ladder and the last one.

“Be careful of that last step,” she reminded me.

Up into the attic, I go.

I passed down, dropped down, carried down box after box after box after box….so Wendy could go through them.

Finally, there are only about 6 boxes left, but they are way up there near the front of the house, and I have to climb over ductwork, walk on studs, and crouch to get to them. One by one I start to move them closer to the opening.

“I need you to come down?” Wendy says. I could barely hear her.

“In a minute. I’m almost done.”

I thought I heard another voice. It sounded like her mom.

“I NEED YOU TO COME DOWN, NOW!”

“IN A MINUTE, I’M ALMOST DONE! YOU DON’T KNOW HOW FAR AWAY I AM! TWO MORE BOXES!”

“NOW!!!”

She sounded mad. I was a little mad, too.

“NOW, “ She said, one more time.

“I’m coming, I’m coming!”

So, I crawled crouched boardwalked back to the opening, began my descent, and missed that last step, sprawling lengthwise across the floor.

I wasn’t hurt, but I knew it wasn’t my fault that I fell.

“You okay?” she asked. I didn’t hear any concern. Wait, doesn’t a fall get concern?

“Mom and Dad are here, and I need you to move all this stuff so they can come in!”

So I did.

The weather was pretty nice, so we moved outside. We got Blair a chair for the deck, MaryJane picked up a rake, Wendy got some loppers, and I started the fire to burn wood, paper, and cardboard.

A while later, we were resting on the deck, and somebody noticed that the fire was spreading, fast, toward the not so friendly neighbor’s yard, so I ran to turn on the water. The hose I had brought was too short, so I began to fill buckets to carry to the fire to douse it so it wouldn’t spread.

The water pressure was so low, it took a good thirty seconds to fill a bucket, the hill the house was sitting on, got steeper and steeper with every trip down to dump some water, MaryJane began to cough and hyperventilate, I could hear Wendy on the phone. What is she doing? She called the fire department.

By the time they got there, I had the spreading fire stopped, the first truck drove right on by the house, and we waved down the next one. They went ahead and doused the burned areas, and seemed as if they were happy to have had the diversion. We talked as I watched the burn pile. The firemen left.

A little later, my nephew Adam, his wife Staci and two of their three girls and one of their nieces stopped to come visit.

The rest of the afternoon was…well, let’s just say…something changed inside me.

We showed them around, the girls were throwing a softball in the yard, we stood by the fire, slowly adding stuff to burn, and we just talked; Wendy, Staci, Blair, and MaryJane on the deck, Adam and I out by the fire talking baseball, coaching, and the goodness of God.

The sun was slowly nearing the horizon, the girls were playing with the fire, and there was a quiet peace on the lake that I had long ago forgotten.

The thought started to rise in me. “I like this house! I really like it out here!”

The pain and loss disappeared.

“Let’s do this thing,” I thought.

We can make this house a home for Zoë and Evan.

God was there the entire time, fixing things, healing things, restoring things.

God is so Good!

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THE DAY THAT FLIPPED OUR WORLD

(Written July 2, 2016)

October 7, 2002

Tomorrow was the day! Our annual family trip from Lake Hawkins to The State Fair of Texas. Chelsey, my 29 year old daughter, and Zoë, her 6 1/2 year old daughter were spending the night so we could get an “early start.” We have made this trip virtually every year since Wendy and I were married in ’72. I pictured our day. Wendy and Chelsey, now best friends as well as mother and daughter, walking through the fair, side by side, seeing opportunities for crafts, or cooking, or creativity in general, laughing, sharing the sights, sounds, smells of that wonderful place. Zoë and I in our own world, me seeing the things that she found interesting, through her eyes, showing her things that I found interesting (fair food, new inventions, midway games, rides, fair food, inventions(all those wonderful toys)).

Chelsey was a single mom, who succumbed to the temptations of moving into an independent life in her early twenties, had gotten pregnant, dumped by the dude, and had returned wholeheartedly to the faith she had strayed from, finding strength and purpose from her creator. She returned to college, discovered a passion for the American Sign Language and the deaf culture, and became an interpreter for the deaf. She also, after her work day, would pick up Zoë at our house, go home and make phone calls for my chimney sweep/window cleaning business, as my office manager, dispatcher. (In other words, she planned my days.) She always planned two days off during the week in October for us to go to the fair.

My tendency is to get pushy about the leaving time associated with the “early start”, so, I actually prayed that night, “LORD, help me to realize that the time with family is more important than the arrival time. Help me to stay calm in the morning, no matter how late we leave.”

October 8, 2002

The big day! Up at 7:00, everybody already starting to rouse. It takes me about three minutes to get ready, we had packed the night before, so I quietly began to load the car. It was incredibly amazing how calm I was. Not once did I tell anyone to hurry, or even mention the time.

We were actually in the car, pulling out of the driveway by 8:00.

Wendy was driving, I was navigating, Zoë strapped into her booster seat in the middle of the back seat, and Chelsey behind Wendy by the door.

I love this Christian talk radio station in Tyler, and we always listened to it as we drove.

Chelsey preferred the other one that played contemporary Christian music.

This day, my station was playing contemporary Christian music.

As we neared Terrell, Tx, Chelsey made the statement, “I am so glad your station is playing music today. I love this song! I’ve never heard it before.”

I called the station, spoke with the announcer and found out the name of the song.

Chelsey beamed.

“Pull into this station, Wendy. They have Krispy Kreme donuts and good coffee!”

Zoë and Chelsey waited in the car while Wendy and I went in to grab a few donuts. All the favorites.

When we got back to the car, Chelsey saw one I had gotten for myself (I didn’t think anyone else would want one) and asked if there were any more. I told her where they were, and watched her beautiful self as she strolled into the store, moved through the store, paid and got back in the car.

Back on the highway, music playing, coffee and donuts, on our way to the fair. Can it get any better than this?

Zoë had finished her donuts, was feeling kinda sleepy.

Zoë: Mommy?

Chelsey: Yes, Baby?

Zoë: I love you.

Chelsey: I love you too, Baby.

Zoë: You’re my best girl.

Chelsey: You’re my best girl, too.

Wendy: Oh my God!

I looked up. A two ton truck carrying construction supplies on the eastbound side of the highway had turned across the median and was barreling toward us.

Wendy had quickly moved from the center lane, to the right lane, to the shoulder, trying to get out of his way.

Crash! Impact into the side of our Suburban pushed us into the grass, and we began to spin around. A mini van behind us swerved onto the grass to try to avoid the collision, and hit us in the rear after we had spun one complete revolution, making us turn backwards, still moving, go down a hill, through a small gully, and up the other side, still facing backwards. Then we stopped.

Airbags had deployed in the front seat, coffee was everywhere, but I was totally okay.

My first thought: Well, I guess we won’t be going to the fair.

As I turned to look back at Wendy, then Chelsey and Zoë, Zoë was still strapped in, crying, and there was a gaping hole in the side of the car where Chelsey had been.

“Where’s Chelsey?” I yelled, jumping from the car, running back to find her.

I found her. Lying on the ground at the point of impact, clothes shredded, huge gash in the thigh of her left leg. No blood.

Her face. Peaceful.

I knelt beside her body, wordlessly letting God be there.

A woman’s voice behind me, a hand gently stroking my back, “Jesus loves you.”

I never saw her.

I walked back toward the car, picking up things I recognized from our car along the way.

Wendy was standing outside the car, talking on her phone to her mom, crying.

“Chelsey’s gone,” I said.

“I know.”

Two men were standing to the side, one was holding Zoë. Her skin had a bluish tint.

(Wendy told me, later, that those two men were standing by the car as I jumped out. “Give me the baby,” one said, and somehow, Wendy unstrapped Zoë and handed her to the men)

The helicopter arrived to take Zoë to Children’s Hospital in Dallas.

I turned to Wendy, “How are we going to get there?”

“We’ll take you.” Two ambulance drivers were standing there. They took us.

When we got to the hospital, we were met by the Chaplain to take us where we needed to go. He did not say a word. Imagine what I was imagining, but afraid to vocalize.

My cousin, Glenn was there, to meet us.

“Zoë is okay,” He said, and showed us where she was.

The doctor was checking her over, touched her right shoulder and she winced, and he knew, rupture of the spleen and kidney.

In September of the previous year, we had started attending Hollybrook Baptist Church near Hawkins. We immediately joined a Sunday School class, even before we joined the church so we could get to know some folks. Debbie Havens, who had lost a grown son at a young age to cancer, had recently joined the same class and mentioned to us that there were several people in that class whose children had preceded them in death.

I remember later that day, Wendy saying, “I’m not sure I want to be in that class.”

We did, though, and Chelsey and Zoë also joined the church.

Chelsey saw a guy signing during the songs one day, went up to talk to him after, and found out that he had lost his hearing and he, Wally, and his wife, Billie had been asking God to bring an interpreter to the church so he could “hear” the sermons.

Chelsey became that interpreter, as well as the substitute pianist on occasion.

Those days, Chelsey would be playing the piano, would slide out when the preacher began to speak and sign for Wally, then slide back onto the bench to play.

There was always a supernatural glow around her when she was doing this.

So, the first people there, other than my cousin, Glenn, were Cramer and Debbie Havens, and Jim and Vicki Shaw, who had lost a son in a car wreck.

Both members of that Sunday School class.

Zoë was checked into a room. The doctor decided that surgery was not needed, but she needed to stay in bed and be observed for several days.

Zoë for the first day showed little to no emotion, stoic, not even crying.

That day, Wendy, having lost the numbness of shock, turned to me in Zoë’s hospital room while Zoë was asleep. “Randy, I don’t think I can do this.”

The next day, they had to take a blood test, and in the process, Zoë lost it, became almost hysterical. Then she started responding to us, and others.

One conversation I had with Zoë.

Zoë: Hey, Pappy. I really liked that helicopter ride!

Me: What?! How is that possible? You are scared of heights, right?

Zoë : Yes.

Me: And you hate loud noises, right?

Zoë: Yes.

Me: Then how is it possible that you liked that helicopter ride? It was high, and it was loud.

Zoë: I know. But just turn it around, just turn it around.

I laughed. She laughed.

We felt the presence of God through that time. Physically felt him. An unexpected peace. The people who needed to be there for comfort being there. A sense of being able to live in the moment. A sense of being thankful. A deep, real sense of sorrow, with a strength that was not ours.

Our lives took a different path, not one we planned. Everything changed. We became Zoë’s grandparents / parents. We became friends with people twenty years younger, who had kids in Zoe’s generation. We had to stop being indulgent grandparents to become responsible parents. Zoë told me one time that she and her mommy would pray at night, “and Mommy would always say, ‘and God, please send us a husband for me, and a father for Zoë.”

Chelsey found her “husband’s” arms on October 8, 2002.

I became Zoë’s father.

Everything changed.

That day.

The weird, unhurried calm while loading the car.

The music that Chelsey loved filling her head on her last day here.

The last words between Chelsey and her daughter.

The sudden appearance of the woman with words of truth, “Jesus loves you.”

The two men suddenly outside the car.

The ambulance ride.

The friends who were there, who knew what we felt.

The peace of Zoë’s helicopter ride.

On and on and on.

But God never changed. He was there all the time.

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DOOM PREDICTIONS

DOOM PREDICTIONS

A few days ago, I saw an interview on TV.

The one being interviewed said that she has decided to not bring children into this world because destruction is imminent.

The interviewer tried to ask her how she will spread this message to the world, and she didn’t seem to have an answer.

She just seemed so sad.

So hopeless.

So filled with despair.

The interviewer saw this, too.

“I think you should have kids…” he said.

“There is not enough time,” she responded bleakly.

I remember when I was a freshman in college.

I read “The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich.

I believed what he said.

Overpopulation was imminent.

The world couldn’t hold the vast increase of people that was coming.

Starvation, poverty, was a certainty.

No family should ever have more than two kids.

That was 1970.

Remember Al Gore?

The documentary that warned us of global warming and worldwide flooding of the coastlines and islands because of the melting of the polar ice caps?

By the year 2000?

It seems to be a common thread from the left side of the political aisle.

“Tragedy is looming…we have to do something…now…there is no time to waste!”

“Elect me…I will fix it!”

” Trust me. I will tell you what is an emergency, and what is not an emergency. Just trust me. The government will keep you safe. Trust me. We will take care of you. Trust me.”

But…it may cost you everything you have.

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 direct your paths.

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JUSTIFYING THE ENDS

In a primitive culture long ago, people believed that “honesty is the best policy,” that ” a man’s word was his bond.”

In that primitive civilization, truthfulness was considered a high virtue, one that many aspired to maintain.

A handshake was considered a viable contract to honor one’s word of promise.

As centuries passed,the enlightened ones soon came to see that sometimes you could accomplish much more good for the people if you didn’t tell them the truth, but told them what they wanted to hear.

These enlightened ones learned that if they repeated a lie often enough, the more primitive ones would soon begin to accept the lie as truth.

These enlightened ones knew best what the less enlightened needed, and the end result was much more important than the means to arrive at that result.

So, the ones who most skillfully used deception and dishonesty became the highly esteemed leaders of the culture.

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