JOURNEY TO HEAVEN’S GATE
By Jo Youngman
(I thought I’d better include my name just to let you know that I’m not the minister or lay leader of the Forsyth United Methodist church, I’m a member of the congregation doing my part in reaching out. My plan is to update every other week and with God’s help I will. This is my journey and I pray to reach people to bring along in the way I know best. I’m excited and I hope it is contagious.)
Christians and non-Christians share something in common---temptation. No one escapes this, even Jesus in His time on earth didn’t. Henry Ward Beecher said it clearly. All men are tempted. There is no man (and that includes women) that lives that can’t be broken down provided it is the right temptation put in the right spot. It is especially difficult to avoid temptations in the working place, but Dietrich Bonhoeffer has a positive on that:
Temptations which accompany the working day will be conquered on the basis of the morning breakthrough to God. Decisions, demanded by work, become easier and simpler where they are made not in the fear of men, but only in the sight of God. He wants to give us today the power which we need for our work.
I’ve been reading a book by Dr. David Jeremiah called Ten Questions Christians are Asking and one Bible verse he emphasizes to keep close to your heart is 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. The word escape jumped at me because it comes to choice---yes that gift again. Bottom line: Sanctioning to temptation means that, As we heard in Pastor Larry’s Sunday sermon (5/21/2017): You, bought it, You, leased it, You, ate it, You, drank it, You, smoked it, You, dated it---You, are your worst enemy. Again from the book, If you hear someone say,” I was overcome by temptation; it was more than I could stand”, don’t believe it. That person had better come up with another excuse. God is a faithful Father who will never allow a temptation in my life that is more powerful than His ability to keep me. In 2 Timothy it says, If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. I admit that when you become a Christian and the more you move into God’s teachings, the devil works his most charming best to turn you. Again from the book, The devil sweetens the prizes, then slams the prison door. Again, go back to 1 Corinthians where it says, God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape.. we only need to take it. Again from the book we are reminded; In a very real sense, Jesus Himself is that way of escape. He said in John 14:6, “I am the way”. We may not have sufficient power to resist temptation, but He does! We can’t overcome the smallest sin, but He is our victory. Someone said, “When temptation comes knocking, let Jesus answer the door.” That may sound trite, but it conveys a spiritual truth that many people miss. Christian life is the Christ-life, it is Christ living His life though us. As we’re fully surrendered to Him, filled with His spirit, and armed with His Word, His righteousness is manifested through our lives. We must always keep this in mind because as Pastor Larry said in his sermon, A bad day, and we all have them, can leave the door open to the devil.
I leave you with this to remember if temptation come’s a’ knocking, and it will, if you might think, who can it hurt?----what about you!
As I write this, we are in Holy Week, season of The Cross. I know it was so Jesus could take our sins upon Himself and to open the path to the Father, but I’m by nature inquisitive and I wondered about Jesus’s thoughts on His role; so I talked (prayed) to Jesus about it. One day recently I flipped open my Bible, as I often do, and when I looked to see where it landed, before me was John 10 where Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees on His role; bingo! Thank you! (Disclaimer: As title says, my perception). Verses that jumped out into my assimilation were: 1. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. I thought, who is the door? I knew the shepherd, and well sheep too! Answer: In verse 7. Jesus said, Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. Then He says in 9. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. Then in 11: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. Now sheep, there are several places in the Bible that clarify that, but for this I selected Psalm 100: 3, Know that the Lord, He is God: (b)-We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
To continue I’m going back to John and verses 14 – 18. 14: I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and am known by My own. 15: As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16: And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. 17: Therefore My Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. 18: Now Jesus really lays it out in this verse: No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.
Yes, seek answers from God in anything and if you give Him silence, He will answer you in ways you will understand. And that is my perception.
P.S. I’ve decided to read the Gospel according to John, completely, again, as I muse, what else did I miss! Or should I say, wasn’t ready to really absorb! What about you?
We are approaching the Easter season and we think of the greatest sacrifice of all, Jesus giving His life for us on the cross. Because of this sacrifice of the spotless lamb, we know we have an entrance to Heaven and Jesus is our bridge to eternal life and the Father.
We think of animal sacrifice in the Bible! We don’t do it today, again, Jesus took care of that as the ultimate sacrificial lamb. It tells us in Hebrews 10: 10 that by the WILL OF GOD, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all. Now let’s soak this in, in all things God clarifies things for us to our understanding, thank goodness. I suggest you read all of chapter 10 in Hebrews, but for this “Reflections” I will write out Hebrews 10: 11-27. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins…But this Man (Jesus), after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God (the Father),…from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool….For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, …This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord; I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them…then He adds, Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more….Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin…Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus…by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,..and Having a High Priest over the house of God…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water…Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful..and let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the Day approaching for if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…but a certain fearful expectations of judgment and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
And as it says in Hebrews 10: 30, For we know Him who said, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. And again, The Lord will judge His people.
When I think of Sacrifice I also think of this verse: John 15: 13, Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. When I read this I think of parents, servicemen & women, police, firemen/women, missionaries. In general, we saw examples of this verse by many average people---during 9/11. Could you? Have you! You may be surprised! Have you ever given up some food from your table or maybe some item for someone without thinking about it? Sacrifice. Here’s something more of you may relate with, sacrificial giving of your time. Making you think?
Praise God, because of Jesus the sacrificial lamb, we will all get into Heaven…then we face God---are you ready! The clock is ticking!
In (NKJV) Isaiah 55:8 & 9 we are informed: For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than earth; so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
Yet, we go ahead with our own thoughts, our own ways, figuring we don’t need to bother God; and what becomes of our lives? Helter- Skelter. No I’m not even thinking of the movie depicting the brutal actions of the Charles Manson family although their actions are within the definition---but there is more to the meaning of Helter-Skelter than their actions.
The phrase Helter-Skelter’s first known use was around 1593. Its definition is: In undue haste, confusion, or disorder, as, ran helter-skelter getting in each other’s way. Here are some synonyms that might help you to see where it might be in your life. Amuck, frantically, harum-scarum, hectically. Perhaps these related words will help: confusedly, desperately, uncontrollably, heedlessly, and aimlessly. Anything strike a note?
When we forget God’s words as said in Psalms 32: 8 (which I refer to a lot) I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you….. our lives become helter-skelter, at least in some ways. Did you know there are about 24 verses just on God telling us that He will instruct us! In the book of Proverbs, God thru Solomon is full of directions, lessons. In the Bible there are lessons of what has happened to people not following God’s directions. God also warns us in Revelation of things yet to come (is it just me or do some things seem to be happening now!) and to be prepared. Heck, you might say that the Bible is God’s tool-box that He uses to help and guide us---in all parts of our life. No thing is too big or too small for Him to help us, something we tend to forget.
Bottom line, without God, our lives become Helter-Skelter to the devils delight---and the choice is ours, always ours.
If the title doesn’t give you a hint, it refers to the number of days in a year---well in leap year we get one more---but do we use it heartfully?... Heartfully!!!! Maybe it will be clearer if I ask the question, Why can’t we have the Christmas spirit towards others 365 days a year? It’s like on January 1st we think, okay, we took care of the unfortunate during the holidays and now we can get on with our lives. The problem is, hardships don’t end on January 1st, just ask organizations like the Salvation Army, habitat, “pantries”, etc..regardless, after holidays, donations seem to slow down---a lot. Where does it say in the Bible to only help your fellow man during the winter holidays? I can’t find it, but I have found the Bible is very specific on what we should do: 1 John 3:17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? Deuteronomy 15: 7 &8 If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother. But you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. Then down to verse 11 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you saying, “ you shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy in your land. Then let’s go to Isaiah 58:10 If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness and your darkness shall be as the noonday. I think you get the picture; but I also want to refer you to what Jesus said in Matthew 25: 35-36, for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in. I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. When Jesus was asked when they did this and in verse 40, He tells them!….Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to me.
Get it? When we help those in need, it is the same as helping Jesus. It means loving our fellow man is loving Jesus---and there is no time restriction.
Be as Mr. Scrooge when he “got it!” and told the Ghost of things to be, “ I will hold Christmas in my heart all year long”. And that my friends is why this is titled 365.