How Do You Get to Heaven?

Someone forwarded this to me the other day:

“Working for God on earth doesn’t pay much…but His retirement plan is out of this world!”

I really like that thought! But, do you have to be poor to get to heaven?  Just who gets to go to heaven, anyway? I’ve been told that Steve Jobs’s final last words were:  “Oh, wow. Oh wow. Oh wow!” I wonder what he was seeing just then.According to Paul McCain’s account in Cyberbrethren, “Steve Jobs was baptized and instructed in the Christian faith, so we can do a bit more than talk about ‘common grace,’ we can also hope that God, in His own ways, at times and places of His choosing, may have worked in Steve’s life, at the last, a remembrance of the gifts from Christ He had received in His life. Unless you have been with a person in their last days, you have no idea what goes on in a person’s heart and mind in the closing days and moments of life. Let us pray God brought back to Steve the remembrance of what he had been taught as a young man in a Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod confirmation class, taught by my friend Rev. Dr. Martin Taddey, now deceased.

“So, let’s leave the judgment to God, and leave the judgmentalism to those who have no hope. We who have hope in Christ know that for all mankind the One who suffered, died and rose again as the victor over our greatest enemies: sin, death and the devil, has called us to be His very own. We hold out hope that, in His mercy, He once more reached into Steve Jobs’ heart and mind at the end. And that is the ‘one more thing’ that would be better than anything Steve ever announced and told us about.” I know that getting to heaven doesn’t really have anything to do being rich or poor, or just how much good you did or didn’t accomplish. It has to do with repentance and faith, and I believe at the moment of death, many see The Light.“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved…For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-10,13

Moneyball

Alan and I have started exercising together several times a week  while watching videos. This makes walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike much more engaging…as long as the videos are also good. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve noticed an increasing disparity in our estimation of  worthwhile videos. My favorites are non-fiction or stories based on fact, although I enjoy costume dramas like Downton Abby and some fun, gentle tales. I’m especially on the lookout for films without profanity, gratuitous sex or violence, so if at any time you find movies you enjoy that sound sort of like that, please let me know!

Meanwhile, Alan noticed a list of 2011 favorites by Joe Morgenstern, who’s been writing a film review for the Wall St. Journal for the past 16 years and is one of only three people to ever when a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism. At any rate, I’m not particularly prone to taking my entertainment cues from anyone besides friends, but Alan is, and so we’re trying some of these recent films.

Moneyball is based on the story of  the Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane, who attempted to put together a championship team on a basement budget back in 2002 by using sophisticated computer techniques and the aid of a whiz kid from Yale. It’s a great inspirational story with several good points, one of which is to refuse to make life decisions based on financial gain! It was nominated for 7 Oscars and I think is destined to become a classic. No sex; no violence; and some crude language but next to no profanity (or else my hearing is worse than I think). If you haven’t seen it, you might like it. I did!

For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Mark 8:36

Following God’s Path

Last night Alan and I went to the Detroit area on a bit of a pleasant business trip. We stopped for tea, cookies, and a chat with Kathy before making our way to a bustling local restaurant where we hosted a young couple for dinner. The husband is finishing his psychiatry residency at Henry Ford Hospital and is looking into practice opportunities. It was really a pleasure to spend the evening with them. They went to South Church in Lansing where I had known the previous pastor, and the husband grew up near Lake Ann Bible Camp where I worked as a life guard during my teen years. They reminded us of our own kids, Dan and Brianna, and Alan and I knew we’d love to have them work in GR (as we’d love to have D+B!). However, we also know that they are God’s children, and so I’m praying for them like I pray for my own kids: that they’ll have the wisdom to discern God’s best for them. There’s no sense in wishing for anything less, no matter how tempting! 🙂

On the way home, it started to snow and the roads became very slippery. We arrived safely at about 11 pm, but as I was thinking about what to share today, I remembered a forward I’d gotten on roads. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. May the Lord direct your paths this year and keep you safe!

Roads and PathsThere may be some steep hills to climb,and some times when the road seems treacherous you aren’t sure which turn to take…There are times when you feel like you are on the brink of falling,and there may be many curves in the road.As you make your way through the ups and downs of 2012,

may you know God’s presence with you through each tunnel,every steep climb,and every curve.May you sense his presence in the beautiful mountaintop experiencesand through the slippery storms of life;May He walk with you down through the valleys and up the mountains,take your hand and guide you through to the light,put a hedge around you to keep you safe,help you to find joy and excitement in the roller coaster ride,and fill you with amazement at the beauty He provides along the way.Take time to smell the flowers,and to admire His handiworkalong Life’s railway;and may His love flood over you, fill you, and overflow in praise to Him for all He’s done!

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.”

Isaiah 30:21

Aurora Borealis: Images of Mesmerizing Northern Lights

Have you seen any images of the gorgeous northern lights that have been sited from Norway to Alaska the past few days? Did you know that they are created by solar winds which are made up of highly charged electrons and protons (slightly simplified explanation, but bear with me). The joke goes: “You mean protons have mass? I didn’t even know they were Catholic!” 🙂

“The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, are seen near the city of Tromsoe, northern Norway, late Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. Stargazers were out in force in northern Europe on Tuesday, hoping to be awed by a spectacular showing of northern lights after the most powerful solar storm in six years.” (AP Photo/Scanpix Norway, Rune Stoltz Bertinussen)By Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News Thu, 01/26/2012 – 6:42am

“ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The aurora borealis streaking across Alaska skies this week captivated sky watchers who camped out in sub-zero temperatures to photograph the lights, billed as the most active in years.”

“How can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times. He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength. Who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?…[He] alone stretched out the heavens…who made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south; who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number.” (Job 9:1-10)

The State of the Union: What’s Your Opinion?

Did you listen to the State of the Union address last night? If so, I’d love to hear your response. Although I pray for Obama daily, I feel that his administration has done more to damage our nation’s hope of survival than any preceding president. It’s notable that he blamed the horrendous mortgage debacle on Bush’s administration…even though the Republicans fought hard against it and Obama voted for it. Why didn’t he apologize for his part in the mistake instead of touting the need for big government intervention in the future? When Obama talked about national debt, why did he intimate that Wall Street was to blame for the crisis? Why didn’t he take responsibility for the true crisis: his adding on average $4.247 billion to the national debt during each day he’s been in office (at least, as of last August). This is over $4 trillion dollars…skyrocketing national debt more than twice as fast as George W. Bush’s administration (which was severely—and justly—criticized for overspending).

I take issue with Obama’s idea that we should keep the foreign students who have received university training from our schools. When my brother-in-law was admitted to a PhD program in chemical engineering, he was the only white American male admitted to the program, and my children have gone into graduate programs where there appear to be more Asian students than Americans. I believe we should be giving more spots in our schools to American men and women. Our own kids should be our first educational priority.

I question Obama’s comment that he intends to maintain the best military in the world while cutting half a trillion from the their budget. Just how does he intend to do that? It’s popular to promise miracles, but I for one would like to hear a little about his strategy for doing so.

I applaud his addressing the need for tax reform. No billionaire should be paying less tax than his secretary. I would love to see an across-the-board tax for all (politicians included), based on a sliding scale according to income, up to some reasonable amount (like not more than 33% of anyone’s income). Show us the way, please! Don’t just talk about it; do it!

I take issue with Obama’s proposal that he (the Executive Branch) should have more authority. To me, Obama has been very unwise in his use of the power he does wield, and he’s taken our country—which was already floundering badly—to the brink of disaster. Perhaps it’s an unfair comparison, but I feel like Obama is steering our ship dangerously close to the rocks, and I don’t want our ship to capsize while the captain is busy trying to make himself look good.

Obama’s quotation from Abe Lincoln, which got a standing ovation, was not quoted completely, and the details he left out are critical. Lincoln did not exactly say that government should do whatever men couldn’t do better by themselves (which, of course, might be most things). What Lincoln did say on July 1 of 1854 was: “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities.”

May we all have the courage to do everything for ourselves which we can do and seek government help only in providing for the common defense and in the administration of peace and justice so that we as individuals can attempt to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Isn’t that our constitutional charter?

While I’m on my soapbox, here are a few timely quotations from the writer of our Constitution. I think we would be wise to consider Jefferson’s perspectives as we anguish over whom to elect next November:

“It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes.
A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.”
Thomas Jefferson

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government
from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
Thomas Jefferson
“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”
Thomas Jefferson

“The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms
is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”
Thomas Jefferson

“Pray for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

(1 Timothy 2:2)

Who’s a Failure?

The last time we were visiting Greenfield Village, I saw the following sign:I truly like this sentiment! May we all be encouraged to try our hardest to do our best, and then rest content—not on our laurels—but in the hope that our best is good enough and high enough!As my old missionary friend, Carl Smith, used to say to encourage our short-term mission team after a hard day of work in Mexico,

“A clear conscience makes a soft pillow.”  🙂

“Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.”

1 Timothy 1:5

The Sanctity of Life: Kathy’s Baby Shower

Today is “Sanctity of Life” Sunday, and we spent some time in church this morning praying for our nation. The question was posed by Michigan’s Right to Life: “How is it that human life has become a disposable commodity?” The response: “Let us pray that we will see each new life, from the very beginning, as a wonderful tapestry woven together by our loving Father…”Somehow thinking about the sanctity of life seemed particularly timely for me, having just thrown a baby shower for Kathy in her new home. We are so excited about the hope of Kathy and Carl having a baby girl in just about 6 weeks!Kathy’s dear friends and family gathered to share in the celebration of new life to come!Even some of Carl’s family from in and out of state came!The outpouring of gifts and goodwill were truly overwhelming! I can’t begin to tell you the deep joy I feel in all the good things happening in Kathy’s life right now.  Their baby is so wanted and welcome. I wish all babies could come to birth and live in a family where they will be loved and nurtured!That night, Carl and Kathy treated us to an amazing dinner out as a thank you for our support in their move and preparations for the baby. It was, of course, our privilege and pleasure. “Seems like just yesterday” that Kathy was the baby!One of my dear friends embroidered this picture for me back in the days when she and I were both pregnant with our first-born sons (36 years ago). Kari and I are still close friends (in fact, we were just up at their cottage last Saturday). Kari is now an ObGyn who won’t do abortions because she has such a reverence for the beauty and dignity of human life. Kathy always loved this picture, so I brought it to her as one of her shower gifts. I wish every woman in the whole wide world would appreciate the priceless gift that a child is. May we all let go of lesser things in life (like keeping an immaculate house or earning more money) in order to enjoy the blessing of any baby that God may give us! Babies are truly gifts from God…good gifts…a special blessing of fruitfulness. 🙂

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Psalm 139:14

Good From Disaster

It was just exactly one year ago that our neighbor was refilling his wood-burning stove when a chimney fire ignited their home, totally gutting the inside. As we watched helplessly while the firemen battled the flames, Audrey explained through tears that the only thing she saved was her Bible, because she was reading it when the fire broke out. No purse, no money, no family heirlooms…it all went up in flames.It was a long, hard year for the elderly couple, but they had good insurance coverage, and today they’re happily settled in a brand new home built where the old farm house once stood. Audrey told me that, in retrospect, many good things that have come out of the disaster. She had always wanted to live out her life in their home, but they’d both gotten so old that it was painfully hard to climb up the stairs to their bedroom. The insurance company accommodated this need by letting them build a modest ranch-style home. The new home doesn’t require the constant upkeep and repairs that the old farm house needed and was so frustrating to her husband. Her elderly brother died last summer. That was (of course) very sad for her, and she mourned to the point of seeming pretty depressed, but he left her his entire household, so she was able to use all of his appliances and furniture, freeing up insurance money to replace other things and equip their new home with the medical appliances they’re beginning to need. Last time I saw her, she was practically radiant with delight in their new home and praising God for such a very happy ending to her tale of woe.There is no doubt that storms and disasters are terrible and traumatizing. But, it’s reassuring to know that God can bring good even out of what is frightening and painful.

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

Romans 8:28

Brother Yun: “The Heavenly Man”

Do you have any interest in spell-binding thrillers? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but I do find that sometimes fact is indeed more fantastic than fiction.One of the most profound books I’ve read lately is the biography of Brother Yun. His story is so incredible that if I’d never been to China working as a Bible courier…if I’d never felt the terror of watching my own son being marched off by the PSB for questioning…if I’d not been to Pastor Lamb’s church and heard his testimony of being imprisoned for 20 years because he preached the gospel…if I’d never felt the joy of leading three girls to Christ on a train…(oh, the stories I could tell)…if I hadn’t personally experienced a little taste of what life was like in China during the 1990’s, Brother Yun’s story would be really hard to believe.

But, having “touched” and “seen” and “handled” for myself, I can believe that Brother Yun’s story is true. If you’re looking for a book to increase your faith and inspire your courage, I recommend taking a vicarious walk through China with this steadfast believer.I don’t think it will ruin this horribly suspenseful story if I tell you that he survived, and yes, he is alive and well today. After many years of preaching, persecution, and imprisonment in China, Brother Yun miraculously escaped from  Zhengzhou Maximum Security Prison (the only escape in it’s history) and took asylum in Germany, where he continues his ministry.

If  you have any interest in thrilling tales, consider reading The Heavenly Man.

“Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

  2 Timothy 3:12