Meditating on the Commands of Christ (47): Be “Perfect” . . . Is That Even Possible??

My father grew up going to church but rejected what he had learned as a child and became a self-proclaimed atheist for many years, so when I was a child, I never went to church or heard anything about Christianity. In fact, my mother wrote as a “cute saying” in my baby book that at some point I said, “I think I should know more about the Bible.”

After eagerly trusting Jesus as my Lord and Savior the first time I ever heard the good news that God loved me and Jesus died for me, I immediately shared the Good News with my parents. I don’t remember what they said, but my mother’s attitude was sort of a non-descript “That’s nice honey,” and my father’s was a condescending, “Well, you’ll soon grow out of it.”

I was much older before I got my courage up to ask them why they didn’t believe. My mother (who was at that time agnostic) said it was because she didn’t feel certain God was real. She was afraid he was perhaps just an abstract construct, so she was unwilling to trust lest she be disappointed or discover that she’d been deceived. My father, on the other hand, had a more definitive reason. He remembered reading Jesus’ command from Matthew 5:48, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” and—knowing that he could never be perfect—decided to give up before he ever started trying. Why ascribe to an impossible standard? Why undertake an impossible quest?

My husband’s parents both believed in God and felt that the Bible was true, but Alan’s father had an almost exactly similar stance to my father’s. He said he could never be perfect, and that if he were to say he was a Christian, then he would have to be perfect, and since that was impossible, he would always feel like a liar and a hypocrite.

Why did Jesus tell people to be perfect, since he knew good and well they couldn’t be? Was he trying to turn people away? Was he just setting us all up to feel like guilty losers who are nothing but failures? Was he suggesting that unless we attain perfection, we’ll never enter heaven?

NO! But, well yes (in a way)! Jesus spoke the truth, which is that in order to go to heaven, we must be perfect. Thankfully, Jesus is also the way: Although we can’t be perfect, he could, and he was. He fulfilled the Laws of God perfectly, but then he offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins. If we are willing to humbly admit that we aren’t perfect and never will be, and that we don’t deserve to go to heaven based on our ability to keep God’s perfect standards . . . if we are willing to admit that we are sinners (law-breakers of God’s perfect laws) BUT are also willing to accept the free gift that Jesus offers us—his death as the full payment for our sins—then we become children of God, joint-heirs with Jesus, and possessors of eternal life. When we accept Jesus as our savior and surrender our lives to Him, He becomes our Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit indwells us and begins the good work of making us more and more like our Master, until someday—when we see Him face-to-face in heaven—we will at last become perfect, not because we are, but because He is, and He has made us like himself.

Now, that’s not so hard, is it? Nobody told me I had to be perfect to become a Christian. All I heard was that God loved me and Jesus died to save me, and that’s all you need to hear. Believe in Jesus and surrender your life to him. He will receive you, give you eternal life, and the Holy Spirit will indwell you to comfort, guide, and teach you. Life is hard, but trusting Jesus is inestimably easier than trying to attain perfection without the aid of the one and only, truly holy, 100% good Higher Power, which is God himself!

Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Also: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

P.S.—Thankfully, both my parents became believers in their eighties, and Alan’s mother became a believer in her sixties. I hope Alan’s father also became a believer, but I’ll have to wait until heaven to know for sure. At any rate, as long as you have life and mental faculties enough to choose Christ, it’s never too late. Hopefully, as we age, we’re better able to recognize our own lack of perfection and more willing to lean on God’s everlasting arms for help! He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). My mother was never disappointed in Christ after she believed. Instead, she became peaceful about her impending death, which assured me that her future was secure. God is so merciful!!

Photo Credit for Painting: “Love Everlasting” by Yongsong Kim, permission granted by Foundation Arts, website: Havenlight.com

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (44): Do Good to Them Which Hate You

If there was ever a human being who did good to those who hated him, it was Jesus Christ. How so, you ask? Well, one of the best examples is in Matthew 26. At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus warned his disciples that in two days he would be betrayed to be crucified, but Jesus didn’t skip out of the country, even though he knew exactly what was going to happen. By verses 3-4, we learn that the religious leaders all came together for a secret meeting trying to figure out how to capture him and kill him. Why? Because they were so envious that they hated him (see Matthew 27:18 and Mark 15:10).

Despite revealing to his disciples what was about to happen, Jesus’ s twelve closest friends found fault with him because he accepted the ministry of Mary anointing him with oil. The disciples were critical of such a “waste” when the money might have been given to the poor. Instead of lashing out at them for failing to appreciate what Mary was doing, Jesus patiently explained that Mary was preparing Jesus for his high-priestly ministry of dying for our sins! He was going to die in our place, as payment for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God, and she was anointing him for his burial.

“Oh, now we see!” they all exclaimed. I wish!! No, the disciples didn’t understand at all. In fact, Judas got so mad that he left the group and went straight to the chief priests, where he plotted to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Now, in a somewhat similar situation of danger (in 2 Kings 1), when Elijah’s life was at risk, Elijah called down fire from heaven that consumed the men who came to capture him. Not so, Jesus! When Judas brought the soldiers into the Garden of Gethsemane to capture Jesus, he still called Judas “Friend.” Friend? How could Jesus call Judas “Friend” knowing full well that he was plotting Jesus’ death?

Why didn’t Jesus call down fire from heaven to consume them? As Jesus explained to Peter a few verses later, God would have given Jesus more than 12,000 angels to protect them had Jesus asked him to! But, he didn’t! Why? Because he loved his enemies. He was doing good to those who hated him.

You might wonder how Jesus surrendering himself to die at the hands of wicked men could possibly be “doing good” in any sense, but don’t forget that Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen, had prayed fervently for God to intervene if He wanted to, and then surrendered completely to God’s will. Jesus could “do good to them that hate you” by surrendering to God’s will.

How could being tortured and killed be God’s will? Well, we know from studying the entire Bible that Jesus was the Lamb of God who came on the mission of dying for the sins of the world, so that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. ” (John 3:16-17).

And, what about you and me? What does it look like to “do good to them which hate you”? Does it mean killing everybody who doesn’t believe in Jesus, or fire-bombing those who don’t worship God? NO! It means being like Jesus, who patiently taught and lived the truth. It means doing what’s best for others, whether or not they like it! The religious leaders would have preferred for Jesus to stop preaching the gospel, but that wouldn’t really have been doing good; that would have been doing what they wanted, which is different!

Doing “good” can only happen when we do what God wants us to do, and that we can only figure out by meditating on the Bible and asking the Holy Spirit to teach us how to “do good.” We do good to those who hate us, not only by being kind and caring for them, but also by setting our face “like a flint” to obey our heavenly Father. To be good is to be like God. To be like Jesus. To give our lives so that others may find eternal life in Christ, who gave his life for all of us.

Believest thou this?

Jesus said, “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:26).

Here is a beautiful song about Jesus, our Gentle Shepherd, who can help us.

Text for this meditation: “Do good to them which hate you” (Luke 6:27).

Photo of our gentle shepherd used by permission of Yongsung Kim, website: Havenlight.com

Free Movie: Have You Started Your Pilgrimage?

Have you ever read The Pilgrim’s Progress? If you’re under thirty, you may not have even heard of The Pilgrim’s Progress, although it’s one of the most significant works ever written in the English language (some say it is the first English novel), and until recently it was second only to the Bible as the most published book in the English language!

“Christian Reading His Book,” by William Blake from the Frick Collection, NYC

If you love reading, this is the one classic I hope you don’t miss. During World War I, many of the English soldiers carried a copy in their pockets to help keep up their courage!

The Pilgrim’s Progress from a 1683 printing

Written almost 350 years ago (1678) by John Bunyan and originally titled The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come, the story is an allegory about the spiritual journey every Christian takes.

If you’re not familiar with the story, this might be the perfect time to learn about it, as an animated version of this great classic has just come out, and anyone can watch it free online August 25-26 (2019) if they register using the link below (which simply asks for your email address so they can send you the link).

https://www.pilgrims.movie/live-event-201908/

When our children were little, Alan read through Little Pilgrim’s Progress several times aloud to our family.

Little Pilgrim’s Progress is a charming adaptation by Helen Taylor and told in a way that will make little eyes grow wide from time to time without causing nightmares! (It can be ordered on Amazon right now for $4.41.)

Although the artwork in older editions of this classic tale
is wonderfully detailed,

and I love all the beautiful pictures,

the 2019 animated version combines more realistic graphics with a more “modern” fairy-tale look that will be familiar to children today

without compromising the story (or so I’ve read).

Heretofore I’ve always reviewed movies after I’ve seen them, but this time I’ll be watching right along with you if you choose to view the movie during their free event. Therefore, I’ll be especially interested to hear any comments you might have about the movie. Is the movie true to the book? Is the message compelling? Are the characters believable and likeable?

Have you started on your own pilgrimage toward heaven? If so, do you identify with all the frightening, disheartening, and thrilling adventures that befall Christian? If you haven’t started your journey, does the movie inspire you to strike out in search of God?

A Plan of the Road from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City (1821, Wiki)

Will you join me on the pilgrimage
from this world to that which is to come?

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13, speaking of a multitude of faithful believers who went on their pilgrimage to heaven before Jesus came to earth).

“Find Us Faithful” by Steve Green

“We’re pilgrims on the journey
of the narrow road,
and those who’ve gone before us
line the way.
cheering on the faithful,
encouraging the weary,
their lives a stirring testament
to God’s sustaining grace.
o may all who come behind us
find us faithful,
may the fire of our devotion
light their way.
may the footprints that we leave,
lead them to believe,
and the lives we live
inspire them to obey.
o may all who come behind us
find us faithful.
Surrounded by so great
a cloud of witnesses,
let us run the race
not only for the prize,
but as those who’ve gone before us.
let us leave to those behind us,
the heritage of faithfulness
passed on through godly lives.
o may all who come behind us
find us faithful.”

Home Along the Dead River Falls

Have you ever thought about the fact that some time may be your last time? When our children were little, we lived in a beautiful home on 50 acres of pristine woods that abutted the Dead River Falls in Marquette, Michigan.

Our six sons and little girl spent endless hours playing among the ferns and foliage in that somewhat paradisal setting, and so when we took our two oldest and their children on a Roots Tour of the Upper Peninsula last month, it was important to us (and them!) to hike their beloved Dead River Falls with their kids.

Foxgloves (from our old home), ferns, and a little boy

I had contracted a miserable cold and felt feverish that morning, so I slept until after noon while the kids took their hike, which broke my heart in a way, but I was too sick to participate. So . . . what are you going to do??

They didn’t want to disturb the present owners of our old home (with nine rambunctious children), so they parked along the power line (on property which had been taken away from us by “right of public domain” . . . so we felt justified in still using it) and retraced what had been a very common and extremely pleasurable hike.

Wild strawberries and wild blueberries ripening at the same time
in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

In the U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan), it is so cold and the growing season so short that all the flowers and fruits that are going to grow have to grow quickly, and you can often find more than one crop of wild berries ripening at the same time!

Scrambling up steep rock faces along the Dead River Falls in Michigan

If you’re ever in the Marquette area, a half day adventure climbing the Dead River Falls is well worth the effort! According to “Great Lakes Waterfalls and Beyond,” this is “one of the best waterfall adventures in Michigan,” and I totally agree!

In a 0.7-mile stretch, the Dead River drops 90 feet on its way to Lake Superior, tumbling over a wonderful series of waterfalls.

Three of the waterfalls drop over 15 feet, but there are dozens of merry falls cascading down the rocky river bed.

Shortly after we moved to Marquette, Alan and I took a cruise of the Hawaiian Islands, and we felt like Maui’s “Seven Sacred Pools” were no more beautiful (albeit a great deal more well known)!

Seven Sacred Pools by Eric Chan, Wikipedia Commons

(In truth, it was very dry when we visited Maui, and just googling for images of the Seven Sacred Pools now, I see that when they are full they are bigger and more spectacular. Still, there aren’t as many waterfalls, and they are less cloistered, so I think thirty years later I still prefer the Dead River Falls!)

Kids examining a garter snake along the Dead River Falls

Besides, there are no snakes in Hawaii,
and what would a nature hike be without snakes?

(What, you say you’d like that??!?) 🙂

If you’d like to use your GPS to find the lower trailhead,
it’s located at: 46.56841N 87.47839W

Picnic Lunch along the Dead River Falls
(You have to wash up in the river afterward and pack out all your trash. It’s rustic!)

Before making the somewhat arduous trek back to the top of the falls, they stopped for a picnic lunch. Major Armstrong’s army skills and strength came in handy, as he packed and carried ALL the supplies for a scrumptious lunch (along with his youngest son in a front pack).

The Dead River Falls were such a magical part of the kids’ growing up years that I wrote a mystery story for them called The Dead River Diamonds. A GR publishing house expressed interest in it, although they wanted me to cut down the number of children from seven to four, which I couldn’t imagine doing! How could I ever “cut out” any of my kids? Maybe someday I will improve it and find a publishing house who will consider a mystery series based on a such an unfashionably large family. 🙂

Father, sons, and grand children along the Michigan’s Dead River Falls

I have every hope of returning to the Dead River Falls again some day, but as I write, I’m grieving with a young friend who just lost her precious husband, who is the age of my sons.

One of my sons dated her older sister when they were teens. It occurred to me that I may never live to hike the Dead River Falls again. In fact, my sons and even my grand sons may not live to hike the falls again—what a horrible thought!

Looking back, even long lives seem short; how much shorter those that end before their youthful beauty fades? “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth” (Isaiah 40:6-7).

Family enjoying a day at the Dead River Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

It is my earnest hope and prayer that my family—and everyone who reads this—will enjoy a long, healthy, active life. But, I have to ask: Are you as prepared to die as you are to live? “Make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:13-14). “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Are you saved? If you’re not sure, all you have to do is ask Christ to save you: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 10:9-11).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (37): Going to Hell in a Handbasket

Excuse this offensive expression, but today’s passage is actually all about offenses: “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:30). The expression “going to hell in a handbasket” is American slang for someone deteriorating morally without resisting sin, the way a handbasket is carried along without any protest (by the handbasket). Looking deeper into the expression’s murky past, it conjures up images from the days of the French Revolution, when there were mass executions using guillotines and the heads were hauled off in baskets. We also use the word picture “sliding down the slippery slope” to give a graphic description of a similar state, where someone is falling quickly into ruin and self-destruction. Hard question, but does this describe you or someone you love?

Cutting to the heart, Jesus’ command is about purity. Jesus says it is better to cut off our hand if it causes us to offend rather than to be cast into hell. What does he mean? To “offend” (according to Merriam-Webster) means “To transgress the moral or divine law: Sin.” It can also mean “to violate a law or rule: do wrong;” “to cause difficulty, discomfort, or injury;” or “to cause dislike, anger, or vexation.” I think all of these definitions will come into play as we study this passage.

Interestingly enough, Christians don’t chop off anyone’s hand if they break the law, and we feel horrified (and offended in the sense of causing “dislike, anger, or vexation”) when we read reports of other religious groups using this form of punishment for failing to keep their moral codes. As we discussed last Sunday, Jesus was speaking spiritually, not physically. Like our eyes, our hands are physical, morally neutral, instruments that we (as moral souls) use to perform our wills. The problem is not with our hands, but our hearts: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22).

So, our hand . . . or our heart? If we’re going to do any chopping, it needs to be chopping out our hearts, not our hands! Thankfully, God has made a provision for us if we will sanctify him in our lives (understand that He is holy and live accordingly): “I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 36:23-28).

So, we have the potential solution to our quandary, if (and this is a BIG “IF”) we are willing to accept it. Jesus warns us to stop sinning, to “cut off our hand” if we are using it to perpetrate sinful behavior. If we will allow God to search our hearts, he will reveal our sins to us: “If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:20-21).

The trick is, once we’re enslaved to a particular sin, we don’t really want to acknowledge it as sinful, because we don’t want to have to stop. So, rather than “sanctifying” the Lord in our eyes—acknowledging His holiness, His person, and His Word as the only true purity—we go about trying to justify our actions as “okay too.” I’m okay, and you’re okay. Everybody has the right to do whatever seems right to them. Don’t judge me, and I won’t judge you. Quit being such a legalistic pharisee! The Old Testament law is no longer in effect, and the New Testament commands and observances were for a 2,000-year-old culture that are no longer applicable today. Just love everybody and don’t try to tell me what’s right.

Sound familiar? I think Jesus was addressing those who feel this way. To those who think they can go about establishing their own righteousness, Jesus gives this oh, so unpopular warning! But many people are unwilling to acknowledge that their actions are sinful and offensive. Instead, they find this command from Jesus offensive! Many hide behind the currently popular deception that since Jesus died to make salvation available to “whosoever will,” then everybody “will” be saved regardless of what they believe or do!

Be careful, my friends! Jesus gave us some very severe warnings! Jesus taught, “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42). How did the people respond? “And they were offended in him” (Matthew 13:57).

Do you find yourself offended by what I’ve written? You can take issue with anything I say, and I invite you to respond, but please don’t be offended by the words of Jesus. “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (spoken by Jesus in Matthew 11:6). When Jesus taught the parable about the sower (speaking of those who share the word of God), he warned about those who “Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Matthew 13:21). There is offense in the Gospel, and that comes from God being righteous and our being sinful, and in need of a Savior who will change us and conform us to true holiness and righteousness. Please don’t be offended by the gospel. Rather: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). If you need a transplant, let God give you a new heart. Don’t take the risk of being cast into hell because you refuse to sanctify God in your heart or cut off your sinful actions! Ultimately, it’s a choice between being offended with Jesus or offended with our own offenses.

Text for today: Matthew 5:27-30 “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Bad Surprises

Do you like surprises? Recently, I sat with some friends in the hospital waiting room, discussing whether or not we liked surprises. We were awaiting (rather anxiously) to hear the report from my friend’s exploratory surgery. (I will call her Carissa, although that’s not her real name.) Carissa’s daughter said she thought the only people who really love surprises are children who are about five and under looking forward to their birthday or Christmas. We shared stories of surprise birthday parties that we’d enjoyed (or not) over the years.

One of the ladies recounted a tale of a surprise 50th birthday party that went awry when she showed up without any makeup on a bad hair day, and about 60 friends were there to greet her! She was so dismayed that her college-aged daughter (who had gone to great pains to organize the party) ended up in tears and hasn’t tried to surprise her since. (This occurred about 25 years ago!) We decided that we only like “GOOD” surprises, where we love the unexpected event and it comes at a time that doesn’t distract us from what we think we “ought” to be doing . . . especially if we’re somehow appropriately dressed for the occasion. 🙂

Well, that afternoon, we got a very BAD surprise. After about five hours of surgery, the surgeon had a private conference with Carissa’s husband and daughter. The longer they were gone, the more we worried and prayed. Carissa and her husband had just celebrated their 50th anniversary. Carissa is one of these super bubbly, sunshiny souls who has been like a rock to her husband, who’s been struggling for several years with very serious cancer himself. We were all shocked and devastated when she started experiencing severe pain recently and was diagnosed with cancer. I think we all assumed Carissa would be at her husband’s bedside to the very end.

However, when they opened Carissa, they found that her situation was much worse than feared and basically inoperable. Her husband and children were faced with a decision: Attempt a heroic surgery that might not work (but if it did, it would prolong her life, although leaving her disabled), or give up on the surgery in hopes of a more normal lifestyle, but with a shorter life expectancy.

What a horrible decision to have to make! What would you choose? (If you are married, this would be a great discussion to have with your mate JUST IN CASE. I had this discussion with my husband after I came home. Quality versus quantity. Which??) Carissa’s husband and daughter—tearfully trying to choose what Carissa would choose—opted for quality.

Carissa has a deep, joyful faith. She has taken everything like a trooper so far, and I think she will overcome this terrible shock too, but I find myself praying and pondering a lot every day. I always tell my husband that I’d like to die of a heart attack or something quick with a very short illness. Like Carissa, I am ready to go to heaven and be with Jesus, even though it would (will) be terribly hard to leave all my loved ones. How about you? Are you ready to meet God? Is He your Father? Have you trusted Jesus as your Savior? God is waiting for you with his arms out, wanting you to become his child and come to be with him in heaven when you die.

If you are not sure what will happen to you after you die, may I share a couple of passages from the Bible that explain who Jesus is and how to become a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ? “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.The same was in the beginning with God.All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.In him was life; and the life was the light of men.And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.18 No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:1-18)

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:14-18)

P.S.—If you would like more information about how to become a Christian or how to prepare for death, please click on the link at the top of this page that says “Coming to Christ.” It will walk you through the steps to become a child of God and become secure in knowing you will go to heaven when you die. God bless you~

Contrasting Two Groups of Rebels

Last weekend—perhaps because we unconsciously had Memorial Day, war, and death on our hearts—we watched two movies that, as it turned out, had more in common than I ever could have imagined! Both are based on true events, both involved teams of men who believed they were being heroes, and both groups were on highly illegal missions. However, the outcomes of their actions were as different as night and day!

If you’re like me, you probably have vivid memories of the second event (which occurred just 18 years ago and has changed our country forever), but you’ve probably never even heard of the other (which occurred secretly in 1948). A Wing and a Prayer is a 2015 documentary making public the rogue heroism of a team of ex-World War 2 vets who risked (some gave) their lives to prevent a second holocaust from occurring in Israel when the Brits left the freshly-minted Jewish nation without any weapons to defend their new-found freedom from the planned attacks of neighboring nations.

In contrast, United 93 is a 2006 portrayal of what happened on September 11, 2001, when 13 Islamic terrorists hijacked four commercial jets, killing 2,996 people, injuring over 6,000 others, and causing some $10 billion in damages. It will always be remembered as “9-11.”

Three of the aircraft reached their targets that fateful morning: Two crashing into the heart of the World Trade Center and a third dive-bombing the Pentagon, but because of the heroism of the passengers aboard United 93, that flight never reached its target.

Instead, United’s flight 93 plunged into a field in Pennsylvania, where all the passengers were killed instantly.

Think of the contrasts between these two events! In A Wing and a Prayer, about 13 men (many of whom were not even Jewish but were motivated by compassion) acted in opposition to the law in order to protect the lives of a beleaguered people still grieving the terrible exterminations and terrors they experienced during World War 2.

These young pilots weren’t terrorists, they were trying to protect foreign people from being terrorized. Many of them were not particularly religious; this was not a “holy war.” However, the men took a moral stand against the American government, who was refusing to aid the Israelis for fear of alienating Middle Eastern leaders with whom we were involved in commercial (oil) enterprise. Their punishment: $10,000 in fines per person and the loss of their civil rights.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after capture. Wiki. Public Domain

In contrast, the 13 al-Qaeda terrorists were on a mission, not to protect foreigners but to terrorize them. Not to preserve but to destroy. They were not taking a moral stand against wrong; they thought murder and terror was “right!” Their hope of reward? Suicidal death leading to immediate transportation to paradise. No fines, no imprisonment, no punishment, no loss of privileges. But, tragically, the loss of their lives along with those of thousands of others.

I highly recommend your watching the one-hour documentary on A Wing and a Prayer. However, I confused United 93 with Flight 93, which I saw 13 years ago and definitely prefer. Flight 93 has a PG-13 rating and tells much the same story without the terrible language or quite as much blood. So, I guess that’s yet another contrast between two movies!

Last thought, but I’d also like to contrast the Christian and Muslim views on heaven and how to get there. Muslims believe in a sensual paradise filled with pure rivers of water, milk, honey, and wine, where men can take pleasure in beautiful women every day (among other things). Christians believe in a physical paradise but with a spiritual purpose: Worship and fellowship with God and fellow human beings. Jesus taught that in paradise people would not marry but would be like the angels in heaven. The emphasis is not on personal sensual gratification, but on love in its highest and most transcendent forms.

What about how to get to heaven? Muslims believe you can only be assured of going straight to paradise by dying for Allah. Christians believe you can only be assured of going straight to paradise by believing in Jesus, the God who died for us! Muslims hope to get to paradise by being good. Christians know they’ll never be “good enough” to get to heaven, but they trust in Jesus, who was perfect, and who died for each and every one of us, so that we can be reconciled to God by repenting of our sins and putting our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.

Want to be assured of heaven when you die? You don’t need to become a suicidal terrorist! Believe in Jesus, and embrace him as your Savior!

Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).