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Reality of Heaven

Is Heaven a real place?  “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” Genesis 1:1 “And God called the firmament Heaven” Genesis 1:8  It seems that since God chose these words to be his first must mean that they are of great importance.  For some of us the uncertainty of an after life or heaven is unnerving.  You’re not alone. I remember when I was a child in grade school I sometimes thought to myself, “where will I go when I die?” Silly as it may sound, I had a picture in my mind of coffins floating in space. It amazes me how that even as a young girl there was a sincere desire to “know.”  The good news is that later as a young woman I received the answer to my childhood question:  I came to learn about Jesus and what He did for us: Giving his own life for all mankind so that those of us who would choose to believe in him would have an eternal “home” when we leave this earth. In the following passage Jesus speaks words of comfort to the troubled, uncertain and fearful: “For God so Loved the world (humanity) that he gave his one and only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him (Jesus) will not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16.  Jesus refers to our “eternal” home as his “Fathers house” “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s house. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am…” John 14:1-4

Following the death and resurrection of Jesus he spoke to his disciples of his return to heaven, “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into Heaven and sat on the right hand of God.”  What’s comforting is that God is always “looking down from Heaven” Psalm 80:14, 102:19, and that our “help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:2

Heaven is also referred to as a place of  “Paradise” found in Luke 23:43 and also in 2Corinthians 12:4. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the Paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7

So HOW do we get to Heaven? Remember the scripture above where Jesus references heaven as his “Father’s house” and that he has gone there to “prepare” a place for us?  Well in the following scriptures he explains very clearly how we can live in this “Paradise” with him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE can come to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH ME.”  As a young woman I remember reading these scriptures and after, I began to say the following prayer that would change my life forever!  “The message is very close at hand: it is on your lips and in your heart“…”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 it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” As the scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”  Romans 10:8-11 While sitting in my little sisters bedroom when no one was home I began to say a prayer that went something like this: “Father God I believe in you. I believe in your Son Jesus Christ, that He died for me and that you raised him from the dead. Forgive me of all I have done wrong, be my Lord and my Savior” and while I was praying, I felt what I would describe as a “blanket” of Love that came over me. I felt what I believe “heaven” feels like. I felt Peace. Jesus speaks of this Peace. He says that it cannot come from this world as we know it. His Peace can only come from God. The scriptures say that Jesus is the “Prince of Peace.”
If you’re at a place in your life, searching, looking for answers, I encourage you to follow Jesus. Just as I mentioned earlier, he says that he is “the way, the truth and the life…”  Take comfort in the amazing truth that God loves you! It does not matter what you’ve done or even what you’re involved in now, he is here for you now, he is waiting to hear from you.  The Lord has given you the freedom to choose…. I encourage you today to make the best decision you’ll ever make: Choose “Jesus” and follow him knowing that when your life here on earth is through, you will be with your heavenly Father and His Son Jesus in heaven for eternity.

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Life After Tsunami

Amid the rubbish stands one of the most beautiful sites anyone will ever see: Springtime Sakura, better known as “cherry blossom” trees.  While preparing for my trip to Japan, I look at the hard work our friends in Otsuchi are doing by helping the people that have been devastated by the tsunami that swept through their town, taking lives and tearing down many of the structures that once stood strong.  But with all of the pain and suffering, there is something more powerful than death and destruction: Life!

Jesus says in the ancient scriptures “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come, that you might have Life and Life more abundantly” John 10:10.  You may say, “Where is this Life? How can Life be present when there is so much sorrow? ” When God raised Jesus from the dead he sent His Spirit to live inside every person who chooses to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. This Spirit demonstrates the love of the Father (God) when we love those around us.  As the people of God his Love empowers us to help a neighbor living just down the street or thousands of miles away bringing comfort to the hurting.  This kind of Love is expressed with more than words, it is accompanied with action,  “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we must also give up our lives for our brothers and our sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but show no compassion–how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth.” 1John 3:16-18

Just like the Sakura trees showing off their display of life and beauty…the people of God are active all over the world  showing this  “Life”  through acts of love toward mankind.  “Let your lite  so shine that mankind will see your good deeds (acts of Love) and Glorify your Father which is in Heaven” Jesus words found in Mathew 5:16

Thank you for your prayers as I continue preparations for my upcoming trip to Japan. Below is Pastor Guna and Jey and members of their congregation returning from their first trip into Otsuchi.  They have recently returned with another team and are working to help clear anything damaged by the tsunami and cleaning the homes so the families (who are in shelters) can return to their homes. God bless them as they show the people of Otsuchi God’s love through their acts of kindness.

For more information regarding our call to Japan, read my blog titled, “Japan: Mission of Love” or go to our website at PonceChurch.com


His Love is Never Limited

Jesus Love is not limited. When he walked this earth as a man he shunned no one. He loved everyone especially those who were despised and ridiculed by others.  As I was thinking the other morning, I remembered a true story in the Bible where Jesus and his disciples were invited by Mathew (a despised tax collector) for dinner at his home, “Later Mathew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. BUT..when the Pharisees (people who claim they love God but show NO mercy to others) saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor-sick people do.” Then he added, “Now GO AND LEARN THE MEANING OF THIS SCRIPTURE; I want YOU  to show MERCY not offer sacrifices (sacrifices today are doing all the ‘right’ things outwardly yet inside there is no mercy or love toward others). “For I have  come to call not those who THINK they are righteous, but those who KNOW they are sinners.” Mathew 9:10-13 nlt

As I remembered this passage of scripture he began to show me a very important point: The fact that Jesus sat and dined with sinners (we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God) was proof that he was not condemning them, but in fact demonstrating God’s Love and Mercy in action. The religious people could not stand even the thought of being around them which was a sure sign, proving their lack of mercy with hearts full of judgment and condemnation (Mathew 23:23-26)

As a Christian, a follower of Jesus, I have chosen to live a life of mercy as He has commanded me to. Just as the scriptures say, “those that have been forgiven much, show others much love.”  In my 30 years as a follower of Jesus I have been forgiven of much and have lived and continue to learn that Loving others in the way He has loved me is the only way of life for me.

Something my wise husband who has been a teacher of the Bible for over 30 years said this in regards to the religious phrase “hate the sin love the sinner”: “We don’t need to hate the spec in our brothers eye-The log in our own eye is a full-time job.” Well said. Meaning, don’t get caught up in others mistakes, but rather take that energy and work on improving our own lives. Love God, Love Others, Love Life.


Cold Surf

Nina Tidwell Photography~Local Ponce Surfer

Since I live just blocks from the beach in Ponce Inlet, FL. One of my pastimes is to visit the jetty and photograph local surfers.  Lately, the weather has been unseasonably cold and the water temps have dropped as low as 53′ which means surfers are few and far between. I recently read a post from a local surfer who said after three hours in the water he could not understand why he could no longer ride the waves without falling off his board.  It wasn’t until he paddled to shore did he realize his feet were numb.  Although some avid surfers have the privilege to travel to warmer climates with warmer water temps, most have to ride out the frigid weather while anticipating the arrival of Spring.


The #1 New Years Hangover Remedy

Anyone remember the movie “Liar, Liar” with Jim Carrey? Particularly the famous scene where he takes himself to the restroom and beats himself up, and when asked what he is doing, he answers and says, “I’m kicking my a _ _” As funny as it sounds, it reminds me of all the times I rang in the New Year (and many other occasions) by drinking way too much! With all of the horrible symptoms that are associated with over drinking, the hangover is much like that famous Jim Carrey scene.  “One of the most common symptoms of a hangover is the excruciating headache, which believe it or not, is a result of dehydration of the brain. “Alcohol acts as a diuretic, so the more you drink, the more water your body will need to dilute the toxin. This water is then expelled from the body in the form of urine. The water needs to come from somewhere, so if you don’t drink water while drinking alcohol, your body will start depriving other organs in your body from water, including your brain. The headaches you experience are a result of dehydration of the brain.” Article: “Symptoms of a Hangover ” by:Drinkfocus.com
Another common symptom of drinking include your body’s inability to get a “Good” nights rest, even though one may be passed out on the couch! Truth is “Symptoms of a Hangover” also says, “When you go to sleep with a high amount of alcohol in your system, your brain is unable to enter the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep. Without the REM stage of sleep, your brain is unable to dream and achieve the relaxation it needs. So while you may end up sleeping the whole night and half the day away, your brain did not get the rest it so desperately needs.”

Oh, and let’s not forget the multiple visits to the porcelain throne! As awful as it sounds it actually helps to get rid of the alcohol in your system. Plus let’s not forget the dizziness, nausea, fatigue, body aches, diarrhea and loss of appetite that come with it as well.

You may be thinking, “OK, so what’s the #1 New Years Hangover Remedy? I’m glad you asked.  Don’t drink! Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up on New Years Day and feel GREAT! Wake-up without the headaches, dizziness, vomiting, loss of much-needed rest and body aches? Or the unbelievable thirst that greets you when you roll out of bed? I made that decision many years ago.  “Yea, you’re a Christian that’s why you don’t get drunk” that’s partially true.  Yes, I am a Christian and I have chosen by my own will to avoid the above! I had years of it and I finally woke up one day and said, “That’s it, why punish myself and my body for doing something really stupid!” Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I will have an occasional glass of wine, and even then, I almost never finish it.  But I choose not to over do it because of the repercussions that come along with it, it’s NOT worth it!

Long after I became a follower of Jesus I saw in the scriptures what I was experiencing:
29
Who has anguish? Who has sorrow?
Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining?
Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns,
trying out new drinks.
31 Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is,
how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down.
32 For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake;
it stings like a viper. (the hangover)
33 You will see hallucinations,
and you will say crazy things.
34 You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea,
clinging to a swaying mast.
35 And you will say, “They hit me, but I didn’t feel it.
I didn’t even know it when they beat me up.
When will I wake up
so I can look for another drink?” Proverbs 23:32-35

Why not consider making a New Years resolution now…ring in 2011 by treating yourself to things that do not harm your body.  You want to be happy, really happy? Take a look at all the blessings in your life. Host a New Years Eve dinner in your home and spend it with family and friends that find life meaningful. Look at what’s important. Make a list of things you’d like to change in your life…Look to God for your support, He loves you and cares about you more than you’ll ever know.

May God richly bless you all this New Year!


Not Guilty!

 

Not Guilty!

Years ago millions of people watched as the american justice system pronounced O.J. Simpson “Not Guilty!”  The truth is, no one really knows if the glove fit except O.J. and God himself!
As I think about O.J.’s trial, I visualize what it would be like if we were to stand before God himself the true judge without the sacrifice of Jesus?  How would God see us if it were not for His Son taking our place, crucified for our sins, the wrongs committed by all of mankind?  All Hell would break loose! But thank God, because Jesus who took our place, paying for our wrongs, we, by the Grace of God have been given a “get out of jail free” card!
This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body.  As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and BLAMELESS as you stand before him without a single fault” Colossians 1:21,22 nlt.

WOW! Think about it, this amazing, loving and merciful God does NOT hold our sins, our wrongs against us.  But before Jesus, we, like O.J. were on trial…except our fate would have been much worse…we would have had to suffer for eternity, no getting out! Yet now, we have this hope that because of Jesus death, burial and resurrection…we stand before THE Judge, “Not Guilty!” 


God Complex

I love Psalm 136, it really gives us an amazing perspective of how loving and powerful our God is.  Whenever you have those moments of doubt wondering if God really loves you, read this chapter and be encouraged in the truth that God REALLY does love you and all of humanity.  I know sometimes it doesn’t always look and feel that way because most media covers only the evil and corruption you see in the world.  But what about all of the people who experience miracles in their life?  What about all of the volunteers throughout the whole world giving their time to helping the poor, the sick, and the hungry?! I would love to see this splattered all over our newspapers, online media and televisions.  How much differently would the world see God if this is all they saw?  I was one of those people of whom you did not read about in the paper or see on 60 Minutes.  Two years ago when I was rushed to the hospital many times, doctors could not find out why my heart was functioning improperly, and for months I was in fear and crying out to God, “Where are you? Why is this happening to me?” Even if it didn’t look like my God was listening or cared, He was! While on my walk in Ponce Inlet, my heart began to beat very rapidly, my husband drove me to the ER again, but this time, they could see what the problem was so the ER physician informed me of a heart specialist in the area that could help.  FINALLY! I was so relieved, hope began to well up inside of me again.  God’s love began to manifest through a doctor who looked at me and said, “You’re not going crazy, I found the problem and I will fix it!”  I was so grateful for this mans talents.  And how did he receive such amazing knowledge? GOD!  The scriptures say that God gives gifts to mankind.  In the old testament it says that the Lord gives wisdom and abilities to his creation.  They say that some physicians have a “GOD COMPLEX” well some of that is true, only their own abilities did not originate by their own wisdom, they came from the creator of heaven and earth. So the next time you are wondering, “Does God really care?” Open your bible and take a look at all of the amazing, loving things that the Lord has done and remember that He does not change, He is the SAME yesterday, today and forever! His faithful love never comes to an end.