The Possibilities Are Endless

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There are a number of things in this world which boggle my mind, and several irritate me to no end. On top of those are a myriad of things way out of my power to do anything about.

In other words, I couldn’t change them if I tried.

Maybe I give up too quickly. Maybe I’m looking too much at my shortcomings, limitations, and inabilities.

Maybe.

Though it’s not wrong to count the cost before beginning a project, taking inventory of all one’s resources, sometimes I fail to consider a key element or two.

You see, whenever I rely upon the length and strength of my arm to change whatever, well, there are only so many things a person 68 inches tall can reach. And even if I were the tallest man in the world, I’d still have limitations.

If I relied upon my ability.

Another thing. I’m not the world’s smartest guy, and I’m not the stupidest. But no matter where I fall on the spectrum, there are things I have no way of knowing. There are things which are beyond my ability to comprehend; therefore, beyond my ability of effecting change, if one is needed.

But there is a God in Heaven. 

I must consider God’s ability when inventorying my resources, since mine fall ridiculously short.

God is the God of the impossible.

Me? I can barely do the possible, and sometimes not even that.

But God is the God of the impossible. Therefore, the possibilities are endless. 

There is nothing beyond the reach of God’s mighty arm.
There is nothing so detailed, intricate, or complex that it’s beyond God’s ability to work out.

Regardless of the problem I’m facing, the height of the mountain in front of me, or the size of the giant who’s taunting me, all things are possible with God.

Not with me.

With God.

“But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” (Matthew 19:26 ESV)

What was Jesus talking about? His disciples had just learned it’s almost impossible for a rich man to enter Heaven. Their response? “Well, then who can be saved?”

Note again His reply.

“But he said, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God'”. (Luke 18:27 ESV)

I’m learning that, although I am SO limited, I don’t have to reach my arms completely around a problem I’m facing. I’m not required to tell God what He needs to do, or even match wits with my adversary, the devil.

All I need to do is look to God. In other words, I need to trust.

My arms only have to reach God. 

He makes all everything labeled impossible, possible.

Whether the need is physical, mental, spiritual, social, financial; all things are possible for the one who believes.

“And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can! All things are possible for one who believes'”. (Mark 9:23 ESV)

So to the one who believes, the possibilities are endless. 

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20 ESV)

So all I really need to know is Who to call.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3 ESV)

How about you? Have you wore the skin off your fingers, wringing your hands while worrying about things you can’t control?

Your help isn’t far away. He’s as close as the mention of His Name, and He cares for you more than you can possibly imagine.

And, with Him your possibilities are endless. 

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Save your energy; you’ll never get even.

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You’re going to think I’m a real nut, but there are times I’d like to hurt people. 

Why?

Because they hurt me.

I’ve even thought about smashing someone in the mouth, and letting all the air out of someone else’s car tires.

To those who have hurt me emotionally I’ve thought how nice it would be if I could repay the favor somehow.

And while I didn’t dwell on these thoughts for more than a couple seconds, I got a real charge out of imagining them at my funeral; hoping they would feel like the jerks they really are.

I thought, “That would even the score.”

But I sensed the Lord telling me, “You can never get even.”

Then these questions came to my mind: how can I repay someone for their terrible behavior without becoming like them? How can I allow myself to follow the dark side of my soul without hurting those I love and who really love me?

There’s a reason the Lord said, “Vengeance is Mine…”

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:18 – 12:20 ESV)

God may “get even”, because He is truth and justice. He judges accurately, and in all fairness.

To hurt someone for hurting me only puts me into the devil’s playground. And every time I do so it’s obvious I was overcome by evil.

So should I allow people to bully and berate me? I don’t believe so.

But then, I don’t have to play everyone’s games either; no matter who they are.

I must remember, though, that there’s no such thing as getting even. 

“for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20 ESV)

I cannot please God and seek to bypass His promise of protection and restoration.

No, retaliation is too costly. Getting even requires inflicting some kind of pain onto those who really care for me. 

If anyone had a right to get even, it was Jesus. But He refused to be overcome with evil. Instead, He overcame evil. He considered His purpose and mission more important than calling for legions of angels, knocking someone out with His words, or simply wiping someone off the face of the earth with just the flick of a finger.

Since I’ll never get even, here’s what I intend to do; what I plan on doing:

I’m going to spend my time encouraging those I’m around, who know me and still love me.

If there’s some score that needs evened up, I’ll leave that to God. I refuse to become subservient to the devil and his crowd, by stooping to a base level.

Who knows; maybe someday (before I go to heaven) God will heal all the pain and restore relationships which have bothered me for years.

If so, great!

But I’ll not waste my time or energy trying to get even.

And if I were you, I’d do the same.

Repent isn’t a word for the faint hearted…

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There is a word we’ve all heard of, and some of us have even used, but is an irritant to many, and passé to most. 

It was spoken by such spiritual giants as Moses, Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John the Beloved.

It’s despised by self centered people who have never done anything wrong. It’s meaningless to those who don’t want to acknowledge the existence of a Holy God.

The word is “Repent”

Though many believe it’s biblical value, it’s still very hard to do.

Repent.

It means much more than simply turning around, and facing the opposite direction. It is the foundation to which every spiritual action is connected.

Jesus said, “Repent and believe the gospel.” Faith in God is impossible without first repenting before God.

Repentance is the heart and soul’s response to God’s truth about His righteousness and holiness, man’s utter depravity, and Jesus’ offer of eternal life. Repentance acknowledges God’s right to declare the moral standards to which each person must adhere, or be judged accordingly.

Before anyone enters the Kingdom of God, they must repent.

Before any promise of God is changed from mere paper and ink into life giving faith, repentance has brought humility to the heart and soul of the believer.

Repentance is, as faith is. And as faith requires God’s revelation of His will, so it is with repentance.

Do you want to walk with God? Then you must yield to Him, and stop demanding your own rights.

Do you say you trust Him? Then any act of rebellion or mistrust should be severely dealt with; the axe must be laid to the root of the rebellion.

Do you want to see the grace and power of God restore you to the person you know you should be? Then you’ll be required to stop kicking Him every time He gets close.

Restoration is God’s will, but the unrepentant will never experience even a smidgen of what Adam experienced when God made him a new set of clothes.

Nowhere in the Bible is it said, or implied, that we need only repent once. Rather, we are to repent as many times as necessary; whenever we sense the slightest bit of rebellion in our life. 

Repent isn’t a word for the faint hearted; it requires spiritual backbone and a tender heart toward God and others.

Is repentance making a way for you; a new life for you? Or is it only getting in your way?

Do you wish you’d never heard of it?

Salvation and eternity in Heaven sound nice; but why can’t God leave you alone?

Because without repentance, all His promises are beyond reach.

Way beyond reach. 

“…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'”. (Mark 1:14 – 1:15 ESV)

How close is the Kingdom of God to you?

Repentance is the determining factor.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6 – 55:7 ESV)

Where in the world can God be found?

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Some people see God in nature, and yes, the Creator can be found in the midst of His creation.

Others experience God in the Arts; music, writing, painting, sculpture…

A scientist may discover God in a laboratory, under the lens of a microscope.

At times, a person simply thumbing through the pages of the Bible will come face to face with the love of God.

Yes, there are a number of ways people experience firsthand the God of the Universe.

God’s even told us how to find Him, and exactly where to look for Him.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near…” (Isaiah 55:6 ESV)

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV)

“For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2 ESV)

In other words, no one has to wait for a special invitation; it’s already been given.

But in case you haven’t yet found the right time and place to look for God, allow me to share with you one more place where God can undoubtably be found.

It’s a place every person on earth has some experience with.

The place called Trouble. God can be found in our troubles.

Like I said; undoubtably.

“For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5 ESV)

“The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.” (Psalm 37:39 ESV)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 ESV)

“and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:14 – 50:15 ESV)

“In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.” (Psalm 86:7 ESV)

“When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15 ESV)

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” (Psalm 107:13 ESV)

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

Why does God seem to show Himself best when we’re at our worst; when we’re surrounded by or buried under trouble?

Because that’s usually when we quit relying on our own strength, ability, wisdom; it’s when we stop relying on ourselves.

“In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9 NLT)

When we are at our weakest, that’s when we’re ready to experience God at His strongest. 

Until we are willing to face the death of ourselves; our dreams, hopes, and all the stuff we control, we’ll never experience the Resurrection and the Life.

We’ll never know God as the One Who raises the dead.

God is always near to those who earnestly seek Him. And there’s no trouble too great to make Him shy away from answering your call for help.

Experiencing troublesome times? Why not make the most of the opportunity and cry out to God? 

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3 ESV)

Are you haunted by painful memories?

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Maybe haunted isn’t the right word; perhaps bothered is more appropriate.

For you.

Haunted works well for me.

Did you know it’s impossible to forget anything? Our brains were designed to retain every word, every experience; in fact, our whole life.

Yes, there are times when we can’t recall a name or phone number; but the answer is locked away in the mind somewhere.

There are medical reasons why some lose their memory, but I believe the experts will agree; the mind isn’t blank, it has just somehow buried certain information, experiences, and the like, to a place where it can’t be reached.

I find myself sitting at my kiosk, watching the people walk by, when I’ll see someone who’ll remind me of a person I know. That will trigger a whole chain of memories, and the next thing I know I’m feeling like a kid again, in the middle of the original experience.

Frankly, I hate it when those times happen.

When those memories flood my mind, I feel like I’m being haunted; bound by the feelings of the past.

Do you know what I mean?

For the sake of survival, I’m learning how to respond when my mind is triggered.

Maybe my way won’t work for you, but then again, it may.

Whenever painful memories are stirred up, I call it what it is. A painful memory.

Next, I remind myself I survived the initial experience; therefore I can survive a memory.

Even if it hurts.

Third, I allow myself a bit of grieving time (a moment or two) over what could have been, but never was.

Fourth, I tell myself there’s no reason to run and hide. I don’t need to try and bury the memory, nor do I need to keep it playing in my mind.

I simply let it run its course.

Finally, I take Paul’s advice, and take control of my mind’s “clicker”. I set my mind on things above… (Colossians 3:1-4)

I’m no longer trying to erase the thoughts that hurt. I couldn’t, and God knows how I’ve tried.

Instead, I try and discern between what’s real and that which is only a painful memory.

What are you doing with memories that “bother” you?

How long will disappointment rule your life?

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Just five days ago I felt like I had been run over by a street sweeper; its firm bristles scraping me to my very core, while dousing me in its foul smelling, recirculated dirty water.

I had the feeling I was completely worthless; an old washed-out failure that no one wanted anything to do with.

Was it true? If you’d asked me at the time I would have insisted it was absolutely true.

Two days later? My depression had lifted so I was alright.

What changed? Did I change? No.

Did I suddenly get hundreds of phone calls from long lost friends expressing their love to me? No.

Was I inundated with emails from pastor friends inviting my wife and I to minister in their church? No.

So what changed?

Nothing.

Not one situation or circumstance changed. Not one bit.

So what was wrong? How could I let myself become so beat down? How could I have been so deceived?

Well, one truth about deception is: people don’t know when they’re deceived. If they did, they wouldn’t be.

It’s so easy to listen to lies, especially when disappointment is allowed to hang around.

You may not realize this, but although disappointment isn’t very vocal it is extremely selfish. It demands attention, in a “humble” sort of way.

Something like, “Oh, I’m fine. Really I am. God is directing my life so I’m not gonna be too concerned.”

Meanwhile, disappointment is whispering things to your mind. Disappointment feels like it’s accomplished much if it can talk you into a deep depression.

It can kill you if you don’t shut it up!

What’s the best thing to do if you’re feeling run down and rolled over?

Two main things.

One: Tell someone you trust, someone you love, someone who loves you.

Will you appear weak and not put together? Yes. Is it wrong? No.

Because everyone has some area of weakness; some area of vulnerability.

Everyone.

Two: Tell the One Who knows you better than anyone, and Who’ll always give you truth.

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me.” (Psalm 57:2 – 57:3 ESV)

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.” (Lamentations 3:19 – 3:21 ESV)

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

“God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” (Habakkuk 3:17 – 3:19 ESV)

I’m not promising these two things will keep you from ever experiencing disappointment. Not at all.

But they will help you, as they help me, quiet disappointment’s nasty mouth. Your situation may not change, but you’ll understand you’re not forgotten or forsaken.

Amen.

It will all come out in the wash.

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One of my favorite sayings when I’m facing an iffy situation is, “It will all come out in the wash.”

There are many times it seems to fit. Even emotional and spiritual situations.

And even when facing temptation.

Suppose someone comes to you and says, “Hey, I’m really struggling with my thoughts. I keep thinking filthy, perverse thoughts. I can’t seem to quit.”

Your response? “It will all come out in the wash.”

Another person whispers to you, “I’m not sure what to do. I’m not content with my job, house, church, (you fill in the blank); there must be something better for me. I’m so confused.”

Well, what is it you’re going to say?

“It will all come out in the wash.”

So what’s it mean, besides the obvious?

Maybe this will help…

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5 ESV)

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV)

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart…” (1 Peter 1:22 ESV)

Purify means to make clean, to wash, to sanctify.

Paul wrote to the Ephesian husbands that they might sanctify their wives, having cleansed them by the washing of water with the word… (Ephesians 5:26 ESV).

According to the word of God, bad habits, meanness, perversion, and anything else that’s not aligned with God’s will for our lives will all come out in the wash; as we make the effort to read, believe, and apply the Word of God to each area of our life.

Struggling with something you know isn’t pleasing to God? Not sure what to do?

Find someone you can talk with who will help you find the only soap and water designed for situations like yours.

God’s Word.

With faith and obedience, even the toughest stains will come out in the wash.

“‘Come now, let us reason together’, says the Lord: ‘though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.'” (Isaiah 1:18 – 1:19 ESV)

Submission to God; the foundation for spiritual authority.

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Several of us were in deep discussion the other evening, talking about spiritual warfare and such.

Then someone reminded us of the verse in James:

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 ESV)

It was at that point I sort of checked out of the conversation and began downloading a few thoughts from the Spirit of God.

There’s a lot of talk in certain Christian circles about our authority as a believer. While that is true, it’s also an assumption that all believers always do as they’re instructed by the word of God.

I am not denying our place in Christ. And I agree we need to understand who we are in Him, and Who He is in us.

But the key component for exercising kingdom authority and power, as well as receiving answers to our prayers, is not found in how many scriptures we quote, how loud we pray, or who we command, bind, or loose.

Nor is it found by fasting for forty days and nights.

The key is found in the place of submission to God. Complete, no questions asked, submission to God.

Like James said, “Submit yourself…to God…”

Like Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…”

As Luke wrote of Paul and Barnabas, when they confronted the servant of the devil, “‘And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.’ Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.” (Acts 13:11 ESV)

As young David demonstrated as he stepped up to face Goliath.

Submission to God’s will, His Kingdom, and all He stands for.

Jude gave us another hint – submission to God is the foundation of authority over the evil one.

“But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.'” (Jude 1:9 ESV)

“He didn’t presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment…”. In other words, Michael didn’t need to pray a long, drawn out prayer, or tell the devil to go back to hell where he belongs.

He simply knew he was standing as God’s representative, doing God’s business.

Jesus said it to us in just a slightly different fashion, but it still means the same thing.

“Go…in my Name.” If we’re going to represent God, to include speaking FOR God (as in 2 Corinthians 5:17-22), we must be in agreement with Him. That begins with submitting ourselves to His Lordship.

Submission leads to authority in God, and trouble for the devil.

And the delight of our Father God.

When You’ve Finally Had Enough!

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If you’re at least fifteen years old, you have probably seen Charlie Brown prepare to kick a football. You know the holder’s name, and you know what’s going to happen.

But Charlie never knows. He always believes things will be different. This time…

Rats!

You’ll need to be older than fifteen to remember Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Moose, and Bunny Rabbit.

Captain Kangaroo was always getting tricked by Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit. They would tell the Captain a knock-knock joke, he’d answer, and hundreds of ping pong balls would drop on the his head.

Every time.

Even if the Captain hoped for the best, going out of his way to be nice and believe the best of his two “friends”, they never changed.

And just like Lucy, they were always ready for the next time the Captain gave them the opportunity. 

I’ve come to realize that’s exactly how some people are. They act all nice and sweet, like love is in the air. They know the right words to speak, the correct tone to use, and before you know it you’ve been set up for another round of ping pong balls or a visit to the chiropractor for a back adjustment.

The world is full of people like Lucy, Mr. Moose, and Bunny Rabbit.

But why do we feel like we have to play the role of Charlie Brown or Captain Kangaroo?

Because we love them? Because we believe we can change them? Or is it because we think we deserve all the pain and rejection they give to us?

Do we somehow believe they aren’t aware of what they’re like?

I mean, Lucy can’t really act that way on purpose, can she? And why doesn’t the Captain kick those two off his show? Why does he let them stay in the picture?

Maybe for the some of the same reasons we don’t take a stand.

As far as I can remember, neither Charlie nor the Captain ever reached their limit. They always came back for more.

I’d like to say they did the right thing. However, I don’t believe they did. They never had a belly full, so their “friends” never changed.

“Aren’t we supposed to love, forgive, and show mercy and grace?” Yes. As we’ve been forgiven, we’re called to do the same.

“…be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NLT)

That DOES NOT mean putting yourself into harms way; physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

It’s ONE THING when repentance is demonstrated and forgiveness is sought. But even then you should probably be wary whenever they’re holding a football.

Until YOU have finally had enough, don’t expect Lucy or the others to change.

Do you have to be mean? No. But you must decide just how important YOUR health is to you.

Because until YOU finally have enough, you’ll never start to heal.

Will Lucy, Mr. Moose, and Bunny Rabbit understand? 

No. You can count on them telling stories to their followers, gaining sympathy as they play the part of the victim.

I can picture Lucy explaining to Linus, Peppermint Patty, and Pigpen: “I don’t know why Charlie Brown won’t come around anymore. I’ve offered to help him with his game. He seems to not care for me, or the team. In fact, he’s trying to break up our team.”

Brace yourself. 

“Should I forgive them?” Yes.

“If I forgive, don’t I have to forget?” No.

You can’t. Not just like that, at the drop of a hat (or ping pong ball).

When you’ve finally had enough, you’ll know what to do. You will understand forgiveness is a decision. You will also know trust is a separate issue.

Maybe you’ll never feel like kicking the football again, especially with Lucy as the holder.

Is that wrong?

In my opinion (and I believe God’s, as well), no.

Not when you’ve finally had enough.

You see them all at the mall

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A shopping mall is a great place to watch people. Probably not as much as the Iowa State Fairgrounds, but it’ll do.

With my part time job, I have lots of time to people watch. At my kiosk, which sits in the middle of the mall, people of all shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicities, and religions walk by.

And I get to greet them with a friendly, “hello”, “good morning”, “good afternoon”, and maybe a few “howdies”.

Something hit me today, in a way like never before. 

There’s something like seven billion people on this planet. That’s like one thousand cities with the population of Hong Kong.

And even though that’s a ton of folk, when it comes right down to it, we aren’t all that different.

Oh sure, it’s easy to spot some differences; the warts, the wigs, and the weird ways people walk. You know, some strut, others bounce, and some simply march like they’re in a parade.

No kidding; you see them all at the mall.

Round, skinny, tall, short, dark, light, and everything in between.

Seven billion individuals. No, they aren’t all at the mall, but some days it feels like it.

Seven billion people.

And every one of them have dreams, nightmares, hopes, fears, and a life story that only they and God know.

We are so different, yet so much alike. 

We all face an unknown future; some with faith in God, and others with a feeling of futility. “Vanity of vanities; we’re all gonna die so let’s eat, drink, and be merry.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is this; we are created after our Maker. To believe that or not, it’s our prerogative.

We are a triune being; spirit, soul, and body. The body, where most differences can be seen, is the part we all will lay down at some point along the way.

Our spirit and soul will remain, somewhere, for all eternity. 

So while I’m people watching at the mall, looking for someone I can greet with a warm, “hello”, I’m also praying that somehow, at some time, in some way, all the different people who are really a lot like me, will come to know the joy and assurance I have found in Jesus Christ.

You see, though there are so many different views about life and death, there is one truth everyone will eventually face.

“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NLT)