Saturday, February 26, 2022

Road Trip!

Photo by Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives, 2010

Particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, one of the great pleasures in life for my husband and me was and is the road trip!

Nothing too risky, except for the occasional stay in a rented vacation home in a scenic location, ordering takeout, cooking some meals, and spending the days in national and state parks. But our go-to road trip is always to our favorite beach on an island, just 90 minutes away, for a few days of beachcombing, swimming, biking, and kayaking.

On our latest such trip, it dawned on me how much planning and advance preparation were needed just for such a short trip and stay. Despite the casual beach lifestyle, appropriate clothes must be packed for a variety of activities and even a wide range of temperatures, especially during the winter. In February, it’s not unusual to swim in the mid-afternoon, but to enjoy the warmth of a down vest when stargazing!

As our getaway is on an island, I must carefully plan our menus and bring all needed groceries, as well as other necessities such as sunscreen, paper products, and emergency medications. My husband apportions our daily supplements into plastic packets to maintain our health while we’re away.

As I continue to work in the evenings, I have to make sure that my laptop is updated and charged and that I bring all needed files. To allow a more restful time away, I try to do whatever work I can and put out any fires before we leave.

Packing the car, especially if we’re bringing tools or equipment needed for property repairs or maintenance, is a project my husband usually starts the night before, not to mention gassing up and checking the tires and oil.

The morning that we leave, I pack the cooler and fix coffee and oatmeal to eat on the road, and we make sure lights and air conditioning are off and everything is locked at home.

Finally, seat belts buckled, we grin at one another and shout “Road trip!”

But we’re not there yet. Unexpected delays frustrate us – heavy traffic, an accident or construction blocking several lanes or even forcing a detour, car trouble, or suddenly remembering we forgot something essential and must retrace our path before we can set off again. Although we know the way, we usually set the GPS just to be warned of road hazards.

On one occasion, five minutes into our journey we nearly got into an accident when a gopher tortoise decided to cross the highway – even though these creatures are far more common on the island than where we live!  

Sooner or later, if we persevere, we make it to the barge landing. Could be a long wait to board, depending on the number of visitors and workers traveling to the island, or it could be even longer in inclement weather. But the sights, sounds and scents of island living tantalize us – the varied blues of the Intracoastal sparkling in the sun, osprey mournfully calling one another, the clean yet salty sea air.

On the island at last! But still the car must be unpacked, food transferred from cooler to fridge, windows opened to let the sun shine in.

Yet it’s all worth it once I find myself alone in the pool, swimming in clear aqua water at a perfect temperature, enjoying the company of a mourning dove perched high on the roof of the pool house, like the Holy Spirit waiting to descend. The sun shines through palm fronds in the shape of a gleaming cross, and I feel all my tension melt away as I watch a pair of osprey circle through the sky and land on a tall Norfolk Island pine where they’re building a nest.

Then later, my husband and I walk the beach, marveling at the intricacy and variety of shells and fossils God scattered there for us to enjoy; at the flocks of pelicans overhead and shore birds nibbling at coquinas, and at the landscape of sand, surf and sky He so masterfully painted for us. A few wispy lace clouds trace through the brilliant blue sky, just enough for the setting sun to later illuminate in gold, orange, mauve, and pink. Still later we’ll lie beneath the stars and contemplate the beauty and vastness of God’s creation (Psalm 19:1).

All too soon it will be time to head home, refreshed and renewed from our road trip, yet sorry to see our Island Paradise in our rear view mirror.

Our most recent road trip reminded me of a much longer, more portentous journey – and one with an even more perfect destination. As Christians who are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), we know that Heaven is our ultimate and eternal destination (John 3:16). Until we get there, we are on a road trip with unexpected twists, turns, hazards, mountains, valleys and delays.

Preparation for this road trip is quite different from our earthly vacations. We don’t have to pack, for we can’t take anything with us (1 Timothy 6:7), and everything we need and could possibly desire will be there awaiting us (1 Corinthians 2:9). We have the best road map and GPS imaginable – God’s Word! (Psalm 119:105). In fact, the journey will be far smoother and more peaceful if we don’t drive ourselves, but leave our direction to the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who is the ultimate Navigator! (John 16:13).

So how can we prepare for this road trip to Heaven? First and foremost, be sure you’re saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). Unless you have an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, your destination will be the eternal misery of hell, and not the everlasting bliss of Heaven (John 3:18).

Follow His general will for all through prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17), thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18), worship (Psalm 150), meditation on His Word (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; 119:97), loving Him and one another (Luke 10:27), and witnessing to others (Psalm 66:16). Follow His specific will for your life by seeking His direction (Psalm 66:16) and boldly walking through the doors He opens (Jeremiah 29:11).

Then, what an amazing, wondrous land awaits us – one that defies imagination! (1 Corinthians 2:9). All the perils and hardships of the journey will be worth it all when we see His face! (1 Corinthians 13:12)

There will be no sun or moon, yet Jesus Christ Himself will light Heaven with His perfect radiance (Revelation 21:23). There will be no sea (Revelation 21:1), for there will be no national boundaries, divisions or conflict – just His Church worshipping Him in perfect unity (1 Corinthians 12). He is lovingly preparing mansions for each of us (John 14:2), uniquely tailored to our preferences and desires, in a perfect City with gates of pearl, streets of gold, and walls of precious stones (Revelation 21:18-21).

Best of all, we shall eternally be united with Lord Jesus Christ and with all of our loved ones in Him, not to mention all the saints through all the ages (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Can you imagine having personal conversations with Moses or the apostle Paul? We will have infinite time to enjoy their company and the fulfilling occupation that our Lord has appointed each of us.

We will be in young, glorified bodies that never age, get sick, die, or even experience pain or sorrow (1 Corinthians 15:42-53). We will never have to say goodbye to our loved ones or leave this idyllic Paradise!

Lord, may you guide us on all our earthly road trips but especially on our ultimate journey through life as we travel to Heaven! May we follow Your direction so that we can hear You say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21,23).

Copyright 2022 Laurie Collett




Saturday, February 19, 2022

Who Is Love?


Photo by MOSSOT 2015

As we saw last week, humans may sometimes be capable of agape, or self-sacrificing love, as in the case of a parent, spouse or soldier dying to protect a child, spouse, or country. But the sacrifice is usually made impulsively before the person has a chance to weigh the outcomes, and it protects a person or idea highly valued by the person making the sacrifice.

In contrast, true agape, like that shown by Jesus Christ, sacrifices with full knowledge of the cost and of the absence of reward, commits to the sacrifice well in advance, and is done to benefit those who hate rather than love the donor.

Imagine, for example, that everyone in the world, except for your son, is dying from a lethal virus infection. Everyone hates your son because they are jealous and resentful of his perfect health. Doctors study him and discover that he has a unique antibody in his blood against the deadly virus, and that everyone can be cured by receiving that antibody. You gladly agree that he should donate his blood to save the world, but then the doctors inform you that it will take every drop of his precious blood, and that he will have to sacrifice himself if others are to be saved.

Now you and your son realize the cost of saving those who hate your son and are his enemies. Yet motivated by pure, selfless love, you both agree to make that sacrifice. Shockingly, instead of loving your son for his lifesaving sacrifice, many still hate him, many ignore him, and many even refuse his precious gift, without which they will die.

Yet this is a weak analogy to what God the Father and Jesus Christ did for us, agreeing that God the Son would shed every drop of His precious blood to save His enemies, not just in this life, but throughout eternity. Only His perfect holiness is the antidote to sin, for which we would otherwise be forever condemned to hell.

Because of our sin nature (Romans 5:12), none of us can ever love perfectly. Only Jesus Christ, the holy, sinless, Lamb of God (John 1:29) Who took on human flesh (John 1:14) to reconcile sinful man to Holy God (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20) can do that. The truly amazing thing about the love of God is that He showed us His infinite love by sacrificing His only begotten Son (John 3:16), Who died an excruciating death to pay for our sins, even when we were His bitter enemies (Romans 5:6-10; James 4:4) and children of the devil (John 8:44), rebelling against Christ, despising Him, and rejecting Him.

God does not need us, for He owns everything (Psalm 50:9-14) and is completely self-existent (John 8:58). Yet the Creator of all made us in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27) and wants to have fellowship with us (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3), to be able to call us His friends, His children (Romans 8:16-21; 9:26), His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

Once we are freed from condemnation by the law, which we cannot keep completely because of our sin nature, we are saved by God’s grace through our faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We can then follow Him through His law of liberty (James 1:25; 2:12), which is to love God and love one another (Luke 10:27; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 John 4:7-12; Romans 13:9-10). We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

God shows His love for us through His mercy (Ephesians 2:4; Jude 1:21), by not giving us what we do deserve, and by His grace (2 Corinthians 13:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Timothy 1:14), by freely giving us what we don’t deserve. His mercy spares us from the eternal punishment in hell that our sins have earned (Mark 9:43-49; Romans 6:23), and His grace allows us into Heaven (Romans 5:21; Titus 3:7; 1 Peter 5:10), for Christ has covered us in His perfect righteousness (Romans 3:22), so that God no longer sees our sins (Psalm 103:12).

Once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), the Holy Spirit enters us and teaches us about who we are in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Spirit also gives us the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22). These fruit are actually different aspects of love and reflect the character and nature of God, for God is love (1 John 4:8).

In 1 Corinthians 13, the so-called love chapter, the apostle Paul describes the qualities of this type of love, here translated as “charity.” It is longsuffering, meaning patient; kind, which corresponds to goodness of the fruit of the Spirit; content rather than covetous, reflecting peace; well-mannered and self-controlled, which parallels the gentleness, meekness and temperance of the fruit of the Spirit.

Self-sacrificing agape love puts the needs of others ahead of personal gain, finds joy in God’s truth and not in anything evil, suffers all hardships, and has faith, hope and perseverance. Love never fails!

Until we receive our glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:35-57), free of all sin, we will not be able to love perfectly as Christ does, but we must follow His example by dying daily to our sin nature (1 Corinthians 15:31). In the “love chapter,” Paul explains that we will not know true love, or charity, until we see Jesus Christ face to face in Heaven. Agape love will last throughout all eternity and outshines even faith and hope (Romans 8:24-25), because these will no longer be needed once our faith becomes sight!

Remembering that His love is infinite and eternal, may we try to love one another as He loves us! Rather than asking, “What is love?” we should ask “Who is Love?” and answer that He is our Lord Jesus Christ!

© 2019 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, February 12, 2022

What Is Love?


Photo by Patty Colmer 2007


As we in the United States prepare for Valentine’s Day, it is appropriate to consider what love truly is. We use the term very loosely, as in “I love chocolate!” Great songs, poems, and books have been written about love, but what do the writers mean by love? There are three Greek words describing love: eros, phileo, and agape.

Eros refers to erotic or sexual love and is seldom used in the Bible, but this type of love is often exploited in songs, movies, and TV of today. In isolation, eros is not really love at all, because it is a form of lust that demeans its object as merely an end to satisfy one’s own needs. It often borders on hate, as we see when lust led Amnon to rape his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13). When he had what he wanted, he hated her even more intensely than he had once desired her (v. 15).

Yet when eros is accompanied by love within the marriage relationship as God designed it, it forges an unbreakable, exclusive bond between man and wife, causing them to become one flesh (Genesis 2:21-25; Mark 10:6-9). This type of romantic and physical marital love is beautifully depicted in the Song of Solomon. Many regard this poem as an allegory describing the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:22-32).

Phileo appears often in the Bible, referring to brotherly love. It is the root word of “Philadelphia,” meaning brotherly love. Many of our human relationships, such as those between brothers and sisters in Christ, schoolmates, or other friends or family, are based on phileo. Despite our sin nature, this type of affection comes fairly naturally to most of us because we find the resulting relationships to be rewarding. Often we form such relationships with like-minded people with whom we have much in common, and we enjoy their company because they think and act like we do.

Even unsaved people have natural affection for their family and friends. However, Scripture warns that in the End Times, that affection will grow cold, and men will love pleasure more than they love God or one another (2 Timothy 3:1-3). We see this today when mothers abort or abandon their children for convenience or fathers slaughter their family, because they have no love even for their own flesh and blood.

The expectation in relationships governed by phileo is that we will help one another, encouraging each other (2 Corinthians 1:4), praying for one another (James 5:16), bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and exchanging gifts or uplifting messages. Friends may often provide substantial help when needed, such as errands, moving, home maintenance, food or medicine when one is sick, or even a job opportunity or financial assistance.

I know of someone in our former church, a mother in her forties, who is an amazing example of this type of brotherly love. Her close friend and sister in Christ married a diabetic, and several months later, he developed kidney failure that became so severe that he needed a kidney transplant. His wife was not a good match to be an organ donor, but her friend was, and she gave her kidney so that her brother in Christ would live and so that her sister in Christ would not lose her husband! Praise the Lord, all are still doing well!

But even when the giving becomes lopsided because one is going through tougher times than the other, the unspoken assumption is “You scratch my back – I’ll scratch yours,” or “I’ve always been there for her, so she’ll always be there for me.” If we are honest with ourselves, we may realize that some of these relationships are actually more like a contractual partnership than a true friendship, and we may begin to resent the “friend” who takes much more than she gives.

The truest form of love described in the Bible is agape, or self-sacrificing love that gives freely and completely while expecting nothing in return. Sacrificial, anonymous giving may be motivated by agape, provided it is not done to bolster one’s ego, pride, or self-righteousness.

The apostle Paul warned that even if we give away all our possessions to feed the poor, and even give our own body to be burned, it does us no good unless we do it out of sacrificial love, translated as charity (1 Corinthians 13:3). When we face Jesus Christ at the judgment seat for believers, even magnanimous deeds like these will burn up in the fire of judgment (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) unless they were motivated by true love for God and for one another.

Jesus told us to love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44), even though they would destroy us if they had the chance, much less thank us. (Praying for our enemies to be exiled to Siberia doesn’t count!). Jesus told us that the greatest form of love, which He exemplifies, is to lay down your life for your friends (John 15:13).

Many people would take a bullet to spare the life of their child or wife, because they love that person more than they value their own life. Many soldiers end up sacrificing their life to protect their fellow troops or country. But in these examples, the sacrifice is usually impulsive rather than premeditated, and protects a person or idea of great worth to the person making the sacrifice.

In contrast, true agape, like that shown by Jesus Christ, sacrifices while fully aware of the cost (Matthew 16:21) and of the absence of reward. It commits to the sacrifice well in advance (Isaiah 50:6-7), and benefits those who hate rather than love the one who dies. He sacrificed Himself for His enemies (Romans 5:6-10), so that all who are saved by trusting in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) can have eternal life!

Next week, we’ll explore the concept that a better question than “What is love?” may be “Who is Love?” and that the answer is Jesus Christ!

© 2019 Laurie Collett
Edited and reposted from the archives

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Rapture to Heaven: Triplets of Eternity


Tinus Badenhorst 2010
As born-again believers, we don't know when the Rapture will occur, but we do know that Christ's return is one day closer today than it was yesterday! Looking at the news, it surely seems that the signs of the End Times surround us, growing in frequency and intensity with each passing day, like labor pains, as predicted in Scripture

For those who do not yet know Christ as their Savior, now is the day of salvation, for we are not promised tomorrow, and once He returns, it will be too late. I therefore felt prompted to repost this blog post from the archives, praying that it will encourage believers and urge the unsaved into deciding for Christ. Look up, for your redemption is near!
A new beginning awaiting all believers is the Rapture, when instantaneously the trumpet shall sound, the dead in Christ shall be raised in glorified bodies, and living believers shall be changed into glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:52). The sound heralding this miraculous transformation is described as the shout of the Lord, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
The Rapture will occur at the same instant all around the world, creating pandemonium on earth for those left behind as many pilots, drivers, surgeons and other believers suddenly disappear in the midst of what they are doing. Some will vanish at night while sleeping, others at sunrise or sunset while preparing breakfast or supper, and still others in the middle of the day, while working in the fields (Luke 17:34-36). 
Yet all this occurs at the same moment in time, authenticating the Spirit-breathed nature of Scripture, as this was written nearly 1500 years before Columbus showed that the earth is a globe!  
Those believers still living at the Rapture will be caught up (Raptured) in the clouds with those believers who died before, will meet the Lord in the air, and will forever be with the Lord in their glorified state (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Once the Rapture occurs, believers will take part in three events: the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and the Second Coming of Christ
At the Judgment Seat of Christ, believers will be rewarded for the work God does through us in our earthly life, for we are coworkers with God: we are God's husbandry, meaning that He raises and trains us; and we are God's building (1 Corinthians 3:8-9),. But because God is a Gentleman, He does not force His will on any of us, and we must yield to His direction through the Holy Spirit before His perfect will can be done in our lives.
The perfect Foundation of each believer’s life is Christ Himself, but how we build our lives on that foundation is up to us (1 Corinthians 3:10-11). Work done for our own glory, to satisfy our own lusts, or even done for the church but with the wrong motives will burn up like wood, hay, and stubble, consumed by the fiery judgment. But good works done to God’s glory, to further His Kingdom, and motivated by love for Him will be purified in the refiner’s fire and remain as a reward, like gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
Overcome by gratitude for His love, holiness and sacrifice for us, we will cast these crowns at the feet of Jesus. He alone is worthy to be crowned and to receive glory, honor and power (Revelation 4 9-11).
Announcing the Marriage Supper of the Lamb will be a powerful pronouncement as the voice of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, Those present are commanded to be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Christ the Lamb, Who will marry His bride, the Church, in the presence of the blessed guests (Revelation 19 6-9). This last group includes the angels; the Old Testament saints who are in Heaven because of their faith in God; and the Tribulation saints, who were saved after the Rapture and martyred for refusing to take the mark of the beast. 
The Tribulation saints will no longer hunger, thirst, or suffer from the scorching sun, for the Lamb will feed them and lead them to living fountains of waters, and God will wipe away all their tears (Revelation 7 16-17). 
After the Marriage Supper, believers will have the awesome privilege of accompanying Christ as His armies when He returns in His Second Coming for the battle of Armageddon. We are described as riding white horses, clothed in fine linen, and white and clean (Revelation 19:14)
In Heaven we will have new bodies, a new address, and a new name (Revelation 2:17). Our glorified, eternal, perfect bodies will be like that of the resurrected Christ (Philippians 3:21), and we will never die, age, or become ill. Instead of pain, sorrow, and tears, we will experience vitality, joy, and a new song. (Isaiah 35:10; Revelation 5:9; 21:4). 
Our new home will be in our own mansion, (John 14:2), in the New Jerusalem, in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1-2). The length, breadth and height of the New Jerusalem will be equal, each 12,000 furlongs, most likely a pyramidal shape. There will be three gates each on the east, north, south and west walls of the city, or twelve gates in total, each made of a single pearl. Each wall will be guarded by three angels and will bear the names of three of the twelve tribes of Israel
Similarly, there will be twelve foundations of precious stones, inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles (Revelation 21:12-21)., and the tree of life planted by the river of water of life will bear twelve kinds of fruit (Revelation 22:1-2). 
Praise God that when we finally behold Him in glory, we will have unimaginable joy, for Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2:9). 
It is my earnest prayer that everyone reading this post will go to Heaven, and that all of us will join in that mighty chorus of Holy, Holy, Holy (Revelation 4:8), worshipping the Trinity of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit throughout eternity. 
May anyone who does not yet know Christ confess that they are a sinner in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23), turn from their sins, and call on His Name to be saved!  (Psalm 116:13,17; Acts 2:21) Anyone who does this, placing their faith (Acts 16:31) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) as the only way to the Father (John 14:6), can be sure of abundant, eternal life in Heaven! (John 3:16; 10:10).
No man knows the day or the hour, but current events and the signs of the End Times (Matthew 24) suggest that the days remaining are precious few. May we look up, eagerly awaiting the new beginning of the Rapture to usher us into eternity! It could be this year, this month, or even this very day! May we be ready by knowing Christ as our Lord and Savior, keeping His commandments, and serving Him

© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives