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Come with me on a spiritual Journey!

Along For The Ride

We hear the words when someone is explaining a complex problem that we are having trouble understanding.  In the step by step process the instructor might see a confused look on our face.  That is the time that they will ask “Are you still with me?”  It’s a helpful question.  If we are confused it isn’t a good idea to keep going on.  It is better to go back to the place where the connection was lost.  Perhaps it was step three where it became foggy and the instructor has already completed step four.  If step three was foggy step four probably found us in the dark.  Sometimes it becomes clear that we are still with them by our actions.  Perhaps we are following along and the instructor knows that we get it.  It’s when that blank stare occurs or we get very quiet that the instructor knows something is wrong and the “Are you still with me?” question comes.

Teacher explaining difficult problem to student

My mom, dad, and sister were in the car making the trip from Michigan to Alabama or Alabama to Michigan.  I’m not sure if they were coming or going.  My sister was just a toddler and I wasn’t around yet.  Up ahead on the side of the road was a hitchhiker.  I don’t know why but my dad had a soft heart for hitchhikers.  I remember many times he picked them up when we were on our long trip.  My dad was from Alabama and at least once a year and possibly two times we were on the road either going to or departing from his beloved hometown.  He picked up hitchhikers often but this one episode before my time stood out.  Even though I wasn’t there I heard about it many times.  They picked the hitchhiker up and resumed their journey.  He was a young man and was glad to get a ride.  It wasn’t very long afterwards that something happened that put their lives in danger.  Without warning as dad was driving to his alarm the gas pedal got stuck.  The car raced upwards of 100 miles an hour and as you can imagine fear  was everywhere.  Without warning not only was my family at risk but also the stranger hitchhiker who was just along for the ride.

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It’s interesting how so many are just along for the ride.  Moses discovered this when he was trying to lead the Israelite’s to the promised land.  It just so happened that many of the group were not the original group.  They were just followers who were going along for the ride.  These were the ones that first started to complain.  It can be dangerous the bigger the following is.  The danger comes in the new group who doesn’t have a real stake in the original mission.  They just saw something happening and thought that they liked being in the middle of the action.  When things don’t go as they expect however, these are the people that let it be known they are unhappy.  This unhappiness resulted in poison for the rest of the group.  A rebellion was started and it wasn’t only the new people that were complaining.  Although they started it many of the originals joined them.  As Moses was hearing their complaints he asked the question “Who is with me?”  He wanted to know who had the courage to march on through difficulties and who was only there to discourage and rebel?

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This whole Moses scenario is an example of why we need to choose our friends wisely.  If you think about it many of our friends are friends in thick and thin while many others may be just along for the ride.  When times go bad and you really want to count on them they cannot be found or will make excuses not to get involved.  Those are the people that sign up for the benefits but not for the bad things that invariably will come.  It is like taking the wedding vow “for better or for worse” and changing it to “for better but not for worse.”

Truth be known all of us at one point or another are along for the ride.  We may become Christians with the idea that “I’ve tried everything else, I might as well give this a try.”  That is fine and good until troubles come our way.  Sooner or later they will and that is when people start blaming God.  Just like the Israelite’s we can get pulled in the other direction and it is a reason that people get off of the heaven train.  Discouragement can come when expectations are not seemingly met and we have “friends” pulling us in the wrong direction.  It is in these hard times that God will ask us just like Moses asked “Are you still with me?”

The way that we can tell if we are with God is not in our words but our actions.  Our actions are why God is asking us the question in the first place.  You see it is not natural for Christians to stop growing any more than it is not natural for a baby to stop growing.  When the baby is healthy then it is expected that it will grow big and strong.  When this is not happening parents are concerned and a doctor visit is soon arranged.  God knows why there can be a stunt in our growth.  Jesus said that he is the way, the truth and the life.  Nobody can get to Heaven without him.  Many though are just along for the ride without any commitment or appearance of taking a side.  God shouldn’t have to ask us “Are you still with me?”  If we are truly committed our actions will speak much louder than our words!

The car was speeding upwards of 100 miles an hour.  Dad was yelling in horror and mom was trying to pull the gas pedal free to no avail.  Suddenly without warning the hitchhiker in the back dove over the seat head first almost knocking mom out of the way.  He pulled with all of his strength and was able to free the gas pedal up from it’s stuck position.  I’m sure there were many thank yous as that hitchhiker who was just along for the ride became a hero.  I’m sure it wasn’t that long before the hitchhiker was dropped off to find another ride.  Somewhere along the way their destinations came into conflict.  Yet in spite of the short time he was with them his heroics were told over and over.  His act became legendary to them.   He was with them not only in body but also in his heroic actions.  His quick actions are the reason you are reading this today.  Because without his efforts there would not be me.  His story illustrated exactly what God wants us to be.  Not only along for the ride but making a difference in the time we are here!

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sin Police

I see you, you see me
Watch you blowin’ the lines
When you’re making a scene
Oh girl, you’ve got to know
What my head overlooks
The senses will show to my heart
When it’s watching for lies
You can’t escape my
Private eyes
They’re watching you
They see your every move
Private eyes
They’re watching you
Private eyes
They’re watching you watching
You watching you watching you
Image result for Hall and oates
The song was a big hit years ago by Hall and Oates called “Private Eyes.”  What is the song telling us?  It is saying that whoever they are talking to is under their radar.  Everything they do or say won’t be missed.  When they say something untrue or do something questionable the alarm will go off and they will be exposed.  Something that the other person did has ticked them off and now they will keep tabs on that person and not let them get away with anything.
Have you ever been driving and happen to look in your rear view mirror and see a police car right behind you?  Nobody likes this situation because we fear that any kind of little mistake and we are going to get pulled over for an infraction.  We hope that making a turn will send the police car in a different direction.  How many times does it seem like the police car is following us wherever we are going?  Maybe it is just a coincidence and maybe it isn’t.  All we know is that we are suddenly on our best behavior and try our best not to make a mistake.  In short it is a very unnerving situation.  Now picture this situation happening every day.  Picture every time you get in your car and start driving a police car appears and follows you to work, to the store, or wherever else you are going?  It is not easy driving when someone is seemingly out to get you.
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This out to get them attitude is what many are carrying with them.  Many are glad when something bad happens to someone that is under their evil eye.  Our evil eye has a tendency to drop down to our mouth too.  We can be quick to criticize the person that we feel like is getting away with so much.  So many times we make a statement about karma when something bad happens to them.  It pleases us to think that their bad deeds are getting punished.  We may even laugh as we contemplate their difficulties.  Did you know that God didn’t call anyone to be the sin police?  In fact the Bible tells us not to get revenge. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

We’ve all heard the story of Jonah.  Usually we are intrigued as kids by the fact that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and he stayed in the fish for three days and three nights.  As a kid I think the big fish was described as a whale.  We tend to remember Jonah being in the whale but forget why he was there.  The story goes that there was a city named Nineveh.  Nineveh was filled with wicked people and God told Jonah to go and preach to these people that their city would be destroyed in 40 days.   Jonah however had an evil eye toward them.  They were Israel’s biggest enemy and Jonah didn’t want anything good happening to them.  The good would happen he feared because they would turn from their evil ways and God would have mercy on them.  Jonah had an evil eye for them and wanted nothing good to happen.  In fact he wanted their whole city destroyed.

Instead of obeying God Jonah ran in the opposite direction.  He went to Joppa and paid the fare to board a ship heading for Tarshish. God caused a tremendous storm when the ship was far out to sea.  The crew fearing for their lives threw out all of the cargo to lighten the ship.  The captain of the ship found Jonah fast asleep below the deck.  “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish. Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

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Jonah 1 7:16

In God’s mercy to Jonah he saved his life by having a big fish swallow him.  Jonah prayed to God while in the belly of the whale.  He asked for forgiveness and God forgave him.  Three days and three nights later God made the fish sick and he spat Jonah onto the shore. Once again he asked Jonah to go to Nineveh.  This time Jonah went and preached to the people that in 40 days their city would be destroyed.  He must have been a sight preaching to them after being in the whale for 3 days and nights.  It made them believe his story and they turned from their evil ways.  As Jonah had predicted God had mercy on them and changed his mind.  Because of their repentance he forgave them and did not destroy their city.  Instead of being happy about God’s change of heart Jonah became angry.  It was hurtful to him that God had him preach one thing and then it didn’t come to pass.
The story of Jonah is a lesson in God’s compassion and mercy.  God didn’t want anyone to perish.  Not the sailors on the ship, not Jonah, and not the people of Nineveh.  Today God doesn’t want anyone to perish either.  Not your friends, your enemies, or anyone you may come in contact with.  When we get hurt or people let us down or we feel like that life isn’t fair we should remember the story of Jonah.  Instead of an evil eye toward people that are against us God wants us to pray for them and hope for the best for them.  He has not called us to be the sin police pointing out every bad thing about them.  He has called us to act as the police in another regard, protecting them in love and forgiveness.  Always remember that God’s private eyes are watching you.  He is watching out of love and desires that we show mercy and love like he showed to us.

A Missionary In Africa

People have many reasons why they reject God’s gift of salvation.  Many times the excuses are actually their unbelief.  It sounds so good it couldn’t possibly be true.  It’s like that great deal we might see for a car.  We’ve all seen these type of ads before.  After describing all of the benefits in this newer model and how low the mileage we see a giveaway price on it.  “That’s just too good to be true”, we will say and of course we are right.  I was talking to a guy one time and I described how beautiful it was within eye sight of where we were standing.  I mentioned an example of discovering a beautiful painting with nobody around.  I asked him if he discovered this beautiful painting would he assume that somebody had carefully painted it?  Or would he think that somehow the wind blew and all of the sand, water, sky, and waves depicted in the painting somehow formed on the canvas from the wind blown paint?  His statement to me was a defiant one.  He mentioned that though the view here was beautiful what about the ghetto on the other side of town?  Let’s face it, some people just are not going to accept Jesus and will come up with all kinds of excuses not to.  You might be surprised the variety of excuses you will hear when you actually try to find out why someone has not accepted God’s free gift.  One of the more interesting ones I heard about was from a lady who said NO!  When asked for a reason she said “I don’t want to be a Missionary in Africa.”

Colorful Sunrise Over Atlantic Ocean Coast

Fear of the unknown is a big reason people don’t do things.  I remember when my son was 8 years old he was crazy about basketball.  I found out that some pro’s and soon to be pro’s were making an appearance in a town near us to celebrate a big anniversary of the Continental Basketball Association.  It was a league that gave many of them their kick start to the NBA.  They had an autograph session and we were pleased to get autographs from many of the players.  There was a future NBA player that we wanted to sign something for us pretty bad.  It was a cartoon picture we had brought that had four local NBA prospects.  The picture was funny how it characterized each individual together in one picture. We were able t secure two of the three players that were at the event to sign.  It was fun for them to autograph by the funny cartoon picture of themselves. We happened to be talking to a lady in the stands during the exhibition basketball game and found out that she was the grandmother of a third player depicted in our picture.  She promised that she would have her grandson sign our picture after the game.  When the game ended and the grandson showed up his grandmother showed him the picture and asked if he would sign it for us.  He said he wouldn’t and he made the excuse that if he signed it would draw a crowd and he would have to sign for everybody.

How to Remember to Turn Off the Stove

This fear of the unknown is just an excuse.  Usually whatever fear we have never happens.  It’s like when we go on a trip.  How many times do we get miles down the road and all of the sudden a fearful thought comes to our mind?  “Did I turn the burner off?” we might think.  Yet how often do we get home and find the house burnt down?  Most of the time the burner we had been so concerned about isn’t even on.  The fear factor is a pretty powerful emotion and can cause us to panic.  That is why Jesus told us to not fear because he is with us!    He also told us he would always be with us! Along with the fear of the future there are many other excuses people give when asked why they won’t receive God’s free give of salvation.  Jesus talked about excuses people make in Luke  chapter 14 verses 16-23.

16Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22“ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ ”

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Jesus spoke in parables so that people would understand the mind of God.  The banquet he talks about is in Heaven.  He is inviting all of us to come and these excuses we are making are very hurtful.  If you have not accepted Jesus into your heart yet what excuses are you making?  We need to realize that with God our future is in great hands! What future events can we control anyway?  II Corinthians 6:2 tells us that now is the time of salvation.  Instead of making excuses pray this prayer with me.

Lord Jesus,

Come into my heart and save me

Forgive me of my sins and be my Lord and Savior

Amen

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If you prayed that prayer congratulations!  You have quit making excuses and are on the path to Heaven!  You are not fearing the future anymore because you know that he is always with you!  To the lady that feared becoming a Missionary in Africa I can tell her this news.  First of all God probably won’t send you to Africa to be a Missionary.  There are tons of Mission fields right here in the States or right where you are currently living.  You see you can be a Missionary right where you are doing exactly the job you are doing and living in the same house you are living in now.  However, if by small chance you were sent to Africa to be a Missionary you would be so happy inside content in knowing that the God of the universe thought you worthy of such an assignment.

My Excuses

By Lewis Hamilton from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” @1997

The Lord asked me why I didn’t
     go to church the way I should
I thought for a moment then it came
     If not for these reasons I would

The local church that I know
       is living such a lie
They don’t fool me for a minute
     no matter how they try

The preachers there on my TV
     want money every day
That’s not how I really care
     to spend my hard earned pay

On Sunday also as you know
    I need my day to sleep
 I have to work long hours
    if my job I am to keep

They put me on a guilt trip
  that’s a reason I don’t go
I want to feel good about myself
     I don’t like to feel so low

I’m OK here just like I am
  I believe in God enough
I don’t need all that preaching
   and all that shouting stuff

They want me to give up my fun
       I like my life this way
I don’t go to church because
         I want to live today

When I ran through my reasons
      I knew I had that day
come up with some good excuses
     why I should stay away

But deep down inside my answers
   had no legs on which to stand,
when I saw his punctured side
     and his nail scarred hands

For they all alike began to make
excuses. The first said, “I have
just bought a field and must go
and see it. Please excuse me.”

Luke 14:18

Never Ever Say Never Again

He was who you went to the movie to see!  When he first made his appearance his debut was the same.  As a way of uniquely introducing himself he presented his card and said in his familiar voice “Bond, James Bond”…It was his signature statement and when we heard it we knew that action was soon to follow.  When confusion and depression about what happened  set in James Bond brought hope with those three little words!

Sean Connery played the first James Bond and did it for many years.  From 1962 to 1969 Connery played Bond in 7 movies. He defined Bond in how people thought of him.  His Bond had a Scottish accent and he had a mysterious masculinity about him  He also had many sides as he dressed in his work suit for business and his tuxedo for more formal parties.  Connery was also a quick wit who could bring fear to his enemies and love from the opposite sex.  The whole package with Connery was known when you saw his movies and his character. How he adjusted to different cases varied depending on how he decided to solve the mysteries.  Connery was very popular doing James Bond.  He had a good thing going it seemed but there was a problem.  Increasing tension between him and the producer was bringing him stress on and off the film set.  After awhile it just wasn’t worth it in his eyes.  He announced that he wouldn’t be doing Bond anymore and a replacement was brought in.  The actors name was George Lazenby and he did not fill the giant shoes that Connery had stepped out of.  In 1971 two years since Connery had played his last James Bond film, he was  persuaded to make one more James Bond movie.  It would be “Diamonds are Forever” and Connery made it clear that after this one he would never play Bond again.

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Sometimes it can be a dangerous thing to say never.  I have a friend named Jeremy who is also my pastor that faced the temptation of saying never but didn’t succumb to it.  Not only is Jeremy our pastor but he is the lead singer of his band and every year they make a tour to England.  This tour through the years has resulted in many people giving their lives to Christ.  Since the trip takes several hours it is very taxing on their bodies but they make that sacrifice in hopes of reaching the lost.  One trip Jeremy was telling us about was an even more unpleasant trip than usual.  You see Jeremy was in the back of the plane right by the bathroom.  Apparently the toilet overflowed and sewage water flooded the back of the plane.  Jeremy was in the middle of all of that sewage and not only did his feet get wet but the smell was almost too much to take.  Although temptation came Jeremy would not say the words “I’ll never go on this trip again.”  His experience was totally unpleasant but he looked at the mission over his comfort.  He also preferred to look at the positive and the good results over this bad experience.

There are times in every day life when people say never.  It may be an isolated experience such as I experienced earlier this year. I was eating at a Japanese Restaurant with my son and a close friend.  I had never eaten at a Japanese Restaurant before and the food was delicious.  It was so good that I was trying everything on the plate and decided to eat this green stuff with a pudding like texture.  It stuck together and I ended up putting the whole portion into my mouth.  I discovered soon after what an awful mistake I had made.  I started gagging as my mouth and throat were on fire.  I had some water handy and tried to cool them off by gulping down the water.  The water seemed to make the burning increase and I was literally coughing uncontrollably as the tears started running down my cheeks.  It took a minute or two to finally recover.  I later found out that this dish that I had so quickly stuffed in my mouth was one of the hottest things you can eat.  It is called Wasabi and it is a Japanese horse radish. It’s name comes from the Wasabi tree that is grown in Japan. It was intended to be used for dipping very sparingly on the sushi part of my  meal.  This unpleasant experience could have made me say never again and I do think that never again will I eat Wasabi like I did.  However I can see us going back to this restaurant.  The food was delicious and I didn’t let the Wasabi incident ruin an otherwise delightful meal!

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In Matthew 21 verses 29 through 31 Jesus told a parable involving two sons.   21:28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 21:29 The boy answered, ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart and went. 21:30 The father went to the other son and said the same thing. This boy answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go. 21:31 Which of the two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, tax collectors and prostitutes will go ahead of you into the kingdom of God! 21:32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Although you saw this, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” — NET Bible

This story tells us in short that actions speak louder than words.  Many of us in the past have stated that we will never do something again.  Often it could be warranted as my Wasabi incident would be.  Instead of stuffing the whole portion of Wasabi into my mouth I would be better served eating the stuff in small portions as it was intended.  Jeremy may have thought “never again” as he was breathing in the disgusting smell of sewage for hours on his trip.  He never let that experience overcome him and his desire to bring others the love of Jesus.

Sean Connery made his supposedly last Bond movie in Diamonds are Forever.  The movie was a huge success as Connery brought back the Bond character that was so endearing! True to his word he sat on the sidelines as others filled the Bond role.  After 12 years Connery had a change of heart.  I imagine that the enormous money deal he received was tugging at his decision.  That alone couldn’t have been his only motivation however.  He had turned down wealth before in refusing to play Bond again.  The truth is that things had changed on the set and his attitude was completely different.  The film was called “Never Say Never Again.”  The title was based on Connery’s own statement about playing the role.  The movie was a massive success and Roger Ebert in reviewing the film said it best!  “It has been 12 years since Sean Connery hung it up as James Bond, 12 years since “Diamonds Are Forever,” and Connery’s announcement that he would “never again” play special agent 007. What complex instincts caused him to have one more fling at the role, I cannot guess. Perhaps it was one morning in front of the mirror, as he pulled in his gut and reflected that he was in pretty damn fine shape for 53. And then, with a bow in the direction of his friend Roger Moore, who has made his own niche as a different kind of Bond, Sean Connery went back on assignment again.”

Never Say Never Again Movie Poster

Many of you reading this have made the never statement about forgiveness.  “I will never forgive them for that!”, you might have said.  It’s true that whatever happened might have had a stench comparable to Jeremy’s situation.  However, when we use the never word we resign ourselves to limited thinking.  It is not in God’s will for us to be unforgiving people carrying grudges.  It is his will for us to let things go and let people off of the hook.  The results are better for the wrong doers in our lives but more importantly they are better for us!  Now we can live in peace with the love of God moving freely in our hearts.  In the past you may have proclaimed the old never again slogan.  You may have meant it and are on a path to take unforgiveness to your grave.  Just because you said it though doesn’t mean it has to be forever.  A change of heart is far more powerful than to change your mind.  Words can come from an emotional hurt but heartfelt love  controls our actions going forward! When God tells us what to do our first response might be NO.   The blessings come when we do it anyway!

 

 

 

 

Days Of The Living Dead

In 1978 I got a call from my sister.  Apparently my cousin had two tickets she wasn’t going to use for a movie called Dawn Of The Dead.  My girlfriend and future wife ended up going to the movie which proved to be a chilling experience.  This was actually a continuation of a story that was written in 1968 called Night Of The Living Dead.  Anyway they are both movies about dead people coming back to life and becoming flesh eating Zombies.  Apparently the only way these Zombies could keep living was to eat living people or to put it simply people who were not Zombies.  Of course these Zombies were hard to kill probably because they were already dead.  They moved around slowly in a very deliberate and snail like zombie walk shuffling in a forward path.  They had no purpose except to find people who were alive and eat them.

Painted theatrical release that includes various credits, an ominous zombie looking over the horizon, and the words "Dawn of the Dead" in military print below.

These movies were stories of surviving created by George A. Romero.  The first one Night Of The Living Dead followed living people taking refuge in an old farmhouse trying to stay safe from the blood thirsty Zombies that had caused panic throughout the nation.  The one we saw Dawn Of The Dead had the same theme except we followed people who took refuge in a mall that had been abandoned probably because of the Zombie dilemma.  So we are placed in the middle of the Zombie invasion.  We don’t really know why it is happening we just see the results.  There is plenty of time to speculate as we are taking refuge in these buildings.  Let’s make no mistake about it.  When watching these movies we become the living characters in the movie.  What would we do in these situations they find themselves in?  This is the intended feeling that Romero wants to portray.  This is why they are called horror films.  They don’t really have to make sense.  There is really no explanation needed for why the Zombies exist.  Although there is a lot of speculation the fact is they are there and they are threatening our lives and our survival.

Dawn of the Dead original VHS box cover art.

In each of the films the Zombie invasion is a growing enemy.  You see when the Zombie bites a living person that person eventually dies and in a little while becomes one of the Zombies.  I’m not really sure how long it takes.  We see people getting attacked by Zombies and later those same people are Zombies themselves.  So obviously it is a growing problem.  If the Zombie invasion was a few random Zombies they could be destroyed and the movie would end.  However with this growing problem it is almost hard to keep track of if we saw a person die first before they became a Zombie.

It’s interesting to analyze the characteristics of the Zombies in each of the first two movies.  The Zombies have no purpose other than to eat living people.  They move slowly but are able to keep moving and never tire out.  They are devoid of any real personality although they can think.  They can keep going even after being gravely injured as long as their brain remains intact.  They never quit in their pursuit of the living.  They have learning experiences similar to that of a toddler.  They only show emotions after a long period of experience and training.  The other thing about Zombies in the first two movies was that they feared fire.  It was never really explained why they feared the flame but it was a way to make them retreat.  Most of all they could only live at the expense of others.  By tearing living people down they got stronger as they destroyed the living and converted them into Zombies like them.  The movie ends with the two main living characters escaping in a partially fueled helicopter to an uncertain future.

George A. Romero

Did you know that most people in the world today are Zombies?  Oh you might think I have jumped off the deep end but let me explain.  Of course we don’t see them moving in the Zombie walk physically but what about spiritually?  John 10:10 states (and this is Jesus talking) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I John 5:12 tells us Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  Jesus said in John 7:37 “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 verses 1-10 states  As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So what can we learn from the Bible verses above?  We see that Jesus is the giver of life and apart from him we are dead.  We see that if we drink of the living water (Jesus) we will thirst no more.  That thirst he is talking about is something in every person.  It is a desire to have purpose in life and a reason to exist.  Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”  John 18:12.  John 3:19 tells us that “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  The same is true today.  Like the Zombies fear of fire many don’t want anything to do with the light of the world that Jesus is.  They would rather reject the light and walk in darkness.  Instead of living in the darkness there is a way to escape.  Unlike the helicopter escape the characters in the movie did this escape instantly transforms us from dead to living.  This escape gives us peace and takes us to a certain future.  That future is eventually a heavenly home full of love!

If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior you are literally spiritually dead.  You are walking around with no deep purpose in life.   If you would be honest you would admit that you are totally empty.  You would admit that spiritually you are dead and are a walking Zombie.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Jesus came to give life and give it more abundantly.  Accept him into your heart today with this simple prayer.

Lord Jesus, Come into my heart and save me.  Forgive me of my sins and be my Lord and Savior.   Amen  It’s a simple prayer but if you are sincere he will come into your being and give you life and purpose!  Your escape from a dead meaningless life will be propelled by the God of the Universe who has the power to set you free and give you victory and peace forever and ever!

How To Prevent A Heart Attack

Every year about this time I go in for my annual health assessment.  It is a program at work where someone checks my blood pressure, finds my cholesterol levels, and measures my oxygen intake.  I also get weighed and measured to find out what my body mass index is. All of these tests are very important measurements in determining how healthy I am and what changes I need to make.  The results are compared to the previous year and I find out if my numbers are getting better or worse.  Life choices are talked about and healthy life choices are encouraged.  What foods am I putting into my body?  How much exercise am I getting?  Without these tests I might feel that I’m getting away with something.  I might get into the habit of eating the wrong foods and not getting adequate exercise.  Whatever I am doing the numbers don’t lie.  The cholesterol test intrigues me.  Originally I thought all cholesterol was bad.  I thought my cholesterol levels should always be low.  The fact that there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol surprised me.  Our good cholesterol level should be high and our bad cholesterol level should be low.  Basically in non medical terms the good cholesterol protects our heart and the bad cholesterol hinders our heart.  The bad blocks things up around our heart and the good protects that from happening.   Anyway I’m no doctor and if the explanation gets too complicated it leaves my head spinning.  However, I think that I have that concept right.

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After my assessment advisor measures all of my results she talks to me about healthy eating habits.  The foods that I put into my body can reduce the bad cholesterol levels and increase the good ones.  Vegetable intake is encouraged and fast food is discouraged.  Eating too much salt or sugar in my diet is discouraged and having fiber is encouraged.  Although I’m not expected to be a perfect eater I am made aware of the problem and it is in my mind even if I sometimes get off track.  The fact that this test was coming up inspired me to do a little bit more exercising. It is good to be accountable to someone and the health assessment offers that someone.

Just as letting good foods into our bodies and keeping bad foods out is important it is also important in our spiritual life to let good things in and keep bad things out.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  So what does it mean to guard your heart?  It means that just like the cholesterol thing in our physical bodies we need to prevent things from dwelling in our spirit.  We need to identify what is good and what is bad and let the good in and dismiss the bad.  So what is the good that we should let in?  Paul in Philippians 4 verse 8 puts it this way  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you.”  Wow, the God of peace will be with us.  That would be the Holy Spirit who gives us peace in our heart.  That is like going to the doctor and knowing that you have been doing all of the right things and the doctor confirming that because he sees  we are in good shape!

Much like the bad food we are tempted with we are also tempted spiritually by bad spirits.  Let me list some of the spirits to stay away from.

the spirit of fear
the spirit of anger
the spirit of depression
the spirit of doubt
the spirit of hate
the spirit of doom and gloom
the spirit of burden
the spirit of gossip
the spirit of offending
the spirit of getting even
the spirit of rebellion
the spirit of arguing

Notice that all of these are spirits.  Most people don’t think of them as spirits.  We have to realize that we are in a spiritual world.  Yes we have bodies and most people when they think of us think of what our bodies look like.  Actually though it is the unseen spirit that controls our actions and what we do and how spiritually healthy we are.  If you doubt this consider a funeral.  When we go to a funeral the body is there but it has no life because the spirit is gone.

So how do we keep these spirits from entering our bodies and controlling what we do, say, and how we feel?  The first thing we need to do is accept Jesus Christ into our lives.  That is a simple thing but is oh so powerful.  When we ask Jesus to come into our hearts he gives us his Holy Spirit which is the spirit of peace we talked about earlier.  The Holy Spirit is like all of the good vegetables and fiber we are encouraged to eat.  He is good for our well being and he gives us assurance with peace that we are going in the right direction.  Most people don’t realize however that even with the Holy Spirit in our lives we can and do let in spirits that shouldn’t be there.

Since God is a God of love he always gives us a choice.  We can choose which spiritual food we let in even after we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior.  So how can we stop these spirits from entering?  Some people might point out that they couldn’t help it, they were just overcome with a spirit.  Sometimes that spirit comes in when we have been hit by tragedy.  The spirit of grief is actually a good thing.  It is like the good cholesterol that helps us.  At the same time if we stay in that spirit over a period of time it turns into a bad thing.  It goes from a spirit of grief to a spirit of depression.

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We have to realize that these bad spirits that we let in are a choice.  They are much like that cake or fast food burger we are not supposed to eat.  Let’s analyze that situation.  We are trying to watch what we eat but someone at work brings a cake in.  Or we happen to have a cake at home and decide that one piece won’t hurt anything.  This is the time that we are making a choice.  In the same way we are making spiritual choices.  So something happens and we have a choice.  Without God people usually let these spirits take control.  But with God the same thing can occur.  Remember that Bible verse that said to guard your heart?  There are times when our heart is unguarded.  Let me give you an example in the spirit of depression.  Before we get depressed we have a limited time to think about it.  We have a choice of being depressed or turning to the Spirit of God, much like when we have the choice of eating that cake or walking away.  In order to make the right choice we need to realize what is happening.  We need to be accountable much like the health assessment example.

There are times we have our spiritual health assessment exam and find out that we have let in things we shouldn’t have.  We have ate the wrong things and the results are showing.  As Christians we can ask Jesus to take these bad things out of there.  We can ask him to give us a pure heart free from things that will clog it up.  Once these things are purged it is important to be on the alert for situations where these impurities try to get back in.  That depression scenario can be nipped in the bud with this prayer.  Lord, I feel this spirit there but I’m not going to accept it.  I affirm that you love me and that my happiness and well being is what you want for me!

When I was done with the health assessment I felt better.  Not because my results were great but because I was in a plan.  I knew what I should and shouldn’t do.  I knew that things I let in my body affected how healthy I would be.  That is how it is in the health of our spirit too.  It is far more important than our bodies health because our body will eventually die, but our spirit lives forever.  Letting the good in and leaving out the bad will keep our spirits strong and peaceful.  My health assessment advisor said something very interesting that I took with me.  In her own life and food intake she said “I’ve learned that everything is a choice.”  To be happy I conclude we should always choose the good and leave out the bad.

My Spiritual Exam

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

Just like I need a physical
to find out how I am
It’s time for me to ask my Lord
for a spiritual exam

He’ll ask me many questions
Can I be honest with myself?
Thinking that I’ve got it made
could be harmful to my health

Is my gear shifted into drive
or is it stuck in park?
Does my light shine on others
or do I leave them in the dark?

Is my salt being poured out
or is it all for waste?
Does it flavor when it’s poured
or has it lost its taste?

When he gives me the vision
to see how I can be
will I make excuses
or let the Lord use me?

Will my spirit be broken
so my life he then can mold?
Or have I pushed the button
to put the Lord on hold?

When I leave the great physician’s room
will I be better than I came?
Or have I made my mind up
to keep my life the same?

“…I desire to do your will, O my God,
your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:8

In The Silence

With Christmas coming soon I’m reminded of one of a songs lyrics we will hear often.  Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

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When Jesus first made his appearance in human form there was not a lot of fanfare.  Jesus came in a very humble way.  In fact as the song states it was a silent night.  In our hectic world today the last thing we usually get is silence.  Cell phones ringing or buzzing, the TV blaring, traffic making noise all around, these are the sounds of “busy” people.  We’ve grown so accustomed to the noise that when we don’t have it we turn the radio on in the car or the TV at home.  It seems to be the first thing we think about doing when we enter the house.  Have you ever had the experience of you or someone else being so involved on what is being said on their TV that they or you don’t hear anything someone else is saying?  It is very hard in our world today to put our minds on two or more things at once.  We sometimes make our attention choices on what is the loudest tone in our ears.  Have you ever been on a car trip with a few people?  Sometimes on those trips I have been on there is dead silence.  People can get lost in their thoughts and that’s OK.  However it seems that one person usually tries to break the silence by saying something to fill the air.  There is an old saying that goes “silence is golden” and very often it is so true!

You have probably heard of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.  They were the astronauts who first walked on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.  Did you know the mission had another astronaut?  His mission might have been even more important than the other two.  His name was Michael Collins and his job was to navigate the command module around the surface of the moon three times during the 22 hours Armstrong and Aldrin were jumping around on the moon.  Three times for 47 minutes each Collins found himself on the dark side of the moon with no contact between earth or his fellow astronauts.  The news outlet described his dilemma.  “Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during this 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he’s behind the Moon with no one to talk to except his tape recorder aboard Columbia.”  Upon returning to the earth Collins described the feeling that he had as he was literally all alone.  I don’t mean to deny a feeling of solitude. It is there, reinforced by the fact that radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the moon, I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.”

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With most cars today they have a GPS tracker.  It tells when to make a turn and when to get off of an exit etc.  For most of the time especially on longer trips the GPS is silent.  How many times do we think “am I still going the right way?”  Wouldn’t it be nice if the GPS voice would encourage us.  You are on the right road, don’t worry just keep driving.  Wouldn’t that be comforting when we have that fear that somehow we have gotten off of the path?

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God works in the same way as that GPS tracker.  Many times we panic when we don’t hear from him.  When he tells us what to do we need to have faith to carry out that mission unless he tells us differently.  We as humans would like to have the Moses experience where God is speaking audibly in a loud voice.  That is not how God usually works in our world today.  It is with a still small voice in the quiet times that he can talk to us.  Those are the times that he can tell us exactly what we should be doing!  It is like getting instructions from our boss.  If you or I were getting special instructions on doing a job would we have our headphones on?  Would we be playing with our phone or have our TV on so loud that we couldn’t possibly hear?  Or would we cut all of the competing noise off so that we could hear exactly what to do?  The answer is obvious but the next question is Why don’t we give God the same kind of attention so he can instruct us?

Collins had already received his instructions before his mission.  He knew precisely what he was supposed to do.  If he wasn’t prepared the silence would have brought fear and doubt.  Many of us are not like Michael Collins the astronaut.  We have not been in front of God with closed mouth and open ears.  It is in these times that God can and will talk to us.  It is in these times that the silent night will have a still small voice breaking the silence. When we decide to silence the world’s activities and seek him God will talk to us and give us his instructions.  Then with his help we can execute our mission while we are here.  Christians everywhere question what their purpose in life is.  “What is God’s plan for me?”, they will ask.  The answer can be found but it won’t be with countless voices talking to us.  In the silence we find our mission and in the silence many times we carry it out.  That is what faith is.  Like the GPS we are to assume that if we are given a mission and we are carrying it out God will break in if we have gotten off track.

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Somehow Collins was able to stay focused and keep his module on course through the enormous silence.  Three times he had to endure the blackout and each time he put his faith over his fear.  After the third trip around the other astronauts docked with his module and they were shortly on their way home.  Some day our missions will be over too and the silence of faith will be replaced by joy, love, peace, and jubilation!

 

 

Pretty Amazing Grace

This song really moved me this morning and I wanted to share it with all my readers!  It’s by one of my all time favorite singers Neil Diamond!

 

https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/the-diamond-image/

I See My Time Is Up

There used to be a radio sports talk show I listened to in the 1970’s from Cleveland., Ohio.  Cleveland had a huge radio signal from 1100 on the dial they called 3WE which was WWWE.  It would normally  come in fine to my home in Michigan at the time of his show which was 7 pm til 11 pm on week nights.  The host named Pete Franklin would spend a lot of the show badgering his callers if they disagreed with him.  The calls of people in agreement were somewhat boring, but the disagreeing calls were why I tuned in.   Pete had an advantage in his arguments because he could get loud and dominate the conversation.  If the argument got too fierce he would many times just hang up on the caller.  I listened not only for the sports but for the entertainment of the whole thing.  At that time Cleveland sports teams were at a low point as far as wins go.  Pete would criticize the management, explain how things could get better,  but his heart was always with Cleveland sports. He would say that his biggest thrill would be if the Indians won the World Series.  Unfortunately they never did.  It was always an entertaining show because it was hard to believe what Pete could get away with.  At the end of the show he signed  off with words very humbling and thought provoking.  He actually appreciated all of the calls both good and bad and his listeners.  “I see my time is up”, he would state, “Thank you very much for your time.”Image result for pete franklin cleveland talk show

That little statement brought back to mind as a listener the importance of time.  I had spent a few hours listening to his show and he was actually bringing it to my mind.  We all spend time which can be compared to spending money only more important.  By observing what someone spends their time on we can discover what is important in their lives.  Most people will tell you that they spend a lot of time at work.  Well that must be important to them then.  Sometimes the important conflicts with the have to.  We see bumper stickers on cars that say stuff like “I’d rather be golfing” or “I’d rather be in Hawaii” or things like that.  Still they are driving their car in Michigan spending their time not really doing what they are dreaming.

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This spending time thing gets me thinking about a very low time in my life.  It was a time right after the tragedy of losing our daughter.  Naturally we were hurting and my mother in law suggested we see a counselor.  At first my wife went alone as I tried to deal with the pain on my own.  Finally I decided to go with her.  I don’t remember if I went to one session or two but I do remember one very well.  We were talking about things that were very hurtful but I felt like that maybe some good was coming out of it.  At the very peak of our feelings when things were getting out that were held in he looked at his watch.  “Well I see our time is up”, he announced.  At that moment I looked at him completely differently.  He had given the image that he really cared about us and our hurt.  Sadly I realized that he was there just for the money and it was because it was his job.  I realize that there is a time frame for anyone in that profession, but the way that he left us in that moment told me that his time frame was more important than us.  We never went back and that image of him looking at his watch is what I think of when I think of him.

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Why do we have to go to specialists to help us with our problems anyway?  Could it be because the people around us don’t care to get involved?  The counselor guy didn’t give any advice out of the ordinary.  Basically we just talked and he listened.  Why can’t the Christian people in our lives take the time to listen to their neighbors in need?  Recently I noticed that a friend wasn’t himself.  I couldn’t place my finger on what was wrong but when I saw him one day I could just tell.  He was quiet when he usually is very out going and he was sad when he is always happy.  I found out that his wife had left him and he was totally devastated.  He loved his wife very much and it took him completely by surprise. I made it a point to take the time to try to comfort him one day.  I put my hand on his shoulder and said “I heard what you are going through and I want you to know that I am praying for you.”  That took a few seconds of my time and obviously I was glad to spend it.  I didn’t realize what an impact those caring words meant to him until I talked to other friends later.  Apparently he has been going around telling people what my little talk did.  He had been holding everything inside and now whenever he talked about how much better he has been he always mentions me and the words I said.

These experience have helped me in my Christian walk to answer the question of why.  Is the person being nice or trying to give advice because they want to or because it is their job?  Are we free with our time or are we stingy when it comes to helping others?  God wants us to love our neighbor but what does that mean?  Does it mean to love them at our convenience and if it doesn’t fit our schedule to brush them off?  Some day we will all have to account for the limited time we were given.  Did we spend it wisely helping others or did we spend it on our selfish desires?.  Without Jesus in our hearts it will always be the latter.  With his love there and our constantly seeking his will we will find our time being spent more wisely.  We will look for people we can help not because we have to but because we want to.  Hopefully in the end we can say “I see my time is up, thank you Lord for helping me to spend it wisely!

Eternity

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

Where should my thoughts
and actions be,
on worldly things
or eternity?

One is passing
the other one lasts
One never ends,
one goes by fast

I often wonder
when my life is done,
will I be rewarded
for souls I had won?

Or will I just carry
what satisfied me,
with no lasting value
for eternity?

But store up for yourself
treasure in heaven, where
moth and rust do not destroy,
and where thieves do not
break in and steal.

Matthew 6:20

 

I Did It For The Lord

I have a friend who had car trouble one day.  He was in the middle of a parking lot and his car battery was dead.  Luckily for him he noticed a Christian guy he knew of who was getting into his car.  My friend told him about his dilemma and asked if he would be able to jump his battery for him.  He had a set of battery cables and it would really help him out.  The Christian man had a sour look on his face.  It was like it was such an imposition to him to help my friend.  He did however agree to the process but not without more complaining.  It didn’t take long before my friends car was started and running fine.  Seeing how much his problem had affected the man who helped him out he offered to pay him.  The man looked at him with that sour expression still on his face and said with a voice that seemed to pain him “no, I don’t need your money, I did it for the Lord.”

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What powers the Christian walk is not a sense of obligation or need to follow rules.  It is the love that is in our hearts.  Jesus recognized the lack of love in a young rich ruler who came to get his favor.  In Matthew 19 verses 16-26 the encounter unfolds.

16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 Then he *said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man *said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be [a]complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  It wasn’t that the rich young ruler had not kept the commandments.  His problem was that love was not in his heart.  In his case he loved his riches more than he loved God.  He obeyed the commandments from knowledge rather than what was  really in his heart.  Jesus talks about this when he was asked what the greatest commandment is.  37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Image result for rich young ruler photo

Some of us fail to realize that it isn’t obeying rules that pleases God.  It is the love of his son Jesus in our hearts that pleases him!  When we love him with all of our hearts we will automatically have the right attitude with our neighbors.  We will help them with a song in our heart not because we have to but because we want to.  We will fellowship with our church and be a light to others not because we have to but because we want to.  What we see in Christians too often is that they try to please God in actions rather than with their heart.  The rich young ruler thought that Jesus would give him his total approval and tell him what a good guy he was and that he was doing everything right.  Jesus saw the same thing in him that he saw in the Pharisees of his day.  They worshiped God with their mouth and their actions but their hearts were far from him.  The Bible talks about cleaning the inside of the glass first.  Too many times we are trying to look the part of Christians instead of having the love of Jesus in us.

Unlike the parking lot experience that my friend had, Christianity isn’t about suffering to do the right thing.  It is doing the right thing out of love.  With love in our hearts it is natural to do good.  We should always listen to the spirit within us and help our neighbors out of love and not duty.  Instead of saying “I did it for the Lord”, we should say “I did it because of the Lord!”  There is a saying that goes “follow your heart.”  In our Christian walk it is so important!  When we allow Jesus to not only come into our heart but be our Lord and Savior, he will always give us a desire to love.

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