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This Week’s Sermon From Tom Fuller; How Do I Get To Heaven?

This Day's Thought

 

How Do You Get To Heaven?

Matthew 19:13-19:28

by Tom Fuller

A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat is very small. A little girl in class stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible. The little girl said, ”When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.” The teacher asked, ”What if Jonah went to hell?” The little girl replied, ”Then you ask him”.
Kids have some wild ideas about heaven and how to get there – but when it really comes down to it, they possess a secret that we all need. When it really comes down to it – this is the most basic question of all – how to get to heaven – or, really, how to live forever.
Men have searched for thousands of years for the fountain of youth – today we think that we’ve found it in cloning. Of course, cloning isn’t creating life, it’s just playing around with it once its created and scientists are finding some disturbing things about cloning that make it not so much the fountain of youth that it was once thought to be.
But we know that if we get to heaven we will live forever. Despite lots of evidence to the contrary, many people have some strange ideas about how to get there. Today we’re going to meet one – but before that happens, Matthew shares a short story of kids coming to Jesus – and its very instructive when compared to the encounter with the man who wants to know the way to live forever.
13 Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
Children were thought of as very incidental in that society – and Jesus’ disciples apparently thought their Master’s time was worth more. You are probably aware that this part of the world was at that time a patriarchal society – men ruled the roost. Women were secondary – a distant second – and children were way way below that.
Who do you suppose brought these kids to the Lord? Probably their parents, perhaps. The word “children” here can mean anyone from babies to pre-teens. Imagine you are one of these parents – perhaps hoping that Jesus will bless your child – laying hands of blessing wasn’t uncommon – but children? The disciples, whose heads were at times still too big for their hat size – rebuked them. Now look at Jesus’ response.
14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
Notice that this is a double command – “let … [them] come” and “do not hinder them.” Kids are sometimes a bother – demanding, impatient, scattered – ever try to have a prolonged conversation with a three year old? So even though we don’t treat children like they did in the 1st century – we still sometimes dismiss them – we have more important things to do than follow their scattered attentions. Not that we should just do whatever a child tells us – but we should take time to spend time with them – and learn from them.
Jesus wants them to come to Him and look what He says: “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” There is something in these kids that reveals the way to heaven. We’ll look at what it is in a moment – but first another encounter – with someone who is not a child – but, as verse 22 tells us – was a “young man.” This could mean anyone under 40 – folks – but was probably a youth who thought he had lots of assets, but really had nothing at all.
16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
Notice this guy’s approach – he’s looking at heaven as something he can purchase, and as we’re going to see, was looking not so much for information but confirmation. Jesus, as usual, bears right in on the heart of the matter.
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good.
Jesus is here referring to God – He is saying so much in that one little phrase “There is only One who is good.”
Jesus is telling the man that goodness doesn’t come from him but from God.
He’s forcing the man to confront just who God is – if Jesus is the source of goodness then Jesus is from God – a vital core thing to understand and embrace in the quest for human life.
Jesus is also changing the focus – from works to relationship. He’s trying to get the man to think about God, not just about himself.
This probably went right over the guy’s big head – so Jesus goes on to engage him in a philosophical discussion.
If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
This is true, of course – live up to all of the requirements of the law and you will go to heaven. There is only one problem – none of us can do it.
Paul says in Romans 3:10 “There are none that are righteous, no not one.”
We’ve all failed – in verse 23 he says “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Hebrews 7:19 says the law has made nothing perfect.
James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
But this is a smart guy Jesus is dealing with here – he hears Jesus say obey the commandments – but he wants a more specific list. It’s like he’s a contract administrator or a lawyer trying to box God in.
18 “Which ones?” the man inquired.
I can just picture Jesus turning his head towards this guy, raising one eyebrow and sort of shaking His head gently.
Maybe He was tempted to say “you don’t know what you’re asking.” How many times do we play “let’s make a deal” with God. We say: “well if I go to church every Sunday and pay my tithes, then I can earn the right to sin a little bit and it won’t count so much against me.” Or we tell God that if He gives us what we want we’ll be sooooo obedient. Or we say to ourselves – if I steal but don’t murder then I’m not as bad as some …. Its ridiculous. And watch how Jesus answers.
Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Jesus just answers him – five of the ten commandments – numbers 5 through 9 – and then he adds Leviticus 19:18 about loving your neighbor, which the Jews believed summed up the last five commandments. Again, all of these have to do with relationships – relationship is the key. But look how the guy reacts:
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
The guy is obviously mistaken but believes he has kept all of the commands – yet realizes that there is something missing. “What do I still lack?” he asks. Is that not the central question that we all face? When we’ve done it all – had all the riches and glory and fun, or when we’ve obeyed God and been so good we’ve got a halo over our heads – we realize that it’s simply not enough. That’s because what we lost in the Garden of Eden was a relationship with God.
After Adam and Eve obeyed Satan rather than God they hid from the Lord – fellowship was broken and man was driven out of the garden. At that time God promised that He Himself would repair the relationship – the law serving to point us to Jesus Christ who gave up His life in order to return us to fellowship with God – but it comes in relationship to how perfectly we obey the law but whether we have a relationship with a perfect Savior.
The guy asks “what do I lack?” and so Jesus answers – no more playing around, this is the real nut of the issue.
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Matthew is the only gospel writer who uses the word “perfect” here – and in chapter 5 where He says “Be perfect, even as you heavenly Father is perfect.” It can also be translated mature, or full grown.
This guy thought he had come pretty far and was obedient to God – but Jesus is bursting his bubble and showing him just how far from God he really is. We do this – we don’t fall into a temptation or we do some good deed and we think – “man, I’m something special.” But it’s like giving a guy a toy camcorder and telling him he’s a film director.
God says His worst is better than our best. Our good deeds are like oil rags to God. And that’s the point – not to put us down or drive us away – but to show us that the standard for eternal life is God – NOT us.
Jesus tells the guy to sell your possessions and give to the poor – and I think that’s all the guy heard.
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
The real deal – the real core of the issue were in the last three words: “come follow Me.” That’s all Jesus wants – that is the way to eternal life. Its not through external obedience to a set of rules, it’s not through having a bunch of money – in fact, having possessions can actually keep you from God. It’s a relationship – it’s a realization that are nothing special but that God is something special.
Selling his possessions wouldn’t give the guy eternal life – but it was what was standing in the way of his relationship. The question all of us must answer is: what is standing in the way of our coming to Jesus? Is it riches, or the promise of riches? Is it popularity or a favorite sin or fear of rejection or self righteousness? We all have to give up something – not that we’re earning our way – but for all of us there is something that stands in the way – sometimes its just pride.
“I don’t need a savior,” we say. Let it go – it’s not worth it for what you stand to gain – and what you stand to lose by NOT coming to Jesus. Whatever God tells us to give up we need to give that up and come to Him. Repent and believe – it’s the gospel – leave the past behind and go to Him.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell 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.”
“Hard,” Jesus said – not impossible. Riches make it hard because they engender self sufficiency. If we don’t see any needs we don’t see our need for God. Our physical comfort masks our spiritual poverty.
Jesus wrote to the church at Laodicea:
Rev 3:17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
With the camel thing – Jesus is talking in hyperbole – the point is: if you’re not willing to give up that thing that keeps you from God you aren’t going to be able or willing, really, to come to God. Riches was an idol for the young man – what is your idol? What is that thing that you serve or bow down your life to?
The disciples were understandably concerned:
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Notice the contrast – man=impossible, God=possible. No matter what we try to do to earn God’s favor it will not get us to heaven or earn us eternal life. Period. But when God reached down to us – initiated the relationship, gave His Son for US – it becomes possible. It’s still the same point – self reliance is self deception. We must rely on God for it all – our forgiveness, our salvation, our righteousness.
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Peter and the boys did what the rich young ruler was not willing to do – give up all and follow Jesus. So he was naturally curious – what do we get, anyway?
28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
Jesus is really saying quite a bit here – much of which the disciples wouldn’t have understood at the time. He’s talking about at the second coming, when the disciples – and the church, really – will help Christ rule the earth.
But I like what He says next – everything you leave behind here, will be repaid a hundred fold in heaven. Wow – what a promise. Now, that doesn’t mean as the Quoran mistakenly asserts – that in heaven martyrs will get 70 virgins to themselves. We as humans can sometimes only see things in human terms. Jesus is talking about spiritual blessings – and even though we can’t understand them – when we are in heaven we will realize how totally appropriate and totally wonderful the gifts God gives are.
Conclusion
In conclusion I want to point out two very simple contrasts between the children at the beginning of this section – and the rich young ruler – and how this paints a picture for us as we decide how radically we want to follow Jesus Christ.
The difference between children and this young man are two-fold.
Your image of yourself
Your image of your stuff
If you’ve ever noticed, children tend to get their self image from their parents – they depend on them to feed them, clothe them, keep them safe, and nurture them. If they are abused they pull into themselves, if they are nourished they flourish – but it is up to the parents to give the child their sense of self.
For the rich young ruler – his image of himself was blown up and was plain wrong. He thought he was something when he was nothing. Who do you get your self image from – how great you think you are, how intelligent or powerful or popular or good? We need to get our self image from our Father – relying on Him to provide for everything we need including our sense of self.
Secondly, children really don’t have anything to hold them back from following the Lord. Now, I’m not talking about toys that they selfishly hold on to – but as we grow up we have a tendency to collect things – possessions, degrees, property, careers, friends – and then when it comes time to decide whether we’re going to give it all up if necessary – it’s hard.

My encouragement to those of you who have not yet made a decision to follow Jesus – give it up – it’s worth it. Everything you give up He will replenish. Don’t let stuff cause you miss out on the greatest treasure of all: Jesus. For the rest of us, the stuff of this world can still choke out our real reward – don’t let it happen to you.
You know – in the end it’s all about relationships – that’s what we’re really going to care about in heaven – first a relationship with Jesus, and then relationships with our brothers and sisters – showing love and kindness and caring now, that will build lasting relationships that will bear fruit into eternity.

 

This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Assisting Others On Their Journey

(Each Sunday, This Day’s Thought is blessed to share Eric Elder’s sermons from his wonderful ministry, “The Ranch“)
The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration
 

Assisting Others On Their Journey

Lesson 35 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder

 

One of the things I love about the human heart is that it’s wired to help others when they’re in need.  I see this repeated over and over:  when a natural disaster strikes a town, or when a terrible wrong is committed against someone who’s done right, or when a beloved friend passes away.  When people see a need, they often respond with caring hearts.

 

But even though our hearts are wired to help others in need, sometimes we need a little prompting.  Sometimes we need to remind our minds of the blessings we’ve received from others, and then our minds can nudge our hearts to respond as we should.

 

The Apostle Paul gives two such reminders in his letter to the Romans.  The first comes when he tells them that he’s planning to visit them in the future when he passes through Rome on his way to Spain.  Paul says:

 

“But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while” (Romans 15:23-24).

 

While mentioning that he is looking forward to enjoying their company for a while, Paul also mentions that he hopes to have them assist him on his journey to Spain.  I don’t think Paul was trying to “guilt” them into helping him on the next leg of his missionary journey.  From what I’ve read about Paul in his other writings, I believe he simply knew that their hearts would want to help on his journey.  After all, his own heart was wired in the same way.

 

In the very next paragraph, Paul mentions that he’s on his way to deliver a gift to the Jewish brothers and sisters who were in need in Jerusalem, gifts which he had collected from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia.  Paul says:

 

“Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.  They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ” (Romans 15:25-29).

 

Paul understood this blessing of giving and receiving, that when someone blesses you in your life, it is good and right and appropriate to share your blessings with them at some point in return, freely and voluntarily.

 

On a personal level, I know that my heart is often moved to help others on their journey,  especially those who have been a blessing to me.

 

When I first became a Christian, I remember hearing about “tithes and offerings,” giving ten percent and more of your income to the work of God in the world.  I hadn’t tithed before, not because I was against it, but because I simply didn’t have this principle in my mind yet.  But once I understood this principle in my mind, my heart was glad to respond–thrilled to respond, in fact.

 

I remember some of the first “big” checks I wrote to support the work of God in the lives of missionary friends I knew (at least they were big to me, as I had never done this before).  I was thrilled to be able to help my friends in a significant way each month.  I didn’t feel obligated or guilted into it in any way.  I just knew the blessing of hearing about Christ in my own life, and I was glad to help my friends share about Christ with others.  It’s all part of this idea of giving and receiving–sharing with others the blessings that God has given to us.

 

Now that I’m in full-time ministry myself, I sometimes have to remind myself that when I share a need, God is often prompting others to respond at the same time.  I have to remember that it’s not an obligation or a burden to others to hear about and respond to needs.  It’s the way God has wired our hearts.  Knowing this has helped me to be more open about my own needs in life, and I’ve been thankful to see how people have responded to those needs.

 

In the past few months, I’ve been amazed again at the generosity of others, including many of you, who have stepped in and helped my wife and I as we walk through my wife’s journey with cancer.

 

I have been humbled and reminded frequently just how good and kind and caring the human heart really is.  Sometimes we miss this truth, especially when we are bombarded with such bad news about the wicked things that people have done in the world.

 

Of course there’s bad in the world.  Of course, there’s wickedness, greed, evil, and depravity. But all of this stems from good hearts that have been corrupted by sin–usually related to some kind of selfishness.  But when our hearts are right with God, something else takes over–something called selflessness; doing to others what you would have them do to you, and giving your life for the sake of others, just as Jesus gave His life for us.

 

Assisting others on their journey is not foreign to the human heart.  But sometimes it takes a little prompting from our minds and the Holy Spirit to get our hearts in gear.

 

This week, I heard about some friends who have been praying about buying a van and a mammogram machine so they can go back to their home villages in Kenya and do cancer screenings for the women their.  Perhaps because of my wife’s recent diagnosis, but my ears were especially attentive to their request, and my heart wanted to respond. I didn’t know what I could do or how I could help, but I was willing to find out.

 

I called my friends and listened as they talked about their hopes and dreams and prayers for this project.  I’m still not sure what I can do yet, but now my heart and mind are both engaged and attuned to the need.  As my friends move forward with their plans, perhaps we can find a way to take part along the way.

 

At the same time, I was surprised this week by a note from one of our readers overseas who asked if there was anything special Lana and I needed at this time.  He had been blessed by our ministry and wanted to do something in return.  Although I hesitated to share our personal needs with him, in the end I did share a few things that we had been praying about.  Within a few hours, he had responded by saying he wanted to send a gift that would not only cover those needs that I had shared, but that would double the amount of what I had shared!

 

To me, this was a living example of what Paul was talking about in his letter to the Romans, when those who had received spiritual blessings responded by sending a gift of material blessings.

 

The human heart really is wired to respond to the needs of others, and often the only thing holding us back is making our minds aware of the needs around us so our hearts can respond.

 

With this in mind, I’d like to encourage you to be on the lookout for ways that God might want to use you to bless others, especially those who have been a blessing to you.  Perhaps you have a friend or relative who has gone out of their way to spend some time with you.  Perhaps you have a spiritual leader or mentor or ministry than has spoken into your life in a special way.  Perhaps you have a project or a school or an organization which has been a blessing to you, and now you can be a blessing to them.

 

I know your heart is good and eager to assist others on their journey, but sometimes it takes a little reminder like this to jog your memory and bring it to the forefront of your mind.

 

I pray that as God renews your mind in this way, that the natural response of your heart will follow.  Don’t ignore the promptings that God puts there. Don’t put them off until the feelings “go away.” Lean into those promptings and see what God may have in mind for you–and for those He wants to bless through you.

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Father, thank You for blessing us in various ways by the people around us.  Help us to be attentive to their needs as well, so that we can be a blessing to them.  Refresh our minds again today about practical ways that we can help them, then nudge our hearts to follow through on those thoughts.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 15:23-29.  In what ways could the Christians in Rome have possibly assisted Paul on his journey to Spain?
2. Read Acts 28:7-10.  In what ways did the people of Malta respond to the blessings they received from Paul?

3. Who are some people in your life who have been a blessing to you?  In what ways might you be able to bless them in return?
4. In what ways could you open your mind still further to the needs around you in order to meet those needs yourself?  Consider praying that God would renew your mind in this area, so He can work His blessings through you.

 

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This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Trusting The Potter

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new sermon series, “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.”)


The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration


Trusting In The Potter

Lesson 21 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder
www.theranch.org


Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the three trees, where each one had a glorious dream for their future.  One wanted to be crafted into a beautiful treasure chest, covered with gold and filled with precious jewels.  Another wanted to be turned into boards for a mighty sailing ship, carrying kings and queens across the sea.  The third didn’t want to be cut down at all, but wanted to grow as tall as possible, pointing people towards God as they looked up into its branches.

A day came, however, when each of the trees were cut down and taken away.  The first was turned into a feeding trough, not a treasure chest.  The second was too weak to be used for a mighty ship and was was used for a common fishing boat instead.  The third was deemed too worthless for much of anything, and was cut into pieces and thrown into the scrap pile.

Rather than seeing their dreams fulfilled, each of the trees felt abandoned and without hope.  It’s a tragic story and one that has been repeated many times, in many lives, over the years.  It may even be part of your story.

Maybe you’ve had dreams of getting married, raising a family, and serving God with your whole heart, only to see your dreams dashed by divorce, adultery, and kids who have all but lost their faith.  Maybe you’ve had dreams of being wildly successful in business, giving generously to the poor and needy, only to find yourself being poor and needy instead.  Maybe you’ve stepped out in faith to start a new ministry, or a new job, or a new life in a place where you really felt God had called you to, only to find yourself far from home and wondering why you ever left in the first place.

Rather than seeing your dreams fulfilled, you may feel— like the trees in the story—abandoned and without hope.  

If so, I want to encourage you today to keep putting your faith and trust in God.  Remember that God is the Potter and you are the clay.  Keep trusting that He is molding and shaping you into exactly what He wants you to be.  As the Apostle Paul says in Romans chapter 9:

But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, ‘Why did You make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:20-21).

Sometimes we bristle at the thought that we don’t fully control our own destiny.  None of us wants to be like a puppet on a string, pulled this way or that by some unseen puppet master.  Yet when you put your faith in God and let Him take control of your life, you can trust that He will guide you and direct you in ways that are better than even you could have imagined.  

I had a friend this week who was wondering if she had been shortchanged when God passed out the BLT’s—the Brains, the Looks and the Talents.  She wondered why others seemed to have gotten so much more in some of those areas.  But the truth is, she wasn’t shortchanged at all.  First of all, she had actually been given huge amounts of each, but couldn’t see it for herself.  Secondly, I assured her that God had, in fact, given her everything she needed to fulfill His plan for her life.  As Paul said to the Ephesians:

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

If God has prepared good works in advance for you to do, He will give you everything you need for the walk He’s called you to walk.  And He’ll continue to do so, even if it seems like you’re going in a direction you hadn’t planned.  The key is to keep putting your faith and trust in the Potter, remembering that He is FOR you and will work all things together for your good.  When you put your faith in God, you put a smile on His face.  As the writer of Hebrews says:

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

God is pleased when you put your faith in Him, and He will reward you when you earnestly seek Him. 

This, after all, is what the whole book of Romans is about.  Paul is continually telling the Christians in Rome that it is their faith that matters most to God, not their righteous acts or their heritage—whether they were born Jewish or Gentile.  In chapter 9, Paul laments the fact that so many Jews have missed the fact that God wants them to come to Him by faith.  Paul begins by saying:

“I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen” (Romans 9:2-5).

Paul sees the noble heritage that the Jews had been given because of the faith of Abraham.  Yet Paul also says that just because someone is a descendant of Abraham doesn’t mean they are actually people of faith.   

“For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’  In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Romans 9:6b-8).

Paul then goes on to describe how God raised up various people for various purposes, whether it was Isaac or Jacob or Moses or Pharaoh.  Some were for noble purposes, and some for common use, but all were for His glory.  

God wants you to keep putting your faith in Him.  And when you do, He’ll reward you!

Remember the story of the three trees?  It would have been tragic if their story had ended when all their dreams were dashed to pieces.  Thankfully, their story doesn’t end there.  Their dreams were eventually fulfilled—but in a way that went beyond all that they could have imagined.  

The first tree didn’t get to become a treasure chest that it had hoped, covered with gold and filled with precious stones.  It became a feeding trough for animals instead.  But one day, it was covered with golden straw and when the most precious treasure of all was laid inside it—the Son of God—the tree realized its dream had been fulfilled.  

The second tree didn’t get to become the mighty sailing ship that it had hoped, carrying kings and queens across the sea.  Instead, it was used for a common fishing boat.  But one day, that boat carried a group of men who were caught in a fierce storm on a lake.  One of the men stood up and said to the wind and the waves, “Be still,” and they obeyed Him.  As soon as the tree realized what had been done, it realized that it was carrying no ordinary man, but the King of all kings, the One who had created the whole universe.  

And the third tree, the one that didn’t want to be cut down at all, but point people to God when they looked up into its branches?  Eventually its boards were pulled from the scrap pile and used as the cross on which our Savior was crucified.  And when Jesus rose from the dead three days later, that tree realized that from then on, whenever anyone thought of the cross, their thoughts would be pointed towards God.

You may feel like your life isn’t working out the way you had dreamed.  You may feel like you’re not in the place that you had hoped to be.  But don’t give up on God—and don’t give up on your dreams.  God has a way of fulfilling them beyond what you could imagine.

I know of families who have weathered the storms of divorce and adultery and have come out on the other side praising God and helping many others along the way.  I know of people who have lost their businesses and homes and things of this world who are now giving away more than anyone else around them, because they’ve learned what it means to give everything to God.  I know of people who have struggled in faith and sometimes wondered if they were doing the right thing, but eventually discovered that God was in it every step of the way.

Don’t give up on your dreams, and don’t get upset if things aren’t working out the way that you had hoped.  Keep trusting in the Potter.  Whether He wants to use your life for noble purposes or common use, it’s all for His glory.  Your Father really does know best.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for reminding us that You are in control, even when our lives seem out of control.  Thank You that You are the potter and we are the clay.  Help us to be moldable and shapable by You today.  Help us to continue to trust in You, that You will reward us when we believe that You exist and earnestly seek You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Tale of Three TreesP.S.  The Tale of Three Trees is a beautiful picture book written by Angela Elwell Hunt. There’s more to the story than what I’ve told you, and if you’d like to get a copy, you can get it from Amazon.com.  While you’re there, you might also want to pick up a few of my devotional books for yourself or your friends for Christmas.  These are inspiring books that will encourage you that God is continually working on your behalf, when you put your full faith and trust in Him.  To read more about these books, take a look at the links below:
The Tale of Three Trees
Eric Elder’s Devotionals

Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 9:1-33.  How do you feel about letting God be the potter, and trusting Him to mold you and shape you as He sees fit?  What might be appealing or unappealing about this idea?
2. What is it that Paul wishes for his Jewish brothers and sisters in this passage?
3. Why does Paul say in verse 6 that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel”?  What’s the difference?  Consider verses 30-32 in your response as well.
4. Read Hebrews 11:6.  What does God seem to want from you more than anything else right now, and what can you expect from Him as a result?

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, please visit:
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Indepth Assessment of Crisis in Israel and Request For Prayer from Colorado


Shalom,

It’s been a scary week here in Israel!  Imagine if your city was under
attack by missiles and rockets—that’s what the children of Israel have been
going through the last several days!
 
Some crucial developments are unfolding right now of which God’s people
(Christians) in the nations need to be aware of so that they can pray.
 
Despite the Palestinian’s continued unilateral bid for statehood at the United
Nations over the last few days, an increase in terrorist missiles launched
from Gaza into Southern Israel hit several local schools and at least
one synagogue.
 
In an effort to reduce casualties, schools were closed for three straight days
in Southern Israel, affecting some 200,000 students.  Many of the schools
don’t have areas fortified against rocket attack.
 
The Israeli Iron Dome interception system has reportedly been mostly
ineffective to intercept Arab rockets.  
 
Once the Arab’s mobile missile launching trucks strike, they simply move to
a new place, re-arm, and fire again.  Israeli Jewish citizens, young and old,
have only a precious few seconds to dive for cover.  
 
Ashdod school damaged by a Grad rocket
 
A few days ago, a citizen of Ashkelon, Moshe Ami, 56, died in a rocket
attack on the city.  Moshe Ami is survived by his four children and five
grandchildren.
 
Family members of our Bibles For Israel ministry staff also live in
this city.
 
One young girl was injured trying to flee from the missile attack in the city
of Ashdod, and a man in his 50s was reported injured from shrapnel in the
Gan Yavneh area attack.  Also, in both of these places our ministry
staff has family members.
 
A total of 16 people were reported wounded by rockets throughout the day,
according to Magen David Adom (Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross).
Most were hit by missile shrapnel.  Another 14 were listed as suffering from
post-trauma anxiety.  
 
Most of the residents of southern Israel were forced to spend the night in
bomb shelters.
 
Can you imagine all the people in your city staying in bomb shelters during the
day and night?
 
 
A vehicle-mounted multiple-launch rocket system recently
displayed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad
 
 
Connection to Prisoner Exchange
 
On the weekend, Gaza received their first visit from the Egyptian
representative of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The purpose of his visit was to
congratulate the leader of Hamas on their ‘successful’ prisoner exchange
of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.  
 
Gilad Shalit, kidnapped five years ago by Hamas, was recently returned alive
to Israel in exchange for over 1000 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli
jails.  Many of the Palestinian prisoners were terrorists who murdered Israeli
civilian men, women, and children.
 
Since these Palestinian terrorists were released a torrent of missiles and
rockets have been launched at Israeli civilian populations.  
 
Can you imagine missiles and rockets being fired from miles away
targeting your home, or the apartment building where you live?

 
 
Israeli President Shimon Peres called the latest round of missile attacks from
Gaza on Israel nothing less than a “declaration of war” while speaking at the
dedication of a new medical college in the city of Safed, above the Sea of Galilee.
 
“Terror does not allow Gaza citizens to live normally….  I am telling our
[Arab] neighbors: You nor we want war.  But Gaza missiles are a declaration
of war,”
the President said.
 
At the dedication of this new hospital facility, Peres noted that almost every
hospital in Israel includes Arab and Jewish doctors and nurses working side
by side to help heal both Jewish and Arab patients. 
 
“If we can live in peace with the sick, why is it impossible to live in peace
when they are healthy?” he asked.
 
Ministry Writer’s note:  I can attest to the truth of his statement, having
given birth to my youngest son, Avi-ad, right alongside many Bedouin
and Arabic women in a Be’er Sheva hospital in Israel’s Negev.
 
Recently, while visiting my eldest daughter in a Jerusalem hospital after the
birth of her son, I noticed that the patients are a mix of Arabs and Jews,
and no one is given preferential treatment over another.  
 
Both Arabs and Jews are treated equally with courtesy, kindness and
respect here in Israel.
 
Netanyahu welcomes Gilad Shalit home after five years in captivity.
 
 
An Alliance against Israel is an Alliance against God
 
“‘Come,’ they say, ‘let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name
is remembered no more.’ With one mind they plot together; they form
an alliance against You
.”  (Psalm 83: 4-5)
 
Hamas is not alone in utilizing terrorism against Israel; a variety of
terrorist organizations within Gaza are launching the rocket attacks.
Reports have it that President Mahmoud Abbas and his PLO organization
have also entered into an alliance with Hamas for the destruction of Israel.
 
Abbas began meeting last Wednesday night with the Fatah Revolutionary
Council in Ramallah, where he called on the council to consider dismantling
the Palestinian Authority.  
 
We must never forget that this was the place where innocent Israeli soldiers
were brutally lynched several years ago, when they accidentally entered this
Palestinian Authority-controlled city.  Their Arab murderers proudly waved
their blood-stained hands for the crowd and the world to see their barbarism.
 
It is speculated that a new unity government will be formed between Hamas
and Fatah, for the creation of a unified Palestinian state comprising all the
separate Palestinian factions.
 
Some of the more radical Palestinian elements are growing impatient with
political maneuvers and just want to deal with Israel in the barbaric way they
know – violence. 
The IDF Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and GOC Southern
Command, Maj. Gen. Tall Russo look at some of the rockets that hit
Southern Israel this spring, when over 150 mortars, rockets and missiles
were fired by Hamas.  This week, Southern Israel is once again under fire.
 
 
 
Israel’s Enemies Armed with Sophisticated Weaponry
 
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love you.”  (Psalm 122:6)
 
As these missiles are launched speedily, one after another into Jewish towns
and cities, we ascertain that more sophisticated weaponry has been smuggled
into the hands of the Palestinians.  
 
Hamas is now using rapid-fire, multi-round, mobile launching systems mounted
on the back of pick-up trucks, capable of shooting six or more rockets in
rapid succession.
 
President Obama has been authorizing the transfer of high-tech weapons to
Israel’s enemies.
 
Obama recently announced his intention to provide two up-to-date attack
helicopters (Textron Inc Bell AH-1Z SuperCobras) to Turkey.
 
This is being done with full knowledge of Turkey’s threats against Israel as
well as Turkey’s alliance with Israel’s sworn enemy, Iran.  
 
This decision comes right after Washington’s recent announcement that they
plan to sell F-16s to Cairo, Egypt, a deal purportedly linked to the release of
American Israeli national, Ilan Grapel. 
 
Considering that God promises to bless those who bless Israel and curse
those who do any harm to Israel (and history bears out this truth), the current
leadership in the White House is committing a serious crime against the Almighty.
 
 

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly
threatened to wipe Israel ‘off the map.’
 
 
Iran: Israel’s Greatest Threat
 
Over 4000 years ago since the time of Abraham, all the counties which were
enemies or conquerors of Israel no longer exist, except one: Iran (Persia) – 
the country in which the story of Queen Esther took place. 
 
Though all the other enemy countries in the Bible no longer exist, Iran does
and poses a nuclear threat against Israel.
 
Addressing this threat in parliament, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu said this week, “A nuclear Iran will pose a serious threat to the
Middle East and the entire world, and it of course poses a direct and heavy
threat to us.”
 
On Wednesday, Israel tested a missile from Palmachim base in the
Mediterranean Sea, amid unconfirmed reports that Netanyahu was
lobbying his Cabinet to make a pre-emptive military strike against Iran’s
nuclear sites.
 
Iran’s nuclear program is considered such a threat that Britain is stepping up
their contingency plan for potential military action against Iran, the
Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday. 
 
The U.S House also voted yesterday (Wednesday) to sanction Iran’s energy
sector, which funds Iran’s nuclear program.
 
Jewish children on their way to school in Israel on a safer day.
 
 
You Have a Part to Play
 
“For thus says the Lord of Armies: ‘For honor he has sent me to the nations
which plundered you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.’”
(Zechariah 2:8)
 
We need to remember that God cherishes Israel, the apple of His eye, and
the enemies of Israel are the enemies of God.  (Psalm 83:5)
 
While all other nations in the world were formed by mankind, Israel is the only
nation formed by the will of God.
 
“For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the
countries and bring you back into your own land. … You will live in the land
I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.”
(Ezekiel 36:24, 28)
 
Please pray that just as God caused confusion upon those united to build the
Tower of Babel (Migdal Bavel), which in Hebrew means the Tower of
Confusion, He will confuse the enemies of Israel, destroying their unholy
unity and preventing the building of a Palestinian state on Israel’s land.
 
We need you to cover the Israeli population in prayer and intercession.
 
 
 
“I will bless those who bless you.”  (Genesis 12:3)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This message was sent from:Bibles For Israel | P.O. Box 8900 | Pueblo, CO 81008

Message From Messianic Bible People – Christians Stand in The Gap For God During The Holocaust

During the Holocaust, if you were hiding a Jewish person, the Nazis would kill you and your whole family.
 
Many Righteous Christians stood in the Gap for God and the Jewish people during this horrific time.
 
Recently, André Reeders and Aaltje Reeders-Wittermans, a Dutch Christian couple with five children were awarded for hiding and saving Jewish people in the Holocaust – THEY RISKED THEIR LIVES!  I will tell you more about these Christian heroes at the end of this email. . .
 
 
 

Oscar Schlinder after the war in Israel (left) and (right) during Holocaust where he saved  many Jewish lives.

 
It was only six decades ago at the end of the Holocaust, that the world was confronted with the gruesome reality of humankind’s inhumanity to each other.
 
Many were hopeful that an important lesson had been learned: war and racism must never happen again. 
 
 
 

Photo of the Auschwitz concentration camp (left). In the bottom center you see a Nazi SS soldier who has just sent the Orthodox Jewish woman with the infant (to his right) to join the other Jews who are being sent to the gas chamber and crematorium. To the right are the overcrowded boxcars which brought the Jewish people to the concentration in which many died of starvation and disease.  Photos of Crematorium-ovens (right). 

 
The lesson was not learned!  A report just released states that in the last 12 months, anti-Semitism was at its highest level since the Holocaust where 6 million Jews (half of worldwide Jewry) were wiped out.
 
The Prophet Jeremiah wrote in Chapter 31: 35, 36: “Only if the sun that shines by day, and the moon and stars that shine by night vanish from the sight of the Lord, will the Jewish people cease to be a nation before the Lord.”
 
Teresa, can you believe that in France and England alone, there were more than 2000 anti-Semetic acts last year, with a few hundred of them being violent!  Imagine around the world.
 
The report authored by the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism was released prior to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
 
This is the most famous concentration in which the movie Schindler’s List was portrayed, and where the grandparents and father of Zev Isaacs, the founder of this ministry, were tortured and gassed to death.
 
“International Holocaust Remembrance Day,” was created by the United Nations to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, and for UN Member Countries to develop educational programs to prevent future genocides and crimes against humanity.
 
 
Although the Holocaust brought out the worst in many people, it also brought out the best in others.
 
Many Gentile Christians risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.
 
These lights in the darkness selflessly hid Jews in their homes, shared scant rations, provided visas, forged ID cards, smuggled Jew across borders, etc., instilling hope and faith in those being saved, and reminding us today that we should not be indifferent to the suffering of others.
 
 
 

 Left – Corrie Ten Boom‘s house in Amsterdam where she hid Jewish people during the Holocaust.  Right photo of Corrie.

Since 1963, Israel’s Yad Vashem (Holocaust Memorial Museum) has conferred its highest honour, “Righteous Among the Nations,” on non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis persecution.
 
To receive this honour, non-Jewish rescuers must be brought to Yad Vashem’s attention by rescued Jews.
 
Recently, André Reeders and Aaltje Reeders-Wittermans, a Dutch Christian couple with five children were posthumously awarded the Yad Vashem honour for hiding Sally and Claire Gimnicher-Hirsch for three years during the Holocaust.
 
This Christian family hid this Jewish couple whom they had never met before. They shared their meagre rations and risked the annihilation of their own family at the hands of the Germans.
 

 They join the ranks of those already honoured Corrie Ten Boom (Holland), Oskar Schindler (Germany), Raoul Wallenberg (Sweden), Aristides Sousa Mendes (Portugal), Sempo Sugihara (Japan), Paul Gruninger (Switzerland), Feng-Shan Ho (China), Katarzyna Kmita (Poland), and Francis Foley (England).

 
Today the number of those conferred with the honour of Righteous Among the Nations is upward of 22,000 and still growing

The Beauty Of Anne Frank

I don’t think of
all the misery seen

Of those angry people
who are so mean

But of the beauty
that still does remain

Not letting the horror
my heart to stain

That’s the beauty of
this precious Anne Frank

When reading her story
how my heart sank

A life of desperation
was forced to live

When she only had
her love to give

A time of terror
hiding in a room

‘Til having no escape
finally met her doom

With tear streaming eyes
I reached the end

Feeling that I had
lost a lovely friend.

Teresa Marie  10/6/11