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Movie Night in Heaven

 Shortly after I arrived in heaven, my earthly father met me. His face radiated vitality and his spirit exuded renewal. When he slipped away from earth, his body was emaciated, his skin transparent. He’d lost both legs to diabetes along with his will to live. His new body was radically different than his old. It reminded me of a picture of him in the military. Smiling from ear to ear, body fit, face tanned, the look of a bright future in his eyes.

His new legs were strong and ready to serve.

I sat next to him on along with my mother on my first movie night.

“Pass the popcorn, Sister. I love the cheese.” He did that lop-sided grin that always made me smile. I did.

“So what goes on here?” We sat in a stadium that would make any earthly arena seem like a backyard garage. Hundreds of thousands from every tribe and nation sat on seats that stretched as far as I could see. The seats all faced a screen that was round, suspended in mid-air. Shiny and bright.

“It’s movie night.” Dad said through two handfuls of cheese popcorn in his mouth and continued. “The ending is always the same.”

Grabbing a handful of the popcorn I asked, “Doesn’t that get boring?”

He stopped chewing and gawked at me. “Are you crazy? It’s the greatest story ever told! You’ll see.” Mom nodded from his other side. He continued chewing. “The story begins with one redeemed life.”

“That sounds amazing! Whose life are we going to see tonight?”

My daddy looked at me like the young man in the military uniform, “Mine.”

Drunk at the Drum

The scene opened with a man staggering down a dock crowded with men dressed in navy uniforms. Every once in a while, he’d fall to one side, hit a fellow sailor, mumble something, and continue on his way. Then he stopped, swayed and stared. At that point, I realized it was the younger version of my father.

My eyes moved in the direction of his stare and noticed about eight ladies dressed in what I recognized to be Salvation Army uniforms with black bonnets tied securely on their heads. They stood in a circle on the docks, a bass drum resting on the ground in front of them. A few soldiers stood and listened, some jeered, but most passed them without a glance, eager to meet their loved ones or find some sort of entertainment in the area.

One of the ladies shouted to the unruly crowd, “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?”

I saw tears in my young father’s eyes as he made his way unsteadily through the crowd and collapsed at the drum. “Lord, save me! Save me!” he wailed as the ladies surrounded him and began to pray. I heard cheers and bursts of Hallelujahs and Amens from those seated around me in the stadium.

The scene quickly changed to a stage. My parents—young and eager—marched across it as a voice bellowed, “Lieutenant and Mrs. Ramon Wert, you have been assigned to be the Corp Officers in charge of The Salvation Army in LaPorte, Indiana!” They saluted, grinning from ear to ear as they marched off. The praises became almost deafening as I tried to make sense of the next screen.

A mobile home stood in the center. Plastic trucks and rusty trikes littered the yard. Two red-headed boys hid behind the porch, wide-eyed, staring up at a red-headed man with tattoos etched on his arms. “Get off my property! I told you not to come back! If you do, I’m going to kill you! Leave my family alone!” He almost spat at my young father in his army uniform.

Dad smiled, “I’ll be back!” He stated cheerfully as he got into the 1950’s black sedan.

The red-haired man appeared again, this time in a church building, kneeling at an altar next to his blond wife. Four young boys looked on, not with fear, but with wonder, as my dad knelt next to the couple, one hand raised toward heaven, the other clutching his Bible which rested on the man’s shoulder.

“Do you believe that Jesus paid for your sins, lived a perfect life on earth, died a horrific death on the cross, and rose again?” Dad paused, “Do you trust in Christ alone for your salvation?” The man nodded and the scene faded.

The arena erupted again. Some stood on chairs, some stomped their feet on the floor. A black-haired Asian woman next to me yelled, “More! More! More!”

And then I saw us. Dad and I stood outside of their mobile home off of a busy street in Clearwater, Florida. Tampa Bay flowed in the background of their tiny yard. Birds swooped around us as dad fed them scraps of bread.

I’d been crying. “I just don’t know what to do! Mom is so sick and in so much pain!” I wiped my nose on my t-shirt. “I’m afraid.”

Dad set his bread on the plastic lawn chair, put his arm around me and looked me straight in the eyes. “This is where your faith comes in, Pauline. You need to learn to trust the Lord.” Later, the movie showed my mom smiling at her husband, coming home from the hospital.

The final scene took place in the nursing home. Dad’s chest rose slowly up and down. Finally, it stopped. I took his hand while above me angels descended beckoning my daddy to follow them. While I cried, his soul-body left this earth smiling broadly as he touched my face.

Then he was gone.

I heard a cry, faint at first, growing louder and louder, like maybe the sound of Niagara Falls but intensified. Colors filled the stadium as the thunder increased. Instinctively, we fell to our knees.

“Ray Wert,” the voice bellowed. “Stand before me!” Out of the corner of my eye, for I could not bear to look up, my father stood. “You were once my enemy, now you are my friend. You were doomed, now you are redeemed.”

Thunder clapped—through eyes clenched shut in awesome fear, that blinding light almost burned them. “By my wounds you were healed! Well done, Ray Wert, my good and faithful servant.”

“Arise my brother, arise all of you, for The Lamb has been slain, and we rejoice together!”

 

God Can Go to Lunch Whenever He Wants to

lunch break sign
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Back when I graduated from college, phones still hung on the wall instead of in our pockets. My first job was as a probation officer in Clearwater, Florida.

My boss was a no-nonsense businessman. Here’s the thing — we had an hour for lunch. My boss would leave for lunch and return at his leisure. I knew him well enough to know he did not waste time, but still it made me think about how the boss can go to lunch whenever he wants — and come back when he wants because, well, he’s the boss. He does not answer to me.

How much more with the God of the universe. He spoke the world into being and sustains it with a word. As I await hurricane Florence’s arrival here in North Carolina, I think of when Jesus slept through a storm and his disciples said in Mark 4:41,

“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (NIV)

Sometimes I question God. Don’t understand how He functions. In my puny brain, I think I can run the world better.

Stop laughing.

Really.

It’s like an ant shaking his tiny ant fist at an NFL lineman — except worse.

In Isaiah 45:5-6, Jehovah is speaking to rebellious Israel. Scripture says this:

I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me.” (NIV)

God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and absolutely unique. He is beyond all we can imagine or comprehend.

Yet, He reached down to me and grabbed my tiny ant fist. Cradled me with His loving arms. Sent His Son, The Lord Jesus Christ to pay the penalty I deserved for my rebellious soul.

For yours.

He is The Good Shepherd, the Alpha and Omega, My Savior, My Redeemer. He is The Bread of Life, my Great High Priest, The Lamb of God, Messiah.

He is The Son of God. There is no one like Him.

And He does what He pleases.

And He was pleased to come as a baby, lead a sinless life, die a gruesome death to be raised from to life so that I could share His inheritance throughout eternity.
Check out this passage from Romans 5:6-8:

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Kind of makes you marvel, doesn’t it? That the God of the universe cares deeply about us.

Makes me want to get low and worship Him today.

How about you?

Copyright © 2018 Pauline Hylton, used with permission.

Joy in Suffering?

Years ago when I still wore a single digit sized pair of pants, a man I admired expressed his desire to go to heaven.

“I don’t understand.”

My friend elaborated, “When I am experiencing God in worship or praise or prayer, I sense His presence. I think how much better heaven will be.”

As I grow older, understanding dawns.

But there are still many mysteries. Like for instance Mark 10:29-30,

“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.

I like the first part, but shy away from the “gift” of persecution.

Take a look at this verse.

philippians 1:29

Suffering is granted to us? Like receiving a wish from a genie?

Recently, I received a newsletter from Voice of the Martyrs. The back page revealed about 12 people who are imprisoned because they taught a Bible Study, or shared the gospel, or even attended an underground church. Some have been in prison for over 15 years.

Here is the issue…when I read this publication, many of those who have been imprisoned say things like, “Christ suffered, I am privileged to suffer for Him.” And when they are released, they go right back to preaching oftentimes to be thrown back into prison.

It is a mystery to me.

The only thing I can figure is when they are in prison, they experience what my friend described when he praised or prayed or worshiped. They somehow sense the Lord’s presence so intensely that they glory in it. Basking themselves in Jesus.

As an American, it is almost impossible for me to relate. Yet Scripture says that suffering brings joy. If the Bible says it, I believe it, so that settles it.

But don’t get me wrong, I am not praying for suffering. I think that would be weird. But I am praying for my brothers and sisters who are suffering. They are my eternal family and I love them, even though I haven’t met them–yet.

For today, I pray, and read God’s Word, and wonder.

Here is a nugget I read yesterday in Psalm 16:11, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand are pleasures forever.”

Even so, Lord Jesus come.

 

Grace Dispensers

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The Pharisees try to trick Jesus with a woman caught in the act of adultery. They tried to discredit Christ by making Him side with the Law and appear to be uncaring, or breaking the Law of Moses and siding with the woman.

As usual, Jesus exceeded all expectations. (In baseball terms, He hit the ball out of the park.)

Take a look at the passage from the New Living Translation:

 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11

When describing this scene, my pastor said, “The Pharisees threw this woman down with the Law, and Jesus raised her up with Grace.”

Sometimes I think of this woman as needing His grace. I mean–caught in the act? I’ve never been caught in the act. But if I believe all Scripture is inspired by God, then I have to believe that when Jesus spoke in Matthew 5 about being guilty for just thinking about it—in His eyes, well, I might have a problem. You might too. In fact, I’m pretty sure of it.

But the fact is, I tend to categorize people.

I look at them and have thoughts like, How could they make such bad choices? I would never have done that! Can’t they get their lives together?

I throw the Law down.

But then I realize that my life has been pretty good. My parents provided for me as a child, didn’t abuse me, and even liked each other. They encouraged me to attend school and assumed I would go to college.

Many don’t have that. And by the way, why was I born in the United States? I could have been born in Nigeria or Iraq.

It is all grace. All of it. All undeserved and unearned.

The God of the universe dispensed grace and forgiveness to this woman. He did the same with me. The Law threw me down and Jesus raised me up.

That is Amazing Grace.

Let’s be grace dispensers like our Lord.

How can you do that this week? Tell me about it.

 

Love Generously

Here is the daily devotional I wrote for CBN.com
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“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NIV)

Recently, I heard a sermon by J. D. Greear about the book of Ecclesiastes. Not an easy read, not an easy sermon to preach. He spoke a lot about “hevel.” It is one of the most-used words in the book. Some translations use vanity, some use futility.

He used the illustration of passing through a cloud on an airplane. It appears mighty and full of substance, but it is just a vapor. Solomon compares it to all of life.

A vapor.

I saw my grandson this weekend. He is now three. I remember the day he was born. My husband Tom and I waited in the lobby with our in-laws for our grandchild’s birth. We knew the sex … we knew the name … but we did not know him.

Yet.

Three years later, he has quite the personality. I hadn’t seen him in a few months and his vocabulary skills have improved dramatically. Usually, I begin each morning with a song. I began, “Good morning, to you. Good morning to you. Good morning, dear Silas, Good morning to you.”

“I don’t like that,” he stated quite clearly.

Yet, when I left, upon being told he had graduated from nursery into the three-year-old-class, he cried and said, “I don’t want to go to church. I nervous.” About his Nana and Papa leaving, he added, “I sad.”

I was, too. And I cried on my way out of six lanes of traffic in Atlanta.

Life is full of joys, sorrows, ups, downs. You can’t quite put your finger on it. It is a vapor. I find great joy in it, but know it is not eternal. From past experience, before I know it, I’ll be attending his high school graduation.

Because that is how life is.

But because of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ I know that there is more than this hevel under the sun. There is eternity above the sun with the Son. The above verse says that He became poor so I could become rich. Inherit eternity. Forever. And ever.

The vapor-like life we lead has substance when we view it through the eyes of eternity.

And then we invest in it.

That does not mean that I ignore my sweet grandson. It means I invest in praying for him. When I am with him, I pray with him and tell him about Jesus.

I give my money for eternal things and do not hoard it. Knowing that my brothers and sisters in other countries sit in dark cells away from their families because they taught a Bible study, or gave someone a Bible, I pray for them like they were my family and send money to them generously because they are my family—my eternal family.

1 Corinthians 2: 9 says this:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared  for those who love him.” (NLT)

I am rich. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you are rich.

Let’s live like it.