The Creek and the River

creek bankIt was a Monday morning.  The week before had been a full one, but the week ahead promised to be a little lighter.  I decided to slip off to a creek near the house to fish for awhile, promising myself not to stay more than an hour.

The little creek is beautiful.  Just off a walking trail, but tree-lined, with rippling current in places, and filled with fish eager to give this mediocre fly-fisherman a chance.

I tried my usual spot for awhile.  Not much luck.  Moved down stream along the bank and found a spot where the water was still, and a smooth rocky ledge at the water’s edge provided a good place to stand and cast.  A water moccasin slid off the bank and into the water as I walked up.  I watched him cross the creek and then made a cast.

I caught one.  Made another cast or two or three.  I really don’t remember.  At some point I must have stepped on a slick spot on the rock and fallen backwards.  As I came to, everything was black.  I was conscious, but my eyes were closed.  I couldn’t move…couldn’t breathe.  Strangely calm, I remember thinking to myself, “I must be dying.”  And then I hear my inner voice, “Breathe, Steve.”  Nothing.  “Breathe!”  Nope.  “BREATHE!”  I gasped for air and sat up.

I was sitting in about three inches of water.  Dazed, with a huge knot on the back of my head, and soaking wet, I grabbed my rod, stumbled up the bank, and walked to the car.  Drove home by myself…or was it by myself?   Maybe Someone had His hand in it.  My dear wife got me to the emergency room.  The verdict was a concussion, but probably no worse.  The sentence was “rest for a few days; the dizziness should improve.”  It did.

That was less than four weeks ago.  Today, I went back to the creek for the first time.  Not to fish.  Just to look.  It is such a peaceful, beautiful place.  I could see several nice fish in the clear shallow water.  They didn’t swim off.  They may have remembered me as the guy who fell in the creek, so they figured they didn’t have much to worry about.

This life is so beautiful.  There is lots to laugh at, especially if we can laugh at ourselves.  There is lots of joy, especially if we focus on it instead of the pain.  At every turn, God is showing us his grace and love…in nature, in our loved ones, and especially in His Son.

butterfliesAs I walked away from the creek again today, dozens of butterflies were fluttering about.  A few alighted on me as I walked.  Beautiful.  Some other day perhaps the story will end differently, and I’ll awake beside a crystal river with the tree of life on either side, and I’ll walk along the bank to the river’s source: “The river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God” (Rev. 22:1).  And as the glorious scene fills my mind, and it gradually becomes apparent that I have never really seen beauty before, that little voice within me will say, “I must be living.”

 – Steve Klein

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Can You See the Shore?

see shoreIn 1950, American swimmer Florence Chadwick became the first female to swim the English Channel both ways. Two years later, she attempted to swim the channel between Catalina Island and the California coast. At 20 miles across, the Catalina Channel crossing is a mile shorter than the English Channel swim. But Chadwick didn’t make it.

The conditions were poor on the day of her attempt. A thick fog and cold temperatures cast the entire day under a pall of gloom. Chadwick swam for many hours, often unable to see even the boats that were accompanying her close by. Finally, after swimming fifteen hours, Chadwick stopped and was pulled from the water. It was then that she learned she was only half a mile from the coast. She later said, “All I could see was the fog.…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

Life can be cold and foggy. Our souls are chilled by sickness, by tribulation, and by the mortality of ourselves and our loved ones. Our view of heaven can be shrouded in a mist of pressing responsibilities, cultural pressures, personal pleasures, and materialism.

If we lose sight of heaven, we may lose our motivation for striving to go there. Jesus encourages us to “strive to enter” (Luke 13:24). The apostle Paul said, “I press toward the goal” (Phil. 3:14). You must “show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized” (Heb. 6:11, NIV).

Yes, the world tends to obscure our view of heaven, but we can see it by faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1, ESV).

The faith that you need to see the shore comes from God’s word (Rom. 10:17). Many New Testament references contain the promise of eternal life and the glorious inheritance of God’s children. A few passages of Scripture even depict the majesty of heaven in beautiful symbolic language; these may be found in Revelation chapters four and five, the last half of chapter seven, and in chapters twenty-one and twenty-two. Read them. Make yourself envision every detail. See it with your mind’s eye. Meditate on it. Let it draw you in. Picture yourself as one of the servants of God who dwells there. Gaze long and hard. Look deep. And if in your day to day life the gloom of this earthly life obscures your view, look again. See the shore. Finish the race.

– Steve Klein

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The Glorious Liberty of the Children of God

As America celebrates her birthday, those who are also citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven anticipate the greater freedom that is to come. In fact, the apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:19-21 that, “the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God…the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

The freedoms enjoyed in America, great though they may be, are as nothing compared to the liberty that shall be. America’s Declaration of Independence asserts that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet, despite these noble aspirations, there remains much inequity and unrighteousness in the “land of the free,” as well as every other country on earth. Is there a place on earth where people are truly free from the consequences of sin and the limiting effects of pain and suffering?

God’s word assures His children that, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). To be free from the sin and suffering of this life will be joy beyond expression. Imagine a place where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” and “there shall be no more pain” (Rev. 21:4).

O, for a home with God!

– Steve Klein

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Christ: The Solid Foundation of the Home

Foundation Jesus (2)The foundation of a house supports the entire structure. If the foundation is not solid, the house is unstable (Matt. 7:24-27).

Jesus Christ is the foundation and chief cornerstone of our relationships with God and each other in His church (Eph. 2:19-20; 1 Cor. 3:10-11). Oh, we can have relationships that are not built upon Christ with family, friends, coworkers and even the government, but they will always be mundane as though something is missing. But when we become Christians, everything changes in a most wonderful way.

Anytime Jesus touched anything or anyone during His life, things were always better. You could count on it. The Christian is a new creature, and all his relationships have a newfound aliveness to them because Christ is brought into all of them (2 Cor. 5:16-17). Every good thing is now done for “the Lord’s sake” and “as unto the Lord” (1 Pet. 2:13; Col. 3:23).

If this is true when it comes to the relationships with government (Rom. 13:1-6) and employers (Col. 3:22-25; 4:1; 2 Thess. 3:10-12), it is vitally true when it comes to relationships within the home. Our relationship with Christ affects relationships in the home.

Notice Paul’s instructions concerning the duties of young wives in Titus 2:4-5. They need to “love their husbands, to love their children…that the word of God may not be blasphemed!” Similarly, husbands must dwell with their wives “with understanding…that your prayers may not be hindered!” (1 Peter 3:7). And, if anyone does not provide for his own family, “he has denied the faith” (1 Tim. 5:8). Do you see it? All of these passages are implying that proper dealings with one another in the home are plumb-lined to our relationship with Jesus Christ.

For Christians, THE KEY to beginning to build an ideal home is realizing that every relationship must be governed by Jesus Christ.  

– Steve Klein & Jeff May

How to Build Your Dream Home” (p. 24)

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Heaven is Exclusive

Being left out hurts.  Most of us have had the experience…not getting picked for the team…not getting invited to the party…not getting into a certain social group because of age, color, gender, financial status, or education.

And so, inclusion has become a rallying cry in our culture. Our corporations, public institutions, history books, and television shows, are expected to include everybody equally.  Everyone is supposed to include everyone, unless of course we’re talking about someone who doesn’t include everyone — that person can be excluded.  As ESPN President John Skipper said, “We have no tolerance for points of view that aren’t inclusive.”

Christianity is open to everyone, because everyone is invited to be saved in Christ.  The saving message of the good news of Jesus Christ is for all.  But all do not accept the invitation.  And that is the reason that heaven itself is exclusive.

Consider what Jesus says in Luke 13:23-24 when someone asked Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” He said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”  Few will enter the gate that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). Those excluded are excluded because they rejected belief and because their behavior on earth did not comply with God’s will (John 3:18-19; Matthew 25:31-46).

While we may think it compassionate and inclusive to say that nearly every departed soul will spend eternity in heaven, we must realize that heaven itself would cease to be heaven if such were the case.  If those who have disrespected God’s name on earth, disobeyed His commands, oppressed their fellowman, and lived for their own selfish desires were allowed to inhabit heaven, how would it be much different from earth?  “Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it, or else, for ever and ever, the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves” (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce).

Yes, heaven is exclusive, but it doesn’t have to exclude you!   “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.  But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Revelation 22:14-15).

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Heaven Ain’t What it Used to Be (and Hell is Changing Too)

Heaven-and-HellJeffrey Burton Russell is the author of a book entitled, Paradise Mislaid: How We Lost Heaven and How We Can Regain It. According to Russell, those who identify themselves as Christians in the United States have only a vague and superstitious concept of heaven. “It’s not that heaven is deteriorating,” says Russell, “but we are.”

The problem isn’t that people don’t believe in heaven. They do. According to a 2016 Gallup Poll, 71 % of Americans believe in heaven and 64% believe in hell. Those percentages have dropped some over the past 50 years, but they still remain quite high.   However, what people mean when they speak about heaven and hell has changed a lot.

Fifty years ago, most people had baseless superstitious ideas about heaven; those ideas included saved people becoming angels, floating on clouds, and playing harps. Today, many people choose to think of heaven as a vague condition of happiness, which may be temporary and lead to another plane of existence such as reincarnation. The Bible teaching that heaven and hell are realms in which souls will dwell for eternity is lost on modern America. And many Americans apparently consider themselves too sophisticated to believe that heaven and hell are places of reward and punishment, respectively.

The Bible is clear that God wants us to be motivated to go to heaven and to avoid hell (read 2 Peter 3:13-14 and Mark 9:43-48). To be properly motivated, it is crucial that we maintain a clear and correct understanding of heaven and hell. We must not trade Biblical concepts for the empty superstitions of popular culture. Here are some truths that need to be firmly believed.

1. Heaven and hell are both rewards. Heaven is a reward for the righteous and hell is a reward for the unrighteous. Jesus promised His disciples that if they would suffer persecution for His name they would receive a great “reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12). Comparing Christianity to an athletic contest Paul wrote, “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:25). In Matthew 16:27, Jesus said, “the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”

2. Heaven and hell are both permanent. In heaven, the saved will enjoy “an enduring possession” (Hebrews 10:34) described as “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away” (1 Peter 1:4). Heaven is an eternal home.  The saved will inhabit “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Hell, on the other hand, is described as everlasting punishment. At the Judgment, Jesus will send the unrighteous “into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). It is “the fire that shall never be quenched” (Mark 9:45). Those who go there will “be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

3. Heaven is a place of rest, but hell is a place where there is no rest. Heaven is described as “a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). But for those in hell, “the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night” (Revelation 14:11).

4. The saved will reign with Christ in heaven. In heaven, it’s not just that the saved are treated like royalty, they are royalty! God’s word promises that “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12), and that the saved “shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:9).

Heaven and hell will be as the Bible describes them, no matter how the concepts of men change. God’s children will so live as to gain “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4)

 — Steve Klein

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The Stander’s Affirmation

In many of my marriage sermons I include a piece called “The Stander’s Affirmation.” Folks always ask for copies afterward. It resonates with people. It shows the grit and determination that is often needed to hold a home and marriage together. We believe if everyone would have the commitment spoken of in the “Stander’s Affirmation”, marriages could and would survive. May this piece help your home as you seek to follow God.

– Jeff May

I AM STANDING FOR THE HEALING OF MY MARRIAGE! . . . I will not give up, give in, give out or give over ’til that healing takes place. I made a vow, I said the words, I gave the pledge, I gave a ring, I took a ring, I gave myself, I trusted GOD, and said the words, and meant the words…in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in good times and in bad . . . so I am standing NOW, and will not sit down, let down, slow down, calm down, fall down, look down, or be down ’til the breakdown is torn down!

I refuse to put my eyes on outward circumstances, or listen to prophets of doom, or buy into what is trendy, worldly, popular, convenient, easy, quick, thrifty, or advantageous. . . Nor will I settle for a cheap imitation of God’s real thing, nor will I seek to lower God’s standard, twist God’s will, re-write God’s Word, violate God’s covenant, or accept what God hates, namely divorce!

In a world of filth, I will stay pure; surrounded by lies, I will speak the truth; where hopelessness abounds, I will hope in God: where revenge is easier, I will bless instead of curse and where the odds are stacked against me, I will trust in God’s faithfulness.

I am a STANDER, and I will not acquiesce, compromise, quarrel or quit.  I have made the choice, set my face, entered the race, believed the Word, and trusted God for all the outcome.

I will allow neither the reaction of my spouse, nor the urging of my friends, nor the advice of my loved ones, nor economic hardship, nor the prompting of the devil to make me let up, slow up, blow up, or give up ’til my marriage is healed up!

~Author Unknown ​

Looking for more help from God’s word on building your home and family.  Our new book is available now from our Estore here on the site.  May God bless you and your home.

 

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Longing to go Home

Longing to go Home

Life is brief. “Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor” (Psalm 39:5).  Death is necessary.  “It is appointed unto man once to die” (Heb. 9:27).  We are but a moment’s sunlight, fading in the grass.

We view death as the enemy, and indeed, it is.  It brings separation, suffering and sorrow.  As Christians, we do not glorify death or minimize it in any way when we say that, horrible as death may be, we long for what is beyond it: A home with God.

Many of us have had the experience of being away from home for an extended period.  Invariably, there comes a point when we want to go home.  On trips to third world countries, the thing that bothers me the most is not the primitive conditions, the strange food, the lack of hot water, the tick bites, the police road blocks, or the cold nights in a tent or unheated building.  It’s the longing to be home with family.

In New York in the spring of 1927, Lillian Alling, a poor young immigrant girl, became very homesick and decided to return to her family in Russia.  Because she had saved only $100 and would not accept lifts from strangers, she set out to walk the 12,000 miles home.  Equipped with maps, a knapsack and an iron rod for protection, this fragile girl passed through Chicago, Winnipeg, British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska, arriving in Nome in July of  1929.  It was just the halfway mark of her incredible journey.  Soon after leaving Nome, she was spotted approaching the far western tip of Alaska.  That was the last anyone on this continent is known to have seen or heard of her.  She apparently succeeded, as she had planned, in obtaining a boat and rowing across the 36 miles of the Bering Strait to Siberia.  She really wanted to go home, didn’t she?  Do we?  We should!

Listen to the way the apostle Paul describes the Christian’s desire to go to heaven in 2 Corinthians 5:1-2.  He writes, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.”  We groan, longing for home!

If you look carefully at the text in 2 Corinthians 5, you’ll see that Paul’s longing to go home was founded firmly in the confidence that he had a home to go to.  “We are confident,” he says, “yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).  This confidence was based on faith in God, and in the recognition of all that God has done to prepare us for the journey from mortality to life.  “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God” (2 Cor. 5:7, 5).

Nearly everybody will tell you that they want to go to heaven, but how many are willing to walk the long walk of faith to get there?  How many are willing to let God prepare them, rather than just assuming that they are prepared already? How many have a confident longing to go home?  Do you?

– Steve Klein

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When My Father Calls Me Home

running homeI remember doing something when I was a youngster that kids don’t do much anymore — playing outside!  If dad or mom wanted me, they’d usually just open the front door and holler down the street, “Steve!”  If I was within earshot, I’d come a runnin’.  When I got there I’d be informed as to why I was called home. Maybe there was a chore to do, maybe it was time to get ready for church, or maybe it was supper time!  Of course, occasionally I was called home because I was in trouble; perhaps I hadn’t finished my chores, or my father wasn’t pleased with my work. For this reason, the moments between when I heard the call to come and when I came running up to the door were sometimes anxious ones.

As a father calls his children to come home, our Heavenly Father will one day call each of us home. We do not want that moment to be one of doubt, anxiety, or fear — and it doesn’t have to be.

The end of a good life is like a parent calling a child home after the child has done his chores and then spent an afternoon playing joyfully in the neighborhood.  One elderly Christian whose friends and loved ones had passed on before him said that he felt that he just got to stay and play a little longer.  But no matter how long we may stay, this life will end for each of us, and the Lord will call us:  “For man goes to his eternal home, And the mourners go about the streets” (Ecclesiastes 12:5).

After death, there’s judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  And that is the thing that can create a lot of anxiety about being called home if we are not prepared.  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Once, when I was in the fourth grade, I was playing with friends down at the end of the block on the street where we lived.  I heard my dad calling in the distance, and, as usual, I immediately started sprinting home.  It wasn’t really time for supper, so I was thinking maybe this time I was in trouble!  Had I forgotten to do something I was supposed to do?  My mind raced faster than my feet.  I ran up the steps of the front porch to find my dad sitting there looking at the newspaper. He’d hurt his back at work recently and was in quite a bit of pain.  He looked up at me and asked me to pick up the rubber band from the newspaper that he’d dropped on the ground.  I was tired from running home.  But I was glad.  Glad to be home.  Glad to do something, even though it was a small thing, to serve my dad.

If we have been happy to serve our heavenly Father here, we will be happy to be called home to serve Him there.  If by His grace we have lived lives of purity and holiness here, we will be truly at home in His presence.  Let us “be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” when He calls us home (2 Peter 3:14, ESV).  Let us look forward to receiving “the things done in the body” because we’ve done the good things that our Father has asked us to do.

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Where There Are No Riots

In the days following the election of Donald Trump, there have been several riots across the heartland. A number of “unhappy campers” are joined in both peaceful and violent protests which include desecration of property and theft. Quite obviously, they are not presently happy in the country and some are threatening to leave. Continue reading Where There Are No Riots

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