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Maybe Later

Pop-noworlaterups on electronic devices have become a way of life. From software updates to renewal notices to you left something in your online shopping cart…the list is endless. The alerts are always followed by the question: Now or Maybe Later?

I tend to go for the ‘Maybe Later’ option. Who has time in their busy life to stop and take care of something you can postpone until another time? The alerts continue to pop-up on a regular basis, some even ask in how many days or weeks I would like to receive a reminder. I pick some date in the distant future and move on with my life.

Did you know that Jesus sends pop-up alerts?

It could happen while reading God’s Word, during a devotional, a sermon heard, words spoken or the death of a loved one. It’s a warning that tugs at the soul to get things right with God before it’s too late.

“…Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:2

We believe there is plenty of time to get things right with God and ample time to ask forgiveness and accept God’s generous plan of salvation for our life. And then, without warning, the pop-up offers expires; we die.

Every minute 105 people die worldwide and those statistics are only deaths that can be documented. If you’ve been choosing the ‘Maybe Later’ option for accepting Jesus into your life, you might want to reconsider. The offer expires at death and we all fully aware that death can happen at any time without warning.

Are you ready or have you been ignoring all the pop-up messages God is sending you?

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What’s Your Ticket to Heaven?

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All the love in the world cannot and will not get you into heaven. The world would like us to believe that church membership, love for humanity, devotion to humanitarian causes and good deeds will add points to gaining a ticket to heaven and eternal life.

WRONG! Sorry to burst your bubble, but only a personal relationship with Jesus will get you through the pearly gates. Oh how we like to envision that everyone who is ‘good’ and passes into the hereafter is heaven bound; but based on bible scriptures and the words of Jesus, it just isn’t true.

The enemy of this world, Satan, is a master of deceit and has convinced many that our ticket to heaven is by our good works. Our only way to eternal life comes only through our acceptance of God’s grace. Good deeds and efforts are meaningless to God if we haven’t put our faith in Jesus.

What is God’s grace?

God sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross and shed his blood in payment for our sin. It is that sacrifice alone and a soul stamped with the blood of Jesus that gains us entry into the gates of heaven.

“But we know that no one is made right with God by meeting the demands of the law. It is only through the faithfulness of Jesus the Anointed that salvation is even possible. This is why we put faith in Jesus the Anointed: so we will be put right with God. It’s His faithfulness—not works prescribed by the law—that puts us in right standing with God because no one will be acquitted and declared “right” for doing what the law demands.”  Galatians 2:16 (VOICE)

Say what? Let me clarify.

The above scripture and many others confirm this truth. Our good works are meaningless to God if we believe them to be a redemptive way to earn our way into heaven. Not happening!

It’s God’s grace and faithfulness, not our works that acquits us of our sin and gives us right standing before God. Grace is found in the death, burial and resurrection of His son, Jesus. Our acceptance of this grace is called salvation.

Faithfulness is an extension of God’s grace to continually work within our life to accomplish his purpose and goodwill. Only by doing HIS works for HIS purpose under HIS grace is anything we do counted righteous.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
Proverbs 19:21

I encourage everyone to do good works while living on earth. But if you are counting on your works to earn you a seat at the banquet table in heaven, think again.

The only way to get a ticket stamped for heaven is to accept Jesus as your savior and acknowledge that His blood sacrifice at the cross is your only redemption from sin.

Remember the thief next to Jesus on the cross?

In death he asked Jesus “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42) This thief had likely done nothing good in his lifetime, yet he was given admission into God’s kingdom by grace alone.

“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43

It’s hard for us to accept that there is nothing we can do now or ever to earn the grace of God. It goes against everything this world tells us. Yet, that’s the beauty of grace, it’s a gift.  We can’t buy, earn or barter with grace. Our only option is to accept it.

What will be stamped on your ticket at death?

Will it read Redeemed by God’s Grace or Redeemed by my own self-worth and good works? It’s probably a question you should ask yourself sooner than later. No one knows the time of their death but, today, as you read this post you have been given an opportunity to buy your ticket to heaven in advance, before it expires.

people are destined to die once and then face (God’s) judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

God’s judgment is based on your acceptance of His grace, on the salvation He offers through His son, Jesus. It’s simple, direct and without fanfare.

This simple prayer, if prayed in earnest, sums it all up:

Heavenly Father,

Make yourself real to me. Your Word says if I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised him from the dead, I will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

I believe Jesus died on the cross for the sin that separates me from having direct communication with you. His blood paid for the redemption of my soul. I want my death ticket to be insured, non-refundable and stamped REDEEMED by the blood of the Lamb.

From this day forward, let my actions, words and deeds be counted as righteous in your sight.

Amen

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The God of Comfort

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I appreciate art because it has the ability to make us stop in the moment and give pause to what the artist is hoping to convey. Art arouses our visual awareness and powerfully evokes emotions undefined by words.

This statue by Albert György uniquely captures the feeling of emptiness that coincides with loss. Life may appear normal on the outside, but internally there is an all-consuming void. I have to believe that a great loss inspired this artist’s piece of work.

We all encounter loss and can relate to the giant hole it leaves in our innermost being. We find countless ways to preoccupy ourselves in an effort to fill that hole; but the void remains. Even God experienced loss when His son, Jesus, died on the cross.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34: 18

Prayer for Today:

Lord, I know, you are the God of comfort and when my whole world shattered, you have been with me every step of the way. Continue to be ever near and my constant companion when the giant hole wants to pull into the depths of darkness and despair. In those moments, draw me ever closer to you and fill that hole with the knowledge that you are only a breath away and your arms of comfort are everlasting.

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When There Are No Words

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Today I find myself chasing after words as I try to pen them to paper. It’s unusual for me to be at a loss for words but writing is a creative process and creativity is a fickle beast when shrouded in unexpected grief.

 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.Proverbs 17:22 (NLT)

Within a 24-hour period I received news of two deaths and the energy that drives my thoughts is caught between two polar opposite extremes of grief: Ex-spouse and child of a close family member. My emotions seem displaced and off-balance.

The first life account was closed many years ago by divorce and in time we both opened new joint life accounts. Life goes on, or so I thought. I discovered that memories of love lost and shared intimacy never give divorce permanent closure.

Long forgotten emotional attachments surfaced upon news of his death.  Any hope for answers to questions I have longed to ask now rest in his grave.

The closure of the second life account is filled with moments I want to embrace and deposit into my forever memory bank. This life bears no emotional resemblance to the other, but both provoke feelings of grief. It’s a catalyst of mixed emotions that render me wordless.

Pervasive thoughts fill my thoughts and the reality that life ends with or without notice hits me head on. Did this life account close with a plus or minus balance? Did they know Jesus? Was the life account eternally insured?

I am convinced that our life encounters and relationships with people aren’t random. Even messed up relationships, the ones that go way bad, have a God-ordained purpose. Death compels us to pause and reflect on those shared connections and come to terms with our loss and the grief that follows.

Prayer for Today:

Heavenly Father,

I want my life bank account to be insured in Heaven.  When life circumstances bankrupt my life account and grief overwhelms me, disperse mercy and grace.

Let forgiveness cover any circumstances that overdraft my life account and when my words become captive to grief, allow me to rest in you.

Amen

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The ‘Grieving’ Cocktail

griefPREFACE: In an earlier in post, I determined to share about different areas and seasons in our life that often need holy intoxication. When we allow ourselves to become inebriated with God’s Word and fully embrace it, we experience divine liberation.

 

The death of someone we love shatters our life in ways we never thought possible. When my dad was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, I thought the foreknowledge of his impending death would help prepare me for the inevitable. I thought wrong.

Nothing prepared me for the overwhelming sense of void as I watched him take his last breath. Certainly Mary, the mother of Jesus, felt the same pangs of loss as she heard her son cry out, “It is finished!”

When a deep connection with someone is severed either through death, divorce or separation, grief kicks in. It’s a God-given defense mechanism that helps us cope with the crippling avalanche of emotions that put our life on hold.

So, what is God’s scriptural cocktail for dealing with loss?

  • Allow yourself to mourn. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that there is a time for everything, including death and mourning. Sin brought death to man in this life but the Cross of Jesus brought eternal life for those who accept its redemptive power.
  • Jesus understands the depths of human sorrow. He wept and was deeply moved when He saw Mary and Martha’s sorrow over the death of their brother Lazarus. Jesus already knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, but allowed Himself to feel and express the crevasse of human sorrow.

“When Jesus saw Mary’s profound grief and the moaning and weeping of her companions, He was deeply moved by their pain in His spirit and was intensely troubled.” John 11:33, VOICE

  • God has instilled within the spirit of mankind a natural grieving process that defies race, language or cultural boundaries. He promises to lead us through the “shadows of the valley of death”.

“He was… a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” Isaiah 53:3

Documented succession of the grieving process includes: Shock, depression, reality of the loss and recovery. It is no respecter of persons.

  • As a believer, God infuses your grief with faith. That’s powerful! God has promised to be with us in our darkest hours which include our times of grief. God longs to give us comfort, but we must reach out and accept it.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
II Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT

It has been nine years since I lost my dad to cancer and feel confident I am in the recovery stage of my grief. Moments of intense sadness have diminished and the emotional void is being replaced with cherished memories.

I find comfort in the knowledge that Jesus is intimately acquainted with grief, disappointment and heartache and forever with me in every season of life.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever  (forever with me).” Psalms 73:26 (NLT)

Know this: Grief will visit us all at some point but God keeps track of all our sorrows, He collects all our tears in a bottle and records them in His book. I’m not sure what book, but I can only assume it is the book of OUR life on earth.

That’s how much God loves us. He even keeps record of our tears. His love for us is amazing!

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalms 56:8 (NLV)

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The Perfect Cocktail

coppa-martiniDo you know the Bible has the perfect cocktail for every situation in life?

Bartenders are aware that the most important rule of mixology, the rule that supersedes everything else, is that balance is everything. The same is true in your Christian walk with Jesus. Forget about a splash of this scripture or a splash of that scripture.

To grow in God’s grace, we must look deep into His Word to truly understand and receive the balanced life Christ intends for us to enjoy.

We are quick to assess our Christian cocktail based on needs. A couple parts of joy mixed with a little kindness and love; we throw in a pinch of mercy for good measure. Or, I’ll take two shots of a miracle, one shot of peace, followed by three shots of forgiveness.

If only the Christian walk was that simple. It’s not! Bible cocktail recipes are based on sound doctrine and principles. We can’t just throw things into a shaker and expect it to yield a perfect and balanced Christian life.

The right cocktail of scriptures mixed with prayer is the only way we find balance for whatever weakness, need or struggles we face.

What does God’s perfect cocktail look like for you?

I invite you to visit my blog (DeniseMarksBlog.com) every Monday and Friday for the next five weeks as I share my thoughts on God’s perfect and balanced cocktail for our imperfect life situations. God truly desires for us to find consistency, balance and divine intervention in all things.

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Beep of Death

communication-1472636_640 There was urgency in the continual beep heard down the hallway. It clearly indicated something was wrong and I sensed it wasn’t good. Overtaken with panic, my steps quickened as I hurried to find the source of the warning signal that pierced the air.

When I opened the door, computer monitors and tangled cords greeted me. I pawed through the jumbled mess and located a thin black box. The back-up drive was no bigger than the palm of my hand and contained years of photos, business documents, e-mail archives and personal data. It was my lifeline in the event damage occurred due to hardware malfunctions, viruses or corrupted files.

As the beep of death resonated from my lifeline all hope of restoration was swallowed into the abyss of digital darkness. Years of effort vanished in an instant.  It was a wake-up call that gave pause to how I had outsourced the back-up plan for my spiritual life.

Computer memory is very different than biological memory. A computer receives and stores information in the form of data. The human brain, on the other hand, takes that same information and processes it into knowledge which is stored as a living memory.

There is an advantage to a living memory over stored data.  When we commit something to memory we are less likely to lose that knowledge. This is especially important for Christians.  To outsource our spiritual life to digital technology is an open invitation to the beep of death.

There is no digital equivalent to physically opening your Bible to read and memorize scripture. It is a process that takes God’s Word from our minds, to our heart, to our lives. His Word become alive within us and is a lifeline that never malfunctions.

Knowledge benefits our life. Information, on the other hand, is merely an accumulation of facts that can overload us with useless information. This type of data clutters our back-up lifeline. The risk associated with fragmented data is the beep of death

The acquisition of more information doesn’t necessarily increase knowledge or wisdom. In fact, the plethora of stimuli and data at our fingertips can invoke a feeding frenzy where information is ingested, but never digested. The influx of information is more likely to bring distractions.

To continually ingest information but neglect to cultivate that information into knowledge deprives us of wisdom.

“The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.”
–Proverbs 19:8

Do you have a back-up plan in place for your spiritual life? At a moment’s notice, a life malfunction could trigger the beep of death and spiral you into darkness. Would you be able to recover?

You are not a Jeopardy contestant; there is no value in useless information. Instead, focus on the pursuit of knowledge so that you may acquire wisdom and seek understanding in all things.