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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Unconditional Love

I have to be honest with you. I sometimes feel sorry for our little dogs, Molly and Rosie, because Gloria and I are age-challenged. We are what society calls, “seniors.” I’m not fond of the designation, but I can live with it, especially when Gloria and I visit restaurants that offer a senior discount. However, our senior status means our children are adults. So there are no kids living with us. If Molly and Rosie want to play, they’re stuck with two owners who can get down on the floor but take a painfully slow time to get up.

I don’t think our dogs understand the human aging process. If they do, they have never come right out and barked, “You guys are old and slow.” They just accept us—yes, even love us—as we are.

When I leave home, Molly and Rosie follow me to the door and give me that long look that says, “We’ll miss you.” When I return, they greet me. They wag their tails, bark, and jump around my feet. I don’t have a dog language translator, but I’m sure they are saying, “We’re glad you’re home.” If that isn’t doggy love, what is?

Yes, sometimes I feel sorry for Molly and Rosie, and I wish they had kids to play with, but they don’t seem to fret. They offer unconditional love and show that is real.

Good Dogma
Have you met people who wonder how God can love them? I have. Some have low self-esteem. Some lug a load of guilt around in an unrelenting conscience. Some think God is too busy to care about them. His time is taken up with important matters like making the world go round, keeping the stars lit, managing angels, and restraining powerful evildoers from blowing up the world. Others believe God’s love is limited to those who have gone to church since they were toddlers. A few are serving time in prison. How could God possibly love felons?

Well, there is good news. God loves everyone without exception. He loves you and me just as we are. He knows all about our weaknesses, our failures, our blemishes, our imperfections, and our sins. He even knows about our baldness or our big nose or our warts or our freaky big toes, yet He loves us. That’s unconditional love, and it’s a treasure!

Now, here’s an amazing phenomenon. Once we recognize that God loves us unconditionally and we believe on His Son as our Savior, He places His love in our hearts so we can love Him and His commandments (Romans 5:5). The apostle John understood this truth. He wrote, “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).

A Bible Treat
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man. Though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die, but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7, 8).

—From my book, Meditations for Dog Lovers (AMG Publications), © 2005

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Ultimate Appointment

Life delivers bundles of sadness along with heaps of joy. The other day, Gloria’s oldest brother called to say his middle daughter had died. Our niece Jill had battled breast cancer courageously for a long time. She was only 46. Ironically, her mother had breast cancer, which had claimed her mother’s life when she was 46.
The same day, a member of a church I had pastored in Williamson, New York, until 1964 called to tell me another member of the church had died during the night. He remarked, “She went to bed, fell asleep, and woke up in heaven.” She was in her 80s.
Death is no respecter of persons. Soon the old must die, and at any time the young may die. Hebrews 9:27 insists everyone must keep an appointment with death. But Christians need not fear death. For the Christian, death issues a passport to an unending life in heaven. Death ushers the Christian immediately into the presence of the risen Savior (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21–23). It is a graduation; a change of address; a triumph, not a tragedy; a gain, not a loss.
Jesus died, rose again, and ascended to heaven, and sat down at the Father’s right hand—the place of uncontested authority. Now, He is preparing a place for us. Christians who have passed through the veil of death are enjoying indescribable surroundings and boundless vibrant life with Christ.
Yes, it is hard to part with loved ones and friends, but someday they will welcome us to heaven. They may even given us a grand tour of that beautiful, peaceful place. In the meantime, when thoughts of dying confront us, we can exclaim with the apostle Paul, “’Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ . . . But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55–57).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Faithful Friends

About a month ago a retired Air Force colonel left his ranch home in Cotopaxi, Colorado, to feed his livestock. He took his two dogs with him. When he didn’t return, his family launched a search. Knowing he had Alzheimer’s, they suspected he had become confused and wandered off into nearby rugged terrain. They were right. Although the search failed to locate the missing man, a hunter stumbled onto his body the other day, and also found his two dogs in good condition at his side.

Those of us who own dogs and are owned by them know how loyal they are. My two dogs, a Maltese and a toy poodle, are more than pets; they are good friends. Whatever I spend to feed them and keep them healthy and groomed, they more than repay me in companionship and loyalty. They even listen attentively when I talk to them—something not everyone does when I preach.

Another dog will join our family at the end of October. Sadie, a Coton de Tulear puppy will join Molly and Rosie to form a trio of faithful, loving friends.

Proverbs 17:17 teaches, “A friend loves at all times.” It seems to me we can learn a significant lesson from our canine friends.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Available Free Tickets to Heaven

A few minutes from now thousands of Rockies fans will storm the Internet in an attempt to secure tickets to at least one of the currently scheduled three World Series home games. The targeted web site may crash! But even if it accommodates all the traffic, only a fraction of hopefuls will obtain tickets.
World Series tickets are expensive, but at every game 51,000 ticket holders will experience several hours of blissful hysteria as they “root, root, root for the home team.”
Unless the Rockies fail miserably (an unthinkable possibility?), the faithful fans at Coors Field will not regret the cost.
So “Bravo,” World Series ticket holders! Enjoy your coveted hours with the Colorado Rockies and . . . that other team…oh, yes, the Boston Red Sox. But do you know you can obtain free admission to something far better than a World Series game? The Bible promises eternal life to all who receive it as a gift from God. Romans 6:23 indicates this gift comes to us through Jesus Christ, and John 1:12 explains that all who receive Jesus Christ enjoy the privilege of membership in God’s forever family. (See also 1 John 5:11–13.)
The 2007 baseball season will end November 1 or earlier, but no one can predict when his or her life on earth will end. It’s extremely important, therefore, to know now what our eternal destination is. Heaven, the eternal home of those who believe on Jesus as Savior, provides unending bliss; meaningful activity; reunion with Christian loved ones and friends; freedom from pain, suffering, sorrow; and best of all, face-to-face fellowship with the Savior.
Are you holding a ticket to a reserved place in heaven?