All indications are the Lord has been making plans for you for some time now.

“…the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

We don’t begin to have a clue.

God is doing a zillion things He has not deigned to mention to us mortals.

It’s not our business to know, for one thing.  He has reserved most of what goes on in the universe for Himself.  The secret things belong to the Lord our God…  (Deuteronomy 29:29).

All that we know about the operation of the created world is a sliver of the full story.

How can it be that before the world as we know it was formed, the Heavenly Father was already at work making plans for us to arrive and dwell with Him forever?

I do not know. Neither do you.

What unimaginable reality may we expect to find when we get to Heaven if Father has had all these eons to imagine it, design it, and put it in place?

What does this say about pre-history, the story of what God was doing before the Big Bang of Creation?

We hang our heads in humility.  We read the final verses of Romans 11 and say, “Oh yes.  Yes, indeed. This is how it is!”

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C. S. Lewis’s Christmas sermon to pagans

Note from Joe: I picked this up off the internet. Am reposting it here because I love it so much and want to preserve it nearby.  Use if you can.

Editor’s Note: In December of 2017 the world got a Christmas present – a lost C.S. Lewis work was recovered.

Stepanie Derrick, a PhD student at the University of Stirling, found the following article doing her research. It comes from The Strand a now-defunct and historically significant publication in the U.K.

We are publishing the piece here to highlight Lewis’ provocative idea that a re-paganization of the West would be useful for the cause of the Gospel.

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What causes God to laugh

“But Thou, O Lord, dost laugh at them; Thou dost scoff at all the nations” (Psalm 59:8).

Was it Erma Bombeck who once said, “Know how to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.”

Or was that Joan Rivers?

Anyway.  It’s right on the mark.

The writer for Our Daily Bread tells this:  I was washing my car one evening as the sun was preparing to kiss the earth goodnight.  Glancing up, I impulsively pointed the hose at it as if to extinguish its flames.  The absurdity of my action hit me, and I laughed.

I get a kick out of seeing how prophecy experts bend over backward trying to locate the United States–as well as whatever country happens to be giving us headaches at the moment–in Scripture.  As though our moment in history is so huge and our place in God’s plan so essential, how dare anyone suggest He could have planned the grand sweep of history without our being given a starring role.

As if.

Isaiah 40 has a good word on this.

Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;  Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.  Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering.  All the nations are as nothing before Him; they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless. (40:15-17).

How clear is that?

Once while prayer-walking the United Nations in New York City, I was struck by two tidal waves rushing by in opposite directions. On the one hand, a common citizen like myself stands in awe of that magnificent place.  Leaders from all across the world come there, I think to myself, and they hammer out the huge problems of this day.  Surely, if we would pray for peace, we must intercede for all who work in this place.

And on the other hand…

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Five church members who are actually atheists

On the surface, the preacher-eaters, church-dividers, and rabble-rousers who would destroy a church in order to have their own way insist they do believe in God.  I say otherwise.  Stay with me here….

Of course, they are religious.  They’re church workers; they talk the talk.

The problem is some of these trouble-makers are living as unbelievers. No, they’re not alcoholics, not frequenting the brothels, and not criminals.  However, their work in the church is being conducted in the flesh and for their own purposes. They are not people of prayer, not people of obedience, and not living Christlike lives.  Even if they are religious.

Whatever belief in God they possess is theoretical. God was in Christ, yes. But He was in the past. And He will be in the future, they believe, when He takes them and others like them to Heaven.

As for the present, alas, they are on their own.

What, you ask, would lead me to say such outrageous things about some people who are members of good Christian churches and who frequently get elected to high positions of leadership?

Two things.

–1) I have six decades of dealing with them. I have met them in every church I ever served. However, it took me a long time to identify the problem.

2) The clue to their atheism is simple: There is no fear of God in them.

The fear of God is the key.

Again and again, Scripture insists that wisdom begins with fearing God. We take “fear” to mean awe and reverence. By its very nature, anyone fearing the Righteous God is automatically humble and obedient.

Nothing of any significance spiritually begins without that awe and humility.

Want to see the fear of the Lord in action?

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Have you considered how special you are to God?

“Go tell His disciples–and Peter….” (Mark 16:7)

How special Peter must have felt, to have been singled out by the angel.

This is a question followed by a story…..

Question:  What has God done that forever makes you know how special you are to Him?

Was it a healing? A close call with a near-accident?  Something you read in Scripture?  A sermon that perfectly fit your need of the moment?  Your salvation?

What did He do?

Why do you feel so special to Him?

I have a friend who says she feels like God’s favorite child.  There has to be a reason.  I’m asking you to search out that reason.

Now, the story.

I was preaching a revival in East Fork Baptist Church, halfway between McComb and Liberty, MS.  Fans of Jerry Clower will remember he talked of this church and the community often.  Jerry Clower sat on the front row at every service.  I stayed in his camp house that week.

The organist for the little church had only one arm.  Clyde Whittington was a sweet-spirited, friendly fellow.  One day when we were having lunch with Mr. and Mrs. Whittington, Jerry Clower said, “Clyde, you have to tell Brother Joe what happened to you.”

Clyde was only too ready to tell how he had lost that arm and why he would forever feel special to God.

One day, some years earlier, he had taken the tractor out to bale some hay.  Normally, one person would have the dickens of a time working all the machinery, but Clyde figured he could handle it alone if he was careful.

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This guy found a problem in the Bible and thinks he can now disprove God

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was reading comments on a friend’s Facebook page on something she had written about the Bible.

After a number of statements from one critic in particular–each comment shallow and several of them insulting–she patiently responded with kindness and reason.

But nothing worked on that guy.

When one is determined not to believe, no amount of truth or reason or logic can penetrate the protective armor of alibis, arguments, excuses, and slander in which he clothes himself.

What was the “contradiction” he had found in Scripture?

He said, “In one place the Bible says an eye for an eye and another place it says turn the other cheek.  What do you say about such a contradiction?”

I found myself wondering if this guy was serious.  My 13-year-old neighbor could answer that.

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Things God enjoys most

“Well, I know there’s a lot of big preachers that know a lot more than I do, but it could be that the good Lord likes a little pickin’ too.”  –Tom T. Hall, “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died”

Yogi Berra watched as the batter approached the plate.  The Yankee catcher had seen it all, and this guy was like so many: eager to get a hit, but needing all the help he could find.  The batter stood at the plate and made the sign of the cross, then pointed toward the skies, both symbols of prayer as he summoned the Almighty to his aid.

“Hey buddy,” said Yogi from behind his mask, “Why don’t we just let the Lord enjoy the game?”

I’m with Yogi.

That begs the question of course.  We wonder if the Lord enjoys a baseball game occasionally.

Does God smile at the antics of a small child?  Revel at the cuteness of puppies?  Does He ever sit back and enjoy the music of an orchestra or choir?  Did God like that rainbow I saw yesterday?

Does the Lord ever summon an angel in and say, “Look at that waterfall! And take a gander at those butterflies. Didn’t we do good?”

I wouldn’t be surprised.

He has been known to enjoy His own work.

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Church members who practice atheism

All these things they will do to you for My Name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.  (John 15:21).

The problem with preacher-haters and trouble-makers in the church is that they do not believe in God. That statement might require a little clarification.

Those members who are determined to have their way regardless of the cost to the fellowship of the church, the unity of the congregation, the continuance of the pastor’s ministry, or the sacrifice of programs of the church are not without religious convictions.

They may have even had religious experiences. Of a sort.

Regardless of what they believe, most are atheists in the purest sense.

Whatever belief in God they possess is theoretical. God was in Christ, yes. He was in the past. And He will be in the future, they confess, when He takes them and others like them to Heaven.

As for the present, alas, they are on their own.

What, you may be wondering, would lead me to say such outrageous things about some people who are members of churches and who frequently get elected to high positions of leadership in those churches?

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Pretend you are omniscient. Here’s how that looks.

General George Patton of World War 2 fame lived in the grip of a strong sense of destiny.  At times, he felt he might be the reincarnation of some ancient Roman general.  There was a daring and innovative spirit about him, a combination, some said, of past generals such as the Confederacy’s Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jeb Stuart, and the Union’s George Custer.

Patton knew he was special and felt “the gods” had ordained him for something dramatic in life.

According to LIFE magazine for November 30, 1942, he expected his death to be spectacular.

He has a date with history, but the date, he thinks, will be brief.  He expects to be killed in battle, not bombed out of headquarters somewhere to the rear, but blown up, bit by bit, in a tank advancing at the head of a victorious attack through the enemy’s strongest lines.

This premonition that he will be killed in battle is not something new. He had it in 1917; he had it during all the years between World War I and World War II, when even the Army seemed to believe there would be no more wars. He often described his premonition to his wife, until today she too believes it.  Of course, it may not come in the present desert campaign, but Patton’s friends now take his word for it: it will come sometime and it will be glorious. (p.116)

That’s what he expected about his death.  It was not to be.

Four months after the war ended he was killed in an automobile accident.

He must have been so disappointed.

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Mankind: Made of a different sort by the Creator Himself

People are different from all other animals God made.

We sit in front of the television watching nature shows and swoon at the images of baby tigers, baby baboons, baby anythings.

We are wired that way, to love the creation around us.

I walk the path in our little neighborhood and breathe in the fresh air and delight in all the hues of the leaves in a hundred trees.  They cover the trees and carpet the ground and they are enchanting.

The two mallards in the pond seem to see nothing but each other and the water around them.  They never seem to look around at the glorious landscape and praise God, but simply go their merry way as though the world was built just for them.

We see an animal in distress and our hearts go out to it.  No one exemplifies this quality of mercy more than my wife whose heart is touched by every cute puppy, every cuddly kitten, ever shivering animal in need of warmth and food.

This is a Godlike quality.  He does this.  We do.  And no other part of His creation that we have found does it.

The gorilla is tender toward its own baby but not toward anyone else’s.  The mare is protective of her foal but not of the kid of the goat born the same morning.  The mama bear is legendary in her protection of the babies in her den, but not of anyone else’s. Only we love them all.

God made us this way.  It was this way from the beginning.

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’…. And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food….’ (Genesis 1:26-30)

It’s the natural order of things.  God did it.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.  (Genesis 2:15).

The conclusion of the matter, according to the Psalmist, is this:  The heavens are the heavens of the Lord; But the earth He has given to the sons of men.  (Psalm 115:16).

Don’t hurry past that, as I fear most people do.  In His Bible commentary, John MacArthur says of this verse, “Strong implications that planet earth alone is the dwelling place of life.”

While that is an interesting observation, I suspect it misses the point.  The point is that mankind is the custodian of all that is on the earth.  Scripture teaches that God made man “a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5) but superior to everything else on the earth.  We know that mankind is possessed by a wisdom and creativity that is light years above that of any other creature on this planet.

I sat on my back deck giving thanks to our wonderful Lord for the trees and for man’s ability to turn the wood from those trees into this deck.  I thanked Him for the minerals in the earth and for man’s ability to transform those fascinating elements into the car I  drive.  For the air I breathe and the way it will purify itself if not overloaded by impurities, and the same with the waters in the ocean.

The sparrows and cardinals came to my feeder while I sat there.  They have no thoughts of where the seeds in those holders originated, only that they are there and edible.  They partake and fly away.  My heart is thankful, for they have graced my morning.

I pray for the birds and the fish and turtles in my pond, asking the Father to nurture them and protect them and show me what to do to help them.

No other part of creation does this as far as can be seen.  Only humans seem to care for all of creation.

We are responsible for this earth.  That is a sobering, almost frightening, thought.  We will give account.  And when I see that our President appoints someone to monitor the climate and recommend policies and changes to benefit all humanity, I do not see this as another useless bureaucracy but something with great possibilities for good.  I pray so.

We have littered the heavens surrounding Planet Earth with untold thousands of bits and pieces of space junk, leftover from previous flights and satellites and rocketships.  And now we are considering sending people to Mars, where eventually we will leave behind trash and garbage and debris.

It is Godly to care.  It is God-like to act to work to keep the oceans pure, the air clean, the earth safe.  It is God-like to love the critters, as Ellie Mae called them.

“Father, Thy will be done on earth–all of earth, every aspect of earth–as it is in Heaven.  Amen.”