Looking Beyond

Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a burning desire to tell others about the love of Jesus Christ.  As an adult, I yearn for God to swing wide the doors of opportunity for me to minister even more to people around the world.  What about you?  Do you long for something more?  Is there a tugging at your heart to accomplish something bigger than yourself?  Beyond our occupation, our family, our friends, we are all here for a greater purpose.  God has placed us on this earth to fulfill a divine calling in our lives.  We are here to tell others about Jesus Christ and his love.  Just as we look beyond a picturesque sunset and anticipate the dawning of a brand new day, we must look beyond our current circumstances and fix our eyes on Jesus Christ.

Recently, I read the story of how the song, “Beyond the Sunset,” was written.  Virgil Prentiss Brock penned the words one evening in 1936 after a conversation at the dinner table.  The topic of conversation was an unusually gorgeous sunset at Winona Lake in Indiana, despite the storm clouds looming overhead.  Virgil’s blind cousin, Horace Burr, commented that it was the most beautiful sunset he had ever seen.

Virgil said to his cousin, “People are always amazed when you talk about seeing.”  Horace replied, “I can see.  I see through other people’s eyes, and think I often see more; I see beyond the sunset.”  Virgil said the phrase “beyond the sunset” and the striking inflection of his cousin’s voice struck him profoundly.  He immediately began singing the first few lines of the song.  Before they had even finished their meal, the entire song was written.

I must say that this story left me speechless.  This gentleman who could not see ultimately had greater vision than those with perfect eyesight.  He did not focus on the impending thunderstorm.  Instead, he focused on the true beauty.  He saw more than a lake, a sunset, and storm clouds.  His sight was not limited by the horizon.  He could look beyond the physical limitations of this world in order to catch a glimpse of something that was seemingly Heavenly.  He knew that even in the sunset, there was sunshine awaiting him.

I invite you to listen to my song, "There's Sunshine Awaiting You."

How many times in life do we look at our current situation and begin to succumb to a state of hopelessness and despair?  Perhaps you see your children hanging out with the wrong crowd.  Instead of asking God for help, your mind first goes into a tailspin of all of the possible outcomes.  Will they try drugs, participate in underage drinking, have sex before marriage, or even get arrested?  Once the myriad of possibilities stop running through your mind, that’s when you finally stop to pray about it.  Since when did prayer become the last possible course of action?  Prayer should be our first line of defense, not our last resort.

We should not dwell on the problems of this earth.  Instead, we need to pray and have faith that God is working all things together for our good (see Romans 8:28).  Jesus Christ is the answer to every problem in life.  Hebrews 12:2 says we should fix our eyes on Jesus.  It does not say to look around the world to see if there is a better alternative.  It clearly says to look at Jesus, “the perfecter of faith.”  Even when we do not see a way out and our own vision clouds our view, he will strengthen our faith and help us see the way out.  Every day, we need to stay focused on Jesus.  Only then will we be able to fulfill the calling that the Lord has placed on our lives.

You may be thinking I don’t have a calling.  I’m not a pastor, a Sunday school teacher, a musician, a singer, a choir director, a deacon...  As Christians, we each have a calling on our lives.  This calling may not require us to have a leadership role within the church.  Our mission may be to write notes of encouragement to those who are grieving, to help serve meals at the local homeless shelter, to volunteer to clean the church, or countless other ways we could serve the Lord.  God may be calling you to be a prayer warrior, going to the throne of grace on behalf of people who are sick, battling addictions, or enduring heartache of some kind.  Ask God to show you what he wants you to do.

When we get to Heaven, individuals who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).  What does a servant do?  They work.  In the same way, we should devote our lives to the work of the Lord.  The Bible says we should do everything we do as unto the Lord.  That means everything we do should be done for God, not for man.  So whether you are mowing the lawn for your neighbor, donating clothes to the church clothes closet, or helping collect items for someone who lost their home due to a fire, always complete the task as if you were working for our Heavenly Father.  He gave his only Son to die on a cross for our sins.  He gave his best.  We should strive daily to give our best to him in return.

The Hoppers, a Southern Gospel singing group, sing a song titled, “We’ll Work ‘Till Jesus Comes.”  That is exactly what we are called to do.  We are called to share the Good News with everyone we meet, whether we are standing on the platform at church or standing in the checkout lane at the grocery store.  Looking at the headlines, it is imperative that we tell people about Jesus and how he died to save them from their sins and give them the gift of eternal life.  The return of Jesus Christ is closer than ever before, yet there are so many people who do not have this blessed hope.  We need to be “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).  It should be our primary goal in life to share this blessed hope with everyone we meet.

Perhaps you think this is the pastor’s job.  Or maybe you feel an evangelist would be able to explain the Gospel more eloquently.  But what about the people who will not go to church or attend a revival?  How can someone hear about the Lord unless someone tells them?  Will you be the one to answer the call that God has placed on your life?  Will you take time to visit someone, to write to someone, to talk to someone and tell them about the saving grace of Jesus Christ?  You are the only Bible some people will ever read.  If you do not tell them about Jesus, they may never be able to look beyond their circumstances.  They may never know the joy of looking beyond the sunset.  Don’t let the impending storm clouds get in your way.  Set your eyes on Jesus Christ.  Allow him to use you according to his perfect will.  I can guarantee that your life will be forever changed when you start looking beyond the shortcomings of this world and begin focusing on the amazing plan God has for your life!

In Christ’s Love,

No Greater Love

        This Valentine’s Day, men and women alike will try to outdo the opposite sex by purchasing the freshest bouquet of roses, the sweetest box of chocolates, or the most costly piece of jewelry they can afford.  Others may purchase weekend getaways, new automobiles, gourmet dinners, and the like.  Children will cut out hearts and write Valentines to their parents, teachers, family, and friends.  But even amid all of this red and pink and everything from heart-shaped candies to ice cubes shaped like X’s and O’s, is this really the best way to convey our love for one another?  Perhaps in all of our haste to wrap the right gift, we may have lost the meaning of Valentine’s Day altogether.  Love is not found inside a greeting card or even a chocolate truffle.  Love is found through our actions.  How we talk to others, how we treat them, and what we do for them every day of the year.  That’s love.
        From the Creation of the world, love has been the glue that holds everything together.  It was with love that God so carefully placed the sun, moon, and stars.  Through love, he created bodies of water and dry land.  He knew we would need nourishment, so he provided a vast array of plants and animals that would produce food for us to eat.  Then, he knew we had an inherent need to feel loved, so he gave Adam a companion as a helpmate.  Even though the world has experienced its fair share of tumult since the moment that pristine Garden of Eden was planted by God’s own hands, one thing has never changed.  God has never stopped loving me and you.
        John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should have eternal life.”  Throughout the centuries, people have blasphemed, ridiculed, and scorned our Heavenly Father.  Yet because of his infinite mercy, he pours out his unconditional love to every man, woman, boy, and girl on this earth.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God gave his only Son to save us all, even though we were sinners.  He looks beyond our shortcomings, our mistakes, our wrongdoings.  He looks into the heart of the individual and knows they have an inherent need to be loved.  Through an unselfish sacrifice of love, we have been redeemed.  Through love, we find salvation.  This kind of love is greater than we can fully comprehend.
        Love is not just a feeling for someone.  To love someone means you are willing to do something on their behalf.  John 15:3 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”   This does not mean we should be crucified on a cross.  This means we should put others first, sacrificing our own needs to show God’s love toward others.  A parent’s love is likely the closest example to Christ’s perfect love displayed by a human.  A mother or father sleeps lightly, ready to jump up at the first cry of their child.  They don’t leap out of bed at 4 o’clock in the morning because they despise sleep; they do it out of love for their son or daughter.  They would do anything to ensure their child’s well-being is put before their own needs.  That’s unconditional love.
        Love is something that cannot be bought or sold.  It can only be given away.  The only question is what kind of love we will show to others.  Will we send a Get Well card in the mail, or will we pick up the telephone to see how someone is really doing?  Will we give someone a gift card to their favorite restaurant, or will we go out of our way to prepare a home-cooked meal for someone who is living alone, with no family to call their own?  Will we stay home on Sunday morning or will we go to the House of the Lord to worship and praise him for the unmerited favor and matchless love that he has shown toward us?  While every act of love is a blessing to the recipient, the greatest thing we can do is to be a reflection of the love of Jesus Christ to everyone we meet.  I John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us.”  Jesus Christ is the perfect example of love.  He didn’t just send a Valentine card.  He gave his life so we could have our sins washed white as snow, and in turn, receive everlasting life.  That is the greatest example of love ever shown since the beginning of time.  There truly is no greater love!

In Christ's Love,

The Ultimate Prize