The Land of the Living

“I would have lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  Psalm 27:13

 

I have found myself thinking about Heaven lately. As I was reading this Psalm, this verse caught my attention. Everyone wants to be in a better place whether in this life or the next. Most everyone somehow believes they will be in Heaven or reunited with their loved ones after death. Perhaps you have lost someone dear to you, or perhaps you are nearing the end of your life as well. Perhaps you have gone through much suffering and wonder when everything will turn around. You are not alone.

 

The Crisis of Belief

One of the most needed things in our world is hope. I remember during Obama’s presidential campaign, he ran his presidency on this thought: hope. But can a human really provide this?

David writes in the psalms that he would have despaired unless he had believed.

The root of hopelessness is a crisis of belief. We as humans all need someone or something bigger than ourselves to believe in. Some find this cause in politics, philanthropy, their families or in religion. Where do you find hope?

David teaches us that his belief has sustained him during the most perilous times. Times of darkness, danger, betrayal, where death was a breath away. He found his hope in the living God. The knowledge that God was with him and that there was a land that awaited him became his lighthouse in the storm. He declares that the Lord is his light and his salvation. How many people are in despair because they have no belief? The devil’s greatest weapon is lies. He speaks to us to cause us to doubt our purpose, that we are loved, and that there is a God in Heaven who cares more for us than we could imagine.

Friends, this is our blessed hope, that we do not have to have a crisis of belief. We can hold fast to the truth that there is a God who is good and powerful. His mercy never fails us. His eye is always upon us. His kindness is limitless and to those who trust in him, he has reserved a land where we will live forever.

Next time you are facing a crisis, examine your beliefs. Are they coming from the truth… or from the father of lies?

 

The God of the Living

We understand who God is through his Word.

Jesus speaks to the Pharisees and Sadducees about the afterlife. “But concerning the dead that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses in the burning bush passage that God spoke to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ ? He is not the God of the dead but of the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.” (Mark 12:26-7)

All mankind will experience the afterlife. The dead shall be raised; some to eternal reward and others to eternal punishment.

Let’s consider another example.

The English word for enthusiasm comes from the root word meaning “God breathed or filled with God.” The most truly alive people I’ve ever met have God’s Spirit living in them. Jesus says that he has come to give us life and life to the fullest. God is eternal. His kingdom, his being was from before time and will never end. He is the one who gives and sustains all life.

If you want to truly live, you must be in relationship with the God of the living. I have never met a depressed, suicidal, hopeless person who was truly filled with God’s Spirit. You can be religious and depressed… but not filled with the God of the living and depressed. It’s impossible. You see when sin entered the world, what was the result? Death. Sin is our separation from the living God through willful rebellion. This death is all around us, in our minds, our physical bodies, and our world. But praise be to God that through his Son, we can confess like David, “I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!”

 

Better than You Imagined

One of the most underappreciated and misunderstood places is Heaven. What images come to mind when you think of Heaven? Clouds? Harps? Halos? Babies floating around in diapers with mini-wings?

Whatever Hollywood view you have of Heaven… it’s wrong. One of the saddest lies I’ve heard is that Heaven will be boring. No fishing. No video games. No sex. No good music. No parties. Just an endless choir. Friends, this is completely wrong. Who do you think created the Earth? If God made fishing, sex, the sunset, the Milky Way, caviar, music, laughter, and snow capped mountains, do you really believe that his eternal dwelling place will be boring?

Apostle Paul reminds us that, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)

We get glimpses of what Heaven will be like in Scripture. It is described as a place where there is no more sorrow, death or darkness. It is a place where righteous men and women from the beginning of time will walk with God and each other in unbroken fellowship forever. It is described as a place without sin where the glory and love of God permeate everything. In Heaven color, sound, taste and every sense imaginable are heightened. It is a place so beautiful that the streets are paved with gold. No more terrorists, taxes, broken promises, separation from family, fear, shame or death. Only endless love, peace, contentment, joy and life. God will wipe away every tear and make all things new.

Will there be food in Heaven? Will there be creativity? Will there be laughter? Will there be family and fellowship? Will there be music beyond description? Will there be creatures we never dreamed of? Will it be fun, exciting, and adventurous?

More than you and I could ever dream!

Most of all, can you imagine looking into the eyes of Jesus? The one who created the universe and whose eyes burn like fire? Can you imagine what he will say to you on that day? The one who created and knows the deepest regions of the human heart?

Whatever joy, pleasure, romance, excitement and adventure you can imagine or have experienced here on Earth is only a shadow of things to come. I can’t wait to get there and walk with Jesus… and meet my family members who have served the Lord and passed on… and to talk with Peter, David, Esther and others.


Saints, we have a blessed hope. Let us say like King David that we believe we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. It’s our intimacy with God and our knowledge of his goodness which will sustain us through the darkest night.

Heaven is not reserved for “good people” or people who believe in the afterlife or religion. It is reserved only for the children of God. We must be born again through Jesus Christ into the family of God. As we declare him to be Lord and Savior, he will take our pain, fear, failure and sin away! He is able to cleanse you by his blood shed on the cross. You do not have to live another day fearing death or what the future holds. You will now be able to say, “I would have lost heart unless I had believed.”

If you have never given your life to Jesus Christ, do it today.

I look forward to seeing you one day… in the land of the living.

Good News from Eugene

Before I begin to tell you about this picture and the family whose lives were changed, I need to give the backstory to what brought me to Eugene, Oregon this hot weekend in July.

I am a member of the Luis Palau evangelistic network called the Next Generation Alliance. This is a group created to support, mentor, and further develop the next generation of evangelists. I had made a trip up to Oregon earlier this year to visit the Palau HQ near Portland and prior to this, there happened to be an outreach at the University of Oregon that I joined. Greatly encouraged after the outreach and my visit to the HQ, I wanted to participate in any major outreaches that were upcoming. The original plan this July was for me to be in Taiwan… but as that fell through, I was free to come to Eugene after all. But getting to the glory was not as easy as one might expect…

 

Hostess from Hell & Superman Dives

I arrived in Eugene after a beautiful but loooong 9 hour drive through the Oregon back road freeways as I was coming from Tahoe. I had booked an Air BnB in a “homey” and cheap place in the outskirts of Eugene. Easy peasy right?

An old blue house on a darkened corner awaited as an elderly woman greeted me about 9:30pm Wed night. The first thing I noticed was that my nostrils were being attacked by the smell of cat as soon as I came in the door. She then proceeded to tell me the door code to unlock the front door. Beep, beep, beep… eeeennnnnnntttt.. Beep, beep, beep…. EEEENNNTTT! Hmm… that’s funny. This code should be working… (and obviously wasn’t) But being that it was late and I was exhausted… I told her I was just going to go to bed and I’m sure she’d get the code working for the door. (I presumed) After I got into the room which was a cool 95 degrees Fahrenheit with only a ceiling fan… I was looking for the trash can to dump a few items that had accumulated during my 9 hour trek… alas there didn’t seem to be one. I was then informed by my hostess that “she only composts.” Sigh….

The next morning after having made my own trash receptacle out of a grocery bag, I asked to dump this in the bin and instead of obliging she looks at me eyes bulging and says, “Why do you have so much trash? No really, THAT is so much trash!” I decided I wasn’t going to argue with an eco-maniac and told her to forget it. I’d dump it at Safeway. I did not come back to the house that day until 11pm as I really didn’t want to talk to her anymore and just wanted to sleep in my oven and then go about my business the next day. (Oh, and the bathroom was from the 50s and when you turn on the shower fan… it sounded like a jet engine after about 5 seconds of sputters…) This is what I get for choosing the affordable route.

So there I was at 11pm Thursday night… and to my horror… the incorrect door code she had given me the day before was… STILL INCORRECT! After two or three tries… the lock effectively shut down, and I had to spend the night in my car. Bright eyed and bushy tailed is not how I would describe my next morning. After an hour on the phone with Air BnB and still no resolution (and still in my clothes from the previous day), I decided to go for a swim. I had nothing better to do.

A barista from the local Starbucks told me I had to try out a place called Wildwood Falls. It was a scenic thirty minute drive from Eugene. Once there, the rolling falls are surrounded by a near perfect semi-circle of cliff rocks and everyone was jumping into the crystal blue waters below. Great! So I joined right in. After about two hours, I decided that feet first wasn’t exciting enough. I finally mustered up the courage to do a superman dive off of a cliff about 20-30 feet in the air. It seemed like a good idea until I hit the water and something wasn’t right with my left arm. I knew this because a) it wasn’t working anymore and b) there were jolts of electric pain shooting through it. As I managed to one arm swim back to shore, I was wondering how I was going to get my sandals which I had left on the top of the cliffs and whether my shoulder was dislocated or sprained or what. (Turns out I actually broke my arm, which I didn’t know until later.)

After asking one of the locals to retrieve my sandals for me and then having to climb up the side of the hill one handedly using the rope that helps you up, I shuffled back to my car somewhat dazed and confused. At least I got a nice tan. But seriously… what was going on? I am an injured man hundreds of miles away from home, locked out of my air bnb and can’t even get a change of clothes or shower… and I’m supposed to be at a conference in a few hours and then help with an all day outreach the next day! “DEVIL!! You are not stopping me!!”

Well… the Lord heard my prayers as I drove back on that scenic route. “God, I can’t deal with any more right now. I need your grace. I need you to come through here.” I spent the first night at the conference in the same clothes I’d been wearing for almost 48 hours and then by a miracle, I got a response from the hostess who finally told me the right code to the door (after accusing me of lying to Air BnB because she claimed I really knew the code all along.) Late that night after the conference, I made a black ops mission into the den of cats to retrieve my luggage, left the room key on the table and said, “Hasta la vista, baby!”

 

CityFest, Eugene

I woke up the next morning in my local Motel 6, in pain but slightly relieved to have the previous escapade behind me. Should I check myself into the emergency room? Should I just power through this and worry about my shoulder later? I decided on option two. I had come all this way to participate in the outreach and while there was breath in these lungs, I was getting there. Everything took longer with one arm and certain movements triggered the electricity so I had to be very slow and methodical getting ready and getting to the morning session of the conference. The speakers, the prayers, the fellowship all profoundly blessed me. I could see God’s goodness despite what had happened the past couple of days. About 3pm it was go time and we all headed over to PK Park, the local baseball stadium, in Eugene. My role and that of many other volunteers was to counsel new believers and gather their information so that we could make sure to get them into a local church.

The Festival is a massive undertaking. Over 100 churches had been mobilized in the region with about 2 years of planning going into this. The first part of the day they had childrens’ games and a gospel presentation for the kids. People responded. I got to pray with two little guys named Alex and Edgar… and then prayed with another elderly woman who responded too during the kids gospel presentation. Goes to show there is no Jr. Holy Ghost!

Later in the day, there was a presentation by a stunt group. Skateboarders and bikers doing crazy tricks on ramps culminating with motorcyclists doing the same. It is here that we come back to the picture above. After all the tricks and stunts, a young man begins sharing his story. All he ever wanted to do was be a professional biker. He achieved that dream but realized it was not what made life worth living. He described how he always had a praying grandma and she would always tell him about Jesus. (He called her Billy Grandma) It wasn’t until he finally surrendered to Jesus that he knew his true purpose in life and that he had eternal peace inside. He knew where he was going to spend eternity. “This same forgiveness.. this same eternal life.. is available for you. Today is your day to say yes to Jesus. Will you do it?” Hands began going up all over the audience. As I looked to my right, a man was in humble contemplation and then put his hand in the air. His name was Randy.

I counseled him and prayed with him. He had been away from the church for many years, backslidden and lost. He wanted a fresh start and today was that day. I encouraged him, gave him the Luis Palau follow up packet including the gospel of John and prayed for him. His wife came over and thanked me with tears in her eyes. “God has you here for a purpose. You have no idea what this means. I have been praying for him for five years!” I realized in that moment what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “I consider that our light and momentary trials are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.” Randy, Patricia, and their little son Colton will have a new future because of this day. It was all worth it. Matter of fact, if Randy was the only person I came up to Eugene for… it was worth it!

Believe it or not, the night still wasn’t over. They then brought out the third wave. This included artists such as Tedashi and Rend Collective. Andrew Palau came out around 7pm and shared a heart felt and compelling gospel presentation. Again, the hands went up. I prayed with another couple who wanted to give their lives to Christ. And exhausted but so joyful… I left the Festival after a few TobyMac songs at the end of the event that night.

 

The Breaker Anointing

As amazing as CityFest was, something bigger is afoot. Hearing the stories from some of the pastors that this has been in process for over two years made me realize that God was at work in this community. The goal was not to have an event but to transform a region. There is a group in the Eugene area called OneHope that has successfully mobilized city wide unity and consistent prayer amongst almost a hundred churches and their leaders. This has been ongoing now for a number of years. Can you say spiritual plow?

You see God wants to release the breaker anointing. Eugene is known as a liberal / progressive area that is largely unchurched. But this is exactly why this anointing is needed. With our God, nothing is impossible. It is this anointing that breaks every yoke.

After CityFest the next couple of days, I got to touch base with some team members. There was a massive follow up effort underway. They received over 500 decision cards for Christ! I did some phone banking that Monday at the war room to follow up with the new believers. The people I spoke with were profoundly thankful for the event. Nothing like this had been done in Eugene before. “When would the next one be?” seemed to be the consensus. Tom Mueller one of the Palau directors for CityFest and I were talking. He told me however that they didn’t have any plans to do another CityFest in Eugene anytime soon. In my spirit, that disappointed me. But I realized that it didn’t have to be the Palau network doing it. The Body of Christ needed to come together in that region to continue to hold mass evangelistic events in their city. I felt like it needed to happen every year into perpetuity. I sent a prophetic word to Steve Buss, the director of OneHope, telling him that God is saying, “Eugene is going to be a prophetic prototype of sustained revival.” What began with pastors gathering to pray would culminate in a region coming to know the Lord. The CityFest outreach was an important catalyst in that story but not the end.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 1:6

Greater things are yet to come!