Famous Last Words ………… What will yours be?

AmberOBrien"

I kept reading the words over and over.  The priest who I spoke with just the day before was dead.  A faithful, elderly and supposedly retired priest who served the Lord till his very last day when he sat in the confessional booth to help others confess their sins to God.  I am so glad I went. I am so glad I waited in the extra long line to speak with him.  As I waited I kept asking God, “what sins are separating me from you?” What relationships in my life are not right and keeping me from a closer walk with you God? As I waited in line and listened to the soft peaceful music, the holy spirit reminded me of individuals in my life who I still had not fully forgiven. A tightness of heart occurred when I thought of them and I knew I wanted a clean, soft heart that overflowed with Love instead.

I shared my desire to fully forgive these individuals with the recently departed Father. Then, I received the gift and privilege of some of his last words on this broken, messy earth.   He wisely told me, “About forgiveness…..we are commanded to forgive;  but remember that just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that you will forget what happened to you. That is not the way humans were created.”

His final words on forgiveness reminded me of some other famous last words. The Final words of Jesus Christ as he slowly died on the cross.

“Father, forgive them,  they know not what they do”. (Luke 23:34) 

Who is Jesus forgiving in the statement above? not just the Romans…He is a personal God who is speaking to You and I. We are the “they”.

Sometimes an earthly example (a criminal before a judge scenerio) can help to explain an overwhelmingly incredible and mind-blowing spiritual truth. So imagine that you are about to go before God (the Judge and Jury) and make an account for all your lifelong sins and transgressions. You speak with your attorney and confess all that you have done throughout your life as well as all the missed opportunities to help others. So your advocate attorney goes before the judge (whose job is to make sure that Heaven remains perfect with no sin or sadness or sickness in it)  and says, “Your Honor……Yes. If she came to Heaven her sin would ruin it.  I agree with you that she deserves the death penalty and then she should spend eternity in Hell. She is guilty and justice says that she needs to die as a consequence.”

You stand shocked with your mouth ajar.”What?  I thought you were going to defend me ?” you start screaming at your attorney, ” Why don’t you help me?”

You fall to the ground in despair.  When you look up, the holy, white-hot  face of your advocate blinds you with Love as He declares boldly, “I will take on your death sentence. I love you and want you to spend eternity in Heaven where there is no sin. So I will destroy death and sin by dying for you and rising from the dead.”

The weight of all our sins: past, present and future fell upon His shoulders so the penalty would be accomplished. For you and I personally participated when God allowed mankind to torture and kill His only begotten son. My selfishness nailed his feet to the beam. Your sin became a thorn in his already wounded body.

Now you are overcome with joy and start to sob as the handcuffs and shackles of sin are released from your legs , “Thank you … oh Jesus…. thank you so much. I Believe. I Believe that you paid the penalty once and for all. Thank you for the gift of being set free from the death penalty and everlasting death.”

God in the flesh kneels down to embrace you and tells you that you may now enter the Holy of Holies because the veil of separation has been torn open. You now have special access to the throne of Almighty God. He calls you His child for you are now a member in the family of God. He calls you friend because He did this to restore the intimate relationship that Adam and Eve had with God before they sinned.  He calls you princess because you are a now a flawless, beautiful daughter of the King of Kings.  Your time on earth will never be the same…….. as well as beyond.

You slowly rise up and in awed thanksgiving you ask,  “After all you did for me….Jesus, what can I do for you??”

And then you remember His last words on the cross.

Father,  Forgive them……..they know not what they do. 

gulp.  Did I just say that I was willing to do anything for God after all He did for me? But this is sooo hard in this broken world when people can be so mean.  “But Lord…..They made my life so much harder when I needed help and was already struggling”.

“Yes”, Jesus would answer ” Just like when I suffered on the cross and your sins made my suffering so much harder”.

God came to reconcile with you and wants you to reconcile with those around you as much as it is up to you. (of course  you don’t have to have a relationship with someone to forgive them…in cases of abuse etc…we need to set boundaries)  God wants the best for us and unforgiveness causes stress that can lead to disease and most of separation from God.  He wants your heart to be free and not tight. There is a difference from remembering and dwelling on our past. Look up at the cross of Jesus, and not back at how others have hurt you. Focus on how you are now free from death row; from eternal separation from God and perfect heaven. Forgiving them means you are going to let your Big protective Heavenly Father deal with what happened.  You are releasing the situation into His Hands and asking God to take the bitter root of unforgiveness out of your heart. 

Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, and that no bitter root spring up to cause trouble, through which many may become defiled.  Hebrews 12 14-15 

Trust that God will use your painful experiences for good someday. He can transform all things that we offer up into His loving and firm hands. Ask God to give you compassion for the person you struggle to forgive. Ask God to help you to forgive as we humanly can not do this alone. Remember that you have special access? Use it.

Each time a thought comes to your mind, say out Loud, “I forgive them in the Name of Jesus.” Forgiveness is a process that takes time. While you may always remember what happened, the sting will slowly go away and your heart will be light and free.

What will your last words be?  

I hope we can say together on that resurrection Day, “Father, I forgave them as you forgave me. Thank you for setting my heart and soul free.”

She Told Me I Was the Reason Her Flight Was Delayed #A Divine Appointment

AmberOBrien"

 

I read the alert in shocked confusion as we scrambled to get ready for a early flight to Las Vegas for a franchise convention. Alert: At least 20 people are dead and more than 100 are injured after a mass shooting during a country music concert in Las Vegas. “What?” I exclaimed as I awoke my husband. There’s been a shooting!!”

I quickly threw some small booklets of the Gospel of John published by the Pocket Testament League into my backpack as we headed out the door for our trip. While I often bring these with me to travel, I had an extra sense of urgency thinking that because of the tragic massacre, God may put in my path someone that is looking for answers.

“Oh Lord,” I prayed. “Help me to be your salt and light at this convention and for those in the Las Vegas area.”

Our convention was held in a hotel in Henderson, NV (just outside of the Las Vegas) and I could see the silhouette of the casinos from my hotel room reminding me to pray throughout the week for all of those involved. The numbers of the victims climbed to 59 and more than 500 injured as the details unfolded and many people at my convention had questions. How could he get away with bringing up so many weapons to the 32nd floor ? What was his motivation? Why didn’t someone stop him earlier?

One colleague expressed how she was feeling the “fragility of Life” and there was a sobering blanket covering our time there.  I didn’t have an opportunity to travel near the Mandalay Bay hotel but during the one night we did venture to the strip we contemplated the windows covered with tarp that the gunman had used to shoot at the music festival attendees. We stayed busy with classes and workshops but often my mind went to the  suffering families who had lost a loved one in the shooting or now cared for an injured family member. “Oh May they know your comfort and peace, Please surround them with Christians who can minister to them”. 

On the flight home, I still had not handed out one of my pocket Testaments but keep my radar on for who God might bring along my path.

The flight was full and so my husband and I waved to a young (20 something) lady to take the window seat. She started off explaining that her first flight was delayed and she missed a flight and finally she was here. Soon she shared that she had been at the music festival where the shooting took place. “I left early as I needed to get home for work…but I left my friend behind.” She felt guilty for leaving her friend. And Her friend who made it out alive, felt guilty with “survivors remorse” for making it out alive and uninjured.

I looked her in the eye (deciding to refrain from reading as I had planned)  and tried my best to be a good listener as she processed the event and the “Why” questions started to flow from her mouth.  Why would someone do something so evil? Why didn’t God stop this? Why were her friend and her spared?

I didn’t know the answer to the Why’s but I knew the answer to the Who question. I also knew that the best way to come to know the “who person” was reading an eyewitness account by one of His earliest followers.

I decided that at the end of the flight I would be handing her the Gospel of John, and throughout the flight sought to be as considerate and caring as I could. I tried to give the gift of a listening ear who truly cared.  I really do care for her and still pray for her weeks later. She is the age of my children who also enjoy music festivals. My maternal instincts kicked in as I asked her questions about her unique name, her best friend who she was visiting, and about how she ended up in Las Vegas. Every so often, I would try to give a little bit of truth when a lull happened in the conversation.

“We have to trust God with those that have been taken. So now ask yourself why you are still here. Realizing our fragility in this Life is a gift.”

As we were about to land, I offered her some gum. I felt for one of the pocket testaments and held it in my hand as we waited for those in front to depart first. Finally I turned to her and handed her the booklet:

I have something to give you that I believe God wants you to have.  This has in it the answers to the questions you have been asking.  The Bible is the greatest book of all and this gospel is the best book to start reading.  And look, there is a picture of a violin and the title says, “Music for the Soul” on front. (as she was just at a music festival)

I waited to see her response. Would she take it politely or worse throw it quickly into her backpack not realizing the treasure she now held?

She grasped the booklet with both hands and held it as if she gratefully realized the immense gift inside.

“I am going to read it” she told me with a smile.

and the next statement she exclaimed blew.me.away.

Now I know why my last flight was delayed.

Yes! I nodded and explained with a knowing smile, “I call this a divine appointment. I believe God brought us together so I could give this to you.”

God knew that during the flight home she would be processing the fragility of life and God knew I was ready with the Gospel of John in my backpack.  I continue to pray for her that she would indeed read the Word of God and come to know The One who came with the cure for death and sin.

So sweet sister.  Be watchful and ready if God brings someone who is thirsty into your path.

Would you like to have some of these pocket Testaments for travel ? To bring on a plane or maybe to your local nursing home? a prison? hairdresser? Just have one in your purse and see what kind of divine appointment our amazing heavenly tour director sets up.

You can go online and receive complimentary copies with a variety of covers. Seasonal covers (thanksgiving and Christmas) to golf (who needs a mulligan?) to ones that have a coloring page cover.

Check out PTL.org (pocket Testament League) and you can pick from a variety of covers that all contain the Gospel of John. Their mission statement is “Mobilizing and equipping Christians to Read, Carry and Share the Word since 1893.”

If you are able to donate something, then the money will help out those who can’t afford to purchase right now but who want to share the answer to the Who question.

Jesus said in the Gospel of John,
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father expect through me.  ( John 14:6) 

I’ve heard others describe Christians as boring. what !?  Well, it is my experience that being a follower of Christ is the most exciting adventure one can have on this earth. Christ followers know personally The Cure for all that ails us in this world. We know the One who can heal souls.  People are walking around with scales on their eyes and do not know that they are blind. Some have the chains of addiction and the past clamped around their legs. What a sobering honor and gift to know the secret that can free the captive of past sin and regret. Finding rest in Him means being free of fear and the future.

Sweet sister, you know personally The Cure. Will you share Him with all who are dying? 

We must wait though until just the right time when the person realizes their need for the medicine. The time when their hearts are soft. So we must be on watch with open ears and hearts to know then the time is right to share.

I pray you have courage my sister to share the cure that someone had the courage to share with you. Sometimes just asking a question will be the seed that will grow into a soft field of a heart ready to accept the lavish gift of redemption. When I was a young teen a man at a strip mall who was passing out tracts asked me, “Do you know why Jesus died on the cross”.  (See my blog testimony, Three Questions that Changed the World)

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So look for the seeker. Ask the real questions. Give them a way to read and find the answers.

I charge you my sweet sister:  Read, carry and share the gospel. Literally…… carry the gospel with you and give it away. 

For Our Life Giving Boss (Jesus is my Boss:) urges us to:

” Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”.          Mark 16:15