This past week a terrible thing happened to a Malaysian Airlines flight that was supposed to land in Beijing at 6:30 am on Saturday morning — the airplane simply vanished. No signal, no distress call, no evidence of what took place. The plane simple disappeared. The flight, which was carrying 239 people from 13 different countries, stopped communicating with air traffic controllers in Malaysia and Vietnam. Although the worst is feared, no one knows for sure what happened to the plane.
The shock of this unexpected occurrence — which left dozens of family members who were waiting in Beijing for the plane’s arrival distraught, angry, and afraid — reminds us of the suddenness of life. One moment all can be going well, the next moment, tragedy strikes and our world is upended. We tend to trust technology, advancement, and progress, but a plane that simply vanishes shakes our belief in any certainty that we may have in this world. It reminds us of the Bible’s words, “What is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
Such events cause us to soberly remember that our lives are fragile. We are not special. We are no better than the people who got on that flight — people with families, homes, dreams, aspirations, and careers. We, too, can be here one moment and gone the next. We can pass from life to eternity in an instant because of some unexpected, tragic event that is totally beyond our control. Such events remind us that we need to be ready for what comes after death — our eternal destination.
I hope and pray that all of those who boarded that ill-fated flight are in Heaven with God. We cannot know that for sure, but what we can know for sure today is whether or not you and I would go to Heaven if we happened to be killed in a sudden, shocking tragedy this week. Today, you have the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as your Saviour so that you can know for sure that you are going to Heaven whether you die suddenly and unexpectedly or whether you die naturally after living a long life.
MUSICAL SELECTION: Jeremy Camp singing “There Will be a Day”
Everywhere we look today, we seem to find strife, disunity, and hatred between different individuals and groups of people. It seems as though these negative feelings are being acted upon more than ever. Young people randomly attacking other people in what has been called the “knockout” game; seemingly innocent young men being shot to death by someone who just happens to have a gun and a will to use it; husbands and wives who are supposed to love and protect are instead shooting and killing each other, their children, and themselves. Random, senseless violence seems to be par for the course of life. We often shake our heads in disbelief and wonder, why can’t people just get along? Why can’t we all live in harmony?
Well, over six thousand years ago, people were not getting along either. The Bible tells us in Genesis 6:11-12 that in the days of Noah, “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt: for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” All the way back to the beginning of history, humans were not getting along with each other.
The reason why we don’t get along with our fellow human beings is very simple: it is because of sin and selfishness. Unfortunately, because every human being has a sin nature, we will never be able to live on earth in a completely peaceful and harmonious manner.
However, did you know that there is a place where humans will live and get along with each other in peaceful harmony? Yes, Black people, White people, Latinos, Asians, Indians, Africans, Arabs, and people of every color and nationality will one day live in perfect peace together in Heaven. Notice this Bible verse from Revelation 7:9. John, the writer of the book says, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” All of these people are in Heaven gathered around the throne of God. Later in this same chapter, John writes “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the, Lamb (Jesus Christ) which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
You see, dear friend, in this place called Heaven, there will be no shootings, no violence, no hatred, no strife, and no discord. In Heaven, we will never have to wonder about why we all can’t get along because everyone will be getting along. Do you want to be a part of this Heavenly multitude of peace, tranquility, and harmony? Do you want to live in Heaven where people truly do get along with each other? Let me show you how.
For example, baseball great George Herman Ruth is known as “Babe” Ruth. The NBA’s LeBron James is sometimes called “King James.” Jason Terry is known as “JET”, not only because those are his initials, but because of the airplane takeoff celebration routine he does after hitting a three-pointer on the basketball court. Jonathan Paul Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman trophy winner, is better known as “Johnny Football.” The boxer, Muhammad Ali, dubbed himself, “the greatest.”
Most people probably wouldn’t recognize the name Eldrick Tont Woods because the world’s number one golf player is known as “Tiger.” The same thing goes for basketball player, Earvin Johnson, who is known as “Magic.” “Air Jordan” is just one nickname that stuck to Michael Jordan, the man who is arguably the best basketball player of all time. And how can we forget “Linsanity” the nickname that describes not only the basketball player, Jeremy Lin, but the frenzied excitement that followed when Lin seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the New York Knicks in an amazing turn-around of their 2011-2012 NBA season.
So, what kind of nickname should be given to one of today’s superstar basketball players — Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder? Some fans have called him the “Slim Reaper” or just “KD”. But Kevin Durant says he wants to be known as “the Servant.” He recently told an interviewer, “I like to serve everybody — my teammates, ushers at the game, the fans. I know it’s kinda weird to make your own nickname, but I like that one better.”
As a follower of Jesus Christ, Kevin Durant may be taking his cues from his Lord and Savior, who said in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” In other words, even though He is God in the flesh who deserves worship and praise, Jesus Christ came to earth not to be served by others, but to serve. Jesus Christ served humanity by giving His life as “a ransom” — a payment or sacrifice — for us. Jesus Christ was the ultimate “servant.” He told His disciples in Luke 22:27, “I am among you as he that serveth.”
MUSICAL SELECTION: Jeremy Camp singing “Jesus Saves”
The 2014 Winter Games are underway in Sochi, Russia, right now. All of the competitions are exciting and thrilling. But one of the competitions that is not only exciting and thrilling, but completely beautiful to watch, is speed skating.
The precision and grace of the sport often leave us in awe of those who take to the ice to master it. While those who compete on the Olympic level make it look easy, many years of hard work, training, and discipline are behind the few minutes of perfection on ice that make up a competition that is incredibly inspiring to watch.
Each of us strive for perfection in some area of our lives. Students desire perfect grades, moms and dads want to be perfect parents, and businesspeople want profit trajectories to consistently go up. Even though we may obtain something close to perfection in one or more of these areas in our lives, there is one area in which we will always fall short — and that is the area of moral behavior. Even the most disciplined person who strives to do what is right in every situation will often stumble in sin and immorality. As the Bible says, “there is none righteous, no, not one.”
We may see our sins as small infractions, but we shouldn’t. The reason why is because even the smallest of infractions is all it takes to separate us from our Creator who demands perfection from his creation. Yes, God’s requirement is that you and I be perfect in order to fellowship with Him.
“That’s impossible!” you say. “Everybody makes mistakes sometimes.”
Yes, everybody does make mistakes — even speed skaters. All of us, at some point in our lives, have sinned. In fact the Bible says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” This means that we cannot have the fellowship with God that we would like to have. This also means that we are destined for eternal punishment and separation from God in an awful place called Hell.
All is not lost, however! The good news is that our Creator made a way for us — yes, us with all of our imperfections — to still have a relationship with Him. He did this by sending His perfect Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to take upon Himself the punishment that we deserved for our sins. Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth (or showed) his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” For a moment in time, God turned his back on His own Son and poured out His wrath on Him so that we could be eternally saved. It was the perfect sacrifice.
MUSICAL SELECTION:”Perfect People” by Natalie Grant
“Trust your heart.” You’ve heard it said many times. You’ve probably even said it a few times yourself.
When a young person has to choose between two equally good colleges, their parents might tell them, “just trust your heart.”
When a woman knows that two men are interested in her romantically, and she has to decide which one she will date or marry, her friends might tell her, “just trust your heart, girl.”
When a man has two equally good job offers, and he can’t seem to decide which one to accept, his friends might tell him, “just trust your heart.”
“Just trust your heart” — it’s pretty popular advice, but it might not always be the best advice.
Do you know what the Bible says about the human heart? It says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Why do we sin, do bad things, and make mistakes? Because of our hearts, which the Bible says are “desperately wicked.”
Many parents have lamented the fact that their children don’t have to be taught to do wrong, but they do have to be taught to do what is right. Why? Because their hearts, from birth, are wicked. In fact, the Bible says in Psalm 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”
Why do so many people struggle with drugs and pornography — returning again and again to these sins and vices even though they know their lives are being ruined by them and that they are becoming addicted? Because of the heart. God says that the heart is “desperately wicked.” That is so true; the heart so often leads us astray.
Why is it so easy for “good kids” — who come from good families and have everything that money could buy — to be influenced by negative peer pressure and end up ruining their lives dealing in drugs or crime and ending up in prison? Why? Because the heart is “desperately wicked.”
Why do men and women, regardless of age, race, and ethnicity, lie, cheat, steal, commit fornication, commit adultery, hate, and kill. Why? Because the heart is “desperately wicked.”
You see, it’s not always a good idea to trust your heart.
MUSICAL SELECTION: “Change My Heart, Oh God” by Eddie Espinosa