For as long as I can remember, my dad has talked about two important places: Israel and Heaven. Dad has visited the first place. Mom resides in the second. One is just as real as the other.
My Dad went to Israel when I was just a child, but I'll never forget hearing his report to the church when he returned. His pictures were made into tiny picture squares called "slides" that fit into a carousel projector. I marveled at Masada. I was captured by the Via Dolorosa. I was wide-eyed when my eyes beheld Golgotha through the pictures.
Seeing those pictures made it all more real. All those stories I'd heard all my life came to life because my dad was there! He saw it! He walked where Jesus walked. He shed tears where Jesus shed blood.
There has always been a dream and a desire in my heart to go to Israel one day. But like Heaven, I always assumed I would be an old man before I saw it. But we serve a God who blesses us with occasional unexpected surprises.
Due to the generosity of someone I've never met, I will see Israel sooner than expected. Expect no devotionals from me next week. November 1-10th, I'll be walking where Jesus walked. I'll be crying where Jesus was dying. My hands will be raised at the site where His body did the same thing. My eyes will see in panoramic fashion what they once saw through tiny picture squares.
I've talked about the Sea of Galilea from behind a pulpit. I will soon sail across it in a boat. I've told the story of Jesus feeding thousands with a young boy's small lunch on a hillside. In a few days, I will sit on that same hill, breathe that same air, and become that little boy. Who knows? I may even break out a balogna sandwich to "christen" the moment.
In short, I'm going to Israel! My ticket has been purchased. My way has been paid. I didn't earn it. I don't deserve it. Someone I never met gave sacrificially for me to go. I could never express enough gratitude to the giver of such a marvelous gift.
Sound familiar? The two places my dad always talked about have now intertwined in my life. I'm going to Israel. But, I'm going to Heaven, too! My ticket has been purchased. My way has been paid. I didn't earn it. I don't deserve it. Someone sacrificed for me before we ever met. I will never be able to thank Him enough for His gift of eternal life.
Though I haven't met the benefactors who purchased my trip to Israel, I have met the One who purchased my ticket to Heaven. His name is Jesus. He gave His life on the cross on Golgotha's hill to open the door of Heaven for you and me. You may or may not ever see Israel. I hope you will have that privilege one day. But the far greater need of your soul is to know that you are going to Heaven. Your way has been paid.
You can pick up your ticket at the foot of the cross. Bow your heart before Jesus. Admit that you are a sinner in need of His saving grace. Ask Him to forgive you personally. Then, invite Him into your life. Accept Him and the sacrifice He made on the cross for you. With all your heart, mind, and soul give yourself completely to the One who gave Himself for you.
Did you? Have you? I hope and pray you have. If so, Mom and I will see you in Heaven.
Just as my dad saw the land of Israel and reported what he saw back to us, my mom did the same with Heaven. Days before the Lord took her home, Mom laid in her hospital bed and started waving her hands in the air as if she were conducting an orchestra.
Dad asked her what she was doing. She said, "Can't you hear it?"
"No, honey. I can't."
"Oh, it's beautiful! I've never heard anything like it!"
If you can't be in Israel this next Sunday morning, come to Lake Fork Baptist Church in East Texas. While I'm going to the place my dad talked a lot about, he will be preaching in the place I've talked a lot about. How good is God? God is good all the way through. All the day long.
Israel & Heaven Bound (separate trips, you understand)...