The Scary Shadow – A Guest Blog by Jay Oertli

I’m a city dweller these days, just like most of you, but as a boy I lived in a small town in western Montana. My step-dad was a veterinarian—an animal doctor who actually made calls to the ranches and farms. Nowadays, most of the vets ask people to bring their livestock to a clinic for treatment, but he was one of a disappearing breed who traveled to where those large animals were kept—on the ranches and farms out in the country; so I loved to go with him out there in his Chevy coupe to watch how a horse doctor took care of not only the horses, but the sheep, cattle, and other larger animals. I was about 8 or 10 years old at the time when we drove out in the night to help a momma cow who was trying to deliver a calf. I was watching that procedure very closely, amazed as usual, when all of a sudden I saw out of the corner of my eye, and then more directly, a large shadow on the wall of the barn. It seemed to be moving in a very threatening way, like some huge dragon looking to reach down and grab us or to shoot fire out of its mouth to incinerate us. Of course, I had a wild imagination in those days! So then I just had to look up to see how close the monster was to grabbing us!

I, of course, wanted to run, and I’m sure I must have at least gasped at that point. But I soon found that there was actually no reason to run or to fear. When I looked up I saw what was casting those huge, unsettling shadows—a lone moth flying around one light bulb high overhead. The shadow was scary, but the reality behind the shadow wasn’t very scary at all.

I’d like to talk with you for a few minutes about the scary shadow. There’s a big shadow that has bothered all of us at one time or another, and to be honest, it can be pretty frightening. You see that shadow sometimes when you’re in the doctor’s office, or when you have a close call in traffic, or when you’ve been to the funeral of someone you know.  The shadow that I’m describing to you is, of course, the shadow of death, but why does Scripture call it a “shadow?”

The great Jewish King, David, wrote about that shadow in what may be the best-known passage in the Bible, Psalm 23. In the fourth verse of that Psalm from the Word of God, the inspired writer says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” The “You,” of course, is the One David talks about at the beginning of his Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.” Now, when David’s loving Shepherd allowed him to go through a place where death threatened, He was saying, “David, you have nothing to fear.” Nothing to fear? Why is that true?

Let’s consider David’s situation through much of his young adult life. I think a large reason for David to fear was that he was often fleeing from Saul. Saul wanted to kill him. Why? Because David was Saul’s competitor for the throne of Israel. So David was in that “valley of the shadow of death” often in a very personal way as he fled and hid for his very life. Think about this! God put Psalm 23 in the Bible for us too, and we also can very gratefully consider death to be a mere shadow.  For the follower of Jesus Christ, when we know that our lives on this earth are coming to an end, fear may be displaced by great anticipation and excitement. There is biblical reason to think of death as just a passing shadow.

Perhaps you don’t have that kind of peace and confidence about what happens on the other side of your last heartbeat. For many, the thought of death and what may be beyond it is more than just a shadow. It’s an unsettling, even frightening, reality. It all depends on where one stands with the God Whom we will meet on the other side. I know that when many people think about that confrontation, they remember every person they’ve hurt, every lie they’ve told, every promise they’ve broken, every selfish or immoral thought or deed, every dark secret in their lives—in other words, every sin they have committed throughout their lives. And there’s no way you or I can get into God’s heaven with sins unforgiven.

But there is some exceedingly wonderful good news for us in Hebrews 2:14 and 15. God tells us that Jesus Christ died on a cross to “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” What a wonderful thing—to be free from the slavery we experience due to our fear of death! This is the truth that we love to share — that Jesus actually absorbed all the guilt, all the hell of your sin and mine when He died on the cross. He paid the death penalty in order to provide forgiveness for all our sins—past, present, and future. The Bible says that when you put your trust in Jesus to personally rescue you from the penalty of your sins, those sins are erased from God’s book and your name is entered in His “book of life,” a list of those who are going to heaven when they die.

Many of us are trying to be good enough in order to make it; so please think about this. That means that we are then trusting ourselves, and that would be like trying to climb to heaven on a 10-foot ladder. We would fall far short trying to make it by that method. We need to transfer that trust in ourselves to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. He is very capable and He’s the One we can trust. The Bible makes that clear. Trust in Him, not on the good things you do and the bad things you avoid doing in order to make yourself right with God. An amazing benefit of trusting Christ alone for salvation right now means that not only are we guaranteed a place in heaven when we leave this world, but God provides an “abundant life” for as long as we reside here on planet earth. It’s “abundant” because He lives inside us. Death becomes a mere shadow, scary-looking, but, shall we say, “toothless.” Paul put it this way: Death, where is your sting?” or “Death, where is your bite?” It has no bite to the person who has accepted God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. It’s nothing but a shadow!

We grieve. Of course we grieve when someone is no longer with us, but the Scriptures say, “We grieve, but not as those who have no hope.” It’s our hope that demotes death to the status of “mere shadow,” and “hope” in the New Testament actually means “guarantee.” We have a guarantee from the maker of heaven and earth who loves us so much that He has made dying just the doorway to heaven, a place and an existence that is just too wonderful to even attempt to describe.

I would like to extend an invitation to those of you who may be searching. In order to view death as a mere shadow, you need to reach out and grab the nail-scarred hand of the Savior. Tell Jesus you’re His from this day forward. If you want to begin your life-saving relationship with Jesus, tell Him so. He’s listening. Then when that shadow comes around, whatever your age, you may say, “I believe it’s time for me to say my goodbyes.” Then it’s simply going through a door—a transition into glory, and the follower of Christ exits earth and enters heaven. For Christians, death is not a permanent “goodbye.” One can anticipate seeing believing friends and family joining you at an amazing reunion in heaven.

If a person does not belong to Jesus, death is a monster that should be feared, but if one belongs to Him, then death becomes just a shadow because death is now a doorway to all that heaven holds. Such anticipation, such joy to make that transition—especially as these bodies of ours get run down and wear out, and they do, don’t they!?

Even though we will all walk through that valley of the shadow at sometime in the future. We need not fear. If you have not done so, please trust in Christ to lead you through life and then to take you through that door to life everlasting—whenever He calls you home. The shadow of death is not frightening when Christ is with you.

– Jay Oertli (my Dad)

 

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Saved For More

Your soul has been saved

by Jesus

 

Saved from eternal condemnation

and suffering

 

But do you think about how far

that salvation goes?

 

When Jesus died for you

and was resurrected

 

and you accepted that

beautiful gift

 

He not only saved you from hell

but redeemed your life in the here and now!

 

His salvation in your life

is far-reaching

 

It saves you from

a pointless existence

sin’s grip

a futile focus

slavery’s hold

meaninglessness

fear of death

people dependence

darkness rule

hopelessness

being alone

conjured joy

the enemy’s grasp

man-made religion

blind living

 

…from yourself

 

The moment you accepted Christ

you were made new

 

and your salvation travels with you

into each day

 

Don’t forget

all that He has saved you from

 

and walk in confidence

of the Light He placed in you

 

-Susie Stewart

 

 

…I’ll give you a long life,
    give you a long drink of salvation!

– Psalm 91:16 (MSG)

 

No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you… I will not fail you or abandon you.

– Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

 

…He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.

– Titus 3:5 (NIV)

 

There is no one else who can rescue us, and there is no other name under heaven given to any human by whom we may be rescued.

– Acts 4:12 (VOICE)

 

Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew He was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

– 1 Peter 1:18-21 (MSG)

 

Sin ruled by means of death. But God’s kindness now rules, and God has accepted us because of Jesus Christ our Lord. This means that we will have eternal life.

– Romans 5:21 (AMP)

 

Photo by Susie Stewart

Forever

God hath given to man a short time here upon earth, and yet upon this short time eternity depends.

– Jeremy Taylor

 

 

Forever

is a long time

 

and there is no one

I’d rather spend forever with

 

than You,

my beautiful God

 

Uninhibited praise

will be Yours

 

Untainted cherishing

will be ours

 

And I long for the eternity

that my mind can’t fathom

 

even as I walk

through time

 

And then I realize

that now

is part of always

 

Time is swallowed up

by eternal

 

All is present

 

And even as I wrestle

with the dust

 

I will still seek to praise You

uninhibited

 

And I will choose to cherish You

every day

 

As I look up with,

“Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

 

– Susie Stewart

 

With a loud command and with the shout of the chief angel and a blast of God’s trumpet, the Lord will return from heaven. Then those who had faith in Christ before they died will be raised to life. Next, all of us who are still alive will be taken up into the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the sky. From that time on we will all be with the Lord forever.

– 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 (CEV)

 
For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.

– C.S. Lewis

 

I will be there to greet you personally and welcome you home, where we will be together.

– John 14:3 (VOICE)

 

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy., the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.

– C.S. Lewis

 

When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with Me where I am.

– John 14:3 (NLT)

 

I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing:

Salvation to our God on His Throne!
Salvation to the Lamb!
All who were standing around the Throne—Angels, Elders, Animals—fell on their faces before the Throne and worshiped God, singing:

Oh, Yes!
The blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving,
The honor and power and strength,
To our God forever and ever and ever!
Oh, Yes!

– Revelation 7:9-12 (MSG)

 

 

Photo by Susie Stewart

 

 

The Pull

Heaven is not here, it’s There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.

– Elisabeth Elliott

 

Life without God is a slow decline of heart and soul, ever accepting a lower standard, and gaining speed toward eternal darkness. Less happy every day and needing ever more distractions from the pain. Lost, miserable, and feeding on the greedy pull of things in the world. But never really enjoying anything because there is always this nagging in the back of the mind that Hell awaits. For those without God, the fear of dying must be overwhelming. As it should be.

– Rex Rouis

 

The Pull

is real

 

Luring, coaxing, beckoning

 

to eternal joy

or eternal pain

 

Without being saved

weighted by sin

the pull is ever downward

 

But as children of God

graciously saved

the pull is upward

 

We either await eternity

with dread

or peace

 

Choose wisely

 

You will be pulled to one or the other

– Susie Stewart

 

We know that if our earthly house—a mere tent that can easily be taken down—is destroyed, we will then live in an eternal home in the heavens, a building crafted by divine—not human—hands. Currently, in this tent of a house, we continue to groan and ache with a deep desire to be sheltered in our permanent home because then we will be truly clothed and comfortable, protected by a covering for our current nakedness. The fact is that in this tent we anxiously moan, fearing the naked truth of our reality. What we crave above all is to be clothed so that what is temporary and mortal can be wrapped completely in life. The One who has worked and tailored us for this is God Himself, who has gifted His Spirit to us as a pledge toward our permanent home.

– 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 (VOICE)

 

On that day—when the clouds draw back displaying His powerful heavenly messengers in a fiery blaze, Jesus the Lord will appear from heaven dealing out perfect justice to anyone who doesn’t know God and anyone who disobeys the good news of our Lord Jesus. And what’s to become of them? They’ll pay for what they’ve done; their punishment will be eternal destruction. And what’s worse? They’ll be banished from the Lord’s presence and glorious power.

– 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 (VOICE)

 

Photo by CoffeePam

 

 

 

 

 

Not Safe

We are not all called to go to El Salvador, or Moscow, or Calcutta, or even the slums of New York, but none of us will escape the moment when we have to decide whether to withdraw, to play it safe, or to act upon what we prayerfully believe to be right, knowing that with all our prayers we may be wrong, and knowing that we will probably be punished by those who do not want universe-disturbers to stand up and be counted. Perhaps what we are called to do may not seem like much, but the butterfly is a small creature to affect galaxies thousands of light years away.
– Madeleine L’Engle

 

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow Me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed Him.

A little farther up the shore He saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And He called them to come, too. They immediately followed Him, leaving the boat and their father behind.
– Matthew 4:18-22 (NLT)

 

Life is short, hell is hot and eternity is forever!!! The world has NEVER been impacted by Christians who spend their whole lives in a car seat and beg God to never let anything bad happen to them!

Ask HIM to set you on fire with HIS plans…and THEN GO FOR IT!

– Perry Noble

 

 

My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus’ words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to Him.

– David Platt

 

Photo Taken by Arik Stewart

 

 

ChoiSes

I was jogging along this morning,

got to the end of a sidewalk where it forked two ways,

and I came across this:

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Hmmm…..  Which would YOU choose?  Seems pretty obvious.  Unfortunately my house was in the direction of the “worst” choise.  I wasn’t about to run the long way to get back home so I went right.

It made me think about choises, large and small, that we make throughout our lifetimes.

Selflessness <     YOUR CHOISE      > Selfishness

Soft Answer <     YOUR CHOISE     > Harsh Words

Listening Much <     YOUR CHOISE     > Talking Much About Myself

Disunity <     YOUR CHOISE     > Unity

Love <     YOUR CHOISE     > Hate

Truth <     YOUR CHOISE      > Lie

React <     YOUR CHOISE     > Respond

Violence <     YOUR CHOISE     > Peace

Addiction <     YOUR CHOISE     > Freedom

Give <     YOUR CHOISE     > Hoard

Cheerfulness <     YOUR CHOISE     > Negativity

And the list goes on and on.

I have definitely made my share of wrong choises.  Some that I seriously regret, but can’t take back.  Every one of us has.

Throughout this blog, I deliberately spelled “choice” with an “s” just like our young chalk artist.  Spelling it the wrong way on purpose  reminds me of how we all make deliberate wrong choices.

Deliberate AND wrong — those are the “worst” choices.

I know better and I choose wrongly.

Praise God,  love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8), but when I do make the wrong choices, and it’s usually because of self, there is strain, relational scars, and consequences.

But here’s a choice that has ETERNAL consequences:

Love God <     YOUR CHOICE     > Reject God

If you love God and you believe Him when He says Jesus is the only way to the Father (1 John 14:6), then you make that choice to believe and follow.

The choice is simple, yet SO profound.

Eternity with God <     YOUR CHOICE     >  Eternity apart from God.

I made the choice to be blunt, because it’s important.

Lord,  help us make right choices.  Give us discernment and a grounded sense of right and wrong

from your Word and Your Spirit.

– Susie Stewart


  Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

-Psalm 119:105

Photo taken by Susie Stewart