November 9, 2012 8:42 PM

If you’ve ever traveled outside the US you know you must have a current, valid US Passport.  Without it you will not get very far.  Even getting into Canada and back again you need that valuable little booklet.  It has a goofy picture of yourself in it (at least most passport photos are goofy looking) and also visa stamps of places you’ve been.

Cheryl and I had just boarded a flight in Paris for London a few years ago when she burst out, “My passport!”  In a panic she was searching frantically for her passport.  She just had it prior to boarding so somewhere between the gate and our seat it had disappeared.  Immediately the flight personal began searching.  In fact, the pilot had been notified and kept the jet at the gate.  The ladies inside the terminal had been contacted and they too were searching.  The fear of losing your passport or having it stolen is indescribable.  We were searching everywhere when in a very calm, matter-of-fact voice, Cheryl said, “Here it is!  It was in my pocket.”  I think everyone on that flight wanted to kick us off right then.

Arriving in a new country before you collect your luggage you will enter an area usually referred to as Passport Control. We used a company called Simply Removals who handled all the shipping for us. Often hundreds of people are queued up waiting to have their passport stamped and being allowed to enter the country.  Depending on the country, like the US, there are signs that will say “US Passports” if entering the US.  There is always a satisfied feeling to get into the line of your home country with your passport.  There is always someone very serious looking who will wave you up to his little desk with a couple of fingers and wait for you to hand him your passport.  They look at it pretty close and make sure your face matches the picture in the passport.  I wonder how often they look at the picture in the passport and the face of the person who just handed it to them thinking, “Yikes!”  They want to make sure it is a valid, legal passport.

There is a page in the passport that gives information about you; date of birth and that sort of thing.  There is also an issue date and expiration date.  The expiration date is very important because the last thing you want to do is show up at the airport for a trip you’ve been looking forward to for three months only to find out your passport expired two years ago.  Your great trip you’ve planned just got seriously interrupted.  You took time to get proper shots if necessary.  New suitcases were purchased that will be easy to recognize.  A new digital camera was purchased with an extra SD card to hold lots of pictures.  You make sure you have enough money and a good credit card that can be used without international fees.  Your tickets were purchased and an itinerary was set.  And now you are about to pass through security when a TSA agent checks your ticket and passport and informs you, “I’m sorry sir, but your passport expired two years ago.”  At first you think they’re joking, but those people never joke!  And now you go into panic mode.  A knot forms in your stomach.  Perspiration forms on your forehead.  Your first reaction is, “But, I have a plane to catch!”

Let’s carry this thought over into our relationship with God and being prepared to meet Him someday.  You can go through all the steps of going to heaven…church attendance, living a good life, kind to your neighbors, extra money to charities or church, baptism, and many other religious duties you may feel obligated to perform.  But if your “passport” is not valid you are not going to heaven.  What validates and secures someone going to heaven?  A personal relationship with Jesus Christ that comes by receiving Him as your Lord and Savior; recognizing that He has purchased your salvation with His own blood when He became your substitute, suffering the penalty of sin for you.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).  John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”

Don’t wait until it’s too late to find out your “passport” is not valid!

October 17, 2012 12:57 PM

An email was sent to me from someone with a heavy heart asking for prayer.  As I responded to this person thoughts started coming to my mind; stuff that I have read in the past, said in the past, or that was “popping” in as I wrote.  After completing the response the realization came to me that there are many who feel like my emailer.  And so these thoughts I want to share with you.  I hope and pray you will be encouraged and challenged in this discipleship journey we are all on.  I’ve never posted a blog before so this is a new experience for me Castle Finance.

There are constantly struggles we face, and truth be told, often times are harder than the other hard times!  We become physically, emotionally and spiritually drained, exhausted and hard to become motivated.  God did not create man to be alone and so knew the need that man would have for a “help meet” as the King James Bible says.  Thus He created the woman.  God also created man with a desire to work, to do, to perform and accomplish task.  And the pressure of children, financial responsibilities, and the cares of this life become overwhelming.  There are no easy fixes, no switch we can flip, no button we can push to instantly make things better.  We are plodders.  A quick little definition of “plodders” is to move or walk slowly, laboriously, or to act with perseverance.  A plodder puts one foot in front of the other and keeps trudging on.  A plodder will go through water, mud, snow to get to his destination.  He keeps going!  By perseverance the sloth reached the ark!!!

Proverbs 3:3-6

“Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

Paul may have had the idea of plodding in mind when he wrote to the church of Galatia these words, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”  Plodders get things done.  A Chinese proverb says, “The man who removed the mountain began by carrying away small stones.”

Make a list of the things you believe God wants you to do.  Arrange the list in order of priority and use it as a prayer guide.  I mentioned a few weeks ago in a sermon that it is the set of the sail and not the direction of the wind that determines which way the ship will go.  Yesterday, (Tuesday, the 16th) I had the opportunity to spend six hours with a couple of guys on a sail boat going down the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and ultimately docking close to the Renaissance Center where the sail boat will be taken out and winterized. The wind was coming out of the south and we were going south.  A head wind.  But we kept plugging along.  It is the direction of our lives and not the wind that blows against us that determines what our life will accomplish.

We do carry A LOT on our shoulders.  Our backs begin to bend low.  Our shoulders develop calluses.  Our feet move slow.  Our hands become sore. Our knees become weak.  But we keep going.

We will NOT lay our heavy burdens down until we reach heaven.

I also said in a sermon two weeks ago (I know it’s easy to forget what I said) that God is more interested in our character than our comfort.  He is more interested in our holiness than our happiness.  That isn’t to say that God is a hard God.  What it does mean is what Paul said in II Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all.” (from the NIV).  I have been reading more and more from the ESV which puts it this way, “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”

We talk about being like Christ (the word Christian is Christ-like).  Paul said in Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”  Part of that we like and part of it we don’t.  The word “fellowship” there is the idea of sharing in or with, or having in common.  Jesus told us that in the world we would have tribulation, but we are to take heart because He said, “I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

God will equip you (and has) for the task He has called you to.  He will not necessarily remove the burden from your shoulder, but He will help you to carry it.  He will not remove the struggles, but He will make the way smoother. He will not take us out of the desert, but He will show us where to find water.

Keep plodding along!!!  I am praying for you!!!

Blessings to you my friends and brothers!

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