Monday, May 23, 2016

The Magic Kingdom

This is a post I wrote a few years ago. Something inside of me wanted to share it with you again today. As we all plan our fun, family vacations this summer may we always remember that the BEST is yet to come....

Let the memories begin!  Disney's motto is written all over the flags that adorn the outside of their theme parks.  We were giddy with anticipation on the outside gates of Disney's Magic Kingdom at about ten minutes until opening time while we slathered sunscreen all over us and prepared for a day of fun as we park-hopped all across the four theme parks.  We decided this would be the cheapest way to experience the parks - and yet it still cost us an arm and a leg for four people.  We'd better have fun! 

Memories of my childhood came flooding back to me like a tidal wave.  We spent a lot of time at Disney when I was a kid - but it was the one over in California (Disney Land).  I teared up a bit as the Mayor came out, along with all of the Princesses and characters waving and welcoming all of us at the gates as we counted down from ten to one and the gates magically opened to our day of fantasy and adventure!

We squeezed through the narrow gates of the park entrance with thousands of other people who imagined this might be a good week to come, since it wouldn't be so crowded (yeah, right - it's Disney!) and were face to face with Main Street USA.  All the people who were working in the stores were standing outside in their fun and bright costumes, waving and smiling - so happy to see us!  

It was all so "perfect".  Walt Disney has managed to tap into something inside of each of us that few people have managed to tap into.  What is it?  Fantasy?  Dreams?  Wishes?  Magic?  It's amazing to me that Walt Disney was fired from a job as a young man for not being creative enough. There's something about this place that makes everyone who goes there turn into a fool to experience it.  We spend outlandish amounts of money for this experience.  We travel great distances.  We purchase over-priced food and souvenirs.  We walk at least ten miles in a day and endure crowds of people that would normally make us run for the hills.  There was even a recent news story of a woman who tried to sell her newborn baby for $15,000 to take her other children to Disney World.  Unbelievable.  I'm telling you - this is powerful.  I'm intrigued.  

As the morning progressed, we found ourselves looking around as we stood in long lines, watching small kids come unglued as they were tired, hot and done with all the "fun".  People were getting frustrated and complaining about the heat, the crowds, the waiting, the price.  Then a minute later they would pose with a Disney character and all would be well - everyone smiling.  

I know I may seem cynical and I sincerely apologize if it seems that way.  But I am really struggling to understand what it is that we are all drawn to in this fantasy world that doesn't really exist?  Where is the authenticity of this fantasy land?  Is it that what we're drawn to, after all - a place where everything seems perfect and filled with joy, laughter and unity?  If so...why are we looking here?

Friends, as much fun as we had in between the frustrating parts of our Disney trip the other day (and I will admit - it was fun - I'm not trying to deny that!), The Magic Kingdom has nothing - and I mean nothing - on The Kingdom of God.  And His Kingdom is one that lasts forever.  I'll never have to go back.  That is something I'm willing to be a fool for.  I suppose that's why I do what I do - speak and write about His Kingdom.  I think this is why Walt Disney was able to tap into that place in all of us that has made his earthly kingdom very rich...we all have a place in our hearts and souls that longs for this Kingdom.

Oh, friend, can't you see it?  Listen....everyone is eager to enter into God's Kingdom and it can only be entered through a narrow gate, but must be entered into by those who are like children (Matt. 5:3, Matt. 7:13 & Luke 16:16) It is goodness and peace and joy - only it's authentic because it's based on God's Spirit, not a fake smile given by someone who's not really feeling joy down deep (Romans 14:17).  It's a place where we will share in God's glory and be where Jesus Christ is (not a fantasy land with a pretend mouse that has a squeaky voice) and it will be unshakable and will stand forever! (1 Thess. 2:12, Hebrews 12:28, 2 Peter 1:11; Daniel 2:44).

Maybe the reason Walt Disney is such a genius is because he's discovered how to market that void in all of us that screams for filling from God and he's shown that when it's tapped into, people are willing to do just about anything to fill it.  It's a place that God put inside of each of us so we would search for Him.  Disney is an expensive and temporary substitute that satisfies us only for a moment...but it can never replace that void inside all of us that is specifically there for God's Kingdom.  We yearn for it with everything in us...and though it cost Jesus everything to offer us this Kingdom, it won't cost us a cent. He just wants our heart.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Do We All Pray to the Same God?

During one of my radio interviews after my appearance on Survivor, one of the announcers at a radio station said to me, "I consider myself a Christian, but I must say I was very disappointed in you for leaving that Buddhist ceremony on Survivor. I mean, we all pray to the same God, right? Would Jesus really have been upset with you for bowing to Buddha and praying?"

I thought about that question. I mean, I suppose you could say some religions do appeal to the same God - God Almighty. However, if you believe that the Bible is God's Word to us, it is very clear that Jesus Christ said in John 14:6, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life - no man comes to the Father except through Me."  He didn’t say “A way, A truth or A life,” He clearly said He is the way, the truth and the life. That tells me there is no other.

So my answer was just that. I told her that we may appeal and pray to the same God, but since the Bible is clear that Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life - no man comes to the Father except through Me," then we need to understand that not everyone is getting through. The only way to get to God is through Jesus.  Jesus is our Mediator!  Without Him, we may have good intentions, but our prayers will not get through.

As I thought about my conversation with the radio host later in the day, I realized that I've actually heard it said a lot - we all pray to the same God, so why aren't we accepting of one another's religions and beliefs and let people do what they feel they want to do.  We are told not to let it divide us, to just allow them to believe what they want to believe.  This is a way to be accepting and tolerant, they add.  

Can I just say that I am so glad that my friends did not allow me to continue to believe that my way was working!  Oh, but by God's grace He sent these precious people into my life to challenge what I thought was true.  I'm so thankful they risked everything to share His truth with me. I could have turned them down, shut them out of my life and ignored them. But I didn't.  The risk of losing me as a friend was nothing to them compared to the importance of showing me the truth. What a gift!

Jesus Christ said, "I did not come to bring peace, but to divide" (Luke 12:51). Why would He say something like that? Perhaps He knew that we would have to take a stand at some point and say that He is the only Way - and not everyone would agree with us, therefore causing divisions. I believe this breaks His heart, but it's something we see every day. It comes down to this important point: Do I believe the Bible is the Word of God, completely true and reliable and that Jesus Christ is who He said He is? If I do believe, then I know that the scriptures are true. HE is the Only Way. Yes, sometimes it will divide.  But sometimes it will show someone we love the important, life-saving truth that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.

It's time to take a stand for truth. That doesn't mean imposing my beliefs on others, or arguing; but it does mean I should be very confident in my beliefs and not afraid to speak truth (with gentleness and respect - 1 Peter 3:16) when necessary.  I didn't get into an "I'm right and you're wrong" argument with the radio host, but I just spoke the Word of God and let it speak for itself. I remembered that Jesus "opened not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7) when confronted by others. I hope that it planted a seed in her heart. God’s Word has a way of doing that, you know.

Is there a situation in your life today where you may need to take a stand?  Are you willing to stand up and speak truth (in love), even if it means you might be rejected? Jesus is not asking us to do anything He wasn’t willing to do Himself.  Isaiah 53:3 says He was despised and rejected by men.  But we all know that in spite of how it was initially received by people, His stand for truth has opened the door for many to follow Him and have a restored relationship with God through His sacrifice. When asked why He came, Jesus simply said, "I have come to testify to the truth."

Truth wins, friends. Never be afraid to stand for it. 

Got Questions?