by Troy Nicholson

An overwhelming majority of Americans continue to believe there is life after death and that heaven and hell exist, according to a new study. What's more, most think they are heaven-bound.” So begins an article in a recent Tennessean (“Poll: Many American's believe they're heaven-bound,” 10-25-03).

What is heaven? Where is it that so many people believe they are bound? “46% described it as a ‘state of eternal existence in God's presence,’ and... 30% said heaven is ‘an actual place of rest and reward where souls go after death.’” The understanding that most people have of heaven seems to be fairly much in line with what the Bible tells us is true. What a great place it will be!

How do we get there? What must we do to be heaven-bound? The poll says that “born-again Christians... believe entry into heaven is solely based on confession of sins and faith in Jesus Christ.” While the Bible speaks of being born again (John 3:3-7; 1 Peter 1:23), it also speaks of more that must be done than confession and faith. For us to “walk in newness of life” (undergo a new birth), we must also be “buried with Him through baptism” (Romans 6:4); and Scripture makes it clear that baptism is immersion in water (Acts 8:36-39). But this does not mean that our ticket has been punched and is irrevocable. We also must “be faithful until death” to receive “the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Are you heaven-bound? Are you on the path that leads to eternal rest with God? Many who think they are heaven-bound are in for a rude awakening. Many who confess the Lord's name will be told to depart from Him because they have not done the Father's will (Matthew 7:21-23). But those who are faithful will hear the Lord say, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you” (Matt. 25:34). That's what I want to hear!

A carrot, an egg, and a cup of coffee...

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee.

The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity ... boiling water ... each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter.

“When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart? Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor.

If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?

Count your blessings, not your problems.

Putting others first makes relationships last.

When the door of happiness closes, another opens; but often times we look so long at the closed door that we don't see the one, which has been opened for us.

The brightest future will always be based on a forgotten past; you can't go forward in life until you let go of your past failures and heartaches.

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so at the end, you are the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

Donkey Sense
by Troy Nicholson

Most of us are probably familiar with “horse sense,” but what about “donkey sense?” We see a case of donkey sense in the Bible, where a donkey has more sense than a man. While we do not know the name of the donkey, the man's name is Balaam; and we read the account in Numbers 22.

Balaam's donkey knew to turn from trouble. When the donkey saw the Angel standing in the road with a drawn sword, she “turned aside out of the way and went into the field” (:23). She knew better than to continue on the path toward trouble. If only Balaam had as much sense. When the Lord told him not to go curse the Israelites, His blessed people (:12), Balaam again asked if he could go (:19). He does go and takes advantage of several opportunities to possibly curse the people. While his donkey turned from the path of danger, he chose to go headfirst into it.

Do we ever do this? Do we ever know that there is danger on a path we are taking, yet we stay on that path anyway? We need to heed the words of the wise man when he says, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on” (Prov 4:14-15).

The donkey knew that temporary discomfort was better than permanent death. When the Angel stood in a narrow path, the donkey pushed against the wall to get around Him (:24-25). While Balaam was the one who complained about having his foot crushed, it could not have been very comfortable for the donkey, either; but she had enough sense to endure the discomfort to avoid the death. Balaam, on the other hand, was focused on what would make life more comfortable. He only saw the earthly riches and honor that he stood to gain if he took the dangerous path of trying to curse God's people.

Are we ever like Balaam? Do we make decisions based more on what we stand to gain physically than on what we stand to lose spiritually? Do we ever get caught up in the comforts of this life to the detriment of our spiritual life? Paul warns us against this when he says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim 6:9-10). He later says that some become “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim 3:1-4). We cannot love both at the same time (Matt 6:24). Do we have enough donkey sense to choose to forgo some of the comforts in this temporal life in order to preserve our eternal spiritual life?

The donkey knew when progress was dangerous. When she saw the Angel standing in a narrow place with no room to pass on either side, she lay down rather than go forward into danger (:26-27). Balaam, who was blind to the Angel, would have ridden right into his death (:33). A little donkey sense saved his life.

A lot of people in the religious world see the traditional (biblical) way of doing things as stagnant or out of date, a hindrance to what could be. They turn to more “progressive” ways of doing things, ways to help them “move forward” and draw bigger crowds. Like Balaam, they are blinded to the cost of their so-called progress. They fail to see the need and value of remaining on “the old paths, where the good way is” (Jer 6:16). We all need to learn to have the attitude of Moses when he said, “Stand still, that I may hear what the Lord will command” (Numbers 9:8). Standing still in the right place is far better than moving forward to the wrong place. If more people only had the donkey sense to be content where God wants them to be!

Each time the donkey avoided danger, Balaam struck her. It turned out that the one who really needed a good whipping was Balaam. He eventually reaped what he had sown when he was killed by the Israelites whom he had tried to curse (Numbers 31:8), all because he did not have the sense of his donkey. We all need to have the donkey sense to avoid the dangers that plague our path, before they cost us our lives.