Daily Devotional for Monday June 24, 2013
The Death of actor James Gandolfini
(2 Corinthians 6:18)
***ASK BILL: Pastor Bill, when believers die and go to Heaven, will they know them as family, friends, or neighbors or are we just know them as another 'Believer'?
ANSWER: I am well aware that in our limited finite minds, it is comforting to tell people and make people believe that Heaven will be like a great campground where we will have a wonderful family reunion with those who went on before us. While it is a wonderful thought, Scripture gives ZERO support for such a notion. As a matter of fact, what we DO know from Scripture is that our bodies will go back to the dust of the earth, that includes our brain where our finite thoughts during this life come from, and only our souls live on. Our eternal souls will no longer be bound by time/space nor the cognition that existed during this life. I challenge people in this way. When you die and are in the glories of Heaven and the presence of our Lord, both things our finite minds are currently unable to even begin to imagine or understand, nothing else will matter. If there is any sort of understanding of those we shared this journey with, count it as a bonus.
The death of actor James Gandolfini and two issues you won't hear about his death any place else! After hearing of the death of actor James Gandolfini, best known for his role as New Jersey mob boss "Tony Soprano," I immediately thought about two things. The first was how as a culture we often glorify and romanticize evil. The second, according to official reports Gandolfini died of a massive heart attack on the floor of the bathroom in his suite at a 5-star hotel in Rome. At the moment he took his last breath, James Gandolfini was standing before God as each of us will when our journey through this life is over!
It is a sad fact of our culture that we tend to be fascinated with evil. Make no mistake, there is NOTHING redemptive in any way about the life of someone in organized crime or gangs of any sort. It is a world of pure unadulterated evil where injuring and killing people is accepted and common, with destroyed lives being the end result. The glorification of evil didn't just begin with "The Sopranos." In the 30's and 40's, evil people like John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde, and others were portrayed in the papers almost as heroes.
Millions worldwide loved the HBO series the "Sopranos" for the same reason they loved "The Godfather" trilogy. Even after 3 decades after it was released, "The Godfather" starring Marlon Brando is one of the most popular movies ever made. So what makes "The Sopranos," the "The Godfather" movies, other organized crime movies like "Goodfellas," "Donnie Brasco," "Carlito's Way," and "Scarface" such a hit with people? After all, these are movies where the lead characters are part of organized crime, men who spend their life killing, stealing, cheating, and destroying other people's lives. They are involved in illegal businesses such as bookmaking, prostitution, extortion, selling drugs, and any other illegal activity you can name.
THESE ARE MEN WHO LIVE THEIR LIVES IN COMPLETE REBELLION TO GOD AND HIS WORD, SO WHY ARE THEY SO POPULAR? IT IS BECAUSE MOST PEOPLE LOVE SIN MORE THAN THEY LOVE GOD!!!
The popularity of these fictional crime bosses like Tony Soprano can be directly linked to the popularity of the real-life crime bosses like Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Myer Lansky, and Bugsy Siegel who ran New York in the '30s, to Al Capone who ran Chicago in the '30s, to all the men who ran the various families across the nation throughout the decades. Men like Giancana, Marcello, Trafficante, Genovese, Gambino, Bonanno, Lucchese, Colombo, Accardo, and Gotti to name just a few. People have always had a fascination with these men who loved to portray themselves as "businessmen" and "family men," yet in reality lived brutal and evil lives.
Hollywood and television are largely responsible for how we look at these criminals. They have glorified and glamorized the lives of these men, often turning them into sympathetic figures. The movies and television have showed the human side of these men while almost justifying and excusing what their life is really about. Make no mistake my friend, these are cold, calculating, evil, and brutal men who without conscience or mercy spend their lives killing and destroying others. There is absolutely nothing glamorous or redeeming about how they live. There is nothing special about them. They are simply men who have chosen to live a life of crime and live in violation of society's laws as well as God's!
I am going to share some things from my personal life that I have rarely shared publicly in all of these years. After the initial success of my marketing business in 1979, I moved to Chicago in 1980 and that become the headquarters of my fast growing network of companies throughout the nation and Canada. A close business associate had introduced me to a law firm in Chicago that I would use to help me set up my various companies over the years. The lawyer I met with was a man named Jack Cerone, Jr. who actually specialized in labor law, so he referred me one of his partners, Joe DiNatale, to handle my legal needs. Little did I know that Jack Cerone's father was the infamous John "Jackie the Lackey" Cerone, who was actually the Don of the Chicago outfit (what the Mafia is called in Chicago).
In 1985, my attorney Joe DiNatale would represent Jackie Cerone, Sr. when he and several other leading mobsters would go on trial in Kansas City for skimming millions out of Las Vegas casinos. Jackie Cerone, Sr. was convicted in that trial and would spend the rest of his life in a Federal Prison. I was very close to DiNatale in the '80s, and often when we were alone at dinner he would share some of the stories of what really went on in the world of organized crime. He often referred to it as "unorganized crime," and in reality it was nothing at all like the world portrayed in the movies or on television.
These were mostly uneducated street criminals who killed, stole, and cheated people as their life's work. Those who rose to positions of power usually did so by attrition, since in the world they lived in you either ended up in prison or dead. Those who were able to escape those two fates the longest become the "boss." Over the years organized crime diversified from their traditional illegal businesses into legitimate businesses that would become fronts for many of their criminal activities, however, the core of what they do is pure evil and their illegal activates ends up destroying the lives of everyone involved.
The other issue regarding the death of Gandolfini is the fact at the moment he took his last breath, he was immediately standing before God. In an instant, as it will be for each of us when our journey through this life comes to an end, the ONLY thing that mattered to God wasn't Gandolfini's fame, success, money, or anything else. IT WAS HIS CHOICE TO ACCEPT OR REJECT JESUS CHRIST AS HIS SAVIOR BY FAITH!!!
Only God knows our heart, and despite growing up in New Jersey with Catholic parents and having attended Catholic schools, there has been NOTHING to support the notion that during his adult life Gandolfini made any sort of commitment of his heart and life to Jesus by faith. Sadly, if that is the case, his soul was immediately sent to the horrors of hell for eternity.
NOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHY I AM CONSTANTLY TALKING ABOUT SOULS AND HAMMERING THOSE WHO HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO DELIVER THE GOSPEL BUT ARE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT BEING "POLITICALLY CORRECT" AND NOT OFFENDING PEOPLE SO THEY BUY THEIR BOOKS AND GIVE THEM MONEY???
The Bible claims that "today is the day of salvation" because tomorrow is promised to none of us! If you have never made a conscious decision to accept Jesus into your heart and life by faith, or don't have the assurance of your salvation, please go to the following link and read the words, watch the short video, and make the most critical decision you will ever make since it determines where you will spend etenrity! Link; http://www.liveprayer.com/plan.cfm
I love you and care about you so much. One issue from this sad death is a warning to you. A warning to keep your guard up at all times and not allow Hollywood and the television industry to cause you to fall into the trap of glorifying and romanticizing evil no matter how attractive they make it appear. The media already does a masterful job at glamorizing sin. Sexual sins of every kind are promoted as fun and exciting with no consequences. Drinking and drug use are also glorified by the media. So it is no surprise that the media will try to sanitize sins like murder, robbing, and whatever kind of evil one man can perpetrate on another you can think of.
I will be praying for you today to take a stand in your life from letting the world lie to you and lead you into the trap of sitting back and giving approval to evil by viewing it. Yes, I know the "Sopranos" is a fictional story, but what they portray is the real life evil and horrors of those who are part of the world of organized crime. No, you are not going to hell or a horrible Christian if you watch the "Sopranos" and shows like it. However, our goal as we mature in Christ is to be more like Him. The Bible talks about the "renewing of our mind." A great computer term is "garbage in, garbage out." Why would you want to pollute your mind with murder, adultery, physical violence, and a myriad of other sinful activities?
The problem with a program like the "Sopranos," the problem with so much of what is on television today and in the movies, is that they glorify and glamorize sin. Can you tell me anything glamorous about the sins you have committed in your life? Can you tell me how glamorous the consequences of your sins are? That is the point my friend. Sin is NOT glamorous. It is destructive! The consequences of our sins are very real and very painful. Watching sin, even in a fictional format, is not something a follower of Christ should be doing. Why do people love the "Sopranos?" Simple, most love sin more than they love God!
Also, let the sudden death of James Gandolfini be a wake-up call to you today that tomorrow really is promised to NONE of us. Each day is a gift from God. We should treat it as such and be prepared for that inevitable moment we will each face when God says our journey through life is over and we are on to eternity. There is NO REASON anyone has to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, that was created for satan and the fallen angels who followed him from Heaven. It is our job to share the Gospel with this lost world so at least they know what fate lies ahead if they reject Christ, and give them the opportunity to come to know Jesus as their personal Savior!
***PLEASE HELP ME! I really need your help over these past 6 days. Thank You so much for everyone who prayed and was able to help me Friday. As we head into these final 6 days of June, we are down to the final $30,000 of our basic June operations budget. I am praying that God will speak to 1 or 2 of our friends who can send a special one-time gift of $5,000 or more today, since $10,000 of our June operations are now several weeks past due. For those who are able, please pray about helping me today with a special one-time gift at this critical hour!
Of course if everyone will pray and everyone who is able will send what you can, I am standing in faith that by the end of the month in 6 days, ALL of June's basic operational expenses will be taken care of! Will you please pray today about helping me with $10, $20, $100, $1,000, or whatever God lays on your heart to stand with me at this critical time? Our God is able!!!
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Thank you for your love, prayers, and sacrifice!
In His love and service, Your friend and brother in Christ,