Friday, December 20, 2013

THE THING IS.......

The thing is I do not want anybody to be ignorant about those who fall asleep (die), or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. (1 Thessalonias 4:13) Many people are living as if there is no Heaven or Hell.  People are living like there is no eternity with God or an eternity without God.  A lie has been believed here - hook-line-and-sinker.  Some people are living like they know Heaven and Hell exists, but choose the torture of eternal solitude in Hell (a very big place with a very broad road to it), over eternity with their Creator.  The heart has been calloused by people, environment, and the enemy of our soul here.

In both cases there is no hope.  Without hope for an eternity WITH God, there is only this earthly life - the here and now.  So, many are living "Good lives" with no hope of eternity with God.  That does not get you anywhere either. With life being but a vapor compared to eternity, it is who you know, love and serve, while here, that will echo throughout eternity.

There is a Heaven and Hell and a reason for them.  Originally, Heaven was the only place that existed and in a perfect condition.  Heaven, angels, and the spiritual realm were created first.

  • "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-- while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" (Job 38:4-7)  

Then Hell was created sometime after the fall of Lucifer and a third of the angels of Heaven (Revelation 12:4) for the banishment of the fallen angels.

  • "God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment." (2 Peter 2:4, 9)

The thing is God desires humanity, who He made in His image (Genesis 1:26), to spend eternity WITH HIM in Heaven.  However, He hates sin and kicked it out of the privileged presence of God, also known as the Third Heaven.  He Will Not allow sin/pride/rebellion back into His Heaven.

  • The Son of Man will send out his angels,and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matthew 13:41-43)  

So, God made the provision for us because He loves all of humanity - past, present, and future - that much. God gave up the one thing that means everything to Him - His Word.  He allowed His Word-made-flesh - Jesus - to be mistreated, misunderstood, beaten, ridiculed, and killed for our sake and display of His love. Afterward, God raised His Word-in-flesh back to life.  His Word conquered death, Hell, and the grave.  There is victory here.

The thing is Christ's victory over death, Hell, and the grave gives hope. Those who place their sole/soul trust in Christ have an anxious expectation about a better place (Heaven), a better existence (renewed body), and a better relationship with God (redeemed).  This better hope (Hebrews 7:19) is such a hope (2 Corinthians 3:12) that it purifies us when we hope (1 John 3:3). The writer of Hebrews calls hope an "anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Hebrews 6:19). Not only is this hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7) something we are to be joyful in (Romans 12:12), but Colossians 1:15 given to you via the Pritchard Paraphrase says, Hope in heaven is a springboard for faith and love that you have already heard about in The Gospel. And why not hold on to hope (Hebrews 10:23)? Our hope is in the LIVING GOD (1 Timothy 4:10), not in the riches or wealth of this world (1 Timothy 6:17). So, it is my prayer "that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." (Ephesians 1:18-19)


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

ATTACHMENTS

It is interesting what we humans get attached too. When I share the Good News with the simply seeking or the spiritually desperate, I want them not to believe in me, but in my God who gives us every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).  I want them to attach to the God of the message as well as the Good News itself. I desire those I'm speaking with to understand the reason for the hope that I have. Doing this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against my good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15) You can believe in me for my expertise at something. For example, you can believe I can come through for you on the job. You can believe in me for my talent at something. For example, you can believe I can really communicate a feeling in song or score in a sport. However, as I share the Gospel, I don't want anyone to believe in me or attach to me to the point of distraction from God's message for them.

For many, it is easy to get enthralled or distracted in the persona of a speaker, teacher, or even a local pastor of many years. True, we need great effective speakers, teachers, and pastors to communicate the Word of God to us on a corporate scale. However, when it comes to either the unbeliever believing in the Salvation message for the first time OR the seasoned Christian receiving spiritual nourishment from a lesson at the pulpit - detachment from the speaker and attachment to God is paramount.

One of the ways Christians can attach to God more, meaning - receive a timely word from Him, enjoy His immediate presence, worship Him in spirit and in truth - is to take care of our spiritual relationship outside of Sunday Service. What we do as individuals during the week prepares our hearts, minds, and spirits for how we will experience God in the corporate setting - The Church.  Just like a singer needs to work on his/her part (bass, tenor, alto, soprano) for a song before joining the choir in rehearsal or performance. Just like a ball player needs to work on his body and individual skills before coming to "team practice" or the actual game. It would help the Christian tremendously if he/she would take care of the Temple of God (mind, body, and spirit-1 Corinthians 6:19) during the week and not wait around for Sunday Fuelings/Feedings.  For the unbeliever, it would be helpful to do research on Christ.  Throw out all rumors and hearsay and investigate Him yourself.  A good start is to read His book, The Bible, from cover to cover.

In the dealings with the Hebrew people, God revealed Himself in different ways but after each exposure the people would find some way to reject God and latch onto something else. It is perplexing...God revealed Himself through miraculous natural wonders (pillar of cloud/fire) only to see His people attach themselves to idols (Exodus 32:1-4). God revealed Himself through His heroes and servants the prophets only to see His people revert back to their old ways or the ways of the surrounding culture (Judges 8:33-35).  God revealed Himself through angelic ministries only to witness John fall at the feet of an angel and begin to worship it (Revelation 19:10). God would send His very Word in flesh, His only Son, Jesus, to show His people The Way but deathly rejection is what it cost Him.  God has reached to us throughout history in order to give us the most appropriate person to attach to - Himself - but we keep finding new attachments to satisfy what only He can.

It is not about me.  Life, faith, the journey, and meaning is not about me.  The Choice to make is to believe in, latch onto, or attach yourself to Jesus Christ and not His Christians.  For the unbeliever, I encourage you to become a new creature/creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), filled with the Holy Spirit so that you will begin to know the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:11-16). Don't become a believer in Jesus to join the Church Club that sadly many of our local expressions have become.  Come for Christ and not the Club and God will honor and bless you. For the Christian, I challenge you to (1) make everyday a personal Sunday between you and God, (2) sit under good teaching, (3) glorify God, The Holy Spirit, as the teacher, and (4) stay appropriately attached, testing the spirits as you listen (1 John 4:1).

Monday, December 16, 2013

FOR WHAT EARTHLY REASON....

"You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." - John 18:37

For to this end Christ died and lived [again], that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. - Romans 14:9

For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. - Hebrews 2:17

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. - Hebrews 9:15

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. - 1 John 3:8

For What Earthly Reason
Dottie Rambo. New Kingdom Music/ASCAP

Vs 1
For what earthly reason would the Heavenly Father send down His Son
To suffer rejection and pay for crimes He had not done
For what earthly reason would the Father let Him hang on a tree
I wept with the answer, that one earthly reason was me

Chorus
I was the reason, that one earthly reason
I was the guilty, He was the sacrifice
I was the taker, He was the giver
Dying while I go free, that one earthly reason was me

Vs 2
The fairest of angels were not summoned from the throne up in the sky
To purchase my pardon, not even the angels could die
The only provision for my freedom was destined to be
The sweet Lamb of Glory and His only reason was me

Tag
That one earthly reason, His only reason was me

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

YOUR ETERNAL ATTIRE

My Worship Pastor observed recently, "The doors to eternity are constantly in motion, we just need to understand and be prepared for what is through those doors (in light of reaching out to others for Christ)." (Paraphrase of Kerry Crespo)

Immediately I imagined a pair of needless Western Saloon style doors swinging furiously as hundreds of thousands of people that have died every minute from a variety of things pass through those doors to their eternal home.

It makes me wonder what they were wearing as they crossed over through those doors to eternity. I do not speak of their physical apparel as they were possibly presented before family and friends in a casket. What I am referring to is the Heavenly dress, vestment, garb, or clothes that must be worn to enter into Heaven and the immediate presence of God.

Good News! Because Salvation through Christ, Jesus has made my spiritual attire righteous or in right standing with Him (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:17, 4:24, 3:22). Isaiah 61:10 says it beautifully -
  • I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
As you live life and prepare for The Beyond, what is your spiritual attire and where is your focus?
  • "If my wedding date is on the calendar, and I'm thinking of the person I'm going to marry, I shouldn't be an easy target for seduction.  Likewise, when I've meditated on Heaven, sin is terribly unappealing. It's when my mind drifts from Heaven that sin seems attractive.  Thinking of Heaven leads  inevitably to pursuing holiness.  Our high tolerance for sin testifies of our failure to prepare for Heaven." (Heaven, Randy Alcorn, p.455
If you are not preparing for Heaven, Hell awaits or at least the lack of reward. don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4) If your friendship is with the God of Heaven through Christ His Son then you have the right attire for eternity. 

Eternity for every soul begins at conception, Eternal Life begins when you accept Christ as your personal Savior.
  • "As a Christian, the day I die will be the best day I've ever lived. But it won't be the best day I ever will live. Resurrection day will be far better. And the first day on the New Earth - that will be one big step for mankind, one giant leap for God's glory." (Heaven, Randy Alcorn, p.442)
For the True Believer in Christ an appropriate focus on Heaven will mean they will be never to Heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. That concentration and perspective will spur them on to help populate Heaven and depopulate Hell. Meanwhile, if death comes knocking consider what Calvin Miller penned, "And dying is but getting dressed for God, Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod."  As our body lies in it's best physical raiment or duds and we approach the doorway of life/death - what is our eternal attire?

Friday, December 6, 2013

A STORY RETOLD

There was a group of people called the Arameans who made war with Israel back in the day of Elisha.  The prophet Elisha was getting downloads from God as to the troop movements of the Aramean army against Israel.  Therefore the nation Israel was prepared at every advance of the enemy.  This perplexed, enraged, and frustrated the king of Aram so much that he thought he had a traitor within his own court that was telling the war secrets to Israel.  But one of King Aram's officers knew the truth - Elisha was in town and with him - God.

By the order of King Aram the target quickly changed from Israel to Elisha, known to be staying in a city surrounded by hills called Dothan.  By night, the Armanean army moved in and surround the city.  When Elisha's servant got up the next morning to take in the day, there was the army ready to greet Elisha and the city with death.  "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked. "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, "Strike these people with blindness." So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.

Elisha proceeded to lead this blind army to the very doorstep of the capital of Israel at that time - Samaria. And even in these Old Testament times we see a story where the King of Israel did not destroy his enemy but fed them, took care of their needs, and sent them back to their home.  For a while they stopped raiding Israel's territory. (Source Event:  2 Kings 6:8-23)

Here the supernatural meets the natural and the seen meets the unseen.  Oh, to have that kind of unveiling! Can you imagine having spiritual eye-glasses that when put on allowed the user to see the kind of reality Elisha and his servant saw?!  I know half of me would desire that and the other half is scared stiff to even consider putting the supposed glasses on.  However, nothing is to fear when Elisha's Big Brother - God - shows Elisha and his servant the kind of troop power the Kingdom of God possesses.

The news just keeps getting better - my Big Brother is also the same as Elisha's and the same as Joshua's. Joshua was introduced to God as "commander of the army of the LORD".  This pre-incarnate visit of Christ was awesome!  Joshua receives the right perspective, right away.  Then Joshua obeys the Lord concerning instructions on the defeat of Jericho.  Here, faith in the who Joshua had seen, coupled with obedience to God's instructions equated to a flattened city and victory for God and His people. (Joshua 5:13-15---Joshua 6)

Paul delivers strength to believers in Christ when he says,

  • If God is for us who can be against us. (Romans 8:31)
  • in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28
There are many other Scriptures that describe the love, attention, care, and protection of God for His own. Just look at His many titles and you know His compassion never fails.  The Big Brother (albeit with a Divine Punch) aspect of God seems to be a shared characteristic in all of Christ's descriptive names.  The real kicker is that even though there are such special relationships as brothers/sisters (blood relatives and family of Christ relatives) - there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24) - and He signed His Covenant with His Own Blood.  Wow!  God as our Big Brother!  Wow!  God as the commander of the army of Heaven!  Wow!  God as a friend who sticks closer than a brother!  Wow!  God as Faithful to fulfill His own Covenant.  Whom shall I fear?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A RESPONSE

Dallas Berry recently said something that got me thinking (Dallas, if I miss quoted you hollar at me!).  He said, "Christian heritage will not get you into heaven.  Your parents name will not save you.  It is up to the individual's response to Christ whether or not that person spends eternity in Heaven with The Lord."

I agree with your statement.  However, I would like to add-on to it.

Dallas, your statement led me to a time of gratitude before God.  It is true, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)  However, my Christian Heritage cultivated me to the point of making that life decision.  Not to say that God does not work in non-Christian homes to draw individuals into His Kingdom.  No.  That has been done many times over, including our own head pastor.  But the Christian Heritage is an environment that I grew-up in and have come to be thankful for in this day and age.  The lifestyle that it brought did not shield me from everything, but shielded me enough to get my roots well established in The Sure Foundation - The Word of God.

Now, allow me to share my Christian Heritage.  Having a mother, father, and grandmother in the home that showed me Godly love, gave me Holy discipline (yes, even I was set apart unto my room a couple of times), and taught me by word and example Christ's lifestyle was just the beginning of my Christian Heritage.  Also going for me - my Grandfather was a preacher, I had uncles who were preachers, my dad would fill-in for these uncles from time-to-time, and now dad is officially ordained as a Pastor/Preacher at the church he attends.  In addition, my family has a rich, Christian, music history.

I say all this not to boast over any one person or group of people.  I say this after reflecting on your words Dallas and coming to a place of gratitude and thankfulness.  Family is where it all starts.  And whether every individual in the world recognizes it or not - everyone starts off with God too!  My environment was more conducive to an acceptance of the Salvation message.  However, I did not accept Christ as my personal Savior until I was 9 (1979).  There was no forcing my hand to make The Decision.  The Holy Spirit in my home and in the lives of my parents along with the always-present Love was enough to convince me - Jesus and His Kingdom are where I want to spend eternity. My whole life reminds me of a good-ole Southern Gospel song that I hope I get to sing one day with three other men in a quartet for I truly am...So Blessed.

http://www.rhapsody.com/artist/greater-vision/album/my-favorite-place/track/we-are-so-blessed

We Are So Blessed (by Bill Gaither, 1982)

Verse 1
We are so blessed
By the gifts from Your hand
I just can't understand
Why You've loved us so much
We are so blessed
We just can't find a way
Or the words that can say
Thank You Lord for Your touch

Chorus
When we're empty
You fill us 'til we overflow
When we're hungry
You feed us and cause us to know
We are so blessed
Take what we have to bring
Take it all ev'rything
Lord we love You so much

Verse 2
We are so blessed
By the things You have done
The vict'ries we've won
And what You've brought us through
We are so blessed
Take what we have to bring
Take it all ev'rything
Lord we bring it to You

Chorus