Sunday, September 19, 2021

Heaven on Earth

 

 

Have you ever wondered what heaven will be like? The Bible gives us precious few details of the current heaven, but it tells us that there will be a restored earth that will serve as our eternal home one day. John wrote, “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God (Revelation 21:2-3).’”

 

Randy Alcorn, in his book simply titled Heaven, said that we do not need to look to the sky and wonder what heaven will be like; we just need to look around and imagine what this planet would be like if there was no sin. So let’s do that: 

 

Imagine a place that we can go, beyond all that you’ve ever seen,

Nicer than any place you’ve been, better than your wildest dreams.

It will be heaven on earth

 

Colors will be brighter, sounds will be clearer, and the weather is always nice,

Each new day will be as good as the last, every day of your life.

It will be heaven on earth

 

You’ll never get sick, never grow old, you’ll never even die,

You’ll never be lonely, or have a broken heart, you’ll never even cry.

It will be heaven on earth

 

Everything that makes it bad down here, like famine, disease, and war,

They are products of the fall, and they’ll be gone forevermore.

It will be heaven on earth

 

We’ve talked about what wont be there, but there are things we expect to see

All our friends who’ve gone on before, and plenty of new people to meet.

It will be heaven on earth. 

 

James and John, Peter and Paul, and that wee little man Zacchaeus 

But of all the people we get to meet, I’m going to see my Jesus

It will be heaven on earth 

 

It will be like the Garden of Eden, a world that doesn’t know sin,

God will come down and live with us, and He’ll never leave again

It will be heaven on earth. 

 

And when we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun,

We’ll wake up to another day in the best place we’ve ever known. 

It will be heaven on earth 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Walk by Faith

 


As Christians we often talk about walking by faith and not by sight. This popular phrase comes from Second Corinthians 5:7.  We typically use that expression to encourage each other when life is hard and doesn’t make sense. Sometimes we refer to this verse when we are not sure which decision to make when facing two choices. Walking by anything other than sight is difficult because we rely on our vision to help us navigate our steps in life.

 

There are some courses in life that we can walk without our sight. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I can stumble into the kitchen and get myself a glass of water without having to turn on the lights. That is because I know the path from my bed to the sink like the back of my hand. But when we talk about walking by faith rather than sight we might conjure up images of walking around blindfolded, as it were, with our arms outstretched, feeling our way around.  However, I don't think that was the image the Apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote those words.

 

The imagery should not be of a person who is unable to see, and thus relying on faith. As long as we can reach our hands out in front of us and feel anything in our path, we can get by even without sight. I believe the image that Paul wanted to paint is that of a person walking by faith in spite of their sight. It isn't that we can't see, it is that what we can see can deceive us.  Walking by faith then means we are trusting in something else besides our vision. When it looks like a door is wide open, we might have to act as if it is closed. Conversely, when it appears that there is a brick wall right in front of us, God might call us to walk right through it. Our sight tells us it is impossible, but in faith we learn to rely on God rather than our sight.

 

In context, Paul is talking about the future resurrection of believers. Let's look at the verse with the two verses that surround it: “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord (v.6-8).” The situation in which we must walk by faith rather than sight deals with the fact that we currently live in our physical, earthly bodies, and yet we believe that one day we will live in glorified bodies. That may be a difficult concept for us to truly wrap our minds around, but we must take it in faith.

 

Wrapped up in this promise is everything else associated with our eternal state. More than just having a glorified body, this passage belies the fact that we will one day be free from sickness and suffering, disease and death. Believing in this promise can make life a little easier when things are difficult. When all we see is negativity, we can put our sight aside and walk by faith, holding on to these dear promises that God will one day make everything right.

 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Pray for Revival



 Do you ever pray for revival? Revival is related to the word revive, or to bring something back to life. Biblically speaking, revival refers to times when God moves in such a way as to stir Christians out of their complacency and into action. The church has a tendency to get stuck in a rut, going through the motions each week of “doing church,” and revival can help re-instill a sense of emotion and passion back into the congregation.   

 

Charles Finney is remembered for the many revivals his preaching helped usher in, and he once delivered a series of lectures on the topic of revival. The majority of his lectures focused on the key ingredient in any revival: prayer. We need to ask God to bring revival because it cannot be manufactured by people. But Finney pointed out that sometimes there is an ingredient that precedes prayer: wickedness. 

 

Finney said there had been times when great wickedness drove the people of God to their knees because they felt hopeless to do anything else. The “outrageous wickedness,” as he called it, disrupted the lives of the saved and opened their eyes to the state of carnality in their city. The wickedness of the world can be a good thing if God uses it to get the church’s attention. Finney said: 

 

“Let hell boil over if it will, and spew out as many devils as there are stones in the pavement, if it only drives Christians to God in prayer—it cannot hinder a revival…if Christians will only be humbled and pray, they shall soon see God's naked arm in a revival of religion.”  

 

There is no shortage of wickedness in the world still a century and a half after the death of Charles Finney. Drugs are destroying lives and communities; violent crime is on the rise; injustices abound, and American cities have burned to the ground. On top of that, the pandemic, runaway inflation, and the heartbreaking images out of Afghanistan are on everyone’s mind. These things can get us down, or they can get us down to our knees. 

 

It may just be that God uses these current events as the impetus for revival. Perhaps He is waiting even now for His people to humble themselves and pray. We know the unsaved world is worried about these things as well; maybe the coronavirus is causing people to stop and think about their own mortality. It may just be that the darkness of this world is making it ripe for revival. If you are not already praying for revival, will you join us in doing that now? 

 

“Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?”

Psalms 85:6

 

 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Ambassadors for Christ

 

 

 

As Christians we serve in an important role, functioning as God’s ambassadors. Paul referred to himself as such in Ephesians 6:20, and then he spoke on behalf of all believers in II Corinthians 5:20 when he wrote, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

 

The word ambassador comes from a Greek word that means “old man,” as most ambassadors where trusted elders. But in its official capacity an ambassador was one who was sent to represent another, much as our State Department has ambassadors around the world speaking on behalf of the President. These ambassadors served in a foreign land and delivered the messages they were given.

 

Ambassadors were also common in the Roman Empire. As Rome expanded its empire and took over more territories, they labeled their provinces as being either senatorial or imperial. 

The senatorial provinces were not a problem for Rome. These vanquished territories became submissive to the emperor. They laid down their weapons in exchange for peace, and as long as they paid their taxes, they were on good terms with the Roman government. The imperial provinces, on the other hand, were always under the watchful eye of Rome. They had surrendered themselves, but they weren’t exactly submissive. Given the opportunity to rebel, these provinces would have jumped at the chance. To keep rebellions from rising up, the emperor dispatched his ambassadors to keep a presence in those regions. 

 

Because Paul referred to believers as ambassadors, we can think about ourselves as serving in a foreign land; after all, we are strangers and pilgrims passing through earth on our way to heaven (Hebrews 11:13), and our Lord’s kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Since we are sent as ambassadors, we can surmise that this world is an imperial province, a hostile territory that is in rebellion against our Leader. The role of the ambassador is to represent someone else and speak that person’s message. We are called to reflect the character of God in our everyday lives, serving as visual representations of the one who sent us. 

 

And we have been called to deliver a message. That is why Paul said God is “making His appeal through us.” Jesus told the disciples that He was calling them as witnesses to testify to the things they had heard and seen (Matthew 28:18-20). Unlike the Roman ambassadors of yesteryear, we come on behalf of a benevolent King. Our purpose is to tell the world that there is a God who loves them and sent His Son to make a way for them to be adopted into His family. 

 

The final things Paul said is that our message is to implore the world to be reconciled to God. Citizens of this imperial province are at odds with God, but through Jesus, they can be reconciled. The relationship can be rectified, and their souls can be saved. Will you accept your post as an Ambassador for Almighty God?  

Saturday, August 21, 2021

If Tombs Could Talk

 


Wouldn’t it be nice if tombs could talk? I would love to hear what that empty tomb would say about the very brief time that it held the body of Jesus. Here is what I believe that tomb would tell us, if only tombs could talk: 

 

I had heard of Jesus, He was all the talk in town;

I was glad He was condemned, glad to see He was going down.

They say He was a blasphemer, that He claimed to be the Christ,

He got what He deserved; He deserved to lose His life.

But He is not here. He is risen. 

 

They rolled away my stone and brought His body inside;

I expected a celebration, but Joseph only cried.

“Strange,” I thought, “to mourn over this liar,

He claimed to be God in the flesh, that He was equal with the Father.”

But He is not here. He is risen.

 

I was proud to do my duty, keeping watch over this body.

No one would ever see Him again because they couldn’t get inside me.

But before I knew what happened, on the morning of day three,

This Jesus sat right up, and then walked right out of me!

Now He is not here. He is risen.

 

Then an angel came and rolled away my stone;

Some women came, and then some men, and found His body gone.

I only had one job— to keep a dead man’s corpse inside,

What was I supposed to do when the corpse came back to life?

He is not here. He is risen.

 

I used to count it an honor to guard a criminal’s body;

Now I have a bigger honor, to share my testimony.

When people come and check me out they never leave the same,

They might walk in a skeptic, but they leave praising Jesus’ name.

Because He is not here. He is risen.  

 

I changed the life of James and Jesus’ other brother Jude;

They didn’t believe that He was God until they walked inside my tomb.

Or the man who persecuted believers, known as Paul, and sometimes Saul,

One look at the risen Lord, now the greatest missionary of all.

Because He is not here. He is risen.

 

I was once a skeptic, but now I have no doubt;

I saw His body laying here, and I watched Him walk right out.

Maybe you’re a skeptic. He will do the same for you.

You will never be the same when you see the empty tomb.

For He is not here. He is risen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Shark Week

 

 

It was Shark Week on Discovery Channel again, so you know what that means: cool shark footage, and evolution. We can’t watch TV anymore without being bombarded by references to billions of years or other Darwinian “facts.” If we aren’t careful we can play into their hands, hearing these comments from scientists so often that we just assume they are true and our well-meaning religious friends just don’t understand science. But if we learn how to think for ourselves, we can push back against matter-of-fact statements about Darwinism. 

 

For example, while watching a special on sharks I heard the narrator make a strange comment of this shark’s digestive system. He said that sharks cannot digest fish, so they evolved a special system to allow them to do so. That was it. He said it like we know that is how it happened. We are supposed to think, “Wow, its awesome how it evolved itself the ability to eat,” and we chalk that up to survival of the fittest. If the shark didn’t evolve a keen digestive tract, it wouldn’t have survived. 

 

But here was my immediate question: how did the earliest sharks live long enough to evolve this special digestive ability? If it couldn’t eat, it would have been dead in days. Evolution is supposed to be a slow, gradual process (so slow, in fact, that we have absolutely no evidence of it ever happening—no missing links, no transitions, etc.). The first sharks would have starved to death before they could have evolved a functioning digestive system. 

 

This idea is what led Professor Michael Behe to coin the term “irreducible complexity” in his groundbreaking book Darwin’s Black Box. His argument was that many things could not have evolved through small, successive changes because they require a certain number of fully working parts in order to exist. Behe used a mousetrap as an example. One cannot start with a block of wood and catch some mice, then add a spring and catch a few more, then add a metal bar and catch even more; we can reduce the number of necessary parts down to a minimum, but there are a certain number of working parts that must work all at once, or it doesn’t work at all.  

 

The shark could not evolve itself a brain today, a heart tomorrow, and a digestive system next week; if each of those components are not working at the same time, the shark could not live. It sounds simple when the evolutionist bluntly says that the shark evolved itself a functioning digestive system, but that doesn’t make it true. That actually defies science and common sense. Instead, we can look at the same piece of data—the shark has a digestive system perfectly suited for his diet of fish—and come to a much more logical conclusion: an Intelligent Designer gave the shark exactly what it needed in order to survive. That defies neither science nor reason.

 

“So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day (Genesis 1:21-23).”

 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Heads and Tails

 

 

 

“Which one should we choose?” “I don’t know; let’s flip a coin.” Have you ever decided something that way? Flipping a coin is a handy way of deciding on (unimportant) decisions because the coin has precisely two sides. There is heads, and there is tails. Before flipping the coin we can say, “Heads its yes, tails its no.” With each flip it is heads OR tails. When even the magic eight ball occasionally says, “Unsure at this time,” flipping a coin gives you a definite response. 

 

A coin has two distinct sides, which helps when flipping it, but the coin has a shortfall. Because it is two sided, we are left only able to see one side at a time. Pick up a penny and admire Abraham Lincoln, but if you want to see his memorial, you must flip the coin and lose Lincoln’s face. It is one or the other, and never both sides at once. If you want to study a coin, you must look at one side at the expense of the other. Pick a side and go all in. 

 

Sometimes we feel like we must make similar monolithic choices when it comes to doctrine. The Bible holds many concepts in seeming contradiction. Do we preach grace or do we preach truth? Is God merciful or is He just? Is Jesus the Son of God or the Son of Man? We treat these paradoxical concepts as if they are separate sides of a coin, and we must pick a side to the exclusion of the other. 

 

One pastor will focus on God’s grace, giving the impression that it matters not what an individual does, while the other puts his focus on truth, preaching law to the extent that no one ever feels good enough. One concentrates on heads, the other on tails. Or we present God as Mr. Mercy, taking a laissez faire approach to our life, indifferent to what we do because He forgives everything; then another presents God as Judge Justice, who holds a gavel in His holy hand, waiting to declare us guilty. We emphasize the divinity of Jesus to the point that we cannot conceive of Him actually being tempted to sin or discouraged when He was rejected. Others so emphasize His humanity that they forget He is coequal with the Father and Spirit. 

 

Is there a better way to grapple with these two sided coins in the Bible? I believe there is. The answer is the Bible itself. God’s Word “is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).” Not only does Scripture illuminate the path of life for us, it also helps us see like a mirror. Using that analogy, James wrote, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (1:23-25).”

 

How can we look at both sides of a coin at the same time? The only way is to hold the coin up to a mirror. We can see Lincoln looking back at us, and we can look past his face and see his memorial. God’s Word, like a mirror, helps us see both sides of the same coin. We can learn to hold grace and truth in perfect balance. In Scripture mercy and justice are reconciled. Jesus is the God-Man. These concepts are not at odds with each other, they complement each other.

 

There is no need to flip a coin to decide what we believe. It is not heads OR tails, but heads AND tails.