Category Archives: Kingdom of Heaven

In Line

A friend of mine signs autographs and sells sketches at Comic Conventions because he used to be an animator for Disney.  People line up to meet him (which continues to baffle him…).  I wonder if there will be lines in Heaven to meet various Bible celebrities.  Some of those lines would be pretty long, with all the people wanting to meet John, Peter and the rest of the boys.  Don’t even think about how long the line would be at Jesus’ booth.  Good thing we’ll have eternal life if we’ll be waiting in all those lines.

I’m not sure how that will work out, but if there are lines like that, don’t be surprised if you see Peter standing in your line.  How could that be?  Let’s ask him.  He wrote this greeting:

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:  (2 Peter 1:1)

Peter got to be one of the original apostles of Jesus and yet considered every believer to be of equal standing.  How can that be possible?  Because, as a follower of Jesus, your standing is obtained “by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”   God’s righteousness is perfect.  How much of that righteousness will He impart through Jesus to you?

Paul wrote:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.   (Philippians 1:6)

 

And John:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  (1 John 3:2)

I don’t know about lines to meet Bible rock stars in heaven.  But know this: as hard as it is to imagine, if you follow Jesus by faith, you are already in line to obtain perfection. The next time you pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” remember that promise is part of the deal.

Why This Friday is Good

“Move that bus!”  The impoverished family gapes to see a newly remodeled home, filled with improvements to make their lives better.  If you’ve seen “Extreme Makeover, Home Edition,” you remember the tears of amazement and joy.  But as the family tours the home, as excited as they may have been, for the breadwinner, in the back of their minds is the gathering fear, “What if I can’t keep this job and we miss a few payments?  I could easily lose this place…”  But occasionally, just before the show signed off, Ty Pennington would say, “Oh, there’s just one more thing…” and some charitable organization would present the family with a check, paying off their mortgage in full.

In a scenario like that, a family that had experienced life as a daily struggle, would then be able to move into their new home and find rest, secure in the realization their greatest obligation of debt had been paid off by someone else.  That is, if they trusted the check was real, accepted it and cashed it.

Today we remember that, on the Cross, Jesus Christ paid our full obligation of debt, with His own blood, forever.  As Isaiah foretold,

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.  (Isaiah 53:5-6)

If we trust Him, and accept His payment on our behalf, we will be received into God’s family (John 1:12-13), enter into His rest (Hebrews 4:3), secure in the realization that our obligation has been fully paid.  Forever.

 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.* 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.  (Ephesians 1:5–7). New Living Translation

Spreading Light

There is an emerging radical shift in medicine.  Instead of killing diseased and dysfunctional cells, medical scientists are experimenting with transforming damaged cells into fully functional, healthy cells.  The process is amazing: A single cell is injected in the body and begins to gradually transform the non-functioning cells.  If you’ve been to a candle lighting service, imagine a cell with a candle flame, connecting with a dark cell and lighting it’s candle.  Exponentially the light spreads.  The body becomes healthy.  (There’s a cool TED talk I’ll link below.)

John began his Gospel by declaring Jesus to be God, manifested as a human being.  But, unlike every other human, Jesus was a complete, fully functional human because,

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  (John 1:4)

Jesus had the Holy Spirit we were designed to have, the Spirit lost to humanity at the Fall.  He came to bring this Spirit as light to our darkness.  He couldn’t merely flip a switch, however.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  (John 1:5)

Spreading the light had to happen one soul at a time, because our darkness and lack of understanding was a personal, internal problem.  It was necessary for each of us to allow the light to come in and change us.  To accept the transformation from spiritual death to life, from spiritual darkness to light.  What did we need to do?

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ( John 1:11-13)

 

When a stranger knocks at your door, you either let him in or not depending upon whether or not you trust him.  Allowing him in is an act of faith.  When Adam stopped trusting God, he lost the Spirit.  When Jesus came, it was to restore the Spirit to anyone who would receive Him by trust, by faith.  And when anyone does receive Him by faith, Jesus causes the Spirit to be born in his or her soul.  He lights their candle, so to speak, bringing them to full, spiritual life and spreading His light.

Here’s the promised LINK

Civil Obedience

Is it right for whole communities to refuse to obey immigration laws?  What about for you?  Is it right for you to pick and choose which laws you will obey?  Consider these words from Peter:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,  or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 

Our first response might be to object, to bring up exceptions.  Are we supposed to be subject to an authority who is corrupt or wicked?  Nero was in power when Peter wrote this.  His wickedness and cruelty was the stuff of legend. And yet. Peter taught us to be subject to such rulers.

But, what if a ruler’s commands are contrary to the commands of God?  Peter faced that dilemma when he was ordered by the Jewish council not to tell people about Jesus.  His response is instructive:

So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”   (Acts 4:18-20)

Although Peter and John could not, in conscience, obey the authorities, they still were subject  to them, honest about their disobedience and submissively ready to accept the consequences.  Being subject to the authorities does not always mean obeying them.

But why be subject to them?  Why not take action to weaken the authority of those in power who are corrupt or wicked?  Peter tells us:

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.   (1 Peter 2:13-15)

Of course, Peter had a good Role Model in this.  Taking his cues from Jesus, he wrote:

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  (1 Peter 2:20-24)

We are subject to human authorities because we are subject to God, Who has told us to do so.  We do not take matters into our own hands but entrust ourselves to God, knowing that His plans will prevail.

The Meaning of Meaninglessness

Here’s a special treat.  In the last several posts we have chewed on Ecclesiastes, but how can we scoop its message all together?  It seems so full of contradictions – just like you!  Scholars have tried for centuries to make sense of it.  But, Ecclesiastes is about real life, real life that throws curve balls.  Recently, my son sent me a wonderful You Tube about Ecclesiastes.  These guys really get it.  I couldn’t summarize the book any better.  Check it out.  But do yourself a favor and wait for a moment when you can really watch and listen.  It begins with a short Hebrew song and then goes way deep.   Click HERE.

But wait, there’s more!  No, not steak knives…    This same group produced a beautiful song based on the teachings of Ecclesiastes.  You’ll find it HERE.

And, If you missed this short series, the first one is found HERE.

Grace and peace.

Life and Death

Everybody dies.  So, if death makes life seem pointless (see Vantage Advantage), how does adopting God’s way of seeing reality change the inevitable?  Putting it in blunt terms, how can we “receive life as a gift from a generous God,” if we know He will one day yank it back?  Isn’t that view of life just a crutch for those who can’t face the hard truth about dying?

It would be, except for this.  God made a promise about death in Scripture.

In that day he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth.  He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The LORD has spoken!  (Isaiah 25:7-8)

Death seems certain when life is viewed “under the sun.” But for those who adopt God’s perspective, death will certainly be eliminated.  Oh yeah?  When will that happen, you ask?  It already has!  When Jesus was comforting His friend after the death of her brother,

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25 -26)

It sounds too good to be true, a get out of death free card.  But, if you are struggling to accept what He said, consider this:

  • Jesus is universally regarded as at least the best man to have ever lived.
  • Would such a man lie to His good friend in her time of grief?  No way.

Another time, as He explained eternal life to His disciples, Jesus said He wasn’t lying:

“… If it were not so, I would have told you.”  (John 14:2b)

Here’s the deal:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   (John 3:16-17)

The Dumb Thing

One of the oldest bits of wisdom in the Bible says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Except God didn’t say it like that.   Speaking through His prophet, Jeremiah, He said:

13 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.  (Jeremiah 2:13)

Cisterns hold water but they can’t fill themselves.  You have to do that.  If the cistern is leaky, then you have to keep filling it, even if you haven’t used any of the water. Moreover, have you ever tasted water stored for a long time in a cistern?  Funky stuff.  So then, why would anyone exchange a continuous spring of fresh, clear water for a cistern they had to dig and fill which would give them brackish tasting water?  Be dumb, right?

And why, God asks, would anyone turn away from the continuous interaction with God, Who gives strength, peace, joy, insight, love and life itself, in order to make up his or her own god out of dead stuff?  Dead stuff like wood, stone, metal, plastic… or money.  One of most common reasons people turn away from God is to pursue more money.  But money is very much like a broken cistern.  You have to fill it yourself.  It leaks away when you aren’t looking (If you don’t believe me, check your wallet:  Not as much money in there as you thought, right?)  And money doesn’t satisfy like it promises to do.  Most of the time the aftertaste of money is brackish.

Don’t be dumb.

Making Movies

I’d be very surprised if the movie, “God’s Not Dead,” convinced anyone to abandon atheism.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I suspect movies like that mostly feel good to those who already know God’s not dead.  I’m pretty sure God does not need to be defended.  Why?  Because He isn’t dead!  He’s all powerful and His purposes prevail.  If He was dead, then maybe we’d need to work hard to prove He wasn’t.

That’s the idea humorously and ironically illustrated by these guys:

24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.   (Acts 19:24-27)

Any so-called god who can be “robbed of divine majesty” because of something someone says is no god you want to follow.   I’ve seen many movies about faith in God that have stirred my soul.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not down on God movies.  It’s just that the real God doesn’t need our movies; He makes His own:

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.  (Psalms 19:1-4)

20-17 Vision

Remember Y2K?  How much needless worry and panic was spilled over mostly nothing?  That’s my impression of 2016 – people got all stirred up over first one thing and then another, wasting countless hours watching “news” about what might happen and wasting a lot of energy shouting about it.  

Imagine what news channels would have done with the circumstances of Roman occupation and oppression in Jesus’ day.  Public whippings and crucifixions, unjust demands by soldiers imposed upon ordinary citizens.  And yet, Jesus largely ignored all that, focusing instead on more important aspects of reality.  Such as loving one’s neighbor.  Such as learning to see the world through His eyes, so “the truth will set your free.”  Such as learning not to worry but trusting your Heavenly Father.  What if, in 2017, we dared to follow His example?  What if we dared to stop defining reality by what the media says and instead asked God to show us what really matters?

20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.  (1 John 5:20)

18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Grace and peace to you all this new year!

Night Light

2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
3 You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
4 For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:2-7)

Merry Christmas!