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“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).

Many of you are familiar with is what commonly referred to as “the seven ‘I am’ statements of Jesus.” They are pregnant with meaning about who Jesus is and who He claimed to be. Simultaneously they create awe and bring us great comfort. Here is a list of them as they appear in the Gospel of John:

“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 6:48)

“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12, 9:5)

“I am the door” (John 10:7).

“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11-14).

“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

“I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

“I am the true vine” (John 15:1,5).

Given this is the Easter season, I would like to focus on the 5th of these: “I am the resurrection and the life.” To understand this we must look at the context (Isn’t this always the case?). In John 11 we see what appears to be a tragedy. Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, is dying. They send a message to Jesus telling Him of his sickness (11:1-3). Jesus was not startled but quickly told His disciples this illness was not going to end in death but ultimately demonstrate His own glory (11:4).

Strangely, the Great Physician tarried for 2 days without going to Lazarus’ bedside. By the time He decided to go (11:7) his friend had perished (11:11, 14). He arrives at a grieving household, making his entrance with the claim that Lazarus will be miraculously raised from the dead after 4 days (11:23). And on what basis did He make this claim? He tells them plainly, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He points to Himself – not the dire situation, the suffering family, or the stench of the deteriorating body. He says, “I am!!” He has the authority to overcome death and life and soon proves it (11:43:44). Based upon the command of Christ – “Lazarus, come out” – the dead man lives.

I could go on about the implications of this event in light of our being born again or regenerated. How dead men don’t make decisions and the power of God alone awakens us from our spiritual death (see Ephesians 2:1-10 if you want to examine the correlation) but I choose to focus on the physical aspect of this display of God’s power through the glory of the Son. As Jesus said to Martha, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” And I believe this is true both spiritually and physically.

As we celebrate Easter, Christ’s willful death and eventual rise from the grave, it makes us ponder a painful reality of living in a fallen world; physical death. It is all around us and, as we age and have more experiences in life, we know that inevitably it will be our turn. If we don’t die from a terrible disease or accident, our bodies waste away, slowly eroding through toil and the passage of time. We have also lived through the grief of loved ones passing away, just like in this story. And their death and the prospect of our own can create an ominous outlook that begins to shape our thinking and our living.

The good news? Jesus is telling and showing us here in John 11 that through faith in Him we can physically live forever. Oh yes, His children will die an earthly death, but it is a transport not a termination. Because of His mercy and might, He will once again shout “come forth” to all those who believe and we will be raised and given new bodies (for more than a dash of comfort and hope, see 1 Corinthians 15:50-57). We will be healed and whole, spiritually and physically, for all of eternity. And we will be forever joined with Jesus and family and friends that have put their trust in Him, the Lord over death and life.

Do you believe? This is what Christ requires. This is what He told Martha – whoever believes in him, though he will die, will live on in Heaven – and this is what He is telling us. This Easter I urge you to surrender to Him so that what we celebrate, Jesus’ resurrection, will guarantee that His victory over the grave has been applied to you by His grace and faith.

If you don’t understand what all this means, please send me a note and I will gladly follow up with you. Or reach out to a trusted follower of the risen Jesus and ask them to help you. I’m sure they, like me, will be thrilled to do so.

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On Tuesday, March 27th Ed Bergdorff passed from this life to the next one. He was 65 years old. The last time we saw him was less than a month ago and we had our usual Bible study. The last devotional was about the throne room of Heaven (Revelation 4). Rebekah and I went to visit him as often as possible, even though he spent his last days in a nursing home nearly an hour away. Ed meant so much to us. He became a friend, someone we cried over and cried with.

It is our sincere prayer that Ed has entered glory, He is in the majestic and radiant presence of Jesus, and is waiting on us to come and stay with him for all of eternity, and not just an hour or 2. Although unsure who might feel this same way, we love and miss Ed, and we long to see him again. Over the last 2 years, since the post below was written, we have seen a real change in Ed. He loved to hear the Bible read and explained, he longed for our visits and prayers, he confessed his sin when he did wrong, he was kinder to those who waited on him, he seemed to have a sense of peace despite his very troubled life. We believe this was evidence that Ed had met Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification was under way.

This post is over 2 years old. Suffice it to say, the Ted in this story is Ed Bergdorff. This is in memory of him:

It’s Not Too Late for Ted (3/20/10)

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).

Ted is a drug addict. Due to multiple back surgeries and other debilitating illnesses he is hooked on numerous prescription drugs. I watched Ted groan and writhe in pain and nausea as he suffered from unintended morphine withdrawal. After a trip to the ER and the healing power of an IV bag dripping the necessary medications back into his desperate body, he was back to “normal” within 24 hours. The hospital visit precluded what I thought was the perfect day to share the Gospel with Ted. But God, in His divine orchestration, had determined that this Saturday was not His perfect time for an explanation of His unfathomable free offer of grace and forgiveness. That was ordained to take place 72 hours later.

Ted was forthright on that overcast Wednesday, “I’ve committed every kind of sin. I’ve even killed a man…not because I wanted to but because I had to. My life has been a mess since I turned my back on God.  I got saved and baptized as a teenager but chose other things over Him.”

He described the day that defined his life: “I was 18 and standing outside of a pool hall. The preacher was on the other side of the street. He told me to leave the joint, cross the street, and do the right thing. You know, to come over to that side. I wanted to. I knew I should. But I turned around and went back into the bar and never looked back. My life has been a mess ever since”.

Now in his mid-60’s, Ted has been homeless, sick, hurt, medicated, fighting, alone, and just surviving for most of his life. He is also illiterate. There is no family and but one friend to care for him. Ted now sits in a government furnished apartment for the indigent having nothing more than the bare necessities. He worries constantly about his Medicaid coverage and Social Security check and whether his pain and panic medicines will be available and affordable. He has a dark past, a dreary present, and, seemingly, a hopeless future. Ted is the type that most folks, including our society in general, have given up on. But, in His infinite love, Jesus (and Ted’s one friend) hadn’t.

Ted started listening to some tapes he had been given that shared “The Gospel Made Simple.” As much as I was suspicious of that tagline, I found the tapes to be an accurate representation of the true message of salvation. Not forgetting the faith of his youth, these tapes reminded Ted of the essentials of being born again; our sin, God’s holiness, the necessity of righteousness, the rightful judgment of God against our rebellion, and, most of all, how Jesus has made a way for sinners to be redeemed, forgiven, and receive eternal life (see John 3:14-18). Ted understood the Gospel and knew it was all wrapped up in Jesus and the cross of Calvary. He knew he had to know Christ as his only hope and believe and receive Him through the power of God (see John 1:12-13).

Ted said on that providential weekday,“But how can this be? I’ve been too bad for that. It’s too late for me.” Quoting Romans 10:9-10, I told him there were a few simple things necessary to experience God’s mercy and unmerited favor, receive forgiveness for all his sins, and inherit eternal life in the presence of Jesus; sincerely believe (“if you believe in your heart”), have a life so transformed that it confesses Jesus as your Savior (“and confess with your mouth”), and surrender your life to the dominion and lordship of Christ (“that Jesus is Lord”).  To ease Ted’s concern his sin was too great, I shared that Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). “What you have to do,” I explained to Ted as clearly as I could, “is to cry out with genuine desire the prayer of the wretched tax collector; ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’” (see Luke 18:9-14).  Then I waited in deafening silence.

With his eyes fixed on mine, Ted paused. Finally, his emphysema filled lungs gasped and he carefully, tearfully, and emphatically said, “That is what I need.” An interminable, stunning silence ensued. “And that is what I want…I want to live the rest of my life for Jesus. Will you pray with me?” And we did.

Do I know with certainty the state of Ted’s soul? I do not. That is in our Lord’s hands. I do know, however, this opportunity came about because one devoted, sacrificial woman, a true follower of Jesus, took Christ’s words to heart: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). She came often to visit Ted and brought food, love, and prayer. She took her Saturdays to make sure his meds and refrigerator were stocked. She came with warm, caring words and a comforting presence. She also introduced me to Ted. And, just maybe, by God’s grace and through her demonstration of Christ-like love, reintroduced Ted to Jesus.

And, by the way, I’m so blessed to have married this woman –  Ed’s friend and my Rebekah.


“So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and the years approach when you will say, “I have no delight in them”; before the sun and the light are darkened, and the moon and the stars, and the clouds return after the rain; on the day when the guardians of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, the women who grind cease because they are few, and the ones who watch through the windows see dimly, and the doors at the street are shut while the sound of the mill fades; when one rises at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song grow faint. Also, they are afraid of heights and dangers on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper loses its spring, and the caper berry has no effect; for man is headed to his eternal home, and mourners will walk around in the street; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the jar is shattered at the spring, and the wheel is broken into the well; and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Everything is futile” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, HCSB). 

The night was designed to be a celebration and it was…but one with a sobering and ironic twist. Several on Rebekah’s side of the family had gathered at the house of her uncle and aunt who live in an affluent neighborhood in southwest Virginia. The gathering and dinner were in honor of our niece and her baptism. We were celebrating the public profession of her new and eternal life in Christ. And that is truly something worth rejoicing over.  

But soon after dinner the festive mood turned somber and reflective. Police cars and an ambulance, with sirens and lights blazing, arrived at a neighbor’s house, the property adjacent to our site. Everyone soon began to discuss what might be the problem. Between incoming phone calls and Uncle Bill’s neighborhood research, the details began to emerge. The man who lived in this large house, alone with his wife and pets, had taken his life by gunshot. The authorities found him in his blood-stained bedroom along with the weapon. In his 70’s, with no clear reason for his tragic and terminal decision, he was dead. 

Soon our speculation became rampant. Was he terminally ill? Did they have marital problems? Did an argument escalate and the eccentric wife actually pull the trigger? Rumor said that he had an alcohol problem…was this a contributing factor? Could the frightening rise of K2 and “Bath Salts” synthetic drugs in the area have been an influence? “My gracious,” Aunt Jane blurted out, “I just saw him walking the dog a few hours ago.” Although complete conjecture, everyone had become a sleuth is pursuit of the cause of this morbid event. No more spiritual or insightful than anyone else,  I said nothing. All I could think was, ‘This man is dead. And his soul has now transitioned to another place, good or bad. His opportunity to follow Jesus is gone.’ 

Some have said that suicide is the ultimate selfish act. I know from my own studies and ministry that those who take their own lives really don’t want to die; they just don’t want to live anymore and death is the lesser of the 2 painful evils. So they look outward and turn inward and don’t find enough reasons to keep on living. Could anything be much sadder? Uncle Bill made a soul-pricking comment: “This is such a commentary on the spiritual void that is so common in our world.” So true. Pushing away our suppositions about the circumstances surrounding this depressing event, there was something vital missing in this man’s life. Something so critical that what (Who) was absent created a hole so big that death appeared to be his best recourse. 

This is what the Teacher of Ecclesiastes is talking about in our focal passage. Life is hard and it gets harder. If we continue to live we will eventually bleed, we will inevitably have pain. Without God our existence is futile and we find no real satisfaction in our living or our dying. This principle is inescapable. Apart from Christ life can become unbearable – the spiritual void growing ever larger until we see zero joy and hope in our being…just emptiness. We may not pull the trigger that ends our earthly reality but we will just go through the motions, living out our days devoid of Who really matters. But that’s not life – that’s just ambulatory death.

But in Christ we can have new and eternal life. Through surrendered faith we can find our God-glorifying purpose by taking our brokenness to the cross and laying it at the feet of an infinitely life-giving, soul-satisfying, joy-producing Savior. And, if you haven’t already, I pray you do so before you become seemingly too hard or too tired or too beaten down by life to turn to the only One who can give you hope. 

So it behooves us all to be reminded of Ecclesiastes’ final axiom: “When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this [is for] all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil” (12:13-14). Only by complete trust in the blood-soaked sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary – where He bore God’s righteous wrath – can we expect to receive God’s mercy and grace and all the immeasurable, eternal blessings that go with it…abundant life now and life everlasting.


“Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:1-11).

The Bible is a narrative and must be read and studied that way. The stories of the Old Testament are not isolated but are critical components in Scripture’s redemptive drama. The account of Babel is but one example of how God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, moved these prophets and writers to share things which, on the surface, seem somewhat trivial. Only by looking forward do we begin to understand why these details are included for our edification.

Yes, the account of Babel is about pride, self-sufficiency, and rebellion. But it is also about how God uses the scattering of languages to bring Himself glory. This isn’t some random event – Scripture unfolds how the dispersion of people groups and the introduction of different languages and dialects would point people to the Gospel and to His greatness. We have to look forward and find, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.”

Let’s now go to Pentecost where we first see the church taking shape by the proclamation of the Gospel. You can read about it in Acts 2. Folks from numerous geographies with various languages had assembled for this celebration. With Holy Spirit power the disciples use this platform to announce the good news to the diverse masses. But there is a barrier to communicating to this disparate gathering – they spoke in various “tongues.” That’s because of the Babel incident that seemed insignificant, but now takes on new meaning. God knew what He was doing in Genesis 11 and the same is true in Acts 2. He now “gifts” these new believers with the supernatural ability to communicate God’s truth in these foreign languages, “tongues” that were unknown to them.

This miraculous event sparked the first revival in the church as thousands embraced the truth of Jesus and His Gospel. This also initiated the first missions campaign – these new converts went back home and indigenously shared their experience in their native tongue. Now the church’s trajectory and momentum took it outside of Jerusalem and to other people groups and lands. How supernaturally God had overcome and used the language barrier He Himself had created shows His sovereignty, and gives us a glimpse into His mysterious methods for pointing all of creation to Himself.

But the amazing narrative that started in Shinar continues. If we go further we see how the idea of scattered languages and people is further connected to the Gospel and God’s glory. You see, He dispersed them so that He could unite them in one voice and as one people, worshippers whose minds and hearts (unlike the rebels of Babel) are now, by the grace of the Gospel, focused solely on Him and His glory. Now let’s go to Revelation 5:9-14:

“And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

And now we see the rest of the story. God scattered sinful, rebellious humanity and created the confusion of different languages at Babel. But He did so that He could, through the Gospel, unify His redeemed into one glorious place and give them one majestic language of exultation to trumpet His glory and worship in His presence forever. From Babel to Pentecost and then to the glorious vision of the Heavenly throne, God was working out His plan that He might be glorified.


“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:9).

Bible-thumping on Bourbon Street at night barred by ordinance

Have you ever been to the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana? I have on several occasions. Many a business conference has taken me there due to the city’s bizarre drawing power. Bourbon Street is central to the city’s pull on tourists and social rubberneckers. Why? Because, after traveling a large part of these United States, it is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Sodom and Gomorrah in America (Las Vegas and Key West are a pretty close 2nd). Bourbon Street can be likened to observing a hedonistic car crash – even the purest of heart have difficulty keeping their gaze from the titillating and ostentatious sinfulness and drunken revelry. And the air reeks of the musty, dark odor of voodoo shops, “adult” venues, and alcohol induced vomit.

So what is the city’s answer to the environment that has encouraged the ruin of many lives and souls? Ban the Bible. Never mind the first amendment – let it be noted that every lifestyle known to man (civilized or not) is vociferously promoted and proclaimed on that street. It will both amaze and frighten you. But no Bible…no evangelism? Why don’t we just let the place melt into a pillar of salt? Because God apparently doesn’t want that. And the Bible suggests this.

The most amazing thing to me about the biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah is God’s patience and grace, not His eventual devastation of that perverse and vile city. Read the story for yourself. You can find it in Genesis 18–19. We all know about the judgement and destruction that marks the end of the saga but often forget that Abraham sought God’s mercy on that scandalous town. And God did relent until it became obvious that the townsfolk would not repent. For there weren’t even 10 righteous men to be found there. But I want to leave you with the part that, as I mentioned before, most impressed me – God’s patience and grace. Maybe they should influence the way we view places like New Orleans and the sad and hopeless people who endlessly and godlessly party on its streets:

“The men turned from there and went toward Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Abraham stepped forward and said, “Will You really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will You really sweep it away instead of sparing the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people who are in it? You could not possibly do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. You could not possibly do that! Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” The Lord said, “If at Sodom I find 50 righteous people in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Then Abraham answered, “Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord-even though I am dust and ashes- suppose the 50 righteous lack five. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” He replied, “I will not destroy [it] if I find 45 there.” Then he spoke to Him again, “Suppose 40 are found there?” He answered, “I will not do [it] on account of 40.” Then he said, “Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak further. Suppose 30 are found there?” He answered, “I will not do [it] if I find 30 there.” Then he said, “Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord, suppose 20 are found there?” He replied, “I will not destroy [it] on account of 20.” Then he said, “Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak one more time. Suppose 10 are found there?” He answered, “I will not destroy [it] on account of 10.” When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, He departed, and Abraham returned to his place” Genesis 18:22-33, HCSB).


“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith…” (1 Timothy 4:1).

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the falling away comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

As disheartening and shocking as it is, this USAToday article is a must read. It paints a very tragic portrait of the secularization and “lostness” of the country in which we live. And it breaks my heart. Read for yourself:

For many, ‘Losing My Religion’ isn’t just a song: It’s life

This piece reveals a vivid and ugly picture of the practical atheism that is pandemic in America. These unbelievers are euphemistically labeled as “apatheists.” The Bible would describe them asseparated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of [God] and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). 

Some snippets and statistics from this troublesome article:

“The real dirty little secret of religiosity in America is that there are so many people for whom spiritual interest, thinking about ultimate questions, is minimal,” says Mark Silk, professor of religion and public life at Trinity College, Hartford, Conn.

“We live in a society today where it is acceptable now to say that they have no spiritual curiosity. At almost any other time in history, that would have been unacceptable,” Budde says.

“This is a disaster for Christians, says Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, “If you’re not worried about heaven, you won’t notice or care if Jesus is essential your salvation. You’re not thinking about any consequences,” McConnell says.  

Here are some appalling numbers, figures that should launch us into an impassioned crusade of Gospel proclamation and disciple-making that Jesus mandated in His Great Commission:

•44% told the 2011 Baylor University Religion Survey they spend no time seeking “eternal wisdom,” and 19% said “it’s useless to search for meaning.”

•46% told a 2011 survey by Nashville-based evangelical research agency, LifeWay Research, they never wonder whether they will go to heaven.

•28% told LifeWay “it’s not a major priority in my life to find my deeper purpose.” And 18% scoffed that God has a purpose or plan for everyone. 

To further accentuate the dire nature of these numbers, hidden beneath these statistics are those who believe in God (or religion) but not the God of the Bible. These include various religions and belief systems outside of and even opposed to traditional Christianity (Islam, Buddhism, etc.).

Do we see these folks? Clearly they are all around us. We can find them where we work, at the store, in our neighborhood, and maybe even at church. USAToday makes it crystal clear they can be found everywhere in our culture. But are we really looking for them? This should serve as a siren’s warning and a powerful motivator to all who claim the name of Christ and profess to follow Him. Do we care? Do we care about those who don’t care, those who give no thought to the things of God and eternal matters? Do we love Him, and them, enough to tell them the truth and share with them the hope and joy found only in Jesus? I pray we do. As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38). And folks, that means us!

As uncomfortable as it is, I must close with a warning from the Apostle Peter. Why? Because it is the Word of God. It is true and must be said. Take heed, God has spoken and it will come to pass. Therefore, if you aren’t trusting and resting in the assurance and hope that is found only in surrendering by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, I plead with you to look at Him and look to Him, admit your sin, and cast yourself upon His mercy.

“…by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:1-8).


*This is an excerpt from my book “Captivated Anew: Restored to Pursue Him.” It can be found on virtually any major on-line bookstore in both digital and hardcopy formats.   

Never is a good time for a funeral. With this in mind, on one snowy December night in East Tennessee, I found myself attending two. I didn’t look forward to either, but I forced myself to go. I’m so glad that I did because the events of that night created an inescapable and profound memory that changed me. The night played out like a parable: it taught a valuable lesson about life and, more importantly, death. 

As a pastor I had attended my share of funerals. Some were depressing, while others were celebratory. Some of the deceased were young and some were old. Some had professed Christ and some had not. Most of those for whom services were held died of natural causes, but occasional accidents and inexplicable suicides happened, too. Every victim of death left families and legacies behind. Those legacies played out at their final services. 

What I expected as I entered the funeral for a wealthy, prominent heart surgeon was the usual fare: a body, some grieving mourners, a simple sermon, and a quick exit by those made uncomfortable by death’s visit. But this night was unique: a sense of hopelessness and futility defined the evening. Dr. Gates was barely fifty but had achieved great earthly success and wealth. His services were held at an older funeral home. The room was dark and smelled musty. The mourners were primarily his older patients who seemed to know little about him personally. Only a handful of visitors gathered around the room and nearly all of the women wore expensive fur coats, including his ostentatiously dressed wife who was nearly thirty years his junior. The chapel was hauntingly quiet; the air was thick with morbidity. I felt that the atmosphere reeked with sadness and despondency: Jesus didn’t have any part in Dr. Gates’ life. Clearly there was no joy and very little evidence of faithful hope beyond this life. Also, I deeply sensed an overwhelming lack of real love. 

I left that dusty and dank funeral home and drove toward Jenny’s funeral. Jenny was 22 when she died. She had recently graduated college and had become engaged to one of my friends. Having little in the way of material possessions, she had one desire: to serve as a missionary. Jenny never achieved the dream. I felt as dreary as the inclement weather as I braved the icy roads and dodged inexperienced commuters to locate the church where her body lay. Surprisingly, it was easy to find; bright, welcoming lights shone on the pillars of the church’s entrance. The sound of singing streamed out of the building and into the night. 

Even though I was running late I stopped the car, paused and prayed. I remember that the prayer was more for me than the deceased or their families. After Dr. Gates’ funeral I needed God’s strength to face the next funeral and the seeming tragedy of such a young life’s end. But as I approached the entrance I realized that the singing I heard was anything but sad. I entered the church to find hundreds of folks crowding each pew standing and praising God in unison. “Victory in Jesus” was their joyous hymn. 

The eulogist at the service spoke of Jenny’s faith and ministerial dreams. He spoke of hope, love, glory, and Heaven. He extolled the infinite virtues of her majestic Lord. He confidently proclaimed that our friend was at home with Jesus and all was well. At Jenny’s funeral, joy was such an intense and prevailing theme that it made me jealous of her death. The words of psalmist rang in my ears and resonated in my soul, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). I saw firsthand why Paul felt confident to ask, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”… Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57). 

As I drove home that night, the snow stopped and the clouds receded. My mind, however, wasn’t on the weather. My heart explored the lesson taught by two diametrically opposed exits from this earth. The scene at Dr. Gates’ funeral reminded me of Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus. He described those outside of Christ as being “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Jenny’s service, on the other hand, pointed to death not as a sad, pointless end; but as a bridge to glorious, eternal life with Jesus.  “[She] overcame … by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of [her] testimony” (Revelation 12:11a). 

Suddenly things became crystal clear. While Dr. Gates’ life may have seemed a success based on his financial worth and community standing, Jenny was the real winner. Though she had little of material value, she had Jesus. The testimony of her death trumpeted His truth.

When life’s curtain draws closed, nothing else really matters. Those who have Christ are the only ones who have anything of eternal value. For when our days on this earth reach a conclusion what do we really have to cling to but Him?


Welcome to 2012! 

Our God is an amazing God! What started out a couple of years ago as “journaling posted on the internet,” the Captivated by Christ Blog has been blessed beyond measure. Incredibly, the Lord has directed readers from 6 continents and over 20 countries to this site during 2011. We will only fully know how God has moved in this ministry when we reach Heaven and enter into His presence.

Thanks to all who have shared with me in this simple ministry, one which seeks to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  I pray that He uses this small gift to spread His kingdom and exalt Himself. May the beauty of Jesus and His Gospel be trumpeted to all peoples. And, if He is willing, may He use this work to do so in an even greater way in the new year.

Happy New Year and  grace to you!

The information below is furnished by the fine folks at WordPress – here are the numbers:

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

 

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-six – Two Paths: One Choice

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Throughout His sermon on the kingdom of Heaven, Jesus contrasts two kinds of righteousness, two types of devotion, two treasures, two masters, and two ambitions. Each comparison points to the question that every person must ask: Will I choose to follow Christ or the world? Matthew 7:13-14 begins to wrap up the sermon, leaving us to choose between two paths. Psalm 1 defines these paths as “the way of righteousness” and “the way of the wicked.” Each individual must choose to live as a citizen of the kingdom of this world or to live in and in anticipation of the ongoing kingdom of God—a decision which necessitates living a godly life. God allowed only one way to enter Heaven: relationship with Jesus (see John 14:6). Humanity cannot create a valid alternative.

In ancient times people felt that doing good works and appeasing the gods led to a peaceful eternity. The Egyptians, for example, believed that a deceased person’s heart would be weighed against a feather.[i] “If the heart was free of the impurities of sin, and therefore lighter than the feather, then the dead person could enter the eternal afterlife.” If not, eternity looked bleak. Many cultures today spread similar ideas, suggesting that an individual can earn his or her way into Heaven or miss out on it should they commit too many wrongs. But Jesus left very different and very specific directions on how one might enter into eternity with God.

First, we must understand that the burden of sin weighs heavily on every heart. This sin separates us from holy God and makes us worthy of condemnation and eternal death. Only when our sin debt gets paid and His wrath against our unrighteousness is satisfied is there forgiveness of sins and restored relationship with God. This happened at Calvary through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus and the required shedding of His blood (see Hebrews 9:22). And how do we receive this forgiveness, the free offer of the salvation that Christ purchased? By faith, believing His Word, and trusting wholly in Him and His redemptive work instead of in ourselves or our self-righteousness (see 2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 1:9). In other words, we must see Jesus as our only hope, the only way that we can have a relationship with God, forgiveness of sin (justification), and eternal life.

Make no mistake; entering into a relationship with Jesus provides the only way to bridge the sin gap that separates man from God. While many take offense to the idea that God does not allow people to approach Him through religion, spirituality, or good works, Scripture clearly teaches that Christ is the “narrow gate”: the only way to enter Heaven. In order to follow Jesus, we’ve got to let go of the self-righteousness, pride, and self-sufficiency that will hold us back as we step through the door. His road—one requiring self-sacrifice and loving service—leads to abundant and eternal life (John 10:10, 3:16).

The easy, broad way Christ mentions describes the path followed by the majority. It appeals to the crowd because it has no boundaries or restraints, allowing people to live as inclined. The road offers a diversity of options to achieve earthly happiness and to gain “Heaven.” Because the broad path is literally of the world, its travelers find little resistance. The broad way proves comfortable; it appeals to pride and the natural bent toward self-determination and self-will. Those who follow the path believe that a happy afterlife (should one exist) requires no sacrifice, no surrender to the will and purpose of the Master, and absolutely no dependence on holy God. The broad path allows people to carry all their baggage—sins, arrogance, selfishness, and self-righteousness—down the road to destruction. Sadly, separation from God now and forever awaits those who choose it.

In His wisdom God designated acceptance of His Son’s perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection as the toll to the narrow path. Anyone who sincerely confesses with his mouth and life that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised Him from the dead, experiences His eternal life (Romans 10:9). Through the mystery of grace and the gift of simple faith, God allows those who come to follow the way of the kingdom of Heaven.

Receiving Jesus allows us to experience God’s presence now and look forward to the fullness of His presence in Heaven. As we surrender completely to Him, denying ourselves and taking up our crosses to follow Him, we’ll find the kingdom of God and all of the glory it comprises (see Matthew 16:24, 1 Thessalonians 2:12). As we yield, submit, live selflessly, and love God “with all [our] heart[s] and with all [our] soul[s] and with all [our] mind[s] and with all [our] strength” (Mark 12:30), we acknowledge God’s rightful rule in our lives. And those who do enter through the narrow gate that leads to His life. 

Apply It.

Revisit John 3:14-18. In First John 5:13 John shares that he wrote so that we might know we have eternal life. Are you certain that you do? If so, do you have a burden for those outside of Christ and on the track to hell? Ask God to give you a passion for sharing His words of eternal life to the lost in your circle.


[i] McDevitt, April. “The Feather” Ancient Egypt: The Mythology last updated April 8, 2010.      http://www.egyptianmyths.net/feather.htm (May 8,2010).

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!


*Due to popular demand, this week I will repost this 2-part series. I pray that you are blessed by these thoughts.

”After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid,Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. “But Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me…” (Genesis 15:1-2, NIV).

“…so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles [us], so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14, ESV).

Last time we saw that Abraham’s life had been radically transformed by the understanding that God Himself, not His promises or provisions, was his greatest reward. He so treasured God above all other things that he was willing to sacrifice God’s gift of Isaac, the very thing that would allow God’s promise of Abraham being the father of a great nation to become a reality. As we mentioned, God intervened, spared Isaac’s life, and set into motion the beginning of that great nation and the eventual habitation of the land by Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 22:15-18). God did so by providing another sacrifice (in God’s economy there must always be a sacrifice to restore relationship with Him and the inheritance of covenant blessing). This provision was a ram (Genesis 22:13).

But this was no ordinary ram; for it prefigured Jesus. Notice in Genesis 22:13 that the ram was caught by its horns in a thicket (the thicket always reminds me of the crown of thorns that was placed on Jesus brow as he was being mocked just before His crucifixion). Because of the way he was trapped, this ram was unmarred or unblemished, which made him an appropriate sacrifice. If his body had been cut or injured he would not have been the “spotless” sacrifice that God required. Here we see the picture of Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice for our sins (see John 1:29). Just as Abraham believed, “God Himself will provide the lamb” (Genesis 22:8) we see this sacrifice taking the place of Isaac – the ram was offered so that Isaac would live. Likewise, Jesus died in our place so that we might have eternal life.

So this is why we are to love God as the greatest thing, our ultimate reward. We are to admire, cherish, value, and adore Him above all else. Again, why? Because He is infinitely worthy: He has provided the sacrifice that extends to us eternal life (John 3:16) and life more abundant (John 10:10). And for this reason Jesus, our sacrificed Savior, calls us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). But, again, what does seeing God as our great reward (to love Him with all that we are) have to do with Jesus? Well, we can’t know God apart from knowing Jesus. And we can’t love God without loving Jesus. We can’t experience God as our great reward and treasure without knowing Jesus in that same way. So, in a very real sense, we love God by adoring Jesus as our greatest reward and treasure.

Why is this? Because the person of Jesus is the promise and provision of God that makes even knowing Him a reality. Actually, in a most amazing passage, we see Paul write to the Galatian church that really Jesus, the Seed, is Himself the promise made to Abraham (see Galatians 3:15-25)! This is because Christ is the fullest revelation of God (John 14:9). He is the one who interprets, or “exegetes,” God to and for us (John 1:17). Jesus is the only way to come to God (John 14:6). This is why He says, “But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me” (John 5:42-43) and, “the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). Therefore, if Jesus is not worshipped and adored as our ultimate treasure then God is not our great reward. And when Jesus is cherished, valued, and admired above all else then God is our great reward.

I can think of no better way to tie all of this together than to ponder and model the priority of Paul, a man who discovered the rich reward of knowing Jesus (and therefore God) as His greatest treasure:

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:7-10).

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