Christianity 201

November 7, 2022

Life is Fleeting

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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fleet·ing
/ˈflēdiNG/

adjective

  • lasting for a very short time (Oxford dictionary)
  • passing swiftly : transitory (Merriam-Webster dictionary)
  • rapid and transient (Collins dictionary)

This is our fourth time with Sam at the blog Word-Centered Living. He explains the meaning of that name:

…Word-centered living is, then, nothing more than living in personal relationship with the living Word, based on the written Word, and lived out in the spoken Word. There are many “words” out there in the world. Every one of them promises some kind of benefit—better health, better income, better self, better things, better afterlife, better relationships, and better entertainment. These voices all cry out for our attention, but I believe that only one voice has proven itself to be timeless and effective. You don’t need people to tell you these things. Read and experience it for yourself and see if it’s not true. I have made the Word the center of my life and I have not been disappointed. I invite you to transform your life’s journey by living a Word-centered living.

To read today’s thoughts where they first appeared, click the title which follows.

Life Is Short: Your Glory in Life Even Shorter

“In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah son of Baasha became king over at Tirzah, and reigned two years…” (1 Kings 16:8-14, NASB)

Life is short. Even if you had the strength to live up to 100 years old, it is still short when you compare it to eternity in heaven or hell. Further, before we enter eternity, we will be judged for what we did with our lives here on earth, and God will determine where we will go for the rest of our lives. Therefore, we must live our short life on earth fearing the Lord and humbly obeying His will beginning with His gospel of salvation. In today’s reading, we see a man who became a king, but his kingdom didn’t last long as he was murdered by one of his officials. It says,

“In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha became king over Israel in Tirzah, and reigned two years. And his servant Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspired against him. Now he was at Tirzah drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, who was over the household at Tirzah. Then Zimri went in and struck him and put him to death, in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and became king in his place. And it came about, when he became king, as soon as he sat on this throne, that he killed all the household of Baasha; he did not leave a single male, neither of his relatives nor his friends.”

Life is short. Your glory in life even shorter. Elah became a king in Israel only to be removed in two short years. Verse 8 says that he became king “in the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah,” and in verse 10, he died “in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah.” Do the math. We don’t know how long Elah lived but his glory as the king of Israel lasted only two years.

Now I’m pretty sure that Elah did not plan on reigning for only 1-2 years. He probably planned on doing it for a long time. He may even have plans for projects, ventures, people to see, places to go, and things to do. Yet, while he was enjoying himself with friends and family getting drunk in Tirzah, one of his trusted subjects ended his life. It amazes me how people still plan their lives as if they are going to live for a long, long time.

The Bible says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (Ja.4:13-14).

Also, remember the parable of Jesus about a man who made plans to build bigger and better barns to store his wealth, but did not know he was going to die that night (Lk.12:13-21).

The psalmist reminds us, “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Ps.103:15-16).

All these words are simply a reminder that our life on earth is short and our 15 minutes of fame even shorter. Don’t make the same mistake as Elah who made plans for this life but did not make plans for his eternal life. How do I know that he didn’t make plans for eternal life? Well, it says in verse 13 that both Elah and his father Baasha provoked God to anger with their sins of idolatry.

Yes, life on earth is short, but life after death is forever. Make sure all your treasures, pleasures, and measures are invested in the right place.


Second Helping: From the same writer, Would You Preach the Word at the Risk of Your life.

November 1, 2022

Looking Past the Second Coming

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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A year ago we introduced you to “Come and See” daily devotions. “Evangelical Ministries International is a London (UK) ministry with a Vision to ensure the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached throughout the world.” Although the page isn’t presently active, they’ve left a number of interesting topics for us to discover, most of which are presented in multiple parts; so there are two links in today’s reading.

Something to Look Forward to (I)

  “But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. (2 Peter 3:13).

One of the greatest sources of strength to the weak is the ability to envision or imagine what lies ahead. Even our Lord Jesus Christ was encouraged by the glimpse of what should come after his suffering. In the Bible we read: looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, New King James Version).

The Book of Acts 1:11 (New King James Version) also recorded the hopeful message an angel of the Lord delivered to more than four hundred witnesses after Jesus was taken up to heaven from this earthly realm. He says: Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.

The purpose of this devotional is to look at what lies ahead even after the much-awaited Second Coming of Jesus. These are events that nobody would want to miss. For example, the Bible states:do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? (1st Corinthians 6:3, New King James Version).

This is a remarkable statement and it follows that no pleasure derived from sin should ever be worth the risk of missing the experience described. Thus, how would you determine how well an angel has performed?  This scenario illustrates your supremacy over all spirits: either evil or good. If the good ones shall be appraised by the saints of God, then binding the evil ones should not be an issue for you here on earth: “…. whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven (Matthew 18:18a, New King James Version).

Sitting down as a judge to appraise and evaluate the angels of God, based on the performance of their duties, is an exceptional privilege that is not to be missed. One could imagine, for example,  rating angels based on their ability to provide songs of worship to the King of Kings or rating them during their rehearsal or audition. No wonder Jesus asked: for what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36, New King James Version).

There is nothing worth gaining in this world at the expense of your soul. You must never lose your salvation or get tired of serving the Lord. There are many good things to look forward to in heaven even after the second coming of Jesus Christ. We read in the Bible: “… eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9, New King James Version).

Let us pray: “Father, by your unfailing mercy and power, let me not miss eternity with you in heaven,” in Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

Something to Look Forward to (II)

As we continue to walk diligently with God, we should be aware that whatever lies ahead of us is beyond our imagination. In the Bible we read: while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2nd Corinthians 4:18, New King James Version).

God does not do anything without a purpose. The strange encounters of John the beloved in the Island of Patmos did not just happen by chance. The Book of Revelations was essentially intended to give us something extraordinary to look forward to, especially after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Book gives many vivid descriptions of happenings in heaven.

For instance, concerning the beauty of God’s throne, we read: and He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald (Revelation 4:3, New King James Version). Surely, nobody reading this account would want to miss seeing it.

In addition to the comfort and splendour of God’s presence, there are many events we would not want to miss. The most crucial one is the final judgment of Satan and death. The Bible states: and the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10, New International Version).

Without any doubt, the devil is a very proud being and will make constant efforts to lure us all to his side through sin. He would not want anyone to witness his final irreversible fall, judgment and destruction. The happiness we feel when judges or panel of juries on earth deliver deserved judgments against the wicked is nothing compared to the happiness we will feel in witnessing the ultimate end of Satan and his fallen angels.

Lastly, there is no wise earthly being who would want to be left out of the eternal pleasure available in God’s Majestic Palace. King David said:You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11, New King James Version). He also said:  “ … for a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm 84:10). There is more to look forward to in the presence of the Almighty God.

Let us pray: “Father, by your unfailing mercy and power, let me not miss eternity with you in heaven,” in Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

 

June 20, 2019

A Compelling Future

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Are Heaven and Hell Consistent with a Good and Loving God?

by Clarke Dixon

Does Christianity have a compelling vision for the future? It would be odd if you were considering the compelling reasons to trust in Jesus, but then upon asking about the afterlife you are told that you enter an endless cycle of being reincarnated as a bird if you receive Christ, and as a worm, if not. That should strike you as utter nonsense. Now what about Christian teaching? The idea that upon death we either sprout wings and play a harp while sitting in the clouds, or burn in an eternal fire, is for many people, too much to believe. Is the Biblical Christian vision for the future consistent with a good and loving God? Or is it nonsensical? When we hear what the Bible teaches about eternal destination, do we say ‘of course that is what a good God would do”?

Let us look first, to the Book of Revelation;

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

Here we have, not a hope of going up into heaven when I die, to spend eternity there, but something much grander. This is a vision of God’s re-creation of all creation. All of creation was negatively impacted by the sin of humanity (see Romans 8:18-23). All of creation will be positively impacted by God’s rescue of humanity.

2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Here we are told of a city, not in the sense of roads and buildings, but in the sense of people. The holy city is the “bride,” that is, the people of God. Just as people are the focus in the creation account of Genesis, people are the focus of the re-creation account. God created humanity, the only creature we are told he created in his image, for a special relationship. That relationship is what is truly important.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;

There is much in the Bible about separation from God being a huge problem for humanity. It begins with Genesis chapter three and the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. It becomes apparent at Mount Sinai when the people cannot approach the mountain on which God’s presence was made palpable. It is emphasized in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, with the establishment of both the tabernacle and priesthood. While God was willing to dwell among his people, as symbolized through the pitching of his “tent” among them, God needed to remain separated from the people, for their sake. An unholy people cannot approach a holy God without becoming holy first. The sacrificial rigmarole of the priesthood was a constant reminder of separation from God and the need for atonement. The priesthood and the sacrifices pointed forward to something greater; God the Son making people holy through his sacrifice. In Christ the future of God’s people is wrapped up with being at home with God. There is no more separation from God.

The problems of this world, which separation from God creates, also are dealt with;

4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”  Revelation 21:1-4 (NRSV)

The consequence of sin and separation from God is death. The consequence of being reconciled to God is eternal life. In Christ death is no longer part of the human condition. However the consequence of God’s grace is not just eternal life, but as we have already seen, eternal life with God.

In sum, the Biblical vision of the future is one of transformation, for all creation, for our bodies, and for our very selves. The transformation within us begins now through the Holy Spirit. The fact that the Christian is to look to God to fix everything in the future is compelling. The fact that the Christian need not wait for Christ’s return to fix everything in us is also compelling. The hope of meaningful change, not into brilliant cloud-sitting harpists, but into good people who dwell with a good God in a good creation, is consistent with a good and loving God.

However, is the future of those who reject God consistent with a good and loving God? The idea of being on fire forever does not seem consistent to many of us. In answering this we must first appreciate that the people of the Bible often speak in poetic ways, just as we do today. We sometimes pick apart the Bible as if we are in math class working out equations. Let us remember our English literature lessons and have an appreciation for the poetic and literary nuances which often escape the math whizzes. We will not dig into this too deeply, but it is best to take the language about hell, with the everlasting fire and torment, as poetic. The least poetic, the most matter-of-fact, the most precise and concise description of hell we have in the Bible is this;

9 These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (NRSV)

What is hell? It is separation from God. What is it like to be separated from God? Thankfully, no one alive can truly tell, for to be alive at all is to experience a measure of God’s grace. However, we do well to remember that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NRSV). As you read through the Bible, watch out for how often salvation is spoken of as a matter of eternal life versus death. This is consistent with the Genesis account and the promise that death would occur if the forbidden fruit were eaten. What we can say with certainty is that to experience hell is to experience everlasting separation from God.

If hell is separation from God, then is separation from God consistent with a good and loving God? Consider first, the holiness and justice of God. That unholy people cannot dwell with a holy God is made clear in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers; at Mount Sinai, and through the establishment of the tabernacle and priesthood. God did not teach about His holiness and our sinfulness in the Old Testament then come to us in the New Testament and say “it doesn’t matter anymore.” It does matter, but God offers to make us holy in Christ and through his Holy Spirit. If you reject that offer of being made holy, then separation from God is a very natural consequence. The experience of death is a natural consequence of refusing the offer of eternal life. Therefore, the future of those who reject God is consistent with a good and loving God who respects the wishes of those who want nothing to do with him. Of course that is what a good God would do.

The Bible presents a compelling and beautiful vision for the future of those who receive Christ and accept God’s offer of relationship. While we might not use the word beautiful, the Bible provides a vision of the future of those who do not want a relationship with God that is consistent with His goodness and love. The consistency of the Christian vision of the future is yet another aspect of Christianity that is compelling.


This post is part of a series called “Compelling” which begins here. The full sermon can be heard on the podcast which is found here.