Saturday, April 30, 2016

Rugged Individualism... Rampant Issues...

And the people of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and they went out from there every man to his inheritance.
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
(Judges 21:24-25 ESV)
Our society is bent on individual freedom - to such an extreme that nothing is wrong (except to say something is wrong.)  We have set ourselves up for such a distressful situation that it seems almost impossible to did our way out. And it is.  We need someone else to did us out.  But all is not hopeless. The people of Israel faced a similar situation at the end of the book of Judges. By the time we get to the end of the next section of history, there will be hope.  But it comes not from us, our our great ability to do it on our own and do it our way.  It is by doing it God's way.  Let's look for His Hope, His way.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Some Scattered Heroes...

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died. (Judges 3:7-11 ESV)
In times of desperation, we all look for some heroes: those who will step up and do something. One of the remnant heroes of Joshua's day was Othniel, a relative of Caleb, the other spy who had been faithful along with Joshua, believing God could give victory to Israel in entering the promised land. He was a man who still had the vision, still had the courage, still had the determination to do something about a problem.  At the time, such men were too few and far between.  How about today? Where are you men of Courage? of Conviction? Of Action?  May God grant us some heroes who trust in Him, will step us, and remind us that we have gotten ourselves here; we need God to get us out.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

First Level of Attack...

So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods.
(Judges 3:5-6 ESV)
The times of the Judges was indeed a lowly state of affairs.  It began there: with affairs - the people of Israel intermarrying with those who did not follow God.  Compromise. Satan's first level of attack is always the family.  If he can bring us down there, our churches, communities and nations will crumble.  Does it really make a difference?  By the time we get to the end of this time period, the people of God, who had been marching to and through the promised land, will have shifted into reverse, trying to keep from getting thrown out of it.  It began one person at a time, one marriage at a time, making worship of the One True God unimportant.  Sound familiar?  So that's where God begins in the next stage, in I Samuel, with one family, one decision, one commitment to God. Let's turn this thing around.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Terrible Distress...

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.
Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them.
(Judges 2:11-16 ESV)
Nothing is harder in life than feeling that the hand of God is against you, EXCEPT knowing that His hand is against you, and being unwilling to do anything about it.  The people had turned their backs on God, ignoring Him as the One who gave them the promised land. Instead of worshiping Him and living lives of thanksgiving before Him, they worshiped the things found in the land, feeling a sense of entitlement and self-existence.  Even when they recognized the foolishness of their ways, their repentance was often short-lived and superficial.  The more comfortable we become with God in our lives, the more distress we will put ourselves in.  Are we in deep distress yet? Will we call out for deliverance, and remember and reverence the One from whom all things come?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Failures that come back to haunt us...

Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.
And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.
Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labor.
Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, so the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out.
Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, so they lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became subject to forced labor for them.
The Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the plain. The Amorites persisted in dwelling in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the hand of the house of Joseph rested heavily on them, and they became subject to forced labor. And the border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward.
(Judges 1:27-36 ESV)
God's message to the people of Israel had been clear: Drive out all the pagan peoples from the land He had promised.  They failed to do what He said, and ended up with, at the best, a mediocre life, and often, downright disaster. His commands to New Testament followers of Christ also include driving out: driving out the sin that so easily besets us, the thought patterns that distract us, the relationships that pull us down.  Simply put, we are in the situation we are because we have not fully obeyed Him. When we admit that, and stop blaming others, we can take the first steps toward godly change - not before.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Descending into Distress...

When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110 years. And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.
(Judges 2:6-15 ESV)
The days after Joshua dies were very dark indeed.  People turned their back on God and all He had done for them.  The "did evil" in His sight, and "abandoned" Him.  Sound familiar? They gave God grief, so to draw them back, He gave them grief through their enemies. They were in distress. Often, when we find ourselves in distressing situations, if we are honest, we realize we got ourselves there. We find ourselves frustrated, hopeless and grabbing the air for help, because we have messed up. We are sliding down the slippery slope because of our sin.  Let's tell it like it is. That's where we need to start.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dual Citizenship... Double Responsibility

For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:18-22 ESV)
Paul understood dual citizenship well. He was a Jew, a son of Israel, and a Roman Citizenship. He knew all the rights and privileges that came with that, as well as the responsibilities he had.  He used that picture for our place here on earth. In one sense we are "not of this world"; our main citizenship is now in heaven with Christ.  But God has also left us in this world where we are. As representatives of Christ, we should be model citizens here as well.  If anyone should vote, we should. If anyone should take seriously our responsibility to vote wisely, we should.  We need to know our stuff, pray for wisdom, and carry out our responsibility. We are doubly responsible to do so.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Slippery Slope, or simply a Symptom?

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
(Romans 1:24-28 ESV)
The moral slide in our society has accelerated at such a pace in our society, even it's promoters are somewhat caught off guard.  It is a slippery slope indeed when we permit promiscuity on an ever-increasing basis.  We started down the path a long time ago.  Which makes what we see today very understandable.  Such extreme sin in some ways may our impure thoughts and actions seem not so bad.  It is "righteousness by comparison."  We accept what we ought not, because we do what we ought not.  But it is, in a sense, more a symptom of the spiritual reality that we have worshiped man more than God; we are very humanistic.  Stopping mid-slope is extremely difficult. In reality, it is impossible unless someone "throws us a rope" and we grab on.  May we cry out to God for that rope, and make the hard journey back up the slope, even though we go against the flow.  May our votes be counted for those willing to make the journey back with us, as we are willing to say "it is not just them; it is us standing in the need of prayer."  Pray. Vote. Trust.

Friday, April 22, 2016

What's the Big Deal about voting Pro-life?

“If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant,
when they brought a complaint against me,
what then shall I do when God rises up?
When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him?
Did not he who made me in the womb make him?
And did not one fashion us in the womb?
(Job 31:13-15 ESV)
One of the watershed questions for Christians when evaluating candidates for office in our country over the past 40 years has been where they stand on abortion.  Why the big deal, every time for such a time?  Because, as we see here, this stance is reflective of how we view God. "Has he created us? Is He our sovereign and final Judge?"  We will answer to God. He is the one who puts each child in the womb, and when and how a child comes out is His choice, not ours.  If we view life itself that way, and if a politician views life that way, then we are more likely to be governed in a way that lines up with how God wants leaders to view themselves: as servants under a sovereign God - not superior to those they lead.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

What would it look like???

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
(1 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV)
Ugly.  That is the word I think if when I look at the condition of our current political primaries.  (lots of other words follow right after that...)  But what would it look like of all followers of Christ in our society took seriously our call to pray consistently, pointedly and sincerely for those in the thick of the process: candidates, delegates, movers and shakers behind the scenes, and ask for God to move in their lives in an undeniable way?  That is not to say we should not vote, debate, investigate, and do other things.  But how dare we leave out prayer.  We would see something very different indeed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Seeking Some Servant Leaders...

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.
(Acts 6:1-3 ESV)
In the church we often take our cues from what is going on in the world. Maybe we should switch things around and show the world the principles the Church has to offer. Many are angry, making complaints about how things are; they want leaders who will do something. Maybe we should look for servants.  That's what the church did here in Acts.  When they chose servants, they got leaders.  The next three chapters go on to describe how two of them, Phillip and Stephen, went on to impact their nation and the world.  They quickly rose to prominence because of their servanthood. People listened to them and followed their example and became a part of a group who turned the world upside down for good.  So let's put servanthood on our checklist of qualifications for leaders.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Is there any hope???

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:
“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”
(Ezra 1:1-4 ESV)
Another disappointing election year.  As the crowd begins to thin, our choices don't look so great.  Finding a leader of character and values seems illusive.  But God can do and does things through those leaders we ourselves might not choose.  Case in point: the end of the exile.  As we saw yesterday, Daniel was in the king's court "until the first year of King Cyrus." That year brought great change, and a new beginning for many people.  Cyrus did not have a completely clear theology on every point - like many in his day, he saw the God of Israel as somewhat restricted to heaven and Jerusalem; but Cyrus did have a part in God's plan, of which he seemed somewhat conscious.  Let us pray for the perfect president, but let us realize God can and does do great things with far less to work with.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lifetime politicians???

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
(Daniel 1:17-21 ESV)
Daniel and his comrades had been put to the test. They received training, a food allowance, housing, and everything else necessary. Why? To see if they were worthy of serving in the king's court. They rose to the top. They studied hard, held to their convictions, and ate only what they knew would please God.  What really catches me is this last sentence: "And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus."  He was there a long time; he was, in a sense, a lifetime politician.  We have a lot of those, which is not always a good thing.  But some are worthy.  We should not necessarily "throw all the bums out," though some should never have gotten in.  May we be discerning about what people bring to the office in terms of training, character, and experience.  May we find some Daniels.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Other Mothers too...

And when Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.
(Matthew 8:14-15 ESV)
God put the commandment for us to honor our parents at the top of human relationships. He told us how much it reflects our relationship with Him, and affects our lives.  Jesus demonstrated great honor towards His own mother.  He also looked upon other mothers with love and compassion. On one He ran into a funeral procession for a man who was the only son of a widow. Seeing her condition, he raised the man to life.  Here, He enters Peter's house and SEES his mother-in-law sick. Immediately He is drawn to here to heal her.  Are we looking out to find mothers (and mother-in-laws) who need some love and compassion, and no one is there for them?  May we honor them and glorify God.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Making Mom a Part...

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
(Acts 1:12-14 ESV)
Over the course of Jesus' life and ministry, Mary had some hard times: not being able to understand the demands of His ministry, being told she had to take a back seat, watching her son be rejected by His own hometown, watching Him suffer and die as a criminal, only to rise again and leave her behind.  But Jesus was always watching out for her.  When He did leave her behind to ascend back to heaven, He left her not only with John, but a whole family of believers. She was not left out.  In the kind of world in which we live, that is so hard, but so essential.  Part of honoring our parents is making sure they still feel a part of our lives, and life in this world, as much as possible. May God grant us the grace, wisdom and love to do so.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Honoring your parents by proxy...

but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
(John 19:25-27 ESV)
Jesus was a wise and thorough man.  He knew His responsibilities, not only as the Son of God, but also as the son of Mary.  He knew He would not be around on the earth to care for her as needed, so He did what His Father would want: He selected a proxy.  Not everyone can "be there" physically to meet the needs of his/her aging parents at all times. Thus, the proxy.  But not just anyone will do. At Mary's side was the perfect candidate: always there for Jesus, always there for her.  It's a weighty decision one should not take lightly.  In a society where family has disintegrated, and where God's values are lowly esteemed, very few people get it. Jesus got it.  May we get it too.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Parents: Part of the Package...

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:1-4 ESV)
The last half of Ephesians 5 deals extensively with the relationship of husband and wife, and how God designed that relationship to reflect Christ and His Church.  In Paul's mind, there is no chapter break here.  He flows right into the other family ties: children to parents and parents to children. He knew how critical these relationships are to the society and the Christian community. When the family breaks down, everything disintegrates. When we choose to marry ( a good thing!), we often end up with children, becoming parents. We take on responsibilities.  As children ourselves, we do not necessarily choose to be born, or take on that responsibility to our parents.  But because God has placed us there, we have them none-the-less. It goes from generation and keeps things moving. If we do not keep our responsibility, others will not "live long in the land." We all need to do our part.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Just when you think you've got it...

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
(Matthew 19:16-22 ESV)
"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  One of Jesus' memorable statements joining our approach to stuff with the most important things: relationships. He wants us to dig deeper. This man thought he had done all required, including the foremost commandment of our relationships: honoring his parents, but He fell short.  Jesus had said nothing about the first four commandments having to do with our relationship with God, from which these last six must flow.  So, outwardly, this man's display was good; he had a lot of brownie points, but inwardly things were not right with God: the things of this world were more important than God. Notice as well that Jesus put them out of order: honoring one's parents is far down the list rather than first; the top of the list is the obviously easy ones: you could get killed for doing them. This also says something about the things he did do, including honoring his parents.  It was for show, not from the heart.  His horizontal relationships were conducted in such as way that he could "get ahead." He was trying to do the same thing with God: do what he had to to get what he wanted.  I believe we call that "manipulation". Do I do the same things?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Holding Your Heart in Your Wallet...

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
(Matthew 15:1-9 ESV)
Our society has developed a whole new approach toward aging parents.  Actually, it's not that new at all.  We view them as a burden.  And often it is something we have been taught by our parents.  How many have told their children: "I don't want to be a burden," as if that is the acceptable norm? God knows our selfish bent.  Why else would this be the first commandment after our relationship with Him? We develop our own rules for living, which actually are the direct opposite of His; we just make them sound acceptable, even spiritual.  Today, as in Jesus' days on earth, it is seen in our financial calculations, which reflect our spiritual reflections.  How much will it cost me to honor my parents?  Not just in money, but convenience, emotions, tim e.  This does not mean we should all quit our day jobs to be 24/7 nurses for the aging.  But it does compel us to search our hearts, and our wallets, to determine what is really important.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Long Days...

“‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
(Deuteronomy 5:16 ESV)
What a weighty commandment.  I find it interesting that God did not say "that your days may be many", as in a long life.  Since we believe life is good before God, we should want to live long on the earth. Instead God says "may be long."  Having parents, like having children, can lead to some very long days.  But then, long days are the days of summer, when we have longer to enjoy them.  There is a distinct quality of life that goes with this commandment. God puts it right after our relationship with Him and BEFORE the ones on murder, stealing, violating marriage, etc.  Honoring our parents does not necessarily make us want to live long on the earth like they have; we may even hope to never live that long.  But it does reflect our attitude toward God and the life He has given us.  It is the recognition that He has given us life and all the relationships it involves, and He has the best plan.  May we honor well.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Now that that's straight...

Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
(1 Corinthians 16:1-4 ESV)
Having spent a full chapter looking forward to the Resurrection of believers, and challenging us to live with the perspective that it is indeed worth it to live this new life of serving Christ as we look toward that day, Paul gets really practical.  What should we do? We should care for our brothers and sisters in Christ and plan our lives to live to bless other believers.  Believing in Christ's resurrection and our own does not lead to selfish living, thinking that we're "spiritually insured". so we can live to please ourselves.  It also does not mean we just sit back and wait to die or be taken away. It means that we live and plan life for however He leads us to make a difference preparing for His coming.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

New Life: Not a hopeless venture...

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV)
Paul has given a thorough dissertation on the resurrection, assuring us that it will happen, and pointing us to Christ Himself as our guarantee that it will, and it will be wonderful. Based upon that, he gives us one charge: Don't give in and don't give up.  We have every reason to go on in this life, and to live it to our fullest in HIM.  When we get to the end, be it our own passing on, or His return, we will not be like a piece of pottery or metallurgy that is rejected and left on the counter, unpaid for. The price has already been paid by Christ. He will not reject us or leave us behind. He will take us, use us, and enjoy having us, forever.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Taking the sting out of it...

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:54-57 ESV)
None of us like to get stung, but I think everyone does one time or another.  For some, it's a scary thing.  I have seen those who are extremely allergic swell up and struggle to swallow and seek medical assistance.  The sting is deadly.  Because Christ has taken the stinger, we no longer have to fear death.  As the Victor over sin and death, He offers us confident hope that physical death is not the end.  Rather than eternal separation, we can have eternal communion with God. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

IT's a Must!

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
(1 Corinthians 15:50-53 ESV)
There is no sneaking into heaven in these earthy and earthly bodies of ours. They will not fit or function there.  These words echo what Paul says in I Thessalonians 4 when addressing concerns about believing brothers and sisters who have passed on before us; here he is addressing not them, but us.  Their transformation will be gradual; that of those who still remain will be split-second.  But ALL must be changed.  Our new bodies will be just what we need for life in eternity.  No, we cannot fully comprehend what they will be like, except in the negative.  Those bodies will not have all the "issues" that these present bodies do.  Praise the Lord!  Until then, let us take care of the bodies we have, and joyfully anticipate the change that will be.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

In the image...

Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
(1 Corinthians 15:45-49 ESV)
Imperfect in many ways... That is how we might describe our physical bodies.  Though when we are young there are times that we may think we are looking and feeling good, we are never perfect. Our bodies serve their purpose in this life, but they break down, wear out and die.  They are just like Adam's body. Jesus Christ took on one of our bodies and lived in it. When He died and rose again, He became the first to have a new body.  The glimpses we get of that body in His post-resurrection appearances assure us that His new body was far different, and therefore ours will be as well. They will function as they should in our new home, our new atmosphere.  Many of the limitations, and the "falling apart", we experience now will not characterize these new bodies.  It is beyond what we can imagine.  But then, like every good thing God does, what else would we expect?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

More than a model change...

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
(1 Corinthians 15:42-44 ESV)
Every fall the car magazines come out with descriptions of the new car models and updates.  Some models have cosmetic changes; some have a total redesign; others are dropped and replaced with a new model.  But they are still... cars, with a power plant to drive on the road with four tires (most of the time...)  What would be new (and not impossible) is a hovercraft that does NOT drive on the road. It would be made for something different.  In the same way, our new, glorified bodies will not be made for life in this world as we know it.  It will not be a mere upgrade, redesign, or merely a replacement with a nicer model.  It will be totally different.  But that does not make it impossible. What makes it impossible in our minds is that we have not seen it yet.  We will some day. What a glorious day!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Knowing the "If' without the "how"...

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
(1 Corinthians 15:35-41 ESV)
Admit it. There is much spiritual truth we do not understand, and cannot fully understand in this life. We want to, and feel we must. But really, does it matter?  Part of the glory of heaven and of God Himself is that we cannot fully comprehend it all.  If we could fit that all in our minds, what a little god he would be.  But our God is overwhelmingly awesome, and so is the place He's preparing, and the new creation He is making.  It is part of the sovereignty of God that we often object to: that He has a right to secrets He has chosen to not show us yet. The important question is "If".  Do we believe what God has proven and promised in the resurrection? If we do, then HOW He does it will be just as amazing as He is, and we do not need to know it all now.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Resurrection, Death, and life here and now...

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
(1 Corinthians 15:33-34 ESV)
Paul had talked about the positive impact of the resurrection on believers by Christ and by those who had gone to be with Him.  It was now time to address that impact on the present in the lives of these believers (and us.)  Will we choose to live life allowing the Resurrection to challenge us to new life in Christ, or will we instead be influenced by those who choose to live immorally, as if how we live now is no different, if we proclaim to be His followers. Don't be deceived.  Resurrection means a new life.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Resurrection and How we approach Death...

Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
(1 Corinthians 15:30-32 ESV)
As Paul continues to develop his strong argument for Christ's resurrection and that of believers, he asks the simple Question: "Why would I and other apostles and evangelists put our lives on the line daily if we did not wholeheartedly believe in the Resurrection? We would not willing die for a lie. We would live life for the moment only, as if there is no life after death." But that is not how they live, and that is not how we should live.  There is more joy and purpose living for the resurrection hope than there is living only for today.  Paul lived life to its fullest for both today and tomorrow.

Friday, April 1, 2016

What kind of question is this???

Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?
(1 Corinthians 15:29 ESV)
On its  own, this seems very obscure, to be sure.  But in the context of Paul's argument in support of the resurrection of Christ and of our coming resurrection, it does make sense.  If taken literally, Paul is saying that some were doing this, hoping to save departed loved ones who did not receive Christ. Why would they do that, unless they believed in a coming resurrection. But more probably, Paul is not saying we should be baptized so dead people will be saved.  Rather, he is talking about people coming to faith in Christ and being baptized because of the influence of those believers who had done so, who believed in the resurrection.  His point is this: why be baptized, identifying with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, unless that means something for our future?  Why bother believing or being baptized like these people did, when they are dead and gone. Unless... Unless they know something - that Christ's resurrection promises that of His followers as well. Think about it. Is there some deceased follower of Christ to whom his/her faith was so real that it inspires you to follow him or her as they followed Christ?  Belief and Baptism don't seem so crazy after all, do they?