Thinking of Eternity

I was just thinking of God and what it will be like when we stand before Him in Eternity.  I have heard a thousand thoughts of what others think it will be like.  Some think that they will still be in charge of something and will ask God their deepest questions about why did He  —-?  Others have the idea that Eternity will be linear, like it is here and our existence will be much the same.  (Example: Ten thousand year)  Another idea is that all our loved ones will meet us there and they will be much the same but just stop growing old.  One of the most popular is that it is”a better place”, without any explanation as to what that means.  Many understand that there will be no more pain and sorrow but do not understand why.  Most think that there will be memories and even regrets of what could have been but never was.  Sadly, most of our concepts are just wild guesses, carried out to several decimal places or just simply figments of our imagination.

The Bible gives us many clues as to what it will be like but they are meaningless until they are seen through the eyes of faith and the record of God’s Word.  Last week, I preached a message out of John 6, entitled I AM the Bread of Life.  The “I AM” is the same as what God told Moses when he asked God what His name was.  God replied, I AM that I AM.  Tell them that I AM sent you.  When Jesus said, “I AM the Bread of Life” He used the same phrase, claiming Himself to be very God.  He did not give His name but one of His attributes, His self existence.  The reason is that a name is used to distinguish one from another of similar features or specifics.  When you come to God, there is no other like Him.  He is one of a kind, unique, different from all others.  So to know Him is to know His attributes.  In this case it is His eternal self existence.  No other living being has eternal self existence so the identification is made by that characteristic.  Because he is self existent, He is not subject to time.  The conclusion is that in Eternity, time does not exist.  We, who exist in linear time, do not think of a timeless existence so we superimpose our understanding of time into Eternity and come to a false conclusion of what Eternity is like.  To truly know what Eternity is like is to know it from an eternal position which still awaits us.  We see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.

What will it be like?  I don’t really know what it will be like, but I know that it won’t be like now any more than the world of time and space is like the world of the womb.  There is even more difference between this present world and the world of Eternity.  I get a clue of something of what it might be like as I look at others who have been very close to God.  Moses saw Him from behind and his face glowed so bright that he had to wear a veil.  Jacob wrestled with an angel of God and it changed him forever and he had a limp the rest of his life.  The three Hebrew children walked with Him in the fire and it had no effect on them except to free them from their bonds.  Many saints came before Him and fell on their faces, unable to stand without His help.  When Isaiah saw Him on His throne in the temple, he saw himself as unclean and without hope until the Lord cleansed his sin.  Paul was knocked to the ground when he met the Lord and it change his life, permanently.  When John saw the Lord, He was the glorified Christ and he fell at His feet as dead.  The result of that meeting is the book of Revelation.  On thing is certain, when we find ourselves before the Lord our God, we will see Him as He is and we will be changed.

PreparingThe Message

The Senior Adult Bible Conference has concluded and now I want to do a review of the process that went in to the preparation and delivery of the message.

Having been a part of this Bible Conference for three years, now, I look forward to it more every year.  This year was no exception.  When I was asked to be a part again this year, my first thought was, what does the Lord want me to say?  To preach for the Lord is to speak that which He would say if He were present in His earthly body.  That is such an awesome responsibility.  It genders many questions such as, Where are the people at in their lives?  What does the Lord have planned that they need to prepare for?  What problems are people struggling with?  What doctrine needs to be clarified? Etc.

And so it begins.  How do you discover the mind of God, for He alone knows where we are and what is ahead?  This necessitates prayer.  I never know until He reveals it to me so I have to go to Him as ask.  Sometimes it takes a lot of self-examination to make sure that there is nothing in my life that will hinder the message from being understood properly.

Once the receiver (me) has been properly prepared, then comes the receiving.  I make it a point that I never single out individuals, but stick to the principles laid out in the Bible.  It is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to do the job of convicting and applying.  It is my job to properly present, clarify, and explain the Scriptures.  Each message is unique as to who is there, the times, the need, etc.  This combination of events has never happened before and it will never happen again and that is why you can never preach the same message twice, though you can present the same truths, repeatedly.

The next step is the selection of the Scripture.  There are a number of places in the Bible that a specific Doctrine, truth, circumstance or other application can be found.  I try to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and let Him direct me to the place He wants to speak from.  After all, it is His job to direct me into all truth.  He does it in many ways.  Sometimes He uses circumstances, but more often than not He will bring a particular Scripture to mind repeatedly, or show me a truth about that Scripture that I simply must share with others.  He works in many ways that I do not understand but I trust Him and His leading.

The final step of preparation is the soaking in the message.  That is reading and rereading, reviewing, listening for the still small voice that I have come to recognize by many years of hearing.  It does to me what happens to food when you marinate it in a specially prepared mixture of different flavorings.  The preacher must receive the message first as the Scripture says, they that preach the gospel, must live of the gospel.  Only then am I ready to preach.  How long does it take?  The answer  is all your life.

Then we come to the delivery of the message.  Nerves are present, the mouth is dry even if you just took a drink of water, the mind races, you are introduced, and you begin to speak . . .  It seems that I always forget some details that I intended to include and I add a few things that I never thought of in my preparation.  How was the timing?  Did I accentuate the point correctly?  What could I have done better? Etc.  This is all part of the preparation of the next message.

Summer Bible Conference Underway

We are now in our Senior Adult Summer Bible Conference which runs from yesterday through Wednesday.  Yesterday we had two speakers in the afternoon that both spoke on aging but from a totally different perspective.  Both were great and gave us several valuable insights.  One of the highlights for me was that it can be (and should be) one of the most productive times of our lives.  We have the opportunity to influence more people with more lasting insights than we have ever had the opportunity to do.  Today, Tomorrow and Wednesday we will have two speakers each day; the first speaking at 10:00 AM and the second will be speaking at 11:00 AM and repeating the times each day.

I will be speaking on Wednesday at the 10:00 AM slot.  My message is on John 6 where Jesus gave one of the great “I AM” teachings, I AM the Bread of Life.  All of the messages are being recorded and you can go to our Church’s web sight and listen to them at your convenience.  If You would like a copy of any or all of the messages (on a CD), drop me a note in the response box and I will try to get it to you.  If you live outside the US there will be shipping charges as I am not a business but an individual living on a fixed income.

Do you remember a blog that I wrote back in January about this blog being an ongoing adventure and that we would see the Lord in action, on our journey home.  Later I told you about my being asked about making the trip to China and later I shared with you that I was indeed going?  Yesterday, I found out that the entire trip is going to be paid for.  Since I am on a fixed income, and it was not part of my budget, it was going to take the Lord for it to happen.

The operation of faith is one of the strong point in chapter 4 of my book, The Mystery of Faith. Faith operates in the following manner: God initiates faith, then man believes, then God finishes it or brings it to pass.  Since God had initiated my making the trip to China, it was up to me to believe that He would provide what was needed to make the trip.  Since I then believed it was indeed God setting it up, I had compete trust in Him to bring it to pass.  This is how faith operates.  I did not go to God to make this happen, but He came to me with the request for me to go.  I wasn’t the one initiating the action, nor was I the one who initiated the request.  The request was the result of my response to God’s request for me to go.  He always finishes what He starts.  This is His chosen means of operation.  Until we get this operation down, we will continue to struggle with our faith and how God intends for us to walk.

Update – 8-3-18

Things are starting to happen with the mission trip to China.  The tickets are being purchased and it is starting to become a reality.  The date of departure is set for October 24, 2018.  Our first leg of the trip will be a non stop flight from DFW to Guangdong, China, which is near Hong Kong.  From there I will take another flight to northern China where I will meet Forest and Yan and spend a few days with them.

As soon as I get the tickets and full schedule, I can then continue with my visa application which should take about two weeks after it is sent in.

Forest reported that they are working hard on the translation of my book and hopes to have it completed and printed by the time I get there.  It will not be printed by a noted publisher but is will be something that I can bring back here and finalize it for our uses here.  Hopefully, I can then make it available to Christians here that speak and read Chinese.  This will be a milestone in the present ongoing work of the 4 language translations  that are underway.

The translation in Japan took a hit recently when a portion of the translation was lost in a flood in Japan.  I have 4 chapters that have been completed but it was a big loss of the work that had been done beyond that.  They are regrouping and pressing forward with that work there.

There has been significant progress on the Russian translation and chapter 4 has just been completed.  Joel has been more than faithful in his work and it is such a joy to see the Lord bless him through this process.  I think he really has little awareness as to how God may use it.  There are so many in this country who speak only Russian that it surprised me how needed it is.  I can see the Lord working on many fronts.

The Spanish translation is moving forward as well but at a much slower pace.  There have been much interference in family needs and prayer is needed there.  Still the translation is on chapter 3 and moving forward.

As always, I solicit your prayers for this ministry and the safety and guidance of those who are sharing in this work.of translating. Your prayers are more needed than you know.

Dwelleth

John 6:56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him

Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

1Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

[Greek – enoikeo, en-oy-keh’-o – to occupy a house, i.e. reside (figuratively,                                  inhabit, remain, inhere); by implication, to cohabit:–dwell.                                              –  meno, men’-o – a primary verb; to stay (in a given place, state, relation or                     expectancy):–abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand]

In the above text there are two words that are translated dwelleth as listed above.  They are quite similar in their meaning and invoke the idea that there is an ongoing or repeated action.  You will notice that the word ends with an eth ending which meant that in the original language it was either an action t that continued indefinitely or that it was an action that was repeated indefinitely.

In our modern world, we think of our will, that is what I want so our concept of Christianity is often slanted to the idea of convenience or desire.  The Bible knows nothing of that type of relationship for the Christian.  We give as it is convenient but the Bible teaches that we give 1. as we are prospered, 2. according to opportunity, 3.  the demand of necessity, and 4. as an act of faith in God.  Our service may come from duty, responsibility or desire but all too often it is because of selfish reasons rather than to deal with the old nature of sin or allow God to affect change in us.  We desire the blessing when we should desire the one who is blessing.

The concept of dwelling with God is not a duty or even a responsibility, it is a privilege and an opportunity.  It is a privilege because the infinite God desires to be with me.  It is an opportunity for me to become what I could never be without Him.  It requires us to open ourselves to him in prayer and faith.  It requires time in His word that He might speak to us about eternal things.  It requires sharing our lives with Him as He shares His life with us.  Dwelling with God is a life style not an occasional visit.

Notice that in John 6:56  that is a communion or participation together in the events of life (eating and drinking) or consuming the life of God.  The eth ending is attached to all three; eating continually, drinking continually, and dwelling continually.  Also notice in Romans 8:11 that the Holy Spirit is not only present with you continually but also is constantly quickening (making you alive) continually.  And finally, in I Corinthians 3:16 that you are the residence or dwelling of God.  The only place that will satisfy God as a residence is the heart of one who loves God back.  He loved us so much that He gave His only Son to die in our place.  Do we love Him enough to dwell with him in this life, as well as for eternity?

Our Conversation

2 Corinthians  1:12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

The word “conversation” is a word that has undergone change in meaning since it was originally written.  When the Bible was translated into English, the word was used to express the sum of what was done, what was said, and all of the interaction of the experience.  Today the term has been limited to only what was said so that if you read the passage as only what was said, you do not get the full of the meaning.

The above verse is one of those examples that make the understanding of the verse more difficult.  The apostle Paul is writing to the Church at Corinth, which he had established on his second missionary journey.  Later he wrote to this church in response to several important issues that they had asked him about.  Now he is writing a second letter to encourage the church and to further clarify their doctrine.

He uses the example of his own experience to clarify how a christian is to conduct themselves in their lives.  He points out that God is the one who has delivered them in the past and he is the one who is working in the present and even further, He is the one in whom Paul has placed his confidence in, to be delivered in the future.  (verse 10)

In verse 11 we see Paul pointing out that the Corinthians were also a part of Paul’s ministry in praying for them.  The Christian  walk is not a lone individual shinning like the sun, but a corroborative effort by all Christians that cause a celebration by everyone.

Now he points to his own rejoicing by saying that his own walk was one of simply focusing on God and following Him.  He point out that it was not one of “fleshly wisdom” that is present in the old nature but one of faith that follows the Spirit of God and Scriptures.  Then he makes the point that it is the grace of God that enables him to be successful in the world and especially with the Corinthians.

So many times, it is not the wonderful oratory that convinces and convicts, but it is the small things that God uses to reveal the consistency of the message.  Paul is thankful that he was dependent upon God working and not on his own wisdom.  They were the proof of God’s working.  We must place our faith in Him and not in ourselves.

Love In 4 Directions

I am sure that many of you already know about the various meanings of the word Love, in the Bible.  There is ‘eros‘ which is the physical or lustful attraction; there is the ‘phileo‘ love which is brotherly love such as a parent for a child; and there is ‘agape’ love which is the love of God that is supernatural.  Our focus today is not on what kind of love but on the agape love that is to find a home in our heart and finds it’s expression in all directions.

First, we are to Love God back with the same love that He loves us.  That means that we have no other gods that we hold in comparison to Him.  He alone is God and there is none other like Him.  Until we get to know Him we do not love Him.  The more we get to know Him, the more capable we are to love Him, for God is Love.

The next area of our love that must be developed is to love one another.  That is to love those of your family and those to whom you identify such as your church family.  This requires some stretching and maturing.  Sometimes we forget that our love for one another is not based on how we feel about the other person.  It is not based on what they do for you but on their value which is not always apparent.  Sometimes their value will not become apparent for a long time but love can’t wait till then.  They need to be loved whether or not their value has appeared.  The world will know we are Christians by our love.  Love does what is best, not what is convenient, or easiest or even by what is desired.  It is the expression of what erupts out of the heart from our concerns and understanding of the others needs.

The third direction of our love is focused toward our neighbors.  That is those to whom we have contact in our everyday living.  It includes those who cut in front of you in traffic, your fellow employees, the beggar, the down and out as well as the up and out and even your business acquaintances.  You are to love them and seek for their good.  This will take even more growing to develop a love that is ever a blessing.  Some people are not easy to love.  The negative, the critical, the depressed, the gossip, the one who never stops talking, the gossip, and on and on it goes.  These people are all hurting and need your love.  They come from all sorts of backgrounds and bad situations yet God loves them and we are to love them with His love, too.  We have to learn to live with each other yes, but it is even more important to learn to love each other.  This love will cover a multitude of sins.

Finally, we are to love our enemies.  They are the ones who are not fair or merciful.  They attack us and all we stand for.  Sometimes they are from outside our world and come at us suddenly and without cause.  Sometimes they are close to us and hurt us the deepest.  Sometimes they are cruel and sometimes they are sly.  It doesn’t matter what they attempt but what does matter is the attitude that you express when they do.  They are expecting a fight but they are not expecting your love.  These are the ones who have the least love in their lives.  They have probably endured the worst treatment, have been taught the least, had the worst examples and come from the most dysfunctional families.  They can only be won by love.  To that they will respond.  Not at first but they can be won if your love is real.  They will cost you the most and they are the hardest to convince but they are some of the most loyal and dedicated of all.  The apostle Paul comes to mind as a great example.

God is not looking to punish us but to redeem us.  He paid the ultimate price so that we might have eternal life.  To God, we are each worth more than the entirety of this world.  There are a number of tools that God will use to reach the isolated and unloved, but the greatest of them is Love.  Love is God’s chosen means of reaching the hearts of men.  So how is your love growing?  When you are loving, you are expressing the very nature of God.

Forgiveness

Matthew 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

2Corinthians 2:7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Forgiveness is a concept that is often misunderstood and has therefore not brought the peace and relief that was intended.  We hear phrases like “Forgive and Forget” or “God will forgive us because He loves us”.  Though these type of phrases are well intended, they do not properly represent the truth about forgiveness.  You do not have the power to just forget.  You will still remember long after forgiveness has been given.  Forgiveness does not wipe the memory, but it justifies the memory.  Further, God’s forgiveness is not based on his pity or compassion for us but it is based on the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.  If we reject His Son and His work on the cross, we also reject His forgiveness and we remain condemned.

Forgiveness is not excusing the trespass but accepting the cost of the trespass for yourself.  Forgiveness is not discounting the trespass as though it doesn’t matter for it does matter.  Forgiveness is not overlooking the trespass for the barrier it has brought will continue to grow until it is addressed with forgiveness.  Forgiveness is understood as ‘giving forth’  or giving to the extent of the need.  Forgiving will cost you something.  It not only hurts but also requires something from you that is beyond your human ability.  To forgive requires that you go to God to receive the grace and mercy that is required by the offence.  It is not a natural thing but is a supernatural response of the Holy Spirit to reach the heart of the offender and to reconcile man to God and man with man.

When we shut up our forgiveness several things happen.  First there is a conflict between you and God.   To refuse to forgive is a slap in God’s face for what He has done for you.  Second, your concern for the offender should be cause enough for you to forgive him.  To withhold forgiveness reveals a lack of love for your fellow man as well as a lack of faith in God.  Third, when we withhold forgiveness it causes a barrier for us in our growth and we become bitter and the longer it goes on, the more bitter we become.  Further, it hinders our spiritual life is every way and we open ourselves up to the tricks of the Devil.  There is every reason for us to forgive as it exposes God who lives in us, to the world, it improves our relationships and people skills and equally importantly, it not only improves our disposition and attitude but also settles the war inside of us, restores our joy and peace and builds us in multiple ways.  We are all on a journey to our eternal home so lets enjoy the trip.

Why Did Jesus Go To The Cross?

Galatians 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

Colossians 1:22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

These are not the only verses that answer this question but they do represent the answer.  The answer is like the hand, it branches out into multiple directions but is still a part of the hand.  Galatians 1:4 gives us the overarching purpose and that is that we might be delivered from this present evil world.  This deliverance is accomplished in three stages.  Stage 1 (called Regeneration) is the isolation of the human spirit from sin.  Since we are incapable of lifting ourselves out of sins grasp, the Lord accomplishes this by placing the Holy Spirit within the person and permanently seals him as a child of God.  At this point, God has committed to bring the powers of heaven to bear on the completion of His child.  Yes, I am aware that the child of God will still act like the world because he is  not yet finished.  That is where stage 2 begins.

Stage 2 is the Sanctification (or setting apart) of the soul.  This takes the remainder of the person’s life here on earth.  It is in this stage that we learn what it means to walk by faith, and are transformed into the character and likeness of God.  We discover how right God is in every area of our life.  Our thinking is changed, our understanding is transformed, our actions take on a new purpose and our will is subdued.  Grace defines the maturity of the child of God, more and more.

1John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Philippians 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Stage 3 is our Glorification and addresses our body.  To be able to live in eternity with God we will need a spiritual body for this corruptible body cannot endure in His presence so we will be given a supernatural body like that of the Lord Jesus’ body that will never decay.   Only then is the separation from sin completed.  This is the work of the Lord as stated in Ephessians 2:10.  We were created in Christ Jesus, we are transformed by Jesus and we are completed like Jesus, that we might be presented holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:  That is why Jesus endured the cross.  The price was not to be compared with the value of God’s children.

Just Burning Off The Chaff

1Peter 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:  7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ

Things are starting to get back to normal around here.  My wife took the car out by herself, for the first time today.  She is starting to reclaim her place in the kitchen and can even open a can without help.  I apologize for not posting more during this time but it is one of those things that we get to do on occasion when the need arises.

Between having to do double duty with the household chores, we have also had our great grandson here for several days in a row and he requires constant attention.  He thinks that God called me to be his playmate and entertainer.  It is interesting that in our bible studies recently we have been looking at how God shapes and forms us in all of our interruptions and distractions.  Now my wife hears me say, “just burning the chaft off” when someone cuts in front of me or when I am focused on something and I get interrupted, or when things just doesn’t go the way I think they should.

I already knew that I am not perfect – but I wasn’t aware of just how much imperfection there remains; even after 50 years in the ministry and walking with the Lord.  Have you noticed how that life’s problems come at an inopportune time?  They don’t come when you are not in a hurry, or when you have leisure time.  They come when you are stressed like a guitar string.  By the way, a guitar string only has quality sound when it is stressed the right amount.  Otherwise, it is out of tune.  Perhaps the Lord is just tuning us up for His performance.  And another thing, have you noticed that these situations require far more than you can give at that moment.  You are asked to do something when your hands are full, or asked to look at something while you are driving, or you are obeying the law and you are cut off or someone suddenly stops right in front of you, etc.  And finally, have you noticed that you cannot win?  No matter what course you take, someone will be shorted or neglected or offended.

I suspect that the Lord is watching and listening and waiting to see us respond as He did when He walked here on Earth.  Remember the story of the woman caught in the very act of adultery?  They brought her to Jesus and said that the law required her to be stoned but what do you say?  If He said no, then He would disobey the law, If He said yes, then he would be uncaring.  He did neither but keeled down and wrote in the sand.  When He was further pressed for an answer, He said, he that is without sin cast the first stone.  Another time Jesus was asked whether or not it was right to pay taxes?  He said, show me a coin and then asked whose inscription was on it?  They replied, Caesar’s,  to which He replied, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God, the things that are God’s.  This kind of wisdom comes only from God.  We do not possess it but it is supplied upon our exercise of faith in Him.

Today is tuning the instruments and choir rehearsal.  We are just beginning to understand what that will be like.  Can’t you just picture it?  Everyone is assembled in Heaven and earth, all is quiet and then it begins.  First there is the sound of a trumpet, then a loud shout, and then it begins. . .   I am so looking forward to the presentation of the Grand Finale when the Lord has us all tuned up and heaven waits with batted breath  to hear the sound of the redeemed, as we praise the Lord for all He has done.