< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: June 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jesus Christ Did It All

My husband thought he would save me time by using the electric trimmer on our hedge. I usually trim it by hand because the electric one chews up the leaves and they turn brown. But, I'm having a 4th of July party this Saturday and am way behind so I let him do it and hoped for the best!

I almost cried the next day when I looked at it. It was far more "chewed up" then I had ever seen it. I hauled out my small clippers and so far have spent 11 hours trying to make it look better!

While I was working I thought of all the other times I had hired someone to do something for me, or things John or my daughter had done. I couldn't think of one that I didn't have to go back and neaten up, fix up or pick up!

It was a depressing thought. But, it made me remember that Jesus did something for me. And it was perfect. And it was enough. And I don't have to add a thing to it!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Only Christ

I’ve been carrying around a piece of an article in my Daytimer for years and thought I would share it. I have no idea where I got it from, but I love it.

Salvation comes from Christ alone. That means it’s not Christ plus your good behavior, it’s not Christ plus the years you taught Sunday School; it’s not Christ plus your tithe; it’s not Christ plus the church you attend.

It’s not Christ plus the size of your Bible; nor Christ plus the number of verses you memorize. It’s not Christ plus the title of deacon’ it’s not Christ plus a good driving record; it’s not Christ plus well-behaved children.

It’s not Christ plus a 40-day fast; it’s not Christ plus the right job; it’s not Christ plus the right spouse; it’s not Christ plus wisdom from the latest Christian seminar. It’s not Christ plus a college education.

It’s simply Christ. Christ plus nothing.

For more on this topic:
Read "One Way"

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Part 3 on what Revelation has to say about Heaven

Near the end of her book "A Visioin of His Glory" by Anne Graham Lotz she says, “After reading Revelation are you convinced Jesus Christ will reign in the world at some future time, but you don’t know what difference that makes in your life today? And she ends with a challenge: not to place our hope in the things of this world, but to keep our focus on Christ in every aspect of our lives.

David was anointed by God as king over God’s people 14 years before he even sat on the throne. Saul tried to destroy David during that time. There were 400 men who feared Saul. They were distressed and discouraged in their daily lives because of his authority. Then they heard about David. They heard that he was God’s anointed king. They heard that one day he would sit on the throne in Jerusalem. They heard he was a courageous, compassionate leader; undefeated in battle. So they gave up everything and put their hope in David.

1 Samuel 22:2

David, as a king in exile, became a rallying point for God’s people. His leadership in their lives, even before he ruled from the throne in Jerusalem, radically changed their perspective of the present as well as of the future. David gave them hope. They became David’s mighty men. And when he was crowned king of Israel, they reigned with him.

In one sense, Jesus is God’ anointed king in exile. The enemies: Satan, Self and Sin – reign supreme on His earthly throne of authority. Like King Saul, often their power and authority cause us to be discouraged and distressed. But, we’ve heard about God’s anointed one. About His compassionate leadership – and we chose to put our hope in Him. To give Him our loyalty, to make Him our priority and one day we will reign with Him.

The angel’s words to John are a personal challenge as the vision of the glory of Christ draws to a close.

Revelation 22: 6-7

Do you believe that? Do you believe not only that, but that His Word, the Bible, in its entirety is trustworthy and true? That the prophecies still to come will come? Because God said so. Even if you don’t understand everything in it, will you make the decision to believe God’s Word? God does not lie. Take it by faith.

So if we do believe it, the challenge is to live it. Keep His Word and live as Jesus commands us to.

The promise of blessing to those who “keep the words of the prophecy in this book” is given directly by Jesus Christ. The promise specifically regards Revelation, but generally it applies to the entire Bible. To keep the word means read it, study it, apply it and obey it. Keep it in our heart, on our minds and our lips.

And the blessing we receive is a growing, confident, fully committed hope in Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 1:1

Staying focused on Him and His Word gives us a stability as everything else in the world around us seems to collapse. There is no other foundation to build our life on. No other purpose higher to live for. Nothing more important then to know Him. And He’s revealed in the Bible.

To worship God literally means to attribute worth to Him. And we do this by making Him our first priority, obeying what He says, praising Him for who He is and what He has done. You would think after this vision John would only worship Christ, but look at what happens.

Revelation 22: 8-9

It’s so easy to let other things crowd Jesus right out of His rightful place.

Next – Revelation 22:10 – 12

When all is said and done (and Revelation is the last book in the Bible) God has nothing more to say. Those who reject Him will be judged. If Heaven is refused, that only leaves hell. If the revelation of Jesus Christ from Genesis to Revelation hasn’t brought a person to a humble confession of sin and repentance from sin and conversion to Christ thru faith, nothing else will. If God’s message is rejected there is no other message. Time is running out for nonbelievers. Believers have little time to spread the word.

Jesus said in John 9:4 “as long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work.” When night comes: either by the Rapture or death, our work on earth will be over. If we knew it would happen in 5 minutes – before it does would we wish we had told 1 more person? Taught Sunday School? Opened our home to Bible study or a neighborhood prayer group? Gone on a mission trip? Made ourselves available to serving in church? Written a note of encouragement? Given money to missions? Visited the sick?

Revelation 22:12

Revelation, The Vision of His Glory, motivates us to use every moment we have left. It keeps our focus on the big picture so we don’t grow weary in doing good. We live for His rewards, not earthly ones.

The Bible is really an entire book of instructions and one of the last minute instructions He gives us is –

Revelation 22:14-15

Our robe is our right standing before God, given to us at the cross of Christ. We are given this robe as we are forgiven for all our sins. Past, present and future sins.

Small sins; like gossip and white lies. Medium size sins like losing our temper and even big sins like stealing and adultery. All are forgiven.

If you’ve ever walked on a beach and seen the different indentions and holes – tiny holes from sand crabs, big foot prints, whatever …and the tide comes in and washes all of it away – no matter what it’s from or how big it was. That’s what Jesus’ blood did.

Obviously Christians still sin – we just hate doing it now, and sin doesn’t keep us from being God’s children. But, it will break our fellowship with Him. That’s why we still confess our sins daily and repent. We’re agreeing with God that what we’ve done is sin and we turn from it. Instead of sugar coating it, like calling adultery “an affair” or lying an “exaggeration” or pride “self-esteem” or murder “the right to choose”…

Daily confession of sin keeps us in a right loving relationship with God. We don’t run hide behind a bush like Adam and Eve did when they heard Him coming!

We’re about at the end of the book. And what we’ve learned from reading the book of Revelation we must share –

Revelation 22:16-17

Every one of us comes into contact with people who don’t know Christ. We are put where we are in life to be able to help someone. The book of Revelation makes us aware that we could be standing before Jesus at any second and we need to act before it’s too late. Think about whom you know – who’s not saved. Invite them to “come.”

Revelation 22:18-19

At the very beginning of history God told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil for when he die he would surely die. And Satan said to Eve, “Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” And as he cast doubt on God’s Word and His Goodness, Eve responded, “God did say ‘You must not eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden and you must not touch it, or you will surely die.”

She added to God’s Word. And it had a devastating impact on her and her husband and her children and every generation since. At the very end of God’s revelation of human history He warns against repeating the same sin. His Word, the Bible, conveys His thoughts and ways and will and not one word is to be tampered with.

People add to His Word and take away from His Word all the time. They pull verses out of context. They ignore the ones they don’t like. They say this part of the Bible is true, but this part isn’t. But, none of this affects God’s truth.

And the book ends with Revelation 22:20-21

Because we know He is coming, we need to be prepared. We need to stay faithful to His Word, faithful to worship, faithful to His work, faithful to confess our sin and stay in a right relationship with Him. Faithful to witness and warn and watch. Faithful to live our lives like we know He’s coming back for us!

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Part 2 on what Revelation has to say about Heaven

Next John sees the river.
Revelation 22:1

The river symbolizes the eternal blessing of God. And it flows from the throne. The source of all blessing has been, is and forever will be the authority of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

So the river of blessings flows when Jesus Christ is in full authority in your life, when you have completely surrendered yourself to Him, when His will is your will, when you deeply desire what He wants more than what you want, when you deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Him, when you live in a right fellowship to the throne…that’s when the river flows!

Jesus promised this when He said, “whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” John explained, “By this He meant the spirit, which those who believed in Him were later to receive.” When you receive Jesus Christ by faith as your Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live within you and when the spirit of the Lord is Lord of your life – the river runs freely within you to fill your life with blessing and to flow from you as a source of blessing to others. But the spirit must be Lord of your life. Then we are not only filled, but we overflow to others!

If something in our life is blocking this, we need to figure out what it is, repent and ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with Himself. As He fills our life, we are promised we will be fruitful. Revelation 22:2.

If we are filled with the Holy Spirit there will be outward evidence: love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, gentleness, kindness, goodness and faithfulness. Just like a tree doesn’t struggle to produce its leaves, we don’t struggle to produce these fruits. That’s why they are called gifts of the spirit! Anne says instead of focusing on whether we feel we have enough joy or self-control – just focus on our relationship with Christ. If our relationship with Him is right – the fruits will come.

And not only will His fruit be evident in our character, but also in our service. Note the last part of Rev. 22:2“the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” We are saved to serve and blessed to bless!

People who think they will be bored in heaven will find themselves pleasantly surprised! Anne says that the presence of the water shows we’ll still get thirsty, the presence of the fruit that we’ll still get hungry, that the leaves that are the healing indicate we’ll still have needs to be met, but these will also be met when we abide in Christ.

And then will be freedom – Revelation 22:3

When Adam and Eve sinned, it caused “the curse”. Not only did it affect them, but their descendents, animals and the earth. They were cursed to live separate lives from God and also to die. Cursed to struggle thru life. Now that curse will be gone. Plants won’t die, flowers won’t fade and people won’t die. We will be free from sin and suffering and death.

Romans 8:20-21

Revelation 22: 3 (again) and 5

We will rule with Christ in the universe, we will convey knowledge of Him everywhere and we will never grow tired in well-doing. Our work will flow from our worship and we will serve Him perfectly. And as we serve Him we will experience blessed fellowship.

Revelation 22:4

1 Corinthians 13:12

The entire goal of a Christian’s life is to know God. So we put time and effort in to prayer and reading the Bible and applying what we learn from Bible study. We try to live obediently and serve humbly. To be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. But, during our lives it will be incomplete. Only in heaven, when we see Him face to face and serve him there, will we know Him fully.

So one great thing about the book of Revelation is – on earth and in this life we do face death at some point, but as believers, this earth is not our home. Death does not have the final word. We will walk thru the gates of pearl and live with our Lord forever.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

What the book of Revelation has to say about Heaven

Since I just finished teaching the book of Revelation from Anne Graham Lotz' book, "A Vision of His Glory, Finding Hope in the Book of Revelation" and also just finished 4 blog posts about Heaven and Hell, this seems like an appropriate time to post from my Revelation study.

When you think of the word “home” what does it mean to you?

Hopefully, it’s a place of love, acceptance, comfort and security. A place where your needs are met. A safe haven. A place where there’s a light left on for you and a warm hug at the door.

No matter if our home here on earth fits that description or not – we’re really not “home” yet and when we get to our real and eternal home it’s going to be so much better.

Jesus promised He is preparing a home there for us. That in His Father’s house are many rooms. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived” how good it will be.

Revelation 21:1-2
Jesus is preparing a place for us to live with Him. And He’s been working on it for over 2000 years. Revelation 21: 11 says its brilliance is like a precious jewel.

Remember God preparing our first home here on earth? After the first 5 “days” of creative work He planted a garden in the east, in Eden and put man there. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground. Trees that were pleasing to the eye. He created flowers and mountains and lakes and oceans and birds for us to enjoy.

But, our new home will be even better. “No eye has seen, no mind conceived…”

This new home – Heaven – The New Jerusalem – will be presented to His believers.

Revelation 21: 7-8
The invitation has been extended to everyone, but when it’s been rejected by some people – the door shuts.

Revelation 21: 27
The impure, the “evil doers” are ones who don’t know Christ. They may have been “religious” in their life times, but they never established a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through faith.

John 14:6
If you belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ, then you will be welcomed into His heavenly home, which He has prepared for you.

At the end of the 1000 year reign (the millennium) when Satan is cast into the lake of sulphur, the old heaven and earth as we know it will be destroyed.

2nd Peter 3: 7, 10
And Revelation 21:5 says God says, “I am making everything new!” You know if you live in an old house – no matter how much you repaint and clean and fix it up – it’s still an old house. Sometimes you just need to tear it down and start over! The planet earth is old! Its air is polluted, the water is polluted – we’re using up our natural resources. God’s going to give us a new heaven ad a new earth. And God’s going to live there with us.

Revelation 2: 3-4
Heaven is not only our home, but His! We will be with our loved ones and Jesus forever.

John alluded to this when he said in Rev. 21:1 “There was no longer any sea.” Anne wrote that the sea separates people, countries and land from each other. In Heaven there will be no separation. There won’t even be the separation of night and day because –

Revelation 21:23
Our heavenly home will glow and radiate light from within. There will be no darkness at all. God’s promises are true and we can count on them.
Revelation 21:5

As John goes on to describe Heaven he seems to emphasize it’s a literal, specific, physical place.
Revelation 21: 15

Heaven can be seen and felt and measured!
In Rev. 21:12 and 18 he sees the great, high wall made of jasper. The wall as described is 200 feet thick. And remember jasper is a stone like a diamond. The city and its streets are made of pure gold, as transparent as glass. That’s in Rev. 21: 18 and 21. He goes on to describe the foundation of the city.

Revelation 21:14, 19
The 12 foundations of rock have more than gems embedded in them. Each one is also engraved with the name of one of the 12 apostles of the Lamb. So John saw his own name engraved there. He saw that all of his life’s work did have eternal value!

He describes the gates in Revelation 21:21

Pearls are formed when a small grain of sand becomes embedded in an oyster, irritating it. To soften the irritation, the oyster coats the grain of sand with a smooth layer of what is called mother of pearl. As long as the oyster can feel the irritation, it continues to coat the sand with layers of pearl, making the pearl bigger and bigger.

What kind of irritation would have been necessary to form the pearls that make up the gates to our heavenly city where they are so large they can fit into a wall that is 200 feet thick? It must have been severe suffering. People have suggested that the pearl gates will be a reminder to everyone who goes in and out of the city of the suffering and great price Christ paid for us.

So it will be beautiful. And it’s a home. But, who else will live there?

Revelation 21:23
The Greek word used here for temple is the same as Most Holy Place – where God dwelled in the temple the Israelites built. Back then only the high priest could enter this area once a year to make atonement for the people. We are told in the book of Hebrews that today we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus. We have access to the presence of God when we approach Him by faith and prayer. In our heavenly home we will not just have occasional access to His presence; we will be in the Most Holy Place and live in His presence.

Heaven will not only be beautiful – it will be totally, permanently happy.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Myths and Truths About Heaven and Hell

Part 4

Paul makes several definite statements about our resurrected bodies:

1. In 1 Corinthians 15:44 he says it will be a spiritual body, but will be perfectly adapted to our heavenly environment.

2. It will be a real body: like that of the risen Lord, who challenged His disciples to “touch and see.”

3. It will be a recognizable body, having identity with the physical body that has been laid to rest. We will know each other.

4. From 1 Corinthians 15:42 – it will be an incorruptible body: deathless, not subject to decay.

5. From 1 Corinthians 15:43 – it will be a glorious body, not subject to the tyranny of sin and attacks of Satan.

6. It will be a powerful body, having thrown off the frailty of its mortality.

7. 1 Corinthians 15:49 says, “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” Our Lord’s resurrection body is the pattern for ours: He ate with the disciples (John 21:9), He passed through closed doors (John 20:19), He appeared and disappeared from sight. He said he had flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). In other words, there was a real connection and identity with His former body, minus some of the limitations of that body. It should be noted that the term spiritual body does not imply that it is ghostly, but rather that it will be subject to the human spirit, not our fleshly desires.

8. Everything that would enrich our lives will be available.

9. Reunions with loved ones and the formation of new relationships will make Heaven a wonderful place of fellowship.

Billy Graham writes, “Have you ever been in a strange place and had the joy of seeing a familiar face? No one who enters the Father’s house will feel lonely or strange, for our friends will be there. We may be very surprised by whom we meet. If you are a believer, you will see those friends and family who accepted Christ. Our family reunion will have all the people from the Bible you always wanted to know. The Old and New Testament saints will be there to greet you and answer some of those questions you always wanted to ask. We won’t have to rush or stand in line, for we will have all of eternity to enjoy.”

Jesus talks about His disciples being welcomed into Heaven by those who have been beneficiaries of their generosity on earth:

Matthew 8:11 "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."

If Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are recognizable won’t we be? The strongest argument for recognition of loved ones in Heaven is the appearance of Jesus Himself in His resurrected body.

Luke 24:39 "Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."

10. There will be full satisfaction for every holy and wholesome longing and aspiration. Helen Keller will see and hear. The child who died of cancer will be healthy and strong, the man crippled from arthritis will stand straight and tall. People who are sick today or in prison long for relief from pain and suffering. They long for love. The home and the love that is waiting for them is Jesus Christ, Himself, and because of Him, Heaven will be at last and forever.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Myths and Truths About Heaven and Hell

Part 3

What’s Heaven like? First let’s look at some myths about Heaven:

1. Heaven’s main occupation will be sitting on a cloud, plucking the strings of a golden harp. Again from Billy Graham’s book, “Heaven will be a place where we have work to do. It may be the kind of work we have never experienced on earth. No frustrations, no freeways, no failure or fatigue. Cliff Barrows, our song director, and Bev Shea, our special soloist, have been with me for forty years. They occasionally tease me by saying that when we get to Heaven, I’ll be out of work, but they won’t! Have you ever done anything that was so exhilarating, so rewarding, that you hoped it would never end? It’s been said that no work is as wearisome as doing nothing. In Heaven our work will be stimulating and rewarding. In Revelation 22:3, John wrote: “His servants will serve Him.” Each one of us will be given some task that we will enjoy doing. Some may be cooks who prepare heavenly dishes; some may play with the children. Perhaps we will be called upon to tend the gardens or polish the rainbows! Our imaginations are limitless. Whatever we do, the Bible says we will serve Him. Just think – loving the work you are doing and never getting tired!”

2. That life in Heaven will consist largely of rest and contemplation. (Rest in the Biblical terms means not rest from activity, but rest in activity.)

3. There will be nothing interesting to do in Heaven. This is a groundless fear. One of Heaven’s rewards for faithful service on earth will be the allocation of various spheres of authority. Luke 19:12–19 and John 5:17. Heaven is not a resort for the lazy or listless. God will have plenty of congenial work for us to do.

4. That Peter guards the pearly gates. There is no Biblical support for this. It’s probably a misinterpretation of Matthew 16: 18-19 "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven." The gates are said to be made of 1 pearl.
Pearls are formed when a small grain of sand becomes embedded in an oyster, irritating it. To soften the irritation, the oyster coats the grain of and with a smooth layer of what is called mother of pearl. As long as the oyster can feel the irritation, it continues to coat the sand with layers of pearl, making the pearl bigger and bigger.

What kind of irritation would have been necessary to form the pearls that make up the gates to our heavenly city where they are so large they can fit into a wall that is 200 feet thick? It must have been severe suffering. People have suggested that the pearl gates will be a reminder to everyone who goes in and out of the city of the suffering and great price Christ paid for us.

5. That we will become angels. Again, no scriptural support.

Here are some truths now about Heaven.

1. We will enjoy eternal life in the immediate presence of the triune God.

2. All that diminishes the quality of life on earth will be banished from Heaven. (No sin, no tears, no pain, etc.)

3. The heights of joy we have experienced on earth will be eclipsed in Heaven. You might be saying, “But I loved earth!” There is nothing wrong with loving life. In fact we should enjoy it to the hilt. It’s a gift from God. But in Heaven we will enjoy it even more. Billy Graham wrote, “What will we gain? I can only imagine that whatever we loved on earth will be magnified in its pleasure in Heaven. We may not be married in Heaven. Some of us who love our wives or husbands very much may find that sad, but the more I think about the promises of Heaven, the more I believe whatever God has in store for us will be unbelievable more joyous, more delightful and more wonderful than what we now enjoy. I trust Jesus with my eternal tomorrows and know that He will solve all the questions we have now. We will be able to understand one another, for there will be one universal language, the language of love, that will enable us to talk freely with people who lived in other earth countries. The “communication gap” will be closed. Night comes on earth, filled with darkness and peril. In many cities on our planet we are warned not to go out on the streets at night. But in Heaven, there is no night. We will not need to sleep, because on earth sleep is to restore our strength. But in Heaven there will be no energy drains, so sleep will not be necessary. Night is a time when many crimes are committed. In Heaven, evil is gone and the light that will surround us will be a reflection of the light of the world, Jesus Christ.

4. We will be “saved to sin no more.” Failure and its consequences will be a thing of the past. On earth we fail all the time. In Heaven we never will. Revelation 22:3 tells us there will no longer be any curse. When God is allowed to have full control on our lives we will know what kind of people we can really be.

5. No more will we be subject to temptations from the world, the flesh and the devil. As children of God we will have victory and be able to rest.

6. Knowledge will no longer be limited. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part: then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

7. Limitations of the body will hamper us no more. Again from the book Heaven, Better By Far: We will have bodies fit for the full life of God to indwell and express itself forever. We will be able to eat, but will not need to. We will be able to move rapidly through space and matter. We will be ageless and not know pain, tears, sorrows, sickness or death. We will have bodies of splendor. In a promise to the Old Testament saints, written in Daniel 12:3 the Lord compared our glorious bodies to the shining of the moon and stars. Christ’s glorified body is described as shining like the sun in its strength.

Tomorrow's post will finish up this lesson with some information about our resurrected bodies.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Myths and Truths About Heaven and Hell

Part 2

If we accept that someday, sooner or later, we are going to face death, we should still be making preparations while we are living, even though we are saved by grace and not works. Our lives will be judged when we get to heaven.

J. Oswald Sanders says that it is very probable that many who are now so blasé about the thought of Heaven will be filled with regret that they didn’t spend more time thinking about it and making better preparation for it. The quality of our life and service here has a very real bearing on our reward there. On judgment day, the motive of our work is what counts. On that day God will test everything by His standard of truth and if it meets with His approval a reward will be given. The reward is not salvation, for salvation is of grace totally apart from works. But this reward is for faithful service, because of salvation.

All true believers who stand before the judgment seat will qualify for Heaven, but not all will receive the same reward. The rewards promised in Heaven are sometimes represented by the symbol of a crown. In Greek culture a crown might either be an ornamental headdress worn by a king or queen or a wreath worn as a symbol of victory.

So there are 2 judgments: The Book of Life, which lists all the saved people and the rewards for believers based on our lives.

Billy Graham wrote in Hope for the Troubled Heart: Finding God in the Midst of Pain “There is a time coming when all Christians will stand before God and give an account of the way they used the gifts God has given them. It will be a time of truth for all believers. There are different crowns that are available and these are given according to the quality of work we have done on earth.

For those who have endured trials and suffering with patience, there is a special crown of life. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life.”

For those who believe the only rewards worth desiring are measured by what money can buy, there will be surprises in Heaven to see who will receive some of the special crowns.

We are told to “Be very careful then how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16) If we knew this was our last day on earth, what opportunities would we use? Call a friend who was hurting? Say I’m sorry to someone we’ve slighted? Encourage a young person who was struggling with a school or job? Tell our husband or wife, parents or children, how much we love them? Most important, would we tell someone about Jesus Christ and how they could have eternal life through Him? How would we spend those final twenty-four hours?”

1 Corinthians 3: 11-15 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

Those verses make it clear that there can be a saved soul, but a lost life because of unfaithfulness in the stewardship of life.

What will be taken into account in the assessment?

1. Our testimony to Christ – Philippians 2:16
2. Our suffering for Christ – 1 Peter 4:13
3. Our faithfulness to Christ – Luke 12:42-43/Revelation 2:10
4. Our service for Christ – 1 Corinthians 3:8/Hebrews 6:10
5. Our generosity to Christ – 2 Corinthians 9:6/1 Timothy 6: 17-19
6. Our use of time for Christ – Ephesians 5:15-16/Colossians 4:5
7. Our exercise of spiritual gifts – Matthew 25:14-28/1 Peter 4:10
8. Our self-discipline for Christ – 1 Corinthians 9:24 -25
9. Our winning of souls for Christ - 1 Thessalonians 2:19

So now we’re past the two judgments. Tomorrow we’ll look at the myths about Heaven.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Myths and Truths About Heaven and Hell

Part 1

I read that in Milan, Italy there is an impressive cathedral that has these words inscribed around its entrance: On the right it says, “All that pleases us is only for a moment.” On the left it says, “All that troubles us is only for a moment.” And over the top it says, “Nothing is important but that which is eternal.”

Our pleasures are brief. The bite of chocolate, the boat ride, the vacation. Likewise, we may believe the pain will never stop; the pressures in our lives will never end. But, they will.

Someone once said, “Live each day as if it’s your last. It may be.” An Air France flight went down in the ocean killing all 280 plus people on board. A woman who was supposed to be on board missed the flight. A week later she was killed in a car accident.

Do you ever wonder when you hear of sudden fatalities, if the victims were prepared for death? With today’s media the way it is, we hear daily of people dying unexpectedly. People who in an instant of time are transferred from this life to the next.

The Bible has much to say about the brevity of life and the necessity of preparing for eternity. Too many Christians avoid thinking about death because somehow they think the subject is unpleasant.

We need to remember that death is not of God. Death is Satan’s weapon. He uses it to bring confusion and fear into the hearts of those facing it. It is part of the curse sin brought on this world. The good news is that for Christians death is not final. It is another phase of life. When a Christian dies, he moves immediately into a glorious eternal life.

Dr. Tony Evans said on his radio program, “Christians shouldn’t fear death…because they won’t die! When a believer closes his eyes on earth, he opens them immediately in God’s presence. Physical death – what we’ve given the name to leaving this world – happens, but spiritual death and eternal death won’t. The soul and the body separate. The soul is immortal.”

J. Oswald Sanders wrote over 40 books. At age 89 he started researching HEAVEN BETTER BY FAR because he realized Heaven would be his next home and at his age it would be sooner rather than later. He published the book at 90 and died soon after.

He writes, “It is the essential element of personality that will persist after death. The body is destined to return to dust, but the inward man, the spirit, lives on and its identity with the body is not breached.”

1 Corinthians 15: 55-56 says, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin.”

When Jesus arose from the dead, Satan suffered a stupendous defeat from which he will never recover. Since the resurrection of Christ no Christian has any grounds to fear death.

1 Corinthians 15:54 says, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

Paul looked forward to Heaven: He wrote in 2 Timothy 4: 6-8 “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

And in Philippians 1: 21-23 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;”

Jesus also talked about heaven: In John 14: 1-3 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” And in Luke 23: 43 “Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Billy Graham wrote, “I believe that if people paid more attention to death, eternity and judgment, there would be more holy living on earth. Surrounded by the violence and devastation of our present age, we see death on every hand, but it never seems real until we stare it in the face ourselves or hold the hand of someone who is slipping into eternity. Those who do not have Jesus Christ in their hearts will spend eternity separated from God. The Bible has a great deal to say about Hell, although until recent times the subject has all but disappeared from our modern pulpits. However, it was reported in a major newsmagazine that Hell is making a major comeback in American thinking.”

Jesus told a very disturbing story about Heaven and Hell:

Luke 16: 19 -31
19"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
25"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
27"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
29"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
30" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
31"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

Max Lucado wrote about this Bible story in his book When Christ Comes.

He wrote that after the two men died the rich man who had had everything on earth, but God, now had nothing. The beggar, who had nothing, but God, now had everything.

That’s sobering enough, but then the story shows us Hell and all its horrors. The rich man is in relentless torment. 5 verses refer to his pain. He calls where he is a “place of pain.” And even worse he can see Heaven. And he begs for mercy.

But it’s too late.

And it’s forever. Matthew 25: 46 says, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Saved people will live for eternity and so will unsaved people. They just won’t be in the same place.

Revelation 14:11 says, “The smoke from their burning pain will rise forever and ever. There will be no rest, day or night, for those who worship the beast and his idol or who get the mark of his name.”

People want to believe we’re given some second chance after death. But, scripture doesn’t teach that. People also ask how a loving God can send people to Hell. But, of course the answer to that is – God doesn’t send them. It’s their choice. It’s free will and if they end up in Hell it means they rejected Jesus.

Because of Jesus and His work on the cross we don’t have to go to Hell. We need to share that with unbelievers. In Jesus’ story the people in Hell could look up and see the people in Heaven. Do you want a friend or relative looking up, seeing you and wondering why you never warned them?

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Revelation 22:1

I’ve been teaching the book of Revelation for about 5 weeks now. I’m using Anne Graham Lotz’ book, The Vision of His Glory and I love this part about Revelation 22:1. It’s concise and tells you exactly what you need to know!

Revelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb

The river symbolizes the eternal blessing of God. And it flows from the throne. The source of all blessing has been, is and forever will be the authority of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

So the river of blessings flows when Jesus Christ is in full authority in your life, when you have completely surrendered yourself to Him, when His will is your will, when you deeply desire what He wants more than what you want, when you deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Him, when you live in a right fellowship to the throne…that’s when the river flows!

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Why We Need Loving Fathers

Just in time for Father’s Day: I read another good article over at Christianity Today about the importance of having a loving father in your life. Written by Roland C. Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, you can read it here.

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