Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Nov
07

bible-text

Each Sunday morning, Christians around the world gather for Bible class. This is a wonderful tradition that has helped to strengthen the faith of believers for many years. Christians agree that God speaks to us through his holy word. We believe that even though the words of Scripture were first written down long ago, God still has a word for us today. We gather to learn about the stories of Abraham, Moses, David, and many more. We believe we are a part of God’s story, therefore, it is important for us to know our history.

I have a crazy idea. I know this may seem radical, but I believe we should study the Bible in Bible class. Call me insane, but I believe committing ourselves to the study of the word of God will transform us more than any other book. I think anytime we spend time in the Bible, we walk away a better person.

I’m not against other books. In fact, I have many religious books in my library. I am constantly reading what other Christian authors have to teach me about God and other subjects. I am indebted to many of these authors for helping to shape what I believe. Even though I have benefited greatly from other books, I still think we should study the Bible in Bible class. Why? I have several reasons. Here are a few.

Communal Bible Study is Important – I think we have overemphasized personal Bible study over the years and neglected communal Bible study. We may only get one or two opportunities to do this a week and we shouldn’t waste them. Personal Bible study is a modern idea. For many years the majority of people could not read, nor did they have access to a Bible. It is only recently that we have emphasized doing Bible study on our own. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is a good practice, but I think communal Bible story is even more important. There is something special when the body of Christ comes together to draw out a meaning from a text. We learn from each other. We see things in the text that we may have never seen before. We are challenged and we grow together. It is important that we keep this practice alive.

Some Bibles are Covered in Dust – There are some people who may never pick up a Bible any other day of the week, so why would we take this time from them and use it to study something else? People live busy lives. We rush from one place to another. Sometimes it is hard to fit in time for reading the Bible. Our busyness is not an excuse, but the church should come to the aid of those who live busy lives. Our Bible classes should be counter-cultural. They should be a time to slow down. They are a time for us to come together and hear God speak to us through his word.

Studying the Bible Unifies Us – Some may disagree with this point. Some may point out how the Bible and people’s interpretation of it have divided people over the years. This is true. There have been divisions over Scripture and how to interpret it, but we all agree on the Bible. We agree it is our book and that it is central to the Christian faith. A person usually chooses a book other than the Bible because it fits their theological beliefs. There is likely going to be another person in class that sees things differently. The discussion in Bible class should not be about what one author has written. It should be about what is in God’s word. People will continue to disagree about how to interpret certain passages of Scripture and what some texts mean, but we agree on the Bible. When we begin with a book other than the Bible, we are beginning with someone’s interpretation (even if that book claims it is not interpretation). Why not begin with what we all agree on?

Books come and go. The Bible has been around for more than two thousand years. Christians over the centuries have looked to this book for guidance, encouragement, and hope. It is a book that tells our story. What we find in Scripture should be a central part of our faith. We should tell the stories to our kids. We should sing the psalms. We should pray the prayers that are recorded for us. We should spend time as a church studying these special words that have been handed down to us in order to draw closer to God and become more like Jesus. The Bible can transform us like no other book can.

Sep
21

me-and-my-grandpa-walking

Each generation is different. They each have their own unique perspective. They each have different ways of looking at problems and coming up with solutions. Each generation looks at things through a different lens. A younger generation sees things an older generation does not and vice versa. These different perspectives sometimes cause generational rifts. This happens in the world, but it also happens in the church.

The difference between generations is often because one generation is reacting to another. Sometimes it is like a pendulum swing. One generation sees that another has swung too far in one direction, so it tries to correct this by swinging in the opposite direction. Sometimes one generation simply identifies things another generation has overlooked or ignored. These reactions are not a bad thing. They are often a way of trying to fix a perceived problem.

Younger generations are freer. They are not tied down to a tradition. They have the ability to change rapidly and easily. Older generations are less likely to change quickly or without some objection. They have a routine. They value tradition. They have gained wisdom from their previous experiences. Neither is right or wrong. This is just the way it is. This is life.

The church is comprised of various groups. It is comprised of black and white, men and women, young and old, etc. These various groups come together to form one body. One group is not inferior to another. We are all one in Christ, and yet generational strife often creeps its head in the church. A healthy congregation will not ignore these differences, but seek to create an environment where differing generations are able to benefit from one another.

Here are four ways to defuse generational strife and get to a place of learning and growth.

Listen: Each generation needs to listen to the other and seek to understand why they value what they value. Listening is a helpful exercise that is always beneficial. It even has the potential to resolve a problem. People like to know they are being listened to. A good listener pays attention and asks questions.

An explanation of why someone does what they do is good for both parties. One side is able to think through and articulate something that is meaningful to them. The other side gets to hear the reason behind a certain belief or behavior.

Do Not Get Defensive: Because generational rifts are often a reaction to something the other generation is or is not doing, there is a temptation to become defensive. We do not like being told that we have missed something or we have gotten something wrong. Although it may be true, it is not always welcome advice. Each generation needs to recognize that other generations see things they have missed. This should cause us to learn from one another, rather than get defensive.

Do Not Act Based on Fear: Generations can sometimes fear one another. This fear may stem from a lack of understanding. We fear what we do not understand. Fear is a great motivator. It causes us to act, but when we act upon fear we are not doing what is best. Making decisions based upon fear is often very harmful. God wants us to act based on faith.

Compromise: One of the most important passages on church relations is Philippians 2:1-11. In this passage Paul encourages all Christians to have the mind of Christ. In verses 3-4 he writes, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We are commanded to consider the interests of others. As long as there is not a clear Biblical answer, then compromise is a valid option.

In John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” All Christians should seek to get along. Differences will arise, but we should always respond in love and remember that we are all united in Christ.

Sep
11

the-feeding-of-the-5000-daniel-bonnell

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)

Many people love the idea of doing good. You see it on Facebook. You hear people talking about it. It is mentioned almost every Sunday. We read passages like the ones above and no one objects or disagrees. People like sharing stories about good Samaritans or kind strangers who show compassion for others. These stories bring us joy. They make us feel warm inside.

We love the idea of doing good, but is this enough? The Bible calls us to do good, not to simply love the idea of doing good. We read books and stories about doing good and we feel good about ourselves, but the Bible calls us to get our hands dirty. Defending the idea is not enough. We must be involved in the good deeds that we love so much. We must show hospitality to the widow, orphan, and foreigner. We must have compassion for the blind, lame, and sick. We must give water to the thirsty and food to the hungry.

It is easy to love an idea. It is much harder to involve ourselves in the work of doing good. People have messy lives and there are not many easy answers or quick fixes. Thankfully, the Bible does not call us to fix people. Instead we are called to walk beside them. We are called to help people where they are and point them to Jesus. He is the great Physician. He is the answer.

May we not simply love the idea of doing good, but actually involve ourselves in the work of helping others. Loving the idea only makes us feel good about ourselves. It is a facade, but doing good comes with the promise of blessing. We are blessed when we give. We are blessed when we show compassion to others. We are blessed when we heed the words of God and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Sep
09

boyhood

Richard Linklater is a master at capturing the mood of a town (Bernie), generation (Slacker), or period of life (Dazed and Confused). In his latest film, Boyhood, he uses this talent to follow the life of a boy from age six to eighteen. Linklater is probably the first director to take twelve years to film and make a movie, but what he does in Boyhood should be familiar to all his fans. He captures life, and this film is Linklater at his best. He goes all out and delivers a film with all the feeling and emotions of what it is like to grow up. Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason, gives a stellar performance over the span of twelve years. Mason grows and the audience is privileged to have a front row seat to his life.

The film is not plot heavy. It is more like a string of memories. These memories are probably from the mind of Richard Linklater since he wrote the film, but they are memories that most people will be able to relate to. It is also evident that Linklater himself has grown up since the days of Slacker and Dazed and Confused. The parents played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke have a significant role in the film. Obviously, there has to be parents in a story about a child growing up, but in Boyhood we are given insights into how the parents feel and what they might have done differently. There are ups and downs. The viewer is a witness to both the beautiful and ugly side of parenting. Boyhood is perhaps the most realistic coming of age film that has ever been made.

Everyone’s reaction to Boyhood will be different because we all bring different feelings, emotions, and life experiences to the film. At certain points I was whisked back to my childhood and was recounting memories I had not thought of in years. At other points I was thinking about my own role as a parent. Although each person may not respond the same way to every scene, it is a deeply moving film. There is something in it that should resonate with nearly everyone.

The family in the film are not Christians. They are like many families who do not identify with any religion. They are not opposed to it. It is just something they have not embraced. At one point in the film the family does cross paths with a devout Christian family. There is no ill will towards this family, but it is also evident that Christianity is unfamiliar and strange to them. A Christian watching this film may be tempted to judge the characters for some of their behaviors and choices, but I believe that would be a mistake. There are some poor decisions that are made and some objectionable advice that is given, but all parents, Christians and non-Christians alike, make poor decisions. The point of Boyhood is to connect with the film and examine our own lives. It is a heartfelt film made by a parent who has obviously wrestled with the difficulties of parenthood. No one gets it perfect, but we can all learn something and strive to be better. I think Boyhood helps us do this. It is a tribute to growing up, but it is also a film with parenting close to its heart.

Boyhood is an experience. It is nearly three hours long, but it does not feel like a long film. It grabs you and you are taken on an incredible ride. It has its lighter moments, but it is a serious film. It is a film that I have not stopped thinking about since I saw it, and I will probably continue to think about it in the days ahead. It does what you hope most films will do. It moves you. It moves you in unexpected ways, and for that I am thankful.

Sep
08

jesus-washing-the-feet-calvin-carter

When people are thrust into a leadership position, they are sometimes surprised by the expectations. Leaders are viewed differently than everyone else. This is evident each time there is a presidential election. The candidates are grilled. Their backgrounds are checked, rechecked, and checked again. Minor missteps are made front page news and dissected on 24 hour news channels. It doesn’t matter that much of the rest of America has made the same mistakes, these are supposed to be our leaders and they are looked at from a different perspective. Some people have thick skin and are not bothered by the expectations of leadership, but most people are sensitive to these issues and are caught off guard when it happens. If you are in leadership or thinking about accepting a leadership position, then you need to be aware of the cost of leadership.

Leaders Must Be Ready to Make Sacrifices – People will judge leaders differently than they judge themselves or others. Is this right? No. Is it worth arguing over? No. There is nothing leaders can do about this. It is just the way it is. People will pay attention to where you go, what you do, who you hang around with, what you wear, and what you say. There will be times when you will need to speak out against a certain judgment, but for the most part this behavior should be accepted as part of the occupation. Becoming a leader involves putting yourself out in front of everyone. It means you become an easy target. It means people will pay more attention to your Facebook and Twitter accounts than they do the accounts of others. Even though you should accept much of this, there still needs to be boundaries. I draw a line when people begin to hold my children to the same high standards they hold me to. That is going too far and I will not allow it. When you become a leader be ready to make certain sacrifices, but also understand you have a responsibility to protect your family.

Leaders Must Be Spiritually Mature – No leader is perfect. Leaders are just as fallible and prone to make mistakes as anyone else. Even so, leaders must be prepared for the difficulties of leadership. Leaders will find themselves in difficult situations. They will encounter and have to deal with people who are emotionally or spiritually immature. A leader is not expected to always give the right answer or advice, but they are expected to be spiritually mature.  If someone comes to you and they are angry or upset, then it is essential that you remain calm. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, it is important that you do not do anything to make it worse. Leaders must work on becoming emotionally and spiritually mature individuals. This means leaders must continually examine themselves. It means leaders need to be practicing spiritual disciplines on a regular basis. If you are going to help someone with a spiritual issue, then you must know something about spirituality. If you are going to speak about prayer, fasting, study, or meditation, then you need to have practiced these disciplines. You must be ready to share your experiences with those who need help, and you must be prepared for the attacks the enemy will send your way.

Leaders Must Lead By Example – There will be times when a leader will need to delegate certain duties, but a leader must be willing to get his or her hands dirty. Jesus led by example. The greatest example of this is found in John 13, where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. People respond better to example than they do being told. If you do not lead by example, then you will not be a successful leader. Leading means that you go first. It means that you set an example for others to follow. Leading is more about serving than it is about power or prestige. A leader must not be puffed up. A leader must not have grandiose ideas about himself or herself. A leader must be humble and ready to do what is best for the community. There is no room for selfishness when being a leader. A leader must submit themselves to Jesus and follow in his footsteps, so others will know the way.

Sep
05

newspaper

What Color is Your Church?

Sean Palmer nails race relations within the church. If you read one thing this week, make sure this is it. He writes,

Christians have known for a long time that Sunday morning at 10:00am is the most segregated hour of the week, but curiously, we do, or care, little about it.  In part, we don’t know what to do about race. There is a soothing lie, which we either collectively believe or have fallen under the mass delusion of. That lie? Culture and cultural differences are greater forces than the gospel.

Check out Is Your Church Donald Sterling’s Instagram Dream?

Sound Doctrine

Michael Whitworth tackles the problem of “sound doctrine.” This is a phrase found in Scripture, but some use it as code words to mark anyone who disagrees with them on even the smallest issue. Michael calls us back to the original meaning of this phrase and cautions us to be healthy in all our teaching and behavior. He writes,

At its core, “sound doctrine” simply means “healthy teaching,” i.e. a body of instruction that leads to the full, abundant life Jesus spoke about (John 10:10). Any other form of teaching only steals, kills, and destroys. Too often, I have seen “sound doctrine” steal, kill, and destroy. So it wasn’t too “sound” or healthy after all.

Check out The False Doctrine of Sound Doctrine

Kid President

If you are like me, then you are a fan of kid president and his viral videos. The Christian Chronicle has an outstanding article on the story behind kid president and the couple who chose to adopt him and his sister even though they both had a genetic bone disorder. This article also highlights the power of social media and how can be used as a tool for accomplishing much good.

Check out ‘They Truly Have Unbreakable Spirits’

Victoria Osteen and Telling the Truth

The internet has been abuzz after Victoria Osteen made some outlandish comments concerning worship. Although I completely disagree with what she said, I have refrained from weighing in on the barrage of posts that followed. I agreed with most of what I read, but I’m not sure what good all of it did. When it comes to social media I think it is best to be “slow to speak” about many topics. That being said, I believe Zack Hunt has given us one of the best analysis of the events and what followed. Zack believes the facade is being lifted on American Christianity and he calls us back to the Jesus of the Bible. He writes,

Sure, we’ll quote a few verses, wear a wristband, maybe even a t-shirt, and shout from the heavens that we love Jesus with all our hearts, but when it comes to doing all that turning the other cheek, putting others first, caring for the poor, embracing the marginalized, and loving our enemies rather than bombing them back to the stone age stuff, well, we’d rather not thank you very much.

Check out The New And Refreshing Honesty Of American Christianity (Or Why Victoria Osteen Gives Me Hope)

9.9.2014

If you are looking forward to the big announcement by Apple on Tuesday and would like to know more or see some predictions, my good friend Tyler Brassfield has you covered.

Check out Apple Event Predictions

Debate on Calvinism

Christianity Today recently hosted a debate on Calvinism. It is well worth your time. All the participants were kind and civil in their discourse. I thought Brian Zahnd did an exceptional job of pointing out some of the flaws within Calvinism.

Part 1

Part 2

Sean Rowe

I’ve been enjoying Sean Rowe’s latest album which is streaming now over at NPR. I love this cover he does of Bruce Springsteen’s The River.

 

Sep
04

red-flower

Goodness, truth, and beauty all come from God. He is the source of all three. Out of these three subjects, beauty is the most neglected. It has been ignored by many Christians and it has often been distorted by the world. Beauty is important. It attracts. We are drawn to what is beautiful. It is important that Christians recapture the beauty of God and share it with the world.

What is beauty? Beauty is many things. We see beauty in God’s good creation. We get glimpses of the Creator by looking at the creation. It is easy to identify this beauty because it is so magnificent. It is almost impossible to miss. No one can deny the beauty of the Rocky Mountains or a perfect sunset. This beauty should wet our appetite and cause us to seek out the One responsible for it all.

Sadly, many will see physical beauty and stop there. Some may even obsess over physical beauty and begin to worship it instead of God. Some may mistake God for nature instead of seeing him as the Creator of all things. Others may lust after physical beauty rather than appreciate it for what it is.

When we think of beauty, we often only think of physical beauty, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, physical beauty has the potential of fading. The prophet Isaiah writes, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8). There is beauty in the things of God. There is beauty in God’s love for his people. There is beauty in the grace and mercy of God. There is beauty in the cross. We must reflect on these things and discover the beauty of the gospel. We will never grow tired of this beauty. It will never fade. This is the beauty that will save the world.

When looking for a spouse, some will only look at physical beauty. They will seek out the perfect physical specimen and never get to know the person whom they plan to spend the rest of their life with. It is very likely that their marriage will not last. Physical beauty comes from God. Physical beauty is good, but it should draw us deeper into the things of God. Marriages that often last are when two people identify the beauty of love, compassion, self-sacrifice, and grace within each other. This beauty remains through the ages. It is important that we not only pay attention to what God has done, but also who he is. We must come to know the beauty of God’s character. When we see the beauty of God we will understand that everything else is a small sliver of what we have found in God.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Aug
26

heaven

Where do we go when we die? This is a question we are intrigued by. Even people who are not religious are interested in this question. In 2010 Clint Eastwood directed a movie entitled Hereafter. The film was about the afterlife but the focus was more on psychic powers rather than religion.

The question of where we go when we die draws a lot of interest, but it is not an easy question to answer. There is not a definitive passage on this one subject, but instead various passages have to be strung together in a systematic way in order to arrive at an answer. This question is not as important as resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-34) or the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21-22). Whatever conclusion we come to, we should be careful about binding it on others. Instead, we should always keep an open mind and seek to have conversations that edify one another.

We need to keep in mind that this question addresses events prior to the return of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead. The return of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, and the new heavens and new earth are events that are clearly taught in Scripture. What happens when we die is not a question about where we will spend eternity. It is a question about where we will be until Jesus returns and we receive a resurrected body.

Three Views

Three answers have typically been given to the question of where do we go when we die. People who hold these three different views all use Scripture to explain their position.

State of Unconsciousness/Soul Sleeping – This is the belief that when a person dies, they are dead. They go to sleep and they are unaware of anything until Jesus returns and then they are awakened from the dead. They point to the many passages in the Bible where the dead are described as being asleep. (See 1 Sam. 28 esp. vs. 15)

The problem I have with this view is that it is never fully described in Scripture, and it relies heavily on the assumption that the word “asleep” is literal and not just a figure of speech. People often say nowadays that a person has “passed away”, but no one means that they have literally “passed away.” It is a figure of speech. To fall asleep in Scripture seems to me to be a figure of speech and not a literal description of what happens to people when they die.

Hades – This is the belief that when a person dies they go to a waiting place called Hades. This word is found in the New Testament and seems to correlate to the Old Testament term Sheol. Although, the view of what happens to a person when they die in the Old Testament is very sketchy. Sheol is never described in positive terms. It is a place where people do not want to go. The most vivid description of Hades is found in Luke 16:19-31. This is the story of the rich man and Lazarus.

The problem I have with this view is that a great emphasis is placed on Luke 16:19-31 above other Scriptures. It is argued that this is a true account that literally happened and that the purpose of this story is to explain the afterlife. Luke 16:19-31 reads more like a parable than a real life story. It is found among other parables (Luke 15; 16:1-13). The purpose of the story is not to explain the afterlife, but to teach about riches and how we treat others in need (Luke 16:14). This issue of wealth is a theme that repeatedly shows up in the Gospel of Luke. The question also needs to be asked, “Where did this view of Hades originate from?” It is not found anywhere else in Scripture, nor does it seem to originate with Jesus. It was a traditional Jewish view that was held prior to Jesus. None of this negates that there ever existed a place called Hades and that people went there. We know that Jesus died and went to Hades (Acts 2:27). However, I would be leery to place all my bets on one passage, when there are others that also speak of what happens to a person after they die.

Heaven –  This is perhaps the most common view held by Christians (This does not prove it is right). It is the view that when people die they go to heaven to be with the Lord. This is the view I will argue for in the rest of this post.

Five Clues

Clue #1

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:54-60)

The stoning of Stephen does not answer the question for us, but it does offer some helpful clues. As Stephen is about to die, he looks up and he sees Heaven. Stephen says, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” As he is looking up and being stoned to death he prays, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” I will admit that all these events are things that happen just prior to his death and as he is dying. We are never told what happens to Stephen after he is dead, but what we have leads us to believe that Stephen’s spirit went to be with the Lord in Heaven.

Clue #2

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Cor. 5:6-8)

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Philippians 1:21-24)

Again, these passages do not answer the question for us, but they do give us something solid that we can put our hope in. Whatever happens to us when we die, we will be with Jesus. This is Paul’s hope! He longs to “depart and be with Christ.” He “would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Where is the Lord? He is at the right hand of the Father in Heaven.

Clue #3

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thess. 4:13-18)

This is perhaps the most famous passage about what happens when we die. Paul wrote this to try and comfort the Thessalonians who were wondering about these things. It says that “God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” Later Paul writes, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with THEM in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” Jesus is coming back and he is bringing those who are dead with him. Where are the dead? This passage never answers that, but the most likely assumption is Heaven. Jesus is in Heaven. This is where he is coming from. We are never told that he goes to Hades or some other place where the sleeping dead are waiting. The only two places we can absolutely identify in this passage are Heaven and Earth.

Clue #4

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Heb. 12:1)

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Heb. 12:18-24)

I am indebted to John Mark Hicks for this clue and would encourage you to read what he has to say about this passage (See Witnesses in the Presence of God). Hebrews 11 is about the faithful who are now dead. How are they described in Hebrews 12:1? As a “cloud of witnesses.” This does not sound like they are unconscious. Later in the chapter we are given an even better clue. Hebrews 12:18-24 is a passage contrasting Old Testament worship with New Testament worship. The author of Hebrews is explaining why they should not go back to the way they used to worship. His main argument is that worship under the new covenant takes place in the presence of Heaven. When we worship we are in the presence of “God”, “Jesus”, “the heavenly Jerusalem”, “innumerable angels”, and to “the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” The author of Hebrews describes Heaven and in Heaven are “the spirits of the righteous made perfect”. This is the “cloud of witnesses”. This is Abraham, Moses, Gideon, David, and many more.

Clue #5

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:9-10)

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

“Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. (Rev. 7:9-15)

I saved the best clue for last. Revelation is a book written to comfort Christians who were being persecuted and who had lost loved ones. The Christians John is writing to had family members and friends who had died. This is part of the reason for writing this book. In Rev. 6:9-10 John sees a vision of martyrs who are now in Heaven crying out to the Lord. In Rev. 7:9-15 John sees Christians who have remained faithful to God throughout the tribulation and they are now “before the throne of God.” Would John present a picture of Christians who had been martyred in heaven, if this were not so? He is writing to their loved ones. He is striving to comfort grieving family members. Is John giving them false hope? I don’t believe so. I believe John is presenting an accurate picture of where the dead in Christ now are.

Aug
25

airline-weight-tag 

The following links are posts on labels and why they often do more harm than good.

The Ambiguity of Labels by Ben Williams

Those Unhelpful Labels by K. Rex Butts

Labels Hurt by John Dobbs

Labels and Lies by Pita Horne

The Tower of Label by Johnny Bond

What Label Would Jesus Choose by Scott Elliott

The Problem With Liberal and Conservative Labels by Scott Elliott

Labels, labels, labels by Tim Archer

Aug
21

school

Father of heaven and earth and all creation, I praise your holy and glorious name. I thank you for the privilege of learning. You have filled this world with things too wonderful to comprehend. You are the source of all goodness, beauty, and truth. I am amazed by the little I have come to know and understand. The design of your creation, the beauty of language and words, and the intricacies of the human body take my breath away. I give you glory for being the author of all that I have come to learn.

God above, I thank you for teachers, educators, school nurses, secretaries, principals, and the many others who have dedicated their lives to teaching others. I know that this is not an easy job, and the people who have chosen this profession are not paid what they should be paid. Thankfully, the teachers I know understand that their reward is not in a paycheck or any benefits they might receive. The teachers I know understand their position as a calling rather than a job. They understand the importance of making a difference in the lives of young people. I thank you for these special people.

Lord, you know how precious children are. You understand what it is like to send your child off to a place where they may encounter trouble or pain. I pray for our children. I pray that you keep them safe. I pray that they will make good decisions and be a light to others in their school. I take comfort in knowing that you are with them, even when their parents are not.

Be with those parents who are anxious or nervous. Calm their nerves. Grant them peace. Help all parents to be an encouragement to teachers, and a good example to their children. Give them patience in troubling times. Provide them strength when they are tired from work and they must come home and help their children with schoolwork. More than anything else, I pray all parents will live like Jesus and show Jesus to their children through their actions, words and behavior. The ways of Jesus is the most important education anyone will ever receive. May we all be educated in these ways and come to know Jesus more. I pray all this in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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