Heaven

What Will Heaven Be Like?

How do you picture heaven? Do you imagine a place full of white, fluffy clouds, harps, and snow-white robes? Do you wonder if you will get bored floating around in this ethereal place for the rest of eternity? I know these were some of my thoughts before God, through His Word, started to slowly open my eyes to the reality of what’s ahead for all those who trust in Christ as their Savior.

It was “nutshelled” for me yesterday when I went to hear my brother, Pastor Dean Good, as a guest speaker at a Bible Study in my parents’ community. His topic was heaven and it was very insightful. He gave me permission to share here today. (The points will all be his but what is written will be my own expansion of those points, much of it drawn from what he shared but put into my own words.)

We have to come to grips with the fact that life is short. Dean shared his own story about losing his wife after twenty short years. Many of you will remember that happening, as I shared about it here on the blog. But he also reminded us that death will happen to everyone. We always act so surprised and, yet, everybody dies. And the minute you die nothing we fretted or stewed over or strove for on this old earth matters a bit. Only one thing matters: Do you know Jesus Christ?

If we can say yes, we definitely do know Christ, then death should not be something we fear because we know with certainty where we are going.

But many of us still feel uncertain and nervous because we can’t really know what it’s like. Well, that’s true. The Bible doesn’t tell us too much about heaven. My husband has often said over the past two years that we probably have no idea how awesome heaven is. In fact, if we realized what is ahead, we probably wouldn’t want to stay on earth. I love this verse that expands on this thought–

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  I Corinthians 2:9

And so we know that heaven will be incredibly awesome! From this passage and others. Today, we will specifically look at Revelation 21:1-8 in our efforts to understand a bit more what heaven will be like and who will be there.

First, let’s see how heaven is described.

All things will be new. The old will have passed away and all things will be new (Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17f; 2 Peter 3:13)

It will be a physical place. We will walk around and eat. There will be economies, vineyards, governments. We won’t be hanging around bored somewhere in the clouds (see the end of Isaiah 65 for just one evidence of this).

The New Jerusalem will be a holy city. It is hard to think of a city that is perfectly holy. Since the beginning of time, cities have seemed to be where sin and wickedness congregate. Corruption, tyranny, prostitution, gambling, human trafficking, the selling of illegal substances, and crime often begin and flourish in cities.

But this will be a city without evil. It will be perfect with no sin or corruption of any kind. Isn’t that so hard to imagine? It will not only be beautiful but it will be perfectly safe.

The New Heaven will also be perfect. No presence of sin, no more curse, no death, no sorrow or tears or pain. We will have no fear because there won’t be anything to fear. Can you even imagine??

Here on earth we sometimes expect perfection but why? Why do we expect things to go according to our plans when we live on a fallen, sinful earth? But in heaven, we will be able to expect (and we will receive!) perfection. That’s actually hard to comprehend, isn’t it?

Second, let’s look at the certainty of Heaven.

Revelation 21:5-7 says this–

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said [b]to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It[c] is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes [d]shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

Notice the words “for these words are true and faithful.”

Last night, my husband and I watched another couple of episodes of the series Against All Odds (link below). It is the story of the birth and life of modern day Israel. Watching that makes it clear that Israel is only there for one reason: God has ordained it. In fact, God had promised it in His Word long ago. This reminded me how true and everlasting God’s promises are. Which reminded me of how true God’s Word is.

God will fulfill His promises and His words are true and faithful.

Which leads to the final and third point: Who will be in heaven?

If God’s Word is true regarding Israel; If His prophecies have come true at the rate of 100% throughout history; If He is truly faithful–well, then we know that what He says about who will be in heaven is absolutely true, as well.

Verse 7 says that those who thirst for living water will be given the fountain of life. Those who have repented and trusted Christ as their Savior are the only ones who may enter. The evidence of their salvation are their good works but that is not the means for their ticket to enter. Only those who realize that they are utterly destitute but for the atoning work of Christ will enter heaven.

Verse 8 of Revelation 21 tells us who won’t be there. But that is only if they continue in these sins. Christ’s sacrifice has wholly covered these sins by His blood if we but repent and turn to Him! It is not too late to submit our rebellious heart to the One, True God who longs that no man perish but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

I know that this is a tough truth for so many of you who have loved ones who just don’t seem to get salvation. It is so tempting to “save” those who are living in sin who may have made a “decision for Christ” as a kid. But, as Dean has said–there will be many who made a “decision for Christ” who won’t be in heaven. The Bible is so very clear that true salvation yields fruit. This is throughout scripture: Those who are saved desire to serve and obey Christ. It is a hard truth to face and it costs much. But that doesn’t change that it is true.

This truth should compel us to share the Gospel and challenge our status-quo self-absorbed loved ones who think they are going to heaven. While we can’t know if any soul is truly saved (only God knows this), we can and should earnestly pray and have the hard discussions.

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As we move into these last days, it is hard to imagine that anyone can’t see that what is happening is of biblical significance. But, as I told my husband last night, if someone can ignore the true miracle of Israel’s rebirth, then I guess they can ignore anything. When Israel became a nation, the final hour of this age began. While we should never set specific dates, it seems foolish to live as if everything will return to normal. We are so obviously in the last days. Heaven is closer than ever for those who love God!

And with this recognition should come a deep burden to share the Gospel. Heaven is a wonderful place. And those who are saved will go there. But Revelation 21 says that those who aren’t saved–those who insist on rebelling against God and living in sin–will go to hell–

 But the cowardly, [e]unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

I don’t especially like this doctrine and I can see why people try to reason it away. But it’s there. Not only in Revelation 21 but all throughout scripture. May we remember this as we seek to reach the lost and, particularly, those who think they are saved but may not be.

Heaven will be a wonderful place for believers. Of that we can be sure. While we may not know a lot, we know enough. May we passionately share the Gospel so that more people can experience this amazing wonderful place. But, more importantly, that they may avoid an eternity in hell.

 

 

*Against All Odds is currently free (with ads) on Tubi. Find it here. I highly recommend!

 

 

Just Traveling Through

Imagine you are in a small foreign country on a long-term mission trip. The country might be in Asia or Africa or perhaps you are on an island nation in the South Pacific. Wherever it is, while you are there serving the Lord the country goes to war. You are stuck there. There is no way to escape the carnage you see around you. And this isn’t just any war. This is a civil war that has divided the nation in half.

Do you pick a side? I guess it depends how much you have invested there and if you plan on returning permanently. If you are only there for a few months or a year, you probably stay pretty neutral. There is no reason to be involved. This country is not your home. However, you do stand strongly for life and do what you can to help save lives as well as minister to the needs of the hurting around you.

How you respond in a country that is not your own is probably very different than how you would respond in a country that is your own.

I’ve actually never had that happen to me and I doubt you have, either. But maybe it’s happening to us right now. To all of us, probably no matter where we live. Oh, we may not be in an all-out civil war, but we are in a war, nonetheless. It’s a war of philosophies. The competing philosophies are in utter opposition to one another. It’s especially bad here in the states.

I was thinking on this the other day while I was meditating on I Peter 2:11. This is one of my memory verses from a year or two ago that came up for review. (One of the reasons I love memorizing verses is because of the ability to meditate on the memorized verses in the car or when you are in bed at night.) Here is what it says in the NKJV–

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,

We won’t dwell on the end of the verse today (although it, too, has been the cause of much personal meditation). Today I want to focus on what Peter calls us followers of Christ: Sojourners and Pilgrims.

Let’s take a look at the definitions of these two words–

Sojourner–A person who lives somewhere temporarily

Pilgrim–A traveler or wanderer; especially in a foreign place

Now Peter uses these two words to describe believers. Why does he do this? Why does he feel the need to write down both words? Of course we can’t know for sure, but I do find myself wondering if God, moving Peter to write this, knew how easily it would be for us to set down deep deep roots in this world.

I don’t know about you but one of the greatest lessons this past year and half has taught me has been that very thing. I didn’t think I was so invested in this world, but I found out that I was invested far more than I thought. That the roots of love for the things of this world and for the life that I never thought would change ran deep.

As I am pulling up each root one by one, it’s a rather painful process. But this verse has helped me. It has reminded me that I am no longer a citizen of this world but belong to an everlasting Kingdom. This is just my temporary home.

We need to remember this as we face the uncertain days ahead but I also want to consider this fact in light of all that is swirling around us and just take an honest look at what’s going on and why we must not pick sides unless it is clearly biblical in scope.

There are many divides in our nations. Here in the U.S. it is the divide between the V’s and the unV’s. It’s the divide between the socialists and the capitalists. It’s the divide between the pro-death and the pro-life. And so many more. Sadly, this country has been split in what feels like a thousand different ways.

But we have to be so very careful not to get too involved. We are not citizens of this world. I know this message won’t sit well with some of you. You believe that you are here to bring change to this world. You want to make it a better place. You may even believe it is God’s mandate for us to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. Or perhaps you believe that we can still stop the madness that is happening. That if enough of us just come together to fight this, we can make a difference.

So let me address these two viewpoints briefly.

First, the Bible never teaches that we are to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. There is a real push in several “Christian” movements to popularize this inaccuracy and it’s just not true. There is no biblical mandate to prepare the earth for God. None whatsoever. This is probably worth a whole post, in and of itself, and has, in fact, been the subject of several books. If you would like to read more on this, I recommend Alva McClain’s The Greatness of the Kingdom or Andy Wood’s The Coming Kingdom.

Second, not only are we not told to bring God’s Kingdom to earth but we are clearly told that, in the last days, the world will grow more wicked. There are many signs of the last days that we are told to look for in the books of Daniel, the minor prophets, Matthew, I Timothy, I&II Thessalonians, Jude, and Revelation that show us what to expect. (There are other books, too, but these are the main ones that come to mind and are a good place to start for any student of prophecy.)

At the end of the age, we are clearly to expect lawlessness, natural disasters, wars, false christs, certain things in the middle east, and a setting up of the beast system. That’s just a few of the things that we can expect. There are so many more. And, dare I say, every one of these things we are told to expect is beginning to take shape before our eyes in a way never seen on this earth before? A serious student of Bible prophecy recognizes that we must be close to the end. A wise person will never make predictions on dates or time frames, but we are clearly approaching the end of this age.

So what does that mean for us? I think it means that, while we certainly work together to improve situations in our churches, our families, our places of employment, our schools, and any other opportunities we are given, we don’t expect to fix the world. We don’t expect that we can push the snowball back up the hill (so to speak). While we may win small victories and rejoice over them, our expectations should not be shattered when this world continues on its collision course to God’s final years of wrath on this earth called the Great Tribulation.

One final thing that is critically important is the nature of both sides of this current “war” we are in in our nation. Listen closely to how each side talks about God. One side is very clearly going against Him. It’s easy to spot their rebellion against Him and His set laws. But I’d like to submit to you that the other side is doing the same thing, in just a much more subtle way.

Listen closely to the language of the other side. The new age phrases and notions are pretty easy to spot once you know what to look for. Both sides are rotten to the core and the one side may be more dangerous, simply due to its deceptive nature. Be. So. Careful.

If we are sojourners and pilgrims (and we are!) then let’s live like we are these things. May we remember that we are on this earth for just a short time. This world is not our home. Let’s rise up to the opportunities that God gives us to serve and minister in these dark, dreary days but let’s not get too involved in the sides of it. Neither side is “God’s side”.

And there are many opportunities, aren’t there? Practically speaking, what are some ways we can honor God and bless others during this time? A few things come to mind–

1) We can talk to others about our permanent home with enthusiasm and joy (in other words, share the Gospel often and freely!); 2) We can send cards and letters and emails and texts of encouragement; 3) We can face our job losses, our financial setbacks, our health crises, and other trials with a peace the world can’t know but longs for; 4) We can be a light in our churches and work places and schools, pointing others to God and His Word; 5) We can save lives by getting the truth out there; 6) We can join with others in the crucial battles that are taking place in our work places and schools and communities; 7) We can be instruments of God’s peace, joy, and love in this ugly world we find ourselves in.

May we believers step up boldly and courageously to the unique opportunities God gives to each one of us. For such a time as this! But, in the process of stepping up, let’s remember that this world is not our home. We are just traveling through.

 

 

The Setting Sun (and a message of hope!)

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We are finally at the prophets in our Bible Reading Challenge. These are the books that gave me the greatest challenge when I was reading through the Bible last year. So far we have read Jonah, Amos, Hosea, and now we are in Isaiah. Prophets are what God used to speak to His people before Christ came to the earth. I do love seeing where each prophet fits chronologically. Isn’t it helpful to see what was going on in Israel when they prophesied? The hearts of Israel and Judah were turned far, far from God. They had sacrificed their relationship with the living God to prostitute themselves with the gods of the pagans. The books of the Old Testament prophets make so much more sense now.

But the prophets can be very hard to read. There are so many predictions of death and destruction and exile. God had had enough and judgment was coming.

And it did come. The sun was setting–at least temporarily–on God’s special people. They had chosen to worship idols and there were grave consequences for this.

The prophets weren’t a bunch of wild, long-haired guys waving their hands all akimbo as they preached to no one in the wilderness. They were real men with real messages from God. They took a lot of heat (and some even paid with their lives) to present God’s messages to the people.

I find myself wondering what it was really like in Israel when the prophets were giving their messages? Were there a faithful few? A remnant who still worshiped the true God? Or was it like in the days of Noah, when only Noah and his family were found faithful?

Unfortunately, if there was a remnant, those faithful few experienced the same judgment that the unrepentant did. They were exiled, they were attacked, they were in the land when judgment hit.

Isn’t this taking on extra meaning, as we enter the strange, new world that America has become? The faithful are shrinking quickly. Those who stand for the Truth are becoming smaller in number, as most fall away through the deception that is so rampant in this land. And while we don’t have prophets speaking to us, we do have God’s Word to show us what is to come. (By the way, if you have never done it, do a study sometime on the fulfilled prophecies of the Word of God–it will remove any traces of doubt you may have about the Bible).

So the discouraging message is that, if the Lord tarries, we will experience persecution against the church and we will also experience the judgment of the wicked. The sun is setting on America and her days are most likely numbered (barring a miracle–which is possible, of course!)

Many of us have been thinking about this in the back of our minds a lot in these past few years, given what’s been going on in America.

But there is also an encouraging message. If we experience persecution and if we are swept into the coming judgment, we are still God’s people. He will not desert us. I was reading the other day in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs of the horrendous atrocities that the Catholic church committed against true believers during the Spanish Inquisition. Torture that we can’t even fathom. And, yet, people sang during their gruesome deaths. They sang!

You may think why read of such terrible things? I read them because I want to be encouraged by their strong faith during such terrible persecution. I read because it strengthens my faith. God is real. And He will not desert us. If we receive a martyr’s death, we will receive a martyr’s crown.

Be not discouraged. He is faithful and will give His people the right amount of grace at just the right time.

I know this is easy to write, but as things start heating up, it will get harder and harder. Are we ready? How do we get ready?

I was talking with a friend the other day and she expressed her desire to memorize scripture because she just wonders how long we will be able to carry our Bibles freely. This is a great way to prepare for what is coming! Memorizing scripture and some of the great hymns of the faith rich with doctrine is a great place to start.

But even as we try to prepare our hearts and minds for what is coming, we can’t stop living our lives now. We can’t spend our hours in fear and worry of what is to come.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

We are in the care of the great God of the universe. We need not live in fear. No matter how this thing ends, we have so much to look forward to– like all of eternity!

So live joyfully! Extend love and grace freely! Share the gospel! And never, ever cower in fear! For we are told in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Now let’s go live these words!

 

The Problem with Predictions

snow

It was 2:30am when my husband got home last night. Snow does that to his schedule. The problem with yesterday is that this one wasn’t really predicted. At least not in the way it turned out.

The predictions started out by calling for 1-3″ and then turning to rain with rising temps. A couple of hours later it was supposed to be less than 1″ before changing over. What ended up happening was over 3″ followed by some freezing rain and sleet with temperatures that never did really rise above the freezing mark.

That changes everything for a snow removal guy.

The night before this snow event, my husband was scanning through all of the weather forecasts — on tv, online, and using apps on his iPhone, trying to discern which one was correct. He usually goes with the one that is most popular. After all, if three or four weather forecasters are saying the same thing, they must be right, right?

Wrong.

Because no one really knows.

I often have to laugh about weather forecasts. Doesn’t it sometimes seem as if God is showing us how really out of control we still are? We are busy building our modern day technological Tower of Babel and He keeps knocking it down. We will never reach Him–at least not in that way.

But eventually, if you watch a lot of weather forecasts, you realize that they really are only educated guesses about what a certain weather pattern is going to do.

Because no one really knows.

The same could be said of what happens after we die. Where do we go?

There are a lot of theories about this. Some more popular than others. The most popular — at least here in the states is that we all go to heaven. That is, by far, the most pleasant option, isn’t it?

But the problem with predictions is that–

No one really knows.

And there’s another, much bigger, problem–

Truth is rarely found in the majority.

So how do we know what’s coming? What should we base it on?

As you probably already know, I base my answers on a Book. God’s Book. Sure, I don’t always like everything I read there. I would love to believe in a world where heaven is the final resting place for everyone and love is all that matters. But if that’s not the Truth, then it doesn’t really matter what I believe, does it?

Just because I believe it doesn’t make it true. I have to confess that this view on truth is really one of the strangest phenomenons in today’s world. Well, if you believe it, then it’s true for you. No, it isn’t! Just because you believe 2+2=5 doesn’t make it true. (Sometimes when I listen to people talk about truth I almost feel like I’ve landed in a parallel universe. This surely can’t be the same world I grew up in? It has changed that much.)

Truth isn’t subjective. It never has been and it never will be. What is true is true and what is false is false. You can be surrounded by a whole world telling you it doesn’t matter what you believe, but the fact remains that it absolutely does matter what you believe.

So why the Bible? How do I know that the Bible is true?

I could give you a lot of reasons (and will list a few articles after this post to get you thinking) but at the end of the day, I have chosen to believe that the Bible is God’s Word. Period. And, oh, how it has been confirmed for me in a myriad of ways– from how I see the end times scene coming together to how I’ve seen Him work in my life and in lives around me. It all makes so much sense.

From this, I base my whole belief system with confidence. It doesn’t really matter what other people think or believe, because I am standing on the Word of God. People can ridicule and mock me, but I cling to the Bible. I am standing on a foundation that will not move. As that old, beloved, hymn says–

 

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

 

In the end, it really just doesn’t matter what you believe or what I believe, does it? It doesn’t matter what has been predicted or what the majority says. The only thing left will be the Truth.

And that changes everything for all of us.

 

 

Here are some helpful and reliable resources–

How Do We Know that the Bible Is True?

How Do You Prove the Bible is True?

What evidence is there that the Bible is in fact God’s Word?

Can You Prove the Bible is True?

What must I do to be saved?

 

 

Entering the Gates

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Our family had the wonderful privilege of visiting Walt Disney World last week. Our family, along with my parents, had gone nine years ago when the kids were just the perfect age and had had a blast. We decided to go one last time all of us together (plus one son-in-law). We did so, realizing that it was probably the last time we would all be there together ever again. I shared a post on my Growing4Life Facebook page last night that I wrote a couple of years ago. The post was a good reminder, coming off of a trip that was so full of reminders of the past. We all enjoyed remembering and reminiscing together. And, as is often the case when I travel, I came away with some fresh inspiration for the blog.

We decided to go to three of the four parks. As we entered the first park, they asked you to tap your ticket (which looked like a credit card with a Disney character on it) on a little machine with mouse ears on it and then to give your fingerprint on a specially designed pad right beside it. When my one daughter asked if she had to give her fingerprint, the lady told her she wouldn’t be allowed in the parks without it. Hmmm. I guess that is how they keep people from switching tickets. What a world we live in now.

I noticed that only people with tickets gained entry into the parks.

Some people had Mickey Mouse backpacks or had their feet covered with Mickey shoes, but they were still not allowed in unless they had their ticket and the proper fingerprint to go with it. Some people were covered in Mickey apparel from head to toe or were dressed as Disney princesses or heroes, but they were still not allowed in without that ticket and fingerprint.

Don’t you think that is just awful? Shouldn’t they have allowed entry into the parks for anyone that claimed to be a Disney fan? After all, wouldn’t that be the kind and loving thing to do?

This made me think of the verses in Matthew 7:21-23. These people are described as huge “God fans”. They have given themselves the label of Christian and go around doing good works in the name of the Lord. And yet, in the end, they have no ticket for heaven.

We can look as good and Christian as we can possibly look, we can be baptized in a good church, and we can do many good works “for Jesus”, but none of it will mean anything when we get to the gates of heaven if we haven’t repented of our sins and accepted God’s gift of salvation through His Son’s death and resurrection. All of those good works and professions and baptisms will mean nothing.

We are told so clearly in John 14:6 that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. No one.

There was no possible way for me to enter a Disney park without that expensive ticket. Once I tapped that ticket on that little machine and placed my finger on that special pad, I could enter the park and enjoy the day. The same is true for heaven– only our ticket for heaven is free! Jesus paid the price with His very life. We can be reconciled to God but only through Jesus Christ. This is written in His Word.

If you are relying on your good works to get you into heaven, I encourage you to read the gospel of John. If you believe that God will accept anyone into heaven, as long as they have a vague belief in Him or a higher power, I encourage you to read the gospel of John. If you believe that a loving God would never send people to hell, then I encourage you to read the gospel of John.

Because, in the end, it doesn’t really even matter what we think. It only matters what God says, which is what we find in His Word. I challenge you to really read and study it with a heart truly desiring to know the Truth and a willingness to obey it. You will not go away unchanged.

 

Alone in the Store

The actual rainbow I saw as I came out of the store
The actual rainbow I saw as I came out of the store

The sky grew darker and darker. Billows of black clouds rolled above my head. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t raining yet. I nervously drove towards the grocery store, wishing I had just stayed home. (I am pretty sure that the tornado that ripped through the development just down the road almost ten years ago is still affecting my nerves when the sky grows dark!) But I was almost there already, so I wasn’t going back home now.

The leaden sky and heaviness in the air made it very clear that the storm was approaching quickly and I saw people scurrying around as I got out of my car. I asked myself again: What exactly am I doing out in this?

I grabbed a cart and decided that I was probably going to need to wait this out in the store. I really wanted to be at home, but I wasn’t and so I decided I just needed to make the best of it.

Just as I went inside and made my way to the produce aisle, I heard the deluge begin on the roof above me. The fact that the wind and rain could be heard so loudly inside a building with hardly any windows was actually a little scary. But I continued to shop.

The store at this time was abuzz with activity. Lots of people traveling hurriedly among the aisles and cashiers busily checking out customers. But about ten minutes later, I realized something. I was the only customer. Well, maybe not the only one, but I didn’t see another one as I traveled the aisles and the store had grown deadly silent aside from a few excited store employees moving about as they discussed a leak in the back of the store.

What was I missing?

Why had everyone gone out in the pouring rain instead of waiting it out in the store? I have to confess that about that time I started wondering if there was a tornado warning or something that I should know about. I called my daughter and texted my husband. All was okay at home. I breathed a sigh of relief. And then I started imagining the shelves caving in on me when the dreaded tornado blew through (it’s one of the downfalls of being a writer–this vivid imagination!) My eyes started searching the store — where would I be the safest? And then I just laughed at myself. There certainly wasn’t much I could do about it, so I just kept shopping, taking my good old time, because I certainly wasn’t going to venture outside in such weather. (A few days later I found out that there was indeed a tornado warning!)

About the time I was ready to check-out, I heard one of the cashiers exclaim to her co-worker, “It looks like the sun is out!” And then, “there’s a rainbow!”

I breathed a sigh of relief and checked out as hurriedly as I could. I had spent enough time in the grocery store for one day!

As I pushed my cart outside, there was indeed a rainbow, vivid in its colors, along with a fainter, second rainbow just above it. It was beautiful!

I can’t help but relate this experience to how I feel as a biblical Christian in the current culture. The storm is upon us and with each new heresy, tons of Christians are jumping ship–

There’s no hell? Yes, I like that idea. And there goes several thousand.

You can be gay and be a Christian, too? Yes, that satisfies my flesh and my thinking just fine. And there goes several thousand more.

Christianity is based more on my experience and how I feel than on what God’s Word says? Oh that feels real good. And off go a great big bunch.

God didn’t create the world in seven literal days? Well, whatever the secular scientists say must be right. And we lose many more.

You only have to say a prayer asking Jesus into your heart and then can continue to live however you want? Heaven and my flesh, too? Perfect. And there goes several hundred thousand.

Until those of us who are adhering and obeying God’s Word in its totality feel completely and utterly alone in the “store” wondering if we are missing something? Of course, many who are jumping ship were never believers in the first place, but what puzzles most of us is why fellow believers are venturing out into such a relentless and severe storm of demoralizing confusion? Is there something we don’t know?

I think what we do know is that, in the end, many will be deceived. Many will lose their love for truth and instead want their ears tickled with pleasing fancies and fables (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Matthew 24:24).

But I am committed to “staying in the store” no matter what weather blows outside because I am safest there (Psalm 91:1-3). Would you consider staying here with me? Let’s be the ones that stick together until the end — loving God more than we love ourselves, desiring to please, obey, and glorify Him alone.

There is still a precious remnant who wants to honor the Lord and obey His whole Word. There are still some of us who are sticking to the traditional faith, where whole-hearted repentance of sin, faith in Christ alone for salvation, and a transformed life because of this faith are the defining signs of a genuine believer. There are still a few of us who adhere to the Bible as the literal and inerrant Word of God. We are not alone. Let’s weather the storm together, knowing that when it’s over our reward will be far greater than a beautiful rainbow (James 1:12; I Corinthians 2:9; Romans 8:18).

 

The Beauty of Grace

DSC_0140revWe saw the beautiful cathedral from a distance. It was one of the most beautiful buildings I had ever seen. I was delighted when the bus parked and we could disembark for a look at this amazing piece of architecture up close.

As our team poured from the bus, I noticed many people coming and going from the church. As we walked towards the building, our Costa Rican leader, Raymond, told me a little of its history. Apparently, once each year, there would be a huge celebration in honor of the humble beginnings of the church. He told me that people would come from many miles away, always walking the last mile on their knees. This was part of the ritual expected at this celebration.  In fact, that was part of the tradition of this church at all times — you walked the aisles on your knees.

As if to confirm what he was saying, as we went inside the church, I saw a woman and her small daughter, walking on their knees towards the front of the church.

And I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for God’s grace. I didn’t need to do anything to earn God’s favor. Jesus had taken care of all of that for me. Suddenly, I understood in a new way the inestimable value of this gift.

As we continued on our tour, we walked down a circular walkway to the area where holy water dripped from a pipe or a spring. Around this area many were gathered, anxious to fill a small container of this holy water for healing or special blessing.

And, once again, I was overwhelmed with a grateful heart for God’s grace. I didn’t need any special water for blessing or healing. I knew that God’s Word teaches that we can just go to Him in prayer with our requests and that He hears us (Luke 11:9-13). There was no need for special water, candles lit to saints, or useless prayers said to the human mother of God.

I knew that the beautiful building held within its walls a false religion based on works. A religion where people were chained to works-based righteousness, always hoping that they had done enough good works to earn their way to heaven.

And I was thankful. So thankful. God, in His incredible mercy and grace, had made a way for me — for anyone — to be reconciled to Him. I didn’t deserve it. I knew that. I was the worst of all sinners. I AM the worst of all sinners. And yet, God loved me so much that He offered His Son as a sacrifice for me. As a sacrifice for any who would repent and believe. What amazing grace and love!

And I was dismayed. For there were thousands, if not millions, who still didn’t realize that walking on your knees and praying to humans wasn’t at all necessary to reach heaven (Isaiah 64:6). For Jesus had already paid the price. If we repent and accept this free gift, we are guaranteed a spot in heaven (John 3:16).

Of course, this gift, if we truly understand it, changes and transforms us completely. We are no longer the person we were. Some might perceive us as legalistic or caught up in rules, but we genuine believers know that our choices aren’t based on a set of rules but, instead, out of a heart of love for the precious Savior who gave His life for us (I John 2:3-6, John 14:15, Colossians 3:23-24).

And I understood the beauty of God’s grace in a whole new way. Amazing Grace isn’t just a song. It’s the Truth. And what an incredible Truth it is.

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now I’m found!
Was blind
But now I see!

 

 

Dodging the Land Mines

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The other night we visited with some friends who had spent many years in a foreign country as missionaries. The husband talked about how dangerous his first few years were when he was there as a single missionary. The nationals had warned him of the deadly land mines and bombs that were still part of their daily existence. They cautioned him to beware of every piece of trash, tiny fragment of plastic, or piece of string on the street, asserting that the smallest thing could be a set-up. He would ride his motorbike trying to avoid anything that lay on the road, knowing that he could be blown to smithereens in a heartbeat.

I believe his experience may be likened to the Christian culture we find ourselves in.

It is like we are on a motorbike and everywhere we turn there is danger. We can never take anything at face value, because there may be something deadly beneath the surface.

For instance, I recently saw a Facebook status of a woman who was asking about “hypnobirthing”.  I knew with a prefix like hypno  it was probably not a good thing, so I did a little investigating. I found out that it is the process of self-hypnosis while giving birth. Imagine my surprise when all of the comments below her status were by women who were praising this method and even talked about how close to God they felt during the experience.

But wait a minute! Anything to do with hypnosis should be a problem for a Christian. Any type of hypnosis means giving up self control and putting control of your mind into the hands of another person or being. This practice is in direct opposition to Christianity. And yet here were well-meaning Christians promoting something that threatens a healthy walk with God.

They had unknowingly stepped on a spiritual land mine. Spiritual land mines do not kill us outright. No, they are instead like an insidious poison that seeps into our minds, doing great damage to our spiritual walks. And since we do not realize that we have been poisoned, we will, with well-meaning motives and enthusiasm, often infect others.

Here are a few other instances of spiritual landmines–

~A “Christian” book that completely and totally dismantles the gospel, piece by piece, that I see in the hands of a Christian friend.

~A suggestion to my daughter that she read a book that destroys the image of God as set forth in scripture, also labeled as a “Christian” book.

~Songs that are on the playlist on my Christian radio station that promote anti-biblical, new age themes.

~Statuses of sincere Christians, quoting mystics and false teachers, unaware that these people they admire have tainted and twisted the gospel beyond repair.

~Revered pastors and teachers using a version of the Bible that changes the meaning of entire passages of scripture.

If you are a genuine believer at this moment in time, then you and I are in this dangerous, deadly field of spiritual land mines together. There is no place that is safe, no place we can run and hide. While there may still be a few churches and ministries unaffected by false teaching they become rarer and rarer each day. We have to take every step carefully, always being aware of what we are reading, who we are listening to, and the preachers and authors we are promoting.

We have to be willing to turn away from something that looks promising or exciting or deeply spiritual, if it goes against what is taught in God’s Word.

Of course, as I have said maybe a million times before on this blog, we can only do so if we know God’s Word. We need to keep ourselves immersed in the Bible, studying and memorizing it.

We are in a spiritual war and the battle is growing more intense by the day. We can put our heads in the sand if we want to, but to do so not only puts our own spiritual health in danger, but also the spiritual lives of our families and friends.

Oh, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in a very dangerous era. Worldly Christians will tell you otherwise, but don’t you believe them. We are walking through the land of spiritual landmines. We are not friends with this world. We are on a narrow path. And we are hated. But take heart! This world is not our home! The best is yet to come!

Meanwhile, let’s keep our eyes wide open and take our spiritual steps very cautiously. I Thessalonians 5:21 says it best: Test everything. Hold fast what is good. 

 

 

Baptism ≠ Salvation

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“What?!?” I stared incredulously at my Christian friend. She had just assured another friend of ours that he was definitely going to heaven because he had been baptized. This conversation occurred a very long time ago, by three high school kids trying to sort out life. I didn’t know much, but I did know that you weren’t saved just because you had been baptized.

It’s one of those conversations that sticks in your memory. I remember that we were in gym class during the swim session at the local rec’s pool. I remember the three of us somehow getting around to a conversation about religion, until finally this topic came up. I remember my Christian friend giving this assurance to my other dear friend, even though he didn’t act like a believer, didn’t have any fruit to show he was a believer–why he didn’t even claim to be a believer.

What a lie from Satan to give assurance where there isn’t any.

I was reminded of this incident yesterday, when our pastor gave the perfect analogy. On their wedding day, both the husband and the wife will put a ring on to symbolize their love and fidelity. This ring shows the world that their hearts are taken and unavailable.

But anyone can put on a wedding ring. Nothing stops a lonely, wishful girl from going to the store and buying a wedding ring and putting it on her finger. She can do that and give the appearance that she is married, but does that change the fact that she isn’t?

Nope.

Not at all.

I wish I would have had this analogy all those years ago. It would have helped me explain why baptism is just a symbol of salvation and not an assurance of salvation.

We need to go to God’s Word if we need assurance of our salvation–

Matthew 7

I John 2

James 2

These are just a few chapters and verses (there are many more) of what we will desire if we are truly a believer. Oh, we will mess up and make mistakes often. And, of course, we are all at different stages of growing up in the Lord. But true salvation changes us and our desires. Our hearts will long to please the Savior.  We grieve over our sin. We have a desire to live a holy and righteous life, just as Christ commanded.

Baptism has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Baptism is just an important symbol. It’s a way to tell the world that we have decided to follow Jesus and that we are not ashamed of that decision.

This topic of baptism may not even be part of the modern conversation, anymore. I really don’t know. But, while I do not claim to be a theologian, I do try to align myself with God’s Word in everything I write. And I am quite confident that anyone who studies God’s Word will see the truth about baptism. It’s a symbol, not an assurance.

 

It Will Be Worth It All.

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I derive comfort from these words and thought I would share them with you, as I will find it difficult to write today.  This is a beautiful old hymn that gives hope in the midst of discouragement and darkness.

IT WILL BE WORTH IT ALL

Sometimes the day seems long,
Our trials hard to bear.
We´re tempted to complain,
to murmur and despair.
But Christ will soon appear
to catch his bride away!
All tears forever over
in God’s eternal day!

CHORUS:
It will be worth it all
when we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small
when we see Christ.
One glimpse of his dear face,
all sorrow will erase.
So, bravely run the race
till we see Christ.

At times the sky seems dark,
with not a ray of light;
We’re tossed and driven on,
no human help in sight.
But there is One in heaven,
Who knows our deepest care;
Let Jesus solve your problems,
just go to Him in prayer.

Life’s day will soon be o’re,
all storms forever past;
We’ll cross the great divide
to Glory, safe at last!
We’ll share the joys of heaven:
a harp, a home, a crown;
The tempter will be banished,
We’ll lay our burdens down.

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