‘Heaven Practice’ Begins Now

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We will burst into heaven shouting to everyone, “It was grace that saved us!”

The last few days I’ve been a bit homesick for heaven I suppose. I wonder a lot about what it’s going to be like. I also think about dying. What is going to happen? Will it be painful? Can I opt out?

I also  believe that each will stand there exclusively by God’s grace, and everyone present will all know it.

For many, not understanding this leads to terror. Death for these poor souls is a horrifying idea, and it certainly must be avoided at all costs. But death should not be a fearful thing. I suppose it is like a doorway that leads from one room to the next, but in the next room we will meet Jesus. the Savior of our souls.

Some Christian traditions believe that the angel Michael has been chosen to escort every believer into heaven. Apparently Satan’s attacks intensify at that moment and an archangel is needed for our transition. (I suppose that Satan takes a last chance to try to destroy us.)

I am consoled by the extent of God’s mercy on me. You see, I’ve got this propensity to bollocks up everything I get involved in. It’s highly doubtful my death will be any different. I have to believe that at that moment all will be well; that I will know His ‘super attentiveness.’ God loves me far too much to let me face that moment alone.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

1 Corinthians 15:55

The strong issues of death can’t touch me. I believe there is enough grace to hold on to us while dying. I’m confident and sure of this. I am no longer afraid.

Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” –CS Lewis

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

Psalm 116:15

“The death of one that belongs to the Lord is precious in his sight.”

Psalm 116:15, NCV

 

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The Real Battle

Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.
Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.

2 Samuel 11:1-4, NASB

Where was the real battle being fought? David walks the rooftop and engages the enemy; it was within his own heart. He puts himself right into sin.

Perhaps he couldn’t sleep. It was a warm spring night, and he needed air and to stretch his legs. His troops and his generals were out to war. Maybe he was anxious about how things were progressing. Perhaps he was not where he should be.

Little did he know but he would face his own battle up on his roof.

David was a seasoned veteran; a trained warrior with skill on the battlefield. But he was also king– with kingly perks. He had wives and concubines at his ‘beck and call.’ His “appetites” were sufficiently met. That is the prerogative of kings.

She was naked– and more beautiful than he had ever seen. A servant was near, and he wanted to know more about her. He began to plan how he could have this exceptionally beautiful woman.

She was also the wife of Uriah, one of his elite warriors and one of his “mighty men,” (2 Sam. 23:39).

But he burned for her, and wanted her now. He had lost the battle.

Even kings “reap what they sow,” (Galatians 6:7-8).

“Father, keep us in the battle and protect us from sin. We want to please you. Don’t let us walk in sin and disobedience. Amen.”

[Suggested reading: Proverbs 4]

 

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Working in the Time of Grace

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 “These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”

Matt. 20:12, NIV

Matthew 20 irritates me.  People are working the entire day, and along comes people who have only worked for one hour.  This discrepancy drives the believer nuts.  How in the world could such a thing take place?  It is foolishness to us who insist on a ‘grace of appropriateness.’  We want grace to be fair, recognizing the person who has worked very hard.

The problem is that God is outrageous with His grace and love.  He completely expands us to a point where we must embrace a grace that is completely beyond us.  We have to break down and accept what is available to us.  Grace completely dumps us upside down.

We can only proceed if we accept His definition of Grace.

Those who have labored the least are made equal to those who work the hardest.  This seems incredibly unfair and we revolt against such extravagance.  It strikes us as outrageously unfair.  How can those who worked only an hour receive the exact same amount as those who have labored a full eight?

The miracle of  this shockingly outrageous grace is that we are confronted by a profound freedom.  We basically get brought to the point where we get stripped of these illusions and need to walk out the scripture.  It has the tendency to eliminate the issues that could block us and bring us to a most receptive position.

“But he replied to one of them, ‘My friend, I’m not being unjust to you. Wasn’t our agreement for a silver coin a day? Take your money and go home. It is my wish to give the latecomers as much as I give you. May I not do what I like with what belongs to me? Must you be jealous because I am generous?’

16 “So, many who are the last now will be the first then and the first last.”

Matthew 20:13-16

We must admit that God’s grace reaches out to everyone. 

That He has the deep, deep desire to see that each of us connect with His love.  This is indeed the radicalness of the gospel.  It is outrageous and astonishing.  That He would love us who have hated Him.  Our sense of equity is completely undone.  His grace completely turns us upside down. I think that is a good thing.

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Judas Iscariot, Matthew 27:3-10

This is a chapter from my book, “They Met Jesus: Stories from the Gospels.” Hope you like it!

Chapter 37

Judas Iscariot, Matthew 27:3-10

When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”

5 Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

6 The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.” 7 After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. 8 That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood.9 This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says,

They took the thirty pieces of silver—
the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel,
10 and purchased the potter’s field,
as the Lord directed.”

My name is Judas and I betrayed my Lord. It really had nothing to do with avarice or greed; The money was fine but that isn’t why I turned him in to the authorities. I did what they could not.

Jesus loved his disciples, including me. When he came washing our feet I was humbled and disturbed. But in my mind I knew that Jesus needed an opportunity to become the next ruler of Israel. That was his destiny, and I was going to help him bring it to pass. I would be the kingmaker and Jesus would reward me.

But this washing the feet thing made me doubt his fitness as a king. When he stripped to his underwear I had my doubts. Behaving as a common slave wasn’t in my agenda. It would take extra work to shape him and to deaden such strange behavior. But it would be worth it in the end. If only Jesus would cooperate.

It was said that Satan entered me at this time. I hardly noticed. I know I was filled with excitement. The other disciples would come to my side, and together we would do it. Enough groveling, we were going to rule Israel and even end the Roman occupation. I believed this with all that was in me.

The tricky part was to manipulate Jesus. He must see the opportunity that awaited him. He already was immensely popular among the common man.

My plan was this, after I met with the Pharisees, I would then lead them to the garden where Jesus was staying. The Pharisees insisted on an armed escort in case there was trouble among the disciples. I on the other would give Jesus a kiss to signify that he was the one, it was dark and the torches didn’t give enough light.

When I kissed Jesus on the cheek the soldiers were to arrest him. I assumed he would resist and fight. It was my hope that he would fight. This would be the spark that Jesus needed to take action. When Jesus was taken into custody I assumed that this was the beginning of the revolution to come.

I was wrong. Nothing went as planned. Jesus did not take charge and overthrow the government, As a matter of fact the opposite happened, he was silent and refused to answer most of their questions. I once heard him say, “My kingdom is not of this world.” I should have listened.

I realized too late, that I helped shed innocent blood. I went back to the priests who hired me to give back the silver. They wouldn’t take it back. I threw at their feet and left the temple. I was in a daze and ugly thoughts filled my mind.

Excuse me, but I have a date with the rope.

Lord Jesus, but for the grace of God there go I. Let me be a servant and not a king. Keep me away from foolish thinking, help me to believe in your Gospel just as it is, Amen.

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Is it Wrong to Get Angry with God?

Evangelist Billy Graham

Interview with Dr. Billy Graham

Q: Is it wrong to get angry at God?

I’ve beten through some very hard times recently and I feel like God has let me down. I’d like to get past this, I guess, but right now I can’t help feeling angry at God.

A: The real question is this: Will God get angry at you if you get angry at Him, and refuse to have anything more to do with you?

The answer is “No”! Even when we’re angry at Him, He still loves us and yearns for us to turn to Him for the comfort and encouragement we need. And that’s what I pray you will do.

jonah-sulkingDo you remember the prophet Jonah in the Old Testament? Some have called him “the reluctant prophet,” because he tried to flee when God called him to preach to his enemies. Later (after God sent a large fish to stop his flight), he reluctantly obeyed God and preached to his enemies. To his surprise they repented and turned to God.

He should have rejoiced – but instead “Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry” (Jonah 4:1). Gently God explained to him that He loved even Jonah’s enemies – and so should Jonah. What is the point? Simply this: Jonah was angry at God – but God didn’t reject him. Instead, Jonah needed to learn to trust God, even if he didn’t like what was going on.

Perhaps this is one of the lessons God wants to teach you. Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. But God still loves us; He loves us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to die for us. Put your life into Christ’s hands, and then ask God to help you begin to trust Him, no matter what happens to you.

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 Affectionately known as the “World’s Preacher” for more than 60 years, the Rev. Billy Graham is one of the most influential and respected spiritual leaders of the 20th century. He has been a friend and spiritual advisor to ten American presidents and has preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history — nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories — through various meetings. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts.

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Send your queries to “My Answer,” c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM, or visit the Web site for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:  http://www.billygraham.org.

The Presence Makes the Difference

jesus-paralyticI once was told that depression is the inability to construct a future. Perhaps that is precisely where I’ve come to, this old despair that lies dormant until the conditions are just right— and then it explodes in burst of black dandelions.

For about three weeks, I had experienced being down. Somedays were much worse than others (and some where actually reasonable). I should of been more cautious. Afterall, I have twenty years of battling this old dragon that has been my most potent enemy. I suppose I got a bit arrogant. I know I felt immune.

I laid in bed, unable to get out for days. Obviously this was a concern, but I couldn’t find any strength to speak of. I couldn’t even pray.

 “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Mark 2:1-5

There maybe some who wondered about the sins of this paralyzed man. I believe I may know:

  • There were sins of despair—of God’s goodness.
  • There would’ve been despondency of an unchanging future.
  • And finally, anger at God’s decision to leave him paralyzed and a burden to his family and friends.

That paralyzed man was carried by his friends, and brought into Jesus’ presence. And that is exactly what happened to me. I’ve been astounded by those who carried me. This man had no strength on his own; he was “jello on a mat.” (I don’t mean to be crude or unfeeling).

My own tiredness lingers, I’m struggling to pray. I’m too unfocused, but I’ve been told that comes with the territory with the aftermath of a total depressive meltdown. But I know Jesus. It is His touch that I must have now.

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Our Life in Babylon

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Christians are now smack-dab in “Babylon.” We must live our lives under the auspices of this hostile world-system, and yet stay faithful to our Lord. We must manage ourselves with the same grace as Daniel or Esther.

In Jeremiah 29 there contains an important historical letter that the prophet Jeremiah wrote to those taken into captivity. In it we can absorb much of what is needful for the moment. For people caught in Babylon it becomes a vital document, advising them of what they should now do.

This list comes straight out of Jeremiah 29.

  • First, prepare for the long haul. Be good citizens of your new land, (vv.5-6.)
  • Second, pray for the peace of the nation you’re captive in. (v.7.)
  • Third, don’t be fooled by it’s culture, Discern what is true and what is false. Babylon is full of false gods and worship.
  • Fourth, remember that God has given you “a future and a hope” (v. 11.)
  • Lastly, extend that same discernment to the spiritual understanding of your own past.

These five should be enough to navigate faithfully through hard times in Babylon. We must admit that we’re only “pilgrims and strangers” here. Our citizenship is in heaven where it is secure. By faith we understand this.

As broken believers we are supervised by the Holy Spirit, even in this difficult place, Our souls are shepherded by God, even in Babylon. Our “captivity” is only temporary– it is not a permanent one.

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:13, NKJV

“By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion.”

Psalm 137:1

“She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son.”

1 Peter 5:13

‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’

Revelation 18:10

ybic, Bryan

 

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