An Eternity of Glory

People walking the heaven.

This is the promise which He Himself made to us:  eternal life.  (1st John 2:25)

Eternal life … a promise made by One Who cannot lie to those who have been bought with the blood of the Lamb.  We, the redeemed of God, will never stop living.  Have you ever tried to grasp the scope of that word?  When we are 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 “years old” (so to speak), our lives in the presence of Christ will have just begun.  The zeros will just keep on accumulating.

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.  (1st John 2:17)

The Apostle Paul describes the eternal state as “the ages to come” (Ephesians 2:7).  Not “the age (singular) to come” but “the ages (plural) to come.”  For this word to be in the plural either means that (1) the one age in front of us is so long it will seem like many ages or that (2) the future will actually witness countless “ages.”  Either way, the redeemed are promised a forever-life!

Are you able to wrap your mind around this Truth?  I’m not.  For me, it is like trying to stretch a two-inch piece of string around the planet Jupiter.  I simply cannot fathom eternity.  But should we expect otherwise?  How can a finite mind comprehend the infinite?  Eternal life is a promise that comes from the one, true God Who, Himself, is too big for any of us to comprehend.

But there is something we must grasp … and with full conviction:  our time on this earth is very short.  Indeed, compared to eternity, our sojourn here is a speck of sand.  So, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,” what are we going to be really glad we did with the time we have on this earth?

  • Surely, we will be glad for every minute invested in fellowship with the Father.
  • We will be glad for every minute we used to worship Him in spirit and in Truth.
  • We will be glad for every opportunity we used to faithfully trust and obey Him.
  • And we will be glad for every opportunity we used to serve Him with our God-given abilities.

To do all of this, we have been wisely instructed:

No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.  (2nd Timothy 2:4)

So, what kind of “soldiers in active service” are we?

  • Are we depending upon the Spirit of God to bring our character in alignment with the will of the Father?
  • Are we using our God-given abilities to the fullest to strengthen His people?
  • Is our purpose in life to exalt His Name … that He would be highly respected and feared and loved and honored?

Do we have this kind of perspective … one that is focused on eternity?  The fact is, the only way to live wisely in this present life is to

LIVE WITH AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE

Let us all be faithful to God.  Those who are have been promised to radiate – forever – the blazing glory of God.

And forever is a long, long time.

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(And now to the One) from Whom and through Whom and to Whom are all things. To Him be the glory forever.  Amen.  (Romans 11:36)

The Stewardship of Truth

Sun at the wheat field

In the “Parable of the Soils” (Luke 8:4-18), a farmer is shown planting a crop by casting his seed upon the ground.  This seed falls upon four different kinds of soil:  hardened, rocky, thorn-infested, and good.  The hardened soil prevented the seed from taking root.  The rocky soil was too shallow to hold moisture.  The thorn-infested soil choked the crop from growing.  But the good soil provided the fertility that seed needs to take root and flourish.  Only one kind of soil could produce a crop.  The other three could not.

Jesus then explained the meaning of this parable:  The seed is the Word of God.  The sower represents the one who rightly explains God’s Word to others.  The four “soils” represent four different kinds of hearts responding to God’s Word in four different ways.  Of these four hearts, three bear no fruit (i.e., they do not respond in true faith and obedience).  Only the fourth – “an honest and good heart” – holds fast the Word and bears fruit with perseverance.

Most certainly, the sower can refer to today’s preachers and teachers explaining God’s Word to their audiences.  In this particular setting, however, Jesus is probably referring to Himself as “the Sower,” the seed referring to the presentation of Himself as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, and the four soils as being the Jewish nation’s different responses (mostly rejection) to His offer.

After the parable is finished, Jesus then challenges the hearer / reader with a caution:

  • So take care how you listen; for whoever hasto him more shall be given;
  • and whoever does not haveeven what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.  (Luke 8:18)

It is the context that helps us understand this verse:

  • For whoever has a living faith that motivates him to respond to God’s Word in faith and obedienceto him more understanding shall be given;
  • and whoever does not have a living faith that motivates him to respond to God’s Word in faith and obedienceeven what understanding he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.

Dear friends, God’s Truth is a stewardship with which you and I have been entrusted:

If we respond to God’s Word with faith and obedience, we will be blessed with an increased capacity to understand and apply even more of God’s Word.  Why?  Because we have shown ourselves to be wise and faithful stewards of the Truth we possess.  The Lord can trust us with more.

But if we have no intention of doing anything with the Truth we know, our capacity to understand God’s Word gradually decreases.  We become “dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11).  Why?  Because we have proven ourselves to be foolish, unfaithful stewards of the Truth we know.  We cannot be trusted with more.

This dulled sensitivity to Truth is the worst condition in which an individual can find himself.  It is worse than cancer.  It is worse than paralysis.  It is worse than prison.  It is worse than the loss of a loved one.  All of these involve the physical body and the emotions.  And as grievous as these conditions would be, they are, nevertheless, temporal in nature.  But the inability to understand the Scriptures affects the soul; and the soul is eternal.  If a person cannot understand the Scriptures, then he cannot believe them.  And if he cannot believe God’s Word, he cannot obey God’s Word.  It is, in fact, the most dangerous of situations.

  • If he is lost, he will remain lost.  How can one be saved if he does not understand the Gospel?
  • If he is saved, his own spiritual growth will be stunted,
  • His life will be a detriment to the reputation of God,
  • His personal witness to a lost world will not present a clear picture of the Savior they need to know,
  • His local church will suffer from his immaturity,
  • And he will suffer eternal loss of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

That is why the Lord Jesus added this warning:

So take care how you listen.  (Luke 8:18)

Bible study is risky business.  It demands a response.  It will produce either a joyous reward or a grievous loss depending on whether we are doers of God’s Word or mere hearers.  What we learn, we are responsible for.  So, the bottom-line question we should all be asking ourselves is

What am I doing with the Truth I already know?

Am I responding to It in faith and obedience?

There is coming a day when we will be ushered into the presence of Christ Jesus.  This will be one of the subjects of that conversation.  If we give ourselves to this pursuit, we can look forward to seeing the smile on our Master’s face and hearing these longed-for words:

“Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen.   (Jude 1:24-25)

The One Who Has … and the One Who Doesn’t

Delivery man standing with boxes in loading bay, side view

You are the owner of a large business.  The nature of your business demands prompt delivery of its goods to local manufacturing companies.  This business is so large that it has two warehouses, each having its own manager.

Over the course of time you notice that the manager of warehouse # 1 always ships each order on the day it comes in.

The manager of warehouse # 2, however, is indifferent toward the need for punctuality.  More times than not, the goods are shipped two, three, sometimes four days after the orders are received.

One day, you receive an order for goods that, if delivered on time, will result in many large orders from this company.  Otherwise, you will lose all their business.  To which warehouse manager would you entrust this shipment?

In one of His parables, Jesus tells us which manager He would choose.

THE STEWARDSHIP OF SERVICE

For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. (Matthew 25:29)

What does this verse mean?  “Everyone who has” what?  And “more” of what “shall be given” him?  What does the second one “not have”; and what exactly “shall be taken away” from him?

Matthew 25:29 is a verse imbedded within the “Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30).  This story describes the stewardship of three slaves who were given certain responsibilities to perform during the absence of their master.  The first two slaves were faithful to the responsibility entrusted to them; the third slave proved to be irresponsible.  When the master returned, he rewarded the first two slaves, but he reprimanded – and then expelled from his presence – the third slave.

The timing of this parable is quite interesting.  The nation of Israel as a whole – and the Jewish religious leaders in particular – had rejected Jesus as their Messiah-King.  Knowing that the Day of His Crucifixion was very near, Jesus used the remaining time He had to prepare His followers for His absence.  A part of that preparation is found in this “Parable of the Talents.”

In this parable Jesus informed His disciples that there would be an interval of time between His departure (Ascension) and His Return (Second Coming).  During this interval His followers would be entrusted with certain responsibilities.  Each slave was expected to use his God-given resources to promote his Master’s interests.  Upon His Return, they would then be summoned to give an account of their stewardship.

The parable ends with both a promise of blessing and a warning of loss.  Once their stewardship has been evaluated, those who were faithful to the Master are given greater responsibilities in His Kingdom.  Those who were not faithful to Him suffer great loss.  And then, our verse appears:

For to everyone who hasmore shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not haveeven what he does have shall be taken away.  (Matthew 25:29)

It is the context that fills in all the blanks:

For to everyone who has a living faith that motivates him to faithfully serve his Master, more Kingdom-responsibilities shall be given, and he will have an abundance of authority and honor;

 but from the one who does not have a living faith that motivates him to faithfully serve his Master, even what responsibility he does have shall be taken away from him.

You and I have been entrusted with the stewardship of service in the name of Christ.  The question we need to ask ourselves is this:

Am I using my God-entrusted resources to serve my Master?

It is a worthy consideration.  There is coming a day when every believer will bow before the Lord Jesus Christ.  And when we do, we will be called upon to give an account of our stewardship.  If we were faithful to that responsibility, we can look forward to seeing the smile on our Master’s face and hear His words of praise:

“Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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To Him Who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, Whom no man has seen or can see … to Him be honor and eternal dominion!  Amen.  (1st Timothy 6:15-16)

Casting Our Crowns Before the Throne of God

Two royal crowns with dark background

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!  (Revelation 5:12)

Much of the New Testament’s last letter, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, describes what will take place in heaven and on earth immediately preceding the Return of Christ (chapters 4-19).  In this letter “to the seven churches that are in Asia,” the Apostle John describes an event that will take place sometime after the Judgment Seat of Christ.  The scene involves twenty-four elders, sitting upon twenty-four thrones, all of which encircle the throne of God.

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads ….  (Revelation 4:4)

Based upon this description, it is the belief of many Bible students that these twenty-four elders represent redeemed saints.  They are described as being “clothed in white garments” (they have been made spotless and pure by the blood of Christ).  They are sitting upon thrones encircling the Throne of God (they are reigning with Christ).  And they are adorned with “golden crowns upon their heads” (they have been rewarded for being faithful stewards).

It is my belief that these are literal crowns.  If that is true, then a certain worship service is scheduled to take place in heaven’s Throne Room.  We are told that, during this particular ceremony, the redeemed ones will remove their crowns and cast them before the throne of God.

The twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne.  (Revelation 4:10)

But why will they do this?  Why will the saints – having been rewarded for their faithfulness – cast their crowns at the feet of Christ?

In this one act, the saints are officially confessing two truths regarding the fruitful labor for which they have been rewarded:

Jesus Christ deserves all the credit.

Jesus Christ deserves all the glory.

Jesus Christ Deserves ALL the Credit for Our Crowns

For the saints to cast their crowns before the throne of God is to publicly acknowledge Christ’s right (and His alone) to wear those crowns.  At this time they will “give credit where credit is due.”  During their lives, these believers had faithfully represented Christ to the world in both character and service.  But the ability to do so had not been generated by their own will and power but, instead, by the will and power of God.

I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.  (Romans 15:18)

Most surely, we do not deserve the credit for these crowns.  We will cast them before the throne of God because that honor rightfully belongs to Him:  to the One Who called us into His service … Who equipped us with everything we needed to fulfill that calling … Who accomplished through us what He gave us to do … and Who rewarded us with eternal life … and with words of praise … and with positions of authority within His eternal Kingdom … and with the capacity to shine forth the blazing glory of God!

When the saints cast their crowns before the throne of Christ, their declaration is this:

“You, and You alone, deserve to wear these crowns!”

Jesus Christ Deserves ALL the Glory for Our Crowns

Furthermore, for the saints to cast their crowns before the throne of God is an act of worship.  Because the work was not really theirs but His, Christ Jesus has the right to receive all glory and honor and power.

And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power.”  (Revelation 4:9-11)

With this one act, the saints are declaring the worth of the generous One Who is so willing to share His life, His praise, His authority and His glory with those who had submitted themselves to His rule over their lives.

Dear friends, this is the kind of God we serve.

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Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.  Amen.  (1st Timothy 1:17)

The Apple Farmer’s Steward

Apple tree

It is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.  (1st Corinthians 4:2)

There was once a man who owned an orchard.  In this orchard were ten apple trees.  One day in early spring, the man left town to go on a long trip.  But before he left, he told one of his field hands to take care of his orchard in his absence.

Each day the field hand was careful to cultivate the owner’s orchard.  He kept the surrounding ground aerated and watered.  And at the proper times, he fertilized the root system with just the right ratio of nutrients.

As the summer passed, however, the field hand became greatly troubled because he saw absolutely no fruit.  Not one apple.  Week after week, the worker faithfully cultivated the trees.  But that fall, there were still no apples to be seen.  “Surely, my boss will not be pleased with me,” he thought.

Word came that the owner’s absence was to be extended.  “Whew!” said the worker.  “Perhaps next fall, there will be a harvest of apples.”  And so, the next spring he got an early start.  He aerated.  He watered.  He fertilized.  He covered the trees to prevent damage from a late freeze.  He prevented insects and disease from harming them.  But that fall there were, once again, no apples.

Each year, the owner’s absence was extended.  And each year the field hand carefully cultivated the orchard.  Yet, there were never any apples.  Finally, after seven years, the owner returned.  One by one, each worker was called into his office to give an account of their assigned tasks.  Expecting to be fired, the field hand packed his suitcase and, with hat in hand, walked into his employer’s office.  But to his utter amazement, his boss praised him!  And promoted him!  And gave him a raise!

And that next fall, there were ten apple trees with branches weighed down with hundreds upon hundreds of bright, red, juicy apples.

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There is coming a day when every reborn Christ-follower will bow before the Judgment Seat of God.  And there his level of faithfulness will be evaluated.  Concerning that appointment, I have never met a believer who did not want to hear his Master say,

“Well done, good and faithful servant”

But if that is what we want to hear, there is something we need to come to grips with.  For faithfulness to be dyed into the fabric of our souls, situations must exist that tempt us to give up … to throw in the towel … to quit being and doing what Christ has given us to be and do.  This is the reality of stewardship.  It is impossible to cultivate faithfulness without going through trials that demand perseverance.

To be aware of that fact goes a long way in understanding why troubles … and weariness … and circumstances that don’t make any sense are so vital to the Christian life.  It explains why God (seems to be) so slow and so silent and so aloof at times.

One thing that tends to discourage us is a certain false expectation.  We have been promised that those who remain in intimate fellowship with God through faith and obedience – those who “abide” in Christ – will bear “much fruit.”

I am the Vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  (John 15:5)

The false assumption we have is that we will see that fruit.  But when Jesus said that fertile soil will yield a crop “some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty,” He did not assure the sower that he would see these results in full, at least on this side of the Resurrection.  Maybe he will.  But more than likely he will not.  And if he does not, he will be in very good company.  Many missionaries have ministered on the field for 20, 30, some even 40 years, yet do not live to see most of the fruit of their labors.

In fact, I don’t think I have ever met an effective servant of Christ that has not asked himself at one time or another,

“Am I really doing any good?”

“Should I continue to languish in this ministry that’s ‘going nowhere’ when every fiber of my being tells me to ‘throw in the towel’?”

His labor has been skillful.  His motive has been Christ-centered.  But as far as he can tell, he is having little impact in the lives of those he serves.  And this continues on and on and on until, finally, he just wants to give up.

It is at this point that the bond-slave must ask himself a question … a “bucket-of-cold-water-in-the-face” kind of question:

How many lives must I see impacted by my ministry before I can be faithful to my calling? The answer, of course, is “None.”  That’s because

Faithfulness has nothing to do with results

There are some things that can only be forged on an anvil.  Perseverance is one of them.  This trait does not come quickly; nor does it come easily.  Faithfulness is not tempered by the laborer seeing the full impact he is having in the lives of others.  To the contrary, it can only be strengthened when few, if any, results are seen.  Steadfastness is fortified when the laborer doggedly remains in a stagnated situation because he knows that is where his Master wants him to be … and that’s the only reason he stays.

During those times, let us be fully convinced of what is taking place in our lives:

the Father is cultivating our faithfulness by stretching our endurance.

I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Vine-dresser.  Every branch in Me that … bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.  (John 15:1-2)

To whom, then, should we turn for the spiritual “grit” needed to endure this confusing and often discouraging – but necessary – pruning?  To the One Who,

for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:2b)

Therefore, let us not give up.  Let us not throw in the towel.  Let us not lose sight of “the joy set before us.”

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.  (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

Those “flat” periods of anguish and confusion that exist in the lives of those who want to please their Master with their lives and service will be well worth every prayer that was poured out and every tear shed.  And at the finish line, each of these faithful ones will hear his Master say,

“Well done good and faithful slave”

And he will savor that praise throughout eternity.

And eternity is a long, long time.

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.  (1st Corinthians 15:58)

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.  (Galatians 6:9)

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Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ … that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.  (Colossians 4:2-4)

The Leaning Bale of Hay

ArrowsWhen I was in the 7th grade, my family lived on 11 acres of land with a large creek as one of its boundaries.  My father used this property to graze his small herds of Black Angus cattle and Shetland ponies.  My mother used this property to grow her vegetable garden.  And I used this property to have a whole lot of fun, usually down by the creek with my dog, sleeping bag and fishing gear.  But another way I had fun there was with my bow and a quiver full of target arrows.  To feed our livestock during the winter months, my father kept our barn loft stocked with bales of hay.  I would roll a bale out of the loft and, propping it upright on one of its ends, use it as an archery target.

One day I propped a hay bale upright, walked about 20 yards away, turned around, fitted my arrow, aimed … and then stopped.  The bale was leaning slightly forward.  Thinking that I could straighten it up by shooting the arrow into the top of the bale, I let it fly.  But instead of straightening it, the arrow actually caused the bale to lean just a little more forward.  “I didn’t hit it hard enough,” I thought; so I shot again.  But that only caused it to lean a little bit more forward.  With exceptional smart, I kept shooting my arrows – one by one – into that bale of hay, trying to knock the top of it backwards.  But with each one, all I did was cause it to lean more and more forward.

Even today in my mind’s eye, I can still see what happened with arrow # 19.  As it thudded into its target, the bale of hay fell forward into a cloud of dust, its full weight cracking and splintering and breaking every one of my arrows.  All nineteen of them … ruined … while trying to prop up a lost cause!

Tell me, how is it that a fairly sane 12-year-old could not realize that all those good arrows were going to be shattered while trying to straighten a tottering target!  Was it not obvious that the bale would fall forward?  Did I not have enough foresight to see that it was only a matter of time before it came crashing down?  Why did I fail to see the inevitable?

You know, it is possible for us, as believers, to do that same thing … to “shoot our arrows into a leaning bale of hay.”  We can be so distracted promoting our own earth-bound interests that we end up investing the bulk of our priceless time … and strength … and resources … and opportunities … and abilities in something that will one day pass away.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world … The world is passing away.                         (1st John 2:15-17)

Do you believe that?  Do you believe that

the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!  But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.  Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.  (2nd  Peter 3:10-14)

We, the true and living Church, are not in the dark.  We have been told what’s coming.  We do not know the when, but we do know the what.  We are keenly aware of how distracting the things of this world can be as they are dangled in front of us.  But we also know from God’s Word that “the earth and its works” will one day be burned up.

We already know that this “bale of hay” is going to come crashing down.

We have also been told that our lives are going to be examined by an all-knowing Judge.  God’s Word tells us that the quality and the motive of our labors will one day be “revealed with fire.”

Now if any man builds on the foundation (i.e., his salvation through Jesus Christ) with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.  (1st Corinthians 3:12-15, parenthesis added)

Do you believe what your Bible says?  Do you believe that one day you will give an account of your choices?

For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.”  So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.  (Romans 14:11-12)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, we have been given the “heads up” as to what is in front of us; and we should not ignore it.  Knowing that our approaching evaluation is certain, let us not squander our resources.  Rather than giving our hearts to the sparkling tinsel this tottering world offers, let us cultivate a devotion to the riches of God.  Let us live our lives with an eternal perspective.  Otherwise, we will spend our entire life shooting our arrows into a leaning bale of hay.

If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)

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Finally, brethren, pray for us that the Word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.  But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.  We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what (He) commands.  May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.  (2nd Thessalonians 3:1-5)

A Most Certain Appointment

Benjamin Franklin on engraving from the 1850s. One of the founders of the United States of America. Engraved by J. Thomson and published in London by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street & Pall Mall East.

Benjamin Franklin 1 once wrote

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

It is risky business to challenge the thoughts of a gifted individual.  But when it comes to this particular saying, I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Franklin on both accounts.

In the first place, there are lots of people who can and should – but who do not – pay taxes.  And they get away with it.

Concerning the other issue, the Bible informs us that an entire generation of Church-Age believers will not experience death.  According to the Apostle Paul

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet … For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”  (1st Corinthians 15:51-53)

So, neither (paying) taxes nor dying is necessarily certain … “in this world.”  But there is something in the next world that is most certain.  Once resurrected, there is something every reborn follower of Christ must do:

“We must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  (2nd Corinthians 5:10)

The time is coming when we must all bow before the One sitting on heaven’s throne, lofty and exalted … the train of His robe filling the temple … and the foundations of its thresholds trembling as one angel calls out to another,

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts.  The whole earth is full of His glory.”         (Isaiah 6:1-4)

The day is approaching when we must all bow before the One Whose head and hair are white … like white wool … like snow … Whose eyes are like a flame of fire … Whose face is like the sun shining in its strength … and Whose voice is like the sound of many waters (Revelation 1:14-16).

Every true believer has a scheduled appointment with the Son of God.  And dear friends, once we have been ushered into His Presence,

we are going to have the frankest discussion of our lives.

“I, the LORD, search the heart; I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”  (Jeremiah 17:10)

To prepare ourselves for this divine examination, we need

to cultivate an eternal perspective

That is the purpose of this course, “Our Approaching Evaluation:  a Study of the Judgment Seat of Christ.”

The goals of this study are

  • for each of us to be sobered by the certainty of this scheduled, face-to-Face appraisal by our all-knowing Master,
  • for each of us to become aware that we – who are saved by grace – will be judged according to the quality and motive of our works,
  • and for each of us to realize that this evaluation of our lives will result in varying degrees of rewards and losses.

So, as the world constantly dangles in front of us its countless distractions of fool’s gold, let us be fully assured.  The Judgment Seat of Christ is a most certain appointment … and it approaches like the wind.  May this study challenge us to live more fervently, not for our own interests in a world scheduled for destruction but for the interests of the King over all kings and Lord over all lords, Whose

“… dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and his Kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”  (Daniel 7:14)

1           Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding fathers of the United States.  He was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, the first U.S. Postmaster General, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman and diplomat, serving as U.S. Minister to France and, later, U.S. Minister to Sweden.

Click here to view this courseOUR APPROACHING EVALUATION

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To the readers within the believing community:  I would greatly appreciate your prayers, that the Master-Teacher would be the Author of these writings.

Telephone Booths and Typewriters, Slide Rules and Cassette Tapes

014  El Olam (Immutable, Eternal) [telephone booth] (21733704) (566 x 848)

Have you ever noticed how an older generation seems to get stuck in something of a “time rut”?  With hearts filled with nostalgia, they really do believe that those of a younger generation should appreciate – perhaps, even relive – the same things they enjoyed during their youth … 30 years ago.

For instance, my parents actually thought that my sister and I would be interested in listening to Glenn Miller’s “A String of Pearls” (released in 1941) while we were trying to listen to our new album, “Meet the Beatles” (released in 1964).

And before I left for college in the early 1970’s, my father tried to convince me that I was going to need his white dinner jacket to wear to all the “college dances.”  Was he serious? … as if I were going to wear a white dinner jacket to a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band concert!

Well, as to be expected, this same longing for “the good ‘ol days” has now spread from the generation of the Depression to the generation of the Baby Boom.  More and more, postings appear on Facebook that go something like this:

  • “If you know what this is, click ‘Like’ ” … followed by a picture of a telephone booth or an electric typewriter or a slide rule or a 331/3 vinyl album or an 8-track tape player or a cassette tape … all cutting-edge technology at the time.
  • “If you can remember doing this, click “Like” … followed by a description of what it was like to wait for the television tube to warm up before the picture gradually appeared … or to catch lightning bugs outside after dark until called in … or to wear a Davy Crockett coonskin cap.

But, of course, the only ones who appreciate the nostalgia of an era gone by are those of that same generation.  Younger people are just too busy creating their own future “yesteryears” to care about ours.

There is a lot of truth to the saying, “The only thing that is permanent is change.”  But there is at least one Exception to that rule; and His Name is El Olam, the everlasting, unchanging God … the One Who remains the same from one generation to the next.

Do we realize what this means?  It means that the One to Whom Old Testament Israel looked to meet their every need is the same One to Whom the New Testament Church can look to meet our every need.

  • It means that “the LORD” (Yahweh) – the self-existent Creator before Whom Moses stood – still knows exactly what we need … and what we do not need … to be His effective servants.
  • It means that “the LORD” (Yahweh) – the God Who is faithful to the Covenant He made with Abraham and his descendants – will faithfully keep every single promise He has ever made to us as well.
  • It means that “the LORD Who sanctifies you” (Yahweh Meqaddishkem) – the holy One of Israel – will set us apart from a sinful lifestyle to live righteously as well.
  • it means that “the LORD is my Banner” (Yahweh Nissi) – Israel’s Banner of Truth – is the One around Whom we also can rally to overcome our three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
  • It means that “the LORD (Who) provides” (Yahweh Yireh) – Abraham’s gracious Sustainer – will meet all our needs as well as we worship Him with hearts full of devotion.
  • It means that “the LORD of hosts” (Yahweh Sabaoth) – Israel’s watchful Defender – will dispatch His massive army of angelic-warriors to defend and minister to us as well.
  • It means that “the Lord” (Adonai) – Israel’s revered and loving Master – will seek our highest good as well, guiding us and sustaining us as we seek to do His will.
  • It means that “God” (Elohim) – the all-powerful One – will also answer all of our prayers that conform to His will … and will transform our lives into the likeness of Christ … and will fulfill every promise He has ever made to us.
  • It means that “God Almighty” (El Shaddai) – Abraham’s all-sufficient God – will also provide the nourishment we need to enable us to grow strong and fruitful.
  • It means that “the God who sees” (El Roi) – Israel’s all-knowing and ever-present Help – will provide us with strength and encouragement when we, too, are forsaken by others.
  • It means that “God Most High” (El Elyon) – Abraham’s supreme Sovereign – will also re-direct our hearts away from living for this world to focus on the eternal kingdom of the King of kings.

Yes, it is true:  all flesh, like grass, withers.  And like the flower, the glory of man fades.  Generations come and go, none of which being an exact duplicate of the others.  Kings and kingdoms rise and fall.  Even the present heavens and earth will one day give way to a new heaven and a new earth.  But there is at least one Exception to this rule of change.

His Name is El Olam.  He is the everlasting, unchanging God.

I, the LORD, do not change.  (Malachi 3:6)

Click here to view this courseTHE GOD OF OUR LIVES

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Click here to read the 1ST chapter of The God of Our Lives: YAHWEH, OUR GOD IS OUR CREATOR

To the readers within the believing community:  My wife and I would greatly appreciate your prayers, that we would respond to adversity with grace and righteousness.

10,000 Years from Now

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When you were in school, you took a lot of tests.  If your test results looked like mine, you had red check marks beside some of your answers … that is, the ones that were wrong.

I do not ever remember getting back a test from the teacher, looking it over, and thinking, “I’m really glad I answered this one right, and this one right, and this one right ….”  No, what I did was look at all the red on the page and think, “I wish I hadn’t answered this one wrong, and this one wrong, and this one wrong ….”  Is that what you did?  Did you focus your attention on all the red?

Some of us go through life doing that.  We tend to focus on those parts of our past that have “red check marks” beside them.  “I messed up here … and here … and here.”  If that is our practice … to give the bad choices of our past the permission to pull us under … life becomes little more than a broken record of regrets.  Without realizing it, we are allowing the choices of our yesterdays to sour our today … and our tomorrows.

It is an oppressive thing to go through life playing over and over in our minds the things we wish we had not done or the things we wish we had.  So, let’s take some time to do just the opposite.  Sometime soon, sit down and make a list that begins with these words:

I am really glad that I ______.

… then list as many things as you can possibly remember that you are glad you did.  We all need to take some time to consider the things in our past that have “green check marks” by them.  I believe you will find great satisfaction in this little exercise.

There is another list I would encourage you to think through, a list of the wise choices you are making right now.  But let’s not begin with these words:

At the end of my life, I am going to be really glad that I _________.

No, let’s think beyond the next few years.  Instead, let’s begin with these words:

10,000 years from now, I am going to be really glad that I _______.

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,” what choices are we making right now that we are going to be really glad we made?  Certainly, the only answers that can be on that list are the choices being made with eternity in mind:

What am I doing with the time … and the abilities … and the material goods … and the strength … and the opportunities that Christ has entrusted into my care to strengthen His Church to the glory of His Name?

If the focus of our lives is on everything this world has to offer, we may feel in sync with everyone else out there – for now.  But in the long run, we are piling up a whole lot of red check marks in our lives (i.e., a whole lot of loss).  And when it is time to bow before the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will have forgotten all about being in sync with the Jones’s.

But if we go through this life with an eternal perspective … if we live – right now – for the King over all kings and Lord over all lords … if we give ourselves to the cause of His eternal kingdom,

we are going to be really glad we did that throughout the Ages to Come.

So, what are you going to be really glad you did this week … 10,000 years from now?

Click here to view this courseTHE GOD OF OUR LIVES

Click here to view our websiteSTEWARD OF TRUTH PUBLICATIONS

Click here to read the 1ST chapter of The God of Our Lives: YAHWEH, OUR GOD IS OUR CREATOR

To the readers within the believing community:  I would greatly appreciate your prayers, that the Master-Teacher would be the Author of these writings.

Not a Friend in the World

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Have you ever been abandoned by someone you loved or rejected by a group of people for whom you cared?  Do you know what it feels like to be discarded as one unworthy of respect?

  • Perhaps it was a family member or a close friend who turned against you. The one you never dreamed would leave your side began to avoid you.  Perhaps he began to treat you with contempt.  Or slander you behind your back.  Or mock you to your face … in front of others.
  • Perhaps you have been abandoned by your wife or husband. Your spouse decided that he or she does not want to be married to you anymore.
  • Or perhaps it seems that God Himself has forsaken you. The painful circumstance you are going through has caused you to ask in despair, Where is God?  This lie is certainly the most painful of all wounds.

Have you ever been – or felt – forsaken by someone you would have sworn would “stick by you through thick ‘n thin”?  If so, be assured that Christ Jesus knows exactly how you feel.  What He went through as He walked toward – and hung on – the Cross, He went through alone.  He was completely forsaken.  Not one person was left standing by His side.

  • Certainly none of His siblings were there for Him. (John 7:5)
  • One of “the twelve” from his band of disciples betrayed Him. (John 13:21, 26)
  • The remaining eleven – His most faithful followers and closest friends – abandoned Him. (Matthew 26:31)
  • Even Peter, His most zealous follower, denied even knowing Him – not one time … not two times … but three times – while warming himself around the campfire of those who had just arrested his Friend. (John 13:37-38)
  • The Jewish nation had followed Him enthusiastically … as long as He provided them with food and healthcare. They had cheered Him as He paraded triumphantly into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s colt.  But just a few days later, many of these same people demanded that the hands and feet of their Messiah-King be impaled to one of Rome’s crosses.  (Luke 17:25)
  • And at the front of the line demanding His death was Israel’s religious establishment, her Bible scholars and spiritual leaders, the ones who could quote from memory the Messianic prophecies. Even they refused to submit to His rule.  More than anyone else, they should have recognized Him as being their long-awaited King.  But they turned Him over to Caesar’s soldiers to be executed.  (Matthew 20:18-19)

Earlier, as this sin-Bearer lay on the ground of a garden pleading with His Father, He knew that humiliation and torture and excruciating pain were only hours away.  He, Who had no sin, knew that He was about to be falsely accused, mocked, spit upon, beaten in the face, lashed over and over with a whip, and have three spikes driven through his hands and feet for lawless acts He did not commit.  He knew that He was about to be executed for my moral crimes … and yours … and the rest of the world’s, the Guiltless for the guilty.

And He knew that He was going to go through all of this by Himself.  How could He possibly feel more alone … more abandoned … more rejected than this?  And then, when the weight of all our sins was placed upon Him, the unthinkable happens:

“MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”  (Matthew 27:46)

Do you know what it feels like to be forsaken by others?  If so, be assured that Christ Jesus knows exactly how you feel.

We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  (Hebrews 4:15)

And so, with Hebrews 4, verse 15, in mind, what should we do when we are rejected?  We should do Hebrews 4, verse 16:

let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:16)

If we do this, we will be talking to One Who is not detached from our pain of rejection.  In fact, one of His Hebrew names is El Roi.  He is our all-seeing, ever-present Help in time of need.

Click here to view this courseTHE GOD OF OUR LIVES

Click here to view our websiteSTEWARD OF TRUTH PUBLICATIONS

Click here to read the 1ST chapter of The God of Our Lives:  YAHWEH, OUR GOD IS OUR CREATOR

To the readers within the believing community:  I would greatly appreciate your prayers, that the Master-Teacher would be the Author of these writings.