3rd Heaven

What do you look forward to most about Heaven?  This was the question posed during an opening devotional at a business meeting last week.  Answers ranged from, “I don’t think about Heaven very much – I don’t think I get it and so I just trust” and “I’m ashamed to say, I’ve had thoughts in the past about the continuous chanting and it worries me – will I be bored there?” to “I look forward to reuniting with loved ones” and “I’m looking forward to seeing Jesus face-to-face.”

As we prepared to consider business here on Earth the scripture reading for the devotional was from Colossians 3:2, ‘Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.’  The discussion was Heaven.  The issue, we all agreed, was that we should be thinking about heaven more.  

What do you look forward to most about Heaven?

Have you ever been reading a book, listening to a sermon, or on your knees in prayer and been completely overwhelmed with a flood of emotion to commit everything to the LORD?  This is the time, I want to let go of everything I want and give it all to the LORD, I’m done with doing it my way, I always mess everything up, I want to rest and trust the LORD with everything: every moment, every thought, every desire.  

Expressing this feeling in words is challenging.  Perfect freedom.  Perfect trust.  Perfect peace.  If I’ve gotten close at all you may be recalling your own testimony of how you came to Christ or a renewed commitment to Christ along the way.  This feeling, in my estimation, is as good as it gets this side of life’s great divide.  

However, for me, this feeling is all too shortly followed by a failure.  My flesh realizes a victory as I choose, say, entertainment over time in the Word, etc.  

Still, If even for a brief moment, that feeling touches my soul as if to say, ‘this is what you were created for.”  I can not wait to be done with the fight against the flesh.  Until then, and through the power of the Spirit, we fight the good fight.

God would You bless us with more and more freedom from self as we wait on You?  Please be gentle with us LORD.  May our souls find rest in You.  Amen.  

Psalm 27:13-14
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Today’s reading: James 5 and Psalm 27

 

Sources for study on Heaven:

Sources for study on eternal rewards:

Give ear to my prayer, O God

Today’s Scripture reading includes Psalm 55, in which David pours out his heart as he laments over a betrayal of a close friend (possibly Absalom and/or Ahithophel – 2 Samuel 15-18).  The word betrayal presumes a deep trust was placed in a source that proved untrustworthy.   The Proverbs teach us not to have respect of persons. (Proverbs 28:21)  Our unfettered trust is placed assuredly in God alone.  The summit of the psalm is verse 22:

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

Amen!  Amen!  Only He is trustworthy!  

Today’s Scripture reading also includes Luke 7, wherein the famous Centurion’s faith in Christ was chronicled.  When he was in need, he placed his trust in the one true source.  

  • Have you ever encountered a situation in your life when you immediately knew that God was the only one who could help you?  
  • What would our life be like if we did not trust in ourselves or anyone for anything but submitted everything with thanksgiving to the LORD?  

Painting:  Christ Heals the Centurion’s Servant – Ricci, Sebastiano

Are you ready to finish what you started?

24 The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?  Matthew 10:24-25

“It is enough…”.  A true disciple wants nothing more than to be like his Master.  Jesus did not have much in the world in terms of tangible things.  He was born in a barn.  As an adult, He did not have a home and all the ‘important’ people hated him.  They wanted to kill him and they did.  Yet Jesus had all the intangible things. Do we want more than what Jesus had?

“…how much more…”  Given that a true disciple does not want to surpass his Master, Jesus gives a warning to those thinking they may want to follow him.  The warning is clear, as you become more like Christ, people will treat you more like He was treated.  How do we want to be treated?  

In addition to how others will treat us, Jesus gives other warnings to those who considered following him.  Knowing the heart of each, perhaps Jesus tailored the warnings.  Do we relate to any? 

Comfort

In Matthew 8:19-20 the scribe who said he would follow Jesus is told that following Him would mean forgoing a life of comfort.  A home is the baseline of comfort.  

Inheritance

In Matthew 8:21-22 one that would follow Jesus is told that following would mean forgoing his inheritance.  Following Jesus, for this scribe, may mean a life without the wealth of his family and perhaps one full of dependence.  “Allow me to bury my father” is another way of saying, I’ll be back once he’s died and I’ve received all that is coming to me.

Family

Later in Matthew chapter 10 verses 34 thru 37 (Matthew 10:34-37), Jesus teaches that following him will mean being ready to depart from family.

Counting the Cost

Jesus made sure we knew the cost of following Him and the importance of counting the cost so we could finish what we started and receive our reward. (Luke 14:25-34, Matthew 13:45-46, 2Timothy 4:6-8, Galatians 6:9).  

Counting the cost of being a Christian means being willing to give up seeking approval and popularity, status and the favor of men, comfort, an inheritance, and even family.  

Counting the cost of being a Christian means being ready to trade all these things for eternal promises.  Not just some.  Here is a promise God made in Matthew chapter 10.  

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. – Matthew 10:39

Oh God, that we might trust You with all. You are good and You alone are worthy of all our trust LORD. Amen.

 

Painting: Christ Calling His First Disciples – Adam Brenner (1800–1891)

Giving Thanks

So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture
Will give thee thanks for ever:
We will shew forth thy praise to all generations.
– Psalm 79:13

I really enjoy how Psalm 79 closes. After a long list of cries to our LORD the Psalmist ends with Praise. It reminded me of the reference to Isaiah 54:1 from our reading in Galatians 4 verse 27 that I had just read.

For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. – Galatians 4:27

This reference to Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, reads an encouragement to Sarah and a reminder to us all that even if things do not seem to be going according to what we think is best, our God is good and His promises are true. All we need to do is remember and believe, trust in Him and praise His name!

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from September 28, 2016’s reading: 2 Samuel 24; Galatians 4; Ezekiel 31; Psalm 79

Deadly Thoughts

In today’s reading Paul wrestles with his sin.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. – Romans 7:14-15

Sin starts on the inside

When Jesus came he blew the lid off of religious pretense. The word became flesh (John 1:14), the word was truth and the truth could separate peoples’ thoughts and hearts from what is seen on the outside (Hebrews 4:12). Jesus knew what was happening on the inside and He called people on it. And the people were amazed! He did not raise the standard, He helped people understand that their religious leaders were blind to it. The Sermon on the Mount is not about virtuous living, it is about the truth and salvation. It is a true look at salvation. Jesus helps us understand how important the state of our thoughts and our hearts are when it comes to building the house of our life on a foundation of solid rock.

Thoughts, sin, death

Some call the book of James a commentary of the Sermon on the Mount. In James 1:14-15, we are taught the origin point of death. We are taught that death begins with thoughts, specifically lustful thoughts; desiring things of this world; wanting things for ourselves. When one lets their mind fix on getting things of this world, their heart follows after. The lust then graduates to sin as their life turns and shapes to take hold and position itself to claim what it desires (James 1:14). Sin, then fully mature, becomes death as it realizes itself (James 1:15). 

Battleground

Our thoughts are a spiritual battleground (Romans 12:2, 2Corinthians 10:3-5), on a realm of great importance (Proverbs 4:23). Thoughts mature into beliefs and beliefs shape our heart. The heart pursues itself with words(Luke 6:45) that then shape our lives (James 3:2-6). We must be aware of our thoughts and fight for the state of our hearts! Our hearts and our lives must belong to the LORD in truth. 

Foundation on the rock

As Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, wise people will build the house of their life on the truth. The truth is our weapon against deadly thoughts (John 8:32, Ephesians 6:17). As we sharpen our swords consider with me the truth in Psalms 23:1:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

I have come to believe that this is not a verse about getting things. Instead, I believe this is a verse about giving our heart and thoughts to the LORD. Not a verse about us getting everything we want if we submit to the LORD as our Shepherd. Instead, a truth about not wanting anything because we trust in the LORD to provide us with everything. The rest of the chapter 23 goes on to help us understand what that state of perfect trust will look like in our lives.

So if sin and death have their beginnings in the desires of our heart and mind (James 1:14-15), and we know that trusting in the Shepherd will guard us from wanting improper things (Psalm 23:1), the question then becomes; what do you want? If someone asked you “if you could have anything, what would it be?”… What would it be? Would it be something to be realized in this world or in heaven? What are we trusting in, the promises of this world or God’s promises

God may we all trust in You with everything and not want anything this world promises. May our trust be wholly in Your promises. Amen.

Extra Credit.

  • Close your eyes and repeat Psalm 23:1 to yourself three times in a row:
    • The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    • First, I want to congratulate you on being able to read with your eyes closed. #Props
    • Now imagine how peaceful your life would be if you did not want. What would there be to stress about? 
  • I listened to this sermon from John MacArthur to prepare for this post. I highly recommend it: Sanctification and Sins of the Mind.

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from August 17th, 2016’s reading: 1 Samuel 9; Romans 7; Jeremiah 46; Psalm 22

 

Victory Plan

 

As I read Matthew 16: 21-28 I can not help but echo @BakerPastor’s sermon from this past Sunday. Victory is Christ changes everything! The sermon series; Victory, the sermon; Victory Plan. The key takeaway for me was a key question: Do I still love this world? It came by way of Pastor Baker referencing John 16:33. With this perspective of truth in mind he paraphrased a prayer that many may have prayed, “God let us stay in this place that hurts longer.” He prefaced it with a challenging rhetorical question, “Isn’t it weird to you? how much we want to stay in this world?”  

The key question above used the word still in it because in Christ’s victory, everything should be different. Before Christ I certainly loved this world. All my hope was of this world. I pursued its worthless promises and hurt more and more every time I realized them empty. Now though, through victory in Christ, my hope is restored and strengthened in truth, backed by the power of God’s word in His promises. Why then do I still struggle with trusting in this world (Romans 7:15)? God make us complete (James 1:4). God give us discernment to know truth from lies (Philippians 1:9-10). Empower us with Your Spirit LORD and light our paths (Psalm 199:105). Protect us from the evil one (Ephesians 6:12).

In Matthew chapter 16 just after Jesus established His identity with His disciples, He began to talk plainly with them about the victory plan. How He would suffer, be killed and raised in three days (Matthew 16:21). This was quite contrary to the the victory plan Peter (and presumably most of Jesus’s followers) had in mind. Their’s was one of the world. A great warrior king to overthrow the Roman empire, etc. Peter quickly begins to rebuke Christ upon hearing His non worldly victory plan. Christ then tells Satan in Peter to take his proper place, behind Him, as He gives clear instruction on how to live with an enlightened perspective in victory. He makes clear that the victory plan is above the world (Isaiah 55:8):

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. – Matthew 16:24–27

I often hear this scripture misused, in my estimation, due to a lack of context. I hear of a call to take up one’s cross, as if it were some sort of burden to bare. Instead consider it a release from the burden and bondage of this world and its downward spiral of empty promises (Galatians 5:1). Keep in mind that someone carrying a cross in this time was literally a dead man walking. Would they not be looking to things past this world? Christ tells us to live this way today. Run the race this way today. Where is your mind stayed today? What do you have your eye on? What are you hoping to accomplish today? … Do you love this world? 

God would you give us a single eye for Jesus’s Kingdom? Would You send Your Spirit to empower us to run this race to win and finish strong? God we ask this in Jesus Name. Thank you LORD. Praise Your Name! Amen.

 

Extra Credit.

If you missed it, consider reading this post: This way to happiness, trust me – Satan

 

Originally published on BibleJournal.net from July 6th, 2016’s reading: Joshua 8; Psalm 139; Jeremiah 2; Matthew 16

 

How to prepare for battle

Originally published on BibleJournal.net

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 20; Psalm 107; Isaiah 47; Revelation 17

June 15th, 2016

Deuteronomy 20 contains laws pertaining to warfare. Today we will dive into those focused on the army (verses 1-9) but instead of closing with a question, here is one for your consideration as you read; if you knew a battle was coming soon that you were going to fight in, what would you do today?  

When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. – Deuteronomy 20:1–4

Like everything else, the Israelite conception of war centered on trust in God. This meant they did things different than most nations. For example, God’s law discouraged them from keeping a standing army. Back in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 we see the restrictions placed on the king. You might think things pertaining to the king would list off rights and privileges, instead we find a list of restrictions and obligations. The restrictions and obligations all pointed to trust in God. The law restricted the king from amassing power; no amassing horses for a cavalry, nor wives, nor wealth for paying an army. He and the people were not to build up trust in things of this world. The obligations pointed to where the king’s power actually comes from and where he and his people should place their trust. The king’s obligation upon taking the throne was to write a copy of the law, to keep it by him and read it every day he lives that he may learn to fear the LORD his God; to keep the law and do it that his heart not be lifted up among his brethren nor turn from the commandments. With this in mind the verses above were to a civilian population formed in to a militia only when needed. The law regarding the army continues.

jerichofall

And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it. And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it. And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her. – Deuteronomy 20:5–7

Here we have another oddity when compared to other nations. In the time of war, a nation will often call up the young men from among the people to fight. Here is the opposite. We see here a list of able-bodied men who were told in a sense ‘we don’t need you to fight for us, get out of here.’ Let me explain my presumption at them being able-bodied. They either just built a house, planted a vineyard, or married.  Again clearly we see a different idea of battle plans; trusting in things of this world are dismissed and replaced with trust in the LORD.

tissot_gideon_lapping529x800

And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart. And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people. – Deuteronomy 20:8–9

The last law pertaining to the army is quite clear. The first two sections we looked at apply to who we trust in and who we do not trust in. This law deals with those who do not subscribe to the truth. Go home. God’s got this. The dismissal of the faithless protects the faithful.

Extra credit:

  • Exodus 17:8-15 – Moses trusts in the LORD in battle
  • Joshua 6 – Joshua trusts in the LORD in battle
  • Judges 7– Gideon trusts in the LORD in battle