Saturday, February 26, 2022

Pray Now: 10 Prayers for the Church of Ukraine

Pray these prayers right now, fast and pray, cry out to God on their behalf. 

"Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." -Hebrews 13:3

10. Father, in the name of Jesus, we pray that you would supernaturally provide for the body of Christ in Ukraine. Protect their churches from bomb blasts, protect the people from bullets, feed and cloth those who are going without, lead the body of Christ in Ukraine to treasure-troves of food, water, shelter, and safety in this crisis. Amen.

9. Father, we pray that the Ukrainian church would shine very, very brightly in this dark time for the country. We pray the Ukrainian church would be living witnesses to the power of Christ right now. We pray that the lost in Ukraine would look in awe at the faith of the Ukrainian church right now and be absolutely amazed. Then they would turn and ask, and receive Christ as their saviors as well, by the hundreds and thousands, in Jesus name, amen.

8. Lord, we pray for the children of the Ukraine as they face great danger, and as their parents worry for them. We pray God you would preserve their innocence through this, that you would keep them save in bomb shelters and subways, that they would see hope in their parents eyes, and find hope in Christ Jesus during this chaos, that they might learn to sing, 'Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so,' in Jesus name, amen.

7. God we loose your angels in the authority of Jesus Christ to fight across the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, and Donetsk, and the smaller settlements, that these angelic forces would strike down demons and principalities and powers of the air in the name of Jesus God rise up and defeat the enemy forces across Ukraine, we cancel their schemes, and stomp upon the evil one in Jesus name, declaring victory, binding every demon across Ukraine, cutting off their schemes and coming into agreement with the perfect will of God, in Jesus name, amen. 

6. Lord, we pray for the ukrainian soldiers and volunteers fighting for their nation we pray God you would supernaturally protect them, provide provision and safety and skill in combat and in care for one another, and we also pray for russian soldiers who belong to you, and those who are called by you, that you would protect them from death, and lead them toward your heart, toward safety, and healthy, and salvation, in Jesus name, amen.

5. Father, we pray for the hospital workers, emergency crews, police officers, firefighters, EMS workers, red cross, salvation army, and other charitable groups that are most needed now, God, we pray for divine encounters with people who are injured or hurting, people who are afraid, or separated from loved ones, that you would use your service workers, with hearts filled with compassion, to be that vital hand of help in the darkest of moments in people's lives, in Jesus Christ name, amen.

4. Father, we pray for the president of the Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, thank you God for his zeal and boldness in defending his nation and standing for his people. God we pray you would give him great wisdom and strength and knowledge and zeal. Please protect him and his family. Please give him everything he needs to stand boldly in this moment, and may he know Christ as his savior. Lord we also pray for Vladimir Putin, that you would soften his heart, and change his path, that you would make him like nebuchadnezzar, to be called to repentance, to give glory to the God of heaven, God may you transform Putin, and make him a Christ follower in the name of Jesus, amen. 

3. Lord we pray that the church of Ukraine would have great faith right now in their time of need. Please protect them as they hide, as they flee, as they stand, as they serve the hurting God, may they be the hands and feet of Jesus in this time of the country's sorrow, in Jesus name, amen.

2. God we pray for the thousands upon thousands of people who are becoming refugees because of this crisis. Lord we pray you would lead them to safety in various countries where they find friends, safety, and fellow members of the body of Christ who will help them rebuild their lives and find new hope in the renewal of Christ Jesus, in Jesus name, amen.

1. Lord God Almighty, we praise you in the storm God. We praise you because you are at work even in the darkest of times. Lord, have mercy on your body of Christ in Ukraine, truly God, as they suffer, as they seek refuge, as they go without, we as the body of Christ elsewhere, suffer as though we are with them in the subways and bunkers and hideouts. God, we suffer with them, and we cry out for your mercy upon them. May we hear of miracles in the Ukraine, may we hear of healings in the Ukraine, may we hear of revival in the Ukraine, may we hear of your divine hand powerfully upon the Ukrainian body of Christ and the lost and hurting in that nation now, and forever more in Jesus Christ name, we enforce this in the heavenly realms, in Jesus authority and name, amen! 

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Hebrew Word Study: Chalam' To Dream

Did you know that you’ll spend about 1/3 of your life sleeping? Yes, we all spend massive amounts of time, in the night usually, passed out, face smashed against a pillow, unconscious.

And eventually when we reach REM sleep, we begin to experience dreams. Some of us will remember many of our dreams, some of us often forget most of our dreams. But it’s clear that the mind stays active while we sleep. We process things emotionally, thoughts in our minds play out in dreams, and we even can experience intimacy with God, while we sleep. We begin to have spiritual dreams.

And that today is our Hebrew word, called “Chalam” which is pronounced khaw-lam.' This Hebrew word means “to dream.” It can mean three different things in regard to dreams. It can mean an ordinary dream. It can mean a prophetic dream which is a dream from God. And it can also mean a false dream, a dream from Satan.

What’s interesting is that Chalam can also mean “to be healthy.” Or to be “restored to health.” That tells us a lot about dreams right there, doesn’t it? They can be ordinary. They can be from God or from the enemy. And it also tells us that dreaming is restorative to our body and soul.

Our scripture today from the book of Job makes reference to the concept of dreaming.

Job 33:15-16 NIV says “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, 16 he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings.”

In the King James, “15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;16 Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,”

Chaim Bentorah writes, “Looking further at this word for “dream” I find that the chet represents bonding and binding with God, the lamed represents instruction from heaven, and the mem represents the hidden mysteries of God. It is in our dreams that we bind ourselves to God as He reveals His hidden mysteries to us” (Bentorah, p. 127).

Now of course we know that the vast majority of our dreams are not from God. They are simply dreams that reflect our thoughts and actions during the day. Many of us I’m have had stress dreams, where we’re hiding from a tornado, or falling off a cliff, or dreams where we see old places where we used to live or visit, I often see my grandma check’s living room, my grandma Steckbauer’s kitchen, my aunt colleen’s old house, the house I grew up in with my parents. Most of these dreams are simply reflections on memories, or things we’re thinking about during the day. You might say the mind is processing those things.

Now, you can also have something called a demonic dream. This is a dream planted by demons. I’ll share that this has been a week where almost every night that I’m having nightmares, many of them demonic dreams. These can happen if we’re opening ourselves up to demonic attack, so you have to ask yourself, are you watching movies or reading books about vampires or zombies or witch craft or spells or other occult imagery, that may be opening you up to demonic attack? That is an important question. Also certain drugs and chemicals can open us up to demonic attack. Certain medications may produce a high that opens us up to demonic influence. Do you occult symbols in your home, like a ying-yang, or a Ouija board, or shirts or clothing with skull and crossbones on them?

But in any case, even if you aren’t opening yourself up to those things, sometimes the enemy can plant dreams anyway. You’ll usually notice while your dreaming that you feel an oppressiveness. And something will feel unusually dark in the dream. I will tend to see zombies attacking me, or I will find myself in a dark room, and afraid for no apparent reason, or I’ll feel something very scary near me and I’ll be afraid, just last night I dream I was in my old bed room and it was very dark and I couldn’t find anyone, and then I was trying to close my door and something was opening it and trying to get in. Demons can also create dreams where they appear as a handsome man or a beautiful woman, and you engage sexually with them, then they morph into a monster or creature. Scary stuff. So if you’re under demonic oppression in your dreams, pray, and if you can realize that you’re dreaming, you can stop in the dream, pray, and God will wake you up.

But perhaps you’ve had a dream from God. Have you? If you ever do, you’ll know it was from God. It will be different from a normal dream. You’ll feel something is special about it. I encourage you to immediately write it down if you do. Otherwise you may eventually forget it. So do write it down. Reflect on it. Pray on it. And God will reveal the meaning to you.

One of the events of the Bible that really hit me hard was Jacob’s dream from God. Do you remember it? Here it is from Genesis.

Genesis 28:10-15 says, “10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it[c] stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[d] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

I’ll share one dream I had from God. It was while I was working with a youth group in Elgin every week, and I was teaching them apologetics, it was so much fun, got their imaginations going, wondering about who God was and what heaven was like. It was really a great time.

But one time I fell asleep. And I saw myself in a church and everyone in the church was waiting, in dark, and many in the church were children, seated on the chairs waiting. And I sat down and look down to the right, and it was an infinite church down to the left, and I looked right, and it was infinite chairs and chairs to infinity. And then I looked up and it was a giant star filled sky. And I realized at that moment that each of us were like the stars, we were the fulfillment of the word given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that he would make their descendants as numerous as the stars. And we were all waiting for the second coming of Jesus. Amazing.

A dream from God can also be a warning. I remember when I was about 18, 19, I was becoming a troublemaker. I was smoking pot and cigarettes and drinking a lot with my friends. And I had this dream one night that I was in my car, in the dark, and a light popped on in the window, and I was so afraid because it meant something terrible in my dream.

Then, I think it was about a year later. I was with a friend of mine, and we had parked at the edge of the water at this park, at about 11 at night. And we were smoking pot in my car and looking at the stars and the water. And as I was taking a hit from the marijuana pipe a light popped on in my window. It was a police officer, and he had seen our car from across the lake, and gone over and we were both put in handcuffs, and I would later end in jail for 30 days because of that. The dream was a warning.

So in conclusion today, pay attention to your dreams. Invite God to speak in your dreams. Protect yourself from demonic influence in dreams. And realize through your dreams God is rejuvenating you, as you “Chalam.”

7 Aspects of How Reality will Function in the New City of God

What will heaven be like? That is the great question. My mind is there much of the time. And what about hell? What would hell be like? These are fascinating questions to me. They are practical rather than mystical or far away. They are directly real to me. And I hope it's real to you. It's the truth about everything. So I think it's wise to consider it.

Let's consider heaven. What will it be like?

1. You will Still be You - Permanent mature Adult Age - no Law of Death

Did you know your bodies have an infinite ability to renew themselves? Isn’t that interesting? Every cell in your body is programmed to replace itself before it dies off, that’s why skin cells flake off and are replaced by new ones. But of course we know that we do grow old and die. That is the current reality, we are under something called the “law of death.” In fact all of creation is subject to the law of death, animals, plants, all of life.

But in heaven the law of death is cancelled. So your body will permanently renew itself, you’ll look at you do or did around age 22-30, I believe. Right when your body is fully grown, that will be your permanent appearance.

You will still be you. Your personality will be in tact. Your soul will be the same. You will have a physical body, but it’s a new one. No pain.

2. Enhanced Senses - Enrapturing Beauty

So we’ll be there, but what about the environment around us? Well, first of all it’s important to understand that paradise is not floating on clouds in the sky. Those are artistic depictions of paradise. But the way the Bible talks about paradise is very physical. But enhanced, almost like what Eden might’ve been like. I can’t really describe it. But I’ll share a quotation from the book “Amazing Visions” Booth wrote:

“I am constrained to say no human eye ever beheld such beauty, no earthly ear ever heard such music, no human heart ever experienced such ecstasy as it was my privilege to see and hear and feel during the first hours I spent in the celestial country. Above me was the loveliest of blue skies. Around me was an atmosphere so balmy that it made my whole physical frame vibrate with pleasure. By the bank of roses, on which I found myself reposing, there flowed the clearest and purest of rivers, which seemed to dance with delight to the murmurings of its own waters. The trees that grew on its banks were covered with the greenest foliage and laden with most delicious fruit, sweet to my taste beyond all earthly sweetness. By lifting my hand I could pluck and eat the fruit to my heart’s delight. In every direction, above and around, the air was not only laden with the richest of odors yielded by the loveliest of flowers but also rendered vocal with sweetest sounds and filled with fairest forms. Floating about me were beautiful beings I felt by instinct were angels and archangels, seraph and seraphim, cherub and cherubim, together with the blood-washed and perfected saints who had come from the world below, sometimes far away and sometimes drawing nearer. The blue sky appeared at times to be full of white-winged, happy, worshiping, joyous beings, while the whole country—apparently of limitless extent—seemed to be filled with a blissful ecstasy that could only be realized by being experienced.”

That sounds pretty great doesn’t it? That’s where I want to be.

Of the city of God, Revelation 21:11-14 says, “11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

3. Fellowship, Companionship, Perfect Societal Structure, and Group Worship

So we see ourselves, as ourselves, and the direct environment around us, beautiful beyond imagining. Next we look at the sociology of heaven. What is the civilization in paradise like? Because it is a city, with millions upon millions of people. If I had to guess probably about 1 billion or more at least. Massive population, for perspective, the population of the USA is about 350 million.

In paradise, new heavens, new Earth, city of God, there is one leader, King Jesus Christ. You also have the elders who surround the throne of God. I’m assuming there will be different sections of the city. But there will be peace between all people. Some will be closer to God, others further away, but everyone will be perfectly content with their reward.

It will be a perfect system. No violence, no death, no crime, no poverty. Why? Because everyone in the city will be pure. Which leads into our next point.

4. No more Sin of any Kind - All is Perfect, Holy, Pure, all is Right

No more sin. Revelation 21:27 “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” No sin can enter the city of God.

The time of sorrow, which is now, will be over.

Revelation 21:4 says, “4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The curse will be over. We’re under the curse, the fall, right now. But that will be over in paradise. It says in Revelation 22:3-5 “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”

Everything will be perfect, holy, pure, and good. This is the whole goal of the salvation in Christ, to wash away the penalty for our sin, and through sanctification to make us fit for heaven, to make us ready for heaven, where there will be no more crime, no more lying, no more resentment or anger, or tiredness or mental health issues, or suicidal thoughts or sexual immorality. All that is done for. But you can see why someone who refuses Jesus can’t go there, they would bring their sin with them, and destroy heaven by bringing sin into it.

5. God's Full Presence - Permanent uninterrupted Joy - Infinitely Renewing levels of Happiness

This is probably my single favorite part of heaven, God’s full presence, 24/7. We get hints of God’s presence here in worship times, prayer and fasting times, and so on. But in this life we see what the Bible calls “through a mirror, darkly.” We don’t see the fullness of God. In fact for us on Earth we can’t see God’s face and live. But in paradise we will live before God’s full presence.

What does this mean? Constant awe and joy and peace as we enjoy the love of God. It will pour into us day and night like sunshine. You ever go outside on a bright sunny day and just bask in the constant sunlight. It lasts for hours and hours, and it’s wonderful. We feel warm all over, we smile, and it’s a constant.

Similarly in heaven, we’ll bask in the permanent presence of God. What that will be like exactly… hard to say. Obviously it will feel wonderful.

And of heaven is constantly renewing levels of happiness. As we all know God is infinite. And in the same way, the sorrows of hell are infinite. Everyday for people in hell, will be a new level of pain, sorrow, regret, and misery. It will keep getting worse and worse into eternity. It has no end.

But in the same way in paradise, happiness and joy have no end. They are always new. Always different and special. Just as we walk along the bank of a river on a sunny day, it gives us a sort of joy, differently we climb a steep hill, in a breeze, a different kind of joy, listening to a beautiful song, a different kind of joy and satisfaction, hugging a friend, kissing a lover, all different kinds of happiness and joy, that constantly are new each day, into infinity, infinite levels of happiness, that just seem to keep getting better year by year, through all of time, forever. Isn’t that wonderful? And for those in hell, how terrible indeed.

6. City Layout, Garden of Eden, Tree of Life, Mansions, Throne room of God

Revelation 21:22-23 says, “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp”

The city itself is the temple of God. The city dimensions indicate that, but we’ll get there in a second. In general, what is the layout of the city? There are various foundations and structures, and gates, and so on. But let’s speculate.

I’m speculating here, but I’m assuming there will be city streets, parks, public structures, worship centers, prayer centers, administrative structures, libraries, trails to walk, areas to fly, video centers to view recordings of past events, the throne room of God at the center of the city, and of course the mansions of the saints, the houses prepared by Jesus for each of the saints coming into paradise. I’m sure we’ll gather at peoples houses and have meals, and fellowship times, praise times, music, entertainment, and Jesus I’m sure will join us himself at these events at people’s mansions.

Revelation 22:1-2 says, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

At the center of the city, we have the throne of God, from the thrown is a waterfall, and a river that leads to the tree of life, where it bears fruit for us to eat.

Revelation 21: 11-21, “It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.”

Massive, cube-shaped city. Astonishing isn’t it? But quite real.

7. Continued Quests, Adventures, and New Levels of Understanding

Lastly, the adventure continues. It doesn’t end in heaven, it’s just beginning! No one knows what God has prepared for those who love Him. No mind can conceive of it. No heart can understand it. But it is truly something very special. It’s not a boring end, but a whole new beginning, and off we launch into an infinite future.

Revelation 22:4-5,12-13 says, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

They will reign continuously, forever and ever. The I am who I am says so. The originator of everything. Think about that. God is the “I am” of eternity. Nothing else would exist without the fact he infinitely exists. Try understanding that. No one can. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says no one can truly understand from beginning to end all God has done. Why? Because there is no beginning to it and no end to it. I can’t understand it. Not at all. I don’t even understand why God exists or where God came from, why, because God didn’t come from anywhere, he’s always been, which is fundamentally beyond my ability to comprehend. I can’t understand infinity. No one can. Only God can.

So, in conclusion, the adventure begins there in the New City of God. And so it will continue, but what it will be like, is not something I can describe or comprehend. But I will ask God for hints about that, and God delights in revealing his secrets and mysteries to those who seek Him (Amos 3:7, proverb 25:2, Daniel 2:28). So… my indication to you today is, Ask God about heaven, and eternity, and paradise, and see what unique little mystery he reveals to you. Then come tell me, because I want to know more about it!

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Hebrew Word Study: See Ra'ah

“And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” 3 And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”

5 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.”

Jezebel is absolutely horrified by the fact that this great prophet, Elijah, defeated her false prophets, in his greatest victory for the kingdom of Israel. Elijah had been so bold in facing down all the evil in his time. But when Elijah “saw” that Jezebel was threatening his life, he ran.

And that brings us to our Hebrew word for today, “Ra’ah” which means “to see.” But there is a dual meaning here, because this Hebrew word can also mean to tremble, or to be afraid.

Elijah saw the situation with Jezebel threatening his life. And for him, this meant that he perceived something spiritually, and something physically. He perceived that his life was physically in danger. But he also seemed to perceive something spiritually. The meaning of Ra’ah is dual in that the seeing can mean worldly seeing and/or spiritually seeing. So Elijah runs for his life, but, he runs toward a spiritually defense position. He runs to mount Horeb, the mountain of God.

And that is my first point for you today. If you’re on the edge, if you’re struggling and you don’t know what to do, sometimes it’s OK to simply retreat into hiding for a while. Just make sure you retreat to the right place. Take it to God directly. Elijah ran to meet with God. To the mountain of God, mount Horeb, which was in Judah.

Are you someone who lets fear control your life? For most people of the world, they will by fear. Fear, anxiety, anxious rushing about from one thing to another, and we saw that fear on full display, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fear took over, and rouse so high, it formed a hysteria that some still seem to be caught up in. Will they ever leave it? Or will they be hysterically afraid for the rest of their lives?

That’s the second point today: We can’t let fear control our lives. We simply can’t. But as Christians we will face fear. It’s a reality of this fallen sinful world. But we can’t let fear control who we are. We can’t let it define us.

We can keep fear under the control of God, by fearing God first. If we fear God, and tremble before God, we don’t have to be afraid of any person, or any situation. Yes, we will feel fear from time to time, but we don’t have to be controlled by it. Jesus Christ has broken the power of fear over us.

Elijah was afraid, but he fled toward God, not away from Him. And when He met with God, he was so disappointed in himself, in his own fear, that led him to flee from Jezebel, that he said to God, “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

1st Kings 19:4 “He himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

I have said this in my life many, many times to God. Take my life Lord. I’m no better than my ancestors. Usually it’s after I’ve stumbled into some temporary temptation, or if I outright stumble into sin, like we sometimes do as Christians, because our flesh is weak, I find myself, I think rightly saying to God, I’m no better than my ancestors. I’m no better than the people of this messed up world who do so much evil.

But that’s where God’s grace comes in. His scandalous grace. It isn’t the end at that moment, even though it may feel that way, God knows my weakness. And he invites me to turn again to Him, to run to His mountain, which is Him, in Jesus Christ, and to find forgiveness afresh and anew. And despite the fact that it seems true to me, that I’m no better than my ancestors, and I deserve to die, never-the-less God says I’m changing you into the likeness of my Son. You are still like them in your flesh, but in my Spirit you are alive and new and different.

But as we fall at God’s feet in despair, like Elijah did, we can do something very special, which is my next point to you today: Give it all over to God.

Lord I am not enough. I can’t do it alone. I give over all of myself to you, with all my flaws.

Elijah made it to Horeb, after 40 days of journeying, it says in verse 9:

9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

How similar we are to the people of Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness with Moses. Just as we turn to enter our promised land, we run for our lives in fear, despite all we’ve seen, we’re terrified and we flee.

What am I doing here? You might ask yourself. Why did I run? Why am I hiding in this cave?

It’s through these baffling experiences of life, of fear, of trauma, of death, of doubt, of sin, of weakness, that as we wrestle with these baffling, shocking realities of life on Earth, we eventually encounter God, as we seek Him through the struggle.

If you are in that dark trial, fleeing, struggling, make sure you seek God in the struggle. And in the abrasiveness, the cold, the oily mess, you may yet find yourself in a cave, and yet a light appears, and the God of the universe asks you, “What are you doing here?”

And after God posed that question to Elijah, God revealed himself in one of the most mysterious scriptures of the Bible, where we see a storm, an earthquake, a heavy wind, and then a soft, small voice. God’s glory comes, and we’re amazed, and transformed by God.

And the journey continues. My final point today: God will transform you through the mess, after you’ve sought him diligently. And then, the journey continues.

The spiritual life is like two dogs, one dog is named fear, the other dog is named faith. They are fighting. One will keep you, one will kill you. Which dog will win? The one that you feed. Feed the faith dog, in prayer, Bible reading, seeking God, church, and so on, feed the fear dog with television, social media, news, drugs, etc. Which will you feed? In the critical moment, seek God, and you will be transformed.

The 7 Characteristics of the Perfect Way of Love

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” -Matthew 5:43-48

Today we consider the most perfect way of life that anyone can live, the way of love. And we’ll be addressing the 7 ways we can best understand and live out the way of love.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

Point number one, and the most important is that we are only capable of any sort of love because God loves us, and pours His love into us through Jesus Christ. He fills our tank with love. And we pour out that love to others.

Before I knew Jesus, I loved my parents, I loved my friends, but the truth is, that love didn’t go too far. And it wasn’t agape love, love for the sake of the other person. It was a sort of selfish love.

We can’t love out of ourselves. That love will always be limited and empty, and ultimately useless.

But if you spend time with God daily, pray, read our Bibles, we’ll be poured into, with the love of God, that comes through the Holy Spirit into us.

If I try to drive my vehicle, and there is no gas in the tank. I can turn the key as many times as I want, but it will never go anywhere. We’ve got to make sure our tanks are full of God’s love, so we can pour it out to others.

Point number two, if you’re going to love you have to let yourself love. That means vulnerability.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

Plain and simple, I’m trapped as a person between two difficult alternatives. One, I can love people, and those people will hurt me. And that will hurt badly. And do damage to my soul.

The other option is to cut myself off from people, put up walls, don’t let people get to close, and in that case, like Lewis wrote, my heart turns to stone slowly, and I become bitter, empty, miserable, and alone.

So, the only option, is to love people and keep loving people, and to be hurt.

That leads right into Point 3, to love is to endure emotional beatings. Some of us try to avoid these emotional beatings that love brings as much as we can. We’re always trying to prevent them from hitting. But we can’t really prevent them. Because to love is to be vulnerable.

And 1st Corinthians 13 says Love is longsuffering, it suffers through all things. And it keeps loving people through it all.

Can I become OK with the fact of emotional pain connected to loving others?

That has been a question for me, since beginning here in Owosso a few years back. Because, every person I saw walk into dinner church, or morning services, even once, I loved to some level. And people who came often, I learned to love them more deeply, and many of you, I learned to love very deeply, and hope for, and pray for,

If you want to avoid loving people don’t don’t don’t pray for them. Because if you pray for someone you can’t help but love them very very much with a spiritual love that is very powerful.

And believe me, it hurts so bad, when that person goes back to the ways of the world, disappears, gets snared again by the sins of the flesh. It’s brutal. It hurts bad. And it’s hard to avoid becoming jaded. Only God’s love can heal these repeated beatings. Only God can heal these repeated beatings.

This is really the height of self-sacrificial love. To take beatings for the sake of loving others, and refusing to close ourselves off. You just keep opening yourself up for more pain, so that love can flow out of you. And that love is worth it, it changes the world. But it also hurts when people return it with hate and rejection. That is your call, will you allow yourself to be tied to the whipping post, and beaten repeatedly for the sake of God’s love, flowing out of you, to others? For the first time? The second time? The third time? And more? That is your call.

Point 4, to love means to love people who are our enemies. This is not easy, is it? There are people who have done terrible things to us. People have soiled our names. They’ve slandered us. They’ve attacked us. But we aren’t allowed to hold a grudge. We aren’t allowed to hate them back. We have to forgive them, over and over. And even to love them, from a distance.

How do you do that? How do you love someone you have such strong negative emotions toward? Well, I think what’s powerful for me, is to look at them, and see what they could become. My mind does this automatically for some reason, and I always see all of you, in what you could become given God’s transforming love. So when I see someone, maybe a homeless man, I look at him and see what he could be, strong, faithful, a pillar of the church, an overcomer, healthy, battle ready, a prayer warrior. I see it in my mind. And for some of you here, I see you becoming what I saw you could become, and that’s just the most beautiful thing. It’s part of love, I think.

Can you care about someone who really can do you no good at all? It’s like a druggy who quits drugs, and realizes none of their friends want to see them anymore, now that they won’t do drugs with them. People we thought that loved us, didn’t really love us.

Point number five, love is an action. Frankly, it doesn’t matter how much we say we love people. It doesn’t matter how much we even “feel” love for someone or for a group of people, what really matters is when we take that love from theoretical and make it practical.

Am I practicing love in real tangible ways? What exactly does loving someone look like?

It looks like spending time with someone, I think. It looks like doing a good deed for someone, helping them with something. It looks like encouraging them with a good word from the Lord. It also looks like tough love, rebuking someone, or calling them out about something. Love warns someone who is going down the wrong path. Love is giving someone a gift. Love is physical touch. There is a great book on love languages out there by Gary Chapman.

But it’s clear I think, love has to be an action. Or it’s just a theory. Our God isn’t a God of idle theories, He is a God of action. And never is that more clear that the cross of Jesus Christ. He stepped up and did it, he didn’t just talk about it, he went through it. And achieved victory. That is love.

Point 6, we’re called to that same level of love. Jesus’ perfect love is that he began the rescue mission to Earth when we were his enemy. Jesus loved the people surrounding him at the cross participating in his crucifixion. He said Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.

The “love” of this world is rather different. People of this world use each other. Go on tinder, meet up, use each other for physical pleasure, and disappear. They call it ghosting. We develop “friendships” with people that we want something from, whether it’s a promotion at work, or to have cool friends to party with, or because we need rides from them around town, or because they buy us stuff, and when we get what we want, we move on. It’s sort of mutual using, back and forth, back and forth. It’s all pleasure driven. But that’s not what Christ calls us to. He calls us to love these people who live like that. Not to judge them, but to love them anyway. And they will burn us. But we will have opportunities to share Christ’s love. And it’s beautiful. It changes the world.

But it’s hard in these last days to love. Because as the word of God says, in the last days, very difficult times will come, when people are lovers are themselves and lovers of pleasure.

And the word says “the love of many will grow cold.” Is your love growing cold? Don’t let it grow cold. Because the next verse says, but he who perseveres to the end will be saved.” Persevere to the end. Keep loving the unlovable.

Point number 7, this mysterious fragrance of heaven, selfless, sacrificial agape love, is the perfection of eternity. Anything else, is transitory.

1st Corinthians 13:1-13 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

So many things will pass away once we enter paradise. So many things will change. But faith, hope, and love endures forever. And particularly love. Love seems to be the permanent state of the New Jerusalem. It seems to be that constant of heaven. Happiness, joy, love, always new, always infinitely shining beautifully within each of us. We will live in constant love among all humans forever in paradise.

Today it’s messy and hard. But never give up your love. If you sense it growing weak, ask God to renew it. Find practical ways to take an interest in others. Loving people often happens one on one. Learn to love. Be vulnerable. Take the beatings of love. Keep doing it practically. And that my friends is the perfect way of love. God, grow our love, build it daily, heal it when it breaks, heat up our love when it grows cold, help us to love just like Jesus loved, completely, and beyond all thought of self. Amen.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Hebrew Word Study: Shaleg Snow

This last week on Wed and Thursday morning we got in Owosso about 9 inches of snow. I could barely escape my driveway, Chelsey could not escape her driveway at all. The roads were crazy. Everything was shut down. A state of emergency was declared by mayor Eveleth. It was wild. I was locked inside most of the day hiding out.

So it seemed fitting, for our Hebrew word study today, to look at the word shaleg "sheh'-leg" which in ancient Hebrew means "snow." Raise your hand if you think snow is beautiful as it's coming down through the air. Now raise your hand if think it's beautiful as you're shoveling it off your driveway and sidewalks.  

Shaleg in the Hebrew is a very simple word, it means snow. Plain and simple. Snow, snow, snow, the white stuff that falls from the sky when it's cold outside.

But there is also much more to the meaning of shaleg. Snow is used as a metaphor by God in the Bible to describe purity. We see it used several times in the book of Job as Job struggles with sorrow.  First in chapter 9, verse 27-35 which says, “I could say, ‘I will not complain.
I will forget my pain and put a smile on my face.’
28 But the suffering still frightens me.
I know that God will not see me as innocent.
29 I will be found guilty,
so why should I even think about it?
30 Even if I scrubbed my hands with soap
and washed myself whiter than snow,
31 God would still push me into the slime pit,
and even my clothes would hate to touch me.
32 God is not a human like me, so I cannot argue with him.
I cannot take him to court.
33 I wish there were someone who could listen to both sides,
someone to judge both of us in a fair way.
34 I wish someone could take away the threat of God’s punishment.
Then he would not frighten me anymore.
35 Then I could say what I want without being afraid of him.
But I cannot do that now." -Job 9:27-35

Job is struggling before God to understand his suffering and sorrow, and he speaks about how he wishes he could scrub his hands with pure snow to wash away his sin. But he can’t. It just doesn’t work that way.

Only God can make us white as snow, and wash away the guilt of our sins. Much later in the book of Job we see shaleg being used again as God responds to Job and says,

From Job 38:22-23, “Have you ever gone into the storerooms where I keep the snow and the hail? I save them there for times of trouble, for the times of war and battle."

God asks Job, can you really understand these things as a human? Can you go and see the storerooms where I keep snow and hail that I save for times of war? Can you? And of course Job must reply by saying no. He can’t understand those things. Only God can.

However there are some things we can understand about suffering. Through suffering we ought to see that God is shaping us, and molding us into people ready for paradise.

“In the midst of trouble, we can look at the purity of God and know that all we will lose in our difficulty is what keeps us from the purity of God – which is a doorway to His heart.” -Chaim Bentorah

So when we look at snow, pure and white, we should be reminded that God desires to give us a new, pure heart. He crafts that heart through joys and sufferings. We each have hearts that have been through so much, many ugly things. He wants to cover over the ugly things in our lives, with his beautiful purity in the riches of Christ Jesus. We’ve all been through hard times, things we don’t like to remember.  And God will cover over those hurts and pains with his love, and help you to forget the past, and proceed forward into a bright future. And thus we may enter, a bright new wonderland of beauty and purity, where we find all the wonderful things God has prepared for us. Our Father knows how to give good gifts.

Another instance where shaleg is used in the scriptures is Isa 1:18, which says, “Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

If you recall, right before the first snows begin to fall, it’s usually pretty yucky out. It’s rainy. It’s overcast. It’s cold.  The trees are bear, they’ve dropped their leaves. The ground is brown, the grass is dying, leaves all over, it’s a mess. And then the snow falls. And it covers over all that ugliness, and suddenly, it’s pretty beautiful when we look out the window, upon all the pure snow, and the sunlight shining off the snow makes it seem more bright.

In the same way, our sins, have piled up so high before God, lies, hatred, unforgiveness, getting even, filthy jokes, swearing, stealing, on and on, an ugly mess of filthy rags. But the forgiveness of God found in Jesus Christ covers over all that sin, and cleanses us, and makes us pure and spotless and blameless in His sight. If you believe in Jesus, and have repented of your sins, you are as pure and clean and white as the freshly fallen snow. 

The 7 Stages of the Spiritual Journey from Birth to Death: Beginning, Prevenient grace, New Birth, Growth, Holiness, Death, & Eternity

1. Birth into a crazy world: Imago Dei / Corruption

You were born into the world, a crying baby, in a hospital most likely, with no knowledge of anything in the world around you. We are born in many ways a blank slate, however, we are born into a particular mindset, of self-interest. We are born selfish, born prone to think about ourselves first, prone to sin, to do bad things. And of course we know that reality dates all the way back to the fall. So every human born on the planet is born in a selfish, fallen state. That’s why there’s so much chaos and destruction in the world, people are naturally disposed to do evil, instead of good.

However, we also have this desire within us for something more. The bible calls it “eternity” placed in our hearts.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. -Eccl 3:11

We’re made in the image and likeness of God, we’re special, blessed, we have a desire to create and feel and grow and learn. We’re very special among God’s creation, but we’re also in rebellion, estranged from God. Two things here are true at the same time, one that we’re fallen, and also that we’re made beautifully in the image of God.

If you’ve ever seen a toddler, a child, they’re beautiful. They’re precious. They seek to learn. They begin to explore. They are fun to be around. They are innocent in many ways.

However, if you’ve ever seen a toddler, you can see how we are born with a sinful nature. They are selfish, if another child has a toy, they go and take it from them, they do bad things with you watching, to see how you’ll react. We’re all born into that state.

2. Prior to Salvation: Prevenient Grace / Free Will

Preferably, how it best works, is that parents raise their children carefully teaching them the truths of the Bible. They attend a youth group, church services, and eventually reach the age of decision, when they get to decide will I follow Jesus myself, or will I go a different direction. It should work that way, but very often it doesn’t.

So for many of us, probably most of us, we were quite confused in our teens, and wandering, and uncertain why we felt so bad, and convicted and just sort of aimless in the world.

And so we see that God begins to call us himself. It says in Acts 17:26-28 26 From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live. 27 He did this so that they would look for him, and perhaps find him as they felt around for him. Yet God is actually not far from any one of us; 28 as someone has said,‘In him we live and move and exist.’”

So as family and friends pray for us, God reaches out to us, and calls us to himself. We begin to be drawn toward the Creator. We can resist this process, many do, and many also begin to cooperate in this process if seeking God, and asking questions, and studying the Bible, and attending a church or Bible study. But this process can last years, of seeking God, and God calling us to himself.

But there are two factors once again, to hold together, one that God calls us to himself. Two, that we seek after God. And in that process we draw closer and closer to Jesus Christ, the cross, and the offer of eternal salvation. It’s beautiful. But free will is real. And we can either engage in it, or reject it, God will honor our choice, even if it’s the wrong choice.

3. Moment of Salvation – Second Birth / New Life

Now many in the world will never go beyond step two, of that process of being drawn to God. They will repeatedly reject God as he reveals himself in various ways, through a person sharing the gospel with them, through a bible tract, through a beautiful summer day, through a church service, they will continue to turn away from God. Most people follow that path in fact, unfortunately.

But for us blessed few, who have been called to salvation by Christ, we come to that moment of salvation. This is the moment when we are born again.

When we repent and believe Jesus Christ of Nazareth really died on the cross for us, to wash away our sins and give us eternal life, we are born again by the Holy Spirit, and become a completely new person.

Aspects of the Moment of Salvation:
Our sins are forgiven

We are justified before God

We are adopted into God’s family

We go from darkness to being light

We are filled with the Holy Spirit

We are given Christ’s righteousness as a garment

We become part of the kingdom of God

We go from spiritually blind to spiritually seeing

This for us, is the most important moment of our lives. It’s the moment when everything changes. But it’s not the end of the journey, it’s not one and done, it’s the beginning of a lifelong journey.

4. After Salvation – Growth in Sanctification / Daily Repentance

What happens after salvation? We begin a lifelong journey of following Jesus, serving others, relationship with God, and obedience to His will.

We’re called to live so very differently from the world. We're called to live by the leading of the Holy Spirit, not in our flesh, but in the Spirit's leading, living by a certain lifestyle, the lifestyle of Christ.

We’re given commands such as:
Love God, and love our neighbors

Forgive our enemies

Share the gospel with others

Feed the hungry, provide clothing, shelter, meet needs of Christians and non-Christians

Show no partiality

Be guided by God’s will

Perfect holiness in reverence for God

Pray, fast, and seek God’s face

Pray for government and spiritual leaders

Submit to gov authorities

Let your light shine

There are over 1,000 commands in the new testament, things we’re commanded by God to do or not do. We should study faithfully the word of God, and we will know how to live wisely.

5. Holiness unto the Lord – Security in Christ / Abiding in the Vine

God helps us along the journey. He is very good to us. Our part is to have faith in Him. And to continue on the journey of salvation.

So here we come to the topic of holiness. All Christians are called to go on into maturity. Many Christians remain like babies, drinking only milk, when they should be going on to solid foods.

We abide in Christ, by remaining with Christ. We continue in the faith. We don’t give up. We don’t fall away. We grow, and grow, and grow and eventually we are living as mature Christians. We go on from the basic doctrines, to deeper things of the Spirit. We practice our spiritual gifts, we serve in ministry, we fast and pray, we study our Bible, and we serve those in need. 

Sin is the greatest danger to the Christian. When we stumble into sin, it hurts our walk with God, and gives birth to disillusionment. We become frustrated, convicted, and we struggle more and more as we sin. Eventually sin will drive us away from God, if we don’t put to death the works of the flesh.

Continued obedient faith is an important part of our walk with Christ. Remain with Jesus. It's not one and done as many teach. Instead we must continue, and remain in the vine.  

John 15:1-8 says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

God the Father is the gardener, Christ is the vine, we are the branches connected to the vine, bearing good fruit in Christ. And we must remain in the vine, and if we do not remain in the vine. We'll shrivel up, and be removed from the vine, and thrown into the fire. That's hell. So we need to remain the vine.  And Christ keeps us. Two things we hold together in contention in the Bible, the fact that God preserves us in the vine, and nothing can separate us from His love, and the fact that we need to cling to Christ, and not fall away, but abide in the vine. Otherwise why would Christ command us to "remain in Him?" So we must remain in Him. 

We must abide in Christ, our whole lives, and continue in the faith, moving on toward maturity, and holiness in reverence of God.

2nd Corinthians 7:1 “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

Hebrews 6:1 “So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God.”

Hebrews 3:12-15 "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

6. Entering Glory – Physical Death / Spiritual Life

The next phase of the journey is a very difficult thing, that is facing physical death. All of us humans born on Earth must face physical death, unless we are raptured before we die, but we won’t get into that right now.

We all face physical death. That moment when we die. Hopefully it’s of old age. But death can come for us at any time. Which is why we must always be ready to meet Jesus.

Hebrews 9:27-28 “Just as man is appointed to die once, and after that to face judgment, so also Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many...”

When we pass through physical death, we will be brought before the throne room of God. And we’ll give an account for our lives, and the decisions we made. We will be judged, as Christians, on the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Isn't that wonderful? God will look and see that we've been ransomed by the Son, and will welcome us into paradise.

However, suppose you are a Christian, who is truly born again, but lives in active sins, judges others, refuses to forgive their enemies, hates others, steals, lies, and then comes before God for judgment. That Christian will be sent to hell. Though they did receive Jesus Christ as their savior, they dirtied their garment of righteousness they were given (Revelation 3:4). They could always have repented at any time of those things. But if they never did, then they’ll have to answer for that at the judgment throne of God. Yes, Christians who live in sin can be sent to hell. So be zealous, and repent of any sins in your life. And live a daily lifestyle of repentance. But try not to worry, God will help you along the way. The Spirit will convict you daily if you're caught in sin or false doctrine, He will guide you out of it, but you must respond to His call with repentance and faith. 

7. Life after Death – New Jerusalem / The Pit

This is what I'm looking forward to, because the journey doesn’t end at physical death. After physical death, we either face eternal life in paradise or eternal life in hell. Those are the two options. There are no middle places, no purgatory, as some believe. There is no reincarnation either. We have this life, then either heaven or hell.

For us Christians who show ourselves faithful in Christ, following Jesus and believing in Jesus, we will receive a mansion, a home, in the New Heavens and New Earth, in a particular city called the New Jerusalem. This city is 1500 miles long and wide and tall. You’ll be rewarded in the New Jerusalem based on the good works you did in life. Every good deed you do in this life is like another jewel in your crown in heaven, another brick in your home in heaven. But of course only Jesus Christ can bring us into the city. The rewards for the good deeds are simply icing on the cake. There are many rewards in heaven (Matthew 5:12, Rev 22:12, Luke 12:33-34, Matthew 6:4).

That for me is when life really starts, the New Jerusalem. This current world is temporary, and empty, and pointless to me. If it were up to me, I would probably want to go to heaven right now and never return to this Earth. I do not love this world, and I hope you don’t either. We should not love the world or anything in the world. But we should have our heart’s set on a new world and a new city, with eternal foundations.

No one can really imagine what God has prepared for those who love him. No mind has conceived of it, no emotion can explain it, no words can document it. It’s beyond us. But it’s real. And it’s good. And there will be new adventures ahead, that we can hardly imagine. It won't be boring. The joy and happiness of heaven is always new, everyday, constantly new, as infinite as God himself. Glory to God, amen.