Sealed Forever

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Revelations Chapters 20 through 22

Sealed forever

 

I have a deluxe food sealer that claims you can seal food for years! I use it to seal wild game and fish that I catch. I am not sure I would trust it to seal food for more than one year though. This week’s reading is from Revelations 22:11, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” This is talking about a sealing process that is so permanent that it will last FOREVER. Jesus is saying that when we die we are sealed in the state we die in forever! Jesus talked about this in Matthew chapter 25, when He explained what it would be like on Judgment Day. He said the goats will be on the one side and when He rebukes them for their ‘unjust, filthy’ lifestyle, rather than repent and ask for forgiveness, they try to pass the blame back onto Jesus. They claim they didn’t know. Ignorance of what is right is never an acceptable excuse. What Jesus is saying is that people who chose to live a lifestyle of selfishness and rebellion will be sealed in that lifestyle for eternity. They won’t even consider repenting when they are judged. This helps explain why there is going to be a Hell. People who reject God in this life will also reject Him in the hereafter. There is no second chance or repenting on Judgment Day. We make that decision now, every day. Our daily decisions become who we are and when we die we are sealed in that state. So who are you serving? Who have you surrendered your life to? Make the right choice today and choose to serve Jesus. It is the ultimate sealing process and will become who you are and will seal your eternal destiny.

You’ve got a wedding invitation

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Revelations Chapters 17 through 19

You’ve got a wedding invitation

 

This week’s reading is found in Revelations 19:9, “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” I have officiated many weddings in my life. After the wedding ceremony, there is the reception. I don’t know of too many other celebrations that are more exciting, fun and enjoyable than a wedding celebration. They are filled with great food, dancing, toasts, and laughter! According to this passage, there is going to be one final wedding that will take place in heaven. After it, there is going to be the biggest wedding reception in the history of the world! The music, food, laughter, and dancing are truly going to be “out of this world!”

One thing for sure, though, there will not be any wedding crashers at this wedding reception. Only those who have their wedding invitation will be allowed in. In Luke 14:15-24 Jesus told a story about this wedding feast. It appears that the invitation has been given to everyone, but many have refused to come. Many made excuses that they were just too busy and could not come. Don’t make this mistake! God is preparing for a great day in heaven when all of His followers will be gathered together to celebrate what Jesus has done. It will be like a great wedding when Jesus is united with His church and the reception is going to one that people will be talking about forever! Do you have your invitation?

Harps or Hail!

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Revelations Chapters 14 through 16

Harps or hail!

 

This weeks’ reading is found in Revelations chapters 14 and 15. It talks about people playing their harps in heaven. Now I am not a musician and playing the harp in heaven never seemed to be of great interest to me, but when given the option of either playing the harp in heaven or experiencing the alternative mentioned in 16:21 “Great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a ton.” I like the idea of playing the harp!

The Book of Revelations may be hard to completely understand, but one thing becomes very clear, a day of judgment is coming! People may get away with doing bad things for a while but there will be a day when everyone will be held accountable before God. Those who have chosen to reject God’s ways, those who have chosen to follow their own ways will experience judgment and punishment that is almost too hard to comprehend. According to these chapters, there really are only two choices. Either we chose to “Follow the Lamb wherever He goes,” 14:4, and “Keep the commandments of God,” 14:12 or we chose to “worship the beast,” 14:9, and “Blaspheme the name of God…and not repent.” 15:9. Like it or not, it is coming! Make your choice now before it is too late.

What does God say about those who litter?

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Revelations Chapters 11 through 13

What does God say about those who litter?

 

   One time a few years ago someone asked to borrow my van to pick up some furniture they had purchased. When I got the van back the gas gauge was on empty, some of the radio presets were changed, it was dirty, there were a few new scratches on the back door, and the seats were not put back in. As you can imagine I was rather disappointed. Most of my disappointment was because someone who called themselves my friend showed such disregard for my property. “The time has come … that they should be judged. He will destroy those who destroy the earth.” Revelations 11:18. Interesting. It seems our Heavenly Father also gets a bit perturbed at those who show disregard for His property too. We have a responsibility to care for His creation. He wants us to enjoy it but He expects us to care for it. I am sad to say, I don’t think we are doing a very good job.
This passage is a reference to the time of judgment that will eventually come upon the earth. At that time, every human being will be held accountable to God for what they have done with their lives and there is a specific reference to those who have destroyed the earth. Since the 1960s, there has been a great deal of concern and controversy about man’s relationship to the environment and nature. I realize there is a lot of variety in this movement from the environmental terrorists to conservationists who seek to preserve wilderness areas. But I believe most environmentalists hold to similar core values. Their concern is primarily a reaction to businesses that have exploited the environment for man’s greedy and materialistic pursuits, by clear-cutting entire forests without any effort at replanting and without any care for the damage to the wildlife, or to dumping wastes in our rivers, streams, and lakes, or to strip mining mountains and leaving the remains without any concern for soil erosion, or for releasing toxic fumes into our atmosphere. This reference to destroying the earth would also include those who are destroying the earth with litter and waste. There are some things being done to our environment that ought to get people upset.

   Do you think that God cares about people who destroy His creation or who deliberately destroy our environment by polluting our rivers, or who destroy our forests, or who pollute our air? A day of judgment is coming for those who destroy the earth! We need to be careful that we are not abusing our environment. We need to be more conscientious of our consumer mentality and our continual desire for more and the lifestyle that promotes destruction to our environment. We don’t need to become environmental terrorists or fanatics, but we should be living a bit more intentional about our use of the environment and be more aware of what kind of ‘carbon footprint’ we are leaving. Let’s make sure we are not destroying creation or polluting with litter or waste. Man’s rule and dominion over the earth is that of a steward or a caretaker, not a reckless exploiter.

The sound of silence

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Revelations Chapters 7 through 10

This week’s reading is found in Revelations chapter 8:1. “There was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Simon and Garfunkel wrote a famous song, “The sound of silence.” It is a song about people talking but no one listening. But this half hour of silence seems to be a good thing. It is a reference to a dramatic pause to symbolize the awe and dread with which the heavenly hosts await the events about to occur. The hushed thirty-minute silence makes the judgments about to be announced more dreaded. Imagine thirty minutes of silence to contemplate what is about to happen!

Today we live in a loud and distracting world, where silence is increasingly difficult to come by and that may be negatively affecting our health. In fact, a 2011 World Health Organization report called noise pollution a “modern-day plague” concluding that “there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.” We’re constantly filling our ears with music, TV and radio news, podcasts. Think about it. How many moments each day do you spend in total silence? The answer is probably very few. I actually think some people are afraid of silence! But silence is a good thing. A 2006 study published in the journal Heart found two minutes of silence to be more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music, based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.⁠1 Quiet times help us gather our thoughts, and can often be times for God’s Holy Spirit to speak to us. If a half hour of silence is good enough in heaven surely it can be beneficial on earth. Why not build some quiet time into your lives and see what happens.

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1 https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/silence-brain-benefits_us_56d83967e4b0000de4037004

When I get to heaven, I get what???

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Revelations Chapters 1-3

This week’s reading is found in Revelations 2:17. “To him who overcomes … I will give him a white stone, and on the stone, a new name written which no one knows except him who received it.” I remember reading this one day and then I stopped and began to pray about it. “Wow God that is so great, if I overcome all these temptations and serve You my entire life when I get to heaven You are going to give me a rock! Thanks, just what I always wanted, a rock! I mean what am I going to do with a white stone? How about at least some wings and a harp!” Then God revealed something to me about this white stone. This white stone will be a little secret between God and me, a name that we call each other that no one else can enter into. Sort of like the funny names that husbands and wives call each other. “Honey, sweets, babe, dear, binky, etc.” The white stone is sort of like a secret club that only you and God belong to.

We sometimes have this fear that when we get to heaven we will be lost in the crowd. We fear that only the bigwigs will hang out together with God and we will be left off in the corner by ourselves. Moses, Noah, Abraham, David, Daniel, Peter, Paul and so on, will be the only ones who get to hang out with God. Not so. Each one of us will have a special relationship with God that no one else can enter into. This white stone guarantees immediate access to God’s attention. God knows us by name. What a feeling. Once I was at a meeting with a big-time pastor in the city. I was a young guy at the time. At the end of the meeting that pastor came up and called me by my name! I was so honored. “Wow, he knew my name!” I was so honored. “Wow, somebody famous knows me.” Imagine how it is going to feel when God calls us by our name! In Isa 65:24, we read, “Before you call, He will answer, while we are speaking He will hear.” Somehow when we are in heaven we will have God’s undivided attention when we talk to Him! We won’t be lost in the crowd, we won’t end up in the corner all by ourselves. We will have God’s special attention in heaven even with all the bigwigs. Now I don’t know about you but that does something for me! Forget the harp and wings and give me that stone!

God wants you to prosper

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III John

This week’s reading is found in III John verse 2. “Beloved I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” Here we find a prayer of threefold value. 1. I pray that you prosper in ALL things. 2. I pray that you are healthy so you can enjoy the prosperity. 3. I pray that you prosper in your health as much as you prosper in your spirit and soul. John desired that the church prospered IN ALL THINGS, just as they prospered mentally and spiritually, he wanted them to prosper materially or physically. Prosper means to flourish, thrive, grow in a vigorous way, to do better, to succeed at reaching something desirable. In John 10:10 Jesus said that He came to give us the life of abundance. He designed a life that overflowed with good and was well supplied and rich. Never forget this, above all things, God desires for His people to prosper; spiritually, mentally, physically and materially. Anyone who tells you otherwise is simply wrong!

Have you been cleansed?

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I John Chapters 1 through 5

This week’s reading is from I John 1:7-8. “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Many years ago God opened this passage up to me and it has been a life verse ever since. When we come to God and confess our sins, He forgives us, not because He is just a nice guy, He forgives us because “it is just.” This means that God’s laws demand that when we sin someone has to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus offered to do this on the cross. When we sin, God’s law is met and the penalty is paid in Jesus. It is like when a person who breaks the laws and is declared guilty and has to go to jail. But instead of that person going to jail, someone else who is totally innocent goes in his place. Most of us know this part of forgiveness, but the second part is even more exciting. Since we have been forgiven, God cleanses the record. He erases the offense. It is as though it never happened! Even in our country if a criminal pays for his crime by going to jail, his record follows him wherever he goes, not so with God’s kingdom. Once we are forgiven, God cleanses the record. When a Christian understands this, it brings such freedom and liberation from the weight of guilt. How good it is to know that God has not only forgiven us, but He has the ability to erase the offense from the books. We actually can stand before Him as righteous. I believe this is a small insight into judgment day as well. When we stand before God on that day, it is going to be like the angels will put a DVD of our life on for everyone to watch. But since all of our sins have not only been forgiven, they have been edited, the movie will only show a life of perfection! Incredible. Now for sure, some people’s DVD’s will be short, like the thief on the cross, and some may be quite a bit longer, like maybe Billy Graham’s, but no matter what, it will be an awesome experience. Not one of our sins will ever show up on that DVD. If you have confessed your sins to God, He has forgiven you and cleansed you!

Knowledge produces self-control

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II Peter Chapters 1 through 3

The Bible has a lot to say about self-control. One of the main passages that deal with this matter is found in this week’s reading, chapter 1:3-5. “God’s divine power has given us everything (not just some things, but everything) we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these, He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” Isn’t that what you desire: to escape the corruption (alcohol abuse, gambling, drug addiction, gluttony, porn, anger, etc.) in the world caused by evil desires? Sure you do. But how do you escape these things? The next sentence tells us: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue (goodness); and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control…” (vs. 5).

The first thing you must do to have self-control is to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. This makes you a partaker of God’s divine nature. Self-control is God’s attribute. He will give it to those who are born again. But self-control is not given at conversion. It comes by adding to our faith. After you are born again, you must add to your new faith: virtue or goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. Please notice that the Apostle Peter does not give us a haphazard list of virtues we should possess; instead, he gives us a progressive list of Christian qualities that produce continuous growth. Look carefully at the list and notice how each virtue gives birth to another each in its respective order.

First, we need faith. Without it, you can’t be saved. Yet, it does not end there, sad to say for many Christians it does! So it starts with faith. Then we add goodness or ‘virtue, a life dedicated to following God. Then we add knowledge, then we add self-control. It ends with love! Peter says, “…and to knowledge, add self-control…” Self-control follows the gaining of knowledge. So if we want to get self-control what do we have to do? Get knowledge. What kind of knowledge is Peter talking about here? Is he talking about collecting a lot of information? Is he talking about scientific knowledge or mathematical knowledge? No. He is talking about ‘spiritual’ knowledge. It is amazing how many people spend their lives collecting information about sports, business, health and everything else but when it comes to spiritual knowledge they are illiterate! How do we get spiritual knowledge? Through reading God’s Word, through prayer and through fellowship with other Christians, through quiet times with God, and through worship.

The bottom line here is that in order to get to self-control, we need to get spiritual knowledge. If knowledge is essential in order to have self-control, then the lack of knowledge destroys self-control. Lack of knowledge is simply believing in false information. Much of the information that people have gathered about life is simply not true and as a result, they struggle with self-control. We need to gather true knowledge, true information, not just information. Jesus said in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” What sets you free? Knowing the truth. The opposite is also true. Lies will keep you bound. Jesus called Satan the “father of lies.” Satan will lie to us so that we stay bound in sin and hurtful habits. When we believe these lies we lose control of our lives. If you want self-control, gaining spiritual knowledge. Truth is the path on which we must walk. Are you on that path?

Do it without grumbling!

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I Peter Chapters 4 and 5

This week’s reading is found in chapter 4:9. “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” When was the last time you had someone over to your house to eat dinner or lunch: sometime in the last 30 days, in the last six months, or I can’t remember. Which of these have you done in the last 3 months: I had a guest at my house for dinner, I went over to someone else’s house for dinner, or I had someone I did not know very well at my house for lunch. It is interesting that Peter says to be hospitable ‘without grumbling.” Being hospitable can be sacrificial and often we would rather not do it. Yet the command to be hospitable is unconditional. It does not say, “Show hospitality if you have time, or if it is convenient or, or if you feel comfortable doing it, or if you have a big enough house or if you have a complete set of matching dishes.” We are called to be hospitable no matter who we are and no matter what our circumstances are, and we are to do it without complaining.

The issue of hospitality is often overlooked when we study Christian discipleship. Think about it. If you were asked to identify which character traits a mature believer should possess, which character traits we should be striving to build into our lives, hospitality probably would not be high on the list. It seems like one of the less important, and perhaps even optional virtues, something akin to interior decorating, or flower arranging, or the art of making polite conversation. But that’s not how the Bible presents it. In both the Old and New Testaments, hospitality is seen as absolutely essential. For example, Paul identifies it as one of the basic qualifications for a pastor or an elder, a non-negotiable requirement for spiritual leadership. In I Tim 3:2 church leaders are to be “given to hospitality.” In Titus 1:7-8 ministers are told to be lovers of hospitality. Also in Romans 12:13 Paul wrote, “Give yourselves to hospitality.” The NIV reads “Practice” I like this idea of practicing hospitality, just like you practice an instrument! At first, you may not be very good, but as you practice you get better. For some of us, inviting people to our house can make us feel very uncomfortable. We may not feel very good at it. But with practice, we can get better.

Hospitality should occupy a place in every believer’s heart. It is not supposed to be something that only the South is known for. It is not something that only those who may have a special gift for entertaining are supposed to show. Hospitality can take the form of sharing a meal, an evening discussion, playing a game, watching a movie, etc. This is not talking about costly displays and big parties, but simple acts of love and kindness. There are a lot of lonely people in our community and in our church. Some have never been invited to another person’s house or it has been so long since they have been invited to another person’s house that they cannot remember it. We can show hospitality by reaching out to the broken, the poor, and the people in need. We can show hospitality by reaching out to our church family to deepen relationships. We can show hospitality by opening our homes to the internationals. We can show hospitality by inviting someone from church on Sunday over to your house.

While hospitality does not obtain salvation for anyone it is truly the result of salvation. The true measure of someone’s Christianity is not dependent on how they do on Sunday. The true measure of someone’s Christianity is not dependent on whether they speak in tongues, preach a good sermon, love to worship, carry a big bible, tell others about salvation, wear Christian jewelry, or listen to Christian music. Those who pray, study their Bibles, and never miss a Sunday service at church, but who never give themselves to hospitality, are missing out on what Christianity is all about. Peter is saying we should be open and intentional about being hospitable to the people we meet. It does not just happen. It means being willing to invite people over when they need a meal or a conversation, even if it’s not the most convenient time. Hospitality is not distinctive to Christianity. It has been a part of many cultures for a long time and in some, it is even considered a sacred responsibility. Yet, Christians, of all people, are to be hospitable. It is truly a mark of Christian maturity. It is not just a sacred duty but also rather an act of Christian love. The Christian is to have an open heart, open hand, and an open door. Invite someone to your house today, and do it ‘without grumbling!” You will be glad you did!