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Archive for May, 2014

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He *said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him (Mt. 4:18-22).

 

I want to bring you encouragement right now, because as I’ve been reading Mt. 4:12-22, I’ve been encouraged and I want to pass along that same encouragement to you with fresh perspective for your life.

When Jesus finds someone who is willing to follow Him, He touches that ordinary life and makes the person extraordinary – because He lives His life in and through that person.

By definition, He – the Extraordinary – now makes the ordinary like Himself: 2 Cor. 5:17: “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Now, the common (you) becomes sacred (you); that without purpose now has eternal purpose; hope takes the place of hopelessness.  The undignified is now dignified and the unimportant, important.

You see this in the life of an ordinary fisherman named Simon – later to have his name changed to Peter (“little rock”) — to reflect the character of his Lord (“THE rock”: cf. Ps. 18:1-2; Mt. 16:18).

Jesus came to Peter when Peter was not expecting Jesus (he didn’t even know Him).   Jesus will often come to us when we least expect Him to.

When Jesus spoke to Peter, Peter’s life was changed – changed by Jesus’ words, changed by His presence and changed by His life.  But that change only took place because Peter responded to the Lord in faith.

If you are in Christ, He comes to you now to renew you; to remind you that if His life dwells in you, you can never again be ordinary — much like an ordinary baseball becomes extraordinary to a little boy, when his favorite p

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In what was surely one of Jesus’ greatest battles with Satan, He quoted Deut. 8:3 to the devil when he tempted Him for 40 days in the Judean Wilderness (Mt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-14).  This was Jesus’ sole means of victory in this epic spiritual battle; His sole means!

He did not gain victory over the evil one because He was God or because He was without sin (though both of these statements are true); He gained His victory by really and truly living out Deut. 8:3. 

And therein lies our example: Holding God’s Word in the highest regard by really living it out – not giving it mere “lip-service.”

In this brief blog, I want us to consider precisely what Jesus is telling us from Deut. 8:3 by simply examining the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “word” (spelled dabar, but pronounced “davar”).

You see, the word means more than “word”!  It is variously translated in the Old Testament as “matter,” “thing,” “affair,” “business,” “act,” “event,” “history,” “account,” “cause,” “reason” and “commandment.”[1]

A very rich and broad word indeed, isn’t it?  Can you see how this simple word relates to every area of life?

In other words, when God tells Joshua that by meditating on His “word” day and night (Josh. 1:8-9) that he will then be successful in everything he does (and his chief responsibility was to bring millions of the Israelites into the Promised Land), what does that say to you and to me?

How seriously do you take God’s Word?  Better yet, how seriously will you now take God’s Word – now that you have deeper insight into how critical it is in every aspect of your life?

Will you then make time each and every day to put His Word first in your life and make it your foundation for living?  I would urge you to begin by memorizing Scripture for the remainder of your life.

Every time a verse speaks to you, write it down on a tablet you keep and go over it and over it until it permeates your spirit.  You will be amazed at how life-giving this is and how much this incredible exercise will change your life – because it is the living Word of God (Heb. 4:12).

God will use your faithful memorization (which in Hebrew is part of what the writers call meditation) not only for you but in the lives of others.

The time is short; your life is not your own (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  So, make the best use of the time your Lord has entrusted to you (don’t even think about saying you don’t have the time; you do, if you will put Him first).

Get His Word in your heart and live like you really believe it when Jesus says, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every dabar that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

[1] Bruce K. Waltke, “dabar,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, volume one (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 180.

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Will Time Exist in Heaven?          

1) The saints described in Rev. 6:9-11 are remembered for their lives on earth; they know what is happening on earth (cf. 18:20; 19:1-9).  We have additional evidence for this insight from Luke 9:28-31 as well (and note especially the Greek word translated “departure”: exodus).  Thus, to some extent, they are aware of our lives.

2) We can also see from Rev. 6:9-11 that the saints in heaven have a strong sense of the need for justice and they have a keen interest in what takes place on earth (cf. Heb. 12:1).

3) Currently in heaven, time does indeed exist, as can be seen from their question in v.10.  Sadly, there exists a widespread but wrong view that no such thing as time exists – but that is because of the King James translation of the Bible – which text comes from a less reliable Greek manuscript (Rev. 10:6).

4) The more accurate translation comes from more ancient, reliable Greek manuscripts and would read “There will be no more delay!”  Sure enough, the broad context of Revelation and other portions of Scripture bear this out.

5) For example, we’ve already read Rev. 6:9-11 where the martyrs are told to “wait a little while longer” after they ask “how long” before justice is meted out to the wicked (vv.10-11).  The Apostle Paul speaks of “the coming ages” (plural) in Eph. 2:7.

6) All of heaven is currently in-tune with time right now as it relates to earth.  “Day and night” are described in Rev. 7:15; the “tree of life” on the New Earth will yield its fruit “every month” (22:2).

7) What is the point of all of this thus far?  Continuity and discontinuity between heaven and earth: If we were to enter into heaven this minute, we should not be completely surprised, even if we would certainly be awestruck!

8) Hence, we can confidently dismiss any idea of heaven being an ethereal place, full of mystery: Scripture itself is making it plain to us that it is real, familiar and yet it has an amazing sense of wonder.

9) God’s original design for the earth – before the fall – was for seasons (Gen. 8:22).  There is silence in heaven “for about a half an hour” (Rev. 8:1).  Song (5:9-12) – which is such a critical part of life on earth — requires time: Meter, tempo, rests, etc. are all time-related.

10) Alcorn’s words on this matter are appropriately incisive:

Buddhism, which knows no resurrection, teaches that time will be extinguished.  Christianity, solidly based on a resurrection of cosmic dimensions, teaches time will go on forever.  For too long we’ve allowed an unbiblical assumption (“there will be no time in Heaven”) to obscure overwhelming biblical revelation to the contrary.  This has served Satan’s purposes of dehumanizing Heaven and divorcing it from the existence we know.  Since we cannot desire what we can’t imagine, this misunderstanding has robbed us of desire for Heaven.[1]                                   

The Resurrection of Our Bodies

1) Speaking of resurrection – according to Paul one of the most critical doctrines of the Christian faith (1 Cor. 15:1-19) – we also have the extraordinary pattern of physical bodies leading to spiritual bodies.

2) Thus, once again we see continuity and discontinuity: We’re quite familiar with the human body, but we are not at all familiar with a spiritual body – except by studying our Lord’s resurrected body.

3) But the point must be emphasized: the theme of earth simply being a pattern of what heaven is like continues to be seen and appreciated – and all that God made and called “very good” – He will make use of throughout eternity.

4) That pattern has been set by none other than Jesus Himself, who took upon Himself real flesh and was born as a man through a woman – albeit through a virgin (Is. 7:14; cf. Mt. 1:18-25).

5) But in His resurrected body, He could still say that He had flesh and bone (Luke 24:36-43; cf. John 20:26-29).

6) Note carefully what we’ve seen in these passages: communication with His disciples (as before with them); eating with them; and yet, ability to appear and disappear.

7) This explains precisely what Paul discusses about spiritual bodies (σῶμα πνευματικόν) for believers – just like their Lord’s – in the greatest chapter on the resurrection of the body in the Bible (1 Cor. 15).

8) “Spiritual bodies” (1 Cor. 15:44) are needed to be able to inhabit heaven; regular, sin-affected bodies cannot enter into a sinless heaven (v.50), which is part of the reason for the resurrection.  Once again, continuity and discontinuity can be seen between heaven and earth.

9) This is highly similar to what Paul told the Philippians about the resurrection of our bodies (Phil. 3:20-21; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-57).  Even OT saints understood – if even at a distance – the resurrection of our bodies (e.g. Ps. 16:7-11; Job 19:26-27).

10) We can also see elsewhere in the NT (e.g. 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 1 Thess. 5:23) how important the body is to God, since He created it to be everlasting and “very good” (Gen. 1:31); it’s no wonder, then, that He will redeem our bodies entirely.

11) R.A. Torrey writes, “We will not be disembodied spirits in the world to come, but redeemed spirits, in redeemed bodies, in a redeemed universe.”[2]

12) Not only will our human bodies be raised, but all Creation will experience a resurrection to new life as well (as Paul makes clear in Col. 1:16-20) because, again, all that God created was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

13) This can be seen in Paul’s description of the groaning and weakness of the earth being adversely affected by man’s sin (Rom. 8:19-23; cf. 2 Cor. 5:1-4).

14) In this passage, the weakness and future glory of man and creation are closely tied together: I write in my commentary from Romans on v.20 that the present earth has fallen short of its charter and is severely limited compared to what it could have been…However, the good news is that such subjection will change, which is where ‘hope’ (v.20) comes in (‘hope’ in the NT is better understood as ‘assurance.’).[3]

What Will Life Be Like in Heaven for Us?

1) Believers on earth have a very strong sense of family ties (although sadly, due to sin, families on earth have numerous problems).  But likewise, believers in heaven have a very strong sense of familial connection with their fellow believers on earth (Rev. 6:11).

2) Imagine, then, relationships on this earth that were ruined, hindered or lacked what they could have been; relationships are more important to God than just about anything else and they, too will be redeemed!  This truth gives us everything to look forward to.

3) Being in the very presence of our perfect, loving, gracious Triune God will prove to us to result in joy and satisfaction that is impossible to imagine now, but can be continually appreciated in this life through dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

4) This means perfect companionship with our Lord and it also means no loneliness; no more mental or physical anguish or pain; no more frustration; no depression and on it goes.  See this, beloved, through the ability the Holy Spirit gives us in His Word and through prayer!

5) We will also experience no loneliness – or boredom – because of that strong sense of familial connection among every single believer.  We will eternally serve each other in perfect friendship – a friendship rooted in genuine love, sincerity and joy.

6) This means healing of relationships; the beginning of new relationships that will last throughout eternity.  Gone will be the days of competition, lying, poor communication and misunderstanding; arguments; hatred and animosity; slander, gossip and backbiting.  Gone!  For eternity!

7) We’ll also continue to be ourselves in heaven (Job 19:26-27; Mt. 8:11; 17:1-3).  Now I realize immediately that some may not like to hear that!

8) However, because we’re called to love ourselves (Mt. 22:39) and loving ourselves in our fallen state can often be difficult (e.g. we fail and blame ourselves; we refuse to forgive ourselves; we play “recordings” of negative things that have been spoken over us; we don’t like the way we look, the way we sound, the way we act, etc.), we can rest assured that in heaven and in the Eternal State, thoughts such as these will be part of the past because we’ll be complete in Christ (1 John 3:2).

9) Each of us was specifically created by God to be unique.  While all of us are created in His image and after His likeness, we have different names (note Rev. 20:15; 21:27), different personalities and even our fingerprints are unique: there is not another fingerprint like ours.

10) God chose to make us this way; only our fallen nature condemns us as if somehow He made a mistake.  Such words may even have been spoken over us, but they are lies from the evil one!  Listen to C.S. Lewis’s perspective on this:

If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one…Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions.  For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you – you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith…Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it – made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.[4]

11) Although we won’t be capable of sinning in heaven – nor will we desire to sin (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 John 3:2; Rev. 21:4, 8, 27; 22:15; cf. Rom. 6:7, 23), we’ll still have our personality intact, including emotions (Rev. 6:10; 7:10).

12) Alcorn writes,

Emotions are part of our God-created humanity, not sinful baggage to be destroyed.  We should anticipate pure and accurately informed emotions guided by reality.  Our present emotions are skewed by sin, but they’ll be delivered from it.[5]

13) The satisfaction and fulfillment we’ll experience throughout eternity seems almost beyond our ability to imagine – but again, not if we rely upon the Holy Spirit’s insight for us – especially through His Word (e.g. Phil. 1:23).

14) For example, ponder what Jesus Himself promises to us (e.g. Mt. 5:3-4, 6; Luke 6:21, 23)!  And consider the joy that will come from God Himself serving us in the lavish banquet that He will prepare for us and our response to it (Is. 25:6-9; cf. Mt. 25:31-34; Luke 12:37; John 13:4; 21:9-13; Rev. 19:6-9).  What should that tell us about Him right now?

15) What are we to take away from the passages above?  We see continuity between what has taken place on earth – Jesus serving His servants! – and the Lord doing the same with them in heaven!

16) Thus, continuity and discontinuity (reflecting something similar, but better; reflecting the newness of heaven) can be seen in that while our names will be the same (denoting the consistency of our personalities) we’ll also have new names reflecting God’s new character for us as well (Is. 62:2; 65:15; Rev. 2:17; 3:12).

17) We’ll continue with the same racial and cultural identities (Rev. 5:9; 7:9), albeit with no more hostility between the races and cultures.

18) Our spiritual bodies, like those of Moses and Elijah (Mt. 17:1-3) will be glorious, yet recognizable (cf. Rom. 8:17-18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 2 Tim. 2:10).  Sin has brought shame to us and it causes our bodies to wear down.  But our eternal glory is what God intended us for and that means no shame and no defects!

19) Like our Lord’s body, we’ll have no physical limitations (e.g. John 20:19; Luke 24:31) and yet, from the descriptions of the banquets, we’ll still maintain our five senses.

20) How old will we be in heaven?  The Bible appears to be is silent on this matter.  When God created Adam and Eve, it appears they were fully mature.  That may give us some insight.  Early in our study we noted that God will redeem and restore all things.

21) It is possible or even likely that He never intended for our bodies to age and wear out; sin did that to us.  Therefore, it is reasonable to speculate (biblically) that our age will be restored to what is optimal from God’s standpoint for human beings.

22) That would answer the question of what happens to babies, infants, young children or old people; it is likely that they will come to an optimal age – whether through the normal passage of time (for younger people) or through a reversal in age (for older people) – a restoration.

23) This life is fraught with pressure, stress, fear, worry, strife, weariness and so forth.  But in heaven, those things will cease as well.  Our lives will be lives of joyful, adventurous activity, yet in a restful mode as well (Rev. 14:13).

24) The Greek word translated “rest” in v.13 means to have relief or to cease.  And what will we have relief from?  What will we be able to cease from?  We’ll have these things from our “labors,” a word referring to toil or hard work that produces weariness.[6]

25) As we well know, there is absolutely nothing like this in this world; we are heading into an eternity that our souls deeply long for and will receive – all because of our Lord’s goodness, grace and mercy through Jesus Christ.  Let us praise Him; let us honor Him!                                  

[1] Alcorn, 261.

[2] R.A. Torrey, Heaven or Hell (New Kensington, PA.: Whitaker House, 1985), 68-69.

[3] Brad Matthew Abley, The Book of Romans: The Security of the Believer (Xulon Press, 2005), 99.

[4] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1962), 147.

[5] Alcorn, 276.  Italics mine.

[6] LKGNT, 845

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I was doing a study recently in Acts 16 and continue to be amazed at how Paul and Silas praised and worshiped the Lord even after being severely beaten, hurled into prison and their hands and feet put in very painful stocks — designed to torment them (Acts 16:22-25).

I wanted to get further insight into this text, so I pulled my commentaries on Acts off the shelf and began to study them.  I ran across this statement, which I think is so powerful, so helpful and so insightful, that I wanted to share this with you — particularly because many Christians do not often take the time to think deeply about the reasons for worship.

Here it is (please write me and tell me what you think about this quote):

“Songs help truth travel down to the heart, and the use of music, the language of the heart, helps speed that process.  The objective truths we get from biblical songs challenge our subjective feelings, our theology addresses our experience.”[1]

[1] Ajith Fernando, Acts: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 449-450.

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