To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Heaven’ Category

Depression (Again) (13)

It is a year today since I reached the lowest point of my episode of serious depression around the turn of the year. On January 17th I pulled out of work to seek to get myself better.

It is sobering to look back over this year. In it I see how there has been so much to learn. To be reminded of our weakness is never a bad thing. It teaches us of our need to rely on our God and also upon others. This passage from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 has been ever so precious to me:

 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I trust I have learnt to eschew the peril of self-dependence which afflicts so many of us, particularly in the West. To have tasted that his grace is sufficient is a beautiful thing. I trust I will always be experiencing that reality.

I do now feel so much better in terms of my mental and emotional health. I thank my Father for this.  I trust I am a more caring and sympathetic person on account of what I have experienced.

I remember the pain though and do not want to go there again. But I have learnt so much through the experience.

Now feeling so much better there is that tendency to think that I might be able to get off my medication. To be anti-depressant free is, in a sense, the holy grail of the depression sufferer. Wisdom convinces me that it’s only in a better land with the Lord when that will be the case. There there will be no more pain and suffering. There will be no more depression when we are with the Lord. In the meantime I walk with a limp.

I do not know what the future holds, but I do know the One who holds the future. So by faith we seek to go forward.

 

 

Preaching Heaven And Hell

We should never preach heaven and hell without preaching God and sin. Heaven is only heaven because God is there. Hell is so very terribly hell because it is the eternal experience of the consequences of our sin.

To preach heaven on its own is to be like a spiritual travel agent. A travel agent describes a place so as people are persuaded into buying a ticket to get there. It is all based upon emotionally persuading people that this is the best deal available and they need to go for it. That is what the preacher who just preaches heaven does. They present heaven as the ultimate holiday destination and a must to be enjoyed. This approach is never engaged in in scripture.

To preach hell without saying it as a place of judgement for sin is to be a scare-mongerer. We present the ghastliness of hell, and truly it is ghastly beyond what words can convey, purely as a means of frightening people. What we should do is present the ghastliness of sin before a holy God.

We may have very good motives in adopting the approaches just mentioned, after all we want people to be heaven bound and not hell bound. If these are not our motivations then there is no love in us and, in a sense, there is no humanity in us. However, good motives are not enough. Such approaches depend upon our rhetorical skills to entice to heaven or deter from hell.

Inherent in these approach is the tendency to depart from the scriptural portrayal of heaven and hell and engage in speculation in order to gain an effect. So we conjure up vile images for hell and virtuous images for heaven to achieve our ends.

The corrective is always to be rooted in scripture for our approach to these matters. So we preach God as wholly beautiful in all His trinitarian, Father, Son and Holy Spirit magnificence. The consequence of such preaching is the awareness that heaven is only heaven because God is there.

Similarly hell is presented as the just vengeance of God against sin. Hell is an understandable place when we realise how vile an offence and sin is against a beautiful all loving holy Lord God.

We must be careful that our emotions in preaching flow out of a heart in tune with scripture. So our passions for being in glory with the Lord flow as we appreciate our God and our passions of alarm and concern flow when we present the vileness of sin. Yes we should be emotional in preaching, passions should flow. But they flow not because we are great thespians, but because God, through the Word of God, has got a hold of us.

Anyone who has attended drama school can whip up a fervour as regards to heaven and hell. But, only the Spirit anointed preacher can bring people to appreciate God and his ways. And through that, by the Holy Spirit, to see life transformation.

 

 

Preparing to Move On (Cont.d).

Last friday we looked at the realities of eternity and how we should be preparing to meet our God. Today we continue this theme buy looking at issues which should concern us, given the inevitably of our departure from this world.

We have to confess that death is an enemy. In fact the enemy of our souls, Satan, has death in his power (see Heb. 2:14). Consequently upon this is the thought that death casts a shadow over our lives. This is particularly true when we draw near to this enemy. Psalm 23:4a refers to the “walk through the darkest valley”. However, David goes on to say that he will “fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4b).

These comments by David are very important for us in getting a handle on how the Christian should prepare for death. David knows that the God of all comfort (2 Cor.1:3a) is being so really good to him now. And with this knowledge he has confidence to fear no evil in the future day when he walks into the valley of the shadow of death.

It is further very interesting to note that David draws his comfort from both the rod and the staff. The rod corrects us and the staff upholds us. We can easily see how God’s upholding hand is a comfort to us. However, it is less easy for us to see that the rod is a comfort. We start to get an insight into this though, when we look at Heb. 12:9-10 where the writer says “we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.” The clear implication here is that the LORD’S correction, symbolised by the rod in Psalm 23:4b, means that He has a fatherly care for us. And an awareness of His fatherly care, at the present time, encourages us not to fear the day of death ahead because, in that day we know He will be with us taking care of us.

So what does this mean to us? It means that we should be continually learning more of our God’s comforting hand upon us as we pass through the twists and turns of life. And the knowledge of this will mean that we need not have any fear in that day because we know he will be there to comfort us.

What about the things we leave behind?

As Christians we are called to be good stewards of that which God has committed to our care. This applies very much to the making of arrangements concerning our affairs after we depart to be with the LORD. This implicitly challenges our lifestyle at the present time. If we hoard and/or live in chaos then someone after us will have to clear up the mess and what testimony will that bear to the LORD’S Name? In fact in all our ways we should live so that we are unashamed before him at his coming (1 John 2:28b).

One crucial aspect of the ordering of our affairs is that we should have a will. This means that our relatives/friends know what to do when we die. It hopefully will prevent any unnecessary disputes arising. Very regrettably disputes often abound concerning issues of inheritance (the LORD Himself faced this in Luke 12:13) and we should be wise to seek to prevent this. Furthermore, leaving a will can mean that the work of the LORD is benefited by all or a portion of your estate being left to an appropriate designated organisation.

One further specific area to consider is that of the funeral. Relatives are often in disarray after a loved one has passed on and funeral arrangements can become a very toilsome issue. Accordingly making clear your desires; even choosing hymns and Bible readings is very wise. It is best to speak to relatives and the elders of the church about this so that everything is clear to the relevant parties. How sad it is when a believer leaves no clear requests then, after death, the unbelieving relatives take over leading to the funeral being undertaken with neither any testimony to the LORD nor to His resurrection power.

Let us then be careful to prepare for the day of our departure. And in all things remember that as believers when we part from this scene we have a home in heaven awaiting us: Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14: 1-3). HALLELUJAH; PRAISE THE LORD.

(Taken and adapted from Feltham Evangelical Newsletter March 2004)

Preparing to Move On.

One of the greatest realities which bears upon each of our situations is the fact that we are not going to be in this world forever. Evidence of this fact surrounds us whether it be in our families, in the news or in the graveyard. And yet, notwithstanding the continual reminders of our own mortality,so many people pay no attention to making preparations for the day when they pass out off this scene. So let us seek to rectify this by looking at some ways in which we should prepare for the day of our departure.

Where will I go after I die?

Here is the point where all the issues of religion focus. We can discuss so many things and yet when all is said and done we return to this very basic issue of what is going to happen to each individual upon passing beyond the grave. In this context point-scoring about various religious matters is an utter irrelevance. Rather, we need to know the truth pure and simple; we want no deceptions at all.

Let us look at the truth of God in the Bible and see what He says. Very straight-forwardly, God says that Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgement (Heb 9:27). We learn therefore straight away that there is a something after death for a man to face; death is not the end; there is judgment to face!

But what after this judgment? The Bible makes it clear that the judgment is followed by either a life in heaven for some or and eternity in hell for some. Those who die in their sins without ever repenting of their sinful condition will be in a similar state to the rich man in Luke 16 of whom it is recorded in vv 23-24 that In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

However, what a contrast there is for those who repent of their sins and trust the Saviour, the LORD Jesus. Those who have turned to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21a) will enjoy the fulfilment of the Psalmist’s desires in Psalm 16 that you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (v11b). And above all they will be, as the hymn says, “Praising their Saviour all the day long” and proclaiming with the heavenly host “praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!”.

How marvellous it is to be a Christian and to know of these wonderful things which are ahead! In fact for the believer death has lost its power and so with the apostle Paul we can cry: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor.15:55-57). We have the victory in Him and so for the Christian there is nothing to fear from death or Hades. The contest is over the Victor who is our Saviour has triumphed through His death, burial and resurrection and through that we are blessed.

Judgment for the Christian.

However there is a judgment for the Christian to face. 2 Cor.5:10 refers to this when Paul says “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Believers have had their sins all forgiven in the cross of the LORD Jesus and they will never have to face judgment for these. However, they will have to face judgment for how they have lived as Christians.

Four passages deal with this judgment:-

  • Rom.14:10-12 teaches us that each will stand before the LORD as an individual.
  • 1 Cor.3:10-15 indicates that we will be judged for what we have built into the local church.
  • 1 Cor.4:1-5 shows that we will be judged by the LORD for how faithful we have been to the stewardship He has committed to us.
  • 2 Cor.5:9-11 Indicates we will be judged for how much pleasure we have brought to the LORD.

So let us as Christians prepare for that day now so that we will hear our Master say “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge over many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Moreover, we should remember that our LORD may return at any time to take His people home to heaven and death will be swallowed up in His victory (see 1 Cor.15:54). What marvellous prospects there are in store for the believer in Christ!

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter February 2004)

Tooth Pain.

I am presently in the midst of tooth pain. And it is not pleasant! So what am I to learn?

  • We are not immune from the sufferings that are common to mankind. The salvation of God brings eternal blessings now, but in this life we suffer.
  • To ponder on the issue of pain. How much was it for Him who bore our sins on the cross to have suffered such pain. I enter into it perhaps in such a small way.
  • All of my life must be enfolded within the purposes of the Lord. He is interested in me. He is interested in my suffering.
  • That in all of my little suffering I would not sin against the Lord.
  • I need His grace in all aspects of my life.
  • Hope is such an important ingredient of life. When the pain comes, the hope that there will be relief is prevalent. And there will I trust under the good-hand of the medical practitioners be relief. If not, through the grace of Christ I have the promise of being part of the new creation where 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.’ (Rev. 21:4). No more pain; amazing and all achieved by Jesus my Lord.
  • A further experience of the suffering in this world should give me a greater yearning for that day when glory (His glory) dawns.
  • Hell is a terrible place because it is hopeless. As I write my soul recoils at the thought of pain with no thought of relief because there is no potential for relief. That is hell; just endless pain and suffering; oh how terrible. If you read this and you are not a Christian please run to Christ and make sure you never go to that gruesome place.
  • The NHS can be so cumbersome. I have been referred to the hospital because the dentist feels it is too complex for him to remove my wisdom tooth. But even though it is marked “urgent” they say it will take several weeks.
  • Make sure you look after your teeth. Particularly if you are young take time to clean your teeth properly. Remember, once your baby teeth go you only get one set.

 

Only One Way.

Our Saviour Jesus said I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). In this statement Jesus asserts that he is the only way to God. Implicit in what he says is the conviction that all other theories, all other philosophies, all other gurus, prophets messiahs, all other whatever DO NOT lead to God.

This assertion by our LORD sets Him in direct confrontation with the world in which we live. The common understanding in the world is that all roads lead to God. According to such a view it is up to you to choose the religion that you feel comfortable with. Normally, this is the religion that you have been brought up in. If you were brought up as a Muslim, then that is what you stick with and that applies to all other religions. If the religion teaches about God and living a good life, it is seen as being good enough.

Regrettably, though, it is not good enough! And we can say that because our Saviour said that He is the only way. We need to be very clear on this. If you choose another way, other than Jesus, then you are set on a way that does not lead to God. Jesus says He is the only way to God, all other ways do not lead to God. We need to repeat this in order to make it absolutely clear because the consequences are immense. This is because all other ways lead ultimately in one direction and that is to eternal hell. The LORD, in the Sermon on the Mount, urged His hearers to “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). The broad road is like a many laned highway. Each lane representing a religion or a guru or a philosophy. But each, being part of the same road, carries you to the same destination. And that destination is destruction. We are then beginning to see, that we need to be very very careful regarding the choices we make in respect of our religion or our way of life. To go in the wrong direction does not just matter for this life, but for eternity. It is not just a matter of sincerely following a religion and believing that that is good enough. Sincere is not enough.

We have established that Jesus is the only way to knowing God. It is only He who leads to us enjoying and knowing eternal life. However, we need to be sure that we are following the right Jesus. Many say that they are followers of Jesus. It is observed in the 2011 census for England and Wales 59.3% described themselves as Christian. But of these how many are truly following the Christ of the Bible? There are many Christs, but there is only one true Christ and He is the One revealed to us in the Scriptures.

One Jesus who most people are happy to align with is the Jesus who is a good teacher. The one whose teachings lead to healthy lifestyles and a better society is the Jesus many are happy to accept . To such a Jesus many give some vague affiliation to Him and His ways. But this misses the point concerning who Jesus is and why He came. Truly He is a good teacher; in fact He is the greatest teacher. However, He did not come just to teach decent people to live decent lives. Rather, he came to save sinners. Jesus once said to some religious people I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). His teachings lead us to repentance which in turns leads us to Christ as Saviour. Remember the glorious message of the angels to the Shepherds when Jesus was born that a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.(Luke 2:11b). Let us be clear Jesus teachings do reveal our sin; and our sin needs to be repented of and taken away. It is Jesus the Saviour who is able to take away our sins and rescue us from them.

Having found that Jesus is the only way to God and that Jesus is the only Saviour, we must guard ourselves against complacency. The LORD once said Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36). However, many profess to know Him, but do not actually know Him. On another occasion The Lord said to a large crowd “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46). We need to examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves (2 Cor. 13:5a). If our lives show, by our desire for righteousness and to please God, that we have been transformed then we can be assured we truly belong to Christ and have eternal life. If not we need to repent and come to the LORD so as to be find eternal life in Christ.

Finally, we need to refute the teaching that accepts Christianity as being just one religion which is of equal value to all others. Our LORD’s statement that He is the only way to God means that either Christianity is the only true religion and all others must be rejected as dangerous error, or Christianity is wrong and it must be rejected. This can be said because:

  • If what Jesus said is true then all others ways are not true and do not lead to life and do not lead to God. All other religions are false and leading people astray and ultimately to destruction.
  • If what Jesus said is not true then he is a liar and no liar should be trusted to bring the true way to God. If such was the case (and it certainly is NOT!) Christianity should be dismissed for being based on falsehood.

In the society in which we live, the claim to have Jesus as the only Saviour is likely to lead us into more and more opposition. This is because people increasingly take the view that each one religion or way of life is as good as the next. We must stand firm on this teaching. If we fail to resist the challenge then the whole superstructure of our faith begins to collapse. To know God through Christ is priceless! Let us urge others to similarly embrace the only Saviour and never forget that Jesus said I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of February 2013)

 

Heaven Is Not The Issue.

As Christians, we have marvellous things to look forward to. Heaven is our destiny and that is incredible. But when we are thinking of what we have to look forward to, are we right to concentrate on our expectation of being in heaven? When looking at the Scriptures it appears that the great longing of the people of God was not to be in heaven, but rather to be with the One who is our LORD and Saviour; Jesus Christ. To put it another way we can truly delight in looking forward to being in heaven. However, heaven is no heaven if there is no Lord Jesus there. So desiring to have heaven, but not longing to be with Christ is to fail to grasp the fullness of what God has in store for us.

As Christians we are now possessors of eternal life. John says Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life (John 3:36a). Eternal life is, in a sense, not something we look forward to, but something we have now. The essence of this new life is summed up by our LORD, in words used as He spoke to His Father, as being that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3). Eternal life is about us knowing God and Jesus Christ in a living relationship. Now through the life of faith we can know Jesus more and more. This relationship develops and strengthens through prayer and study of the Word, Thereby we can grow stronger and stronger in the possession of eternal life.

But one day this life of faith will be transformed into a life of sight. One day we will be caught away to be with our Saviour. Life now is about growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18a); this is how we enjoy eternal life now. When we are taken to glory the experience changes, but the goal does not. Although, in glory we will see our Saviour the goal of growing to know Him still remains. The fact that Jesus Christ should be the focus of our lives now and will be then is seen as wholly appropriate given that Peter continues by saying that to him be glory both now and forever! Amen (2. Pet. 3:18b).

When we look at the worship scene in heaven in Revelation 5, we see there the confirmation that Jesus is the centre of attention. John says: I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders (Rev 5:6a). And the massed ranks of redeemed sinners and glorified angels are all singing His praise (see Rev. 5:6-12).

Jesus Christ is described by Paul as being our hope (see 1 Tim. 1:1). Everything we have to look forward to is in Him and because of Him. He releases all the blessings of God into our lives. Accordingly, it makes sense that what we are looking forward to is not heaven itself, but rather being with Jesus Christ our LORD.

Consider then some of the things Paul says. He says I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (Phil. 1:23b). He would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8b). He reminds the Thessalonians that the return of Jesus will mean we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thess. 4:17b). Further, in respect of the Thessalonians he records that they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven (1 Thess. 1:9b-10a). John also concurs with Paul when he says; we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2b). These scriptures relentlessly drive us to focus on the glorious expectation of being with our LORD Jesus and not just in heaven.

This is a great corrective to all sorts of false notions that we can have about our future and heaven itself. When we start to think about our future we can too easily:

  • think about heaven as some kind of ultimate holiday location. If this is the case then we are thinking of heaven a wonderfully pleasant place to experience, but nothing beyond that.

  • think of heaven merely as a better option than going to hell. Truly we should flee from the wrath to come and that wrath is real. But if this is all we think about then heaven is merely a “phew” place. It is a place where we just think “Phew I am glad I’m here and not in hell!”

  • get involved in pondering upon who we will know in heaven. Will we recognise our relatives? What about recognising Paul or Spurgeon or Lloyd-Jones?

  • think about what we will be doing there. Will we have this job or that job? Scripture says his servants will serve him (Rev.22:3b). What a privilege! Do we need to know more than that?

We must emphasise that the Scriptures never dwell upon the four issues mentioned above. Rather, the focus in scripture is that we will be with our Saviour. We will be worshipping Him and glorifying His Name and that of our great Father God.

Given these things are we really helping a fellow believer, as they approach death, when we say “You will soon be in heaven and we will meet again there?” In saying this are we really encouraging them? Rather, what we should be focusing on is the great anticipation of being “with the LORD”. That is what the New Testament encourages us towards. Moreover, it is what our Saviour encouraged us to think upon. He said to his disciples “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you yhat I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1-3).

These words of our Savior not only comfort us as regards to being in His presence, but they delight us with strong hints that he wants us to be with Himself. Sometimes we can long to be with someone, but we are not sure that they want us to be with them! John 17:24 removes once and for all any doubt that He wants us to be with Himself. Here our Saviour says to His Father concerning us Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory. Being with the one we love and knowing He wants us there; now that is surely something to long for.

For the true believer it is our everything to be with Christ Jesus our LORD. Let us then seize our Saviour’s exhortation and resist being troubled. We are going to be with our great Saviour and to be with Him forever. And it does not get any better than that!!

Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of February 2012.

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