IF YOU COULD AVOID DEATH…

IF YOU COULD AVOID DEATH…

Phil. 1:23-24 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

If you are really honest, to most Christians Paul’s words sound a little extreme. He actually would prefer to die than to live on in this world. How could that be? If that was really true, is that a healthy position for a Christian to be in? Of course that was the true feeling of Paul’s heart and yes it is the most healthy condition a Christian could possibly be in. What was it about Paul that gave him that perspective of life after death? Why would he choose to die rather than to live a long life? Jonathan Edwards addressed some of these questions in his message on Psalm 73. here is something he said about death and heaven.

“If you could avoid death, and might have your free choice, would you choose to live always in this world without God, rather than in his time to leave the world, in order to be with him? If you might live here in earthly prosperity to all eternity, but destitute of the presence of God and communion with him–having no spiritual intercourse between him and your souls, God and you being strangers to each other for ever–would you choose this rather than to leave the world, in order to dwell in heaven as the children of God, there to enjoy the glorious privileges of children, in a holy and perfect love to God, and enjoyment of him to all eternity.”

If you will ponder this question and answer it honestly to yourself, it will bring you great insight into your spiritual condition. The desire to live a life here in prosperity and health is extremely appealing to the natural man. The natural man has no sphere of reference to understand what heaven is really like. All of that changes when one has an encounter with Christ. When we catch a small glimpse of what He is really like everything changes. suddenly we become aware of what makes heaven so heavenly. Its not the endless life or the incredible riches that are there. Its not even seeing our loved ones and Christians from other generations. Heaven is heaven because Jesus is there. Heaven is heaven because of the glorious atmosphere there which is God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. We will breath in and breath out God. We will be all consumed in His love because heaven is a world of love. Heaven will be heaven because our Heavenly Father is there in all His Glory. It will take eternity (which means it will never end) to explore the ever increasing unfolding of the glory of God in Christ. One taste of heaven in this life through the outpouring of the Spirit and you will say with Paul, “to depart and be with Christ is far better”.

TEN VIRGINS

THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS

“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
Matt. 25:1-4

I remember this funny song we used to sing at Bible School, “Give Me Oil in My Lamp”. Some of the lines in that song would get stuck in my head for days, “keep me burning for the Lord” , “give me wax for my board”, “keep me surfing for the Lord”, only in California. I never could figure out how you could “surf for the Lord”. The basic message of the song was, “Jesus is coming soon, STAY READY!!!”
The parable of the ten virgins gives us some interesting insight into what Jesus considered being prepared for His return would look like. The lesson of the story is plain, the oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit, and having oil in your lamps is obvious. We must stay full of God, that is the only way for us to be ready for the coming of the Lord. That is a powerful thought, it is the Spirit of God within us that actually qualifies us to be with Him. Many people just think about the work of the cross. The cross dealt with our sins, that is what blocked us from the Glory of His Presence. But just being forgiven is not enough, forgiveness of our sins, the work of the cross was all about bringing us to God. That is what the day of Pentecost was all about. We have to go from the cross to the Upper Room and actually receive the Presence of God, the wonderful Holy Spirit, into our lives. When that happens, your new life begins, that is the beginning of having “oil in your lamp”. But that is only the beginning, this oil, the Holy Spirit, is the source of power and life for all we are and all we do. We cannot live off of that initial experience, our lamps will run out. We need to have continual, daily fillings of the oil of His Spirit. This is how we stay ready, we must keep our lamps “trimmed and burning”, none of us know when our Lord will return.
So this brings us back to our song, “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning”. Do you have any oil in your lamp today? Are you burning for the Lord? Learn the lesson of the wise and foolish virgins, be ready for the return of Christ, no one knows which day He will return.

DEATH IS PRECIOUS

DEATH IS PRECIOUS

Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.
Ps.116:15

For us on earth, death seems like such a tragedy, but not so for the Lord and those in heaven. Death is precious to the Lord, it leads His sons and daughters right into is arms. To leave this world is the beginning of the greatest adventure imaginable. We just lost one of the great men of God from our generation, David Wilkerson. To those of us on earth, this seems like such a terrible thing, for Pastor Wilkerson and those in heaven, nothing could be further from the truth. Jonathan Edwards loved to preach about heaven, here is something he said in his message, “To Be Absent From the Body is to be Present With the Lord”.

“the privilege of being with Christ in heaven, where he sits on the right hand of God, in the glory of the King and God of angels, and of the whole universe, shining forth as the great light, the bright sun of that world of glory; there to dwell in the full, constant and everlasting view of his beauty and brightness; there most freely and intimately to converse with him, and fully to enjoy his love, as his friends and spouse; there to have fellowship with him in the infinite pleasure and joy he has in the enjoyment of his Father; there to sit with him on his throne, and reign with him in the possession of all things, and partake with him in the joy and glory of his victory over his enemies, and the advancement of his kingdom in the world, and to join with him in joyful songs of praise to his Father and their Father, to his God and their God, forever and ever? Is not such a privilege worth the seeking after?”

Can you imagine what it will be like, to be in the presence of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ? To enjoy the love that flows like a mighty river from Him and fills everything in that glorious place, to sing with the angels, to dance without inhibition in His Presence, to enjoy Christ in all of the redeemed from every tribe and tongue, to celebrate with those that we led to Christ, yes, heaven will be quite a place.
As for David Wilkerson, he will be missed, his family needs our prayer. For the rest of us, let this serve as a reminder. Life is precious, life is short. There is a world that needs Christ and heaven is a world of love.

HEAVEN IS A WORLD OF LOVE

HEAVEN IS A WORLD OF LOVE

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
Rev.22:1

Do you ever think about heaven? It is really hard to even imagine what it could be like. We know about the streets of gold, about the gates made out of pearl, the foundations of the city made of precious stones, we even know about our loved ones. But let’s face it, does anyone really want to go there, I mean go there now. I guess the problem we have is that it doesn’t ever seem real to us, it seems kind of mysterious and, frankly, a little scary. What could change our perspective of heaven? What could make it more desirable than living here on earth? Actually that comes from a revelation of God, a spiritual glimpse into the incredible trinity. Our relationship with the Father, His beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit is what makes heaven, heaven. Jonathan Edwards is known for his sermons about hell, one of his best messages was entitled “Heaven is a World of Love”. Enjoy this short excerpt from that message.

“There, in heaven, this infinite fountain of love — this eternal Three in One — is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it, as it flows forever. There this glorious God is manifested, and shines forth, in full glory, in beams of love. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love! Again, I would consider heaven, with regard,”

He talks as if he has experienced this river of love, not like someone who has just read about it and has a belief about it. Actually, he had experienced heaven at his church in Northampton, Massachusetts. Edward’s church had been overwhelmed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the years of the Great Awakening. The Holy Spirit is actually the manifestation of God’s love, He is the actual foretaste of the atmosphere of heaven. Edwards spoke of heaven as if he had been there and wanted to go back, that is exactly what had happened. For many today, heaven is just a better option than the alternative. It doesn’t have to stay that way. Just as in all spiritual truth, the things of heaven are made real to us by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Heaven is a world of love, it is a place of unspeakable joy that will increase in intimacy and intensity throughout all eternity. The good news is that you don’t have to wait until you die to experience this world of love, He is being poured out on all flesh today.

ETERNAL HELL FIRE

ETERNAL HELL FIRE

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Matt.25:41

Is hell a real place, or just the archaic threats of irrelevant, ranting preachers. Our sanitized culture recoils at the thought of a place of eternal torment, especially the eternal fires of hell. The problem we have is the source of much of our teaching on hell, it is Jesus Christ Himself. Most of the criticism aimed at Him during His time on earth was not His teaching on hell, He was condemned for the love He showed to the common sinners of His day. It is hard to condemn Christ as a narrow minded preacher, devoid of mercy. He is the very incarnation of the mercy of God, yet His warnings about hell remain.
In 1999 we began performing a play at Victory Fellowship called Beyond the Grave. In this production we see the untimely deaths of several teens, the victims of a troubled young man gone out of control. The tragedy portrayed in this production was not just the premature deaths of these precious young people, but the horrors that followed for those unprepared for life beyond the grave. The impact of this play has been quite stunning, several hundred thousand people have attended performances of Beyond the Grave, and an untold number have had true conversion experiences. It seems eternity is in our hearts, man knows in the bottom of his being that there is life beyond the grave.
Why would man be condemned in this place of darkness for eternity? How could a loving God cast such a harsh judgement on so many people? Those answers are clearly taught in the Bible. The Bible begins with man’s rebellion against His creator. The ramifications of our rebellion against an infinitely, holy God are quite staggering. The Bible shows man headed down a path of utter destruction in his march toward eternity in his defiance of God and His kingdom. The mercy and kindness of God were revealed in the coming of our
Savior, Jesus Christ. His sacrificial death on the cross is God’s plan of rescue from the total destruction of mankind. Have you made your peace with our offended, holy God, or have you rejected His incredible offer of reconciliation made available by the death of His Son? What is at stake, only your eternal destiny.

IS HELL REAL?

IS HELL REAL?

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Matt.13:41-43

No one wants to think about hell or eternal suffering, it is not a topic at church, funerals, or seldom comes up in our daily conversations. To bring up the subject, or even worse, tell someone you think it is real, can cause tension, anger, and rejection. You will be labeled as narrow minded, religious, and void of love. That is quite strange in light of the One whose words I quoted in today’s verse. Jesus is the embodiment of the Father’s love, He displayed His love for sinners by His death on the cross. He believed in eternal suffering in hell and took great measures to warn us about it. What determines the measure of our crimes against God and what kind of suffering does justice demand? Our punishment is correctly estimated by the value of the person we have sinned against and the great depths we have plummeted to in violating this great and holy God. Jonathan Edwards preached a message about the justice of God revealed by hell, listen to his words.

“But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty. To have infinite excellency and beauty, is the same thing as to have infinite loveliness. He is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore he is infinitely honorable. He is infinitely exalted above the greatest potentates of the earth, and highest angels in heaven; and therefore he is infinitely more honorable than they. His authority over us is infinite; and the ground of his right to our obedience is infinitely strong; for he is infinitely worthy to be obeyed himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon him.
So that sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment.- Nothing is more agreeable to the common sense of mankind, than that sins committed against any one, must be proportionably heinous to the dignity of the being offended …”

The good news is that there is another way to satisfy the justice of God. Christ became man, represented us as a people, and took the wrath of God aimed at our sins by His death on the cross. God’s justice was satisfied and His mercy extended to all who will believe on Him. The decision is yours, accept His offer or spend eternity fulfilling the justice of sins against an infinitely, holy God.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Jn.3:36

PAUL LOOKS BEYOND THE GRAVE

WARNINGS FROM THE EDGE OF ETERNITY

As for me, the hour has come for me to be sacrificed; the time is here for me to leave this life. I have done my best in the race, I have run the full distance, and I have kept the faith. And now there is waiting for me the victory prize of being put right with God, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that Day—and not only to me, but to all those who wait with love for him to appear.
2Tim.4:6-8 TEV

Sometimes, things appear differently to us when we are facing the end of our lives. That is how it was for Paul as he wrote his last letter, his second letter to his spiritual son Timothy. Paul was about to be executed in Rome. As he thought about his death, it seemed like he was gazing out into eternity. Some of the things he said to Timothy in this letter speak loud and clear to us as we face the end of the age.
What kinds of things did Paul warn Timothy about in this critical time? First, he warned him of people that had an outward form of religion, you might call it a veneer, but they reject the real power of God. He also warned Timothy of people who would be treacherous, treasonous people even within the church that Timothy pastored in Ephesus. He also cautioned Timothy to be aware of false teachers that would use Christianity for their own selfish purposes rather than advancing God’s kingdom. These characteristics have come full bloom in the modern church world.
How was Timothy to stay true to the Lord in those difficult times? Paul reminded Timothy of the first time he had prayed for him and how the Spirit had fallen upon him. “Stir up the gift”, Paul admonishd Timothy. Paul also encouraged Timothy to soak in the scriptures he had been taught from his childhood. These were the “God breathed words of life”, Timothy was to live in them and he was to preach them.
Today, we are all standing on the edge of eternity. These are the “difficult times” Paul spoke of that would come at the end of the age. We must pay close attention to what Paul told Timothy. Beware of “ministries” that have a form of godliness without His power, stir up the gift of the Holy Spirit in your life, and immerse yourself daily in God’s Word. As we see the great day of the Lord drawing near, we must not allow ourselves to fall under pressure to live like everyone else. The Lord is returning and there is a crown reserved for those who love His appearing. As we see the end of the age approaching, if you take another look, you might find yourself gazing into eternity like Paul.

THE TIME OF THE END

THE TIME OF THE END

“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Dan.12:1,2

“A time of trouble such as never been seen”, these are the powerful prophetic words of the prophet Daniel speaking of the days that we live in. There has never been a time like the one we live in now. There are more conveniences than ever, which tend to lull us into a sense of false security. Then, suddenly we are awakened again to our fragile state by a terrorist attack, an earthquake, a “Katrina like” storm, a revolution, or a tsunami. The latest two events are the revolutions in several muslim nations and then the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The world is reeling in the throes of birth pangs, anticipating the promised return of Jesus Christ.
Jesus spoke often of the events that would signal His return. He spoke of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, pestilences, and famines. But this is not all He indicated would happen just before He returned. He said that there would be an incredible spiritual tsunami before His return. What would that look like? It would be a time when multitudes of the least likely would suddenly be converted to Christ. Also unexpected candidates would find themselves suddenly thrust into gospel ministry. We are entering into the most dangerous, unpredictable yet glorious time our world has ever known. These are the days the prophets spoke of and the angels longed to see, and we live in them.
For the Christian, these days are not terrifying, our future is secure and we are in the midst of the Father’s hand. Who can pluck us from His hand or separate us from His love? I am persuaded that, neither life nor death, earthquakes or tsunamis, terrorist attacks or nuclear disasters shall be able to separate us from the love of God found in our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is our returning, victorious Lord and all of these events are in the midst of His hand. What shall I do, love Him with all my heart and tell as many people that I can of His great love.

THE SOON RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST

THE SOON RETURN OF JESUS CHRIST

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

1Cor.15:52 & 1Thes.4:16

Do you ever think about the end of the world? Do you really think Jesus Christ will return physically to our world? What about during our lifetime, are the end of all things as, as we know them, at hand? I believe the end of all things is right at the door, the return of Christ is imminent, His kingdom reign on earth is certain. The strange thing about the fulfillment of prophetic events is their timing, it seems like they are delayed and may never be fulfilled and then, suddenly, they are dramatically in place. In the today’s verse we see this dynamic displayed. Paul uses the phrase, translated in English, “the twinkling of an eye”. This is describing a sudden, supernatural fulfillment of God’s prophetic plans, here is Dick Mills thoughts on this beautiful Bible word.

“Paul had in his vocabulary the following words to indicate time: millennium (1000 years), century (100 years), decade (10 years),year, season, month, week, day, and hour. (These are all Bible words. Paul did not have the words minute and second; these came later.) Yet when describing the return of the Lord, none of these words would suffice. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write “in an atomos,” “in the twinkling of an eye.” Jesus is coming in an atomic second. A second can be calibrated to a half second, a tenth of a second, a hundredth of a second, even a thousandth of a second. But an atomic second is a unit which is incapable of being further divided. ”

That is incredible! The Lord will suddenly appear, literally in “an atomic instant”. How should that effect our lives? First, it produces a joyful anticipation in our hearts knowing our reward is at hand. Secondly, it fills our hearts with an incredible sense of fear and awe, our incredible Lord Jesus will suddenly appear. I want to be ready for that moment, how about you?

BORN IN ETERNITY

BORN IN ETERNITY

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Jn 1:1,14,18

In the gospel of Luke and in Matthew there is an emphasis on the human birth of Our Savior. John’s account is much different, John turns immediately to the eternal nature of Jesus Christ. John is focused on the blazing Glory of the Son of God. His account does not have the taste of a casual observer but the sense of someone entranced in the Glory of the eternal Son. His first words capture the essence of his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, And the Word was God”. In verse 14 you hear the evidence that settled everything for John, “we beheld His Glory”. That was it for John, he had seen the glory of the Lord. John had not been present at the manger scene and he had not been there with the shepherds, but John saw the empty tomb for himself. The power of death had been crushed, the eternal Son had defeated death on the cross, He was trully alive forever more.
For us today 2000 years have passed since the birth of Christ. The wise men have been gone for generations and the shepherds are just figures on a Christmas card today, but the eternal Son is still alive. The Word has taken on human flesh. I may not have been with John at the empty tomb, I never heard the angels sing, and I have never followed a star across the desert, but I too have seen His Glory. Christianity is alive and well today because of the testimony of people like you and me who have tasted the goodness of God for ourselves and have embraced the truth of the gospel. As John said, no one has seen God at any time, but the only begotten Son, He has declared Him. Today Jesus is still the Word who became flesh, He still tabernacles amongst us through our own personal testimony of Jesus. He is still “declaring Him” through your life and testimony. May the eternal Son declare His Glory in you and through you this Christmas.