Saturday, March 31, 2007

What Heaven Is Like

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)

There was a man at my last church who genuinely struggled to know what heaven would look like. He was a great outdoorsman and he worried that if heaven were nothing but streets lined in gold with pearly gates surrounding it, full of angels singing the same hymn constantly – he would be put off and bored to tears. This wasn’t his idea of eternal bliss.

What is heaven like? William Barclay sums it up this way --

“For the Christian, heaven is where Jesus is. We do not need to speculate on what heaven will be like. It is enough to know that we will be for ever with Him.”

Friday, March 30, 2007

Close to Church, Far from God

[Jesus said,] “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:5)

Self-avowed Christians (particularly church members and leaders) need to exercise great care in how we live out our faith. Do we make a show of it or does it show itself in our words and actions? If we are motivated to demonstrate faith in order to gain personal benefits, we won’t enjoy eternal rewards.

Matthew Henry once wrote --

“It is common for those that are farthest from God, to boast themselves most of their being near to the Church.”

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Good News and Bad News

“The time has come,” [Jesus] said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

To repent is to completely turn around – to shift from going in one direction (toward worldly sin) to going in the opposite direction (toward God). It requires transformation of our whole selves - hearts, minds, and bodies. This can be very difficult and extremely painful, but to enter God’s presence, it is absolutely necessary.

To receive the good news of God’s saving love in Jesus Christ, we must face the bad news of our sin. We can only be forgiven if we first admit we are sinners. If we try to gloss over the challenge of the gospel, we aren’t really accepting the good news at all.

St. Augustine wrote --

“If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”

Do you trust in Christ’s love or in yourself?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” (Luke 15:29)

The older brother in the story of the prodigal son burns with anger at his father and resentment toward his brother. He is so blinded by this, that he fails to see the blessings he had received working alongside his father day by day.

The problem with the older brother is that he is so driven by a false sense of what is fair. Our idea of justice is not necessarily God’s. God knows what is best for us and, as difficult as it can be, the best thing for us to do is to accept this, not resent it.

Evangelist Tony Campolo, reflecting on this passage, writes –

“Resentment is something that leaves you feeling right, when you are wrong.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Compassion or Condemnation?

So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

When he sees his wayward son in the distance, the father has no idea why he’s coming home. Maybe he wants to show off his “big city” identity to his “country hick” dad. On the other hand, it could be that he wants more money. It would have been natural for the father to be skeptical – to wait and see what his son has to say and how he behaves.

But the father doesn’t do this. Instead, before his son even has the chance to speak, the father hikes up his robe, runs to him, and gives him a big hug and a kiss.

You might think this acceptance might “enable” the son to go on sinning, but I don’t think this is the case. Instead, it gives him the motivation to change – out of a desire to please his father.

Henry Ward Beecher once said --

“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.”

When someone sins against you, do you show compassion or condemnation?

Monday, March 26, 2007

True Joy

To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy, to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 24-25)

There is nothing we can do to achieve joy in this life. We can only receive it as a gift from our God and Savior. Joy is a rare and precious jewel that is not to be squandered on the ways of the world, but kept securely within the kingdom of heaven where we enjoy fellowship with God and God’s people.

The poet John Donne wrote –

“True joy is the nearest which we have of heaven, it is the treasure of the soul, and therefore should be kept in a safe place, and nothing in this world is safe to place it in.”

Do you have joy? If so, what are you doing with it?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

God is God

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)

The God of the Universe is so utterly different from we are, we can not even fathom Him. Certainly, we are made in God’s image, but even saying this, we’re not sure what it means. The Bible reveals to God’s Word (through the power of the Holy Spirit), but only within the limits of human language and understanding. Jesus Christ shows us what God is truly like, but only in actions limited by human senses. We can only see “through a glass darkly” who God is.

The German theologian Karl Barth once wrote –

“The Gospel is not a religious message to inform mankind of their divinity or to tell them how they may become divine. The Gospel proclaims a God utterly distinct from men.”

God is God, and we are not.