Eternity


Leviticus 25-27 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: Because He loves us so, He sent His Son to be our family redeemer 

@Leviticus 25
“I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger, a-wandring through, this world of woe.  Yet there’s no sickness, toil nor danger in that bright land, to which I go…”  No one really knows the origin of this old spiritual about a stranger traveling through hard times on to a better place.  I think of this song when I read Leviticus 25 because it serves as a reminder to me that we are just passing through this life on our way to eternity with God which, by the way, is a much better place.

“The land must never be sold on a permanent basis, for the land belongs to me.  You are only foreigners and tenant farmers working for me.” (23)  As with the Israelites, it would be good for us to remember our status.  Created to fellowship with the Lord, our time here on earth is but a moment, a vapor as James says in James 4:14, where we are given the opportunity to choose our eternal destination.  We cherish this fellowship with Him while living our time out in this world, but life is just temporary housing on the way to our future.

When I spend a week or two in a vacation home somewhere, I realize I’m not going to stay there forever.  I don’t take up ownership and worry about the place not being perfect for all my needs like having an espresso machine, etc., because I’m not staying there long.  Oh, that we would remember our place as foreigners, strangers, on this earth, not so concerned how perfect it is for us, but looking for a city “whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10 KJV).  We are tenant farmers working for Him.

With the foundation set in verse 23, God was able to incorporate His plans for providing for those who had fallen on hard times and needing help to move forward, “If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and is forced to sell some family land, then a close relative should buy it back for him.” (25)  Understanding that they were foreigners and tenant farmers, the Israelites could more easily be generous with their land and their money.  The close relative, the family redeemer, gave of himself to buy back the land so that no one was destitute.  When we keep in mind the fact that we, too, are strangers and sojourners through this land, we will be more generous and give more of ourselves.

As we travel through this life, we are given the opportunity to accept and fellowship with God because of our family redeemer, our older Brother, who purchased our sin-stained lives with His own blood, “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors.  And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” (I Peter 1:18-19)   We may be strangers in this land, but because of His ransom, we are not homeless.  Like the old southern gospel song, we’re “looking for that city, where we’ll never die…” (Dalton/Cooper)

We’ve finished reading what some consider the dreaded Leviticus.  Who would have known that it was so relevant for us today and that it held so many truths?  Well, of course, He knew and that’s why He saw to it that it was included in our Holy Bible.

Moving Forward: Just passing through this world; but thanks to my family redeemer, I’m enjoying sweet fellowship with the Lord along the way. 

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 1-4

2 Thessalonians (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven…” for His loved ones 

The power of the written word!  This is something I don’t take lightly.  From this power, countries have formed, wars have commenced and love has flourished.  The written word is a powerful impacting force that affects our lives every day.  Facebook has become a new form of written communication that delivers spontaneous and immediate information, sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes it’s not.  A post can be removed with a simple tap of the finger, but for those few moments it remains online, the words are out there with a destiny that is difficult to predict.  As a rule, once the written word leaves our hand, it’s difficult to retrieve it and impossible to control how it is perceived.  Paul found this to be true in his own life.

Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica was intended to be one of encouragement and hope regarding future events, but instead it brought confusion and distress to the church.  Some in the church were grieving over fellow believers who had died, and Paul wrote these words of comfort in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.”  Well, I don’t know about you, but these words make me want to shout!  They bring encouragement to us; but for the Thessalonians, not so much.

2 Thessalonians
False prophets took Paul’s first letter and ran with it saying that this prophecy had already begun, and they caused fear and turmoil for many in the church.  Paul assured them that it was not true and other events would first occur before the prophecy was fulfilled. (2:1-4)  Others adopted an “escapism” mentality and thought Christ’s imminent return was an excuse to quit work and wait for the shout and the trumpet. They sat around leeching off others and meddling in their business.  Paul, not one to mince words, reminded them, “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” (3:10)  I like that.

Strange that these same responses to Paul’s first letter still happen today, but in this day and age, we are without excuse.  At the writing of the letters to the Thessalonians, little to none of the New Testament had been written and circulated.  The church had grown through verbal teachings based on the life of Christ and the Old Testament.  Today we are privileged to read the entire Word of God – the Old Testament prophecies, the Gospels with the prophetic words of Jesus, Paul’s Holy Spirit inspired messages of the end times and the glorious Revelations of John.  The written Word is powerful, and I am encouraged just as Paul intended!

When I was young, I was often called over to the window or to the kitchen screen door by my mom where she would point to the sky and say, “See those clouds, Phyllis.  Someday Jesus will come back in those clouds to take us to heaven.  Make sure your heart is ready for Him and listen for His shout, listen for the trumpet.  He’s coming back.”  She anticipated His imminent return. However, she didn’t just sit back and wait for that day.  No, she worked every day for Him and testified to hundreds and hundreds of individuals about Jesus until the day she died.  One thing I know from Paul’s writing, and there’s no debate here, is that should the Lord return for us today, my mom will rise first to meet Him from the grave, and she would like that. 

Moving Forward: I went to my window this morning and looked at the clouds hoping to see Him and to hear the shout because I’m expecting Him to come any moment. Until He comes, however, I’m going to work for Him just as hard as I can. 

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 25-27

Psalms 72-74 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He leads us to our glorious destiny regardless of how things may seem

@ Psalm 73
Psalm 73 was written by Asaph who was a Levite appointed by David to direct the choirs, and in this role, he composed psalms, songs and played the cymbals.  He was one that we would say “grew up in the church,” and as a Levite, he more than likely understood the sacrifice involved in serving the Lord.

By the manner he began his psalm, we can sense his love for God and his desire to view God and His goodness in the proper perspective, but it didn’t take him long to get to the heart of the issue that was troubling him.  “For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.  They seem to live such painless lives…they don’t have troubles like other people.” (3-5)

When I read this Psalm, I immediately wanted to remind Asaph that things are not always how they seem to be.  I’ve lived on the planet long enough to see that “He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” (Matthew 5:45)  We should never judge an individual’s trouble factor by how things appear. In fact, prosperity often brings greater, more intense troubles.  We seldom are aware of the family issues, health problems and immense stress levels that those around us are facing.  I’ve known many wealthy parents who would trade all they owned for the salvation of their children.  Everyone has trouble.

“Camp’s not fair!  Camp’s not fair!” was the slogan at one of our youth camps one year.  A camper had expressed to the camp director that camp was not fair because of something that had happened that he didn’t like.  Well, camp wasn’t always fair, but then neither is life, and the director grabbed that comment and turned it into a chant for the week.  We laughed at the injustice of it all, and we also learned that things were not always as unjust as they seemed.  Most importantly, we learned to roll with it.

However, Asaph was not rolling with it. “Look at these wicked people – enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.  Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?  Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?…I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.  But what a difficult task it is!” (13-16)  Asaph even began to question His walk with God and the injustice of it all, something that can happen regardless of how long we know Him.

How do we move past injustice?  “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.” (17)  A trip to His sanctuary was the answer!  He now viewed life through the enlightened eyes of grace, no longer through eyes of envy.

The presence of the Lord changes everything.  It opens our eyes to truth, removes bitterness and resentment, floods us with His peace and moves our understanding to the eternal side of living.  “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.  I was so foolish and ignorant…Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.”  Well, it just doesn’t get much better than that!

Life may not seem fair, but He is always fair and just. When we focus on the eternal side of living, rather than the here and now, our thoughts and deeds are influenced by those things with eternal value, and we find that a trip to His sanctuary is a worthwhile journey. 

Moving Forward: Regardless of the injustice in this world that surrounds me today, I will focus on those things of eternal value.  Life may not seem fair, but He is! 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 5-6

Leviticus 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He receives the sacrifice of praise offered from pure hearts

As a rule I don’t wake up in the morning thinking that I just can’t wait to read Leviticus today. Of course, God included this information in His Word for a purpose, and the joy of reading it is often in discovering His intention.  The lengthy process of constructing the Tabernacle had just been completed and next came the instruction on its purpose and its use for God’s people.

The overall message of Leviticus is that God is Holy, and sinful man must follow rites of purification in order to fellowship with Him.  Israel had already proven during their golden calf incident that this message could be easily forgotten, and God was restoring their relationship with Him through His instructions to Moses in Leviticus.  Over the next 27 chapters God directed their focus to purification through sacrifice, worship, physical principles, holiness and leadership.  By following these instructions, the Israelites who had dabbled in all forms of idolatry would once again commune with their Holy God.

After reading just a few verses in Leviticus, I have cause to stop and thank Jesus for His death and resurrection.  Can you imagine stopping by the farm on Sunday morning to purchase a perfect little lamb to be sacrificed at church.  With somewhat of an affinity for sheep, I think I’d have to go with a dove. 

@ Leviticus 2
“Do not use yeast in preparing any of the grain offerings you present to the Lord, because no yeast or honey may be burned as a special gift presented to the Lord.” (11) After moving to Florida, it didn’t take long for me to see the destructive nature of mold and mildew.  Items attacked by this spreading bacterial fungus are soon discolored or destroyed.  Bleach became my friend.

One tiny spore of mold can multiply rapidly consuming everything in its path, just like sin will do.  Because of this similarity to sin, yeast was forbidden in the grain offering that was sacrificed as a gift of thanksgiving.  The lesson for us today is clear.  When we offer our thanksgiving and praise to Him, let us come with clean hands and pure hearts, free from even the hint of sin so that our sacrifice of praise will be received by our Holy God.

“Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant.  Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.”(13)  I agree!  Salt makes everything taste better.  However, God wasn’t so much concerned about the taste, but rather that the offering would be a reminder of God’s eternal covenant with them.  I learned early in the kitchen that while salt makes food taste better, too much salt in a dish is impossible to remove – it’s eternal.

God’s covenant through Jesus is eternal – impossible to remove. Jesus will always be the Savior. Salt seasons the entire dish, penetrating every part.  In this same way, His influence in our lives encompasses every area.  Salt preserves and protects foods with a coating that serves as a barrier to bacteria just as God preserves and protects our lives from the attacks of the enemy.  Salt also has a healing property for our bodies that soothes and mends.  How well we know of the healing power of God in our lives – body, soul and spirit.  The symbolism speaks loudly to our spirits – salt is good!  Please pass the salt!

The grain offering of thanksgiving was “a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”(2)  May our sacrifice of praise be a sin-free, well-seasoned offering to our Holy God, one that will be received as a sweet aroma to Him. 

Moving Forward: With clean hands and a heart of thanksgiving, I offer a sacrifice of praise, ever mindful of His eternal covenant with me through Christ Jesus. May its sweet aroma fill His space. 

Tomorrow @ 1 Kings 10-13

Jeremiah 37-41 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He rewards our faithfulness when we face opposition

I always marveled at the tenacity and courage of an elderly man who stood day after day on various busy corners in our city wearing a placard that said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Through the years I saw him receive many signs of agreement with honking, thumbs up and friendly waves.  I also saw crude gestures and unkind words; however, this did not deter the man from doing what he felt was his part in building the Kingdom of God.  He didn’t let his temporary comfort level and the measure of his popularity affect the eternal destination of a soul that needed to hear the good news.  I never heard if anyone’s life was changed by his stand for the Lord, but rest assured, Heaven was keeping track of it.

The story of Judah’s last king is a sad one.  King Zedekiah was only 21 years old when he was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to rule over Judah as his vassal.  Maybe his age played into his poor leadership, but regardless, he was only interested in saving his own life.  The prophet Jeremiah was unpopular with the king and the Israelites living in Judah because his message from God was one they didn’t want to hear – surrender to God or die.

The king’s officials had imprisoned and beaten Jeremiah because they hated his message, yet the king secretly listened to the prophet’s message, “King Zedekiah secretly requested that Jeremiah come to the palace, where the king asked him, ‘Do you have any messages from the Lord?’” (37:17)  Zedekiah was not willing to openly accept the message of the prophet because of fear of what his officials would think of him.  What would they do to him? Jeremiah, however, bravely spoke God’s message no matter what the consequences.

Zedekiah would one day regret his cowardice.  He eventually lost his kingdom, lost his family, lost his eyes and lost his freedom. (39:6-7)  We do not have the promise that our stand for God will always save our lives – many have been martyred through the centuries – but we will be able to look back without regret.

Jeremiah had suffered much because he took a stand in the face of opposition, but he ultimately came out the winner.  Jeremiah was offered freedom and protection by the Babylonian king who took Israel captive.  What a different outcome than that of Zedekiah!  The words of Jesus come to mind in Luke 12:8, “I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels.”

God may never lead us to wear a sign on the street corner, but He is expecting us to boldly stand for truth whenever and wherever we are given the opportunity. Whether it’s a new job or new neighborhood or perhaps a new relationship, taking a stand and proclaiming truth in love are just easier over the long haul.  They involve no cover-up or fancy footwork, promise no regrets and secure a place in heaven before God’s angels. 

Moving Forward:  May I live this day without regrets, not missing even one opportunity to take a stand for the One who will one day take a stand for me before all of Heaven. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 3-4

Psalms 48-50 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Knowing the brevity of our lives, He values our eternal gains

The old saying, “You can’t take it with you,” speaks of our entrance into eternity without all the items we’ve collected through the years and is a truth that most of us accept.  However, a few millenniums ago, the Egyptians were convinced that they could take it all into eternity as a comfort in the afterlife.

In 1922, Howard Carter discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamen who died around 1346 B.C. at the age of 18.  The tomb had remained untouched for over 3000 years and contained a treasury of gold and valuable items that boggles the mind.  It seems the Egyptians wanted King Tut to be comfortable in his new surroundings by allowing him to take with him all the things he cherished most.  Of course, after his death the young King knew something that the other Egyptians did not know at the time and that is you just can’t take it with you. 

@ Psalm 49
With all the economic problems we’ve had over the past few years, investors have lost a lot of money and many others have lost their jobs and their homes.  The drug lords, swindlers and scam artists seem to be doing all right, however, but according to Psalm 49:16-17, this is not something we should worry about. “So don’t be dismayed when the wicked grow rich and their homes become ever more splendid.  For when they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave.”

We spend a great deal of time struggling to achieve the measures that society has dictated as success – houses, cars, upscale clothes and shoes and food and…upscale everything!  Sadly, our indulgences finally caught up with us a few years ago.  The economic problems have caused many to return to basics, but nobody likes it very much and most people find it depressing.  I believe that God loves to bless us with upgrades at times, but it surely must sadden Him when we are depressed without them.

Timothy had a good idea of what really defines great wealth, “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.  After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.  So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” (I Timothy 6:6-8)  What great counsel for us today!

Knowing we can’t take all our stuff with us, is it really worth all the time and energy we spend trying to achieve it? James had a way of putting things in the proper perspective, “Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:14) That about sums it up.  Life is short – eternity is a very, very long time.  It has been said that through our witness, people are the only thing we take with us into eternity.  Wise investments with great returns! 

Moving Forward: I’ll enjoy every blessing that I receive today but remain ever mindful of those things with eternal value. 

Tomorrow @ Job 33-34

Isaiah 62-66 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His faithful disciplines lead us to eternal life with Him

A few years ago I watched my daughter follow through on a warning of punishment when her three-year old, my sweet angelic granddaughter, did not obey her.  This was hard on me.  As Giana’s defense attorney, I mumbled something outside of her earshot about her being very tired, stretched to the limit, blah, blah, blah, but her mom would have none of it.  No empty threats in this household, mom followed through with what she had promised.  Of course, I respected her for this because she had been raised in this way, but I just want to let it be known that because I’m not the one raising my grandbabies, they will only get kisses, hugs and cookies from Nonna!  I’m good with that.

Serving in youth ministry for so many years, I saw the end result of children raised with empty threats – “If you don’t stop that, I’m going to…When we get home…Wait until your father gets home…” but no follow-through.  I also observed that some children received the discipline they needed, but still lived out their lives in rebellion.  Raising children is difficult at times even for the best of parents.  God understands our challenge.  Because the children of Israel would not respond to His disciplines, judgment was at hand.  In our reading today, God makes good on His promise to punish Israel for their disobedience to Him.  Father was in the house. 

@ Isaiah 65
The ending chapters of Isaiah give us a good summary of God’s dealings with Israel. Here He pronounced His judgment, “All of you will bow down before the executioner. For when I called, you did not answer. When I spoke, you did not listen. You deliberately sinned—before my very eyes—and chose to do what you know I despise.” (12)  Some have questioned how a loving God would discipline His children in such a harsh manner, but through our reading of the Old Testament to this point, we understand that God was patient beyond measure, more so than any child should expect.  As any good parent would do, God explained throughout the chapter why they were being punished and only through discipline could any good come out of it all.

Out of the punishment came a remnant of Israelites that understood that He was not a God of empty threats, and they responded to Him and listened to His voice. (8-10)  And with them were others, other nations, who responded to the voice of God, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me.  I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name.’” (1)  The Lord was referring to Gentiles who knew nothing of God and His love, but responded when He called as quoted by Paul in Romans 10:20.

To this combined remnant, Isaiah prophetically offered a glimpse into their future, our future.  We look forward to a millennial reign with long and joyful lives, fruitful labors, protection and the blessing of God on all that we do, “I will answer them before they even call to me.  While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!” (24)  Sounds a lot like heaven on earth.

What better incentive to live for God than this glorious reminder of our future with God.  Should we falter on our way, I say, “Bring on the discipline, make good on your warnings, Lord!”  Because yielding to His disciplines with repentance and obedience will deliver us from judgment and secure our place in this amazing future that He has planned for us. 

Moving Forward: I’m thankful that He hasn’t raised us to be unruly children, but loves us enough to discipline us. He had me at “The Lord is my Shepherd” but so thankful that I get Heaven too! 

Tomorrow @ Mark 3-4

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