Eternity


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

Job 13-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: The all-knowing God directs our lives according to His knowledge

We’ve all heard the sayings, ignorance is bliss and what you don’t know can’t hurt you, but it’s difficult to not know or be ignorant in this information age. There are times, usually about midday, when my brain just hurts from too much input, but thankfully it’s nothing that a good cup of coffee doesn’t cure.  Most often knowledge on just about any subject is invaluable and helps to protect us. It enriches our lives, although sometimes not knowing does offer momentary bliss.  However, in Job’s situation not knowing was almost killing him. 

@ Job 13
After much discussion, Job’s dialogue with his visitors became, well, cranky to say the least, and I really don’t blame him.  “As for you, you smear me with lies. As physicians, you are worthless quacks.  If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do.” (4-5) Job also questioned their audacity to speak for God without His permission.

“Listen closely to what I am about to say. Hear me out. I have prepared my case; I will be proved innocent.” (17-18) No longer filled with the earlier lofty questions to his friends about God and His actions, Job took matters into his own hands and decided to take his case to court before God—and became his own lawyer!

He personally wanted to ask God what the charges were against him, why had God turned from him.  But in the closing remarks of his trial, this broken man, filled with sorrow over loss, covered with sores, acquiesced, “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.” (14:5)  Job lost all hope for the  future.

It’s important to remember here that we know some things that Job was not privy to. We are aware of Satan’s challenge in Chapter 1, but Job had no knowledge of it.  He had no idea of the purpose behind all his pain, and while Job felt he was being wrongfully punished, we know he was being tested.  Walking through difficult times in the past, nothing comparable to Job’s trials I might add, I often wondered if I had done something to cause it – why this pain?  After examining my heart for a cause, I came to realize that there are just some things I am not privy to. God has a plan and a purpose that I may or may not someday understand, and that’s okay because I have hope.

Where Job had little to no knowledge of eternal life, we are well aware that we are simply sojourners through this life on our way to heaven.  It makes me smile to read Job’s hopeful question, “Can the dead live again?  If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle.” (14:14)  Job was brave to even ask the question in his day.  Can the dead live again?  Yes, Job, yes!

We are blessed to live on this side of Calvary with a Bible to read, where we learn about God’s purpose for us and the knowledge that we will one day live again to spend eternity with Him. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18NKJ)  Where Job sat in despair, uncertain of his future, we have hope of an eternal future with God.  Be comforted! 

Moving forward: Because God is in control of today’s challenges, I have hope for the future and the assurance of eternal life with Him. 

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 34-39

Deuteronomy 26-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards those who obey His commandments

Parents have been using the whole naughty or nice list of Santa’s for a long time to exact obedience and good behavior from their children for a few weeks leading up to Christmas.  I haven’t met anyone who was emotionally scarred for life after learning all this good behavior was for an imaginary figure that existed in the minds of conniving parents, but I guess the potential is there.

As a parent, I always believed in rewarding good behavior and punishing disobedience, but many today have a different viewpoint.  Some believe that punishment is too degrading and that rewarding some children and not others may cause lack of self esteem in those unrewarded. The thought of raising a generation of children who do not understand that there are consequences that will follow their actions is frightening to me.  Our scripture today leaves no doubt in my mind that God is all over the idea of rewarding obedience and punishing disobedience. 

@ Deuteronomy 28
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.” (1)  As Israel stood at the gateway of promise into the land of their dreams, God put before them a challenge.   Tucked in between many curses that would result from disobedience to God’s law are 14 incredible verses of blessing for the nation of Israel if they would keep His commandments.  Rewards and punishments.

Moses went on to declare blessings over towns, fields, children, crops, herds and flocks.  God would conquer their enemies and fill their storehouses with prosperity.  They would be powerful and respected among the nations.  All this would be theirs if they obeyed God’s commandments.  “If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom. You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them.” (13-14)  But isn’t that exactly what the nation of Israel did!  They threw away the promise of all these rewards for the worship of other gods.  Because of their disobedience, they eventually lost their nation and freedom to Babylon.

The rewards and curses of Deuteronomy 28 are relevant to all lives and nations.  I believe we have come dangerously close to throwing away the blessing of the Lord through our worship of other gods. May we learn from the mistakes that Israel made.  As New Testament people, even more is at stake. “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)  God’s rewards for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and obey His commandments are more numerous than this blog could contain.

Consider Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Jesus said, speaking of His followers, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love…I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:10-11)  And one day we will experience His reward of eternal life, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Excessive joy, provision, God’s continual love, abundant life and countless other rewards here on earth and then eternal life in Heaven!  I don’t know, I just can’t think of any desire or disobedient act that is worth the risk of losing any of it.  I want all the rewards that come with my obedience to God’s commandments.  God’s nice list, if you will, the list of the redeemed, is the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that’s the list I want to be on! 

Moving Forward: I’m looking forward to walking in His blessing and reward today, obeying His commands and listening to His voice. 

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 10-13

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

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