Tag Archives: heaven

Christmas Thoughts

As a person gets up in years, Christmas seems to take on a different meaning as I set back to reminisce my dreams and aspirations of my youth. Some of my dreams are fading because of my physical ability to do them. I tend to look back at my past dreams and how they have been affected by various trials and difficulties that have happened along the way. The dreams of a large family with lots of children and grandchildren gives way to the fact that the  children have grown and become parts of other families with their own dreams.

As I ponder the dreams of my past and my family’s present, I wonder if I have given them the right instructions for reaching their dreams. Have I laid the foundation that they build on? Will they trust God as their Savior? Do they know that God as given them the gift of Salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ? Do they know there is a place in Heaven for all of God’s children? Will they teach these values to their children and grandchildren?

In the Book of Genesis, God lays out the foundation of His dreams and aspirations. In six days, God created all the essential parts of His dream. He even made mankind in God’s own image, and it was good. He also made a special place where mankind could enjoy the beauty of his creation. God was able to go to Adam and Eve and have a great evening of fellowship. God wanted that relationship and he still wants a relationship with all his children, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year.

God had given Adam and Eve one important instruction: Do not eat of the tree in the middle of the garden, or you will die. It was not long before that was changed. Eve was tempted and ate of the forbidden tree. In the cool of the day God was looking for Adam and eve, but they were hiding. God had to banish them from the Garden because they disobeyed Him.

It wasn’t long until Cain killed his brother Abel and people continue to disobey God. God sent a flood to wipe out the sinfulness of mankind; He confused their language; He made them walk in the wilderness for years, He made them become slaves to foreigners, He gave them a Kings because they wanted one. And so it goes throughout the Bible. But God still wanted that relationship with man.

In fact, God wanted that relationship so badly that He sent his only Son to die for the sins of man, God wanted to restore eternal life to those who love him. It is a Christmas time that we celebrate the beginning of this dream; the birth of His Son, Jesus. God’s primary reason for sending his only son was to forgive sins and restore eternal life to mankind.

However, the religious leaders were so upset with God that they did everything they could do to get Jesus out of the picture. Finally on Good Friday they made good on their threats. They nail Jesus to a cross. What they did not understand was that Jesus had become the perfect sacrifice. It was the only sacrifice that would take the past, present, and future sins of man to their eternal destination. Man could now be perfect in God’s eyes.

The second purpose for Jesus death took place Easter morning. God reached down and raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus became victorious over death.

Things are different this time around. This time God is letting man choose who he will follow. God wants everyone to accept the gift of salvation, but he is not going to force it on mankind. In fact, for those people who accept the gift of salvation and are willing to follow Christ will be given a home in heaven. Revelation 21 tells about this heaven:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘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.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5(NIV)

The new heaven and the new earth are better than the current heaven and earth. There is no separation between the new heaven and the new earth. God dwelling place will be with the people. We will be able to have eternal, uninterrupted fellowship with God. God’ ultimate dream will become reality. Sin and sinful behavior will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, never to be released on earth again. There will be unity at last. We will be restored to the perfect condition in which God made us originally and sin will never separate use from God again.

 

NOTE: All scripture in this blog have been downloaded from www.biblegateway.com

Recognizing the Gift of the Empty Tomb

Have you ever opened a gift or something that needed to be assembled, but when you open it you think there is something missing?

When we celebrate Easter, we often overlook what is really taking place on in the tomb. We get so excited about the events leading up to the crucifixion but spend little time regarding the tomb. Both are equally important.

Jesus blood shed on the cross was to pay for our sins. It was to redeem us from the sins that we have committed or will ever commit. It was for everyone including Adam and Eve. God’s purpose was to restore our relationship with Him.

Beginning with Adam and Eve, God illustrated the importance of the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin. In Genesis 3:20, the writer tells about God killing an animal to make a covering for Adam and Eve. Their knowledge told them they were naked and they were ashamed of their nakedness. They tried covering themselves with leaves. But the leaves were unacceptable for covering their nakedness; it required the shedding of blood.

Throughout the Old Testament the principle of shedding blood for sin was practiced in what they called the sin offering of the people.

 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22(NIV)

On the cross, Jesus took the sin of the whole world on his shoulders. His blood was shed for the atonement of our sins. In other words, His blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins past, present, and future. This in itself would have been a great gift, but it is not the complete gift God intended.

Today we are looking at the second part of the gift, the ‘missing’ part. In Luke 24, Luke is telling us of the events of the early morning of the third day after the crucifixion.

The women went to the tomb very early because they wanted to give Jesus the correct ceremonial preparation for burial. At this time, the women were expecting to find Jesus in the tomb. However, they had some concern about how they would get into the tomb. But when they got there, the stone had been rolled away. The gift was unwrapped.

When the women arrived at the tomb, God had already un-wrapped the gift. The large stone that secured the tomb had been rolled away. The gift had been exposed but the women still did not recognize what the gift was. All they saw was an empty tomb. They were deeply concerned, wondering what had happened to Jesus. They wanted the gift to match their expectations.

It was then that two men in gleaming clothes appeared to the women and said:

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Luke 24:5b-7(NIV)

Jesus was not there. God had raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus was victorious over death. The sin of Adam and Eve that caused a spiritual separation between man and God had been overcome by Jesus. Jesus was alive. We can now enjoy a renewed relationship with God. We can now have the gift of eternal life with God our Father.

When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, there were two trees in the garden: The ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ and the’ tree of life’.

When Adam and Eve sinned by eating of the ‘tree of good and evil’, God removed them from the Garden so they would not eat of the ‘tree of life’.

And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24(NIV)

When Jesus shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins, He forgave all the sins of men, including the sins of Adam and Eve. Jesus was victorious over death. The death that resulted from Adam and Eve eating of the’ tree of good and evil’, no longer has control of our lives. We now have access to the second tree, the ‘tree of life’. If we accept his gift, ‘the tree of life’, we will live forever with Him.

Prior to Jesus death, He told his disciples these words in John 14:1-3(NIV):

“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? 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.

Because the tomb was empty, we also have the gift of an eternal home with Christ. Jesus had gone to prepare us a place, not just any place but a mansion.

Throughout the Old Testament, God promised his people that he was going to give them a Messiah. He was going to take care of his children. He promised to make the Children of Israel like the sands of the sea. Through the Prophets, God told what would happen in the future. He predicted that Jesus would be crucified and that he would prepare a place for those who believed in Him. Jesus kept all His promises mentioned in the Bible.

The women were so excited when they learned that Jesus was alive that they went to tell their friends the good news of salvation. They wanted to share their gift of the empty tomb.

“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.” John 14:9(NIV)

The other believers were still uncertain about the gift. They were confused. In fact Peter even ran back to the tomb to see for himself what had happened. Even though Jesus told them what would happen, they still were not ready for the gift that Jesus gave them

The women went to the tomb expecting to find Jesus’s body. It was not there.

Peter ran to the tomb hoping to see Jesus’s body. It was not there. Jesus was alive. He was victorious over death!

What would have happened if Jesus was still in the tomb? Where would you and I be today if the women would have found what they were expecting and Jesus was still in the tomb? Would they have had anything to tell the others? Would there be any hope for a future with God? If Jesus was still in the tomb, would you and I still be burdened with our past sin?

If Jesus were still in the tomb, we would have no hope for the future. Our life on earth would be futile. We would have nothing to live for and nothing to tell other that would allow them to get rid of their burden of sin and to enjoy the hope of eternal life with God. Jesus is our only hope.

If Jesus were still in the tomb, everything that God has promised in the Bible would be of no value, because we would not be able to believe any of the promises He made. But the good news is that Jesus was not there! He had been raised from the dead just as God had promised.

  • God does keep his promises.
  • God has forgiven our sin.
  • God is preparing a place for us. And
  • God is going to return to take us home with him.

Are you going to tell others about the gift in the empty tomb? The women were so excited about the gift that they hurried back to tell the others about the gift. Jesus is alive.

Jesus died on the cross to take care of our sinful past, but He was raised from the dead to prepare our future with Him. Have you accepted the ‘gift of the empty tomb’ or do you believe that Jesus is still in the tomb?

God wants to have a relationship with you.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:8-9(NIV)

God had a relationship with Adam and Eve and was looking for them in the cool of the evening. God is looking for you too. He wants a relationship with you too. He was willing to send Jesus to the cross and raise him from the dead so that He can have a relationship with you. He wants to have an eternal relationship with you.

NOTE: All scripture used in this blog were from: www.biblegateway.com

 

Are You Ready to go Home?

Mark 13 tells of an event with Jesus and His disciples. They are talking about the temple and the massive stones that support the structure. The disciples feel like nothing can destroy those structures.

Then Jesus said: “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Mark 13:2(NIV)

Four of the disciple asked Jesus privately when the stones were going to be thrown down. They wanted some signs of this event.

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. Mark 13:5-8(NIV)

The Carpenters song “We’ve only just begun”

We’ve only just begun to live

White lace and promises

A kiss for luck and we’re on our way

(We’ve only begun)

 

 Before the risin’ sun, we fly

So many roads to choose

We’ll start out walkin’ and learn to run

And yes, we’ve just begun

 

Sharing horizons that are new to us

Watching the signs along the way

Talkin’ it over, just the two of us

Workin’ together day to day

Together

 

And when the evening comes,

we smile So much of life ahead

We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow

And yes, we’ve just begun

 

Sharing horizons that are new to us

Watching the signs along the way

Talkin’ it over, just the two of us

Workin’ together day to day

Together

Together

 

And when the evening comes, we smile

So much of life ahead

We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow

And yes, we’ve just begun

Songwriters: NICHOLS, ROGER S. / WILLIAMS, PAUL H.

Grammy Award for Song of the Year, 1970

This song started out as a bank commercial. Songwriters Paul Williams and Roger Nichols were commissioned by an advertising agency to write it in 1968 for Crocker Bank, which was trying to attract young people and newlyweds to their institution. (thanks, Brian – Funchal Madeira, Portugal)

 .Downloaded 11/08/2015 from http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2410

The words of this song are true of our relationship with God. We are following new horizons, watching for signs, and making decisions together. The Christian are not making decisions by ourselves. God is helping us live our lives from day to day.

When Jesus died on the cross for our sin, God restores our relationship with him. Because of God’s grace, mankind has a restored relationship with God.

However, having a relationship with God does not mean that we will be free of any problems or persecutions. What it does mean is that God will bring us through those problems and persecutions.

When the disciples asked Jesus when the signs would be fulfilled this is what He told them: You will:

  • You will be handed over to the local councils
  • You will be flogged in the synagogues.
  • You will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them
  • You will be arrested and brought to trial.
  • Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child.
  • Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
  • Everyone will hate you because of me,

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.  Mark 13:14-19(NIV).

There will be false messiahs and prophets that will deceive the world with signs and wonders:

  • The sun becomes dark
  • The moon will not give light
  • The stars will fall from the sky
  • The Heavenly bodies will be shaken.

Then you will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. The angels will gather the believers. We will be going home where we belong.

The end of time has been planned by God. It is not a time when random acts take place and the world gradually falls apart. It is God’s plan. Because He has the plan, Christians will be taken to heaven where they will live forever. We do not need to know an exact date and time the world will end because those who are followers of Christ will be cared for regardless of when it happens.

NOTE:  All scripture used in this blog have been downloaded from: www.Biblegateway.com

Where is love?

Years ago, before common core math was implemented, I had an algebra class in high school. In that class, we were taught that If (A + B = C), and if D = B, then A +D will also = C.

1 John 4:8 and 16 tell us “God is love.”

In the early 60s, we took God out of school. Students were no longer able to use the literature that our forefathers used as their primary text book. Children were forbidden to hear the historical writings of our ancestors.

Since the early 60s, God was taken out of schools, God was taken out of the public arena, God was taken out of government, and God was taken out of the military. In addition, in our attempt to be politically correct, God was also taken out of our speech. Most recently, we have attempted to keep God out of marriage.

In algebra, if A + B = C, then it is also true that A = C – B. Now if A = me, C = my life, B = God, and D = love. ‘me’ = ‘life’ without ‘God’. Since B = D, it is also true that ‘me’ = ‘life’ without ‘Love’.

Now people wonder why kids are bullied, why kids disobey parents, school officials, and other authorities. If my algebra teaching was correct, what we have done is take ‘love’ out of school, take ‘love’ out of public, take ‘love’ out of government, take ‘love’ out of our speech and take ‘love’ out of marriage.

Anytime we begin life by considering only “me”, we will end with a life without God and without love.

As a country, we do not need more gun control, more bullying policies, more social workers, more psychiatrists, more counselors, more juvenile correctional facilities, more jails, more police officers, or more government. What we need is more love. For us to get more love, we need to put God back into our lives.

Ironically, when the Bible – God’s word – was taken out of school, society wanted more love. This was the hippy age and we had songs like “Love, Sweet Love”, “I’m Still in Love With You”, “Never My Love”, and “I’ve Been Loving You too Long (To Stop Now)” etc. . Society was looking for the meaning of love. Love was being defined as not having anything regulating your behavior rather than accepting God into our lives.

God defined love when He crucified His only son to pay the price for your and my sins. Love is what God did when he adopted you and me as his own. Love was restoring the relationship that was lost when Adam and Eve sinned. Love is preparing an eternal home in heaven with God. God demonstrates love as ‘giving’ and not ‘getting’.

Love is available to everyone. There is enough love to go around. Love will never end. Here is what the Bible says about love:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13(NIV)

It is time to put love back into our lives.

 

NOTE: Scripture used in this blog was downloaded 8.26/15 from: Biblegateway.com

IS YOUR CHURCH COMFORTING OR IS IT ENCOURAGING?

 Comfort

Comfort – a state or situation in which you are relaxed and do not have any physically unpleasant feelings caused by pain, heat, cold, etc. http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/comfort downloaded 12/22/14

Praying Hypocrites Matthew 6. The comfort the hypocrites received was being seen by others. In other words, if someone saw them, they were comforted.

“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 others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full…” Matthew 6:5(NIV)

2.  Disciples on stormy lake, Luke 8. When the disciples were in the storm, Jesus rebuked the storm and the disciples were comforted.

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. Luke 8:22-24(NIV)

3. Children of Israel before reaching the Promised Land, Exodus 16 (looking back at tradition). The Children of Israel were upset by the food God was giving them and they wanted to go back to Egypt were they could be content. To comfort them, God gave them manna and quail from heaven.

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” Exodus 16:1-5(NIV)

Comfort is meant to relieve that pain or discomfort in a person’s present condition. When someone loses a loved one, we will frequently talk about things of the past in an effort to get the grieving person comfortable with the situation so they can keep going..

Comfort implies looking back or helping a person function at the level they are on.

Using the illustration of the glass half full (or half empty) we can see that comfort is looking at the water in the bottom of the glass so we can see from where we have come, we can see the success that have had to get ‘half full’.

Encourage

Encouragement on the other hand, is looking forward. It is: heartening, urging, stimulating, and fostering one to continue filling the glass.  It is the idea of moving from our current position in the glass to the filled position in the glass.

1a :  to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope :  hearten <she was encouraged to continue by her early success>

b :  to attempt to persuade :  urge <they encouraged him to go back to school>

2 :  to spur on :  stimulate <warm weather encourages plant growth>

3:  to give help or patronage to :  foster <government grants designed to encourage conservation>

http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/encourage downloaded 12/22/14

1.  Praying Christian, Matthew 6.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.Matthew 6:9-13(NIV)

Jesus was encouraging his disciples to focus forward to what God was going to do rather than backward to what they had already done. Their reward was in the future and not the present as in the case of the Hypocrite mentioned earlier.

2.  Disciples on stormy lake, Luke 8 When the disciples were in the storm, God comforted them by calming the storm, but he encouraged them to have faith in God for the future.

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”  Luke 8:24-25(NIV)

3.  Children of Israel before reaching the Promised Land, Exodus 16 After God comforted the Children of Israel in the wilderness by giving the manna and quail, He encouraged them to look forward and preserve the manna for generations to come. By doing this, God was causing the Children of Israel to look forward to generations to come. God wanted them to be ‘filled glasses’ not just ‘half-filled glasses’.

33 So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.”

34 As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preservedExodus 16:33-34(NIV)

God wanted the Children of Israel to know that God was the one who was feeding them and they could trust God to provide for them in the future.

Why is it important to know the difference between comfort and encourage?

I believe the church should provide both comfort and encouragement for believers, but if the church concentrates on one and disregards the other, we have a lot of Christians that are only half full, they will never know the fullness of God’s gift to them.

In earlier translations of the Bible, like the Authorized King James Version the word comforted is sometimes used because at the time of the translation it was the best word to use. However, like many of the English words that have evolved or changed over time, comfort used in the earlier translations may now be better translated encourage.

For example, in many of Paul’s letters to the early churches, Paul was trying to encourage the churches to grow in Christ. He wanted them to mature.. He wanted them to effectively spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was not just comforting them so they would remain the same forever, as the earlier translation would tend to indicate. Paul was encouraging the believers and in fact he was teaching them to encourage one another.

In I Thessalonians 4:18 and  1 Thessalonians 5:11,  Paul makes the statement that the believers were to encourage one another because of what God was going to do. The modern translation of the Greek word used here means to encourage

You will notice In the first part of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, Paul was comforting them. He is attempting to get them to realize who they are and what they came from. Then in 1 Thessalonians chapters 4 and 5, Paul has moved past the comforting position and moved into the encouraging position.  There is a place for both positions in the lives of Christians. If Paul had stopped by just comforting them, their ‘glass would remain only be half full’. They would not mature as believers but would remain dormant.

Jesus frequently began with comfort and ended with encouragement.

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. (Comfort)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? 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. (Encouragement) John 14:1-3(NIV)

In our society today, we have churches that are great at comforting. They frequently talk about what happened years ago, but they have a tendency not to move forward because of traditions or fear of upsetting the church members who have already passed from this life. But they frequently fail to encourage spiritual growth for those who remain. They believe that anything new is ‘sin’. They tend to be controlled by tradition rather than the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, we have churches that provide great encouragement, but they tend to just ignore comfort of those who need comforting. They encourage people by talking about going to heaven or about God providing them good things. But they fail to comfort them by talking about sin, the cause of their discomfort. They throw out traditions altogether. They sing a lot of new songs but ignore the comfort that the traditional hymns provide. They disregard the theology taught by the traditional hymns and do what people want them to do. They become more like the local coffee shop than a church. They are controlled by the false idea that everything our parents did in church was wrong, and needs to be changed to something more acceptable to society.

The Bible teaches that Christians are to comfort those who need comforting and to encourage  those who need encouragement. The Bible teaches that we are to encourage one another to mature, and become more like Christ.

Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:18(NIV)

 

NOTE: All scripture in this blog was downloaded from Biblegateway.com

Subtle Differences

When you read the scriptures, what do you look for? Are we looking for evidence that proves we are right? Are we looking for contrasts between right and wrong? Good or bad?

We tend to look for those things that separate Christians from Non-Christians. We look at things like ‘Right vs. Wrong’ and ‘Good vs. bad’; we are looking for those things that are extreme contrasts.

As we walk down life’s pathways, we want to know how we should act and what we should do.

When the non-Christian confronts the Christian, they are usually looking at those actions that seem to be opposite of what the Non-believer thinks those actions should be.

However, the real threat to Christianity today is not the extreme contrasts but the subtle contrasts that exist. We need the Holy Spirit to help us determine the subtle differences!

In 1 Peter 5:8-9 we read:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)

Christians need to be looking for prowling lions. If the lion is roaring, he has already caught his prey; His prowling has ‘paid off’!

In the Gospel of Matthew there are recorded several parables that Jesus used to teach the people about heaven and the future.

In the Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus is telling about heaven and is comparing it to a situation where ten virgins went to meet the Bride Groom.

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:1-13(NIV)

In this parable, Jesus is contrasting two types of virgins: five wise virgins and five foolish virgins.

At first, we may think the wise virgins are believers and the foolish virgins are the non-believers. But when we look closely we find that all ten virgins were looking for the Bride Groom; They were all wanting to go to heaven; and They were all professing Christians.

I believe this parable is addressing the modern day church congregations, those people who want to go to heaven when they die.

All of the virgins had lamps; they all fell asleep waiting; they all heard the announcement of the Bride Groom coming; they all trimmed their lamps; but only the wise virgins had jars of oil to replenish their lamps.

In our churches today, we have professing Christians singing in the choir; serving on the worship team, serve as deacons or elders, teaching Sunday School Classes, VBS lessons, children’s services ; serving on pastor search committees; they may all volunteer for working in charitable organizations, or donate large sums of money to charity, etc. but we cannot determine from their work whether or not they are true Christians. Only God has access to the Lambs Book of Life. We do not know if people have a genuine relationship with God merely by their assignment, church membership, or appearance. We must rely on leading of the Holy Spirit.

In the same way, we cannot know which virgins are foolish and which are wise merely by their actions. However, there is one subtle difference between the foolish virgins and the wise virgins; the wise virgins had jars of oil. In other words, they had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them and depended on the Holy Spirit to light their path.

Most Bible scholars tend to agree that term ‘oil’ used in the Bible, frequently represents the Holy Spirit. Every living person has a spirit, but only those who have accepted the gift of salvation are given the Holy Spirit. In other words, wise virgins in the parable are those who have the Holy Spirit living in their lives; foolish virgins are those that are trying to get to heaven in their own strength, doing it the way that they, not God, want to do it.

When God separates the ‘sheep from the goats’, those people who are trying to get to heaven their own way, will run out of oil. Those who are trying to go to heaven God’s way, will have oil that lasts for eternity.

Do you have a jar of oil?