October 12, 2017

NEBUCHADNEZZAR.....SAVED BY GRASS?


SAVED BY GRASS? YES, OLD KING NEBBY WAS SAVED FROM INSOLENCE AND PRIDE...... Dan 4:31-35

King Nebuchadnezzar was King of Babylon when God's people, because of their persistent sin, were horrendously taken into captivity by him. Jerusalem was destroyed and many, many taken from their homeland. Daniel was one of them. Nebuchadnezzar was most proud and God decided to uniquely humble him. Immediately, after a boastful spat of self-extolling, we read this in Scripture:

"While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. YOU WILL BE GIVEN GRASS to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws." 

Then, after the ordeal, Nebuchadnezzar gives his testimony:

“But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’"

When God truly moves into a life He effects radical change. He specializes in that! He makes saints out of sinners. He humbles the proud. He puts repentance in an unbelieving heart. God dynamically does such! He most certainly did it to a boastful and arrogant Babylonian king. 

Perhaps after his humbling episode Nebuchadnezzar had a saying, like, "There go I except for the GRASS of God." He needed this experience to humble him and bring him to the place of fully realizing his need for God and God's GRACE. Some believe that he was saved. At the very least, he sure came to an acknowledgment of Who the true God is.

Every believer in Jesus Christ says, often, "Apart from grace my heart would be estranged, wayward, rebellious, faithless and lost. But, oh, my God in grace has arranged to rescue my soul at infinite cost."

- Dick D. Christen


October 09, 2017

FOUR PIECES TO THE PEACE PUZZLE...



   FOUR PIECES TO THE PEACE PUZZLE

1. THE PEACE OF JUSTIFICATION (or PEACE WITH GOD – a judicial or courtroom peace)

KEY VERSES – Romans 5:1,9

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” 5:1
 “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him…” 5:9

2. THE PEACE OF RELAXATION (or the PEACE OF GOD – a personal or living room peace) 

KEY VERSES – Romans 15:13; Philippians 4:6,7; Proverbs 3:5,6

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

3. THE PEACE OF PURIFICATION (or PEACE IN GOD - an experiential or woodshed peace)

KEY VERSES – Hebrews 12:11; Psalm 119:165; Proverbs 3:1,2

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).

4. THE PEACE OF CONSUMMATION (or PEACE BY GOD – a political or throne room peace)

KEY VERSES – Isaiah 9:6,7; Isaiah 11 (assorted verses)

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them…They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9).

- dick d christen 

October 04, 2017

DETERMINING THE DEITY OF JESUS, THE CHRIST .....



DETERMINING THE DEITY OF CHRIST…IN THE BIBLE

WE MAKE SUCH A DETERMINATION …..

BY HIS NAMES OF DEITY

          Hebrews 1:8; John 1:18; John 5:20; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13

             God the Father actually calls His Son, Jesus, GOD!
             “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…” - Hebrews 1:8

BY WORSHIP ORDERED AND ACCEPTED BY JESUS

          Hebrews 1:6; John 20: 26-29

              “And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, 
              ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him.’” -  Hebrews 1:6

BY THE DIVINE OFFICES HE OCCUPIED

          CREATOR – John 1:3; Colossians 1:16

                                    “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” -  John 1:3

           PRESERVER – Hebrews 1:3

                                     “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and  upholds all things by the word of His power.”  -Hebrews 1:3

            FORGIVER OF SINS – Mark 2:1-13

                                      “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.’” Mark 2:10-11

             GIVER OF IMMORTAL AND ETERNAL LIFE – Philippians 3:21; John 5:25-31; 17:1-5

                                        “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.’” -  John 17:1-2

BY HIS ASSOCIATION WITH GOD THE FATHER  
             Matthew 28:19; John 14:1

                   “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” -  John 14:1

BY JESUS' GLORIOUS RESURRECTON
             Romans 1:1-4

                   “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus,  called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.” -  Romans 1:1-4

dc

September 25, 2017

THE CHRISTIAN: POSITIONALLY perfect IN Christ while PRACTICALLY growing BY Christ....



THE CHRISTIAN: POSITIONALLY perfect IN Christ while PRACTICALLY growing BY Christ....


Once saved, God intends for Christians to grow and become more and more like Christ. Tozer said, "Refuse to be average." But when we resolve to do so, it is good to remember there exists a world of difference between busy activity and meaningful progress. Mere busyness cannot serve as a substitute for productivity. 

Alarmingly, today's Church is like a rocking horse with lots of motion but not much genuine progress. 'How to' seminars are prolific, the same ones offered fifty year ago. The ecclesiastical world seems stuck and stale. But, God intends that His people "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). And let's be clear that what God looks for isn't necessarily 'bigness' and hype (the world would have us think so), but rather, like the mustard seed, that which may be imperceptible but nevertheless significant. Furthermore, God's kind of growth is not just corporately engendered (the local church), but, also personally wrought (daily with God). In fact, the corporate church is far too elevated in Christian experience, as if all we need to do to advance in Christian maturity is to go to church more often. At best, this results in very few hours at services. A personal walk with God can entail hours and hours, if so engaged. The corporate approach (ordered by the Lord and valuable in its own right), as a single means of Christian maturity, is more than refuted by mere observation. Anemic Christians abound, and often they are the ones 'at Church' the most. Christians must be encouraged to "walk and talk" with the Lord continually.

POSITIONALLY, when a sinner believes in Jesus Christ, he is at once perfect "IN Christ Jesus." The Bible clearly states, "But by His doing you are IN Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." God the Father always sees the believer "in Christ Jesus." What we are "in" is what we are surrounded by. If I'm in a pool of water I'm surrounded by that water. If I'm "in Christ" He is my perfect righteousness. Jesus IS 'righteousness' imputed (or charged) to the believer's account, thereby rendering every Christian positionally perfect IN Him. Hereby the thrice-holy God is rendered fully satisfied. God the Father always sees the believer "in Christ." If I look at something through rose-colored glasses, everything comes up rosey. God ever seeing us through Christ, everything comes up perfect.. Theologically, we say, God is thereby propitiated. John says, "We have an  Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2).

Now, PRACTICALLY speaking, the saved person, positionally made perfect IN Jesus, must then day by day grow BY Christ Jesus, by His enabling grace. Like the caterpillar becoming a beautiful butterfly, an arduous process is involved requiring the believer to utilize all the provisions of grace designed for such change. It takes a lifetime of effort, patience and learning the ways of the Lord. Really it takes all the Biblical concepts of wrestling, running the race, fighting the good fight of faith, disciplining self, and even buffeting (beating) self (Ephesians 6; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) to see it happen. But God is vitally interested in any such determined endeavor and supplies all that is needed to carry it out. We call these "all things" (see below) His means of sanctifying grace. The Apostle Paul reasons, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). Are not these "things" that whereby we fight the good fight of faith?

Therefore, let us rejoice being IN Christ Jesus but with a patient spirit proceed to "work out (our) salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in (us), both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13).  Paul instructs us: "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of (seize hold of what you have, hang on to it, prize it, hold it close) the eternal life to which you were called..." (1 Timothy 6:12). In other words, in order to grow into Christ-likeness, get off the rocking horse and climb on the walking/working horse. Or, to press the initial figure, see yourself in a cocoon becoming more and more in the likeness of Jesus. The grace that saves us is completely unmerited. It is all of God, through and through. But, it seems to me that sanctifying grace, or that whereby we grow in Jesus, meshes His enabling grace with our diligent upward desires and efforts. We can't live the Christ-life without Him; He can't do what He wants in us unless we strive by His grace to intently perfect holiness for Him. Of course, at the same time, He is ever at work to bring us to the point(s) of desiring to so strive. And so "we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). Yes, it takes a life time of endeavor, moment by moment, day by day, year by year. This is Christian living! He is at work; we are at work. Praise God, that at the very moment of the new birth IN Jesus we are rendered justified before God (and positionally sanctified, redeemed, etc.) and fully accepted IN the Beloved (Jesus), and all this by His grace plus nothing of ourselves. But in the daily sense, we are being sanctified BY Christ and by His "freely given" means of grace, namely, the Bible, the Church, the Holy Spirit, the preaching and teaching of the Word and the daily consumption of the Word by reading and meditation. It is right at this juncture that we often fail because we somehow think that all this will somehow add up to a 'Christ-like life' in some kind of an automatic way. We become well-versed in the Bible but fail to put it into practice. This is where the "will" must become involved. The above list of "means" will be merely intellectual unless we take what we've learned and put it into practice. The struggle of which Paul often talks now comes into view. 

In dietary matters, if I'm obese and am offered a second piece of strawberry pie, it takes enormous "won't" power to refuse. "I know I should refuse but, oh, how I want it!" Here is where what I know about the dangers of over-eating must be put into practice and the tough decision of saying "no" made. And so the inward battle begins.  I say, "I just can't refuse that luscious piece of pie." But if I want to get at a healthier weight, I JUST SIMPLY MUST! I won't die if I don't have that extra pie. It'll be for my greater good if I refuse. And so the process of becoming healthier proves an excruciating process to make the tough choice. It's agony! It IS and Paul says the same when it comes to the Christian life. Listen to him: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). And Peter adds: "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2). Further, the writer of Hebrews intensifies all this by saying "let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus... You have not yet resisted  to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin..." It is most fashionable these days to extol "unmerited grace" and to apply it to Christian living. God's marvelous "unmerited grace" saves us. It completely saves us from the guilt and penalty of sin. It guarantees eternal life. All this is gloriously true! But when we proceed to think that we engage in daily Christian living merely by pleading the "unmerited grace" that saved us, we set ourselves up to easily confess our daily sins (no big deal), seemingly making everything right with God (after all we're saved all by grace and eternally safe), and then go back to living the same old way. After all, we're saved and safe. In this belief there are no "works" requirement for the daily life of living for Jesus. But Scripture says, yes there are! "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" The apostle Paul, after extolling a salvation which is by grace alone, plus nothing, proceeds to challenge all of us with these words: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10). We're not saved BY good works but we are saved UNTO them. 

I think that the Scriptures teach that the unmerited grace that saves us from sin and hell, and makes us perfect in Christ, continues with us for the battle of the Christian life but is coupled with our efforts to do the wrestling, running, the putting on of the armor and engaging in the fight so clearly presented in many places in the New Testament. In other words, we must distinguish between salvation's unmerited grace and a merited grace, or cooperative grace whereby we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. In a sense, Christian living is one-hundred per cent God, but 100 per cent the Christian. And so, Paul enjoins us with these words: "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13).

If we do not believe in a merited kind of grace for Christian living and assume that the free and unmerited grace of salvation will somehow carry us through, how will we explain the following passage that predicates God's favors upon our behavior? 

"The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His ordinances were before me, and I did not put away His statutes from me. I was also  blameless with Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity. Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His eyes. With the kind You show Yourself kind; With the blameless You show Yourself blameless; With the pure You show Yourself pure, and with the crooked You show Yourself astute" Psalm 18:20-26). 

This seems to say that there is indeed a merited grace God bestows on those who diligently pursue His ways. 

And so I think it must be concluded that while initially saved by unmerited grace alone, there exists for Christian living an interplay between His enabling provisions of grace and our obedient responses thereunto. "If you love me, keep my commands." The unmerited grace of salvation is bestowed once for all when a sinner believes in Jesus Christ while the unmerited/merited grace of the daily Christian walk continues until the believer sees Christ. Therefore, the worm waits while the chrysalis with time emerges with exquisite beauty, even that of Christ Himself. 

dick d. christen

September 23, 2017

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE PERSON GOD USES....

When God chooses to use people for His purposes, He also divinely enables them. A key agent with which He does this is the person and power of the Holy Spirit.

And so it was when He selected Saul to be the first king of Israel. When Saul's kingship failed it wasn't God's fault, it was Saul who disregarded the Spirit and walked willfully and disobediently in his own way. The Holy Spirit indwells every believer in Christ but can be quenched and grieved whereby the divine enablement, so graciously given, is ineffectual. The 'new person' may quickly revert to the old self.

The prophet Samuel uniquely appointed Saul to be the king, sent him on his way, and among other supernatural indicators, he promised that at a certain location the prophets of God would be present and a most miraculous thing would take place. Here is what Samuel prophesied: 

"Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man" (1 Samuel 
210:6). 

Here are a few observations:

1. Doing God's bidding necessitates God's enabling grace. Mere humans, in and of themselves, can't do what God orders. Christians can't live 'the life' on their own. And so, He freely gives His servants all things pertaining to life and godliness. In faith and obedience we must avail ourselves of them. And, talk about the extraordinary!  He even gives the presence of the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit Himself. How meager and foolish ever to attempt to live for and serve God in our own strength.

2. God in no way skimps when giving His servants what they need. The Spirit came "mightily" upon Saul. When Saul failed, he could never blame God. It was his own rebellious heart that led him away. He listened to his inner voice (as many advise today) and failed to hearken to God's. Are we not also prone in the same way?

3. What happened to Saul happened publicly. Others were present and immediately recognized the divine nature of the occasion. Ponder the 'public' nature of being a Christian. We confess Jesus before others, go to a public house of worship, are publicly baptized and obediently participate in the church administered ordinances, and, among other such visible activities, are instructed not to be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

4. The work of God must always be in concert with the Word of God. Saul would prophecy. He would handle the very words of the Almighty. He would be communicated to by God Himself and would share those messages with others. Love must always rejoice in the truth. The purposes of God and His daily guidance are communicated through His words of truth. Today, the Bible is God's authoritative Book for all faith and practice. It is replete in and of itself. 

5. Saul would be changed into another man. He would become a new creature. He now was divinely indwelt and enabled. His entire being was sanctified for God's service. The man from a lowly family in Benjamin now was the leader of God's nation on earth. He was transformed from chasing animals to leading God's chosen ones. 

In each of these observations Saul undoubtedly marveled. He sensed how special was his appointment and so proceeded to do the work.

But chapter 15 of 1 Samuel spells out his downfall. He pitted his will against the will of God. God expects attention to the details of His plan. Every word is important. Saul, in a seemingly insignificant way disobeyed. All he did was leave out the word "all." When he went against the enemy, God said "utterly destroy all." He failed due to his own human reasoning. Great was his fall and disgrace. In his own strength he faltered, became murderous, turned to a witch for answers and proceeded down and down to a ignominious death. 

Lesson: Get serious about God's purposes and determine to do God's work in God's enabling grace. Beware of the inbred obstinacy of the fallen human will and its foolish disregard for God's will and enabling grace to live for Him. How are the mighty fallen! The paths of history are strewn with the wrecks of such failures. No one of us is above such disaster and therefore need to submit fully to God, do this moment by moment, to put on the whole armor of God and ever watch and pray that we will not enter into temptation. 

The evidence of saving faith is not how much you believe but how well we behave. The key to the Christian life is OBEDIENCE. Hereby the world sees Jesus in us, the new you!

rc

September 22, 2017

LITTLE IS MUCH?


My all-time favorite non-Biblical quote is: THE EXCELLENCE OF A CIRCLE LIES IN ITS ROUNDNESS, NOT ITS BIGNESS.

This insightful statement counters America's obsessive notion that to be "the best" it must be full of hype, bigness, unlimited upsurge and growth, higher numbers, noisy crowds and even bigger plans for the future. I’ve read of large multi-billion dollar corporations that lose a few million and panic. And the Church follows suit. Big is always better and spells success. And so, dissatisfaction is subtly implanted in the soul if the institution isn't booming. We begin to always feel sub this or that. But, strange as it may seem, sometimes smaller means better. Back door revivals often have very positive effects. It's refreshing when quality trumps quantity. 

Think about this: If the Lord said He had 'much' people in Corinth ("I have much people in this city" - Acts 18:10), might this possibly mean that in another place He may have just a few? And if so, for the most part, do not 'results' expectations need to be adjusted accordingly? This may comfort small church pastors who are always bombarded with the notion that 'big is always better.' 

Read the parables again. Matthew 13 extols the relatively poor yield of LITTLE seed sown (only one-fourth of the seed sown succeeds), the surprising outcome of the TINY mustard seed and the all-permeating effect of SILENT yeast. Reading these stories cause us to ask: do we really believe that little is much if God is in it? At the same time we acknowledge that big is great too IF God is in it and it is not mere worldly hype or the result to employing crowd psychology methodology.  Jesus did minister to great crowds.

Now, let me remind us of four 'LITTLE', but significant things in Proverbs. They all teach us wisdom:

“There be four things which are little creatures upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise”: 

"The ANTS are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer" (THE WISDOM OF PREPARATION)

The CONIES (small rabbit like creatures) are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks" (THE WISDOM OF ASSOCIATION)

"The LOCUSTS have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands"(THE WISDOM OF COOPERATION)

"The SPIDER taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces."(THE WISDOM OF DETERMINATION) 
- Proverbs 30:24-28

September 13, 2017

THE ALMIGHTY UPHOLDS LITTLE ME?


In HANNAH'S PRAYER she insightfully says, "For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, And He set the world on them" (1 Samuel 2:8c). All things are upheld by the Word of His power! His supernatural pillars can not be seen by the human eye, rather, only by the eyes of faith. He's got the whole world in His hands. He says so! It is so! The same with a believing life, any life. The next phrase in her prayer says, "He keeps the feet of His godly ones" (v9a). Walk with God and be comforted, feel safe and secure!  😀

dc

September 06, 2017

IN THE FIRST PLACE, MARRIAGE IS GOD'S IDEA.....


CHRISTIANS, when contemplating marriage,  should not look around for a partner, but should intently look up, asking God Himself for his or her partner. 

Marriage is of God! It is His idea. Remember, He said it is not good for a man to be alone. And so, He performed the world's first surgery, took a rib from the man and made for him a wife. Doesn't it make sense therefore that before all other callings, a man is first of all called to be a husband. This, of course, if in any given life, it is God's will for marriage. It makes all the sense in the world to ardently ask God, the inventor of marriage, for His choice of a mate. We often have not, or discover we have the wrong partner, because we failed to seek God's will and earnestly wait on Him! If this is the case, it is no reason, in and of itself, to terminate such a union. Two have become one! We just have to 'make do' with second best, otherwise the ripping and agonies of divorce will be experienced. God specializes in bringing beauty out of ashes, victory out of defeat and our foolish 'second best' choices.

To bring out the full meaning of God's mandate for marriage, it was Matthew Henry who first said, "The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, not out of his feet to be trampled on by him; but out of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected, and hear his heart to be loved."

Ephesians 5:24-33 serves as a key marital passage in God's Word. Married folks need to read it regularly and discover again and again God's key watchwords for the husband and for the wife. They should ponder them and put them into practice. They do work! 


Love is the man's key word, a love that selflessly gives and gives. God's kind of husband lovingly and faithfully tends to his partner through thick and thin (no pun intended). Unfortunately too many men possess a macho, 'I'm the boss,' 'serve me, I'm the king around here' attitude that tragically counters God's way. Such a man and his marriage will falter. 

Submission, is the wife's term. This denotes a humble heart that respects, as much as is possible, even a flawed husband. 

Locked in these words are the secrets for a successful relationship. For the man it is a love like that of Christ Himself for the Church (ponder that!). Much sacrifice is required. 

For the woman, it is a submission that is a 'built-in carry-over' from Genesis where, after the fall, God said, "Yet your desire (Hb. teshuqah meaning 'longing.') will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). Even a very strong woman, while not curtailing her God-given abilities, must maintain a spirit of acquiescence toward 'her man.' 

Husband sir, don't mistakenly define love! It's a real nitty-gritty, giving, serving quality that comes from the heart but expresses itself even in the most menial matters of life. A man who thinks love is just romance and sex will struggle with what God mandates. 

And, madam wife, don't fight what God has ingrained in the very DNA of every woman. You need men. You may be superior in many ways but they are physically stronger and have abilities you will never possess, let alone God's mandate as 'head chief.' Frustratingly today's women lib groups try ever so hard to bypass what God has decreed domestically, not that abuse and unfair advantage shouldn't be opposed in all areas of life. It is always amusing that some women who are very vocal about equal pay and perks nevertheless still want men to open the door for them, treat them like queens and bow to their every wish and fancy. If you insist upon absolute equality, open your own door, fix your own coffee, paint your own house, mow your own lawn and repair your own car engine. 

The Amplified version brings out the deep meaning in the concluding verse of the above mentioned passage (Ephesians 5:24-33): "However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife as [being in a sense] his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly]" (Ephesians 5:33). The word in the Greek for the wife respecting and reverencing her husband is isphobeo, meaning "to put to flight, to terrify, frighten or to fear." Smile! I didn't write that, God did. It's the same fear enjoined upon us toward God. We fear Him in the sense of being awestruck and respecting him. Toward a spouse, a woman is to do this even though every man is obviously full of shortcomings and worse. Surely, there are no perfect men. But, even as God wants us to respect a political leader, even though in disagreement, so a godly wife will honor a husband, at the very least for the God-given authority place in him. At the same time a Christian husband will  ever attempt to earn that submission. 


The husband's word in the Greek is agapao which pertains more to an action than a feeling. It is a noble word describing Christ's love that caused Him to suffer and die for sinners. The husband is to love like that? This is the epitome of a selfless, giving, sacrificing and serving kind of love, a love supremely attentive no matter the circumstances. If a woman has a man like this, she will die to love, honor and obey him.

Both requirements for the wife and husband are carried out in day by day experience only by the power of the Holy Spirit. For Christians a supernatural enabling grace is absolutely essential to carry out these ideals. Therefore, walking closely with God or "in the Spirit" must precede expected success. God has provided the resources needed; Christians must diligently pursue them. When the spouses fall short they must humbly acknowledge such, confess the same to each other and to God, and beseech the Lord for strength to behave as He has ordered. If they do, then it won't be reported that divorce is as common in the Church as it is in the world. This is why every successful marriage is always a triangle: a man, a woman and God.

dick christen

August 09, 2017

BEAUTY IS ONLY SKIN DEEP... OR, IS IT?


First, I want to state clearly that there are scores of very discreet women in this world who are godly and who dress pleasingly to the Lord. I've been privileged to have met and worked with many such through decades of pastoring. However (and here I go getting to the purpose of this paper), on the other hand, too many prance around, primping, mirror-gazing and seem woefully lacking in any pursuit of the Bible's ideal, namely, that of prioritizing a quality known as inner beauty. They may not know it, but it's more obvious than they think. Their very body language gives them away. They strut as if on a world stage to which all fixedly gaze but are sadly and carnally sucked in by their alluring and warped self perception. But, be that as it may,  thank God for others,  who, with humble bearing, dress modestly, forego the stage strut, put away their obsession with mirrors and behave in a lady-like manner. For any guy looking for a wife, this latter type should be the preferred kind. Of course guys would easily say that both outer and inner beauty are the perfect combination, if in the same package. But if not, should not just inner beauty  be preferred?  Such will be the preference of a man who is both sensible and spiritually sensitive.   

Phillip, a 16 year old New York State guy, once remarked, "What really bothers me about girls is that they often say, 'Why can't guys just like me for who I am, rather than for my body?' And then, they dress like they want the guys to look at their bodies. Wearing tight jeans and shirts isn't the best thing to do when you want guys to stop looking at your bodies. Try dressing modestly."

Considering the observable fact that the female gender is so beautifully designed by its Creator, THE BIBLE (which has much to say about sex, appearance, lust, etc.) plainly instructs the often-gazed-upon female this way: It assumes the gaze saying "...as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:2,3). 

A lady's "adornment" (Greek kosmos = the world), that is her world with which she is preoccupied, the sphere in which she spends much time, ought not to be overly concerned with the "merely external." There is nothing wrong with 'dressin' up all fancy like and lookin' pretty,' but, if that is with what a girl or woman is obsessively preoccupied, then a correction is vitally necessary. Of course, the world system of fashion, does a robust business emphasizing the mere outer appearance. Therefore, a female desiring to please the Lord is at once faced with overwhelming odds. 

But, a Christian should be very attentive to God's idea of beauty. He looks on the heart, not just mere outward 'looks.' A follower of Jesus should strive for the same mind-set. 

A sixteen year old New Jersey girl once said, "Recently, one boy said that if girls want to be liked for who they are (and not what their bodies look like), they should 'try dressing modestly.'" Then, with a smarty remarked she continued, "Excuse me! Clothing is a person's signature of individual freedom. If a girl wears 'tight jeans and shirts,' does that give guys license to harass her? I think not. Any female should have the right to wear what she wants, free of harassment." Then she continued, "I don't understand how, in this day and age, guys are still saying the same old thing. This reminds me of the rapists who give the excuse that the woman, the victim, was asking for it. Everyone is responsible for his/her own comments and actions. Please respect one another's body and soul." 

What? Is this gal serious? The first question in the Bible is "Am I my brother's (sister's) keeper? The rest of the Bible says MOST CERTAINLY, YES! Early on a concerted and hopefully parental  effort must be made to thoroughly educate girls about the opposite sex. I say the process needs to start early, quite a bit sooner than many think.  Far too many are way too naive about this. They think such information is ingrained at birth, but a good sitting down and frank information session on what makes the male gender tick and the female perk cannot be overly stressed. Girls need to understand the male drive and libido. The degree differs in males but can in many cases be extremely powerful. Jesus talked about men being eunuchs, some born that way, others made that way (as in the case of a slave), and yet others voluntarily making themselves such for the sake of a worthwhile cause. But such are the exception.  In other words, the libido force ranges from zero (the born eunuch) all the way to one-hundred. Now, a woman's libido can fit anywhere on a similar scale. The point I'm trying to make is this: Given the power of the sexual drive in most of us, don't we have a responsibility to NOT unnecessarily or carelessly stir up that drive in the opposite sex? And if we do, don't we bear some of the responsibility, at least, for any aberrant behavior on the part of the other? Common sense, let alone Scripture, clearly says, "Yes."

So, in conclusion, this Bible injunction needs to be heeded by both sexes: "make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts" (Romans 13:14). Such "provision" which stirs up lust should be made neither by the guy or the gal, not only in behalf of themselves but for the sake of the others too.

Dear girls and women, you are God's beautiful creation, and SMART. Be well informed on these matters and behave accordingly. 

Once there were eleven people (10 men and 1 woman) hanging onto a rope that came down from a helicopter. The rope started to fray so it was agreed that one person should let go; if not, then the rope would break and everyone would die. No one could decide who should let go. So finally, the woman gave a really touching speech. She said she would give up her life to save theirs because women were used to giving up things for their husbands and children and since men were the superior sex, they must be saved.

When she finished speaking, all of the men clapped. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A WOMAN!

dick christen

August 07, 2017

A LINE OF REASONING FOR A LIFE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS...


I've developed this line of reasoning...... God speaks, we obey and such is an act of righteousness. Such an action sets us apart and that 'set-apartness' is our personal holiness. God greatly desires us to be 'different' or holy. This is contrast with the world around. Righteousness is the action; holiness the resulting 'state.' The sum total of many actions of righteousness (taking God at His Word and acting accordingly) results in a reputation of holiness. Romans 6:15-19 seems to support this. Paul sums up the passage saying "... so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification" (19d). Distinction made. No wonder "the righteous Lord loveth righteousness." He wants us in practice to be holy as He is holy. Therefore, "obedience" is the key to the Christian life. I must hear His Word, fear God, and behave as He desires. (Read Proverbs 2 where this is outlined as the way to wisdom.) And so we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, all the while deeply grateful for our steadfast position of righteousness IN Christ Jesus. At salvation the believer has imputed or credited to him the righteousness of God IN Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:21..."He (the Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." In daily practice the believer in Christ is to practice the above line of reasoning for the sake of a life of righteousness BY Christ Jesus. He is more than willing to give the strength needed to so walk. What a salvation! 

August 01, 2017

WHEN 'THE BAD' TRIES TO SUCK US IN...


A PROVERB... Proverbs 1:10

"My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent." 

When evil powers attempt to 'suck us in' (and they are enticingly strong) we must enrelentingly resist! The way to do this is to so grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord that God's power in us triumphantly offsets the allurements of sinners and sin all around us. By God's power we can say "NO!" The vacuuming powers of evil cannot ingest solid objects of righteousness. "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord,  and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10).

-Dick D. Christen

June 29, 2017

ABIDING TRUTHS IN JOHN 3:16


ABIDING TRUTHS IN JOHN 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

(Below, the parentheses are mine, explaining the wealth of abiding truths packed into this familiar verse. Ponder each point made.)

“For God (GOD’S DEITY)…
so loved (LOVE’S INTENSITY) 
so loved (SALVATION’S CHARITY)…
the world, (THE PLAN’S IMMENSITY)…
that he gave (GOD’S GRATUITY)…
his only son, (THE GIFT’S SINGULARITY)…
that whoever (THE OFFER’S AVAILABILITY)…
believes (THE SINNER’S RESPONSIBILITY)…
should not perish (THE BELIEVER’S SURETY)…
but have eternal life.” (SALVATION’S ETERNALITY)

     NOTES:
-       The verse begins high and ends high – God and eternal life – but in between delivers us from the lowest depths of sin. Psalm 40:2 expresses it well: “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”

-       God’s reservoir of love, though expressed intensely, never diminishes in capacity. Man-made reservoirs all diminish with usage. Such must be refilled. But God's reservoir level remains constant even when drawn upon.  And so, we teach our children to sing, “YES Jesus loves me…”


-       The IMMENSITY of our INIQUITY is far more match by the INTENSITY of His CHARITY.

-       AGAPAO in the Greek can be rendered “love” but perhaps, using older English, the word “charity” is better suited. AGAPE love is not mere emotion or feeling. It rather is a calculated response that pours from the mind and heart to address the need of someone else. It is more action than feeling. It does! It acts! Its objective is the well-being of its subject. Does not “charity” befit this more than “love?” Sadly,“love” has been reduced to mere emotion or sex in today’s world.

-       God giving His ONLY son, Jesus, is reminiscent of Abraham taking his son, Isaac, to mount Moriah and being willing to offer him up to God, as God had commanded. What faith! Often God’s instructions go contrary to what we deem right and proper, even contrary to what elsewhere He tells us. But, deep faith does what He says and expects Him to cover the situation, never going contrary to His own Word. And God never fails!

-       The Amplified Bible brings out various word shadings which enrich our understanding of the verse:

“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life” (John 3:16).

When Jesus saves a sinner that sinner “shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost).” When truly saved the believing sinner is most certainly secure, saved for time and eternity. Jesus promised such security when He said, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28 – Amplified Bible).

                    More secure is no one ever,
                    Than the loved ones of the Savior.
                    Not yon star on high abiding,
                    Nor the bird in home-nest hiding.


-Dick D. Christen 

June 16, 2017

WHERE DO THE SOULS OF THE DEAD GO?


WHERE DO THE SOULS OF THE DEAD GO AT DEATH? ARE THE DESTINATIONS DIFFERENT NOW THAN BEFORE THE CROSS OF JESUS?

If the question is asked: Where do believers and unbelievers go when they die? A quick and somewhat trite response would be … “Believers go to heaven and non-believers to hell.” But as this paper will show, this would generally be very true but rather simplistic. Read on because there are intriguing details to be discovered.

Delving into Holy Scripture we quickly learn that ‘hereafter placement’ is a rather complicated subject. Nevertheless, piecing various passages together a complex but plausible explanation emerges.

In Luke 16 we learn of a certain rich man who died and went to a place of great and immediate torment. The NASB (New American Standard Bible) and other worthy translations call it HADES. Arriving there, he painfully cries out, “I am in agony in this flame” (v24). 

In the same story we also are told about a poor beggar who also died. Interestingly, he was taken by angels to a place called ABRAHAM’S BOSOM. The text does not say he went “up” but rather just names the place. 

And so, to review, there are two men who both die but go to different places. The one is a place of torment. The suffering rich man himself calls it just that..."torment." The other destination is a place of comfort, warmth and safety. Lazarus, the poor beggar, restfully enjoys this! Does not the word ‘bosom’ as in ABRAHAM’S BOSOM suggest just this? A mother’s bosom can surely be described in such a manner. In fact, Abraham in replying to the cries of the rich man informs him accordingly: “He (Lazarus) is being comforted.”  

And so, there are two destinations for these two disparate souls. But, let me ask a probing and curious question: Could the two places in fact be two compartments of the same place?

Ponder the story as it unfolds in sacred Scripture:

 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony” (Luke 16:19-25).

In the version I’ve used, the word HADES is a proper rendition. "In Hades" the rich man cried out. Other versions use the word "hell" but such a translation is a less than accurate rendering. Regarding this, consider this brief explanation: As we commonly think of the endless place of torment for unbelievers, the precise word in the Bible for "hell" is GEHENNA, not the term HADES used in our text. GEHENNA is the place gruesomely described as endless torment, fire and brimstone. Of it Paul, the Apostle, says: Jesus will come with His mighty angels and with fire “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). This frightening description sets forth the final abode of all who reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ and who suffer, as a consequence, ‘eternal destruction.' Yes, hell is forever. THIS IS GEHENNA and the word is found in such passages as Matthew 5:22; Luke 12:5 and James 3:6. At the end of the Bible it is aptly but horrendously depicted as a “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14,15).

But in our text, Luke 16, a different word is used under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is the Greek word HADES. The rich man died and went to Hades. It seems that at least one compartment of this place is very much hell-like or Gehenna-like but not yet the actual GEHENNA. GEHENNA comes in view much later. All who have not received the gift of forgiveness and everlasting life in Jesus Christ will appear at Christ's Great White Throne Judgment Seat which will be at the conclusion of Christ's 1,000 Kingdom millennium on earth. There unbelievers will be consigned forever to GEHENNA. This truth is set forth in Revelation 20:11-19. In his prophetic vision John declares:

"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and  books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and HADES gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and HADES were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Clearly, a distinction is made between HADES and a LAKE OF FIRE. The latter is GEHENNA. 

But the rich man goes to HADES. It seems that one part of HADES is very much hell-like or Gehenna like. Remember he suffers excruciating pain. The poor man, Lazarus, on the other hand, is in a state of peace and painlessness. Question: Could it be that HADES is compartmentalized? There exists an awful experience for some but a delightful, heaven-like existence for others. Many responsible Bible students think so.

Therefore, HADES may well refer generally to the grave but, more specifically, to two intermediate places or compartments to which departed souls go. One is awful and the other pleasant, and these are the destinations to which the rich man and Lazarus go at their demises. In other words, Hades was very probably divided into two such compartments, one for the saved and one for the lost, and that between the two there was a great gulf fixed. How do we know about such a fixed gulf?

Responding to the rich man’s wails of desperation, Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.” (Underlining is mine.)

Let me ask, does not this open the possibility that before Calvary there existed two destinations for the departed, which nevertheless were in reasonably close proximity? And so, the rich man and Abraham engage in discourse back and forth.

The lost rich man desperately responds, “'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead’” (Luke 16:25-31). This response underscores the immense authority and power of Holy Scripture. The suffering soul is begging for a miracle. If only Lazarus could rise from the dead and go back to the brothers to share the Good News of Jesus. Surely they would believe. But Jesus makes it clear that nothing can supersede the power of the Word of God. It is "quick and powerful." Furthermore, "faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). In our times many, looking for the spectacular (and please serve it with much hype), underestimate God's ordained means whereby souls are saved. Paul's testimony was: "I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:2-5.

At death every person in the world (except Enoch and Elijah) went to one of the two places comprising Hades. And this, UNTIL the moment of Christ’s death. The believers went to the place of comfort in Hades and the unbelievers to the place of torment. But, during the time Jesus was in the grave SOMETHING VERY SIGNIFICANT HAPPENED! 

While Jesus’ body lay motionless in the grave, His soul (the person Jesus) was very active. This is borne out when Peter preached Jesus at Pentecost (Acts 2). In looking back at Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter said that when He died His soul went to Hades but in doing so was in no way threatened or in danger. He said that God the Father would not “abandon” Jesus’ soul to Hades. This does not mean He would not visit there, but that He would not be permanently consigned or helplessly trapped in Hades. Nor was His body (still in the tomb) going to be subject to corruption. Peter quoted an Old Testament passage to affirm these statements. And while the passage refers to King David it more deeply and prophetically is about Jesus, and this according to the law of double reference. Thus, Peter quoted it when sharing where Jesus went while His body lay in the tomb:

 Jesus is talking and says: “Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:9-11; cf. Acts 2:25-31).

While dead in body, Jesus went to SHEOL! (SHEOL is the Old Testament Hebrew. HADES is the Greek rendering for the same place in the New Testament.) Upon arrival He probably visited both compartments. According to the Apostle Peter he went to the dark compartment of Hades: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison” (1 Peter 3:18-19). The context for this Scripture informs us that His soul (‘in the spirit’) specifically addressed the rebellious of Noah’s time. He may have called this particular group out while at the same time all heard His voice. And so, every soul in bad-HADES heard the message of His atoning work for sinners. HE IS THE VICTOR! (If only they had believed and listened to Noah and the numerous Prophets God sent through the ages). 

But then, (and all this while His body lay in the grave), He went to the good side of Hades where Lazarus and all believers resided before Christ’s death. Then, HE DID SOMETHING EVERLASTINGLY SPECTACULAR! 

He led these believing souls out of HADES and upwards to Paradise, or heaven. He would include in this upward miracle the thief that believed on the cross, according to His promise, along with all believers from the ages before the Cross. 

Listen to the Apostle Paul: “When HE ascended on high, HE led captive a host of captives, and HE gave gifts to men. (Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things)” (Ephesians 4:8-10).
.
Can we not surmise that after preaching in bad-Hades (“He descended into the lower parts of the earth”), Jesus went to good-Hades, gathered up the saints (the “captivity” – occupying good-Hades throughout Old Testament times) and ascended with them to Paradise (heaven). Since then, all who die in Christ, go to this same place, heaven. Jesus said that He wanted us to be where He is. That means “up,” not down, because in Acts 1 where Jesus’ personal rapture is vividly described, He is seen ascending into heaven, the disciples being in utter awe. “He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).

When Peter confessed Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus said to him, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19). Notice the verb tense: “shall have been bound in heaven.” Whatever is bound in earth through the preaching of the Gospel, “shall have been bound in heaven.” The power of the “keys” given Peter originates in heaven. These are the Gospel keys. Salvation is of the Lord. It is only logical that those saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus go to heaven, from whence came the gift Jesus. Again, remember, Jesus declared, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). That place is heaven. Hades was just a place for departed believers until Jesus went there and took them to heaven. What a grand moment that must have been!

In the Ephesians 4 passage, which tells us about Jesus descending into Hades to lead captivity captive, it also says He gave gifts to men. What are these gifts? These are the persons and means by which the Church grows and becomes Christ-honoring. In light of the work of Christ in taking believing sinners to heaven, a great practical appeal is made. We do well to heed it! We are saved not just to go to heaven when we die, but to live for the glory of God until we do. Here are the gifts given: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…” (Ephesians 4:11-15).

This tells us that, until Christ comes and takes us to heaven, we are to avail ourselves of these gifts in order that we might be equipped for service, built up, unified, growing in the knowledge of Christ, and maturing “to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” In other words, until that glorious upward trip to heaven, we have much to do for Jesus’ sake! Jesus said, “Occupy until I come.”

But, I must ask myself the question, am I ready for the hereafter? At death will I go “up” or “down?” All who know Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord will go up. He has said “I will receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” He also announces this: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). This is the Gospel appeal. He paid for sinners’ sins on the cross. He took our place that we might be freed from the guilt and penalty of sin. The sinner must believe this, receiving Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:8-10).

A dear friend of mine often witnessed to his unsaved dad about life in Christ. His father refused the message and, in fact, told his son that, while he loved him, he didn’t want to hear about salvation in Jesus Christ anymore. Further hope and conversation for his father's conversion were stifled At the same time, the father was a fastidious man. He had an earthquake preparedness kit meticulously filled. But he refused Jesus. He was ready for an earthquake but not for heaven.

So, a vital question for all to consider is: When death claims you, will you go up or down? An old Southern doctor had his office over a drugstore. In front of the drugstore was a sign reading, “DR. RILEY IS UPSTAIRS.” When the old doctor died, after a long life of day and night service for his neighbors, he left no money, not even for his own burial. When they examined his books, they found written over account after account, “Paid off.” When he was buried his friends wanted to put up some memorial or stone on his grave. They had no money for an expensive stone or marker, so they set up over his grave the sign in front of the drugstore. That was his beautiful epitaph: DR. RILEY IS UPSTAIRS.

Will I go up or down when my life on earth ends? The Gospel of Jesus Christ says it will one place or the other. 


-       Dick D. Christen