Monday, March 20, 2017

WHAT? SAVED BY 'GRASS'????

SAVED BY GRASS? YES, OLD KING NEBBY WAS SAVED FROM INSOLENCE AND PRIDE...... Dan 4:33-34
"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. 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." (He probably had a saying, "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. "Apart from grace my heart would be estranged, wayward, rebellious, faithless and lost/But, oh, my God in grace has has arranged to rescue my soul at infinite cost.")

- Dick D. Christen

Thursday, March 16, 2017

PREACHING IN A NON-ROTE FASHION OR PREACHING WITH IMAGINATION...



PREACHERS OF JESUS CHRIST are not parrots. As close as they should stay to Holy Scripture, God has gifted them to put eternal truths in words of their own,  explaining the sacred truths and coining them in such a way as to be understandable to the listeners. This is not putting their words above Scripture but rather is the exercising of the gift of preaching/teaching imparted by God so as to make clear “the sense” of any given passage. In Ezra’s day it is said that, upon gathering the people and reading the Scriptures, “THEY (the teachers) GAVE THE SENSE, AND HELPED THEM TO UNDERSTAND THE READING” (Nehemiah 8:8). This gift when recognized and valued for what it is, requires teachers of the Word to so trust God that, after diligent study and prayer, they are not overly dependent upon notes and should rethink any inclination to merely read the message at time of delivery. Such dependency stilts not only the style of delivery but inhibits the soul and mind from being a ready tool of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit wants to be in full control of the messenger's mind controlling the formation of the thoughts and words to be uttered at the moment of preaching. This, of course, is different from the Divine process used in the authorship of the Scriptures themselves, but is akin to the anointing in 1 John 2:27, possessed by all believers, only especially tailored to the preaching experience.  A preacher who reads his sermons, even though a good reader and animated, over time becomes very predictable and singsong. (This latter word is defined as “monotonous rhythmical cadence, tone, or sound.) I'm not saying a reading preacher can't be used of God or controlled by the Holy Spirit to some extent (history, often positively so, informs us of this possibility), but I am saying that being glued to a manuscript can't help but serve as an inhibition to some degree of God's perfect ideal.

I once heard a preacher renown for Scripture memory. He had a fantastic gift to recite Scripture, verse after verse. It was most impressive except that, when he was finished, and, upon after-message reflection, I concluded that it was void of imparting “the sense of Scripture.” And, even though it was an amazing display of a gifted mind, my soul was craving the contemplation and practical significance of all those verses set forth. It was a stand-up display of a most gifted mind and the good content thereof, but it was not preaching. Preaching is the God-given ability to understand the truths of the Bible and to set them forth in an imaginative and life challenging way. All acceptable preaching is teaching but not all teaching is preaching. Teaching aims principally for the mind to inform it of truth. Preaching aims for the mind, of course, but also presses truth further to the stirring of the soul (the emotions) and the inciting of the soul to put what is learned into practice.

Historian George Marsden in a Wall Street Journal (March 23, 2016) extols the abilities of C.S. Lewis in writing. What he said about Lewis is applicable to preachers. Marsden said, “MERE CHRISTIANITY contains arguments enlivened with images, metaphors and analogies that capture the imagination. The Lewis of MERE CHRISTIANITY is the same as the Lewis of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. Imagination, he believed, was ‘the organ of meaning,’ even if reason was ‘the organ of truth.’

Marsden goes on to say, “Lewis’s first ambition had been to be a poet. It shows in his prose, where meaning is often conveyed through vivid analogies. Lewis writes that when God enters your life, he begins ‘to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.’ He explains that becoming Christian isn’t an improvement but a transformation, like a horse becoming a Pegasus.”

Somehow, I think what Lewis masters in his writing preachers should apply to their preachments. True preaching emanates from the diligent study of the Bible (utilizing all the sound principles of hermeneutics), with truths processed by the mind under the illuminations of the Holy Spirit and messages prepared prayerfully but with deep thought processes that specialize in proper presentational order for the delivery thereof, and the inclusion of appropriate illustrations from the Bible and explanations that search for imaginative ways of setting forth the precious truths of any given passage of Holy Scripture.

Jesus did this when instead of merely saying if you believe in Me you are changed within, declared the truth in this manner, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” And if that wasn’t imaginative enough, He proceeds to say, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37,38). Think how relevant, colorful and stirring that was! Who wouldn’t want to lift the cup and drink?

Dick D. Christen

Monday, March 13, 2017

NOT "LOOK AT ME" BUT RATHER "LOOK AT THAT"


Humorously, someone once remarked, "Egotism is obesity of the head." It is true that most of us have too big an appetite for 'appreciation.' In subtle ways (and in ways not so subtle) we fish for complimentary attention.

Christians, and especially Christian leaders, should deeply accept the fact that there is no spirit in man more opposed to the Spirit of God than the spirit of pride. The Holy Spirit is here to direct attention to Jesus Christ, not to the person entrusted with announcing Jesus' wonders.

Since 2001 C.S. LEWIS' renown book MERE CHRISTIANITY has sold 3.5 million copies in English alone. Historian George Marsden believes that one of the great strengths of Lewis' masterpiece was "his ability to stand aside and point toward his subject - rather than himself." He quotes Lewis as once saying "that a poet should not be saying "look at me," but rather "look at that." And so, in commenting on Lewis' skills as an author, Marsden goes on to remark that "Lewis acts like a guide on the journey from unbelief to faith. He points people to see, as he has, the time-tested beauty of God's love in Jesus Christ. Not everyone will see the beauty or be persuaded. But those who get a true glimpse will be drawn in by its power."

The Apostle Paul, great servant that he was, humbly said, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." LOOK AT HIM, EXALT HIM, POINT TO HIM, LOVE HIM, COME TO HIM! God is not out to hurt our pride, He's out to kill it!

Dick Christen

Thursday, March 9, 2017

CROSS BEARING - JESUS AND YOU?


With God-given grace and faith, I do accept the 'on the cross' redemptive work of Christ which He bore for me. That happened long ago and I didn't feel the pain. And so I'm saved. "Saved by the blood of the crucified One..." What challenges me now is to daily take up my cross, die to self, sin and the world and live for Jesus and others. My old self does not want to do this. I DO NOT want to suffer the inevitable pain entailed. Few do. But, as His disciples WE MUST because it is intrinsic to being His!

Luke 9:23
"And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."

Dick D. Christen

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

THE BIRTH MARKS OF A TRUE BELIEVER IN JESUS....


                  BIRTHMARKS OF A REAL CHRISTIAN

1 JOHN (various passages)

A birthmark is any minor disfigurement (a nevus) or blemish on a person’s skin at birth. Jokingly we may say it is proof that a person was born. Not funny is the fact that many, in fact multitudes, think they are born again or true Christians, when, in fact they are not. It is important, therefore, to put ourselves to the test (s) to make sure we are indeed “in Christ Jesus.” The Apostle Paul challenges us accordingly,

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

IN JOHN’S FIRST EPISTLE SEVEN SUCH POINTS OF PROOF ARE SET FORTH:

1.   THE TEST OF DELIGHTING IN GOD’S WORD (1 John 2:3-6)
“And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”

2.   THE TEST OF DOING RIGHTEOUSNESS (1 John 2:29; 3:7)
“If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” (1 John 2:29)
“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” (1 John 3:7)

3.   THE TEST OF DETESTING SIN (1 John 3:9; 5:18)
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9)
          The AMP translation clarifies: “No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God.” (1 John 3:9)
“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” (1 John 5:18)
          The AMP translation clarifies: 18 “We know [absolutely] that anyone born of God does not [deliberately and knowingly] practice committing sin, but the One Who was begotten of God carefully watches over and protects him [Christ’s divine presence within him preserves him against the evil], and the wicked one does not lay hold (get a grip) on him or touch [him].” (1 John 5:18)

4.   THE TEST OF DESIRING GOD’S PEOPLE (1 John 3:10-11, 14, 19; 5:1)
10 “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (1 John 3:10-11)

5.   THE TEST OF ACCURATELY DEFINING JESUS (1 John 5:1)
1 “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.”

6.   THE TEST OF OVERCOMING THE WORLD (1 John 5:4, 5)
4For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5)

7.   THE TEST OF DISCIPLINING SELF OR THE TEST OF SENSING THE KEEPING, UNFAILING LOVE OF GOD (1 John 5: 18 – A DIFFICULT VERSE TO TRANSLATE)
      KJV:   "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” (1 John 5:16-18)
        ESV:  "We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.' (1 John 5:18)

         Christians don't sin in the sense they relish it. They do "not keep sinning" with a 'don't care attitude.'  They are under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, they do not enjoy sinning, they are bothered, they seek deliverance, etc.  They possess a new found sense of holiness and 'keep themselves' holy before God, or, as Jude challenges, "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 1:21). This very conviction and uncomfortableness with sin, all of which true believers most certainly feel within, interestingly assures us that we belong to Him!
         
A.T. ROBERTSON: “1Jn 5:18 We know (οιδαμεν). As in 3:2,14;5:15,19-20. He has "ye know" in 2:20;3:5,15. Sinneth not (ουχ αμαρτανει). Lineal present active indicative, "does not keep on sinning," as he has already shown in 3:4-10. He that was begotten of God (ο γεννηθειϛ εκ του θεου). First aorist passive articular participle referring to Christ, if the reading of A B is correct (τηρει αυτον, not τηρει εαυτον). It is Christ who keeps the one begotten of God (γεγεννημενοϛ εκ του θεου as in 3:9 and so different from ο γεννηθειϛ here). It is a difficult phrase, but this is probably the idea. Jesus (Jn 18:37) uses γεγεννημαι of himself and uses also τηρεω of keeping the disciples (Jn 17:12,15;Rev 3:10).”


Dick D. Christen

Thursday, January 12, 2017

PRAYER IS NOT GANGING UP ON GOD...


Some appeal for prayer like if we get enough people we can gang up on God and tell Him He has to do whatever we tell Him. But, prayer is not imposing our wills on God but rather yielding to His will for us. Jesus taught us,"Thy will be done..." The Father willed hardship, suffering and death for His Son. Jesus learned obedience (in the practical sense) through suffering, so God's Word declares (Hebrew. 5:6). Even so, God works in our lives. He is more interested in our holiness than our happiness, in our faith than in our fun. He tries our hearts to teach us true faith. Nevertheless, along with the testings, joy bells keep ringing. "Rejoice evermore." And, a person of deep faith will do so even when the death chimes begin to sound. We must pray for His designs to be accomplished for His glory and our good. It's not so much, "Lord, make this person trouble free" as it is "Lord, help this person (comfort him, help him, heal him if You will because surely you can) but let Him see your holy purposes through it all."


-       Dick Christen

Friday, January 6, 2017

SAVED NOW, OR CONDEMNED THEN.....YOUR CHOICE!


When the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus at Calvary, after hours of suffering He cried out, “IT IS FINISHED!” He then bowed His head and gave up His spirit (John 19:30).

          "Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood - 
               Sealed my pardon with His blood: Hallelujah, what a Savior."
          "Guilty, vile and helpless we, Spotless Lamb of God was He;
               Full atonement! Can it be?: Hallelujah, what a Savior."

But then, note this: At the end of the coming Great Tribulation period on earth, God pours out the final bowl of His wrath upon this sin cursed earth, we read this..."Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, 'IT IS DONE' (Revelation 16:17)."

We must either accept Jesus' finished work of atonement for us which He procured at Calvary, and be saved now, OR, if on earth during the tribulation of God's judgment upon sinners, suffer His awful wrath in the judgment of this old world at that hour of terrible judgment. And if not then, in hell forever.

"Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him" (Romans 5:9). "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."

Every sinner has a choice to make.

- Dick Christen



FOR YOUR PARTICULAR TIME OF NEED....


A PASTOR'S PRESCRIPTION...

GET ALONE WITH GOD, your dear Heavenly Father. Jesus instructed us to "go into your room and shut the door" and pray. This would apply to meditation too. Get away! Go to your bedroom, a closet, downstairs, upstairs, a room at church, wherever you and your God can commune together. In these days of multiple distractions (*see Tozer below) it is imperative we make or find such a place. Revive the discipline. This may not eliminate all your pills, but very possibly some of them. "Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!" Psalms 105:4.

In His presence ponder this Bible phrase.... 

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." (Selah - pause, think about this - Psalms 46:10-11).

Now,  open your Bible to Proverbs 3:5-8; 25,26.....

          PONDER these words
          PRAY over these words
          PRACTICE these words

Do the same with Psalm 91:1-4; Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:4-9

PONDER...PRAY...PRACTICE...(take time to be holy...or to behold HIM)

THEN, say or hum these words....

          Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! ’tis the voice of angels
Borne in a song to me,
Over the fields of glory,
Over the jasper sea. 

Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest. 

REPEAT THIS PROCESS OFTEN, your well being is at stake as well as your testimony before family and friends.

Dick D. Christen

* Tozer ....But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. --Matthew 6:6

Among the enemies to devotion none is so harmful as distractions. Whatever excites the curiosity, scatters the thoughts, disquiets the heart, absorbs the interests or shifts our life focus from the kingdom of God within us to the world around us--that is a distraction; and the world is full of them. Our science-based civilization has given us many benefits but it has multiplied our distractions and so taken away far more than it has given....

The remedy for distractions is the same now as it was in earlier and simpler times, viz., prayer, meditation and the cultivation of the inner life. The psalmist said "Be still, and know," and Christ told us to enter into our closet, shut the door and pray unto the Father. It still works....

Distractions must be conquered or they will conquer us. So let us cultivate simplicity; let us want fewer things; let us walk in the Spirit; let us fill our minds with the Word of God and our hearts with praise. In that way we can live in peace even in such a distraught world as this. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." The Set of the Sail, 129-132.

"Lord, it's certainly harder and harder to shut out the distractions of an increasingly science-based civilization. Help me to cultivate simplicity, to be satisfied with fewer things, and to find the inner peace that You can give in a life of prayer and meditation. Amen." 

A. W. Tozer Sermon: Overcome Distractions


Friday, December 30, 2016

IS EVERYTHING DETERMINED BY MAN ALONE?


I agree with this statement if viewed on the purely horizontal plane of life. It sounds noble and underscores man's duty to bear the responsibilities of life. And, this is good, especially in an era of irresponsibility! But, it leaves out the vertical dimension or the part God plays in the affairs of man. He must, of course, be reckoned with. And, from Scripture, we know He sovereignly invades lives, as in the cases of Job and Paul (to name but two), interjecting tough things that disturb us greatly and put us in difficult circumstances. These two men made many hard but right decisions but ended up in tough straits, Job in great agony of loss and Paul in a barren prison. But it was God who brought these things to pass for their good, His glory and the furtherance of the Gospel. Job didn't know all that had gone on behind the scenes between Satan and God, Satan wanting to prove the hypocrisy of Job's faith. Such incidences happen more than we readily acknowledge. Then too, God chastens us for His purposes of sanctification, which often we don't understand or honestly acknowlege. All such things are God's doings, not ours. In fact, He works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11). So, what I DO I do under a special Divine appointment, purpose and control. And, His grace in such times of hard experiences is sufficient. But, on the other hand and at the same time, the stupid things I DO I surely bear full responsibility and cannot blame God. And, such cannot be blamed on others, my circumstances, parents,  etc. Interestingly, I've known people who use the purely horizontal line of thought to heartlessly blame people and refuse to extend Christian love and understanding. Such wrong thinking can lead to a very cold and impersonal view of those in need. Would any of us have gone to Job and said, all that is happening to you is because of your poor choices. No. But I think, that's what his friends nonsensically said! Yes?  But, no, God was intrinsically involved and the point was proved in the last chapters of the Book. People walking by faith always analyze life from both the horizontal and vertical aspects of existence. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

HOW TO FORGIVE OUR BROTHERS!





JESUS SAID, "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4).

Christians often forgive too easily! Really! We rather blithely let the words "I forgive you" slide off our tongues without seriously considering what we are forgiving.

In these verses Jesus instructs us that WE ARE TO FORGIVE....

.....when, first of all, there exists a clear REALIZATION of what is wrong or sinful. In the preceding verses Jesus mentions "stumbling blocks." These are what make a brother stumble and tumble. These are sins that disturb, thwart and hurt others. They take us away from God and the "straight and narrow." If my brother throws a stumbling block in my way I am to identify it, make sure it is what I think it is, view it in the light of Scripture, gather the facts and then proceed to the next step in order to deal properly with it. Sin is sin! We must not sugar-coat it, ignore it, pretend it doesn't exist, skirt around it or naively look the other way. Sin is real and causes great harm. It is what plunged the entire human race into untold agony when Adam and Eve went contrary to God's direction. It must be recognized for what it is!

.....We are to forgive when, secondly, we follow Jesus' admonition for CONFRONTATION. This is in order to surface the sin, acknowledge it for what it is, confess it and seek the Lord's forgiveness. We are to "rebuke" a fellow sinner. This is to be done thoughtfully, never out of anger but straightforwardly, lovingly and with Scripture. We do this as velvet covered truth arrows. We aim for the mind and the heart. And, Christians must be open and humble enough to respond and admit that from time to time we all need such face to face honesty. The Apostle Paul did this when he confronted Peter, a friend and co-laborer, who at Antioch compromised the pure doctrine of grace. Peter wanted the Gentiles to be saved but shied away from loyalty to them when Jews came on the scene. Paul says, "I withstood him to the face." I'm sure he did this in love because he's the one who said we are to be always "speaking the truth in love" so that we "may grow up into him (Christ)in all things" (Ephesians 4:15). Do note how such confrontation is associated with "growing up" in our Christian experience.

.....Also, we forgive granting EXONERATION or forgiveness when steps 1 and 2 have brought to pass a confession of sin. In fact, this granting of forgiveness should be immediate and very commonplace. We all sin frequently. We repeat our offenses. We are weak in the flesh even when our spirits enthusiastically seek the way of holiness and disdain the sins which so easily beset us. That's why Jesus declares, "And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him." Repentance pertains to a change of mind wherein, though previously a sin was not acknowledged for what it is, that sin is now seen in a new light. Its wrong is now realized for what it is, and, most importantly, it's offense against the Lord and the brother doing the confronting admitted. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit, along with the proactive confrontation of a brother in the Lord, bring this to pass.

.....Finally, we forgive when with REITERATION we are humbly ready to forgive again and again and again, if necessary. Once upon a time Peter came to Jesus saying, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22). We all do err often! We prove our sinner-hood so frequently that we surely do not have to be convinced thereof. And so, we are admonished that "if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).

Remember, this outlined program is the Lord's. He enjoins it upon us. Beware of easy forgiveness. It accomplishes little and does nothing to effectually overcome wrong. What this writing addresses is horizontal forgiveness, brother with brother. It make take effort and time. It will necessitate much prayer and courage. Some are obstinate in sin and may not quickly embark upon this God-given program and others being confronted may not respond quickly. But never give up! Keep trying! It's a beautiful moment when reconciliation happens. Where two or three are gathered, the Spirit is at work and Jesus is present, and such Divine presence can make what seems impossible a reality. Jesus declared, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). The context for this pertains to this process Jesus prescribes for forgiveness.

While the horizontal aspect of forgiveness may take much time and effort, vertical forgiveness must always be practiced immediately. This is when the offended gives to God a sinner and his sin. We turn such over to Him even as Jesus on the cross did when He said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." This forgiveness is based upon a deep understanding of the sinner and his sin and the availability of Christ's atoning work whereby God the Father forgives immediately. "To him (Jesus) give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). And so, with this understanding, we too forgive immediately in the sense. We give the offending brother and his wrong to God, realizing God has made provision in His Son whereby sin can be forgiven. God's grace, expressed by the accomplishments of Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection, give us to believe in the availability of forgiveness for all sinners, and so, verticallly, we forgive at once and proceed to horizontal or face to face confrontation and eventual forgiveness. Both aspects are important. 

Someone remarked, "We are most like beasts when we kill. We are most like men when we judge. We are most like God when we forgive." However, we must do so on the horizontal level in keeping with Christ's instructive words. His way is always the best way.


- Dick D. Christen

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

THE BIBLE AND THE NARCISSIST....


Proverbs 18:1,2

"Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion."

This is the isolationist, egomaniac, self-absorbed, narcissistic, self-serving, my opinion-is-always-right kind of person.... that God calls "a fool." This is the person who talks AT you, never WITH you. "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts." "Just listen to me." Such are very troubled people, and troublesome to others and community. They seek always to dominate and must have the last word. They cannot be bothered to build consensus. It's my way or no way. Christians who traffic in truth, the Holy Bible, often err in elevating their extra-Biblical opinions to the status of truth, not even realizing they are doing so. "I'm a Christian, I have a Bible, therefore whatever I say is right." Well, maybe, if supported by a proper understanding of Scripture. And when even the most learned of Bible students can prove to be very wrong in their interpretations, I think we Christians at times can entertain some very erroneous opinions. I've known truly genuine scholars of Scripture (good conservative men) eventually admit they were wrong on a given interpretation, or two, or three. Even little me has had to eat crow on too many occasions. But too often we insist we're absolutely right because....... ah...... I have a Bible and therefore must hold the right viewpoint. Ah, maybe... I hope so.... if such a person really and truly has the right grasp on what God says. But, hermeneutics is a very exacting science which means I must STUDY to show myself approved, a workman that needs not to be ashamed. And, how many of us really STUDY God's Word. I'm not talking here about the obvious fundamentals of THE FAITH (upon these we cannot waffle). Rather, we're in the area of OPINION and the disputables Paul talks about in Romans 14. This has to do with OPINION and general Bible interpretation. Unfortunately, too many of us have a knowledge of God's Word based primarily on a simple devotional reading (and they can be a blessing) or bumper sticker slogans (and they can ring a bell or two) that click at the moment whether they reflect the whole counsel of God's Word or not. If the Bible is not primary in my life, if I do not mediate therein day and night (Psalm 1:2), if I can't say with the Psalmist "O, how love I Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97).... then very possibly I may well not be the authority I think I am. And, I am in danger of being the "my opinion-is-always-right" kind of fool set forth in the PROVERB listed above. A PRAYER: "Dear God, humble me, quiet me and make me know I don't necessarily have all the answers to everyone's problems, let alone the problems of this crazy mixed up world."


-       dick d. christen

Saturday, August 20, 2016

DO YOU HAVE AN ALCOHOL PROBLEM?


Here's yet ANOTHER MOST RELEVANT PROVERB...... "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise" (Prov. 20:1). Of course, all God's Proverbs are applicable to so many areas of life. It's His book of wisdom written mostly by Solomon. He knows all about living here-be-low. There are 31 chapters in the Proverbs, one for each day of the month. Read a chapter each morning.  

In a time when our Olympian champions shame themselves and embarrass all of us because of their foolishness in a drunken state, and, let me add this, when too many Evangelical Christians unashamedly flaunt their freedom to imbibe alcoholic drinks (in spite of the national life-agonies caused by over indulgence thereof!), it would be wise to long ponder the Word of God in the above verse and respect the wisdom and warning found therein. Read it again. "Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise" (Prov. 20:1). 

Thomas Brooks once remarked, “Drunkenness unmans the man.” It has also been said, “The sight of a drunkard is a better sermon against the vice than the best sermon that was ever preached on that subject.” But we need sermons and lectures too.

God’s antidote? It isn’t mere self-resolve, although much is needed. Nor is it just a detox center (although some programs of education and emergency help can prove helpful), but God’s answer lies in appropriating a Holy Spirit driven and empowered God-given remedy. It will be effective if appropriated! Many have experienced this! God's ways are always best.

Ponder this: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are:  immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions,  factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these…” (Galatians 5:19-21). 

And, think about this: “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled (literally be being filled with the Spirit…” (Ephesians 5:17-18). This Spirit filling, God enabling provision is designed to be sought every day and every moment of every day. 

I do believe in a personal and absolute prohibition. I know there are passages which seem even to encourage alcohol intake. One of these is: “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. Let him drink and forget his poverty and remember his trouble no more.” (Proverbs 31:6-7). But nowadays, given the horrible and devastating effects seen in a society (that’s us) agonizingly and wildly suffering from the uncontrolled usage of potent alcoholic drinks, we have helpful pharmaceutics. These can much better aid us in our bitter and troubled lives. These may have some questionable side effects, but, all in all, are much safer than the devastation seen too often from alcoholism.

What is God’s antidote? Review again the above verses in Ephesians 5. Search out the meaning of what is means to “be being filled” with the Holy Spirit. This is a continual state all Christians should covet. It pertains to truly being “born again” (John 3), having the Holy Spirit within (this happens at the moment of genuine salvation) and then living a life fully yielded to the Lord. This means to be in His Word (Psalm 1:1), applying it obediently to every aspect of life, confessing sin regularly, and prizing God’s will above all else. It entails attending a Bible centered church where one is taught the truths of Scripture. This process of daily holiness enlightens us to an available and necessary Godly power and sensitivity; in this we refuse to quench or grieve the indwelling Holy Spirit. At this point His power flows within and proves God’s enabling grace making us over-comers. IT WORKS, even though the process requires a diligent pursuit. It all comes down to whether I want to please God and live according to His will, even though His steps are arduous. They are such because He thereby teaches us persevering faith. Do I really love and believe God? Will I live by His wisdom, or, will I insist living in MY ways or the ways of this sin-sick world?

Long ago Seneca said, “Drunkenness is nothing else but a voluntary madness.” God’s program is a voluntary and sane determination to follow Divine wisdom, to do it unstintingly and to reap His glorifying success. Can God be wrong about this?

-       Dick Christen

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

FORGIVENESS - BOTH ONCE-FOR-ALL AND DAILY



FORGIVENESS – BOTH ONCE-FOR-ALL AND DAILY

Here is a John 3:16 kind of verse: "Of Him (JESUS) all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43). 

FORGIVENESS by God is readily available. He gives it freely but it is not cheap. It cost God the Father His Son and His excruciating death on the cross. T. De Witt Talmage once penned: “Release! Signed in tears, sealed in blood, written on heavenly parchment, recorded in eternal archives. The black ink of the indictment is written all over with the red ink of the cross: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.’”

Believing in Jesus brings a sinner God's overall judicial forgiveness. Such a believing sinner is at once freed from all guilt and penalty of sin. By "all" means all past, present and future sin! The slate is cleared. God the Judge declares him forgiven. He is thereby justified.  "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him" (Romans 5:9). A truly justified sinner, having believed in Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior, is forever freed from God’s law of sin and death. The Word of God says so: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:1-2). This judicial forgiveness is a constant and in no way contingent upon daily behavior. 

And so, the believer rests in this truth, as stated later in this same chapter: “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

But this needs to be pressed this further. For Christians, remembering the gruesome price Jesus paid for them should keep them from sinning freely or in a carefree way. This moves us from positional truth (what we possess IN Christ) to every-day or practical truth (what we daily have BY Christ).  The God who saves sinners once-for-all desires that when living our lives we eschew evil and confess it day by day and receive forgiveness. When we say this is carried out BY Christ we mean He gives us freely all things pertaining to life and godliness. Though judicially forgiven once-for-all at the point of initial salvation (when the sinner accepts Jesus as personal Lord and Savior), Christ's agonizing death should lead believers on a daily basis (or practically speaking) to crucify the flesh (old nature) and the lusts thereof. This is an ongoing experience, a variable and not a constant, and has in view God, not as Judge, but as Father. 

The Judge was rendered satisfied at the point of initial belief in Christ. The Scriptures are clear about this. The Apostle John declares: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Glorious truth! 

But, day by day the sensitive Christian desires to be close to Him as Father. And so daily confession and forgiveness are necessary (John 1:9). Experientially His wisdom dictates that evil be detested in an ongoing and growing way. “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil..." (Proverbs 8:13). And so, we are instructed to take up our cross and crucify the sinful urges that arise from one's inner self. Put them to death! While suppressing the inner proclivities we also fight against external solicitations. We must say NO to the world’s encroachments. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” 

This ongoing experience is costly. It hurts! Listen to Scripture: "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..." (1 Peter 4:1). Jesus clearly said, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39). A cross is an instrument of great pain. Fighting the good fight requires a willingness to suffer for the One who suffered for me.

And so, the sincere believer in Christ talks to himself saying:
I am saved by God’s grace. He has redeemed me, yea, and also justified me. He declared me righteous through the blood of His Son. In the courtroom of heaven I stand a forgiven sinner, having been justified and completely forgiven all my sin, past, present and future. The Judge, Almighty and Holy God, is satisfied that through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, justice for me has been procured. Amen! I do believe in Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. What a load of guilt is lifted. I leave His courtroom a fully pardoned sinner. There is no further penalty to be paid. I’m free! I need now to sing Charles Gabriel’s MY SAVIOR’S LOVE:

          He took my sins and my sorrows;
               He made them His very own.
          He bore the burden to Cal-v’ry
               And suffered and died alone.
          How marvelous, how wonderful!
               And my song shall ever be…..

But now, given such love, I must ever please my Heavenly Father. He as Judge has forever been rendered satisfied, but now, viewing Him as my Father, I want Him to draw me close, to hold me near to His heart, to be well pleased with all my thoughts, words and doings, to make me His much loved child. I must remember Jesus’ Words. He said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21). How do I express my love for Him? By keeping His commandments. How am I a member of God’s Insider Club (not that all His children aren’t loved. Of course they are!)? By obediently obeying His Son the Father responds by saying, “I will love him and will disclose My-self to him.” What is this special disclosure? I want it! I want to be godly. I want intimate insights into God’s Word, the Bible. I want the Spirit unquenched and not grieved to let me see and enjoy God as never before. I greatly desire to walk with Him and talk with Him and to have Him reassure me that, yes, I am His own. What comfort! What joy! What blessed assurance! 

I now understand the Apostle John’s words when he said, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:18-22).

Certainly, this is a so-great salvation provided by God’s grace and indescribable love. He satisfies Himself judicially. He is the uncompromising Judge. But, at the same time, He makes full provision for the believer to find comfort and deep emotional satisfaction walking day by day with His dear Heavenly Father.

Once a small boy threw a baseball and broke a neighbor’s window. The little one shied as the neighbor burst out in a fury of anger. He ran to his dad and explained what happened. The daddy went to bat for his son. He went to the neighbor’s house, rapped on the door and, to a still seething man, gingerly opened the discussion. The father did two things: First, he offered to pay for the broken window. In fact, he said he would repair it himself. He would do so at once. Then, he talked kindly about his son and asked for understanding for the youngster. The boy confessed his wrong. At once the seething disappeared, forgiveness was granted and the once offended man even offered a ready hug for the lad. Notice this: The offense tangibly was taken care of. The dad offered to pay and fix the window. And, on a personal level, communication was opened, forgiveness sought and granted and emotions of satisfaction flowed.

Even so, when a sinner comes to an offended God, a thrice-holy God who hates sin, the appeal to a go-between is of utmost importance. Jesus Christ is just such a mediator. Because he paid for a sinners sin, His blood ever pleads before the Father for making things right. The Scriptures state: “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at  the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). And again, Jesus everlastingly serves as the Christian’s advocate, or defense attorney. On this truth hear the Word of the Lord: “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). The “advocate” is one called in to help, like an attorney hired to plead the case. Jesus freely, by grace, does this forever for the believing sinner. So, when saved, the sinner has a MEDIATOR by whom once-for-all forgiveness is gained. He also has an ADVOCATE whereby in an ongoing fashion Jesus pleads in our behalf, pleads His own payment for our sin, and, on the basis of both roles, saved sinners are free and ever FORGIVEN.

“But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].
If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts].
If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action]” (1 John 1:7-9).


Do make special note how ‘forgiveness’ is intermingled with the atoning work of Jesus Christ. There can be no forgiveness by a Holy God apart from His being assuaged by blood sacrifice. Geoffrey Wilson says, “The Bible knows nothing of mere pardon. There can be no pardon except on the ground of satisfaction of justice.” And Oswald Chambers clearly states, “It is shallow nonsense to say God forgives us because He is love. The only ground upon which God can forgive us is the cross.” Let us sing with P.P. Bliss:

     “Man of sorrows!” what a name
          For the Son of God who came
     Ruined sinners to reclaim!
          Hallelujah, what a Savior!

     Guilty, vile and helpless we, 
          Spotless Lamb of God was He;
     Full atonement! Can it be?
          Hallelujah, what a Savior!


Dr. Dick Christen



Friday, July 22, 2016

THE CHRISTIAN'S SIX-FOLD JOURNEY AT DEATH


     THE CHRISTIAN’S SIX-FOLD JOURNEY AT DEATH


Dick D. Christen

Let’s call it a journey. Or we could use the terms ‘sojourn’, ‘adventure’ or ‘transmigration.’ This last word is defined secondarily in a dictionary as “the passage of a soul after death into another body.”

A believer in Jesus Christ has it from the lips of the Savior Himself that going from earth to heaven will effectively take place, either at the rapture of the Church or at one’s death.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 definitively describes the rapture as the sudden appearance of Jesus in the atmospheric heavens: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a  shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (vv 16-18). No date is assigned in Scripture. It could happen at any moment and will be an event of world-wide proportions. It will be an atmospheric drama choreographed by God Himself and witnessed by all! People on earth will gaze on it. When Jesus appears He will have with Him believers who already died. They will be reunited with their earthly bodies and, together with Christians then living on earth, will congregate in the heavens. At some point during this spectacular event the souls and bodies of those lifted from the earth will be changed “in a moment in the twinkling of an eye.” They will be freed from the troublesome miseries of sin’s curse. This amazing, God-wrought occurrence is also set forth in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. 

     But in the meantime and until the rapture every believer dies at his or her appointed time. In spite of all the daily evidences in life, the graveyards and passing hearses, too many still remain in a state of denial concerning the inevitability of death. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I WILL DIE, unless first swept up in the rapture of the Church.

Some monks in the Middle Ages kept skulls in their rooms inscribed with the words memento mori, meaning “remember your death.” I wouldn’t recommend such an eerie practice today, but more openness about the reality of our common mortality should certainly be in vogue.

That people avoid the subject, never raising the issue, never asking a Christian about it, and never searching the Bible for answers, is most disconcerting. To such, ignorance is deemed bliss. Nevertheless, the Word of God speaks forthrightly about death and tells us the Lord even sovereignly determines the when and the how. We may well struggle with God’s timing and even think it wrong, too soon or unfortunate (especially in the case of a child). And we may well question Him when anyone near and dear to us passes on. At times we may find ourselves hastily sympathizing with Carl Jung when he said, “It (death) is a period placed before the end of a sentence.” But, remember, dear hurting one, our days are numbered (Psalm 90:12), and this by the God who is too loving to be unkind and too wise to make a mistake. In His all-knowing overview of the beginning to the end of all things, He makes all such determinations perfectly so. He even sees horrible happenings that may await anyone if he or she lived additional days. Eternity will reveal just how wisely and precisely he did the counting. The end of our earthly sojourn will come, and so, like the Psalmist, we find solace saying, “My times are in Your hand” (Psalm 31:15). And, we do this fully trusting and resting in His sovereign care.

Jesus possibly referenced both the rapture and this moment of personal demise when He said, “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). It is surely most comforting and soothing to the soul to mull the fact that Jesus wants His followers with Him; and this, in the very place He has gone to prepare for them. How intimate! The One of infinity desires just such intimacy.

The Psalmist anticipated the believer’s personal departure from this earth when he said, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away” (Psalms 90:10). What? At death the believer flies away? What does this mean? How does it happen? Does he or she sprout wings? Or, does the departing soul obtain some kind of jet pack which enables a swooshing, rapid upturn, like a departing jet? Perhaps the Lord sends some kind of heavenly chariot to whisk us away like Elijah? How do Christians fly away? In the above passage I believe the “it” refers to the earlier mentioned “strength.” With God-given strength we may live to 80 or beyond. Then, God, the giver and taker of life, cuts it off and we’re out of here. Again, our life struggles as well as our times are all in His hands.

But, an inquisitive mind wants to hear the details about this ‘at death’ experience which takes the Christian from earth to glory.
The Bible sets forth at least SIX DISTINCT STEPS OR PHASES involved:

1.     For whatever cause, at death THE BELIEVER'S SOUL LEAVES THE BODY. How do we know? Well, centuries ago the Old Testament saints, Jacob and Rachel, while journeying, alarmingly became aware that Rachel was going to give birth. The baby was born but not without much pain and agony. Sadly, Rachel died. The Scripture spells it out this way: “Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor. When she was in severe labor the midwife said to her, ‘Do not fear, for now you have another son.’ It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin” (Genesis 35:16-18). Ponder the phrase “as her soul was departing (for she died).” This undergirds the statement that at death THE PERSON OR SOUL LEAVES THE BODY.

A father was at the beach with his children when his four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to the water’s edge where a seagull lay dead on the sand. “Daddy, what happened to him?” the son asked. “He died and went to heaven,” the dad replied. The boy thought for a moment and then said, “Did God throw him back down?” The lad did not understand that a living being, the soul, lives inside a body, and is still a living being, whether in a body or out of it.

Well then, what is a “soul?” The soul is the person. What is the “person?” A person is the soul. What is its make-up? What are the constituent parts of a person or soul?

Three things comprise a person: Firstly, INTELLECT.  A person thinks, reasons and ponders. Knowledge is stored up. It is remembered. It is used for life purposes. Action is the proper fruit of knowledge. Thomas Watson said, “Knowledge is the eye that must direct the foot of obedience.” And, secondly, EMOTION. A person or soul feels. The range of emotions is wide, all the way from joy to despair. It includes negatives (anger, wrath, jealousy, etc.) and positives (joy, happiness, pleasurableness, etc.). We feel deeply, lengthily or at times fleetingly. Then, there is the last part of personhood, WILL OR VOLITION. A person or soul makes decisions. I like Frederik P. Wood’s statement: “The will is the deciding factor in everything that we do. In every sphere of life it settles alternatives.”

And so, by way of summary, these three factors, intellect, emotion and will, constitute a person or a living soul. It is dignifying to remember that God is a person. He is what we are because He made us in His image. He is the eternal soul. We, His creatures, are but everlasting souls. Every soul will exist forever either in heaven or in hell. The Bible is very clear about this. At death, the soul redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, leaves the body and goes to heaven to be with Jesus. Jesus’ desire, expressed in John 14:3, is thus fulfilled. Remember, He said, “that where I am, there you may be also.” He wants us close to Him.

Once, while walking by a casket and holding my three year old daughter, I explained that grandma wasn’t in the body anymore. She is in heaven. I said to her that the body is like a turtle shell. She has left her shell behind. She’s gone. Interestingly, she grasped the idea and seemingly was satisfied.

At this point, Henry Scott Holland’s illustrative words are so beautiful to contemplate: “I am standing on the seashore. A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. I stand watching her until she fades on the horizon, and someone at my side says, ‘She is gone.” Gone where? The loss of sight is in me, not in her. Just at the moment someone says, ‘She is gone,’ there are others who are watching her coming. Other voices take up the glad shout, ‘Here she comes,’ and that is dying.”
                                                                                         
2. At death A CHRISTIAN FLIES AWAY. This idea isn’t just the fancy of an old southern gospel song. It is wonderfully spelled out in the Bible. Psalm 90:10 clearly says that at death, “we fly away.” But, how does this happen? Again, “What does this mean? Do we sprout wings? Or, does the departing soul take on some kind of jet pack which enables a swooshing, rapid upturn like a departing jet? Or, does the Lord send some kind of heavenly chariot to whisk us away, even as He did with Elijah? Do we have any answers to these questions?

Informatively, a story in Luke 16:19-31 gives us some details. We are told of a rich man who lived most sumptuously; also, there was a poor man living in misery. They knew of each other. Often the bedraggled man lay at the rich man’s door begging for food while the dogs licked his sores. God gives us the name of the bereft sufferer. He was Lazarus.

God delights in personalizing or naming the objects of His grace. John 10:3 declares that when Jesus enters the sheepfold “the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” And so, in another story and amidst the masses of Jericho, Jesus, making His way through town, notices a little man climbing a tree. He stops, looks up into a tree and warmly, but directly says, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5). Soon in his own home Zaccheus believes in Jesus and with promised amends gives positive evidence of a wonderfully changed life.

Now, back to the Luke 16 passage. We hear the name ‘Lazarus’ but never do learn the name of the rich man who died and went to Hades. At the Great White Throne judgment he will be consigned a place in gehenna (hell) forever. But when Lazarus died we are told this: “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (v22). Think about this! He flew away by means of angel wings! Isn’t this an eye-popping tidbit of God-ordered aerospace experience? His soul leaves his body and the angels are there to greet him. Lovingly they take his soul and zoom upwards.  Lazarus hears the flutter of their wings and gains reassurance of his promised destination. They talk with him just like Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration discussed with Jesus His return to heaven after the resurrection. They offer some glimpses into what he will experience once on the golden streets. Perhaps they tell him something about the dwelling place Jesus has built for him. Heaven, being rich with color, they clue him in on the color scheme and the mansion’s layout, the furniture and other homey accoutrements. When nearing glory they begin to hear singing, ever so faintly but then louder and louder. It’s beautiful and possesses that mysterious and substantive essence of many waters tumbling. In describing heaven, the Apostle John says, “Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns’” (Revelation 19:6). After winging through the darkness of space, the light of the city, at first dim and distant, now becomes brilliant. It’s the brightness of glory. Jesus shone with this brilliance on the Mount of Transfiguration. The soul of Lazarus can tolerate it. He’s changed. No sunglasses are needed because his innate sinfulness, along with all weaknesses of his earthly sojourn, fade into his recent past. God bestows all properties suitable and needed for the eternal state. Lazarus and the angels chatter about other details while nearing the threshold of heaven. In other words, when a believer in Jesus Christ dies, he does not wander alone and cold in outer space searching for a path upward. No, he at once, without any hesitation, travels heavenward.

Soon after he died in l993, country singer Conway Twitty’s duet partner, Loretta Lynn, strangely pleaded with Twitty’s spirit to return to his body. Lynn was visiting a Missouri hospital when Twitty, who had suffered an aneurysm, was brought to the hospital’s intensive care unit. He died. “I’d always heard that the spirit stays right there above the body for a while, so when I went back to intensive care, I stood beside Conway’s body and tried to talk him back down,” Lynn said. “I said, ‘Conway, don’t die on me. You know you don’t want to go.’” Lynn told the story in “The View From Nashville,” by Ralph Emery the longtime broadcaster.

The Bible dispenses all such erroneous notions about death. Rather, as would be expected from a loving and caring heavenly Father, a deceased believer at once receives a warm personal escort to his promised abode. Hallelujah, what a Savior! Dear reader, do you have the certainty of such a transition at death? Paul prayed for the Roman believers, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). The Apostle said, “We are…well pleased to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Joseph Parker (1830-1902) was a beloved preacher in England. When his wife died, he didn’t have the customary wording inscribed on her gravestone. Instead of the word died followed by the date of her death, he chose the word ascended. Joseph Parker found great comfort in being reminded that though his wife’s body had been placed in the grave, the “real” Mrs. Parker had been transported to heaven, into the presence of her Savior. When Parker himself died, it’s no wonder that his friends made sure that his gravestone read: Ascended November 28, 1902.

3.     Leaving this earthly scene and arriving in heaven, A BELIEVER IN JESUS CHRIST IS PERSONALLY WELCOMED BY JESUS HIMSELF. Can we not arrive at such a conclusion remembering that He promised to prepare a place just for us? If this is so, will He not want to be on hand to witness us seeing it for the first time?

Remember, He kindly gave us details about what He would do after His ascension. He said, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 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 14:2-3). He wants us to be where He is.

All the Bible is a grand invitation to come to God through Jesus Christ not only for freedom from the guilt and penalty of sin, now, but ultimately for grand and glorious communion with the hosts of heaven, the redeemed who have gone before, and with Jesus Himself. It seems only reasonable to assume His ‘in- person’ welcome in heaven. He wants us with Him! May I ask, how much more blessed and endearing could it be?
Ronald Sider reminds us that “for the early Christians koinonia was not the frilly ‘fellowship’ of church-sponsored by-weekly outings. It was not tea, biscuits and sophisticated small talk in the Fellowship Hall after the sermon. It was an unconditional sharing of their lives with the other members of Christ’s body.” Certainly heaven will maximize this “unconditional sharing.” Talk about transparency! Talk about the absence of hypocrisy! This will be true friendship. A friend is someone who comes in when the world goes out. Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother and when we leave this world, there He will be! In the rapture, all are gathered unto Him in the atmospheric heaven! We meet the Lord in the air! “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Should we expect any less at our personal death and arrival in heaven? And, since He held little children in His arms on earth, is it unreasonable that we, being His children, can expect a warm embrace from Him! Think about it! Embraced, hugged and patted by the nail pierced hands of our Creator and Savior. And with this, we’ll also experience the concomitant closeness for which we’ve eagerly longed with loved-ones gone before.

Given these beautiful realities, would any departed person desire to return to earth, even if they could? If, with the poet we would say,

“If tears could build a stairway
     And memories a lane,
I’d walk right up to heaven
     And bring you home again,”

…do we really think any gloriously departed saint would respond to such an invitation?

4. Arriving in glory THE CHRISTIAN RECEIVES A HEAVENLY BODY. When believers die and arrive in heaven, are they bodiless? Are they just wandering souls? Or, are they floating ghosts merely whisping here and there?

To answer such questions let us remember that the place Jesus has gone to prepare for His own is described in explicit material or physical detail. Twice Jesus called it a place. He said, “I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:2-3). It is not a figment of the imagination. Nor is it mere dreamy ‘pie in the sky.’ It is real, touchable and alive to the senses. Because it is described so minutely we must conclude it to be substantive, physically so.

Let us ask, what did the Apostle John see in his heavenly visit? He says, “The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone…. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass” (Revelation 21:18-21). In a nearby verse we are told the entire city is gold. Now, for such a place to be appreciated it seems logical that a body with sensory perceptions would be incumbent. God never created living beings to be without bodies. Indeed, when the Apostle Paul reveals the fact that believers in heaven will have bodies, he says, “inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked” (2 Corinthians 5:3). Could not the “it” refer to a celestial body? In 1 Corinthians 15, the very instructive resurrection chapter in the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us about different kinds of bodies. “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another” (1 Corinthians 15:39-40). When believers arrive in heaven could there be a heavenly body awaiting their occupancy?

Note also that when Jesus cast out evil spirits from the wild Gadara demoniacs, the demons desired earnestly to inhabit the bodies of nearby pigs. The story goes like this: When Jesus, traveling, “came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?’ Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them.  And the demons begged him, saying, ‘If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.’” (Matthew 8:28-31). In other words, all living beings, whether animal or human, apparently are meant to indwell bodies.

There are two passages of Scripture that seem to clearly set this forth. One is 2 Corinthians 5:1-9. It says, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” It seems reasonable to equate the terms “earthly tent” “a building from God” “this house” “our dwelling from heaven,” set forth in the early verses of this passage, with the word “body” used twice in the last verses of the passage. Again, the Apostle Peter also, clearly referring to his present body, calls it “my tent.” In 2 Peter 1:14 he talks about “the laying aside of my earthly dwelling” as imminent, as also the Lord Jesus Christ had made clear to him. The word “dwelling” can be translated as “tent.” Our conclusion can well be that when we die we leave our earthly bodies behind, arrive in heaven, and are at once clothed upon with some sort of a celestial body.

Again, in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul declares, “There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another” (v 40). Angels have bodies. Jesus has a body in heaven. Those who have gone before, Moses and Elijah, showed up on the Mount of Transfiguration visibly and bodily, both seen and recognized. Luke reports, “And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him” (Luke 9:30-32). Peter and his friends saw Moses and Elijah! Their earthly bodies could see the celestial bodies. When it says Moses and Elijah appeared “in glory” it means “in splendor.” Hereby, we are apprised of the spectacular nature of our heavenly bodies. Unimaginable!

And so, can we not believe that Christians are clothed upon with celestial bodies when they arrive in glory? When returning with Christ in the rapture of the Church, it could well be that somehow the celestial bodies are fused or meshed with the resurrected earthly bodies. Perhaps the celestial bodies are in appearance similar to what the earthly resurrected bodies will be. If so, this would allow for instant recognition by believers of one another in heaven even though vast improvements may well be the case also. Thereupon, with their celestial/resurrected bodies Christians will forever live, eating (as Jesus did with His resurrected body), and functioning bodily (as Jesus did in many ways), and all this forever upon their return to heaven. What hope! What understanding God gives. No wonder, that when Christians die, although grieving (but not as others who have no hope) we sometimes call our funeral services, Celebrations.

In AD 125, a man named Aristides sent a letter to an acquaintance to give this explanation for the rapid spread of Christianity: “If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.”

5. Once in heaven, CHRISTIANS WILL EXPERIENCE THE BEMA REVIEWING STAND OF JUDGMENT AND THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB. Amidst all the wonders of heaven, two highly important events will transpire:

First, THE BEMA SEAT OF JUDGMENT. This appointment should not be confused with the Great White Throne Judgment Seat. This latter place of judgment happens just after the 1,000 year millennial reign of Jesus and is for unbelievers (Revelation 20:11-15). The Bema Judgment happens in heaven soon after the rapture. Do we not sense an immediacy for this when Scripture declares, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me…” (Revelation 22:12). Jesus calls His people to a time of accountability.

There are several key passages of Scripture that give us the details. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 sets forth the event in this way: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Romans 14:10 forthrightly declares: “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” No excuses will be valid. We “will” stand there.

2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” This momentous occasion is not to determine whether or not a believer can stay in heaven. No, Scripture is clear. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The believer’s sin was judged on Jesus’ Cross. The purpose, as the text clearly says, is that “each one may be recompensed for his deeds.” This has to do with rewards for the life lived on earth. He saves sinners, not by their good works, but He does save them unto good works or Christ-honoring behavior. This is crystal clear when the Apostle Paul states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). These works of righteousness will be noted and honored. This fact may well indicate degrees of enjoyment in heaven. Hence the books are open. All will be agog with the splendors of the New Jerusalem, but the ability to appreciate it may well be of differing degrees. Those living a more Godly life on earth will possibly have a deeper sense of meaning or aesthetic appreciation than others. Again, all will be wonderful, but some will sing “the wonder of it all” more ardently.

The Bible also sets forth the five crowns that will be given, if earned, in these passages: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:1-4 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19.

And then, the second major happening, THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB. In the context of heaven we read this: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’ Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’” (Revelation 19:7-10).

Probably toward the end of the seven years in heaven this marriage of the Lamb (Jesus) to the Bride (the Church) will take place. The language “for the marriage of the Lamb has come” really means “is come.” It is an aorist tense indicating the fact in an immediate sense. Her clothing speaks of “the righteous acts of the saints” thereby indicating that the Judgement Seat is past and she now comes perfectly arrayed to the marriage.

Paul anticipated this when in 2 Corinthians 11:2 the longing of his heart for believers is expressed in this way: “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.” So, in effect, the Church now and during the initial time in heaven is betrothed or engaged to Jesus. Then, before returning with the Lord to reign with Him in His Kingdom, the wedding comes.

6.     Finally, when the seven years in heaven are expired (during which time the judgments of God fall upon the wicked earth), CHRISTIANS RETURN WITH JESUS TO EARTH TO DEFEAT ALL THE NATIONS CONVERGED AGAINST ISRAEL, SAVE HER, AND ESTABLISH HIS 1,000 YEAR MILLENNIAL REIGN.

The Apostle John says, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS’” (Revelation 19:11-16). Victory at last!

“The armies which are in heaven” are the Church. We come back to earth to reign with Him. Notice, we will be clothed not in military garb, but “in fine linen, white and clean” because the battle will not be ours but His. And we will reign forever and ever with Him. After the Kingdom is established, the Church continues to dwell in the New Jerusalem which descends out of heaven, lingering in the air, until the great cleansing conflagration of 2 Peter 3 is accomplished. The earth now being completely purged, the New Jerusalem settles forever on the “new” earth. This will be the dwelling place, eventually, for all the redeemed saints of both Israel and the Church, peace between them forever wrought by the blood of the Lamb. The names of the twelve tribes (Israel) are over the gates while the names of the Apostles (representing the Church) are scripted on the twelve foundations of beautiful stones. What is true now spiritually for both Jews and Gentiles, being made one in Christ in the Church, will then find its physical actuality in the New Jerusalem. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might  make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:13-16).

And to brighten our hope, Jesus says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” And we say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).