In a recent post, I dealt with resurrection and the powerful prayer in Ephesians 1. The passage makes clear the power of the resurrection working in us brings assurance of our hope in eternal life. But eternal life may not be what you think it will be.
Some people think that going to heaven is mostly about going to a place — seeing the streets of gold and pearly gates. But Jesus says in his wonderful prayer for his followers in John 17:1-3 “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Eternal life is not mostly about going to a place. It is about knowing the Father and the Son — being in greater relationship with them. All the things that distract us from this now will be over. All the limitations we have now in truly experiencing their glory and understanding them will fade away.
What do you think this will look like in heaven? I hope we can have a conversation about this.
We moved here directly from Germany. We immediately noticed quite a difference. We stayed in Seoul several days before heading to U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys. There were signs of poverty, fairly regular, in both the city and the countryside. The streets were far less clean in places. The crowds were much greater than we had ever experienced (we could not believe how many Koreans would cram into a elevator). But there was beauty, too. The azaleas came out that week.
We appreciated the friendliness of the people and the really different food — though a lot is too hot for me. We’ve learned to really love the people.
Before coming, we wondered how Koreans would react to trouble with the North. Most of the time, I would compare it to people in Central and North Texas being told there was a Tornado warning. They just said, “OK” and went about their business — just used to it. Tell them a tornado has been sighted 5 miles away and you have their attention.
As I write this, there is more concern. North Korea has had several nuclear tests recently and tests of longer reaching missiles. Couple this with the local political scene being unstable at the moment and a new U.S. President and tensions are high.
Right now I need to check my NEO bag and put it in the car. I need to travel to another base and think I’ll take it with me, this time. It needs to be ready at all times, in case they evacuate non-essential Americans with the military community. It contains a few pieces of clothing, a gas mask, bottled water, snacks, and a lot paper work, which includes my marriage certificate and my last will and testament. The training has prepared us to drop everything and walk, not drive, to the building on base we are to gather in such circumstances and prepare to helicopter out of here. Training even included a thirty minute ride in one of these, a CH-47 Chinook, which turns out to be the fastest of the locally based helicopters. If we ever need it, we’ll appreciate that.
Next post we’ll explore our reactions to dangerous times.
In the past, I’ve made the mistake of separating out and focusing on v. 19, “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.” I considered the mention of the resurrection as being the greatest illustration of that power. I wanted power — in my prayers, power to change, and power to do great things.
Now I realize the passage is saying a good deal more than that. Paul is praying for the greatest of gifts God can give the Ephesians (or us) — a real knowledge of Christ and an understanding, deep in their hearts, that the work done in the resurrection carries on in them — ensuring their eternal future and empowering them to put Christ in his proper place as Lord. They will then actually be the church, demonstrating his fullness.
Truly knowing Christ requires wisdom — perception — in who he really is, what he has really done and what he is still doing. The result is experiencing him in a relationship that truly changes us. We relate to him as ever present friend, companion and as an advocate who is always on our side. But we also relate to him as Lord — he brings life, peace, newness, glory, and joy as we follow his way. He is the good shepherd, choosing our path and guiding our way as we are going through this life and the next. He knows us well, as his sheep and we know his voice and follow it. (John 10:14-16)
As you celebrate Easter and remember the resurrection, I pray you will think of the change it makes in your life. Choose something today that you have been holding back from his lordship, keeping it for yourself. Allow the power of the resurrection to work there. Ask Jesus to come in this area. And allow him to guide you through it to better things.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experience in this, Kent.
Jesus makes it clear to Martha in John 11 that he more than has power to raise Lazarus — he is resurrection, he is life. Then he raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus is wanting to pass on this part of his nature to all who believe in him. There is more taking place here than a great miracle done for the sake of Lazarus and his sisters, though that certainly is part of what is happening. There is a demonstration of his being the resurrection, of his being life and an encouragement for his followers to tap into this — eternally.
The more I study about how to overcome sin, the more I see we need the power of resurrection to do so. This is what enables us to be a new creation, to change our very nature. We have no hope of radical change without it.
How can you see the power of resurrection changing you?
When I was young, I attended churches who never had an Easter service (or Christmas, for that matter). This we were told is something denominations did, not churches true to the first century model. The resurrection of Christ was celebrated every week.
Only a small percentage of Protestant churches will have a good Friday service but the Easter services will be the best attended of the year. In spite of this I believe the death of Christ and the power of his blood are preached a good more during the year than the resurrection in the majority of churches.
The death of Christ, indeed should be spoken of regularly — even weekly. It is the blood of Christ that covers our sins and brings us forgiveness.
But the study I’ve done in the last couple of years leads me to believe the resurrection deserves equal attention.
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
The death of Christ enables us to die to ourselves but the resurrection is what enables us to live anew — to really change. This is made even clearer in Romans 6, when Paul talks about baptism.
More about this tomorrow.
The first part of my plan to know God more is to meditate on the attributes of God. Christian meditation is almost a lost art. Here is my plan to learn more of this art on the most important subject in the world. Pick an attribute of God (note: this is a short list, more to be added later). Read the passages for it and choose one. Read it every day for at least a week. Pray daily, acknowledging how awesome this is about God. Ask for more understanding of this attribute. Spend time every day reflecting on this concept. Try to engage your imagination to visualize God in this. Find hymns or spiritual songs that address this concept and worship him daily with them. Find an image to illustrate the passage, put as wallpaper on your desktop or smartphone and post on social media. Sometime this week use a search engine to find Biblical examples where God has demonstrated this. The following week(s) expand to other passages and reflect on them, continuing in this pattern. Use a Bible search engine to find more passages. If any need help with this, please let me know.
God Is Light
1 John 1:5 ESV
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. Psalms 18:28, 118:27
The Glory of God
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
Exodus 24:17, Revelation 21:23-25
God Is Omnipotent (all powerful)
Mark 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 2 Chronicles 20:6, Psalms 62:11
God Is Omniscient (has all knowledge)
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 1 Samuel 2:3 Psalms 139
At this time of year, most of us at least, consider resolving to make this year better by focusing on or adding goals for the year. Exercising, losing weight or improving our diets are probably the most common goals.
Some of us choose to focus on professional goals. I started working on mine.
1. Publish my first book, “Remade! A preacher finally finds victory over pornography and complaint”, in both print and e-book.
2. Produce a promotional video for each of my seminars.
3. Produce worship videos, mixed with testimony.
4. Give at least 20 seminars this year.
5. Find a corporate sponsor(s) to support the ministry to the military.
As I reflected on these goals I thought “I’m really going to have to stay focused to accomplish all of this”. These are all worthy goals, in fact I consider them work God has purposed me to do. And I’ve been working very hard on the first one all month.
But it suddenly dawned on me that I was forgetting the most important goal for this year or any year – Know God better. I was allowing the urgent to push out the most important. I’ve come to see in recent years that nothing is more important, nothing will affect our lives more towards greatness than knowing God better.
Next time, I’ll lay out the first of my plan to really focus on knowing more about God.
The scripture we read this morning at early morning prayers (did I mention this begins at 5 a.m.?) was the last half of Jeremiah 9. In the midst of a chapter about gloom and doom we have verses 23-24. The Lord himself tells us “If you want something to boast about, let it be that you know and understands me!” It is amazing that this is even possible. The Creator of the universe desires me to know him – and that this is the epitome of accomplishment!
It is not any fruit of wisdom, the greatest book we could possibly write or document that would be admired and followed by all that impresses God. It is not anything we might accomplish through physical strength or political power that impresses him. Becoming one of the richest people in the world and buying glamorous homes around the world or a gem collection that surpasses all that British royalty possess would only elicit a ho-hum from Him.
What really gets the Almighty’s attention is how much we know Him. Not just a a lot of facts about Him, but really know His nature, what He cares about, what He delights in, what His favorite things are. When we’ve regularly meditated on His overwhelming loving kindness, that is demonstrated so well in the Bible and so evident all around us. When we feel His deep concern and pain over the injustices done to the lowest of the world. When we know the Holy One’s ability to always do and be right. When we feel His urging us on to take up the righteousness of His Son. Then, the Lord says we have something worth boasting of.
Knowing God, really knowing him is the hope we have through the darkest circumstances. When we’ve fallen hard and suffer the consequences of our sin, the focus on God, who He is will change everything.
Matthew 5:27-30, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
Did Jesus really mean for us to gouge out our eye? Marco Polo writes of one who did just that. The man was a shoemaker and struggled with thoughts of lust after seeing a young woman’s ankle (he goes on to tell a story of the man praying for a mountain to move, but that’s a story for another time). I’ve read of another man who plucked out his eye, only to be dismayed that he could still lust.
Jesus is making the point that your eternal salvation is extremely valuable. He is telling us to do whatever it takes to secure your future. Jesus is radical sometimes and if we need to get radical to follow him, so bit it. Sometimes we need to get radical to fight our sin. This often is the case with porn. If we need to download a program to block it such as Content Protect, then we do it. If we need to set up an accountability partner to check our web browsing, like X3 by XXXchurch, then we do it. If we need to rid ourselves of the internet and smartphone completely, then we do it. They are not worth our soul.
God has brought me victory through other avenues. I’ve mentioned them in my advise to ones caught in Ashley Madison. I’ll be posting more about them soon. But I urge you, now, Get desperate to rid yourself of lust or anything else coming between you and your God. Pray for his direction. Pray to experience him through the temptations. And commit to do whatever he tells you to do.
Most of the years growing up, my family vacationed in Colorado. We always joined other members of Mom’s family. We all loved the mountains. They were so beautiful! The Maroon Bells, shown here were one of the places we visited. Cragged rocks clad in white reached almost to the heavens. Crystal clear streams cascading down in waterfalls, eventually settling in the purest lakes. The change from the near flat world of west Texas was so dramatic. The plants, trees, and flowers were also completely different from what we were used to. We would camp out, hike and fish. I started collecting rocks at the age of six, a hobby I would keep into manhood. It was so wonderful being able to pick up beautiful crystals.
We moved to Colorado Springs when I was 13. But we didn’t live very close to my cousins or my new friends at church. I felt very lonely a lot of the time, missing Abilene and Danny, my best friend. Some things I did with my brother, but mostly I spent hours finding things to entertain myself with: Shooting BBs and a bow and arrows, hitting a tether ball back and forth on a pole, throwing darts and knives. I got pretty good with one knife, eventually using and almost always hitting the 2” side of a 2 x 4 for a target (which is actually 1 3/4″). I missed Danny, my best friend terribly. Somewhere in there, I remembered the pictures of a naked woman we had found and began to “dumpster dive”. I wasn’t just looking for more pictures. I also found other interesting trash: old transistor radios, pieces of metal and wood for building something, anything cool. At fifteen I hit pay dirt and found a couple of Playboy magazines. It took only a minute to be hooked on professional pornography, keeping them this time as “my own little secret”.
It has been helpful for me to do a bit analyzing about the associations of feeling with temptations that tend to bring them on.
I think often our emotions are mixed in with our fleshly desires, giving them more power and importance. These desires intensify the emotions we appreciate, while lessoning the effect of negative ones. I found it was really an illusion in this case. Have you had times where you’ve experienced this?