What Brings Us Joy?

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Do you ever have times when a line from Scripture jumps out at you and cannot get past it in your thoughts? One morning this past week was such a time. As I was reading in Proverbs 10, the first line of verse 26 struck me in such a way. It says, “The hope of the righteous brings joy.”

Our hope brings us joy; the anticipation of Jesus’ appearing and all that He has promised us for all eternity.

It’s the specifics of our hope that inspire me when I get out of bed in the morning. They are the reason I am able to joyously look beyond the impact of aging on my body. They are the reason I still feel young at heart and enjoy silliness, laughter, and having fun. Christ has redeemed the inner me and given it eternal life. Time is irrelevant to my spirit; my inner being does not have to age along with my body.

This is why something deep inside me groans when preachers gloss over biblical references to Jesus’ appearing to take us home or when popular authors ignore the matter altogether. Are they not doing a disservice to the body of Christ by keeping the hopes and joys of their audience pinned to the things of this life? I believe so!

A glorious day of redemption is coming (see Rom.  8:23-25). It’s the time we receive our glorified bodies and experience total wholeness not only physically but also emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. It’s when we will be forever free from the very presence of sin.

I cannot wait until I have the opportunity to preach again and excitedly proclaim the joy that comes from focusing on our hope of Jesus’ return to take us home, to the place He is specially preparing for us (see John 14:1-3). What wonder awaits us when we return with Him to earth and experience the incredible joys of the kingdom?

Can we even imagine the excitement of reigning alongside Christ with physical bodies like His?

Yes, our hope should bring us incredible joy. We should be jumping up and down with excitement.

Please Note: I am going to be updating my blog soon with a new title: Our Journey Home. The emphasis will still be on a two-world perspective and include our walk with God in anticipation of unending joy and glory.

 

The Renewal of All Things

Animals

What will our lives look like when Jesus establishes His kingdom over all the earth? What will the coming renewed creation look like? Can we even imagine what it will be like for the Lord to make us completely whole in our bodies, spirits, and souls?

John Eldredge, in his latest book All Things New, seeks to answer questions such as these. He focuses on passages such as Matthew 19:28-29 and Revelation 21:1-5 that point to the wondrous and joyous renewal Jesus promises for all who know Him.

You might think it strange I would recommend a book that ignores the rapture and the tribulation (as he does) and settles for a singular purpose of encouraging believers regarding their eternal hope in Christ’s coming kingdom. I admit, at first I was a bit leery about the book since I am passionate about all of these things.

Yet, his wondrously comforting and hopeful message continually warms and excites my heart. At a time when many popular Christian authors deny the reality of Jesus’ kingdom and pastors preach about the Gospel without even mentioning eternity, John Eldredge’s book seems like a breath of fresh air to me. He unashamedly tells of the grandeurs and wonders that await us when Jesus’ kingdom arrives.

The author takes us beyond the woes and disappointments of this world by first concentrating on the renewal of all creation.

Renewal of Creation

John Eldredge writes about the renewal of creation as only a avid lover of nature could do. Throughout this section of the book, Eldredge lets his imagination run wild as he contemplates the wonders of the new earth. Here is a sample:

        What will waterfalls be like in the new earth? What of the giant sequoias or tender wildflowers? What will rain be like? And think of your special places; imagine what it will be like to see them in their glory. How sweet it will be to revisit treasured nooks and vistas, gardens and swimming holes again, see them as they truly “are” unveiled, everything God meant them to be. Part of what makes the wonder so precious is that while it is a “new” world, it is our world, the world dearest to our hearts, romance at its best.[i]

Imagine our increased enjoyment of the Rocky Mountains, for example, in bodies that will never wear out or grow weary!

Let your imaginations run free as well about the wonders ahead for us! Maybe we will walk among giraffes and other large animals. I would love that!

Forever Young and Whole

When Eldredge writes of our restoration, he goes beyond the immortal and imperishable bodies we will receive when Jesus comes for us (see 1 Cor. 15:50-55). He puts it this way in describing how we will be forever young, “Death is utterly swept away at the Great Restoration. And not only death, but every other form of sorrow, assault, illness, and harm we’ve ever known. You will be completely renewed—body, soul, and spirit.”[ii]

Did you catch that? It will not just be our bodies that will be completely restored and better than ever, but absolutely everything about us!

Eldredge goes far beyond our future immortal bodies to show how the renewal will encompass all the broken places and lingering wounds in our hearts.  There is so much more to our restoration than just the physical aspect.

Eldredge writes, “We are all traumatized and fragmented; no one passes through this vale of tears without it. And our Healer will make us whole again. . . . Think of—to be whole hearted. To be filled with goodness from head to toe. To have an inner glory that matches the glory of your new body . . . .”[iii]

Can you imagine what that will be like? I am not sure I can.

In Jesus’ kingdom, we will be made completely whole. All the things we struggle with on earth, all our fears, the anger, and resentment, Jesus will wondrously and forever remove. Think of it! Again John writes, “What tender intimacy is foretold when we are promised that our loving Father will wipe every tear from our eyes personally—not only tears of sorrow, but all the tears of shame, guilt, and remorse. That moment alone will make the whole journey worth it.”[iv]

As followers of Jesus, we possess an amazing future, a wondrous and joyous eternity. The heartbreaks, disappointments, and sorrows of this present world are temporal and fleeting. In eternity, Jesus will make all things new in our world including our souls, minds, and hearts.

It’s no wonder Satan does all he can to keep our focus on this life. Our enemy knows how a proper two-world perspective motivates us to live for our Savior. If he can keep us looking for joy solely in this life, he steals the joy and overwhelming comfort that comes from focusing our hearts on what Jesus promises us after this life.

C.S. Lewis aptly summed up our disconnect between this life and our coming eternal holiday in Jesus’ kingdom this way,

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”[v]

I feel the same pull C.S. alludes to, that of elevating the things we see above unseen and eternal realities. However, as followers of Christ we look forward to a wondrous and joyous kingdom in which the Lord will restore creation to its original glory and make us completely whole in our body, spirit, and soul. What a day that will be!! It will be like a “holiday at the sea,” although I would prefer a lengthy stay at a remote mountain cabin alongside a cool flowing stream.

 

[i] John Eldredge, All Things New (Nashville: Nelson books, 2017), p. 69.

[ii] Ibid. p. 86

[iii]Ibid., pp. 93-94

[iv] Ibid., p. 95

[v] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: Touchstone, 1975). p. 26.

What About Jesus?

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Many people today do not believe in a millennial kingdom. They believe Jesus will return at a distant future time, judge humanity, and bring in the eternal state.

We refer to those to teach such a view as amillennialists because they do not believe in a future kingdom in which Jesus will rule over the world seated upon the throne of David. They believe God rejected Israel after His people spurned and crucified His Son. As a result, the church now fulfills the kingdom promises made to Israel, but in a spiritual and allegorical sense rather than in a literal way.

While I strongly disagree with these teachers regarding God’s rejection of Israel, there is something I believe they overlook. They fail to consider the Old Testament promises made to the Messiah that are separate from the ones God made to Israel.

In order to be an amillennialist, you must negate Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus as well as God’s promises of a future kingdom for Israel.

The Promise of The Father

In Psalm 2, The Father promises the Son all the nations of the world as His “heritage.” Beginning in verse 7 we read, “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.’” The Father makes this pledge to the Son independent of His everlasting covenant with Israel.

The rest of Psalm 2 makes it clear that this is not a spiritual reign, but a physical reign over actual nations with kings. Verse 9 states, “You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” This does not sound like His headship of the church to me. The Psalmist is warning the kings of the earth to “serve the Lord with fear” (vv. 10-11). The Father promised His Son an actual government with authority over all the rulers of the earth.

If you deny the reality of the millennium, how do you deal with God the Father breaking His promise to His Son that He would receive such a kingdom?

If you deny the reality of the millennium, how do you deal with God the Father breaking His promise to His Son that He would receive such a kingdom? I do not think you can do that.

Does this not also explain Satan tempting Jesus with the “kingdoms of the world” in Matthew 4:8-11? He offered Jesus a shortcut to what the Father had already promised Him. Why tempt Jesus in this way if He had no aspirations for or promises about ruling over the nations of the world at a future time?

A Child Who Would Rule

Almost every believer is familiar with Isaiah 9:6-7. We hear these verses read every year around the time of Christmas and if we listen to Handel’s “Messiah,” we hear the words put to glorious music.

We celebrate the fulfillment of the first two lines of the prophecy, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” We regard Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem as the exact fulfillment of these words.

Without the millennium, several of the promises regarding the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6-7 are now null and void.

Most people, however, give little thought to how Jesus might fulfill the promise that someday this “child” would be the head of an actual “government” sitting upon ‘the throne of David.” The rest of the passage speaks to Jesus being King over a real, physical kingdom. If Jesus literally fulfilled the first two lines of this prophecy, why do some believe He will not literally fulfill the rest of the passage? Where do we draw the line between taking the words of the prophet literally and figuratively in in this passage?

Without the millennium, several of the promises regarding the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6-7 are now null and void. Remember, this is a prophecy regarding the Messiah, not Israel. If we deny a future kingdom to Israel, what do we do Isaiah’s prophecy that the Christ would someday sit on the throne of David as the head of an actual government?

Jesus as Judge

In ancient Israel, the king acted as both ruler and the ultimate judge of the land presiding over the most difficult cases. Do you remember King Solomon deciding the case between the two women who both claimed the living baby? This is an example of how the ancient kings took on the role of a magistrate.

Keeping this in mind, here is what Isaiah also prophesied regarding Jesus, “And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth, and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked” (Isa. 11:3-4). The prophet gives us a clear picture of Jesus acting as a judge over all the earth.

This is not a picture of a future judgment; this is the Christ fulfilling His role as ruler over all the earth doing what such a king would do. Like the kings of old, He is administering justice on behalf of his subjects.

This passage does not fit with Jesus’ headship over the church. It also does not match with anything He has done since His resurrection. These verses from Isaiah 11 look forward to a time when Jesus will be the Supreme Ruler over all the earth administering justice and righteousness for all people.

King Over All the Earth

Zechariah 14:9 says this, “And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.” If we look at the context of Zechariah 14, it’s clear that this reference is to a physical kingdom with Jesus reigning over the nations of the world from Jerusalem.

While the context assumes a restored and repentant Israel, Zechariah directs these words to the Messiah; He alone is the subject of the prophecy. He will someday be king over all the earth and hold all the nations accountable to Him, just as we see later in the chapter (vv. 16-19).

Why do I believe in a literal millennium? Why am I a premillennialist who believes that Jesus will return after the tribulation to set up His rule for a thousand years?

To deny a literal millennium, one has to say that the Father will break His promise to the Son and that the prophecies of Jesus ruling over the nations of the earth are no longer valid.

First of all, I believe that all the Old Testament promises made to Israel remain intact. God has not rejected His people (Rom. 11:1) with whom He made an everlasting covenant (Psalm 105:8-11). But, that is the subject for another article.

Secondly, God the Father, through the prophets, promised that His Son would reign over the kingdoms of this world. Psalm 2 goes even further by stating that the Father would someday give the nations of the world to His Son as His “heritage.”

To deny a literal millennium, one has to say that the Father will break His promise to the Son and that the prophecies of Jesus ruling over the nations of the earth are no longer valid.

God has to break both His promises to Israel and to Jesus if there is no future kingdom over which Jesus will rule.

God will keep His promises to His Son as well as to Israel; there will be a millennium!

 

God Speaks Through the Fire

 

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Picture of the burned page of the Bible from the Facebook page of Isaac McCord

 

Sometimes we hear or see something that sticks with us and we just know it’s significant. Other things may distract us from it for a while, but we cannot shake the sense it must be important. Such was the case with a story I read last week.

In the wake of the Gatlinburg fires, Isaac McCord of Tullahoma, Tennessee made an amazing discovery.  As he helped clean up an area of the Dollywood Theme Park damaged by the fire, he spotted a piece of paper under a bench. The frayed and wet page turned out to be from the Bible containing a few verses that survived the fire.

Many news websites carried pictures of McCord holding the page of Scripture recovered from the fire. This partially burned page form the Bible is pictured above.

Here is where the account turns prophetic. The verses rescued from the fire are from the book of Joel, mainly from the first chapter. The verses that are most visible speak of the coming destructive fire of the day of the Lord. Joel 1:5 says, “Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.” Another verse visible on the page, Joel 2:1, speaks to the nearness of this “day of the Lord.”

So what is the “day of the Lord” referenced in the verses on this frayed page of the Bible? In Scripture, the “day of the Lord” refers to events surrounding the return of Christ to earth. It includes the judgments preceding His arrival, His return in great power and glory, and the kingdom Jesus will establish on the earth.

I believe judgment portion of this day includes all of the seven year tribulation on the earth as described in detail in the book of Revelation.

To recap, here is what we know regarding this remarkable story:

1)  The deadly fire in Tennessee burned for several days destroying many homes, businesses, and sections of the Smokey Mountain National Park.

2)  The fire destroyed or damaged many places in and near Gatlinburg, including a building containing a King James Version of the Bible.

3)  After the fire, the only remaining page from this Bible contained verses from the book of Joel that speak of the nearness of God’s fiery judgment on the earth during the Great Tribulation.

I do not believe it’s a coincidence that an entire Bible is destroyed by fire except for verses that relate to the Lord’s coming fiery judgment on the world know as the day of the Lord.

I believe the Lord engineered the sequence of events so this page would be found as a warning that this day is indeed coming and may soon be upon us.

I believe the Lord engineered the sequence of events so this page would be found as a warning that this day is indeed coming and may soon be upon us.

As we see our world increasingly reject Jesus and His Words, as we see the violence throughout  our world and grieve as the most innocent among us are murdered each day in abortion clinics, and as we see evil in our world grow worse every day, it’s easy to think the Lord does not see and has forgotten His promise to setup His righteous kingdom someday. Does He really see what’s going on in our world? Will He ever bring justice to the nations?

Christ is coming again!

The finding of this page tells me that the Lord indeed sees what is happening today on the earth and has not forgotten both the warnings and promises He made through the Old Testament prophets and throughout the New Testament. Christ is coming again!

We do not know when Jesus will return for His church and the tribulation will begin. It may be very soon or it may be years later. Jesus said we would not know the day or the hour of His return.

We sense from this discovery, however, that time is running out on our world.

The world needs Jesus more than ever. All the judgments described in the book of Joel are surely coming and are about to be poured out on a Christ-rejecting world. God is not distant; He’s not asleep. He sees the evil throughout our world and He will surely respond.

The finding of the page in the fire does not make the message of the book of Joel any truer than it was before the fire; it’s always been God’s Word. The finding of the verses in the midst of the fire, however, certainly adds urgency to the message of the book for us today.

Before then, we have the opportunity to repent. The Lord, through the prophet Joel, also called upon the Israelites of his day to repent and return to Him (Joel 2:11-14). His words apply to us today as well, “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”

The finding of the page in the fire does not make the message of the book of Joel any truer than it was before the fire; it’s always been God’s Word. The finding of the verses in the midst of the fire, however, certainly adds urgency to the message of the book for us today.

It’s not an accident that these verses from the book Joel are now everywhere on the news for people to see.

If anything, God is saying that this day is getting ever so close. Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you eagerly waiting for His return as the apostles encourage us to do throughout the New Testament? Do you realize this world is not your home?

Do you know that you stand at the portal of eternity?

If you have not yet put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, please do so. If you need more information, please contact me and I will walk you through what is means to call upon the Lord.

A Clash of Kingdoms

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In the aftermath of the 2016 election, we continue to see rioting and violence spread across America. Chants of “not my president” and “not my country” are common. Some of the demonstrations have turned anti-American with the burning of American flags and even deadly as a protest blocking traffic kept an ambulance from getting to a hospital in time to save a man’s life. Regrettably, attacks persist on both sides.

In addition to my initial anger at seeing violence fill our streets, I feel sorrow for the protesters. Their shepherds promised them a greener pasture while failing to warn them of the approaching dark clouds, fierce storms, and certain delays for their hopes.

Although not explicitly talked about or even recognized, the underlying reality in all we see about us is a clash of kingdoms. On the one side is the humanistic gospel that somehow through a powerful and benevolent state we can find the long sought harmony between all peoples, eliminate poverty, and forever preserve the environment.

On the other side is not what you might think. It’s not the call to restore America’s greatness again, but what it represents.

Do you remember God’s response to those who built the tower of Babel? They defiantly sought answers in the unity of mankind apart from the Lord. God, knowing where their rebellion would take them, responded by dividing the world into nationalities and a host of varying cultures, languages, and people groups. God split the world into nations so our hope would reside solely in Him, not in human government or in mankind.

The ultimate clash is God’s kingdom versus globalism. And, the election of Trump represents only a small bump in the road for those seeking the establishment of this coming world order. They already have much in place. . . .

What is Agenda 2030?

You might be tempted to think this talk of a world order is all a conspiracy theory and that perhaps I’ve gone way over the edge. Let me explain why hopes for this future world government are real.

The blueprint for this new world order is called “Agenda 2030” and you can read about it on the UN website. This is not a secret initiative and no effort whatsoever has been made to hide it from us.

The problem lies not in the goals so much as in the methods employed to achieve them, which have always failed in the past on a national level.

Agenda 2030 consists of seventeen “Post -2015 Sustainable Development Goals” with 169 targets to achieve those goals.[i]  On the surface many of these goals, though not all, seem laudable as they seek to “free the human race from the tyranny of poverty,” preserve the environment, and establish worldwide peace. Who wouldn’t want such things? The problem lies in the methods employed to achieve such ends, which have always failed in the past on a national level.

Goal ten makes it clear that this new world government will be socialist, which means that a group of elite rulers will decide upon the distribution of wealth across all nations. This goal is to “reduce inequality within and among nations.” How can this be possible apart from a governing board deciding upon the fair distribution of wealth within and among nations?

The goals of the Agenda 2030 cannot be achieved without enforcement at a high level, a socialistic world order where the elite will dictate the wellbeing of the masses.

Though not all agree with me on this point, many who have studied the goals of Agenda 2030 believe they cannot be implemented apart from a powerful group of the rich controlling the world.

Is America Committed to Agenda 2030?

That’s fine for the UN to have those goals, you might be saying, but do they really affect the United States? Is our country really committed to such a sweeping and fundamental change of the world leading to the elimination of nationalism as we know it? Yes!

The following statement is taken from the Whitehouse website:

2015 is a pivotal year for global development. World leaders gathered in New York today to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (“2030 Agenda”). The adoption of the 2030 Agenda, which sets out a global development vision and priorities for the next 15 years, captures the hopes and ambitions of people around the globe for meaningful change and progress, including here in the United States. Through the adoption of this historic framework, the United States joins with countries around the world in pledging to leave no one behind by ending extreme poverty and prioritizing policies and investments that have long-term, transformative impact and are sustainable. Under the Obama Administration, the United States has committed and helped mobilize more than $100 billion in new funding from other donors and the private sector to fight poverty in the areas of health, food security, and energy. In the United States, the adoption of the 2030 Agenda coincides with a growing bipartisan consensus on the importance of global development, and direct philanthropic contributions from the American people, who annually provide substantial support for emergency relief and development around the world. . . .[ii]

In his address to the United Nations in 2016, President Barack Obama spoke these words, “I am convinced that in the long run, giving up some freedom of action — not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term — enhances our security.” That sounds a lot like Agenda 2030 to me.

The United States is firmly committed to the implementation of the Agenda 2030 goals, which are nothing less than socialism at an international level rather than on a national level. President Obama made it clear that involvement in this new world order means giving up freedoms. In other words, we surrender our individual rights to international law. This is nothing less than socialism packaged under the guise of the “common good.” It always is!

Billionaire George Soros is a leading proponent of this coming world order and speaks openly and often of the need for a worldwide financial system to replace the broken economies of countries such as the United States.[iii]

Many people, including myself, think it’s likely a devastating worldwide financial collapse will be the opportunity to demonstrate the need for such a global economy and hence a worldwide government with real authority beyond what the UN currently possesses.

Will Agenda 2030 Succeed?

Will there ever be such a world order? Will Agenda 2030 succeed?

My answer may surprise you. Yes! It will surely succeed at some point.

Whether in the current form of Agenda 2030 or through some future set of goals, the main objectives of this program will at some point be briefly realized on earth.

Whether in the current form of Agenda 2030 or through some future set of goals, the main objectives of this program will at some future time be briefly realized on earth.

I say this because Scripture foretells the future existence of just such a kingdom. Beginning with the Prophet Daniel in the sixth century BC, the Bible clearly warns that a future world order will at some point overtake the world. Throughout the book he wrote, Daniel prophesied of a kingdom that would envelop the entire world and facilitate the rise to power of someone we refer to today as the antichrist.

The book of Revelation also clearly prophesies of this same coming domain. The global financial system advocated by George Soros is what we see in Revelation 13. Under the leadership of the antichrist, however, it will turn oppressive and deadly. Such a worldwide economic system must already exist by the halfway point of the prophesied seven-year tribulation for this future satanic leader to manipulate in the manner described in Revelation 13.

Jesus’ Kingdom

My hope most definitely does not consist of the vision to “make America great again.” I am not against this sentiment, it’s just that my ultimate expectation rests in the manifestation of a much greater kingdom, one to which I already belong. Colossians 1:13-14 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

The Bible teaches that this currently invisible domain will someday crush and destroy the existing world order at Christ’s Second Coming. Daniel pictures the arrival of Jesus’ kingdom as that of a rock demolishing the kingdoms of this world (2:43-45). The prophet also prophesied of the coming of “one like a son of man” who would be given kingdoms and dominions of this world once this final world order is crushed (7:8-14).

Jesus later claimed to be this “one like a son of man” who would crush the domains of the world and setup His everlasting kingdom on earth (Matt. 26:64).

Psalm 2 is just as current today as it was 3,000 years ago when first penned. Verse 1 asks, “Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain?” This Psalm clearly speaks of the clash of kingdoms we see today. In the end, Jesus receives the kingdoms of this world as His inheritance from the Father.

Earlier, I said that the election of Trump only signifies a small bump in the road to those dreaming of a heavenly paradise on earth with a united humanity. If Hillary had won, I would have regarded the reality of Agenda 2030 as being a step closer.

Even the full implementation of Agenda 2030, however, cannot stop the coming kingdom of my wonderful Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. He is alive. He is coming again just as He promised.

Jesus, the good and true Shepherd, will bring about a kingdom that will far exceed all the dreams that could be possibly imagined by proponents of the new world order. Those who know Jesus will enjoy this paradise on earth and in heaven forever. Those on the left are seeking a temporary paradise that will surely disappoint them in the end.

Now is a time of hope because with each passing day the return of Jesus draws ever so close and with it our final redemption and full realization of our adoption into God’s family (see Rom. 8:18-24).

Does this mean we ignore the wellbeing of those around us until the Christ’s kingdom comes? Heavens no! Only that we do so knowing that lasting peace for the world and the healing of creation only comes with Jesus’ return to earth.

Now is a time of hope because with each passing day the return of Jesus draws ever so close and with it our final redemption and full realization of our adoption into God’s family (see Rom. 8:18-24).

In Jesus alone there is no hate, only love. He died on the cross so that all who believe in Him may have eternal life.

If your trust for eternity is not in Him, please turn to Him before it is too late.

 If you as a believer have your hopes set on the things of this life, please recognize such hopes must be redirected to God’s eternal kingdom and Jesus’ soon return to take us home.

___________________________________________

[i] The goals and targets of Agenda 2030 are posted on the UN website at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

[ii] FACT SHEET: U.S. Global Development Policy and Agenda 2030 on the Whitehouse website at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/27/fact-sheet-us-global-development-policy-and-agenda-2030

[iii] Interview with George Soros: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf6fWN6KlRI

Desire Breeds Hope

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Before settling into my new calling as a writer, my wife Ruth and I decided to take a road trip to celebrate my retirement from a long career as a financial analyst. We greatly looked forward to our trip: to our stay at a bed and breakfast in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina and then to our time exploring Savannah, Georgia.

Before we left on our trip, Ruth and I spent much time thinking and talking about our vacation and what we would do. Our anticipation of hiking in the mountains, exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway, and dining at seafood restaurants in Savannah increased our desire for the day to come when we would at long last leave on our trip.

When it comes to our glorious future, however, many churches remain mostly silent regarding our life to come. How can we eagerly await Jesus’ appearing and eternity if we seldom, if ever, hear about it?

“Bland assurances of the sweet by-and-by don’t inflame the soul.” John Eldredge

John Eldredge referred to this disconnect in his book Desire, “C.S. Lewis summed it up, ‘We can only hope for what we desire.’ No desire, no hope. . . . Bland assurances of the sweet by-and-by don’t inflame the soul.”[i] Later Eldredge added this statement regarding this connection of desire with our hope:

Whatever it is we think is coming in the next season of our existence, we don’t think it is worth getting all that excited about. We make a nothing of eternity by enlarging the significance of this life and by diminishing the reality of what the next life is all about.[ii]

Passing references to the fact that we possess eternal life do not impassion us, especially in America where so many of us enjoy comfortable lives. Without a vision of what to expect in eternity, it’s difficult to imagine heaven can be any better than our current existence with smartphones, widescreen TVs, and all the comforts this life can offer.

It’s The Specifics!

When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, he provided specifics of what America would look like with the ending of racism. His vivid picture of racial equality inspired a nation. If he had simply called for the ending of racism without his detailed vision of what it would look like, his message most likely would not have given so much hope to the crowd that day.

Likewise, it is the specifics of our spectacular hope that focus our hearts on eternity. As Eldredge noted, “bland assurances” of a distant eternity do not cause us to desire eternity nor do they give us hope.

Ruth and I grew in our excitement of our trip to the South as we talked about the specifics of what we would do on our vacation.

It’s the details of the Lord’s return for us, our roles in the upcoming millennium, and our eternal home that arise desire in our hearts for what is coming and magnify our hope.

We do not know all of the details of our immortal bodies, our roles in judging the world, or what our upcoming existence will be like. However, what Scripture teaches us about these things is more than enough to inspire us each day with desire, even longing for what lies ahead and generate hope in our hearts for Jesus’ appearing.

Hard Pews and Hollywood

Our desire for eternity is frequently deflated by popular misconceptions of what it will be like.

Many see eternity as an unending church service as John Eldredge also notes in his book Desire, “Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea of eternity is an unending church service . . . . we have settled on an image of the never-ending sing-along in the sky. . . . And our heart sinks.”[iii]

Of course we will sing and worship the Lord throughout eternity; I am very much looking forward to that. Scripture, however, also speaks of our reigning with Christ during the millennium and then forever. We will have thrilling kingdom responsibilities and forever enjoy a restored earth. We have an amazing future; one we can be excited about and celebrate!

Lonely believers sitting on clouds with harps and angels diving into icy rivers to earn their wings do not exactly thrill our hearts with thoughts of heaven

Hollywood does not help us in this regard with its rather depressing pictures of eternity. Lonely believers sitting on clouds with harps and angels diving into icy rivers to earn their wings do not exactly thrill our hearts with thoughts of heaven.

In 1 Corinthians 6:2 Paul asks, “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” This sounds entirely different than hard pews or what Hollywood would have us to believe about heaven. That does much more to peak our interest than the bland pictures we often visualize in our minds.

The Ploy of Satan

While churches do not fill in the blanks regarding our eternal hope, Satan actively works to introduce teachings that destroy our hope and take our eyes off eternity. First, his false teachers generate so much controversy that many pastors stay away from the subject just to be safe.

Secondly, the teachings of many leave us straining to identify what hope is left for us. If all of the New Testament prophetic passages have somehow already been fulfilled and those in the Old Testament reduce to allegories of the church, where is our hope for the future? We are left with just hope of the “sweet by-and-by.”

Where is our ultimate hope, for example, if Revelation 19-22 has already been fulfilled as some teach today? Such teaching seriously undermines any desire for eternity and squashes all hope. We are left with no specifics of eternity and no reason to take our eyes off this life and desire something better.

Where is our ultimate hope, for example, if Revelation 19-22 has already been fulfilled as some teach today?

Scripture teaches that we possess an amazing and thrilling hope for all eternity; one that should excite us and focus our hope all the more on what is to come.

It’s understandable Satan would not want us to hear about the thrilling details of eternity since that would fill our hearts with hope and longing for Jesus’ appearing to take us home.

It’s not understandable, however, that so many pastors neglect prophecy and in so doing dampen the desire and thereby the hope of those in the pews.

As John Eldredge so aptly stated, “No desire, no hope. . . . Bland assurances of the sweet by-and-by don’t inflame the soul.” But once we hear what the Bible teaches about our hope, we cannot help but desire for what is to come.

Jesus is coming soon! The more we understand what that means for us the more we will desire His appearing.

[i] Eldredge, John, Desire (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), pp. 64-65

[ii] Ibid., pp. 110-111

[iii] Ibid., p. 111

Hope Beyond the Tragedies of Life

Christina+Grimmie+Voice+Top+12+Red+Carpet+hqGnoWpSQWrl

She only had moments left to live.

As Christina sat cheerfully signing autographs after a concert in Orlando, Florida, she could not have known her killer was quickly approaching, gun in hand.

He despised her outspoken faith in Jesus and wanted to silence her voice forever.

I had not heard of Christina Grimmie until the stunning news broke of her murder on June 10, 2016. Soon afterward, I heard an early recording of her singing In Christ Alone and realized the depths of her love for the Lord Jesus.

The passion with which she sang those words coupled with the knowledge of what had just happened totally overwhelmed me and brought tears to my eyes.

I will not soon forget the deep heartfelt emotion Christina put into the final words of the song, “No power of hell, no scheme of man, Can ever pluck me from His hand; Till He comes or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand.” The passion with which she sang those words coupled with the knowledge of what had just happened totally overwhelmed me and brought tears to my eyes.

The killing of Christina demonstrates all the more our need to be focused on eternity rather than merely living for this present life. From an earthly standpoint, her murder appears to be a senseless tragedy; a young, perky, highly talented singer shot dead at the beginning of a promising career. How do we reconcile such a seemingly meaningless tragedy with our hope for eternity? Where is the purpose for all we endure here on earth?

What if this life for the believer is preparation for the next? What if all our experiences in this life are not only intended for our spiritual growth here, but also for what will be?

I believe the millennium provides the essential link between this life, disasters and all, and eternity.  The millennium is a thousand year period of time that begins with Jesus’ return to earth to setup His kingdom. We as believers will reign with Him during this time. After the millennium, eternity begins as described in Revelation 21-22.

In the millennium, we will see the Lord’s purposes for what we endure in this life come alive. The dark times of our lives will explode into wonderful light as we clearly see all of God’s purposes for taking us through them.

Do you remember the story of Joseph? How could he have known as he trudged toward Egypt shackled in chains that God was preparing the way for him to reign alongside Pharaoh? Joseph’s time in the household of Potiphar and then in prison became a training ground for his storybook rise to power. He remained faithful in the worst of circumstances and God used him in a mighty way.

Since we will reign with Christ during the millennium; it only makes sense Jesus would prepare us now for our future roles.

Is there a parallel for us? I believe there is. In the parable of the talents, Jesus rewards his followers with kingdom responsibilities based on their faithfulness to Him (Matt. 25:14-30). At the judgment seat of Christ, Jesus will examine our lives with the clear implication of loss as well as rewards (1 Cor. 3:10-15). Since we will reign with Christ during the millennium; it only makes sense Jesus would prepare us now for our future roles.

The millennium will be the time when the purposes for all we endure here come to full fruition. Although Christina is currently with the Lord receiving comfort as only He can provide, I believe she will see a still greater purpose for her untimely death when Jesus returns to earth and she reigns with Him.

Christina will sing for the Lord forever and ever! The only voice her killer silenced was that of his own.

Please listen to Christina singing “In Christ Alone” in the link below. Her passion for Jesus brought me to tears as I listened to this song shortly after her death.