Called Out Of Darkness

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My Musings – “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  (Yogi Berra).  It certainly isn’t.  Hopelessly lost and separated from our Creator, with no hope for reconciliation by our own efforts.  Facing an eternity apart from God in Hell.  No Exit. His righteousness demanded it.  That was our future.

Where there was no hope, God provided hope.  Where there was no way, God provided a way.  The possibility of being reunited with our Creator because He made it possible for us to be a new creation through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  His grace satisfied His righteousness.  The opportunity to spend eternity reunited with God in Heaven.  This can be our future.

My Advice – Which future do we want?  This should be an obvious choice.  Yet so many stumble over it.  Yes, Jesus is the only way, because His sacrifice was the only possible way to satisfy God’s righteousness.  But whoever calls on His name will be saved.  He’s calling us out of darkness.  Will we respond?

Who Wants To Be A Millennium Heir?

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My Musings – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?  It was a crazy popular game show for awhile.  There were levels (questions to answer) you had to work (win) your way up, in order to win the million.  Each level more difficult than the one before.  If you got stumped, you had ” lifelines” you could use for help.  But use them wisely, because you want to save all you can for the more difficult questions.  Answer incorrectly, and you could lose some of what you had already won.  Remember?

Just for the fun of it once, I came up with a version of the game called “Who Want’s To Be A Millennium Heir?” that I used for a “final exam” in my adult Sunday School class.  It went like this.

MILLENNIUM “HEIR MILE” REWARDS

7  MILLENNIUM HEIR
6  GOLD
5  SILVER
4  COSTLY STONES
3  WOOD
2  HAY
1  STRAW
0  FOUNDATION

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, NIV 1978)

MILLENNIUM HEIR RULES

1. You must build upon the foundation – Jesus Christ.

2. If you don’t build upon this foundation, it won’t matter how many “heir miles” your works might otherwise earn you. You can never earn your way to becoming a millennium heir.

3. Each time you answer correctly, your “good works” will advance you to the next “heir mile” reward.

4. If you answer incorrectly the quality of all “heir miles” earned will be tested by fire. For some you may suffer loss. Some may survive and you will receive those rewards.

5. However, even if you suffer the loss of all of your “heir miles” you are still a millennium heir if you built on the foundation Jesus Christ.

MILLENNIUM HEIR LIFELINES

Fellowship – With this lifeline you may poll the “audience,” (the Sunday School class) for their input.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews10:25, NIV 1978).

Prayer – With this lifeline you can phone “home” for guidance. In answer to your “prayer”, you gain discernment (as moderator I took away two wrong answers).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7, NIV 1984).

The Word – With this lifeline you can look up your answer in the Scriptures (better bring your Bible to class).

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV 1978).

Accountability – With this lifeline you may ask a fellow-believer (select a class member) for their help.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV 1984).

We had fun with it (well, at least I did).  Here is a sample of one “game” of Millennium Heir we played.

Foundation Question

According to Ephesians 2:8&9, salvation is obtained by what?

A. Good Works.
B. Grace.
C. Wealth.
D. Accident.

Straw Question

The tenth commandment, found in Exodus 20:17 is?

A. Thou shalt not talk out loud in a convent.
B. Thou shalt not convict without two or three witnesses.
C. Thou shalt not covet.
D. Irrelevant.

Hay Question

According to 1 Timothy 6:10, what is the root of all evil?

A. Gingivitis.
B. Money.
C. The ACLU.
D. The love of money.

Wood Question

A fundamental point about wealth in the parable of the rich fool is?

A. It should be hoarded, because we never know when we’ll need it.
B. It should be wasted, there is more where that came from, God has deep pockets.
C. It should be spent on pleasure and comfort. Eat, drink and be merry.
D. Material possessions cannot provide real or lasting security.

Costly Stones Question

In the parable of the sower, found in Matthew 13, greed is represented by which seed?

A. Seed sown along the path.
B. Seed sown in rocky places.
C. Seed sown amongst thorns.
D. Seed sown on good soil.

Silver Question

The parable of the rich fool teaches?

A. Nothing, it’s just for entertainment.
B. We must be careful about our attitudes concerning God’s blessings.
C. All rich people are evil.
D. Remodeling old barns is hazardous to your health.

Gold Question

The proper response to material blessings is?

A. I want more.
B. Be thankful and be a good steward.
C. I’ll keep them all to myself.
D. Now I have all that I need to be happy.

Millennium Heir Question

In the parable the rich fool’s responses to material blessings was?

A. Right on target.
B. The real problem.
C. A symptom of an underlying problem.
D. His final answer.

My Advice – Okay, so the game is a bit corny.  But it makes several key points.  The “game” we are playing in this life is really “The Game of Life.”  What happens in this life determines whether we become a millennium heir.  We must accept Christ as Savior.  That’s foundational.  If we don’t get that right, we will go directly to hell, we will not pass the pearly gates, we will not collect eternal life.  There is no get out of hell free card.  Christ it the only way, meaning He has the “Monopoly.”  Take the chance, you won’t be “Sorry.”

 

 

In My Life, I Loved Him So

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My Musings – The above picture was taken three years ago today.  We had gotten dad into DeKalb County rehab for what we thought would be a short stint to get his strength back.  His heart condition had been worsening, but we had no idea how near the end was.  He looked pretty good that day, but my dad died from heart failure on September 15th, less than three weeks later.  The man who used to carry me on his shoulders, was carried away by the Angels to his reward.

In My Life
The Beatles

There are places I’ll remember
All my life though some have changed.
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain.

All these places had their moments
With [family] and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all.

But of all these friends and [family]
There [are few who] compares with you.
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new.

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before.
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you [still].

Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney
© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
For non-commercial use only.

One of my favorite Beatles’ songs.  The lyrics move me.  “In my life” I can recall many male roles models that have helped shape my life.  But Dad, there is no male role model that “compares with you.”  We often “stop and think about” you.  The void left by your passing can never be filled. Gone, but never forgotten, and we’ll “never lose affection.”

Time has allowed the grief to dull a bit, but not completely.  But we do not “grieve like the rest of men who have no hope.”  For “according to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15–18, NIV 1984).

My Advice – We are encouraged by these words. My wish for you is that you share the same hope.  If so, be encouraged.  If not, you can share in this blessed hope by believing and receiving Jesus Christ as you personal Savior.  My series of musings on “The Born Again Experience” (see archives) can show you how.

For an inspiring version of the above song, google  “In My Life” by Selah.  It will give you chills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Return of the King

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My Musings – “We who have lived long under the Shadow may surely listen to echoes from a land untroubled by it?” (From “The Return of the King,” J. R. R. Tolkien). The shadow we live under grows longer and the darkness and distress spreads. For “immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’” (Matthew 24:29, NIV 1984).  But once again, “the people living in darkness [will see] a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light [will] dawn.” (Matthew 4:16, NIV 1984).  “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:27, NIV 1984).

Afterwards the “distress of those days” will be no more than “echoes from a land untroubled by it.”  For “now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Just try to imagine it. The “great glory.”   What John saw was so unimaginable, that the best way he could describe it was what was not there.  The things (tears, death, mourning, crying, pain) that we will be “untroubled by.”  For “the old order of things has passed away.”  Yes, in this world we will have trouble that we have to live under.  But take heart, He has overcome the world!

 

Not All That Glitters

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My Musings – Wow!  Talk about being intolerant, insensitive, and lacking political correctness.  Paul goes on to say, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Galatians 3:1-5).  In other words, it is grace alone through faith in Christ alone.  Any variation from this is a perversion of the Gospel.  It is, in fact, no gospel at all.  This message was not an invention of Paul.  Jesus Himself said that He was the only way.  Other “gospels” and religions may seem attractive, “shiny” and have a form of Godliness, but in the end lead to eternal death.  “Not all that glitters is gold.”

But why would Paul, or any other Christian be so harsh.  Notice that Paul is not expressing these sentiments to people who hear and reject the Gospel of Christ.  For them he has pity and sorrow.   But to those who try to lead others astray, he has no such feelings.  It is one thing to be responsible for our own poor choices and decisions that affect only our soul, it is quite another to lead other souls astray.  Paul allows no quarter for them.

My Advice – I know this post will not be popular with a great many.  They might even make the same claims against Christianity.  But if Paul was right, if Jesus was right, the stakes are high.  If they were wrong, there are no stakes at all.  Those are the only two possibilities – they were either right or they were wrong.  You owe it to yourself to investigate the claims for yourself and make your own judgment.  In the end, the decision is yours.  But let it be an informed decision.

 

What Are We Seeking?

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My Musings – To seek first means to give priority (something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives).  Immediately prior to this verse, Jesus was talking about the things of this life that people give attention to – food, shelter, clothing.  Things that most would consider necessities, although there are still way too many that lack all of these in sufficient quantity (if at all) to not be considered in want.  Others have much more than they need.  Few are content with what they have.  But no matter what category one falls into, Jesus insists that there is something much more important – our relationship with our Creator.

Our life here on earth is fleeting (a mere mist of vapor) and of little consequence when compared to all of eternity before us.  But what we do with Christ while here on earth has tremendous consequences in terms of what eternity will be for us.  The lack of  the so-called necessities of this life will pale in comparison to an eternal separation from God in the torment of Hell (as politically incorrect as it is to even mention such a thing) if we never get our priorities straight while here. Likewise, the accumulation of things in this this life will be soon forgotten if the face of such suffering.  Whether a life of abundance or want, all need Christ.  If you seek Him, He (and His Kingdom and Righteousness) will be found.  In His Kingdom, all these things will be given as well.

My Advice –  Seek Him (Christ) while He may be found, because He came to seek (and to save) you. This is not me speaking in arrogance, although many will still believe so.  It is me speaking in compassion to those who do not have a relationship with Christ.  Because once upon a time, I was there as well.

The Real Prosperity Gospel

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My Musings – The context of this verse is the Babylonian captivity that would last seventy years.  A captivity brought on by a rebellious and sinful nation.  God has always had plans for His people.  Good plans.  But somehow, sin always seemed to get in the way.

God never intended for mankind to ever have to leave the garden, but sin got in the way. God never intended to have to wipe out mankind (except Noah and his family) by a flood, but sin got in the way.  God never intended to have to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but sin got in the way.  God never intended to need to send His chosen people into exile, but sin got in the way.  God never intended for His creation to result in the crucifixion of His Son, but sin got in the way.  Yet despite all this, and more, God continues to have plans for us.

The word “prosper” in today’s text is the translation of the Hebrew word šālōm, a term denoting well-being, wholeness, harmony, and peace. (Martens, E. A., 1995. Jeremiah. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 540. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.)  It has nothing to do with riches, wealth or treasures.  God’s concern goes much deeper (into the soul of mankind – the hope) and much further (into all eternity – the future).  It always has.

Before the fall, even before the creation, God knew His plans to prosper those He made in His image would require the ultimate sacrifice on His part.  It was not His intention, but it was His plan.  His plan not to harm us, resulted in the severest harm to His Son.  In the process, He “bankrupted” Heaven in order to prosper us.

My Advice – Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.  You’ll not have to seek any further.