Anticipating The Resurrection: Future Posts, Future Study And Our Future Bodies

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A while ago, we discussed the possibility of doing a Bible Study series on 1 Corinthians 15, which goes into depth about Christ’s resurrection. Right now I’m still deciding exactly how I want to structure the study. The study I wrote on Titus last year demanded a lot of energy from me, and I question whether or not I have the physical stamina to do something on that scale again.

That said, let me reiterate my observation that the resurrection, although it’s the cornerstone of our faith, goes largely ignored by most Christians. We easily comprehend the significance of the crucifixion, knowing that through it Jesus atoned for the sin of those who believe in Him. But we have more difficulty figuring out what the resurrection means.

In part, our difficulty comes about because pastors don’t say much about the resurrection outside of Easter Sunday sermons. But before we place too much blame on pastors, perhaps we should think about our own awkwardness with the subject.

Death, we understand. We’ve all experienced the death of someone we’ve known. The older we get, the more of our relationships end in death. Therefore, the Lord’s death has an element of familiarity that we can latch on to.

Resurrection, in contrast, lies in our future. Except for Jesus, nobody has yet experienced resurrection.  So we understandably feel removed from the very concept. Even seasoned Christians have trouble grasping the truth that Christ has a physical body right now, and that one day we will have glorified physical bodies either in heaven or in hell. We’ve read this truth repeatedly in the New Testament, but somehow it doesn’t quite register.

So, although we verbally affirm the resurrection, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I know I don’t!

Over these next two weeks leading up to Easter (or Resurrection Sunday, if you prefer that term), I hope to write a few posts about the resurrection. I’ll look at Scriptures other than 1 Corinthians 15, sharing insights that I’ve learned over the past couple years. Hopefully my posts will prepare us to celebrate His resurrection Sunday after next as well as building our excitement about going through 1 Corinthians 15.

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Who Our Departed Loved Ones In Heaven Watch

Spring in Boston May 9 2011 001The night John survived his cancer surgery, a family member attributed his survival to his sister, who had lost her own battle with cancer nine years earlier.

I had just been through one of the most emotional days of my life, and I was too exhausted for a theological conversation on the state of the dead, so I swallowed my annoyance and mumbled something about God’s faithfulness. But the remark troubled me then and it troubles me still.

It troubles me even more when evangelicals (who claim to know Scripture) talk about their departed loved ones looking down on them from heaven and perhaps even intervening in their circumstances. A nominal Catholic understandably makes such fanciful assumptions, as my family member did, but people who say they read and believe the Bible really should know better.

Before I go on, let me acknowledge that when someone close dies, it’s natural to want to continue the relationship. I occasionally catch myself trying to talk to my mom, almost four years after her death (and I have no evidence that she ever turned to Christ). So I really do understand why people want to believe that their loved ones still hear  and observe us. It’s painful to accept that our loved ones no longer participate in our lives.

But even leaving aside the issue of those who die without Christ, I see nothing in Scripture to indicate that those in heaven maintain any concern for us. Since they behold the Lord in all His glory, wouldn’t He be the singular focus of their attention? Consider this passage from Revelation.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ~~Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV)

As much as we’d like to think that our loved ones gaze lovingly down on us from heaven, I believe we miss  the whole point. Our loved ones in heaven behold the face of the resurrected Savior, Who captivates all their attention simply by being Who He is! Would we even want to distract them from such a magnificent preoccupation?

John’s sister had nothing to do with him making it through a surgery that, because of his disability, should have ended his earthly life. But make no mistake: there was most definitely heavenly intervention. God the Father Himself watched over John, guiding the surgical team. Like our loved ones in heaven, I can glorify and praise God for mercifully granting me a few more years with my husband. The Lord deserves all the glory, as John’s sister surely would tell us.

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This Isn’t A Eulogy, Exactly

IMG_0693Saturday, a friend of ours lost his battle with cancer. I suppose I could tell you about his love for the Lord, about his beautiful devotion to his wife and family, about his ministry as the Youth Group director at his church or about how he and his wife fostered children and young adults. Alternately, I could tell you how, early in my marriage to John, he taught us a few important points on marriage.

Some of you might enjoy reading such things, but face it — almost all of you never met him. A eulogy probably wouldn’t be very meaningful to you. It might not even be that interesting. For most of you, he was just an obscure guy in Massachusetts that had no direct impact on your lives. You’re sorry for my loss and all, but you didn’t come to my blog to read about him. And I definitely understand that position.

So rather than write about my memories of this man, I want to reflect on the joy he’s experiencing now. If people who knew him happen to read this article, please understand that I by no means want to minimize your grief; all of us who knew him are broken hearted by his passing. And yet, as Christians,  we know he’s beholding the wonderful face of Jesus.

Obviously, none of us really knows what it’s like to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ face-to-face. I therefore want to avoid any extrabiblical speculation or conjecture, preferring to keep within the bounds of what God has revealed in His Word.

Scripture gives glimpses of that wondrous occurrence by recounting the experience of the apostle John.

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. ~~Revelation 1:9-20 (ESV)

Okay, I realize that John still had his sinful body when he saw the Lord, making his experience arguably different from that of someone who has died.  But I would submit to you that he described Christ’s glorified state. Those who die, because they finally have freedom from their sinful bodies, may not fall paralyzed  at His feet, but we will see His same glory.

With that fearsome glory, however,  John saw Christ’s compassion. Notice verse 17, where the Lord reassures John. The tenderness in that verse beautifully balances the overwhelming description of Christ’s magnificent and terrifying holiness in the preceding verses.

With compassion to temper the brilliance of Christ’s glory and holiness, John could joyfully serve the Lord by writing the Revelation. Fear subsided as he went on to narrate what will happen when Christ finally returns to claim His Bride and establish His kingdom.  What joy fills those last two chapters of Revelation!

Although I have no way of knowing what my friend saw when he entered heaven Saturday, I rest assured that it brought him immeasurable joy. As a result, the sadness I feel for his wife and children gives way to rejoicing for him. And one day I will also see that same glorified Christ in all His splendor!

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Writing: A Pleasure And A Responsibility

Header May 2013

Sometimes a writer writes simply for the fun of manipulating language. We take pleasure in the cadences of sentences and the textures of words. It delights us when a nimble vocabulary tames otherwise nebulous ideas, communicating them to anyone who bothers to read them. And if nobody reads them, we still savor the heady  experience of shaping words, sentences and paragraphs into something lovely.

Writing for its own sake has the advantage of training a writer how to develop his or her craft. The practice helps us fall in love with writing. That sense of romance in turn carries us through the difficult aspects of writing. When we strain for just the right way to phrase a concept, staring at an impatiently blinking cursor, we feel such exhilaration when the stubborn words suddenly decide to cooperate with us. Without the love of writing, we’d give up and find a mind numbing app to keep us unprofitably entertained.

Therefore, a moderate amount of writing merely to enjoy the act of bending language to one’s purpose has merit. It should not be shunned as frivolous or wasteful, but instead harnessed as a valuable tool in learning to use language efficiently.

That said, a Christian writer must indulge in writing for the sake of writing sparingly. A few exercises will renew our pleasure in the task, but it mustn’t distract us from our job of communicating the Gospel as long as the powers that govern the Internet allow us to do so.

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. ~~Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

Ladies, it doesn’t take a prophet to see that American Christians won’t have freedom to express Biblical views online much longer.  Major social media platforms have already begun clamping down on people who don’t embrace homosexuality as a positive sexual expression. In time (maybe less time than we imagine), any sort of writing about the Lord Jesus Christ that exalts Him will not be tolerated.

We actually shouldn’t find this prospect all that surprising. Jesus bluntly stated that we would be hatred because we represent Him (John 15:18-21). The United States Constitution may promise religions liberty, but the Holy Spirit assures us of persecution (2 Timothy 2:12). The time for blogging about the Lord grows extremely short, and we should expect as much.

But rather than bemoaning our impending loss of liberty, Christian writers should use their writing abilities as frequently and earnestly as we can to build God’s kingdom. We’ve been given only a few short years to proclaim the Gospel on social media, and it would be tragic to spend those years writing only to enjoy the fun of playing with language.

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Saturday Sampler: December 31 — January 6

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Reading Last day of  2017: Thoughts on time’s passage by Elizabeth Prata in The End Time, both sobers and encourages me. Having turned 64 in September, I relate quite well to many of her comments. It floors me that my Personal Care Attendants studied the Vietnam War in high school — Nixon pulled us out of that war when I was in 12th grade! All that aside, Elizabeth uses her musings to help us think about where time is headed.

Leonardo De Chirico  writes Did Pope Francis Say Mission? in Vatican Files to demonstrate this pope’s apparent problem understanding the Biblical view of evangelism. We should be deeply concerned that many professing evangelicals embrace Francis.

I couldn’t agree more with Michelle Lesley’s Sanctification > Resolutions: 6 Ways God Could Sanctify You in the New Year in Discipleship for Christian Women. Ladies, please don’t miss this godly and practical article!

Whether your pastor feels frustrated about numerical growth in your church or you struggle with discouragement in personal evangelism, read Who builds the church? by Mark McIntyre on his blog, Attempts at Honesty. Ain’t nothing like a Scriptural perspective to provide a breath of fresh air, now is there?

In case you’re still debating the value of New Year’s Resolutions, you’ll find interesting insight by reading Jordan Standridge’s Rescued from Meaningless Resolutions in The Cripplegate. I think he hits the nail on the head.

Why Should I Read the Bible in 2018? asks Leslie A of Growing 4 Life. Her six reasons might encourage you to keep reading long after the New Year’s zeal wears off.

Many Christian moms experience the heartache of a child who doesn’t come to Christ. I can only guess at the devastating emotions they go through. But Kim Shay, one of the ladies who blogs for Out of the Ordinary, writes They are our children, after all to address the most common emotional reactions to having a prodigal child.

Like SharaC, I question all the talk about “authenticity,” “messiness” and “brokenness” that’s so popular among evangelicals. Her article, Smoking in the Trenches appears on her Into the Foolishness of God blog, and offers some good fodder for thoughtful pondering.


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Saturday Sampler: December 10 — December 16

Snowmen Sampler

SharaC, who blogs at Into the Foolishness of God already looks forward to the new year in her article, Cheers To The Simple Things. She has a fresh alternative to those pesky New Years Resolutions that none of us keep anyway.

How much do you know about pearls? The End Time author Elizabeth Prata shows us their value in New Testament times, as well as why they held such high value, in her magnificent essay, Pearls in the New Testament. Not only does Elizabeth inform us, but she fills us with wonder at God’s intricacies.

I’ve got to agree with Tim Challies as he identities the 5 Most Ridiculous Books to Ever Become Christian Bestsellers. Whether you watch the short video or read the transcript, you’ll see clear examples of discernment as Challies examines these popular, but woefully unbiblical, pieces of evangelical literature.

Pope Francis, eager to protect God’s reputation (doncha know), wants to change the English translation of The Lord’s Prayer from “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.” Denny Burk writes Is the Pope right about the Lord’s Prayer? to raise the possibility that the pope’s modification may actually undercut confidence in the sovereignty of God.

In a study of Romans 12:1-2, Judy Allen gives us A Lesson from Paul on Transformation on the Unlocking the Bible blog. Her brief, but comprehensive, study takes the mysticism out of God’s transforming work in Christians.

Erin Benziger’s series on “acceptable” sins in Do Not Be Surprised has certainly convicted me! Now she concludes it with The Cure for ‘Acceptable’ Sins by directing us back to the reasons for God’s grace and His wonderful ability to transform us. If you’ve read any articles in this outstanding series, please avail yourself of this capstone piece.

Growing 4 Life by Leslie A. always delivers gems such as Enjoying the Ride. Leslie narrates her recent misadventure of a family outing (what could go wrong looking at Christmas lights?), and finds a splendid application to remind us of God’s sovereignty.

Although I’m still in the process of vetting Fred Deruvo, I’ve pretty much agreed with his articles on his Study – Grow – Know blog. In Knowing God’s Will: Focusing on God or Satan?, Deruvo discusses the practice of deliverance ministry from a Biblical perspective. His insights are so needed in today’s evangelical circles.

Evangelicals, and particularly Reformed evangelicals, are grieving the loss of R.C. Sproul this past Thursday. At the same time, we rejoice that Dr. Sproul is in the Lord’s presence. Naturally, many people are publishing tributes to him on the Internet. I can’t begin to read them all, but I hope you’ll read John MacArthur’s post, R.C. Sproul, on the Grace To You blog.

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Holiness Is Anything But Casual

Awful Glory

Holiness carries connotations of stuffiness. Typically it conjures up images of dour old spinsters sanctimoniously reading their King James Bibles as they pass judgment on anyone who tries to enjoy life. Not exactly appealing, even to the best of us.

Generally, we don’t like thinking too seriously about God’s holiness either. We don’t mind singing popular praise songs that mention it, mind you. We just prefer not to delve deeply into its implications.  That reluctance comes, in large part, from instinctively sensing that facing His holiness inevitability means confronting our unholiness.

Indeed, the prophet Isaiah had an encounter with God’s holiness that completely devastated him.

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. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ~~Isaiah 6:1-4 (ESV)

How different Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord was from 21st Century claims of God appearing to people in visions or speaking to them. The accounts I’ve heard, even of God supposedly speaking personally to them, rarely included remarks of wonder at His presence, and almost never mentioned any conviction of sin. In fact, they usually expressed a casual attitude, practically ignoring His holiness altogether.

In reality, the Lord’s holy nature should cause us to tremble!

Think about the apostle John, who had such a deep friendship with Jesus during the Lord’s earthly ministry that he laid his head on Jesus’ chest. 70 years later this faithful man saw Christ in all His glory.

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. ~~Revelation 1:12-17a (ESV)

John’s personal friendship with Jesus did not negate his sense of awe at being exposed to Christ’s unvarnished holiness and glory. There was nothing casual about it. Like Isaiah centuries earlier, John was overwhelmed by the Lord’s holiness.

God’s glory and holiness have a power and beauty that few men could handle. Only in our resurrected bodies will we be able to withstand such magnificence. And even then, I wonder if, like the holy angels in the Temple with Isaiah, we’ll cover or faces because of the brilliance of His holiness.

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