Meanderings of a Minister


On Earth As It Is In Heaven or In Heaven As It Is On Earth?

I know that I have written on this topic before, but recently, I was reading the description of the throne room of heaven in Revelation 4 and 5.  Here is what I noticed about heaven.

First, John is shown heaven, but the first thing that catches his eye is the throne and God seated on that throne.  John is nearly overcome with the scene.  He noticed the colors, sounds, and focus of heaven as being totally about God on the throne.  From rainbows, to thunder and lightning, to creatures and lamps of fire, John gives the picture that all of heaven is focused on the worship of God Almighty.

Next, John mentioned the cries of the living creatures as they proclaim the holiness of God when they say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, Who was and Who is and Who is to come.”  They all give God glory and recognize the focus of heaven is God.

Additionally, John mentioned the twenty-four elders joining in on the worship.  They cast their crowns before the throne as they confess, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

Lastly, even when it came time to begin to open the scroll, all of heaven was focused on God the Father and God the Son as Jesus was the only One worthy to open the scroll that would mark the end of times and the judgments and deliverances that were to come.

As one looks at this version of heaven, one is left with a sick feeling that much else we have heard of heaven may or may not be accurate.  For many people, the idea of heaven is them finally getting everything they want.  They will be comforted, pampered, served, catered to, and never expected to do anything.  God will exist to serve their needs.  This is not heaven as God has described it to us.

It seems that in heaven, we will realize what it was we wanted all along.  We will finally get to see God on the throne of heaven!  We will no longer worship an invisible God, but will see Him as He is.  We will get to join in the activity of heaven and worship God for eternity.  We will know that we are in heaven because of God’s will and we will be challenged as we see Him high and lifted up.

Now, you might be thinking that this version of heaven does not sound appealing because it is not focused on you.  Perhaps the problem with much of our lives now is that we think too much should be focused on us.  As it is, we think we are owed respect.  We think we have a right to be honored.  We think others should serve us.  That is what causes a lot of the heartache we experience.  People disrespect us and we get mad.  They devalue us and we feel hurt.  They demand that we serve them and we feel cheated.

If heaven teaches us anything, it teaches us of the holiness of God and His rightful, ruling place over all creation and beyond.  We are not the focus.  He is.  For many, this is hard to take.

So, what do we do with this knowledge?  Perhaps, it is as simple as putting others first and serving them.  Perhaps it is as simple as honoring those who faithfully serve us.  There may be many other applications, but they would all seem to indicate we need to be changed so that our focus on earth is as it will be in heaven, if we know Jesus as Lord and Savior.



Joy Check Up
May 26, 2017, 2:57 pm
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In 1 John, John wrote to his readers and hearers about how to have joy in the Christian walk.  They were struggling and had forgotten the “good” part of the good news.  They had lost their joy for a number of reasons.  As you read through this list, you might stop and ask if you have lost your joy in serving Jesus for a similar reason.

In 1 John 1:4, John said, “These things we write, so that our joy maybe made complete.”  What was causing his hearers and readers to need their joy to be made complete?  I am glad you asked.

(1 John 1:5-7) First, his readers were struggling with the effects of sin in their lives.  Some struggled with living in sin as a normal way of life.  They may have figured that they were saved and had been forgiven of their sins (which is true), so it did not matter how they lived (which is not true).  As they sinned, the Holy Spirit would not leave them alone, but convicted them of sin to draw them back to God so that they felt no peace or joy.

(1 John 1:8) Others struggled with fearing that they might sin in the future and God might deny them entrance into His presence or His Kingdom.  They thought that they had to be perfect in order to earn God’s forgiveness and love.  Because they lived with this fear each day, there was no joy or peace in their lives because they could never really truly know that they are accepted and included in God’s family.

(1 John 1:10) Still yet others struggled with believing the sin of their past was forgiven.  Every time they looked in the mirror, they remembered the words they had spoken in anger, the money they stole, the promise they had broken or the life they had taken.  Since they remembered it, they figured God did as well and that they would never be free from the guilt and shame that caused them to want to crawl under the table and hide.

In the middle of all of this incredible amount of tension, weight and pressure, John dropped a truth that we often quote, but seldom actually stop and listen to.  What is that truth?

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

You might be tempted to think, “Wait!  What?  That seems too easy!”  It could not be simpler, but it is not easy at all.  This verse is written to believers.  We are told that we need to confess our sins.  What does confess mean?  It means that we need to first agree with God about our sins.  What does God think of our sins?  They are foul, horrible, evil, and in stark opposition and an offense to His holiness and goodness.  They are so foul that they cost the life of His Only Begotten Son.  So, we must agree with Him about our sins and the evil that produces them in us.

We must also agree with Him about the need to turn away from those sins and to trust in God for His forgiveness and grace.  Notice the parts.  First, turn away from the sins.  There is no such thing as confessing sins with any semblance of an intention to continue in them.  Next, we trust in God for His forgiveness.  And then we must trust in God’s grace to carry us through.

So, how is your joy right now?  Is there something that you need to confess to God?  You don’t need to go to a priest or pastor, just talk to God and agree with Him about your sin, turn away from your sin, trust your life to God’s direction and agree with God that His grace is sufficient for your forgiveness and deliverance.  That is way to joy.  At least in the first part of 1 John.



Mother’s Day Isn’t Always Candy and Flowers
May 12, 2017, 2:51 pm
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This next Sunday, we will celebrate Mother’s Day.  For many households, this will be a time of great joy as they celebrate the life of their mother.  For others, it will be a painful reminder of the fact that they never had the privilege of becoming a mother.  For still yet others, it will be a time of mourning the loss of children or the loss of their mother.  For a final section of the population, it may be a time of mourning the fact they grew up knowing no mother or of remembering the abuse of their mother.

Now that I have thoroughly depressed you about a holiday that is supposed to be a fun and light celebration of life, let me explain.  One of the most famous mothers, Mary, wife of Joseph, knew both the joy and pain of motherhood.  She knew the joy we associate with Christmas and beyond.  The Bible says that she watched as shepherds visited and worshipped her Son.  It tells of the arrival of Wise Men and the gifts they gave her Son as they worshipped Him as King of the Jews.  These were no doubt joyous times.  She also knew the joy of giving birth to Jesus’ brothers and sister (Mark 6:3).  She knew the joy of watching her children grow and mature.  Her greatest joy was in finding that her Son had conquered death and hell and the grave and had been resurrected (Matthew 28:1-7).

In addition to the joy of motherhood, Mary also knew the pain that often comes along as well.  Mary was warned by Simeon that a sword would pierce her own soul (Luke 2:33).  Mary would know the pain of having her own children reject Jesus (John 7:5).  She would know the pain of turning loose of her Son to allow Him to move out into the ministry for which He was born (Mark 3:31-35).  She knew the pain of watching her Son tortured and killed.  She also knew the pain of separation from Him as He was in the grave.

What is my point?  Simply this:  Mother’s Day may not be a time of joy and celebration for all families, but we can know a few things for sure.  First, we can know that our pain is not the first pain to be experienced as a mother or because of one.  Many others have experienced God’s grace to enable them to talk through this pain and have gone on to live for God with transformed and powerful lives.  Second, we can know that God celebrates the good with us, but also understands the pain and provides His grace to get us through it.

While most of us will not have to endure the pain of watching our child mercilessly tortured and killed, we can still know that God understands our struggles and has promised “Though weeping may endure for the night, a shout of joy comes in the morning.”  (Psalm 30:5b)



Mother’s Day Isn’t Always Candy and Flowers
May 10, 2012, 3:29 pm
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This Sunday, we will celebrate Mother’s Day.  For many households, this is a time of great joy as they celebrate the life of their mother.  For others, it is a painful reminder of the fact that they never had the privilege of becoming a mother.  For still yet others, it is a time of mourning the loss of children or the loss of their mother.  For a final section of the population, it may be a time of mourning the fact they grew up knowing no mother or of remembering the abuse of their mother.

 Now that I have thoroughly depressed you about a holiday that is supposed to be a fun and light celebration of life, let me explain.  One of the most famous mothers, Mary, wife of Joseph, knew both the joy and pain of motherhood.  She knew the joy we associate with Christmas and beyond.  The Bible says that she watched as shepherds visited and worshipped her Son.  It tells of the arrival of Wise Men and the gifts they gave her Son as they worshipped Him as King of the Jews.  These were no doubt joyous times.  She also knew the joy of giving birth to Jesus’ brothers and sister (Mark 6:3).  She knew the joy of watching her children grow and mature.  Her greatest joy was in finding that her Son had conquered death and hell and the grave and had been resurrected (Matthew 28:1-7).

 In addition to the joy of motherhood, Mary also knew the pain that often comes along as well.  Mary was warned by Simeon that a sword would pierce her own soul (Luke 2:33).  Mary would know the pain of having her own children reject Jesus (John 7:5).  She would know the pain of turning loose of her Son to allow Him to move out into the ministry for which He was born (Mark 3:31-35).  She knew the pain of watching her Son tortured and killed.  She also knew the pain of separation from Him as He was in the grave.

What is my point?  Simply this:  Mother’s Day may not be a time of joy and celebration for all families, but we can know a few things for sure.  First, we can know that our pain is not the first pain to be experienced as a mother or because of one.  Many others have experienced God’s grace to enable them to talk and walk through this pain and have gone on to live for God with transformed and powerful lives.  Second, we can know that God celebrates the good with us, but also understands the pain and provides His grace to get us through it.

 While most of us will not have to endure the pain of watching our child mercilessly tortured and killed, we can still know that God understands our struggles and has promised “Though weeping may endure for the night, a shout of joy comes in the morning.”  (Psalm 30:5b)



Is Partial Obedience Really Obedience?
March 29, 2012, 2:31 pm
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In the book of 1 Samuel, we read of the tragic story of King Saul.  On one occasion, Saul had been given instructions to go to war against the Amalekites and to wipe them out and put all of them to the sword as God’s punishment for opposing the Israelites as they were coming out of Egypt in the Exodus.  In what was just another sad episode that showed Saul’s lack of character and integrity, he greets Samuel after a great battle, and even greater victory.  As Samuel approaches, Saul greets him with these words, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.”

Here is where the situation gets tragic because just behind Saul are the flocks and herds the people have spared at Saul’s instruction.  Also present is Agag, the king of the Amalekites that was supposed to have been killed, but was not.  Saul greeted Samuel with a greeting that says, “I have done what God told me to do.”  But he clearly had not.  He had done SOME of what God had told him to do, but not all.

Saul’s behavior begs a question.  How much obedience does it take to be able to claim you have obeyed God?  The answer should be obvious on paper, but is often difficult to live out in flesh and blood.  The answer is any disobedience is disobedience.  Saul had mustered all of Israel for war, gone to battle and killed a lot of people.  He had burned down towns and villages to execute God’s judgment.  He had traveled many miles and gotten muddy and bloody in battle, but he had not fully obeyed God and it cost him the kingdom.

You might be thinking, “Okay.  But how does that apply to me?  After all, the Bible is quite plain that salvation is by grace, through faith and not of works.  Why should I worry about this concept of obedience or complete obedience?”  I am glad you asked.  1 John 5:3 says, “For this is how we love God:  we obey His commands and they are not burdensome.”  What does that mean?  It means that loving God is obeying God.  If you are in Christ, you have been forgiven of your sin, accepted by God, included in His family and are assured a home in Heaven.  That sounds like a pretty good deal.  So, what does God ask in return?  Everything.

God deserves, demands and desires our entire lives.  He gave it to us and He deserves to have us use it for His glory.  He has saved as and, as our Lord, demands that we love Him enough to obey Him and love others.  He saved us for relationship with Him and desires that we maintain the fellowship of that relationship.  He desires to walk with us in the garden and not have us hide in the bushes because we are ashamed of our disobedience or partial obedience.  He did not halfway save us, so why would we think we can halfway serve Him?

So, during the last throes of this Lenten season, or in the week before we will celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, whichever is part of your tradition, we would do well to spend some extra time with God asking Him if there is any area of our lives that we have not been completely obedient, repent, set our face towards obedience and pour ourselves into His word and His word into us so that we might seek to make our obedience complete, so that we can truly celebrate the relationship Easter made possible.