The Heavens

Fix your hope fully on the grace that is to be given you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)

In the beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12), all the rewards promised are exclusively related to the next life, not this one.  The parallel passage in Luke 6:20-26 makes this even more clear.

One of the interesting expressions Jesus uses (in verses 3, 10 & 12) is the plural word “heavens” when speaking about the rewards that the poor in spirit and the persecuted will receive.

The Scripture is clear that there is more than just one heaven.  Paul talks about having gone into the third heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:2 and we know there is a new heaven coming (Revelation 21:1).  There are also several places in the Old Testament where the phrase “Heaven of Heavens” is used (Genesis 28:12, Deuteronomy 10:14 and 1 Kings 8:27). For more details on the heavens in Scripture look up an earlier blog I wrote on the subject.nature_clouds_heaven_019281_

What excites me about this is the endless possibilities it raises.

Keep going, the rewards are great for those who are faithful to the end.

Authority and Forgiveness

Jesus words on forgiveness are stark:  Unless you forgive others you cannot be forgiven.  He makes that very clear in the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:15), in the parable of the indebted servant in Matthew 18:21-35 and elsewhere.

However forgiveness and pardon are not the same thing.  To pardon someone is to let them off, to not enforce a judgement that is against them.  If you have the authority to pardon someone, that means you have some authority over them.  Kings, Queens, Presidents, some politicians and judges have this kind of authority.  Prison governours, members of tribunals, parole boards, military leaders and policemen also have this power at times.

As a Christian, whoever you are, you are called to forgive.  But if you are a Christian in a place of authority over someone then you need to be careful before you extend that forgiveness into pardon.  If the person who you have the authority to pardon is unrepentant then the pardon will just lead to more opportunity for that person to cause the same type of trouble again.

I am really enjoying the Netflix series “The Crown” mainly because of its historical accuracy and attention to detail.  In Series 2 episode 6, the Queen is strongly impressed by Billy Graham who is holding a crusade in the UK at the time.  She invites him to the palace on two occasions.  Interwoven with these visits is an attempt by her uncle (formerly Edward VIII who abdicated before the war to marry a divorcee) to return to the UK.  Through powerful contacts he manages to convince the government to offer him some high profile ambassadorial roles.  Only the Queen is between him and a happy homecoming.  She has to decide whether to give him a royal pardon and let him in the country or to refuse and to leave him in exile.

The trouble is her uncle is unrepentant.  He is still as treasonous in his heart as he has ever been.

The Queen is confused between forgiveness and pardon.  The Netflix portrayal makes it clear that she hasn’t distinguished between the two.  She asks Billy Graham should she forgive her uncle, to which Billy rightly responds that she should.  In the end she tells her uncle that she can never forgive him – but when she said that she used the wrong word.  To protect her family and her country she could never pardon him.  In her heart she could and did forgive him but he was unrepentant.  She used the wrong word but made the right decision.  But she ended up confused.

We need to know the difference between forgiveness and pardon because all of us have either been a parent or a child.  Parents need to always be able to have an attitude of forgiveness towards their children but they would be foolish to pardon them and let them avoid the consequences of their wrongdoing – especially if they are unrepentant.  Children need to understand this distinction.

Antichrist

The word antichrist has two parts to it. Anti means “in place of” and christ in this context means “anointing”. John wrote to disciples of Jesus, those who are born again, and says about this anointing that you have no need for anyone to teach you since you have the anointing and know the truth (1 John 2:20,27). The writer of the letter to the Hebrews quotes Jeremiah and says that no one will need to teach his neighbour to know the Lord for He shall write His laws on their hearts and on their minds (Jer. 31:33, Heb. 8:10; 10:16). A primary feature of being a Christian according to the New Testament is that you don’t need an intermediary between you and God, there is only One and He is in you.  Don’t let any man, no matter how exalted, take the place of God in your life.

God is my Refuge

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, ..  Psalm 46:1,2.

God is an impenetrable fortress in Whom we can rest without any fear of interference or disturbance.  The walls to this fortress are sheer, tall and unscalable.  The materials of this fortress cannot be destroyed by any weapon no matter how powerful.

There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord (Prov. 21:30).
He is our God, let us trust in Him.  He will make a way where there seems to be no way.

 

 

The Secret Place (Psalm 91)

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid ….” 

Psalm 91: 1-5 (NKJV)

The secret place is primarily a place of trust. We all have to face fear but it makes no sense to stay afraid when the God who made the universe is on your side.  That is, of course, if you know He is on your side.  So how do we know that?

The Scriptures say that God is for us not against us (Romans 8:31).    But this and other passages in the letters are written to disciples/ saints/ overcomers, those who have been born again and are walking in the light.

Before you can enter the secret place and dwell there you must have come to faith in Him.  Jesus says that we should fear Him (Matt. 10:28, Luke 12:5) and make peace with Him while we are on the way through this life (Matt. 5:25) before it is too late.  John points out that unless you are born from above you cannot be in His kingdom (John 3:8).  To be in God’s kingdom is to be under His protection.

It is only then that we can truly say that “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”Fortress

Practices of Discipleship: Prayer

Prayer is more about listening than talking (Eccles. 5:1).  The main point of praying is putting yourself somewhere you can hear clearly.  There is both a physical and a moral/spiritual element to this placing.  Physically it should be quiet and alone (we are not talking about corporate prayer here which is a different thing).  Morally you need to be devoted, set aside or holy.  Your only desire should be to do His will otherwise you won’t hear properly (John 7:17).  You also need to give this time and priority.  I find that first thing in the morning is best and an hour is a good length of time.

prayer-for-beginners-g13leaiz

Once you are in the quiet place (Psalm 91), the aim is to take every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).  I find that the meditative technique of “centering down” helps here.  Thoughts actually come out of the heart or centre of you (not your head – Matt. 15:18, Luke 6:45) and therefore bringing your inner man to a place of quiet is important if you are to listen to God who is in you (Col. 1:27).

God is not far away, He is in fact very close to His children (Romans 10:8, Acts 17:28).   If you are born again and abiding in Jesus, His word is in your heart and written on your mind (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 10:16).

When a thought comes to you, capture it and check it against the name or character of Jesus as He has been revealed to you through the Holy Spirit and His word.  If it requires action do it as long as it is something God would do.  If you are unsure ask another brother/sister who you trust and who loves you.

I am writing these things because I believe God has told me to and it is the kind of thing He does.

 

Overcoming Evil with Good

Sometimes the practical implications and implementation of these words of Jesus are hard to stomach:

 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

(Luke 6:27-36).

It is one thing to read those words in theory and quite another to put them into practice in the very real presence of the ungrateful and wicked, especially those who have proven through time that they won’t change nor respond to the Gospel.  Even worse can be trying to love those you trusted who then betrayed you.

unfair

Along with Jeremiah (chap. 12) and Asaph (Psalm 73) I ask: “Why do the wicked prosper?”

My prayer is: “Change my heart so I can love them in Spirit and truth.”  Then the actual actions I take will flow from a right heart.  I don’t want to believe one thing in theory and then find my actions are taking quite an opposite approach in practice simply because I haven’t fully internalised the truth.