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Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayer?

I was recently asked a question: "Recently a person we know died of Covid, leaving behind a young family. I have no answer for that heartbreak. Jesus healed people instantly. We seem not to have that power. What are we missing here?" Why doesn't God answer my prayer? This is a very hard question. Behind the question is desperation, sleeplessness, hopelessness, emptiness, grief, even anger. If God is loving why does it seem like he doesnt hear me. If God is our Father, why do I suffer? Jesus healed a lot of people. Whoever he wanted to heal, was healed. Yet, he did not heal everyone in Israel. He did not heal every blind person and every demon possessed person. He did not heal every sick person he encountered. In his hometown, “he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith”. (Matthew 13:58). There were sick people in Nazareth, but they were not healed. The broader question is: Why is it that the prayer of Jesus gets answered and our prayer (to heal) does not get answered sometimes? A couple of points: 1. Does it have to do with power? Is it possible that Jesus had more power and therefore he performed more miracles? If that is so it can mean that we can never perform the level of miracles that Jesus did. But this is not true. Jesus himself said that his disciples would do more miracles than he did. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father - John 14:12 This is because the same Spirit in Jesus that performs miracles has also been given to us to perform those miracles. (When Jesus went back to the Father, the Spirit came down and lives with us.) 2. Maybe it has to do with the reasons for unanswered prayer. There are numerous reasons for unanswered prayer: Sin - Isa 59:2; Disobedience - Zec 7:13; Selfishness - Jas 4:3; Injustice - Isa 1:15-17; Lack of faith - Jas 1:6-7 etc etc. Jesus obviously did not have any of these issues. 3. But the main reason I think for the difference in the prayer of Jesus and our own prayer is regarding the issue of God’s will. When Jesus prayed (or did anything for that matter), everything was according to the will of God. There was never a time when Jesus prayed for healing or commanded healing that was outside of the will of God. Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5:19 When Jesus performed a miracle or prayed for a miracle, it happened since it was the will of God. Since we are NOT completely in tune with God, some of our prayers are not according to the will of God. Our prayers that are according to the will of God get answered. Our prayers that are outside of the will of God don’t get answered. The best example that ties all this together is the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. This was the one time that Jesus, because of the spiritual consequences, asked if the cup of separation can be removed from Him. Yet, he asked for God’s will. His human mind preferred another way. But God’s will was that Jesus should die on a cross for the sake of humanity. His prayer “not my will, but yours be done” (Matthew 26:39) shows the pattern we should follow in prayer. Since we don’t know if the request we make is God’s will or not, this should be the prayer we make. Additionally, God’s will in this situation shows us His immense Love for us. Like Paul said, He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 The reason why He doesn’t answer our prayer is not that He cannot. (He is Omnipotent) The reason why He doesn’t answer our prayer is not that He doesn't love us. (His scars are proof of his love) The reason why He doesn’t answer our prayer is because it is not His Will. Ultimately the faith we have during prayer is NOT that our prayer will get answered in the affirmative. Our faith rests on the God who is omnipotent and loving. Because we know that he is Omnipotent, we know that he is able to answer any prayer that we pray. Because we know that he is loving, we know that he wants the best for us. Final thought If the Father did not fulfill the prayer of his only begotten Son when he was dying, God is not obligated to answer even one prayer of ours. ANY prayer of ours that he answers is a bonus. Thankfully, He answered the most important prayer we could make - prayer for salvation, so that we can avoid his wrath and go to heaven. References: Unanswered prayer - Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009) Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Renovation Projects

I love renovations. It shows growth, progress, and improvement from the current state. Since there is always room for growth, it also shows that the present is not yet as good as it could be. Yet, the final result of renovation is always preceded by the mess during the renovation. The process is uncomfortable, inconvenient, and sometimes unexpected. The bigger the renovation project, the more extensive and prolonged the mess will be. The mess is imperative for any renovation to be done. There is no growth or betterment without short-term difficulty and sacrifice. The mess is partially reflective of the intended goal of the renovation. With a competent craftsman, then, the bigger the mess, the more comprehensive the renovation, and the better the final outcome will be. One of the biggest renovation projects in recent times was that undertaken by Georges-Eugène Haussmann, the prefect of Sienne. He was chosen by Emperor Napoléon III to perform the task of renovating Paris. In the mid-1800s, Paris was in a decrepit state. the French social reformer Victor Considerant wrote: "Paris is an immense workshop of putrefaction, where misery, pestilence and sickness work in concert, where sunlight and air rarely penetrate. Paris is a terrible place where plants shrivel and perish, and where, of seven small infants, four die during the course of the year." Into this sordid scene, Haussmann stepped in. He started from the base up - renovating the dense labyrinth of pipes, sewers, and tunnels under the streets. His direct work was from 1853 to 1870, but the renovation continued till 1927. The transformations to Paris improved the quality of life in the capital. Disease epidemics ceased, traffic circulation improved and new buildings were better-built and more functional than their predecessors. The beauty of Paris today can be directly attributed to the vision and work of Baron Haussmann. 2020 has been an unexpected and difficult project with no end in sight. Some events that happened in 2020: Protests in Hong Kong against China attract 1 million people State of emergency declared in Victoria, Australia due to the bushfires that killed 500 million animals. A U.S. drone strike at Baghdad International Airport kills Iranian general Qasem Soleimani leading to widespread demonstrations and the accidental downing of a Ukrainian plane killing all 176 on board. Iran launches two missiles against American interests in Iraq. ISIS raises its head again and kills 89 Nigerian soldiers The Libyan civil war continues with Turkey sending troops to Libya The Yemeni civil war continues with more than 110 dead Price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia results in dangerous low prices of crude oil. The Kivu Ebola epidemic continues in Congo - it has killed more than 2200 people. Flash floods in Somalia displace more than 1 million people A cyclone hits India and Bangladesh displacing 4 million people with loss of $13 billion. Protests caused by the killing of George Floyd break out across hundreds of cities in the US and around the world. Riots result in widespread damage. Palestine terminates all agreements with Israel and the US. 20,000 tons of oil leaks into the Ambarnaya River in Siberia near the Arctic circle endangering natural animal and plant life. An explosion in Beirut, Lebanon kills 220 people, injures thousands, leaves 300,000 people homeless, and causes damage estimated at $10–15 billion. The Japanese carrierWakashio, breaks in half spilling 1,000 tonnes of oil into the ocean, becoming the largest environmental disaster in the history of Mauritius. Deadly clashes erupt in Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, is assassinated near Tehran. A virus from a seemingly remote place in China spreads across the world leaving devastation in its wake. The stock market crashes, unemployment and evictions soar.
Almost the entire world is in various stages of (repeat) lock-downs.
All public events, including music, sports and religious gatherings are banned, including the Olympic Games in Japan.
Number of people infected with Covid-19: 80 million (and counting)
Number of people that died from Covid-19: 1.7 million (and counting) Humanly, 2020 has been one of the worst years in recent memory. The renovation mess is painfully real. However, since the Master Craftsman is infinitely powerful, good and trustworthy, I cannot wait to see the end result of this corporate and personal renovation. Additionally, since post-renovation is better than pre-renovation, when this project is completed, I look forward to the next one. Anush A John Photo by Scott Blake on Unsplash Photo by Alexander on Unsplash

The Youngest Servant - Humility and Service

A Sermon on Humility and Service Who is the greatest? Luke 22:24-26 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 1. The Grasp for Power 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. All for freedom and for pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world
Tears for Fears, Everybody wants to rule the world, 1986 Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, "Pride" 2. The Gift of Person Luke 22:25-26 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. I think it’s noteworthy that the Almighty didn’t act high and mighty. The Holy One wasn’t holier-than-thou. The One who knew it all wasn’t a know-it-all. The One who made the stars didn’t keep his head in them. The One who owns all the stuff of earth never strutted it.
… His purpose was not to show off but to show up. He went to great pains to be as human as the guy down the street. He didn’t need to study, but still went to the synagogue. He had no need for income, but still worked in the workshop. He had known the fellowship of angels and heard the harps of heaven, yet still went to parties thrown by tax collectors. And upon his shoulders rested the challenge of redeeming creation, but he still took time to walk ninety miles from Jericho to Cana to go to a wedding.
They called him a blasphemer, but they never called him a braggart. They accused him of heresy, but never arrogance. He was branded as a radical, but never called unapproachable.
Max Lucado, When God Whispers your Name Luke 22:26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. 1 Pet 5:2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve. 1 Cor 9:19-23 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. ….. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 3. Examples Phil 2:5-8 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Luke 7:36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. … 44 Then (Jesus) turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Photo by Danique Ter on Unsplash

The Forgotten Family

A Sermon on Church How can the Church be like a family? 1. Common Goal Psalm 34:3 Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. Isaiah 43:7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. 2. Individual Responsibility Acts 6: 1-4 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 3. Rules and Freedom 4. Irrational Love and Permanent Disagreements Matthew 22: 37-39 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Well, how exactly do I love myself? Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. …
Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do (and those are, no doubt, my worst moments) but that is not why I love myself. In fact, it is the other way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself.
… In my most clear- sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing.
However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact, the very reason why I hated the things (I did) was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.
CS LEWIS, Mere Christianity, “Forgiveness” Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. Having disagreements in a family shows a closer bond than one with absolutely no disagreements. 5. Daily Adoption Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord… Colossians 1:21-22 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you The church on earth that is truly fulfilling its mission will always be an imperfect church. Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

The Lure of Comfort Giving

Do we need to rethink our concept of giving? Throughout the centuries, people of God have been encouraged to give back to God. It intuitively feels like the right thing to do - God has given us his blessings and we give back in return. This particular discipline is called tithing. The command in times past was to give ten percent of whatever you had back to God. In those days, it meant material goods, but it also included money. Over time, with wealth not being counted by the number of animals one had or the amount of agriculture one harvested, monetary giving became the norm. Thus, in the matter of giving back to God, ten percent of one’s money became standard. In the New Testament, of course, the concept of the ten percent tithe is not commanded. Instead, just as a child would give without limit (and without keeping tabs) to his parents, so also, we are to give whatever we can to our Father in Heaven. Yet money is not the only possession we have. Money is not the only gift that God has given us. We also have an objective and a subjective gift available to us – time and energy. Though we talk about giving money to God, we rarely ever emphasize the giving of time and energy to God. Doesn’t God deserve our time and energy just as we give Him our money? (Of course, there are numerous people that could care less about giving God money either). How good of a parent would one be if they gave money to their kids but did not spend a single minute or spend an ounce of energy on them? We would rightly conclude that they are less than adequate parents. If you are a good father or mother, you will spend time with your kids, energy for your kids, and, of course, spend money on your kids. Needless to say, there are many people who, having received good gifts from God would obediently choose to give money to God, but unwittingly never think of giving God their time or energy. Even if we went by the ancient rules, ten percent giving to God would be a definite 2 hours and 24 minutes every day and an arbitrary amount of energy in a day. [For a couple of sermons on investment including time, money and effort, see here: Retirement Planning] But I want to take this further. Is it fair for us to base our giving on ancient rules? Let me examine this under each category: 1. Time When I was a kid, since we stayed just outside the city limits, we did not have running water. For a few years, we had to get water for our daily use from outside. My brothers and I would spend about one and a half hours every day after school to get water for the house. Today, simply by having running water, I have saved 90 minutes every day and have that time available for use. Living a normal life in the past occupied a large amount of time. For example, the mode of travel in the distant past (during the time of Jesus, for instance) was walking. Getting from point A to point B would take hours and days. Everything took time to do. Today, because of the progress of living, we have many extra hours every week to do whatever we please to do. 2. Energy In the past when people didn’t have resources that we enjoy today, they used their energy for basic living. I remember visiting my grandparents’ home in rural Kerala, India during our summers hols. They used to gather and stack firewood to make food. Making food to sustain the family was a task that required a lot of effort. There would be several people involved to ensure that three full meals were placed on the table. Getting the water, chopping the firewood, bringing the raw food materials, and then cooking it with rudimentary equipment. Just in the matter of food, with the increased amenities today we have lots of energy to spare. Think of all the other ways that we are saving our energy for basic living. 3. Money Most of the people during Bible times that gave their money to God came from poverty-stricken cultures and backgrounds. Yet, they freely gave. Acts 2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Most of the common people living today live in significant wealth when compared to the common people in the Bible (even if we adjust for inflation and the cost of living). Yet, in terms of giving, we give the same percentage back to God. True, giving a percentage means that you are giving proportionally more to God. But it is also true that we have proportionally more money available for personal use with the remaining 90% than someone who lived in the first century. (or 2000 BC, for that matter). What do we do with the extra time, money, and energy that we have saved due to the advancement and amenities of life? Our giving today does not account for the resources saved due to life advancement. We use the extra on ourselves. We have bought more things, spend our lives on getting more activities and spend our time on vacuous things that have minimal eternal value. And then, probably inadvertently, we continue to pat ourselves on our backs since we are giving God the amount that we think will pacify Him. [For a sermon on Money, see here: Two Classes] I suggest that with the proportional gain in time, money, and effort that we have today, rather than spending it on temporal idiosyncratic wants, we should invest it back into God’s service that has eternal value. Not because we have to, but because we want to, because we love Him, because He has given us everything already and because we would rather invest our resources on eternal things rather than temporary fleeting lures. As GK Chesterton said, "If my children wake up on Christmas morning and thank Santa for the gifts in their stockings, do I have no one to thank for putting two feet into mine?" Then maybe we will change from comfort giving to sacrificial giving. #time #giving #money #effort #energy #tithe #advance #gratitude Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

The 70/30 Rule of Satisfaction

I was chatting with my cousin today on job satisfaction and other life issues. As we were talking I stumbled on a realization about the reality of satisfaction. Here's my theory: 100% is an impossible number to obtain to be satisfied. We can never be 100% satisfied with anyone or anything. So, I arbitrarily chose a lower number. I wonder if we can be satisfied only 70% with anyone or anything? What if, the most anyone can be satisfied is around 70%. Then, anything beyond this is not the general reality. This obviously has wide implications. Some examples follow: a. When I look for an employee, is it realistic for me to expect someone who fits all the criteria 100%? No, it is not practical. If I can get someone who fulfills 70% of the criteria as long as the critical ones are fulfilled, I should choose to be content. b. If you are working at an office or any job: Expecting to have 100% job satisfaction is unrealistic. If we stand back and see the big picture: if we can get 70% of the perfect workplace, the perfect boss, the perfect co-workers, then we should be satisfied. c. When you get married, is your spouse about to fulfill 100% of your dreams? Absolutely not! If you can get about 70% compatibility and agreement, it is probably the most we can get. (the same with family members). d. When you have children, will they listen to you and obey you 100% of the time? Even if they did that initially, it is just a matter of time before their individuality and personhood cause a drop in their compliance. e. With friends (or any other relationship), will anyone be 100% compatible with anyone else? Unlikely. Having a realistic expectation in every relationship will help in two ways: 1. It will help us to be content with what is reality. Contentment is a choice. So we can choose to be content with 70% compatibility and compliance. Alternatively, I can choose to be unhappy by focusing on the 30%. So, Paul can say, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4:12) 2. It can help us to avoid disappointment and therefore jeopardize relationships. When our expectations are lower, then disappointment is also lower. If I get into any relationship knowing that the most I will be satisfied is 70%, then anything in that relationship that doesn't gel with me, I can easily attribute it to the 30%. (For a sermon on contentment, see here: Mud Pies) Thus, a. Once you realize that your employee won't be the perfect employee fulfilling 100% of the role, then employers can account for it in other ways, other than placing unnecessary pressure on the employee and in the company. b. Once we know that any person can only find 70% fulfillment in a job or in an employer, that will prevent him/her from quitting her job or getting frustrated. Instead, they will work around the 30% that cannot be fulfilled. c. Once we realize that we can have only 70% compatibility with our spouses (at best), then we won't put unnecessary pressure on the relationship or look outside the relationship in the futile effort to get the elusive 100% satisfaction. For those who are looking for spouses, expecting to have a potential spouse to be 100% compatible is unrealistic. d. Once we realize that we can have only 70% compliance from our children, then we won't treat them like robots (that would give 100% compliance). Rather, we will treat them like people with minds and personalities of their own. e. Once we realize that we may only get 70% similarity in viewpoints and thinking (at best) with friends, neighbors, and colleagues, then we are free to disagree and yet continue the friendship. At the end of the day, my own views and personality change over time. Thus over time, I am not 100% compatible with myself! How then can I expect to be fully compliant with another unique individual? Aiming for a lower number, like 70% and choosing to be content with that, is more realistic and likely to result in more successful (and compatible) relationships. #relationship #compatible #friendship #family #realistic #spouse #wife #husband #content #happy #choice Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

The Gates of Hell - The Difficult Matter of Hell

A Sermon on Hell Objections to the Concept of Hell Why can’t God simply annihilate the evildoers, instead of eternal punishment? Why can’t Hell be a short-term punishment instead of an eternal one? Why doesn’t God try to reform sinners rather than punishing them forever? Is eternal damnation an overkill for temporary sins? How can anyone be happy in heaven if a Loved One Is in Hell? Why Did God Create People if he knew that they were bound for Hell? If people are born as sinners how can they be blamed? How can a loving God send people to Hell? Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today - John Lennon, Imagine. 1971 A. The Existence of Hell The existence of hell has been defended by arguments both from Scripture and from human reason. 1. Evidence from Scripture 2. God’s Justice Demands a Hell Romans 2:6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”11 For God does not show favoritism. Genesis 18:25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Habakkuk 1:13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Psalm 73:3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 3. God’s Sovereignty demands a Hell 1 Cor. 15:24–25 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 4. God’s Redemptive plan indicates the presence of Hell Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Rom 4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Hebrews 13:12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 5. Love Demands a Hell 1 John 4:16 …. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. Matt. 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. “the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of his scheme forbids him to use. Merely to override a human will … would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo” CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’” CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters B. Pictures of Hell Revelation 20:1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. Revelation 20:7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison. Matt 5:25–26 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. Those who believe in a salvation by works, will be working infinitely to pay off the debt. Matt 8:12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 2 Pet. 2:17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. Matt 25:41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 2 Thess. 1:7–9 This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. C. Inhabitants 2 Peter 2:4,9 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; …then the Lord knows how to … hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 2 Thess. 1:8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. D. The Punishment 1. Eternal Matt. 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Matt. 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Rev. 20:10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. 2. Conscious Phil 1:21-23 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; Luke 16:23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 3. Suffering Luke 16::22-24 The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ Rev. 2:11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death. Heb 9:27 … people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, Luke 16:27-28 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Do you want to take a leap of faith or become an old man filled with regret waiting to die alone?”

Saito (Ken Watanabe) asks Cobb (Leonardo di Caprio), Inception, 2010 Matt. 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Mark 12:38-40 38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” . Luke 16:26 between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ Last thing I remember
I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
"Relax", said the night man
"We are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave"
Eagles, Hotel California, 1977 Revelation 20:14-15 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. #hell #heaven #sin #evil #justice #punishment #sovereignty #eternal #suffering #escape #salvation Photo by David Werbrouck on Unsplash

A Certain Hope - Hope in Uncertain Times

A Sermon on Hope Numbers 6:22-27 22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ 27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” A. What is hope? It is a confidence of actual goodness for the present and the future, based on actions in the past and the present. I just keep on hoping that you call me
You say you wanna see me but you can't right now
You never took the time to get to know me
Was scared of losing something that we never found
- Post Malone, Hollywood’s bleeding B. The Need for Hope. C. The Basis for Hope. Isaiah 29:7-8 will be as it is with a dream, with a vision in the night— 8 as when a hungry person dreams of eating, but awakens hungry still; as when a thirsty person dreams of drinking, but awakens faint and thirsty still. 1 Cor 15:19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. What is the basis for our hope? 1. the secular humanistic worldview God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him” - Frederick Nietzsche, Prussian philosopher, 19th Century The Worldly Hope men set their hearts upon
Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two—is gone.
Omar Khayyam, Persian philosopher and Mathematician, 11th Century 2. the Christian worldview It is a confidence of (God’s) actual goodness for the present and the future, based on (God’s) actions in the past and (human responses in) the present. Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
I will be hoping that this letter finds you and finds you well.
- Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption, 1994 John 2:19-22 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. The hope of a secular humanist is based on humans.
The hope of a Christian is based on a human – Jesus Christ. Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Eph 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us #hope, #atheism, #humanism, #secularism, #Nietzsche, #goodness, #confidence, #certain, #hardship, #enlightenment, #depression, #hopeless, #hopelessness, #good, #suicide Photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The uniqueness of the Christian concept of God is that of the Triune nature of God – that God is One being with Three persons in the Godhead – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The church is the body of God’s work on earth. Though few people have questions about the role of God the Father and Jesus Christ in the church today, there seems to be some confusion about the role of the Holy Spirit in the church today. One of the points of contention in some churches is that of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and its related issue - the filling of the Holy Spirit. The Pentecostal/charismatic churches believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a separate event after conversion. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the Baptist/Brethren etc. churches that believe in the complete cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The key then is to understand what the baptism of the Holy Spirit really is and then the meaning of what it means to be filled in the Spirit will also be revealed. What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? What is the filling of the Holy Spirit? Before we look at the answers to these questions, there is an important hermeneutical rule that needs to be addressed. It is the lack of knowledge of this rule that prevents an accurate exegesis and therefore the existence of wrong teaching that pervades certain churches. Historical vs Didactic There is a difference between historical accounts and didactic letters. Historical accounts focus on a collection of experiences. Didactical accounts focus on teachings. The New Testament contains both genres of content. The book of Acts is mainly an experiential, historical account. Even then it is not an account of ALL the things that happened historically. It is just a collection of some of the things that happened in the first century as collected by Luke the physician. In general, we don’t formulate theology or theological principles from experiences. Instead, our experiences should be evaluated in the light of theological principles. Hence, any argument for any doctrine should come primarily out of the letters or out of the didactic parts of the historical narratives and not out of the experiences themselves. Any doctrine that is purely formed out of inferences from experiences should be treated with suspicion. For example. if you read the historical account in the book of Acts and then formulated your doctrine of the gift of tongues, as some churches do, then you will come to the conclusion that every time there was the expression or presence of the Holy Spirit mentioned, there was the use of the gift of tongues. But this is simply not true because when you read 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and 14 you find out that the gift of tongues has a much lesser role in the church. At the same time, even though the Gospels are primarily historical accounts, we can obviously formulate theological doctrines from the didactical parts of it. So, for example, the majority of the doctrine of hell arises out of the teachings of Jesus in the historical accounts of the Gospels. Only in cases where there is no guidance in the didactical accounts should anyone look at historical examples to infer doctrine. Thus, for the questions on the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit, we turn to the epistles and to the didactic parts of the historical books first, and then evaluate the experiences in the historical accounts based on established doctrine. Baptism of the Holy Spirit The charismatic churches believe that it is a separate event because of the examples in the book of Acts that seems to indicate it as a separate event. So what is the baptism of the Holy Spirit from the didactical portions of scripture? The term “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” occurs 7 times in the New Testament. In the first four occurrences, John the Baptist is speaking about Jesus and predicting that he will baptize people in (or with) the Holy Spirit: Matthew 3:11: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Mark 1:8: “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Luke 3:16: “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” John 1:33: “He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” ’ From these verses, the conclusion that we can draw is that Jesus is the one who will baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit. The next two passages refer directly to Pentecost: Acts 1:5: [Here Jesus says,] “John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 11:16: [Here Peter refers back to the same words of Jesus that were quoted in the previous verse. He says,] “I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” From these two passages, we understand that Baptism in the Holy Spirit happened on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 and 3000 people were converted. (Acts 2:14). All six of these verses use almost exactly the same expression in Greek, with the only differences being some variation in word order or verb tense to fit the sentence, and with one example having the preposition understood rather than expressed explicitly.9 The only remaining reference in the New Testament is in the Pauline epistles: 1 Corinthians 12:13 (NIV): “For we were all baptized in one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” The Greek text of this verse is similar to that of the other six verses. Paul says ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι … ἐβαπτίσθημεν (“in one Spirit … we were baptized”). The only difference is that he refers to “one Spirit” rather than “the Holy Spirit” – but when you look at the context, there is no question that he is indeed referring to the Holy Spirit when he says “one spirit”. Otherwise, all the other elements are the same: the verb is βαπτίζω and the prepositional phrase contains the same words (ἐν, plus the dative noun πνεύματι from πνεῦμα). This verse says that Baptism in the Spirit happens in order to add a person to the body of Christ. Question: When does a person become a member of the body of Christ? Answer: At conversion. Baptism of the Spirit, therefore, happens when a person is added to the Body of Christ, and that is at conversion. Now that the doctrine is established using the didactic portions of the scriptures, we can then explain the experiential in light of the didactic. The Baptism of the Spirit occurred for the first time on the day of Pentecost (for it was still future when Jesus spoke of it in Acts 1:5, and Peter mentions it as happening first at Pentecost in Acts 11:15–16). The Pentecost and the accounts of the works of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts reflect the transition of the old covenant and the new covenant. Even though the disciples were being drawn to God throughout the previous 3 years, they do not receive this full new covenant empowering for ministry until the Day of Pentecost, for Jesus tells them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). The Filling of the Spirit Most of the other mentions of the interaction of the Holy Spirit and believers are about the Filling of the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit is that fullness that a believer experience of the Holy Spirit who is already within him. At conversion, the Holy Spirit (God) enters into a human being in an inexplicable metaphysical union. Once the Holy Spirit enters a person, He does not leave. John 14.16 This is different than in the Old Testament where the Holy Spirit would come upon a person for a specific task and then leave once that task was completed. For example. Judges 6:34 But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him. However, since the example of Jesus, in whom the Holy Spirit was permanent, a similar relationship can be expected for the followers of Jesus. John 1:33 ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him [Jesus], this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ This entrance of the Holy Spirit in a person is seen at the baptism of the Holy Spirit, ie. at conversion, as explained above. Having received the Holy Spirit at conversion, it is then imperative to maintain a daily relationship with the Holy Spirit who is inside of us. Essentially this is called the filling of the Spirit in which the Holy Spirit has complete control over our lives while we have zero control. However due to our humanness men do to our sin circumstances the Holy Spirit does not have complete control i.e. we are not continually filled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit who was already inside of us. The Holy Spirit is not a prescription, such that we take a 2 mg dose of the Holy Spirit today and a 4 mg dose of the Holy Spirit tomorrow. Instead he is a person. Therefore he is either inside us or outside us. The Filling of the Holy Spirit is not whether the Holy Spirit is in us or outside of us. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is what determines whether he is in us or outside of us. Once He is in us, He can be stifled such that we don’t live in His fullness. The usual example I gave is that of a red tablet in a glass of water. There is a period after which the red tablet is dropped into the glass of water where the water is not completely red. But in a few moments, the red tablet dissolves causing the entire water to turn red. Many Christians live in the phase of having the Holy Spirit within us and yet not experiencing his fullness within us. The characteristics of a person filled in the Spirit are: 1. Increasing Christ-likeness. Galatians 5.22-23.The Holy Spirit desires to have extensive influence and control in a believer’s life. This continuous filling by the Spirit produces a certain character – that of Jesus – called Sanctification. Filling of the spirit results in control by the spirit leads to maturity. Luke 4.1. With increasing maturity comes increasing revelation of further areas that need to be under the control of the Spirit. When we respond and allow the spirit to take more control of these areas, we become more mature and more spiritual. It is a slowly progressive process. 2. Worship The Holy Spirit always exalts Jesus. John 16.14. Thus when you are filled constantly you will have a love for Jesus. Romans 5.5. 3. Relational Submissiveness. Ephesians 5:21. Spirit control affects all the relationships of life so that proper harmony will be experienced between husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees. Self-control, on the contrary, will disrupt that harmony. 4. Victory over sin: Galatians 8.5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 5. Service: The desire to serve especially by spreading the message of Jesus to people. Acts 2:4—2:41; 4:31—5.14; 6.3—6.7; praying – 4.24; giving – 4.34 Passion for souls – something will burn within you. Empowering for ministry is a sovereign act of God whereby he possesses someone for a special activity. Whenever God has needed to use somebody for his purpose, He first fills them with the Spirit. There are numerous examples in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament Luke 1.15; Acts 2.4; 4.8, 31; 13.9. On our own strength, we don’t have the power to do His work. Without the Spirit leading worship will be a performance, sermons would be an oration, prayers would be mere eloquence, fasting would be a stoic appreciation of your sacrifice and evangelism would be a futile show of the ability to convince. Here then are some differences between the Baptism and the Filling of the Spirit: How can a person be baptized by the Holy Spirit? By coming into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Rom 10:9; John 1:12 How can a person be filled by the Holy Spirit? There is no example in all Scripture of any believer asking to be filled by the Spirit. (Eph 1:17) 1. Dedication of Self. Since the filling of the Spirit involves control, we need to completely and continuously dedicate our selves to God for His use and control. It depends on submission to God’s will – Eph 5.17. If we rebel against the will of God, then the Spirit does not have control over us. The more we come under the will of God, the more the Holy Spirit fills us. 2. Spirit-filling involves not grieving the Spirit (Eph 4:30). What is it that grieves Him? Sins of any kind. The filling is from within. He is a person who is on the inside but suppressed from having complete reign by our desires/sin/lifestyle. 3. The Spirit-filled life is a life of dependence (Gal 5:16). God wants us to depend on Him for our every need. The Spirit comes with power for any life situation. The Filling of the Spirit happens the more we empty ourselves, confess our sins, and surrender our desires. It is a cycle. My hope is that everyone gets to a Baptism of the Holy Spirit and every such person would live in the daily filling of the Holy Spirit. References Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1994 Photo by kaleb tapp on Unsplash

Name Brand - The Blessing God Gives

A Sermon on Blessing Numbers 6:22-27 22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ 27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” A. The Lord bless you 1. He is present to Bless 2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Psalm 30:7 LORD, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. 2. He is present to Punish Amos 9:1–4 1 I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and he said: “…. Not one will get away, none will escape. 2 Though they dig down to the depths below, from there my hand will take them. … 4 Though they are driven into exile by their enemies, there I will command the sword to slay them. “I will keep my eye on them for harm and not for good.” Heaven is where the face of God is fully turned Toward with His Presence to Bless. Hell is where the face of God is fully turned Away with His Presence to Punish. Hebrews 10:31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. What makes Hell terrifying is not just the absence of the Lord to bless, but the presence of the Lord to punish. B. The Lord keep you. Jude 1:24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— Luke 17:33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. Luke 15:4-6 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ John 6:37-40 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. … 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” C. The Lord be gracious to you Divine Grace is a voluntary, undeserved and unaffordable goodness shown by a Superior Being to an inferior being. 1. Voluntary Exodus 33:19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, … I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 2. Undeserved Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 3. Unaffordable Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. D. The Lord give you peace. Mark 4:35-41 35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Real inner peace is not one when there is serenity outside, but one that exists in the midst of a raging storm. John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. E. His Name on you. Isaiah 44:5 Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel. Ephesians 1:13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. Revelation 22:4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. #bless, #punish, #heaven, #hell, #peace, #grace, #promise, #calm, Photo by Two Paddles Axe and Leatherwork on Unsplash

When God Broke - Feeding the Five Thousand

A Sermon on Feeding the 5000 Matthew 14:13-21 (NIV) 13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” 16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” 17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. 18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. 1. A flawed pursuit Matthew 14:13-14 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. John 6:25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. 2. A problem that is too big Mark 6:30-31 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Matthew 14:15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” 16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” John 6:5-6 (Jesus) said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. John 6:7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” John 6:8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. 3. The issue of the one gift John 6:9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish… Matthew 10:42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Don’t let the inability to provide a feast prevent you from giving a cup of cold water. 4. The basket of broken bread Matthew 14:20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

The Birth of Twins - A Glance at Death

A fleeting glimpse into death and the afterlife "Death" The idea behind the word is morbid and the mood it evokes is somber. It brings an air of finality and reeks of separation. Since there is no right time to talk about it, now is the time. In the last several months I have heard about or seen the death of several people close to me. One, the mother of a friend who was in her 60's, another friend in his 40's and my cousin in his early 30's. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the coronavirus pandemic has brought the topic to the forefront. The virus has thus far claimed more than 500,000 lives, (including a cousin in his 40's) such that most people know someone or know of someone who died of the illness. My goal is not to examine the different religious views on death and the afterlife. Yet, I will briefly mention the atheistic/humanistic view since it is in stark contrast to the Christian view that I want to discuss. The atheistic/humanistic view is a nihilistic view of life similar to the Buddhist view of Nirvana. When death happens, it is all over. Nirvana is what is left when you blow out the candle. There is no existence, no relationships, no heaven, no hell, and no afterlife. Many people today unconsciously subscribe to this view as if it is the most peaceful view. This is obviously not a new idea. John Lennon, in his 1971 ballad, “Imagine” sings that we should imagine no heaven or hell, instead, imagine a life on earth that is blissful. This, like John Lennon said, is not reality. It is pure imagination. Life on earth is not blissful. It is burdensome and tedious. Yes, there are some fleeting moments of happiness sandwiched between the routines of burden. From the time each of us grew out of the new-born stage, life, from a human viewpoint, has never been truly blissful. Of all the views, the atheistic/humanistic view is the most hopeless. It is one thing if we all were born into palaces with no pain or discomfort throughout life and then at death, we disappeared into oblivion and the candle was blown out. But that is not the case. Much of the developing world suffers from physical and economic problems, the developed world suffers from mental and emotional issues. A virus that is 120 billionths of a meter has reminded us that even the bravest or wealthiest or most privileged person in the world can be brought to their knees by microscopic enemies. Then, there is the issue of relationships here on earth. In the atheistic view, every relationship - acquaintances, friends, siblings, parents, children - every relationship disappears at death. There is no chance of ever seeing your loved one again. Is this blissful? In the age of Covid-19, death and separation are tragically seen too commonly. Jim Harris, received his late wife's ashes through the window of his car to maintain social distancing rules. He delicately clutched the wooden box with tear-filled eyes. In contrast, of all the philosophical and religious views on death, the most hopeful is the Christian view. I hope to explain the Christian view of death and the afterlife with an illustration, ironically, of birth. Specifically, the birth of twins. Death is like the birth of twins. A set of twins are together for almost 9 months. They grow together and seem more connected to each other than to anyone else. Life is perfect. They are warm, comfortable, and satisfied. Life is bliss, so to speak. Yet, they were made for another place and the cocoon they are in will never fully satisfy. Both of them were created for life outside the womb. They were never created for life with the womb as the destination. Life in the womb was always going to be a journey until they reach their destination outside. In the midst of their happiness and togetherness, one day, one of the twins is gone. The firstborn twin is dead from the womb, so to speak. Life was so sure, so comfortable, so certain and peaceful. But now, one twin is gone. If the second twin could talk, it would talk about the grief it feels. His best friend, his lifelong companion is no more. Life is not sure anymore. But the twin went to a better life, a fuller life, a much more abundant life than could be imagined in the womb. In comparison to the life outside the life in the womb seems so constricted, so shallow, and so limited. When the other twin is also born, they both will realize that the time of separation was extremely small compared to the life that is ahead. They will also realize that they can have a much fuller relationship than the one they had in the womb. [Further resources: Study on Heaven or a Sermon on Hell] We are all on a journey. This life is not our destination. In the 1970s, country crooner Jim Reeves sang, “This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through…” The longer we spend on earth, the more comfortable we might become. Yet, our lack of complete fulfillment in this life indicates that there is something else and some other place for which we were created. As CS Lewis argues from longing: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” None of us are created to exist on earth as the destination. We were all made for a different place, a better place. When the time comes, we each must exit the womb and make our way to the destination. Many have gone before us. We grieve when we think of those we love who have already gone. Life is not the same without them. But when we get on the other side, we will realize that this is where we were meant to be in the first place and our time on earth was just a journey to get us here. Life on the other side is real life and what we thought was a good time on earth, will seem to be tortuous and forgettable. How can life on earth be remotely happy with pain, sorrow, sadness, sin, and grief? But the Bible gives us a keyhole glimpse into heaven: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4 Once we get on the other side, we will also realize that the time of separation from those who went before us is extremely small compared to the life ahead. We will also realize that relationship with God and people can be on a much deeper level than could have ever been experienced while on earth. Unlike any other worldview, the Christian faith emphasizes the certainty of the blissful eternal afterlife for those who believe in Jesus. …whoever believes in (Jesus) shall have eternal life’. John 3:16 If there is no afterlife and no heaven, then there is no hope in the face of death. But, in the Christian worldview, death is not death but the birth of a life that we were meant to live – a life where life is truly bliss and relationships are the most fulfilling. This hope in the face of death exists because of the resurrection of Jesus and his eternal words of comfort: Because I live, you also will live. (John 14:19). His resurrected life guarantees our eternal life and a joyous reunion with those who went before us. What a glorious hope! #death #afterlife #heaven #nirvana #happiness #bliss #resurrection #life #atheism #buddhism #eternalLife #resurrectionofJesus #birth #twins Picture of Jim Harris: Daily Mail, US Edition 4/24/2020 Photo by Fallon Michael on Unsplash

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