Saturday, July 11, 2015

Focusing on Heaven

Images like this are but a taste of what God has in store for us.  
What do you focus your life on?  For me, I have come to realize that the ultimate happiness in the world comes from the Lord, our creator.  He has a promise for all of us that if we follow His precious son, we will inherit the gift of eternal life.  We will be able to bask in His glory for all eternity.  Can you imagine?  An eternity in Heaven?  A place where there is no sickness.  A place where we do not have to fear death?  Where the most beautiful places we can't even imagine spread forth before us?   Where we have an infinite universe to explore and learn about for an unending period of time?

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.  (Revelation 21:4)
I think it sounds amazing, don't you?

Sadly, while this thought is very pleasing for most, many do not focus on God enough.  Many are content with going to church once a week and cracking open the Bible when told which verse they should read by a pastor.  God is everywhere and He has such an interest in the lives of all, yet so many are not interested in Him.  Or, if they are, it's only a fleeing interest that disappears when their favorite television show comes on the air.

Many people say that they want to be in Heaven, but their actions tell another story.  If asked, they say that they believe in Jesus and are happy for what he has done for them, but also take the stance that life in the world is meant to be enjoyed in ways that are not in harmony with the Lord.  Ask yourself: "Would I do what I do here in Heaven?"  If the answer is "no," you should not be doing it here on Earth.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8).
Many have turned from God and replace Him with things of this world such as drugs, alcohol, entertainment, strange vices, gambling, television, games, and other distractions that have nothing in them that could be called Holy.  Instead of reading the Bible, taking in the meanings, and contemplating the things that Jesus has done for us, many would rather let their mind be distracted on silly things that have no real place in the life of a Christian.  It may sound harsh to you, but watching people kill each other or smoking marijuana is not going to open any doors to the promised land.   And just because something is legal does not make it right in God's eyes.  Are you starting to hear me?

There is much beauty in the world - but it does not compare to the beauty that will exist on the New Earth.
We are to savor the things that God has given us.  There is a lot on this Earth that points towards Heaven, and we should savor those things.  We are given the ability to create.  What can we create that points to our Lord?  We have been given nature in its glory.  Although nature is disappearing, there is still areas for us to explore and behold.  We have been given the ability to comfort others and spread God's love.  Many of us have children that long to spend time with us.  We have stories about our lives that we can share with others.  We have been given the ability to reason - why not pick up the Bible and use our minds and go deep into our imagination, allowing us to understand more deeply the stories of Noah, Adam and Eve, Jesus and the disciples, or the patriarchs and prophets?

Every day the world slips further and further away from what Heaven will be like. We are to come out from the world and partake in a Godly life. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:17). Gay marriage has overtaken the news, and if you do not believe in gay marriage, you are told that you are a hate-monger. Marijuana has become legal all over the United States, and while it may have some health benefits in the plant itself, smoking marijuana, just like smoking cigarettes, is not healthy in the slightest. Remember: What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19).   People are arguing about what rights others should have.  Freedoms are being lost and fought for every day.  We are growing so materialistic and prideful that all we think about is fashion, new devices, technology, and ways to pacify ourselves while showing off to the rest of the world.  Everyone is involved in a war over being popular, "liked," and looking better and feeling smarter than everyone else.   Many spend years in college only to rack up debt and find that their degrees are useless in society.  Greed has overtaken the world - money is on the minds of the masses - and people will do just about anything to have more and more money, no matter how rich they are.  Look around you - people are sick and dying while others live in opulent mansions that cost tens of millions of dollars - and many don't even seem to care about their fellow human beings!  Jesus said "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15).

Places like this on Earth are a fantasy for many - on the New Earth, the entire earth will be covered in far greater.
We are to focus our time and our minds on the things of the Lord. We should be spending time daily meditating on God, Heaven, Jesus, and things that go beyond the cares of this world. Why spend your days building up treasures on a planet where death is the end result, where vice and crime run rampant, where greed permeates like a rampant disease, and where pride and envy fight like beasts? Why not come out of the world and walk as Christ did? Can you truly say you are better than that? If not in words, look to your deeds? Pray that the Lord will guide your mind, to help you know right from wrong, and to let you focus on the eternal prize. Ask the Lord to remove unnecessary want from your life and to be content and thankful for the things that you have been blessed with. Ask Him to take away your want to partake in senseless and violent entertainment and speculation, and instead, fill your heart and mind with the things that are pure and Holy. Open your Bible again and begin to understand just how amazing of a book it is. No other book or form of media comes remotely close.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

What Does the Bible Teach About Love and Friendship?

What is a friend?  

It can be said that a friend is a person who we feel deep love for.  Many would say that they are willing to die for their friends.  A friend can be someone we have known all our lives, or a person we just met.  Sometimes a friend is someone who has gone a separate way in life.  Even if you no longer talk to that person due to distance and life changes, you are still friends.

Jesus is the ultimate friend.  He died for you and me.  He did not come here to live a comfortable life or to gain earthly power.  He could have had those things.  Instead, he took on a humble existence, traveling from town to town, eating what others would give Him, sleeping wherever he found a place to sleep.  He stated: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58). 

What does the Bible say about Love?

“And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.”  (1. Corinthians 13:3-5).

Nothing is worth doing without love.  It is said that God is love.  “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (John 4:8).  Like God, we are to show love in all we do.  Jesus would have never died for us if He did not love us.  His crucifixion and death would have been empty without love.  Think about it, why would a man chose to be tortured and die if He did not love those who He died for?  Jesus gave everything for us because He loves us.  In order for us to be like Jesus, we are to do our best to love everyone - even those who we have fought with in the past.  I can tell you from personal experience, life is a lot better when we treat people with love, respect, and the same courtesy that Jesus showed for others.

"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3: 16)
What does it mean to love?  Jesus gives a good example in Luke:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31).

The Ten Commandments are about love.  The first four are about loving the creator, God.  The last 6 are about loving our fellow man.  (Shown below are a shortened form of the 10 Commandments - for a more thorough study of the 10 commandments, see this page).  
1. I am the LORD your God. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not worship idols, for I am the LORD your God.
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor your Father and Mother
6. You shall not murder
7. You shall not commit adultery
8. You shall not steal
9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's possessions.
God gave us the commandments so that we can know how to love Him as well as each other.  While it is hard for us to always follow the commandments, and sometimes we make mistakes, Jesus, like a good friend, forgives us of our sins.  

How else can we love?  The Bible has a lot to say about loving each other:

1. Listen Without Interrupting.

"A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

2. Speak Without Accusing.

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:”
(James 1:19)

3. Give Without Sparing.

"He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not.” (Proverbs 21:26)

4. Pray Without Ceasing.

"For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;”
(Colossians 1:9)

5. Answer Without Arguing.

"Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1)

6. Share Without Pretending.

"But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Ephesians 4:15)

7. Enjoy Without Complaint. 

"Do all things without murmurings and disputings:” (Philippians 2:14)

8. Trust Without Wavering.

"Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1st Corinthians 13:7)

9. Forgive Without Punishment.

"Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Colossians 3:13)

10. Promise Without Forgetting.

"A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth: but the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence.” (Proverbs 13:2)

Reflect on those verses often as you go through life.  How we treat people here on earth prepares us for how we are to treat others when we are together in Heaven.  Write these verses in your heart and make them a part of your life.  Remember, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).