Charles Stanley – What Is Heaven Like?

 

Revelation 21:1-27

Heaven is the believer’s future home, and we’ve all wondered what it’s like. But the Bible gives us only a glimpse. Even if God revealed more in Scripture, we’d be incapable of comprehending it. As earthly creatures, we lack the experience or frame of reference needed to understand the eternal realities of that dimension.

Desiring to know more about heaven, some people have sought information outside of the Bible, often in books written by people who claim to have gone there. However, the only legitimate source of facts about heaven is God’s Word—nothing else can be depended upon to have a sure foundation in truth.

When Paul was caught up to the third heaven, he “heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak” (2 Corinthians 12:4). None of his letters include any details of his experience. God also entrusted the apostle John with a vision of heaven, but human language is inadequate to convey the realities of that otherworldly realm.

Although we may not be able to visualize everything John describes, we can all relate to what he says about those things that are absent in heaven: There will be no more tears, death, mourning, or pain (Revelation 21:4). What’s more, we will never become stressed, exhausted, frustrated, angry, or sick, because our new bodies will be imperishable, sinless, and powerful (1 Corinthians 15:42-43). Heaven is a perfect environment with no sin or sinners in it. And best of all, God will dwell among us.

Bible in One Year: 2 Corinthians 1-4

 

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Our Daily Bread — The Flip Side of Love

 

Bible in a Year:

  • Ezekiel 42–44
  • 1 John 1

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

2 John 1:3

Today’s Scripture & Insight:2 John 1:1–11

The Roman inns during the time of Christ had a reputation so bad that rabbis wouldn’t even permit cattle to be left at them. Faced with such bad conditions, traveling Christians usually sought out other believers for hospitality.

Among those early travelers were false teachers who denied that Jesus was the Messiah. This is why the letter of 2 John tells its readers there is a time to refuse to extend hospitality. John had said in a previous letter that these false teachers were “antichrist—denying the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). In 2 John he elaborated on this, telling his readers that whoever believes Jesus is the Messiah “has both the Father and the Son” (v. 9).

Then he warned, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them” (v. 10). To extend hospitality to someone preaching a false gospel would actually help keep people separated from God.

John’s second letter shows us a “flip side” of God’s love. We serve a God who welcomes everyone with open arms. But genuine love won’t enable those who deceitfully harm themselves and others. God wraps His arms around those who come to Him in repentance, but He never embraces a lie.

By: Tim Gustafson

Reflect & Pray

How can you reflect God’s love in your relationships today? What issues might you need to confront in your own life or in the lives of others?

Father, You love us in Your truth. Help us extend that love to others with the unwavering grace that comes only from Your Spirit.

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Mysterious Safety

 

Someone told me recently that he wondered if humans only truly ever pray when we are in the midst of despair. Despite creed or confession, is it only when we have no other excuses to offer, no other comfort to hide behind, no more façades to uphold, that we are most likely to bow in exhaustion and be real with God and ourselves? “For most of us,” writes C.S. Lewis, “the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model.” In our distress, we stand before God as we truly are—creatures in need hope and mercy.

The words within the ancient Hebrew story of Jonah that are of most interest to me are words that in some ways seem not to fit in the story at all.(1) Interrupting a narrative that quickly draws in its hearers, a narrative about Jonah, the text very fleetingly pauses to bring us the voice of Jonah himself before returning again to the narrative. The eight lines come in the form of a distraught and despairing, though poetic prayer. And while it is true that the poem could be omitted without affecting the coherence of the story, the deliberate jaunt in the narrative text seems to provide a moment of significant commentary to the whole. The eight verses of poetry not only mark an abrupt shift in the tone of the text, but also in the attitude of its main character. The poetic words of the prophet, spoken as a cry of deliverance, arise from the belly of the great fish—a stirring image reminiscent of another despairing soul’s question: Where can I flee from your presence? If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me.

Jonah’s eloquent prayer for deliverance stands out in a book that is detailed with his egotistic mantras and glaring self-deceptions. By his own actions, Jonah finds himself in darkness, and yet it is in the dark that he speaks most honestly to God. The story is vaguely familiar to many hearers, and yet memory often seems to minimize the distress that broke Jonah’s silence with God. The popular notion that Jonah went straight from the side of the ship into the mouth of the fish is not supported by either the narrative as a whole or Jonah’s prayer. As one suggests, “[Jonah] was half drowned before he was swallowed. If he was still conscious, sheer dread would have caused him to faint—notice that there is no mention of the fish in his prayer. He can hardly have known what caused the change from wet darkness to an even greater dry darkness. When he did regain consciousness, it would have taken some time to realize that the all-enveloping darkness was not that of Sheol but of a mysterious safety.”(2)

When I think of the prayers I have offered in my deepest despair, the despair is always memorable, palpable even. And yet so is the sense that I was not yelling into an altogether empty darkness, that my voice was not alone, but that in this pained and enveloping darkness somehow the veil between creator and creature was parted. In the mysterious safety of the fish, Jonah seems to attest to the link between prayer and desperation; but more so, he attests to a God who hears in the void, whether the darkness is self-inflicted or thrown upon us like a violent sea. Likewise, the prophet reminds us of what is all too often our ironic refusal to face the face of a God who is equally present in the light of the ordinary. In prayer and desperation, Jonah saw himself without pretense. If only momentarily, the drowning prophet clung to a truth more secure than comfort and able than his alternatives: “Salvation belongs to the LORD.”

Sadly, Jonah’s distracted theology returned not long after the prayer was finished and his life was spewed back into normalcy. For many of us, it is a familiar tale. Honest words offered in despair remain with God in the darkness where we once cried out, the return of familiarity convincing us of a God more comfortably and safely remote. But if Jonah leaves us with a thought in the dark, it is the presence of options. Which view of God do you prefer? Which veil? Which distance? Which safety?

Once convinced there was a place he could flee from God’s presence, the prophet, sinking further into the depths of the sea, realized he was mercifully mistaken.

 

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

(1) See Jonah 2:2-10.
(2) H.L. Ellison, “Jonah,” The Expositors Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 374.

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Joyce Meyer – Keep Your Promises

 

…but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. — Psalm 15:4-5

Adapted from the resource Starting Your Day Right Devotional

There are times when I make a commitment to do something that later I regret. Then I try to figure out some way to get out of doing what I said I would do. I argue, “God, surely You don’t want me to do this thing and miss this other great opportunity.”

The only thing the Lord ever says to me is, “You gave your word, Joyce. Be a woman of integrity, and I will bless you.” If we are people of integrity, God will bring other good opportunities around another time with even more blessings.

Prayer Starter: Father, help me to always be a person of integrity. Help me to honor You by keeping my word and doing what I say I’ll do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – He Gives Richly

 

“Tell those who are rich not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone, but their pride and trust should be in the living God who always richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Arthur S. DeMoss was a gifted and godly businessman. He had built one of the most successful businesses of its kind in America and in the process had amassed a huge fortune of an estimated half a billion dollars. Then suddenly an economic recession began and stock in his company plummeted. He lost $360 million in a period of only four months – an average of $3 million a day – more than anybody had ever lost in such a short time. One would have thought he would have been devastated. Instead, in order to avoid decreasing his Christian giving, he (personally) borrowed funds, at an incredibly high rate of interest, to enable him to increase his giving. As we talked together during that period, he was rejoicing in the Lord.

“The Lord gave me everything I have,” he said. “It all belongs to Him and if He wants to take it away that’s His business. I don’t lose any sleep. I still have a wonderful family and my life-style remains unchanged. I am prepared to do anything that God wants me to do. If He takes away everything I own and wants me to go to the mission field, I’m ready to do it. All He needs to do is tell me.”

Art had his trust completely in the Lord and not in his vast fortune. God honored his faith and obedience and ultimately restored all that he had lost and much more. Art has gone to be with the Lord, but his fortune is still being used for the glory of God.

Paul’s answer to the believers of his day is just as appropriate to the believers of our time. No person should be unduly impressed with his wealth and look down with pride and arrogance on those whom he considers to be inferior. Riches are uncertain because they can be taken away from us. In the personal emergencies of life one cannot depend upon material possessions for strength and comfort. In times of tragedy – the loss of a loved one, a financial reversal, or some other disappointment – material possessions do not insure peace. Our trust must be in the living God who is able to supply all of our needs and do for us what riches cannot do.

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 6:6-16

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:> I will not take the blessing of God for granted and will not place my trust in any earthy possession. My confidence will be in Him who is the source of the supernatural life.

 

http://www.cru.org

Max Lucado – You Are Free to Go

 

Listen to Today’s Devotion

GUARD:             “You’re free to go!”

BARRABAS:     ”Wh…what?”

GUARD:             “They took the Nazarene instead of you!”

It happened so fast.  One minute Barabbas was in his cell on death row playing tic-tac-toe on the dirt walls. The next, he’s squinting his eyes at the bright sun. In many ways Barabbas stands for us; a prisoner freed because someone he’d never seen took his place.  Someone tossed him a life preserver and he grabbed it; no questions asked.

I can’t imagine him pulling some of our stunts.  We take our free gift of God’s grace and try to earn it or pay for it ourselves instead of simply saying, “thank you”, and accepting it.  Barabbas may not have understood mercy and he surely didn’t deserve it, but he wasn’t about to refuse it.  We, too, are prisoners with no chance for appeal.  Why some prefer to stay in prison while the cell door has been unlocked is a mystery worth pondering!

Read more No Wonder They Call Him Savior: Experiencing the Truth of the Cross

For more inspirational messages please visit Max Lucado.

 

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Denison Forum – From ‘Christmas Parade’ to ‘Winter Parade’: Two ways to experience the power of Christ this Christmas season

Charleston, West Virginia, has held an old-fashioned downtown Christmas Parade for many years. In early October, the city’s official Facebook page announced: “The Charleston Winter Parade will begin at the corner of the Kanawha Boulevard and Capitol Street.”

Their recently elected mayor made the change to signal that their city was a place for people of all faiths and cultures. However, that is not how many residents saw her decision. City council members learned about the name change when everyone else did. Then they began hearing from constituents who were upset.

On the third day after the mayor’s announcement, she changed her position and the Christmas Parade was back on.

A “Capitol Holiday Tree” and “Merry Coffee” cups

Divisions over Christmas seem to be escalating as our culture’s secularism escalates.

Here are two examples in the news: Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has renamed the state’s Christmas tree the “Capitol Holiday Tree.” And Starbucks recently unveiled new seasonal cups for the holidays, none of which uses the word Christmas.

Two of them say “Merry Coffee.” Each cup’s sleeve displays the words, “We wish you a merry coffee.” (A Starbucks spokesman noted that the company still offers a “Christmas blend” and that their stores will be decorated during the holidays with Christmas colors and candy cane ribbon.)

It is a cultural fact that secularism and relativism go hand in hand. In order to move away from historic religious truth and orthodox morality, secularists must begin by redefining truth and morality as personal and subjective. Once they convince us that “truth” is what we believe it to be, the way is clear to rename and redefine those religious beliefs and practices they find objectionable.

But, as John Adams wisely noted, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Shootings, storms, and suffering

Today’s news reminds us of our need for the unchanging Christmas truth that God has entered our broken world (Philippians 2:6–8) and is present with us still today (Matthew 28:20).

A Sunday early-morning shooting in New Orleans’ French Quarter wounded nearly a dozen people. Yesterday morning, a shooting in a Chicago suburb killed one person and injured several others.

Continue reading Denison Forum – From ‘Christmas Parade’ to ‘Winter Parade’: Two ways to experience the power of Christ this Christmas season