Eternal Life

What is eternal life? Well, the Greek word that is translated as ‘eternal’ in the New Testament is a word that means: “1) without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be 2) without beginning 3) without end, never to cease, everlasting.” Using those definitions, we can readily see that number one and two apply to God and definition number three is applicable to eternal life as it refers to the prospective fate of saved humanity. But as we read the Bible, we discover that definition is not so cut and dried as it seems. For instance, in the book of Revelation, there is a descriptive scene in which the devil, the false prophet, and all those whose names were not found in the Book of Life, will be cast into the lake of fire and tormented forever. Now, the last time I checked; forever and everlasting were terms that meant basically the same thing! Hence there must be more to eternal life than just living forever, because, according to the Bible, everyone; the saved and the lost, will live forever! The question is where?

Another wrinkle in the equation comes from the revelation in the Bible that eternal life is not something that believers get when they die! The Bible teaches; eternal life is a present-possession of the believer! Jesus said, in John 5:24:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (ESV) Note the use of the past-tense; ‘has eternal life’ and ‘has passed from death to life.’ The beloved Apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:14-15: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (ESV) Again, note the verb tense; eternal life is not something that is awarded to the believer at death, eternal life is a present-possession!

Therefore, since there is more to eternal life than just living forever and eternal life is something that believers presently possess, then apparently eternal life must also have something to do with the ‘quality’ of life! Jesus gave an insightful definition of eternal life in John 17:3. In his high priestly prayer in Gethsemane, on the eve of his passion, Jesus said to the Father: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (ESV) According to Jesus, eternal life is knowing the only true God and knowing Jesus Christ who was sent by the only true God!

Now, this ‘knowing’ the only true God and ‘knowing’ Jesus Christ, who was sent by the only true God, is more than just an intellectual knowing. In the Bible, the terms; ‘know’ and ‘knowing’ are often used as euphemisms for intimate sexual relations. In the Genesis 4:1, we read: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” (ESV) It is obvious from the context, that the birth of Cain did not happen simply by Adam finding out all he could about Eve! No! The phrase; “Now Adam knew Eve his wife” meant Adam had ‘carnal knowledge,’ Adam had sexual intercourse with Eve and as a result; Cain was produced! In John 17:3, of course sexual intercourse is not in view, but rather an intimate spiritual relationship is suggested! Eternal life is an intimate spiritual relationship with the only true God and an intimate spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ, who was sent by the only true God!

Of course, the primary way to facilitate this spiritual relationship, from the human stance is to begin with intellectual knowledge. But, isn’t that how all relationships begin? People who are married, and even those who aren’t, didn’t become sexually intimate at first sight! (At least, they shouldn’t have, but it’s a different world these days!) No! Usually couples get to know one another first! And how do they get to know one another? They do so by the exchanging of ideas and thoughts through verbal and written communication. They talk to one another and they write notes and letters to one another! Well, in the same way, God speaks and communicates to humanity through His love letter; the Bible! In the Bible, we can read about what God is like, what God likes and what God dislikes! In the Bible we discover God’s character and attributes. As we respond to what we read in God’s love-letter to us, we follow God’s instructions and dictates and begin to communicate (pray) with Him. As we comply with God’s terms of the relationship as expressed in God’s love-letter, God gives us His Spirit to live within us and the relationship deepens to the level of spiritual intercourse through worship. Just as you can’t really make love (you can only have sex with) to a person you don’t know; we can only praise and worship God as we get to know Him. The acts of praise and worship (including prayer and the various other spiritual disciplines) strengthen and intensify the spiritual relationship that promotes and fosters, what Jesus called: eternal life!

As a result of eternal life, the believer lives a life that is qualitatively different and superior to the unbeliever who does not have eternal life. This eternal life is characterized by love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) The believer consistently experiences, from day to day, God’s supernatural favor and grace in ways that cannot be rationally explained! Eternal life is not just a ‘retirement plan’ for life in Heaven nor just ‘fire insurance’ to insure against life in Hell; eternal life is the Kingdom life God originally intended and created man to have on earth, as outlined in Genesis 1:26-28. Because of sin, death (the physical separation of the body from the spirit/soul)  is the experience of all men! However, eternal life provides the means and assurance of victorious living in the present and in the future; eternal life is now and later!

Pseudo-Prophets & Blessings

There is a disturbing trend in much of the preaching in some church circles today. I’ve been hearing it for the past several years, but I was prompted to write about it after recently running across a Facebook post of a minister preaching a prophetic word of blessings. His message went something like this: “The Lord sent me here tonight to tell you that this is your season to be blessed!” Now mind you, this was said in an open preaching session with a church full of people, many who were saved, but no doubt; some who were not. My first issue with his statement is this: First of all, the people of God are already blessed with all/every blessing they need (see Ephesians 1:3 and 2 Peter 1:3) and secondly; the greatest need of the unsaved is the blessing of salvation! But in the context of this proclamation, it was obvious that the blessings the preacher were referring to were primarily physical and financial! But, was it possible that everybody in the room was at the same juncture in life? I think it was a bit presumptuous to assume everybody in that room was in the same place or on the same level spiritually. Therefore, even if it really was ‘someone’s’ season to be blessed {if there really is such a season} it wasn’t everyone’s season! I think it’s a dangerous practice to utter specific prophetic proclamations to general crowds! Then, the preacher really got the crowd involved by encouraging interaction, telling them: “Now, turn to your neighbor and tell them: ‘It’s your season!” Seriously? I think that sometimes, preachers do and say things because: (1) They saw or heard of somebody else (a well-known preacher) doing it! and (2) It looks or sounds spiritual or deep. But, if they were to really just study the Scripture for themselves and think about the practical application of what they are saying and advocating, they would find that many times, what they are saying and doing makes no practical sense and really amounts to spiritual foolishness! It is practically and spiritually impossible for everyone to be in the same season at the same time! Therefore to issue a mass prophetic word, is at best spiritual foolishness and at worst spiritual deception! In the Old Testament, the acid test of a true prophetic word and a true prophet was fulfillment. If what the prophet said came to pass, he was judged as a true prophet and the word was validated as being a word from the Lord. However, if what the prophet said did not come to pass, he was judged as a false prophet and the law declared that he should be stoned to death! Oh! We take the idea of ‘speaking for the Lord’ too lightly these days, but in biblical times it was serious and often deadly business! Then the preacher went on to say: “The Lord told me to tell you that He’s about to bring you out! Whatever you’ve been going through; it’s over now! You are about to walk into your victorious season!” Again; seriously? I know the preacher was trying to inspire the crowd and give them hope, but for many in that crowd, they were offered a ‘false hope!’

But all of this type of preaching and ‘prophi-lying’ completely obscures the primary purpose of blessings in the first place! When God blessed Abraham, the Bible says: “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing” (Genesis 12:1-2 KJV). Note two things: First of all, note that in order for the Lord to bless Abram, Abram had to meet certain conditions, he had to; (1) Get out from his native country and his father’s house and (2) Go to a land that God would show him. Abraham was blessed because he obeyed God! His belief or faith in God was proven by his obedience to God. As Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23 state: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” But, how do we know Abraham believed God? Because Abraham obeyed God! Real biblical faith (saving faith) is not just a mere conviction of the heart and mind; real biblical saving faith is faith that involves practical obedience to the Word of God! Secondly, note that the Lord told Abraham that he (Abraham) would be a blessing! The Lord didn’t bless Abraham, just to bless Abraham, the Lord blessed Abraham for Abraham to be a blessing! In other words, the Lord didn’t bless Abraham just for Abraham! As Henry Blackaby, noted author of the Experiencing God and On Mission With God series, said: “When God blessed Abraham, He was on His way to the world!”

My issue with much of the modern-day preaching about blessings is that most of the preaching today seems to suggest the blessings of God are primarily for and about the person receiving the blessings; they are not! God blesses, primarily so that the person being blessed might be in a position to fulfill his or her God-given-God-ordained assignment! The blessings of God are not primarily for our comfort, but rather for our commission! They are not primarily for our consumption, but rather for the success of the mission! When we make the blessings all about us, we hi-jack and detour them from their God-ordained use and purpose! That is why the same people end up in the ‘blessing line’ over and over again! James put it this way, he asked: “What causes conflicts and contentions among you? Does not the tension on both sides originate from your lusts in conflict among your members? You want something badly, but you do not have it. You kill and covet, and still you are unable to get what you want. You fight and battle it out, and you do not have what you are after because you do not make a request. You ask, but do not receive, because you make your request from wrong motivation, that you might squander it on your pleasures.” (James. 4:1-3 McDonald Idiomatic Translation) That’s the point! Most of the requests for blessings today have nothing to do with the performance of the will of God! We don’t want to be blessed to do the will of God; we want to be blessed for our own comfort and enjoyment; which is the very reason we are not blessed like we want to be!

We have misunderstood the purpose of blessings! And as long as we insist on having blessings for our comfort instead of for doing the will of God, we will always be frustrated and going without; constantly going from pseudo-prophet to pseudo-prophet in a vain attempt to get a prophetic word to justify our selfish desires!

 

Some Thoughts About My 58th Birthday!

On August 8, 2018 (two days from the writing of this post) I will be 58 years old! Now, that might not be such a big deal to you, but it means the world to me! I always make a big deal of my birthday! Why? Because every birthday reminds me of just how precious the gift of life is! Now, some might wonder, since my birthday is on the 8th, why am I writing this post today? Well, since tomorrow is not promised, I will not take for granted that I will be around two days from hence, and also since I’m having these thoughts now, I will share them now because I might be inspired to share something else (or not) Wednesday!

At the church I serve, I always (in jest) make a big deal of my birthday! I usually tell the membership on the Sunday before the historic day, that I will be available after church to give them written excuses to miss work on my birthday, which is an unofficial national holiday. (I offer to write them an excuse, with no guarantee their employers will accept it nor any offer to compensate for any lost wages; LOL!) Just this past Sunday (yesterday) one of the members said that I should wait until the day of my birthday to collect gifts, to which I replied: “No! I’ll collect any gifts offered or given today, to save people the trouble of trying to locate me on Wednesday!

But, in all seriousness, we should all be excited, not just about birthdays, but about every day! Life is such a wonderful and precious gift! You may be going through a rough patch right now and life might not be treating you very well; but you still have reasons to celebrate life! Why? Because the rough patches in life, whether they are self-inflicted or unjustly caused, are tools that can be used to teach some valuable lessons or weights to help build character and endurance. Whatever life brings your way, the important thing is your response! Life can make you better or bitter; but which, depends on how you respond!

I made up my mind, some years ago, that I would always look for the good in every situation! Many years ago, I read a book entitled: “Happiness Is A Choice.” Every since then, I constantly make a conscious decision to be happy! As I contemplate upon reaching 58 in a couple of days, I am happy because there were some friends I grew up with and some people I went to school with; some younger and some older, who have died, but I’m still here! I realize I am here, not because I was better or more deserving, but rather, only because of God’s grace and providence! Some years ago, when I reached 50, I realized, with all things being equal, I would probably not live another 50 years! I realized that I had already lived longer than I would live! Therefore, I decided then, more so than at any other point prior to that point, that I would no longer allow frivolous pursuits or people to monopolize my time! Life is too short to waste! People who kill or waste time should be arrested and because time is so precious, wasting and/or killing it should be a crime! Sadly, most people madly pursue the paper (money) while neglecting to respect and honor life’s most precious commodity; time!

Now, I realize I’m not the only person who will have a birthday in August 8, in fact, every day is somebody’s birthday! But, I just wanted to share with you my excitement about my birthday to encourage you to celebrate, not only your birthday but every day of your life! Even if you don’t feel like celebrating or you don’t see what’s worth celebrating; life really is good! No matter how bad things appear; just remind yourself they just look that way; usually things are much better than they appear! And even if things really are that bad; look for the silver lining, because; there really is a bright side somewhere!

Have a “good day” today!, As for myself; I am definitely going to have a ‘happy’ birthday; Wednesday! But just in case I don’t make it to Wednesday, that will be alright, because every day is a day worth celebrating!

Cycles

Cycle:

1)   An interval of time during which a sequence of a recurring succession of events or phenomena is completed.

2)   A course or series of events or operations that recur regularly and usually lead back to the starting point.

3)   A circular or spiral arrangement.

 

Well, it’s August 1, 2018 and yesterday was July 31, 2018. Today is the first day of a new month and yesterday was the last day of an old month! Where I live, yesterday was the last day of summer vacation for students and today is the first day of a new school year! All of this reminds me of the fact that life is lived in cycles; and that’s a good thing!

Have you ever thought about what life would be like if there were no cycles? What if a day never ended and there was no night for rest? What if the night was enduring and there was no morning to look forward to? What if the seasons never changed and it was always winter, summer, spring, or fall? We often take it for granted, but every day, we should take time to pause and be thankful for the cycles of life.

The cycles of life provide opportunities for new beginnings. Every morning when I awake and find myself not dead, I am thankful because I understand that to be one of God’s ways of granting me forgiveness for the mistakes and failures I made the day before. Every new day is a new opportunity to ‘get it right!’ Every month is a new cycle! Every year is a new cycle!

But, the problem with many people is that they fail to take advantage of the cycles of life. Instead of taking the opportunity to have a new beginning at a new cycle, they drag the old into the new and make the new just like the old! As they do this, they guarantee their tomorrow will be just as miserable as their today, which was just as miserable as their yesterday! People who do this are stuck in a rut, and I heard someone describing a rut as nothing but a grave with sides but no ends!

I don’t know where you are in your life, I don’t know what you are going through, but I want to encourage you to let this first day of the month remind you of the cycles of life. If you’re in a depressed situation right now, just remember, it’s just part of the cycle! If you’re down, surely and eventually, you will rise again! If you’re in an elevated position right now, be thankful and enjoy it, but also remember to make provisions and plans for the down-time, for the old saying is true: “What goes up, must come down!”

It is the cycles of life that make life interesting and provide opportunities for change, growth, and progress! Life would be boring and monotonous indeed if it were not for the cycles. So, don’t fight the cycles; don’t fight the changes, but rather embrace them and use them to your advantage! Use the cycles to refresh and rejuvenate! Use the cycles to re-evaluate and re-tool! Don’t wait until January 1 to start a new cycle, you can start a new cycle at any time! At the beginning of a new month, at the beginning of a new day, at the beginning of a new hour, and yes, even at the beginning of a new moment! There is an old saying that says we only live one day at a time, but actually, that is not true! We can’t even live a day at a time; we can only live one moment at a time! Thus, even our breathing is part of a cycle; with every breath we take, we have the opportunity to start over again!