Devotional Message

What Does the Year Ahead Hold?


10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil-this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. Ecclesiastes 3:10-14

As we come to the end of one year and the beginning of another, our society tends to stop and reflect on the lives of those who passed away.  It is usually a somber time of reflection because there is such uncertainty for many when it comes to the afterlife.  I thought now would be a good opportunity to begin the year taking a closer look at heaven.

Death is not a stop sign, it is a marker of where the greatest miracle of all will take place for the Christian, a reunion with the Creator. This is the great Reversal.  As Christians, we don’t fear death because we look to “the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.” God turns the defeat of mortality into the victory of eternal life.

If we were to go back four thousand years, we would find the Egyptian culture was made up of people who not only believed in life beyond the grave, but we see individuals who were obsessed with life beyond the grave. Most Egyptians began preparing for the afterlife before they reached midlife.

If you ever get the opportunity to study Egypt, the tombs, and pyramids, you will discover what it took to build some of those monuments. Some studies show that it took hard labor from one hundred thousand workers for forty years to make one of the great pyramids. As you think about that, it makes you ask “why”? Why put so much effort preparing for death? Why would somebody put that amount of emphasis on a tomb, on the afterlife?

The answer is that the Egyptians understood what many of us take for granted, that they would spend a lot more time in the afterlife than they would spend in this life. Though some of their beliefs of what would happen in the afterlife were a little misguided. The point is, they understood to the very core of their being that the afterlife was a whole lot more important than this life.  So, they prepared for the afterlife during this life. God had placed that desire in their heart.

We live in a culture that lives for today, for instant gratification.

We live with a live-for-the-day mentality. We live with the belief that the only thing important in life is whether we’re enjoying the moment. Live life fast and hard, who cares about tomorrow? Instant gratification is what people are concerned about. There’s a total preoccupation with the here and now.

You see it in the morality of the day where the cultural attitude is: “Whatever feels good, whatever gives you or me gratification, it doesn’t matter what others think, so long as it is legal.  If it does not hurt others, then fine. And if it is pleasurable, then let’s do it! Who cares about the consequences!”

We see it in nation’s economics.  The national debt grows by the millions daily and who cares?  It is not our bill to pay. You can have anything you want today; just sign on the dotted line. Easy credit, plastic; you won’t get a bill, at least not for thirty days. You can have it now. And if I die before it is all paid off, good luck collecting the rest. Thirty days will never come. Buy anything you want with a balloon payment. Five years later will never come. Right? You can have it now. Worry about the balloon payment later. Instant gratification. Instant pleasure.

The idea of get it now, pay later has worked its way in every area of our culture even when it comes to faith. People just don’t want to talk about the afterlife. Nobody intends to think about dying.  No one wants to plan and prepare to die, but the reality is that unless Jesus comes again, we will all die someday.  And here is the dirty little secret no one wants to talk about, “No one will know the day or the time that death will come.” We can pretend we are in control, but we are not.

We can say, “Not only am I not planning on dying today, but I’m also not planning on giving an account of my life today. Eat, drink, and be merry. That time to stand before God and give an account of the life we lived is far way off.”  But are you certain of that?  Remember this the Egyptians had one thing right, “You will spend more time in the afterlife than you will in this life.”  So how prepared are you?   Over the next few articles, we dig much deeper into this question for the New Year.

Other posts in this series:

Devotional Message

How We Handle Grief Is a Reflection of Our Understanding of Heaven

Cross shaped key
A woman carries a cross shaped key to gates of heaven

On November 1st every year the church stops to give thanks to God for all the Saints who have gone before us.  It is a time to remember all those special people that He put in our lives, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, grandchildren and friends.  All these special saints that were witnesses to us.  I want to take time in this post to honor them for their walk with God and to thank God for sending us such a great cloud of witnesses.

The devotional theme for today is “Blessed are they.”  I am not here to glorify their accomplishments or lift them up because these saints are especially kind and good people.  We give thanks to God for them because they have finished their race, they have fought the good fight, they ran with perseverance the course laid out for them and now they have received their reward. No more struggle with the flesh, no more pain and tears for these people, they are in our Father’s house, they are at peace.  So “Blessed are they” because they have obtained an inheritance that will not fade, one that no robber can break in and steal. They have received eternal life.  They have crossed over from death to life.  Their struggle is over, they won their crown of righteousness, and we thank God for them.

Today we will look at one of the most famous sermons ever written, the Sermon on the Mount.  We will look at the opening section of this sermon, a section called the Beatitudes.

The church of the Middle Ages gathered together a list of attitudes that not checked could led believers away from God.  They called this list the seven deadly sins.  The sins were: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth.
The first destructive attitude was pride.  We see the pride of sin on display daily, in politics, Hollywood, in our families, and even surprisingly in the church.  And if we are not excluded.  Simply hold up a mirror I am sure you will discover another culprit, you as well.  The church defined pride as “excessive egotism, being so self-centered that a person had no room in their spirit for God.” [1] It is easy to allow our ego to get puffed up, or as my mom would say, “became too full of yourself.”  When our pride goes unchecked that condition affects our relationship with God.  Pride pushes the need for God out of our spirit.  Making it easy to ignore the need for God altogether. Pride is very dangerous not only to one’s spiritual health but to one’s physical life as well.

During the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War, Union general John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. At one point he came to a parapet, over which he gazed out in the direction of the enemy. His officers suggested that this was unwise and perhaps he ought to duck while passing the parapet. “Nonsense,” snapped the general. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist—-.” A moment later Sedgwick fell to the ground, fatally wounded.

Today in the Word, August 30, 1993.
Martin Luther said, “Before God, everyone is compelled to lower his plumes.”

The Poor in Spirit

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

 This verse is communicating that the Christ follower who realizes he needs a Savior is blessed.  “Poor in spirit” does not indicate that your faith is inadequate or lacking something.  “Poor in spirit” is the condition that our spirit finds itself in because of our original sin.

There was this patient who went into the doctor’s office and sat down and said, “Okay, Doc here I am, help me.”  The doctor responded, “Well what is wrong with you?” The patient said, “How should I know you are the doctor?”  To which the doctor responded, “You have to help me help you. And believe you me, you do need help!”

The believer like this patient needs help.  The human soul is “poor in spirit” because we are sinners.  Sin separates us from God. Paul helps destroy any illusions we have that somehow, we are excluded from that claim in Romans 3, “…as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.’” Romans 3:10-11.  Armed with this firm understanding, we realize that we need help.

As Christians, we are well aware of the spiritual truth that we can’t save ourselves.  We are spiritually unable to stand before a just and holy God.  Thus, Christ comes to the rescue.  Christ stands in the gap for us.  He takes the full weight of our sins upon Himself.  And Christ gave His life as a ransom for a spiritually poor world.

Those Who Mourn

 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Grief is never a blessed experience. Grief and sorrow are painful.  They test our faith and can rock our trust in God.  Yet, Jesus in this section says, “Blessed are those who mourn.”  But not because they are mourning, or they have endured a loss but blessed are they for they shall be comforted.  The blessing is in the fact that our faith in Jesus can help us work our way through even the most devastating losses.  Missionary John G. Paton shares this account.

Not long after arriving in New Hebrides as a pioneer missionary, John G. Paton and his wife rejoiced in the coming of a baby son to gladden their home. But the joy was short-lived. Soon death took both his wife and child, and Dr. Paton had to dig their graves and bury his loved ones with his own hands. In writing of this experience, he testified, “If it had not been for Jesus and the fellowship and grace He afforded me, I am certain I would have gone mad or died of grief beside their lonely graves.” Marvelously strengthened from above, the bereaved servant of God found that the promises of the Word were able to sustain him through the heartache and sorrow of his tragic loss. Our Daily Bread, August 6, 1992

In the original Greek, the word used for mourning is the strongest of those related to grief. It describes mourning the death of a person who is dearly loved.  Many reading this today are feeling the full weight of grief. You may be experiencing pain that is greater than any joy you have experienced in the past. Know that one day you too will be comforted.  The pain will be replaced with rejoicing.

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.

Know that mourning is not the end but a transition point.  A transition for your loved one from death to life.  A transition for you from mourning to laughter.  A transition to a great reunion in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Blessed are we who fight the good fight and persevere for the kingdom of heaven awaits.

[1] Parish Publishing, LLC


Psalm 23

Come, The Banquet is Ready


You prepare a table before me (Ps 23:5)

The psalmist, David shifts his attention for protection from the valley of death in verse 4 to the new metaphor in verse 5, God as the bounteous host. The psalmist paints this beautiful picture of a generous table at which God can defy all his enemies.

For, one to eat at the host’s table means the guest is under His protection. In, those days the news of man’s wealth is spread through his dinner parties. The more lavish his hospitality, the more his fame spread.  Today the standards of success are determined by the number of fancy cars one possesses or how lavish is the mansion on the hill manned with menservants and maidservants a person owns.  However, in traditional Middle Eastern culture, when you want the community to know you have made it in the world and that you are a person of wealth, successful people would host meals with three times as much food on the table as the multitudes of guests can eat.

The Table Set Out by Our King

Keep that thought entrenched in your mind and now read the words of Isaiah the prophet in chapter 25:6-8.

On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

And he will swallow up on this mountain

the covering that is cast over all peoples,

the veil that is spread over all nations.

He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the Lord has spoken.


Our God, Yahweh, watches as the nations’ make their journey to the mountain of the Lord. On this mountain, Yahweh has prepared a feast to show His enemies His power and majesty.

They shall not hurt or destroy

in all my holy mountain;

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.  Isaiah 11:9

  Yahweh will establish His kingship on His mountain. God lays out a banquet in the presence of His enemy Satan.  Moreover, by the abundance and the quality of the feast, God displays His superiority.  Through this lavish spread, Yahweh declares victory over Satan, sin, and death.  Often, death or the powers of the evil one’s underworld are pictured as the swallower of life.
Therefore, Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude will go down,  her revelers and he who exults in her.  Isaiah 5:14

Yahweh snatches victory from the mouth of death and replaces it with everlasting life. Typical food only prolongs our existence; at the feast, God lays out before the nations, even death is conquered. God will swallow up death forever, and the Lord will wipe away the tears from all nations.  Heaven is the banquet, the war is over, the victory one.  Come and dine all is ready. The funeral will turn into a wedding!  Sorry has turned to joy. Tears have been replaced with laughter.  All because the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ has laid down His life for the sheep.  Faith in this Shepherd is the only ticket we need to attend this beautifully prepared feast.  Come now all is ready.