Heaven’s Door

Revelation 4:1
“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.’”

John looked into the future of mankind and saw the day when the heavens will open, not to speak, but to call home all who have trusted in Christ for salvation. Paul explained that the dead in Christ would rise first, and we who are alive and remain will be caught up together in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). What a day that will be, when we are no longer looking through a glass dimly, but we are face to face with Christ (I Corinthians 13:12) steeped in His glory.

John gives us a glimpse of what we have to look forward to. He writes of a radiant throne, encircled by a rainbow, and surrounded by elders. In front of the throne, a sea like glass, and flying around the throne angel beings, ever declaring the Holiness and mighty power of God. The beauty of the throne is only overshadowed by the glory of the One sits upon it. Whenever the angels begin to sing, the elders cast down their golden crowns in homage and worship.

One day, not too far in our future, we will hear the sound of the trumpet blast, watch as the door opens in heaven, and the believers are called home to meet the Lord in the air. Live expectantly, who knows how soon, before that day appears.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament
Ezekiel 20- Navigating Life

Amen

Revelation 3:14
“These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God”

What a beautiful and insightful way Jesus describes Himself to the church. He tells us three things about Himself.

First, He is the Amen. In the first chapter, He refers to Himself as Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. It is valuable to consider Jesus to be the end of the matter. When we are wrestling through things and trying to decide what the right path is, we should always acquiesce to the ways of God.

Second, He is the true witness. Many things speak to the nature of God. Nature reveals much of what God is like, while circumstances always seem to cloud our understanding of Him. If we want a clear vision of who God is, we should look carefully at Christ. He declared that to see Him was to see the Father (John 14:8).

Finally, He is the beginning of the creation. Now, that does not mean that He was the first of all things created, but that He is the cause of all creation. John tells us that all things were created by Him and nothing that was made was made apart from Him (John 1:3). The great force behind all His creation was His Word. We are told time and again that, “God said… And there was…” what great power is contained in the Word of God. The more you are in the pages of it, the more you will experience it in your daily life.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ezekiel 17- I’ll Take The Low Place
Ezekiel 18- The Blame Game

First Love

Revelation 2:4-5
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”

In a very poetic fashion, Jesus describes Himself walking through and observing the goings on, in the church of Ephesus. It is both encouraging and frightening to know that Jesus is so involved with His church. He knows, and intimately describes, the affairs of the church, both good and bad. While He has much that is positive to share, the indictment He brings overshadows their successes. He declares they have left their first love.

“First love” may refer to what some have called the love of espousal. That love, where nothing else matters but the desire to be with and please another. Certainly, we could all afford a greater degree of that kind of love, but I suggest, “first love” is a reference to something more. John explained that we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), which makes our love for Him is a reflection. If my love for Him is waning, then I must focus upon the love God has for me. Taking time to consider the cross, where the love of God was poured out, will always stir us to a greater degree of love for Him. That is the great value of the communion table. Reflecting upon the broken body and the shed blood of Christ, is an extremely helpful way to return to your first love.

Take some time to reflect upon the cross, and thank the Lord for His great love for you.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ezekiel 15- I Heard It Through The Grape Vine
Ezekiel 16- It’s Everlasting

The Key

Revelation 1:18
“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”

The final book of the Bible is aptly called Revelation, for it is a compilation of things that were revealed to John while banished to the Island of Patmos. In it, we will be given key insights into the future, but before the future is described, John takes time to describe Jesus. Instead of seeing the humble carpenter, meek and mild, John describes King Jesus in all His splendor and glory and refers to Him as “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” As ruler, Jesus declares He holds in His hands the keys to hell and death. As I read this, I have to ask, why would Jesus unlock the door to hell?

We have all seen the images of satan as the king of Hell, ruling over the fiery underworld. That image is not found anywhere in the Bible, but is taken from Greek mythology where Hades, the brother of Zeus, rules as a tyrant over the dead. The Bible paints an entirely different picture. Satan is not the king of Hell, but will be the chief prisoner. After all the havoc he has caused upon the earth, he will one day be bound and cast into the lake of fire. There he will forever pay for his rebellion against God, and the destruction he has caused mankind. The key in the hand of Jesus is used to unlock the door of hell to imprison the devil and his cohorts.

There is another reason why Jesus holds this key. The Bible teaches that, prior to coming to Christ, we are held captive to sin. Like a prisoner of war held behind enemy lines, we are bound in our sin and have no way of escape. Jesus holds the key; the way of escape out of sin and it’s penalty. Whenever, whoever, and wherever we are, when we call upon Christ, we are set free from sin, death and judgment, and given the free gift of eternal life. Jesus is the one who unlocks the door and sets us free.

Whatever sin may have its grip on you, if you cry out to Christ, He will set you free.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ezekiel 13- Words
Ezekiel 14- He Wants Your Heart

True Grace

Jude 4
“For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jude warns of those who turn grace into lewdness. The word lewd is somewhat outdated, but refers to something vulgar or obscene, especially that which is sexually immoral. Jude is referring to those who think the grace of God allows for behavior which is clearly forbidden in the Word of God. It is important to remember,  grace does not excuse sin, but provides forgiveness when we fail.

Recently, I heard a politician say how pleased he was with the states that voted for same sex marriage. His rationale held, since God created all of us, we should all have the same rights and privileges. I think this is a good example of forgetting that the grace of God does not condone sinful behavior. Sexual sin, whether it is homosexuality, marital infidelity, or premarital sex, is all clearly forbidden in the Word of God. To suggest that grace somehow overshadows the clear directives of God’s Word, is to misunderstand grace. Instead of releasing us to live however we want, grace provides a way for us to be forgiven and restored, no matter how we have failed. Perhaps you are married, and have been unfaithful to your spouse, grace does not excuse your behavior, but screams out that you can be forgiven, and your marriage restored. Perhaps you are a young person who has been drawn into the homosexual lifestyle. Grace calls out to you, that you can have your sins forgiven and be restored to relationship with God.

Instead of looking at grace as a license to misbehave, we should see it as an expression of God’s love. It is His desires that we spend eternity with Him. Let’s not cheapen His grace, but rejoice that He would pardon sinners.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ezekiel 11- Little Sanctuary
Ezekiel 12- Rebellious

Greatest Joy

3 John 4
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

There are many things that fill us with joy. Some of them are quite simple, like seeing a rainbow, or when our team wins. Others are much deeper, like our wedding day, or the birth of a child. John lived a long life and, no doubt, had his share of experiences that produced joy, making his statement here all the more valuable. He states, of all the things that have brought a smile to his face, nothing can compare to knowing his children are walking with the Lord.

As parents, we desire what is best for our children. It is natural for us to want them to have what we have, and more. We want them to have a happy childhood, get a good education, and make healthy choices as adults. While it is natural for us to want our children to succeed in life, making a decision to follow Christ, is the most important goal.

If we want to see our children walking with the Lord, we cannot leave it in the realm of the desire. Passing on Biblical values and a Christian witness, must be our chief priority. However, each individual must make his own decision for the Lord. Even the best parents have children that walk away from the Lord (Adam and Eve backslid, as did the Prodigal Son). That being said, there are things we can do to increase the odds, and provide an atmosphere which is more likely to produce godly children. Below is a list of ideas that should be demonstrated in our homes.

1. A godly example – Children learn more by what they see, than what they are told.

2. A healthy marriage – One of the best things you can do for the spiritual health of your children is to invest in your spouse.

3. Daily devotions – First, you need to have them yourself. The more you grow in the Lord, the better you will be at instilling godliness in others. Second, find a way to share the things of God with your children. Read the Gospel stories to them before bed.

4. Church attendance – God designed the church as a place for us to grow in Christ. Get the children plugged into age appropriate classes at church. They might not enjoy sitting next to you in service, but will love being in class with other children.

5. Serve the Lord as a family – Don’t force the children to do what they hate. Find an area of service they will enjoy, and commit to serving as a family.

I understand there are some parents who are grieving because, even after all their efforts, their child has chosen to walk away from the Lord. Do not live under condemnation for all the things you think you did wrong. Instead, receive the forgiveness that Jesus provides, and PRAY DAILY for your child. God is in the business of reconciliation, and He loves our children more than we can ever imagine.

Proverbs 22:6

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ezekiel 9- Saved
Ezekiel 10- Departing

Love And Obey

2 John 1:6
“This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.”

Scripture teaches, the most important of all graces is love. Jesus said it was the first of the commandments, the proof of our relationship with Him, and our most effective witnessing tool. Paul defined love in first Corinthians 13, and declared that love will outlast time. In our world, love is a very common subject, admittedly difficult to define. I think it is important we keep in mind, while the chief thing is love, the chief love, is love for God. John helps us to understand what love for God actually looks like.

“This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.”

Simply put, if we love God we will do what He says. This is not something John made up because it sounded good in a letter, but was a lesson he had learned from Jesus.

John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

John 15:10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”

The truest evidence of love is obedience. Sadly, we all know those who claim to have a passionate love for Christ, yet have no desire to do the things that please Him. That is the height of inconsistency. Love will always evidence itself by seeking to please the one loved. When my children were little, I would take them out to shop for birthday presents for their mother. They always ended up in the toy section and wanted to purchase her some sort of action hero. Because of their immaturity, they could only think of what would make them happy. As they have grown, I no longer make them buy gifts for mom, they choose to go out on their own, and purchase things that they know she will enjoy. In fact, it has become hard to outdo them, because they love their mom so much and want to give what will please her most.

What pleases God, is not great sacrifice, as much as simple obedience. When we read the Bible and do what it says, we are expressing a love much greater than ONLY singing praises, or declaring empty words.

1 Samuel 15:22 “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…”

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ezekiel 7- Time’s Up
Ezekiel 8- Secrets