DEVOTIONAL FOR MONDAY SEPTEMBER 30TH
 
Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
 
Our thought for today: “We already live in the kingdom”
 
God’s kingdom already exists, right now, and if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, you are a part of it. It is an accomplished fact. Please note in the passage above that Paul writes that God “made us alive”; “You are saved”; “He raised us up”; He “seated us in the heavens.”
 
Yup, it’s all in the past tense. It has already happened. You are already in the kingdom.
 
For now you and I are enjoying life in God’s kingdom on earth, and we’re helping to build and spread it throughout the earth. But we’re headed toward the eternal kingdom – essentially a new Eden. I want to leave you with some thoughts from Randy Alcorn as written in his book “Heaven”:
 
“I’ve never been to Heaven, yet I miss it. Eden’s in my blood. The best things of life are souvenirs from Eden, appetizers of the New Earth. There’s just enough of them to keep us going, but never enough to make us satisfied with the world as it is, or ourselves as we are. We live between Eden and the New Earth, pulled toward what we once were and what we yet will be.”
 
“Desire is a signpost pointing to Heaven. Every longing for better health is a longing for the New Earth. Every longing for romance is a longing for the ultimate romance with Christ. Every desire for intimacy is a desire for Christ. Every thirst for beauty is a thirst for Christ. Every taste of joy is but a foretaste of a greater and more vibrant joy than can be found on Earth as it is now.”
 
“Informed by the doctrines of creation, redemption, resurrection, and the New Earth, our present lives take on greater importance, infusing us with purpose. Understanding Heaven doesn’t just tell us what to do, but why. What God tells us about our future lives enables us to interpret our past and serve him in our present.”
 
“Eternal life doesn’t begin when we die – it has already begun.”
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
DEVOTIONAL FOR SATURDAY AND SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 27-28:
 
Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” Philippians 3:21
 
Our thought for today: “In the eternal kingdom your body will be the perfect age – forever.”
 
Ok, so once the Lord establishes His eternal kingdom we will all get glorious new resurrection bodies in which we will spend eternity. So how old will I be? More precisely, how old will my resurrection body be? What if I die at 90? Will my resurrection body be the spiritual equivalent of my 90 year old mortal body? Or how about the child who died at 2 years old? Will he or she be a toddler for eternity?
 
The fact is that the Bible doesn’t give us a clear answer to that question. Through the ages there has been a lot of speculation and debate about it, and some pretty good educated guesses. Let me share a few with you here. Alister McGrath is one of the most respected theologians of our day. Here’s his take on it:
 
“As each person reaches their peak of perfection around the age of 30, they will be resurrected, as they would have appeared at that time – even if they never lived to reach that age … The New Jerusalem will thus be populated by men and women as they would appear at the age of 30 … but with every blemish removed.”
 
Hank Hanegraaff (The Bible Answer Man on Christian Radio) is another respected voice in our day. He writes: Our DNA is programmed in such a way that, at a particular point, we reach optimal development from a functional perspective. For the most part, it appears that we reach this stage somewhere in our twenties or thirties .. If the blueprints for our glorified bodies are in the DNA, then it would stand to reason that our bodies will be resurrected at the optimal stage of development determined by our DNA.”
 
The medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas wrote: “… human nature will be brought back by the resurrection of the state of its ultimate perfection, which is in the state of youth, toward which the movement of growth is terminated, and from which the movement of degeneration begins.” (In other words, at your highest point of perfection, but just before the long downward slide of deterioration begins.)
 
The consensus down through the ages seems to have been that our resurrection bodies will probably resemble a healthy 30 year old. However, others have maintained that there seems to be evidence in the Bible of children being in heaven and therefore maybe some people actually get to grow-up in the eternal kingdom. Still others argue that those passages simply refer to the “child-like” qualities that Jesus so values and which we will all have in abundance in our resurrection bodies.
 
Whatever the truth turns out to be, the fact remains that we will have resurrection bodies to spend eternity in, and they will be glorious. I’ll leave you today with some insight from Joni Eareckson Tada. She writes,
 
“One day no more bulging middles or balding tops. No varicose veins or crow’s feet. No more cellulite or support hose. Forget the thunder thighs and highway hips. Just a quick leapfrog over the tombstone and it’s the body you’ve always dreamed of. Fit and trim, smooth and sleek!”
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
Good Morning Everyone,
 
We’re almost finished with our theme for this month, “Life in the kingdom” and one question a lot of people have regarding eternity is whether or not there are animals in heaven. So, in order to squeeze that subject in as well, I’m sending out this “devotional extra”:
 
Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be together, and a child will lead them. The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.” Isaiah 11:6-7
 
Our thought for today: “There will be animals in the eternal kingdom”
 
Here’s good news for all you animal lovers out there – there will be animals in heaven. In Isaiah chapter 11, and again in Isaiah chapters 65 and 66, we are reading about the eternal kingdom of God. In those places Isaiah writes about the coming of a glorious new era on the New Earth when there is peace and unity throughout all of creation. So much so, that breeds of animals that were adversaries on the old earth, now cuddle up to each other and feed together.
 
It makes sense, really. Animals are important to God. He created them (as we see in the early chapters of Genesis), and He preserved them (That was the reason Noah had an ark instead of just a raft). In other places throughout Scripture humans are assigned to care for animals and we are cautioned against mistreating them. So since animals are obviously important to God, it makes sense that He would include them in His eternal kingdom. Personally I’m convinced He’s at least a dog-lover. I mean who doesn’t love dogs?
 
The question of course is will “my” animal be in the eternal kingdom? Will my beloved Fluffy be waiting for me in heaven? I don’t think we can answer that conclusively but in his book “Heaven” Randy Alcorn has some interesting research and insights to share on the subject:
 
“Like humans, animals were formed from the ground. “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air” (Genesis 2:19). When God breathed a spirit into Adam’s body, made from the earth, Adam became “nephesh”, a living being or soul (Genesis 2:7). Remarkably, the same Hebrew word “nephesh” is used for animals and for people. We are specifically told that not only people, but animals have the breath of life in them (Genesis 1:30; 2:7; 6:17; 7:15,22)”
 
He goes on, “Am I suggesting animals have souls? Certainly they do not have human souls. Animals aren’t created in God’s image, and they aren’t equal to humans in any sense. Nonetheless, there’s a strong biblical case for animals having non-human souls. I didn’t take this seriously until I studied the usage of the Hebrew and Greek words “nephesh” and “psyche”, often translated “soul” when referring to humans. The fact that these words are often used of animals is compelling evidence that they have non-human souls. That’s what most Christians in the past believed. In their book “Beyond Death”, Gary Habermas and J.P. Moreland point out, “It wasn’t until the advent of the seventeenth-century Enlightenment … that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization. Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things has included the doctrine that animals as well as humans, have souls.”
 
So, does your “Fido” go to heaven? Will he be there in eternity with you? I don’t know. I hope so. But I do know there will be animals in the eternal kingdom and I’m equally certain we won’t need pooper-scoopers. It will be a perfect world, remember?
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
DEVOTIONAL FOR FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 27TH
 
Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “”Look at My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself! Touch Me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” Luke 24:39
 
Our thought for today: “In the eternal kingdom we will have a resurrection body.”
 
“…because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” – So said the resurrected Jesus. In His resurrection body He was flesh and bones. He was the Jesus they had always known, and yet different too. His resurrection body was identifiable, physical, and He could eat. And yet, it also had spiritual qualities. He could appear and disappear in an instant. Without effort He could pass through solid walls and locked doors.
 
But does that mean our resurrection bodies will be like that too? The Apostle Paul seemed to think so: “He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” Philippians 3:21 (see also Romans 6:5; 8:11)
 
In his book “Heaven” Randy Alcorn writes, “Jesus called people in Heaven by name, including Lazarus in the intermediate heaven (Luke 16:25) and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the eternal Heaven (Matthew 8:11). A name denotes a distinct identity, an individual. The fact that people in Heaven can be called by the same name they had on Earth demonstrates they remain the same people. In Heaven I’ll be Randy Alcorn – without the bad parts – forever. If you know Jesus, you’ll be you – without the bad parts – forever.”
 
Also, “Your place in Heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it – made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand. What makes you you? It’s not only your body but also your memory, personality traits, gifts, passions, preferences, and interests. In the final resurrection, I believe all of these facets will be restored and amplified, untarnished by sin and the Curse.”
 
Alcorn also writes, “You will be you in Heaven. Who else would you be? If Bob, a man on Earth, is no longer Bob when he gets to Heaven, then, in fact, Bob did not go to Heaven. If when I arrive in Heaven I’m not the same person with the same identity, history, memory, then “I” didn’t go to Heaven.”
 
Tomorrow we’ll continue exploring what the Bible reveals about our resurrection body and what life in the eternal kingdom will be like. (By the way, the answer to yesterday’s question is “yes” I’m certain there will be ice cream in heaven – chocolate chip cookie dough. It will have no calories and it will be good for you. In heaven it’s broccoli that has all the calories.)
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
DEVOTIONAL FOR THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 26TH
 
Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Then he showed me the river of living water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the broad street of the city. The tree of life was on both sides of the river, bearing 12 kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His slaves will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. Night will no longer exist, and people will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:1-5
 
Our thought for today: “Eternity will be a physical reality.”
 
What will eternity in the kingdom of God be like? In his book “Heaven” author Randy Alcorn offers this insight, “Scripture describes heaven as both a country (Luke 19:12; Hebrews 11:14-16) and a city (Hebrews 12:22; 13:14; Revelation 21:2). Fifteen times in Revelation 21 and 22 the place God and his people will live together is called a city. The repetition of the word and the detailed description of the architecture, walls, streets, and other features of the city suggest that the term “city” isn’t merely a figure of speech but a literal geographical location. After all, where do we expect physically resurrected people to live if not in a physical environment?”
 
As we will see in the days to come, Scripture describes the eternal kingdom of God in physical terms we can understand and relate to. And as we will also see, Scripture describes the people of the kingdom in real and physical terms too. Sorry, you won’t look like Casper the friendly ghost sitting on a cloud and strumming a harp. You will be a real (but resurrected) person, in a real and resurrected world.
 
Alcorn goes on: “This world – including its natural wonders – gives us foretastes and glimpses of the next world. These people – including ourselves – give us foretastes and glimpses of the new people to come … Every joy on earth – including the joy of reunion – is an inkling, a whisper of greater joy. The Grand Canyon, the Alps, the Amazon rain forests, the Serengeti Plain – these are rough sketches of the New Earth. Just like the Garden of Eden, the New Earth will be a place of sensory delight, breathtaking beauty, satisfying relationships, and personal joy.”
 
Due to the limits of time and space in these devotional messages, I can only scratch the surface of this fascinating subject. If you would like to do more study on this theme – digging more deeply into the Biblical evidence that support these contentions, I encourage you to get Randy’s book.
 
Tomorrow we will discuss what we, the people of God, will be like in the eternal kingdom. Will you have a body? If so, what will it be like? Will you still be yourself, identifiable for who you were on earth? What kinds of things will we experience and enjoy? And most important, will there be ice cream?
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
DEVOTIONAL FOR WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 25TH
 
Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.’ But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV
 
Our thought for today: “We can know what heaven is like.”
 
People commonly use 1 Corinthians 2:9 as a proof text to prove that we cannot know what heaven is like. After all, “No eye has seen”, and “No ear has heard”, “No mind has conceived” what God has prepared. So we can’t know, right?
 
Wrong. Read verse 10. “But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” The passage, when taken in context, actually teaches the exact opposite. We can know. God has revealed it to us by His Spirit. What is the means by which the Spirit reveals it to us? The Bible. In the Bible God has revealed enough about heaven so we can have at least some limited understanding about what He has prepared for us.
 
Why is this important, especially with the context of our theme this month of “Life in the kingdom”? I’ll let C.S. Lewis explain it for me:
 
“If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”
 
When we have a clear vision of where we’re heading and what this life is leading us to, we will be at our most effective now. We will be about our Father’s business as we’re supposed to be. It’s when we lose site of our ultimate destination that we become preoccupied and distracted by the smallness of everyday life.
 
Tomorrow we will look at some specific examples from the Bible which help us to better understand what eternity in the kingdom of God will be like.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
DEVOTIONAL FOR TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 24, 2013
 
Good Morning Everyone,
 
Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.” John 14:1-3
Our thought for today: “Life on earth gives us glimpses of life in heaven.”
 
All this month we’ve been exploring the theme of “Life in the kingdom” and we’ve been approaching it primarily from the perspective of “this” life lived in the kingdom of God on “this” earth. But the truth is that this life on this earth is just the beginning of our existence in God’s kingdom. It’s what comes next in eternity that really matters. We will only truly begin to understand and appreciate this life in the current kingdom, when we understand it in relation to the eternal kingdom in the next life. That’s what Jesus was speaking about in John 14:1-3. He is in the process of preparing for us an eternal home that is far beyond anything we can imagine now.
 
But imagine it we must. And that’s the problem. We can’t see it and so we have trouble believing in it, or at least understanding it as it really is. In his book “Heaven” Randy Alcorn writes, “We succumb to naturalistic assumptions that what we see is real and what we don’t see isn’t. God can’t be real, we conclude, because we can’t see Him. And Heaven can’t be real because we can’t see it. But we must recognize our blindness. The blind must take by faith that there are stars in the sky. If they depend on their ability to see, they will conclude there are no stars.”
Jesus assures us that heaven is real – even though we can’t see it – and that it is wonderful. The Bible then helps us to imagine what it will be like. Randy Alcorn goes on, “The writers of Scripture present Heaven in many ways, including as a garden, a city, and a kingdom. Because gardens, cities, and kingdoms are familiar to us, they afford us a bridge to understanding heaven.”
 
In the Bible God gives us glimpses of heaven to assist us with our imagining it. He wants us to think about it, ponder it, imagine how wonderful it is. Just look around you, consider all the beautiful and enjoyable aspects of life on earth, imagine what it would all be like if it was perfect – without sin and death and suffering and corruption – then magnify that about a bazillion times, and you begin to appreciate what is waiting for us in the eternal kingdom.
 
This life is good – there is much that is enjoyable about it, but life on the new earth, the eternal Garden of Eden, will be so very much better.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
DEVOTIONAL FOR MONDAY SEPTEMBER 23RD
 
Good Morning Everyone,
Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
 
Our thought for today: “Everyone knows there is more than just this life.”
 
In the introduction to his book “Heaven” author Randy Alcorn observes, “The sense that we will live forever somewhere has shaped every civilization in human history … the unifying testimony of the human heart throughout history is belief in life after death. Anthropological evidence suggests that every culture has a God-given, innate sense of the eternal – that this world is not all there is.”
 
That’s what Solomon was saying in Ecclesiastes 3:11. God created human beings with an innate awareness of eternity and the deep understanding that this life is not all there is. That’s why all cultures throughout history bear evidence of belief in the supernatural and of some kind of spiritual existence for us that continues once this life ends.
 
As Christians we share a common belief in life after death with our fellow humans. The difference is that while so much of the rest of the human race relies on superstitions, folklore, and clearly fraudulent holy books, we have the Bible. The Bible is the divinely revealed eternal truth given to us by the Creator Himself so all people can know the truth about eternity. No piece of literature, no system of beliefs, no folklore or superstition that has ever been embraced and promoted by any culture or society, has the verifiable legitimacy that the Bible has been proven to possess.
 
We can use our shared belief in the afterlife, and the sure promises of the Bible, to help others understand the truth about eternity. People are interested, they are searching and yearning for understanding, it’s an innate part of how they were created. And, what God reveals about eternity in the Bible is pretty compelling stuff. Why, it’s enough to move a person to place their faith in Jesus!
 
To help us better understand the eternal kingdom of God, and what it is that’s waiting for all those who trust in His Son Jesus, I want to spend the next few days exploring what the Bible reveals to us about heaven. You may be surprised.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim
DEVOTIONAL FOR SATURDAY AND SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 21-22
 
Good Morning Everyone,
Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”
 
Our Bible verse for today: “For the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body – so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free- and we were all made to drink one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
 
Our thought for today: “We’re all needed.”
 
Have you ever seen the first “Star Wars” movie? Do you remember the scene where Hans Solo and Chewbacca are in “the Star Wars bar”? It was an inter-planetary bar where creatures from all over the solar system went to hang out and have a few cold ones. The really interesting thing about the scene was the incredible diversity of beings that were there. They were big and small, green and purple, some had two heads and three arms, and others had one eye and long tails. They came in every imaginable shape, size, and description.
 
Sometimes the church reminds me of that bar. What an odd collection of individuals we are. Tall and short, rich and poor, black and white and brown and yellow, funny and serious, introverts and extroverts, and everyone of us with quirky little personalities that some find amusing and others find irritating. And yet, somehow, it works. Somehow we manage to get along and work together. In fact, it’s the diversity that makes us strong and vital and interesting.
 
Years ago John Ortberg wrote a wonderful little book entitled “Everybody is Normal (Until you get to know them)”. His point was that once you get to really know people you discover that nobody is normal – we’re all a little screwed up. But that’s ok. It’s the screwiness that makes us unique.
 
Isn’t it funny how God can bring together a bunch of people who are so vastly different and yet so closely knit together? That’s what a good church family is like. Part of the adventure of life in the kingdom includes making the journey through this world with a band of brothers and sisters who are like you in some ways, different in others; who are sometimes helpful, and sometimes maybe not so much; who sometimes make you laugh, and at other times make you want to scream; but people who love you, are fun to be with, and who make the journey so much more interesting than if you were making it alone.
 
Yes, sometimes the church gathered together can look a bit like an odd collection of space aliens. (I’m reminded of that every time I look in the mirror and realize I have more hair growing in my nose and ears than I do on my head!) But just think what the journey would be like without the oddballs you call your church family. We would be much poorer in terms of relationships, support, and fun.
 
Will you gather with your church family this weekend? I hope you will. If you don’t, that scene will be missing one of those quirky characters that make it unique and special.
 
God Bless,
Pastor Jim

DEVOTIONAL FOR SATURDAY AND SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 21-22, 2013

Good Morning Everyone,

Our theme for this month: “Life in the kingdom”

Our Bible verse for today: “For the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body – so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free- and we were all made to drink one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

Our thought for today:

Have you ever seen the first “Star Wars” movie? Do you remember the scene where Hans Solo and Chewbacca are in “the Star Wars bar”? It was an inter-planetary bar where creatures from all over the solar system went to hang out and have a few cold ones. The really interesting thing about the scene was the incredible diversity of beings that were there. They were big and small, green and purple, some had two heads and three arms, and others had one eye and long tails. They came in every imaginable shape, size, and description.

Sometimes the church reminds me of that bar. What an odd collection of individuals we are. Tall and short, rich and poor, black and white and brown and yellow, funny and serious, introverts and extroverts, and everyone of us with quirky little personalities that some find amusing and others find irritating. And yet, somehow, it works. Somehow we manage to get along and work together. In fact, it’s the diversity that makes us strong and vital and interesting.

Years ago John Ortberg wrote a wonderful little book entitled “Everybody is Normal (Until you get to know them)”. His point was that once you get to really know people you discover that nobody is normal – we’re all a little screwed up. But that’s ok. It’s the screwiness that makes us unique.

Isn’t it funny how God can bring together a bunch of people who are so vastly different and yet so closely knit together? That’s what a good church family is like. Part of the adventure of life in the kingdom includes making the journey through this world with a band of brothers and sisters who are like you in some ways, different in others; who are sometimes helpful, and sometimes maybe not so much; who sometimes make you laugh, and at other times make you want to scream; but people who love you, are fun to be with, and who make the journey so much more interesting than if you were making it alone.

Yes, sometimes the church gathered together can look a bit like an odd collection of space aliens. (I’m reminded of that every time I look in the mirror and realize I have more hair growing in my nose and ears than I do on my head!) But just think what the journey would be like without the oddballs you call your church family. We would be much poorer in terms of relationships, support, and fun.

Will you gather with your church family this weekend? I hope you will. If you don’t, that scene will be missing one of those quirky characters that make it unique and special.

God Bless, Pastor Jim