…Continued

My last post, which was also the last post of 2013, was about TV shows which had been cancelled or shows which had been brought to a conclusion and so were finished. As things developed, though I was wrong, I thought that post might also be the concluding post for this blog. I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of views which the blog has continued to receive, even though there has been no new post for about six weeks.  Also, I have been amazed at the number of views a particular post has received.  My post on the daughters of Zelophedad has received 50 views just this week.

That last post of 2013 mentioned three shows, not by name, that were ending, or so I thought.  We’ll still never know what happened to “A” and “B” and the show that concluded satisfactorily has still concluded satisfactorily.  However, the third show, I was surprised to discover today, has a new season on Netflix.

Thinking about all this, I decided that these shows are a little like life, not that TV ever shows anything truly life-like, especially “reality shows.”  But some things turn out satisfactorily, some things don’t, and there are “surprises” quite often, like we recently had here at home when the furnace and the hot water heater both went on the fritz at the same time. 😦

We live in an age of increasing skepticism.  Traditional, that is, Christian, beliefs and morals have largely been jettisoned.  The Bible is illegal in schools and government [at least here in the US], and we’re pretty much just circling the drain.  Even many churches don’t really believe the Bible to be the Word of God.  They’re quite willing to “dialogue” with other religions which deny or contradict Biblical teaching.

Many people deny any such thing as an “afterlife”:  “Once you’re dead, you’re dead. There’s nothing beyond the grave.”  Believing that, many people spend their lives trying to find some “meaning” to their otherwise drab lives.

In contrast to this view, the Bible clearly teaches that “…it is appointed for men once to die, but after this the judgment,” Hebrews 9:27.  In other words, there is something beyond death and the grave.

There is some discussion among Biblical teachers about what the Bible says about judgment.  That discussion isn’t important here.  The point is, there IS judgment coming!  Revelation 20:11-15 graphically portrays it:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face earth and heaven fled away.  And there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great [that is, whether famous or unknown], standing before God, and books were opened.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.  The sea gave up the dead which were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them.  And they were judged, each one according to their works.  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.  

This is not a favorite portion of Scripture.  Many people simply cannot agree with the idea that a “God of love” would do such a thing.  However, the God of Scripture isn’t the God of popular thought.  He is a God of righteousness, justice and holiness – as well as “love.”  Sin must be punished.  Sin will be punished.

One of the local TV stations has a news segment on “cold cases,” that is, crimes which have never been solved.  There are several TV shows with this as their theme – the solving of “cold cases.”  There will be no “cold cases” in eternity.  Every murder, every rape, ever crime, will finally be “solved.”  Those who have “gotten away with it” in this life, whether because they were never found or because of some legal maneuvering, will discover that they didn’t really get away with it.  Those who are guilty of gross or multiple crimes – like a Hitler or Stalin – which human justice really can’t adequately deal with, will discover that there is One who can.

We will finally find out, so to speak, what happened to “A” and “B”.

Yes, but not everybody is guilty of some crime or other.  That is true, however, we are all guilty of sin.  We may not have broken man’s law – we always drive the speed limit – but we have broken God’s law.  I doubt there’s a single person alive who would say that they have ALWAYS lived as they think they should.  If that’s true of us in our own sight, how much more is it true of us in God’s sight?

The issue in Revelation 20 isn’t whether or not one is “good” enough to make it into heaven, but whether or not one’s name is in the “Book of Life.”  Those whose names are there have repented of their sins and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. They haven’t joined the church or been baptized or done a hundred of the other things men say must be done in order to be saved; they have simply rested on who the Lord Jesus was and what He did for sinners.  In short, they have “believed.”  They, and they alone, will enter heaven.

Hebrews 9:27, which we quoted above, also says, Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.  In other words, He endured the punishment sinners ought to endure.  He paid the price for their sins, though He had none of His own.  Indeed, if He would have had sins of His own, He could never have paid for the sins of others.  But He lived a perfect and sinless life.  That perfect life is credited to those who believe, because we have no such perfection of our own and can never achieve it.  That is the only way we will ever “make it” into heaven.  His is the only goodness, or righteousness, that God will accept.  His is the only payment that can ever be made for sins.  We could never pay for even one of our own sins, let alone the myriad of them of which we are guilty.

Though there is much more I could say about all this, I’ll close with this.  There is a “new season” beyond the grave.  Are you ready for it?  

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Voices of Christmas: The Babe in the Manger.

At last we come to the central figure in the nativity story.  The series hasn’t worked out quite like I thought it would when I started it at the beginning of the month.  There are “voices” not heard, and so much more that could have been heard from the ones that were.  Nevertheless, here we are:  someplace near a feeding trough for animals – a makeshift bed for the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and of each and every one of us, because there was no room for Him elsewhere.  We understand the situation.  It wasn’t because of the hardheartedness of people.  There was just simply no room.

We could get sidetracked here about the evil government that had created the situation, but that’s not our purpose.  Our purpose is to focus on an unknown infant in an obscure village in a small, troublesome nation, an infant generally ignored in the hustle and bustle of the happenings of the day.  Pretty much like today.

Even among Christians.

And nativity scenes.

And the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

The celebration of the birth of our Lord brings about a curious situation.  Have you ever noticed that the Lord Jesus is the only historical character never allowed to grow up? (And, yes, I know that some think He never existed.)  I made a comment somewhere on a blog about this and someone replied, “Easter.”  That’s not what I meant.

What do I mean?

Nelson Mandela died a few weeks ago.  In the future, when his birthday comes around, the focus will not remain on his birth among the Tempu tribe in Transkei, South Africa, on July 18, 1918.  That will no doubt be included, but the focus will be on what he accomplished in his life.

By way of contrast, the Lord Jesus remains forever a Babe on Christmas Day.

Why do you suppose that is?

Nobody’s afraid of a baby.

I don’t know what the situation was back in the Lord’s day, but folks today will come up to the parents of a little one and “ooh” and “aah” over how cute he or she is.  They’ll smile at the little one, want to know his or her name, and then go their way because he or she isn’t theirs.  They have no real interest in that little one beyond today’s cuteness. But the baby certainly poses no threat to them or their well-being.

What about the Baby in the manger?

He grew up.

The Lord Jesus began His ministry by commanding people to repent.  He talked about sin and death and judgment and hell, where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched,” Mark 9:43-48.  Now these were not ignorant heathen in some out-of-the-way place somewhere.  These were people who for centuries had prided themselves on being God’s people.  They were the chosen nation.  And no doubt many of them did know the Lord.  But the idea to some of them that they should repent just like Gentiles who converted was just too much.

He told them that unless their “righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,” they would “by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:20.  You have to understand that the scribes and Pharisees were looked upon as the paragons of virtue and righteousness.  The idea that something more than what they had was required – why, that was unthinkable!  More than once, the Lord publicly scolded them for their hypocrisy.  No wonder, they perceived Him as a threat to them and their way of life, cf. John 11:48.  Granted, this was the leaders of the nation, but it apparently didn’t take much to incite the crowds later to cry out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” Luke 23:20: John 19:15.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby poses no threat to folks.  They can ignore Him and go their way. But as the incarnate God and Judge of all mankind – well, He’s a threat.  They don’t want to think about things like death and the judgment to follow.  They don’t want to be told that they’re sinners, and that, apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, they stand condemned in the sight of God.  They want to hear about “love,” not righteousness, about “a better place,” not that other place.  They want “health,” not holiness.  Riches, not redemption.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby is safe.

But He grew up.

Thank you, Lord.

Happy Birthday.

When The Red Lights Flash.

I went outside this afternoon to mow the yard, and there was an ambulance across the street, in front of an elderly neighbor’s house.  The neighbor’s brother had called another  neighbor who did a lot of yard work for this man because he himself couldn’t get hold of his brother.  This neighbor found the man dead inside the house.

I always wonder what people who have just landed on the other side of death would tell us if they were able to come back.  And, no, I put no stock in seances, etc.  Such things are forbidden by Scripture.

Though I hadn’t thought of it when I started this post, the Apostle Paul had something to say about this.  In Philippians 1:21, he wrote, For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (NKJV).  The interesting thing about the second phrase is that, in the original language, Paul is “looking back” at his death: “to have died” is gain.  He’s writing about having passed through the door of death into eternity and seen what’s on the other side of death.

For the Christian, it’s far better, v. 23.

For the unbeliever, ah, who can say what really lies over there for them?  What Scripture tells us about the end of the unbeliever seems almost too horrible to be true.  In fact, many people reject Scripture or at least parts of it because they can’t reconcile God’s love and God’s justice.

In fact, God’s justice was satisfied because God is love.  What we could never do on our own, and have no desire to do apart from God’s grace, God did in and through His Son, the Lord Jesus.

Those who repent of their sins and turn to the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and salvation, and they only, are assured of a place that is far better.

Oh, to be ready – by the grace of God – for

when the red lights flash.

A Death Bed

As I lay sick upon my bed
I heard them say, “In danger.”
The word seemed very strange to me;
Could any word seem stranger?

“In danger” of escape from sin,
Forever and forever?
Of entering that most holy place
Where evil enterest never?

“In danger” of beholding Him,
Who is my soul’s salvation,
Whose promises sustain my soul
In blest anticipation?

“In danger” of soon shaking off
Earth’s last remaining fetter,
And of departing hence to be
With Christ, which is far better?

It is a solemn thing to die,
To face the King Immortal;
And each forgiven sinner should
Tread softly o’er the portal.

But when we have confessed our sins
To Him who can discern them,
And God has given pardon, peace,
Tho’ we could ne’er deserve them,

Then dying is no dangerous thing;
Safe in the Saviour’s keeping,
The ransomed one is gently led
Beyond the reach of weeping.

–  Martha Snell Nicholson