Rest in peace?

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The world’s response to Death
The normal and seemingly loving way to respond when friends or family lose someone is to send this little text RIP, assuring them of peace beyond the grave. This looks harmless and speaks of love and concern. And it’s the best wish the world can come up with when the enemy of life strikes.

Now, I must tread carefully here especially as this will bring sad memories to many and I might seem insensitive to even dare share this here.
I want to state carefully that this is not my intention and I have personally echoed those words before without thinking. What’s worse, most times I don’t even know what to say in this situation.

As a matter of fact I have been putting off writing this post for a while waiting for an opportune time when someone wouldn’t be grieving but I don’t think such a time exists.

The Gospel’s Response
It troubles me that we may be in danger of undermining or even denying the message of the Gospel when we respond this way as Christians. The Bible is clear of what happens when people die;

…27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9.

Caring for the bereaved as Christians
How then do we care for loved ones, Christian or not when death strikes without denying the truth of the Gospel?
I think the answer is we must be ready to do more than send a 3-word text. The Bible calls us to mourn with those who mourn:

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15.

True eternal peace is only for believers 

The Bible assures us that those who lived waiting for King Jesus truly rest in peace when they die and we can say this with confidence.

For those who live for King Jesus death is truly great gain as they depart to live with him as Paul states in Philippians:

… 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ,which is better by far…Philippians 1:21-23:

In reality, death is the best that can happen for a Christian as they go to be with the Lord Jesus.

But what about non-Christians?

Many even within Christian circles will dismiss this saying it’s between them and God and this is true. But the question here is how do we hold true to what God has revealed in his Word?

The justification I hear people use is that we don’t know what happens moments before people die. Indeed, people have turned to Christ and have been saved from his judgment on their death bed.  And there’s not much we can do at that point but pray for them to turn to God before it’s too late.

However, I don’t think we should play games with people’s lives and wait until then to make this prayer. If we truly believe the message of the Gospel then we should be unashamed of the reality of God’s judgment even as we call people to turn to his grace and mercy.

I admit how painful it is to see loved ones reject the very Gospel that can save them from the coming judgment but the answer is not to ignore or deny this truth. It’s to prayerfully urge them not to harden their hearts to the call of the Lord Jesus before it’s too late:

15 …As has just been said:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
    as you did in the rebellion.”

16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 

Hebrews 3-4. 

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We dream Bigger Dreams!

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We dream bigger dreams than the world can hold
We will settle for nothing but absolute perfection
Why should we put our gaze anywhere below the horizon?
If we can have it all then we will settle for nothing less
And all we need to do is simply receive this glorious inheritance
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We don’t even need to work for it, it’s all on a silver platter
It’s been prepared since the foundation of the world
And purchased at the most costly of prices
One had to sweat his blood out and all we do is freely receive
But that’s all we could ever do, receive it for free
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How else would we attain such glorious riches?
It baffles me even to dare dream, I need help just to imagine it
In a million years we wouldn’t dream of such a glorious inheritance
For no eye has seen and no mind has imagined what awaits us
Yet such is the glorious eternal inheritance that we have in Jesus     Such is the heritage of those who wait on our Lord

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#Glorious New Creation #Waiting #1 Cor 2:9-10 #Isaiah 64:4

Waiting on God is our Christian heritage

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God’s King waited on him all his life

King David trusted in God not because he flew in on a cloud every time he was in need. He trusted in him not only because of his past experience of rescue but because of what he knew about God, his character and his steadfast commitment to his promises.

All he knew of God meant that even in the loneliest and hopeless of circumstances, from his youth to his old age, he could turn to him in prayer:

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth…18 Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come. 19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things.
    Who is like you, God? Psalms 71.

When surrounded by enemies, in the face of death, even when he was the enemy on account of his sin: still he trusted in God’s steadfast love and his sure faithfulness to his Word. King Jesus had this unwavering confidence in his father and in his darkest hour, he committed himself to him.

45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23. 

And so did God’s people before us

God’s people alike had this sure hope in God and they lived by faith, walking in the world as strangers waiting to live with the God they hoped for all their life. What a joy to have this as the heritage of our faith! How privileged are we to be the heirs of God’s unwavering promises, to wait on our faithful God, as we take refuge in his King, Jesus,  like the saints before did!

11,39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

12, 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 11-12

Those who walk by faith walk not in their own strength or merely by wishful thinking but on the sure confidence we have in God and the strength that comes from his eternal Word as we wait for his glorious eternal dwelling.

8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”

31 … those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40.

I pray as Andrew Murray did, “Father, teach us all how to wait.”

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The Testimony of the Cross

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Unimaginable love

The Cross of Jesus stands tall as a great reminder both of God’s unimaginable love to those who believe as well as his sure dreadful judgment to those who reject him.

If ever we doubt his love, we look and see one who wouldn’t spare his own son to save us. How then will he not give us the eternal new creation?

Sure Judgement

If ever we doubt his coming eternal judgement, we look and see one who killed his own son for our rebellion. How much will he punish those who reject his salvation?

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. John 3.

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True hope for the weak

False hope

The hope of weak spirited men like me who fret at the thought of uncertainty, suffering and in face of inescapable death is not found in hours of boosting self esteem or ignoring this reality. Telling me to believe in myself is not only unhelpful but ridiculous seeing that’s exactly what caused all this mess. Saying death is only natural and inconsequential to worry about now is a lie my body and spirit cannot stomach.

True Hope
But as Christians we know we can trust in another who is not only more powerful but has himself experienced and conquered the weakness of the human body and living in a broken world to sit enthroned as the true king of God’s world, Jesus the Christ.

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God,and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2.
#True reality
#True Hope
#Unwavering Confidence

One destination, same method: one Lord

wildbeest

 

 

 

 

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…39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 11-12.

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Here he comes!

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I have seen something beyond the horizon

Set my eye on a city out of this world

I hear the voice of the archangel

See my Lord rip through the clouds

Hear the roar, he comes and I must see him

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I dream of something beyond my imagination

And live for a day yet to be born

See mother earth writhe in pain and anguish

Yearning and waiting for the birth of the new world

Hear the cry, he comes and soon we will see him

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Will you watch and wait with me?

Not for the streets of gold but the person

For even now his destination is set

And he comes to judge, to rescue his own

Hear the thunder, he comes and all will see him

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Biblical expectations shape Christian experience

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Life in this world

As evangelical Christians, our faith is built on the firm foundation of Biblical promises. It is founded on what our heavenly Father has revealed and given to us in his Word. And we have far more than we can ever imagine; in the words of Ephesians 1:3-14, we have all the spiritual blessings in Christ and in the age to come, eternal life.

But we must also be clear on what is promised now and what is yet to come. For we cannot demand God’s faithfulness to fulfill promises he has not made for this age. That would be at the very least ignorance on our part if not mere unbelief. The implications of which are far-reaching since when we doubt God because our uninformed expectations don’t match our experience every other facet of our faith is challenged. This is the evil one’s scheme to rob us of joy and contentment in God’s promises for his vain promise of worldly satisfaction.

But should we settle for less?

But you ask, should we give up then on the pursuit of total fulfillment? Shouldn’t we be the best we can be now since God is on our side? I don’t think God wants us to settle for less if anything he promises far more than our wildest dreams in his new creation;

6 On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.The Lord has spoken…” Isaiah 25.

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”… Revelation 21.

But the point is we will have all these blessings in the new creation and all the spiritual blessings we need now to get there. But we are not there and it will do us a lot of good to remember that. If we do then we will appreciate what God gives us now without craving more. We will start seeing the world differently and enjoy the rich blessings of knowing God and belonging to his family.

It is when we truly believe this that we can be ready to face the inadequacies of life in this world for we know this is not home for us. And the enemy of our souls will not tempt us with the lie that we are missing out seeing what great spiritual blessings we have in Jesus and the amazing eternal future that awaits us ahead.

Keep your eye on the prize

Forgive me dear Lord for the times I look aside instead of looking ahead. When I stall instead of pressing on towards the prize of the upward heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Teach me like Paul to delight in the great blessing of contentment in you now, doing all things through and for him who enables me as I look forward to your eternal future:

…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4. 

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Is God to blame for Prosperity Gospel?

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To some extent yes!

So much has been said about the prosperity Gospel. Many of those who believe in true Biblical faith will refute the very thought of it. The question is, what exactly is wrong about this other Gospel? The go-to short answer is that it’s not biblical. But someone would ask, what then do we make of Old Testament passages like Deuteronomy 28 which clearly seem to advocate for prosperity Gospel? Is God to blame for prosperity Gospel then?

I must tread carefully here but we cannot avoid the fact that this passage does talk about prosperity in the most wildest form. No prosperity preacher has even come anywhere close to what God is promising here and as we see later in passages like Isaiah 25-26 and Revelation 21-22. Which is what you would expect from a God who abounds in steadfast love. That his people would profit from his unlimited share of goodness.

But what about context?

However, we wouldn’t be faithful to scripture if we ignored the conditions for this blessings, or  the fact that in this same chapter there are more and worse curses than these blessings if Israel didn’t obey. The God who has delight in blessing them would then delight in doing them harm;

63. And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Deut. 28

What’s more, 2 chapters later in Deuteronomy 31 we realise that God knows exactly what the people of Israel will do and that Israel will therefore end up facing the curses in it’s fullest form ending with the exile and the undoing of the great Israel nation.

16 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17 Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us? Deut. 31. 

What’s the point then? 

What I have always found puzzling is the fact that Moses, God’s friend and Israel leader himself wasn’t going to enjoy any of these blessings. Which means if the point of this covenant was merely to deliver these material blessings then he was going to miss out big time. But I think Moses would disagree because as we see earlier in Exodus 33, he realised that it was far better to have God in the wilderness than all the blessings of the land without God.

Moses knew that the biggest blessing of all is having a relationship with God, with which comes the overflow of blessings and without which comes destruction. It’s no wonder the author of the book of Hebrews identifies him as one of the heroes of faith. Like Abraham, he enjoyed fellowship with God as a stranger to this world; waiting for the Lord’s dwelling, the city whose designer and builder is the Lord, Hebrews 11:10.

So yes God did promise prosperity to Israel but this was tightly connected to having a relationship with him. It was only if they had God on their side that they would enjoy these blessings and be distinct before other nations. But if they turned away from God as they did then they would be worse than the nations.

What’s wrong with prosperity Gospel?

As we have seen, context really matters. What prosperity preachers miss is not just the timing and context in which God’s promises are fulfilled, it’s the ultimate blessing of all; having a relationship with God. As we see later in revelation, at the heart of all the blessings that God’s people enjoy in heaven is the fact that God dwells with his people.

They can enjoy every good thing because God is with them and has given them a new heart so that nothing evil dwells in them. It follows then that if we pursue a relationship with God now we will eventually get all the blessings. But if we want God’s blessings without God then we better prepare for the eternal curse. In reality we wouldn’t be any different from this evil world that enjoy God’s blessings while rejecting the very giver of life.

Pursue the greatest blessing

But here comes the good news. On this side of heaven we can have this great blessing, we can enjoy having a relationship with God because of what Jesus has achieved for us. As he says in John 17:3, And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. If we know him now we can have the greatest blessing of all and in future we will flourish as we live with him forever.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” Rev. 21.

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The real world

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I wonder how you find it when the Gospels speak about Jesus engaging with the kingdom of Satan like when he casts out demons? What immediately comes to mind! For those of us who love fantasy it sounds like fairy tales. You might even say, well if you are speaking about Jesus then its a fairy tale.

The striking thing though is that whether you dismiss Jesus or not, none of us would dismiss the presence of evil in this world. But Jesus goes a step further than we think, he tells us not just that evil exists in this world but that our world is evil and our generation is an evil generation and this has been the case since our first parents rebelled against God, Genesis 3:6.

A bit harsh you would think! Most of us tend to think that generally we have good and evil people or good people who occasionally or due to bad upbringing, do bad stuff. But Jesus unashamedly calls this world what it really is, a world of evil where the good God has stepped into;

John 3: 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

What’s worse is we tend to separate the material world from the spiritual world but God would have us know that this material world is part of the spiritual world. Actually the spiritual is the real world.  This explains why Jesus confronts the kingdom of darkness in the Gospels and why the apostle Paul speaks of this world with a deeply spiritual perspective in Ephesians.

 1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. Ephesians 2. 

…10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 10. 

Why is knowing this important?

I think for two reasons. One it explains to us why our friends won’t believe even when we clearly explain the amazing life saving Gospel with all skill and effort. If there’s any hope for them then it will take God to free them from the shackles of the evil slave master, Satan. It will take serious spiritual work to give them life from the dead. And this brings us humbly to God’s Word and prayer.

Secondly, it explains this world that we live in as Christians, it’s enemy territory and the enemy of our souls prowls seeking someone to devour and separate us from the good reign of our righteous King Jesus as the apostle Peter warns us; 1 Peter 5:8. It tells me that those bad habits that I so easily fall into, forgetting meditation of God’s word and prayer are not mere habits but schemes of the enemy to lead me astray; to feed on his lies and so forget who I am and where I’m headed. Hence as Christians we must look at this world the way God sees it in its truest spiritual form. It will do us good to remember the spiritual is the real world.

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