February 28, 2016

Do You Long For Heaven?

When I was a little girl I had a dream of heaven.

I was in a field of cherry trees in the spring, with blossoms covering the ground. Jesus was there holding my hands, swinging me around and we were laughing. I felt joy. I still see that dream vividly in my mind.

But now I've grown up.

Now I know it was a little girls imagination. It's what I wanted heaven to be. I now know heaven will be so much more. I will actually know pure joy when I see Him face to face. It won't be a dream.

The Bible speaks of Heaven so much more than I'd thought. Most ungraspable, yet beautiful and mind-blowing.

John MacArthur explains the Biblical view of heaven so well in this book, that you begin to see how there is no comparison to the dreams and imaginations of men, women and children who say they have been to heaven and back.

Before reading this book, I didn't realize how many secular books were out there on near-death experiences and that they are so similar to recent Christian publications on dying, going to heaven and coming back. How could that be? How could an unbeliever have the same experience as a believer?

I found this part of the book a bit depressing.

But, when he got into the Biblical view of heaven, I got excited.

John MacArthur shares these words about the love of God and heaven:

"We will finally know perfect love. 

First Corinthians 13:13 says, 'Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.' 

Why is love the greatest of virtues? Because it is eternal. 

In heaven all our hopes will be realized. 'Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?' (Romans 8:24). All that we have laid hold of by faith will be ours to enjoy forever. Faith will be swallowed up by sight. 

But we will love perfectly and will be loved perfectly for all eternity. John 13:1 says Christ loved his disciples cis telos - literally, 'to the end,' to utter perfection. 

'Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.'                                                                                                                                John 13:1
That same love will engulf us forever. And we will finally be able to love perfectly in return."

He continues with some truths about the joy of the Lord in heaven:

"We could summarize by saying that heaven is a place of perfect joy. Our joy in this life is always mixed with sorrow, discouragement, disappointment, or worry. Sin, grief, and sorrow inevitably dampen happiness. An honest look at life in this world produces more tears than real joy. 

Our lives here begin with the joy of childbirth, but inevitably end in the sorrows of death and separation. In heaven things will be different. Heaven is a place of undiluted joy. At the end of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, the master tells the faithful steward, 'Well done, good and faithful servant...Enter into the joy of your master.' (V. 23).

Jesus's choice of that terminology indicates that one of the dominant characteristics of heaven is joy. Best of all, it's an unending and never-diminishing joy. It must be, because heavenly perfection is never altered."
There is so much to learn about heaven from Scripture. Things like what does God mean by His tabernacle in heaven? What about angels? What is the New Jerusalem? What is the difference between God's gifts and rewards? What are the three heavens described in Scripture?

John MacArthur goes into all of these questions and gives a clarity and enrichment of what the Bible says of heaven.

I found this book helpful in reinforcing my desire to test all things and it encouraged me to continue to look to Jesus and His Word for truth. To put my trust solely in Him.

There are many things we know for sure from Scripture when it comes to heaven. We know heaven is a reality of the true God, not a fairy tale. It's a place His children long for.

It's where believers will someday see God in His fullness of glory. There we will know the fullness of joy, the fulfillment of hope and faith, and God's love eternal.

I'm reading through the Psalms right now and often read of David's desire for heaven. His longing for it. Longing to be in God's presence, longing for God's fullness of joy, longing to be with Him forevermore.

"You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."  Psalm 16:11

I'm excited to see Jesus face to face. I'm excited to know the fullness of God's perfect love. I'm excited to see my hope in Him fulfilled. And I'm excited for His joy unspeakable forevermore.

Buy it HERE on Amazon

February 22, 2016

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Last week I went to my local Christian bookstore to bring in some used books in exchange for store credit. I had a few books in mind that I wanted to get, but ended up with completely different books!

I brought home these two and I'm excited to read them. The first is Randy Alcorn's novel, 'Safely Home' and secondly is A.W. Tozer's book 'God's Pursuit of Man.'

While I was browsing through the store the title of a booklet, by Tim Keller, caught my eye. It was called "The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy."

I debated on whether to purchase it or not and I ended up going home without it. I thought a lot about it in the days afterwards and decided to look it up on Amazon. The Kindle version was only $1.99 so I quickly bought it. I sat down and read it through in one sitting, it's only about 40 pages. : )

But what a moving 40 pages!

The booklet is really a study on this passage in 1 Corinthians 3:21- 4:7...

"So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours,

whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours,

 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?"

What does Paul mean by this? About caring little about others judging him and not even judging himself?  Or that his conscience is clear, but he is not innocent? What does this have to do with high or low self-esteem? And why is he talking about court?

This little booklet goes into all these questions and explains them well. I admit I was moved to tears several times at the beauty of the gospel, shared within it's few pages.

The booklet is divided into an introduction and three chapters:

Introduction: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

1. The Natural Condition of the Human Ego

2. The Transformed View of Self

3. How to Get That Transformed View of Self

Tim Keller's thoughts on high and low self-esteem stood out to me the most in chapter two. What is self-esteem and is it something Christians should even think about? He compares Paul's life to todays self-esteemed obsessed world.

He says here:

"If someone has a problem with low self-esteem we, in our modern world, seem to have only one way of dealing with it. That is remedying it with high self-esteem. We tell someone that they need to see that they are a great person, they need to see how wonderful they are. We tell them to look at all the great things they have accomplished. We tell them they just need to stop worrying about what people say about them. We tell them they need to set their own standards and accomplish them - and then make their own evaluation of themselves.

Paul's approach could not be more different.

He cares very little if he is judged by the Corinthians or by any human court. And then he goes one step further: he will not even judge himself. It is as if he says, 'I don't care what you think - but I don't care what I think. I have a very low opinion of your opinion of me - but I have a very low opinion of my opinion of me.' The fact that he has a clear conscience makes no difference. 

Look carefully at what he says in verse 4. 'My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.' His conscience may be clear - but he knows that even if he does have a clear conscience, that does not necessarily mean he is innocent. Hitler might have had a clear conscience, but it does not mean he was innocent.

What would Paul say to those who tell him to set his own standards? He would say it is a trap. A trap he will not fall into. You see, it is a trap to say that we should not worry about everyone else's standards, just set our own. That's not an answer."

He goes on to explain why this is not an answer and why we shouldn't judge ourselves.

He says here:

"When Paul says that he does not let the Corinthians judge him nor will he judge himself, he is saying that he knows about his sins but he does not connect them to himself and his identity. His sins and his identity are not connected. He refused to play that game. He does not see a sin and let it destroy his sense of identity. He will not make a connection. Neither does he see an accomplishment and congratulate himself. 

He sees all kinds of sins in himself - and all kinds of accomplishments too - but he refuses to connect them with himself or his identity. So, although he knows himself to be the chief of sinners, that fact in not going to stop him from doing the things that he is called to do."
This is important.

We should not connect our sins with ourselves and our identity, but instead, as Christians, our identity should only be in Christ. He is our righteousness. We die to self and live for Christ. We think on Him and live in obedience to Him. We care only what He thinks. He is our judge. We repent and move on. God deals with our sin, and removes it from us as far as the east is from the west (Psa 103:12). We live for Christ.

With the rising movement of self-esteem, even in the church today, self-forgetfulness is a foreign concept, but it's what Paul taught and lived and what we are called too as well.

Live for Christ.

He then talks about gospel-humility:

"Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, 'I'm in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?' True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. 

The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings."

A few things to think about! I will leave you with this beautiful quote...

"The essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less."

And I would add: ...And thinking of God more. : )

Buy the Kindle version HERE  on Amazon

February 16, 2016

The Headmistress of Rosemere

I listened to this novel on audio, which I found to be enriched by the lovely voice of English narrator,  Henrietta Meire. It truly made the novel that much more enjoyable.

Patience, after the death of her father, the absents of her brother, and the melancholy of her mother, finds herself in charge of the girl's school at Rosemere. She feels she has found God's calling on her life as headmistress.

William is the master of Eastmore Hall, a trouble man with a past full of sins and mistakes, who needs to grow up and take responsibility for his home and estate before he loses it all.

It was nice to see these characters grow and mature and fall in love.

This novel, with it's beautiful writing, also had many other characters intertwined in Patience's and William's story. Reminding me of the works of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens in this regard. I felt their influence throughout, which made me appreciate this gentle and telling story even more.

I also loved the setting of the moors of England. Such a beautiful place and a wonderful backdrop for this story of past and present in the lives of Patience and William. Every time I read of these great moors, it makes me want to visit. So lovely!

This is book two in a series of three, but is easily read as a stand alone. I highly recommend it to 19th century literary fiction lovers.

Buy it HERE on Amazon

February 7, 2016

A Few Thoughts on the Book of Revelation

I must admit the book of Revelation is not a fun read. There is a dragon and a beast. Filth, desolation and a lake of fire. Things I don't want to think about. But having read it several times through the years, I'm finding each time I do, I learn something new.

I feel a little silly about this, but I've always thought it was called the book of 'Revelations' not the book of 'Revelation' singular. This made all the difference in how I read it this time. It's not a book of 'revelations' per-say, on the end times, but rather a book that reveals our Savior, Jesus Christ, in His fullness of glory. It's about Him and His plan.

Oswald Chambers says of reading the book of Revelation:

"If we are ever going to understand the Book of Revelation we have to remember that it gives the programme of God, not the guess of a man. 'Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.' (Rev. 1:19) The Apostle is writing what the Spirit revealed to him - that is the origin of the Book."

It's Jesus warning the churches. Jesus judging the nations. Jesus saving His people. Jesus reigning on high, appointed by His Father.

You can not read this book with pride in your heart...you just won't get it. It must be read humbly before God and you must be ready to see and hear who He is.

John MacArthur explains, the book of Revelation, well here:

"Unlike most books of the Bible, Revelation contains its own title: 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ' (1:1). 'Revelation' (Gr., apokalupsis) means 'an uncovering,' 'an unveiling,' or 'a disclosure.' In the NT, this word describes the unveiling of spiritual truth (Rom. 16:25; Gal. 1:12; Eph. 1:17; 3:3), the revealing of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19), Christ's incarnation (Luke 2:32), and His glorious appearing at His second coming (2 Thess. 1:7; Pet. 1:7). In all its uses, 'revelation' refers to something or someone, once hidden, becoming visible. 

What this book reveals or unveils is Jesus Christ in glory. Truths about Him and his final victory, that the rest of Scripture merely alludes to, become clearly visible through revelation about Jesus Christ. This revelation was given to Him by God the Father, and it was communicated to the Apostle John by an angel (1:1)."

The first three chapters are Jesus, Himself, speaking to John about the 7 churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. This part really spoke to me more than it ever has. The church today is in great need of hearing and obeying what Jesus says here. I needed to hear and be reminded.

Jesus says to John:

"Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

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.

Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this." Rev. 1:17-19

I recently discovered the meaning of the word 'amen' which means, 'so be it, it is true, literally... truth.' Doesn't that bring more depth to what Jesus is saying here? He is confirming that what He says is truth.

He is forevermore alive!

In the rest of the book, John is hearing from an angel. In chapter 19 John is overwhelmed and begins to worship the angel.

"And I fell at his feet to worship him."

Then the angel said to him:

"See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Rev. 19:10

This is an important point to remember..."For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy"...The Testimony of Jesus.

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. This book is about Him. Worship not the messenger, but God alone.

Mathew Henry in his commentary of Revelation 19 says here:

"He (the angel) gave a very good reason for his refusal: 'I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren which have the testimony of Jesus-I am a creature, thine equal in office, though not in nature; I, as an angel and messenger of God, have the testimony of Jesus, a charge to be a witness for Him and to testify concerning Him, and thou, as an apostle, having the Spirit of prophecy, hast the same testimony to give in; and therefore we are in this brethren and fellow-servants.' He directs him to the true and only object of religious worship; namely, God: 'Worship God, and Him alone."

The angel is telling John that they are both servants of Christ, both created by God, both testifying concerning Jesus, having the same Spirit of prophecy and same testimony to give. They are fellow servants to God. He, the angel, is not to be worshiped, only God and Him alone.

This was very moving for me, because...

This was John, the beloved John.

Some believe he was the closest disciple and friend to Jesus, and yet he began to worship the angel! How easily it is for us all to become idolatrous!

Even John!

I found this so humbling as I thought of how pitiful we are before Christ and yet... His love for us never fails, His mercy is new every morning and His grace is all sufficient. 

He is our righteousness.

The apostle Paul says here:

"Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ

and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." Phl. 3:8-12

After John fell at the feet of the angel and began to worship, did God turn away? Did He condemn him?


He lovingly corrected him, through the words of the angel,  "See that you do not do that!" and like Paul in Philippians, John pressed on because he knew he was being perfected by the One who is his righteousness.

If you are reluctant to read the book of Revelation, think of it this way...it's a book that reveals the Savior, the One who has chosen and saved all that follow Him.

In Revelation 17:14 it says:

"These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful." 

I don't claim to know all the meanings of this book, but I do know it reveals to me my Savior's true nature. That He is God and He reigns and will reign in glory forever.

*Note - John MacArthur quote found HERE
*Note - Oswald Chambers quote from this BOOK