Caught Up to Heaven [A SERIES]

PART ONE – PAUL’S EXPERIENCE

[1]  I must go on boasting.  Although there is nothing to be gained.  I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.

[2]  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.  Whether it was in the body or out of the body, I do not know–God knows.

[3]  And I know that this man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows– [4] was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

[5]  I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.

[6]  Even if I should choose to boast, I could not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth.  But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do, or say…

[The New International Version Bible (NIV)]

What Paul says in verse 1, he is forced to say so that the Corinthian church members might look at him from God’s perspective.

Paul’s restraint increases as he discloses what was probably the most intimate and sacred of all his Christian experiences.  Paul repeats that he is speaking of himself only because circumstances have compelled him to do so.

What Does the Bible Tell Us About the Experience of Death and About What Happens Next?  [2 Cor. 12:2-4]

“The Journey to Paradise” – Revelations, and Visions:

Revelations are apocalypses, literally “to remove the cover, to unveil.”  It’s the unveiling of something hidden which gives light and knowledge to those who see it (Eph. 3:3; Rom. 16:25).  

Revelations are more general than visions.  You might have revelations without having visions but one never has visions without revelations.

Visions, dreams, and trances are hard to distinguish.  A vision comes to one in an ecstatic state (Isa. 1:1; Ezek. 12:27) and brings revelation knowledge.  The experience points to a special awareness of God concerning what He is doing or going to do.

Several years ago I was asked by a local pastor if I could write a play for the upcoming Resurrection Sunday.  I was given two months to put everything together.  And by the way…I’ve never done anything like this before.  So lacking confidence, not knowing where this was going, I began to pray for guidance.  NOTHING!

Then, perhaps out of desperation and lack of faith, I found myself lying face down on the carpet pleading for God to give me inspiration.  And then I heard in my spirit, “Mel, get up from the floor, and wait.”  “Wait?  I have a month to put this all together, Lord!”  His response was “Just wait”.

That night in my sleep, I felt a nudge to my shoulder and thinking that I was dreaming, rolled over to the other side.  Again a nudge, but harder this time.  As I sat up on the edge of the bed, the voice returned:  “Mel, get up and go to the dining room table.  Get a pen and a paper tablet and I will give instructions on what I want you to accomplish.”  This was at 5:30 AM.  Was I still dreaming, is this really happening?  I got up and followed His guidance and instructions and at 7 AM the outline was finished.  The storyline, the set design, the title….everything but a script!  Yes, God even took care of that.  Was this a dream, a vision, a revelation?  All I do know is, the experience showed me what He was doing and going to do!

Background To The Text [2 Corinthians 12] –

Most Bible scholars believe Paul had a near-death experience.  Paul mentions that at least on one occasion he was left for dead.  As he writes he speaks of this experience and says some guy he knew had it.  Writing about something that happened to an author and inventing a second person to deliver a message is common literary practice.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12 speaks from experience that there are events that follow our physical death.  The burden of this conversation prepares us, not for death, but for the events that take place between our dying and our final destination.

Caught Up To Heaven (verses 2-4).

One vision which Paul recounts stands out from the rest in its extraordinary character.  His ecstatic episode which he was transported to Paradise began in VERSE 2.

Paul is sure his remarkable experience occurred but uncertain whether the “caught up” [RAPTURE] experience was in the body or out of the body.

BODY RAPTURE is not regarded as impossible.  TWO instances are recorded in the Old Testament, Enoch (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5) and Elijah (1 Kings 2:11; Mk. 9:4) and in the New Testament, Jesus was bodily raptured into heaven.

At any rate, such a one was caught up (Gk. harpazo, “to snatch away”).  “Caught up” is a form of the Greek word harpazog, the same word used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which in reference to the RAPTURE of the Church.

Paul was “raptured” to the third heaven.

The Third Heaven

The third heaven designates a place beyond the immediate heaven of the earth’s atmosphere of clouds and beyond; the further heaven of outer space and its galaxies and into the presence of God Himself.  (Heb. 4:14, 7:26; Eph. 4:10)

The FIRST HEAVEN is atmospheric, the SECOND HEAVEN is composed of the stellar universe, and the THIRD HEAVEN is the unique dwelling place of God–a different dimension.

In VERSE 3, Paul again clarifies his mystifying experience to his readers.  He’s uncertain if he was in a bodily or disembodied state.  Whether his soul was separated from the body for a time and taken up into heaven, or whether he was taken up, body and soul together, he wasn’t sure.

[3] “And I know that this man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows–“

VERSE 4 teaches us that human words are inadequate to tell us about heaven.

[4] “was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things that no one is permitted to tell”

If the THIRD HEAVEN describes the place of his rapture, then Paradise specifies the wonder of his rapture.  [The third heaven of v. 2 and the Paradise of v.4 are one and the same.]

Paradise is a Persian word for an enclosed park, garden or pleasure ground used only three times in the New Testament.  In Luke 23:43 with the thief on the Cross, and in Revelation 2:7.  In the Old Testament, this term is used in Genesis as the Garden or Paradise or Eden.

I believe Paul witnessed the state of the spirit-souls of the redeemed who had died are “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8), but still in a “celestial body” so we won’t feel naked until the day when we are covered with the glorified and incorruptible resurrection body (2 Cor. 5:1-3. 1 Cor. 15:42, Phil. 3:20-21).  Then the REDEEMED of the Lord will shine forth with full splendor of eternal Christ-likeness.

Paul heard unspeakable (“inexpressible”) words.

Unspeakable word is an oxymoron, speaking which may not be spoken, for even in the heavenly state it is beyond words.

Human language is too inadequate to describe things that transcend all knowledge and understanding.

We often speak about Paradise trying to describe its state and heaven to define its features and whereabouts, but the truth is that we are stepping over the threshold into another dimension, a reality not of this world, infinite, spiritual and only distantly sensed by us in our earthly tent.  And yet as born-again believers in Christ, we know with assurance that one day we’ll be at our permanent home.

The Scriptures will occasionally part the mists of our earthly existence and grant us brief glimpses of the GLORY yet to be revealed.  (2 Cor. 5:11-12, 1 Corinthians 15:50; Rom. 8:38-39; Phil. 1:21. 3:20-21; 1 Thess. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:8.)

From Paul’s experiences, we are granted a view of the indescribable GLORY that lies ahead and thereby secured him to patiently endure all the severe suffering in his ministry.  He thus knows that the sufferings of this present age were not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to come (Rom. 8:18; 2 Tim. 4:18).

Someday we will arrive in heaven realizing that everything we see and experience is new and indescribable in earthly vocabulary.  I’m so thankful that God used illustrations that we could understand that gives us just a glimpse of eternity.

CURRENT EVIDENCE (verses 5-6)

Paul could have boasted, as his rivals do, of impressive religious credentials, experience, and achievements, but he doesn’t.  Instead, he speaks only of his weaknesses.

[5] “Of this same [man’s experiences] I will boast, but of myself (personally) I will not boast, except as regards my infirmities (my weaknesses)”  [AMP}

Paul’s weaknesses, trials, and tribulations he went through for Christ’s sake, that had left him broken of body, mind, emotion, and spirit.  For these areas became the very places where God could do His greatest work in and then through Paul.

Paul wouldn’t be like his opponents who glorified in their earthly state or pride.  For God alone is due to all the glory!

Though boasting includes many lies, in verse 6 Paul affirms his trustfulness.

[6] “Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth.  But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say”  [NIV]

Although all of Paul’s boasts were true and about true occurrences, not to mention all the other reasons he could boast, he didn’t dwell on those things.

And the reasons why?

Others might think too highly of him.  He didn’t want to be judged by the past, or what he said about himself, but that men should judge him by what they presently heard and saw.

[NOTE:  I will continue this study, being CAUGHT UP, with Part Two in the Series – The Leading Up To Our Final Destination.]

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CREDITS:

Dictionary:  VINE’S Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Jr.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New King James Version (NKJV); or as noted.

 

 

 

JUDGMENT is Good! (Part One in Series)

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF MICAH

Scripture:  Micah 1:1-9; 1 Peter 4:17-18

Micah 1:1 (NIV)

[1]  The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah– the vision saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

The word here translated as “came” speaks of the Word ‘happening’ to Micah.  It was a ‘happening’–as unplanned and spontaneous.  It was a revelation!

Has that ever happened to you?  God speaks to you and a revelation occurs.

A PERSONAL ‘God-moment’ STORY:

Several years ago, the pastor at a church I was attending called me and asked if I could write a play, a skit, for the upcoming Easter season.  I tried to explain to him that my experience in stage productions was acting in a limited fashion, but writing a play?  His reply, “Do the best that you can,” and hung up the phone.

So for the next three days, I fervently prayed for direction and guidance from the Lord but my prayers seemed to go unanswered.  Until one very early morning, around 3 A.M., I felt a hand on my shoulder.  A clear, soft voice said, “Mel, wake up.  I’ve heard your prayers.”  Thinking I was dreaming, I rolled over to my other side.  Again, the hand and the voice,  “Get up and go into the dining room with paper and pen.  I have heard your prayer.”  Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I put my feet on the floor and quietly proceeded to the God designated room with paper and pen and sat down at the table in obedience.   Was all this a dream, was this really happening?  Time passed by quickly and at 6:30 A.M., “Mercy On Trial”, a three-act play on Christ’s death sentence, death, burial, and resurrection was written down in a draft.  Also, a clear picture that I could sketch on paper for the set design, costumes, and props.

What was absent to my dismay was a script.!  “What now, Lord?” asking out loud.

Silence.

And then a thought was placed in my spirit.  My daughter-in-law graduated from college with a major in communication and theater. Thank You, Lord.

I called her later that morning with my vision, God’s creation with directions and asked her if she could write God’s play with a script?  Her answer:   “How can I refuse?  When do you need it?”  ”

Would next week be too soon?” I asked sheepishly.  She giggled and answered,  “I’ll try.”   One month later after casting, set building, costuming, “Mercy On Trial” was performed for the first time on Easter morning.

Not everyone thinks in tidy terms, nor in a form of Systematic Theology that’s suppose to bring the orderliness to the Bible.  [*See https://www.theopedia.com/systematic-theology]

Micah not only had the Word of God “come” or “happen,” to him; it was the Word of God “which he saw.”

It’s not just that he heard God’s voice, but he was enabled to see into God’s mind.

The origin of the word describes the impact of pictorial thinking.  What Micah has now experienced and visualized, he now must translate into words to convey God’s message to man.

Micah’s prophecies began during the reign of three successive kings of Judah.

So in seven short chapters, we can see a summary of some fifty years of ministry.  I’d call that a ‘study in brevity’!

Micah’s prophecy concerned Samaria and Jerusalem, two capital cities in divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  However, Micah isn’t limited to time and space.  God’s Word never is.

The prophet goes on to address ALL people on the whole earth (verse 2).

[2]  “Hear, you peoples, all of you, listen, earth and all who live in it, that the SOVEREIGN LORD may bear witness against you, the LORD from His holy temple.”

According to 1 Peter 4:17-18, Micah seems to say that if the LORD deals with His own people, what shall the end of those be who oppress them!

Who does God call as the witness against the peoples?

He calls Himself, even the LORD from His holy temple (Micah 1:2-3).

He comes out of His place in heaven, from His holy temple, and treads upon the earth–the towering places of the earth where idolatry is widespread.

What is Idolatry?  Is it something that was just practiced in the Old Testament of the Bible?

“Idolatry” is “anything that is placed before or above the One, True God” [Footnote [i].]

Martin Luther is right; our hearts are idol factories, mine included.

At the time of Micah’s writing, the Assyrian armies were on the march.  As the instruments of God’s judgment, the whole earth shook before them.

Samaria would surely fall, her idols would be beaten to pieces.  The enemy reached even to the gates of Jerusalem, which the prophet vividly described to Judah’s high place.

The Reality of God’s Judgment.

God’s judgment on the world can be comparable to the verdict of a judge in a courtroom.  God’s universal position entitles Him to act as JUDGE.  And when God acts as JUDGE, it takes powerful and decisive actions (verse 4) –

Micah 1:4 (AMP):  And the mountains shall melt under Him and the valleys shall be cleft like wax before the fire like waters poured down a steep place.

These images portray God who comes to judge His people at His command ALL the powers of the universe.  From the beginning of Israel as a nation, God demanded absolute obedience to Him.  He prohibited allegiance to idols (Exodus 20:3).  Even in a casual reading of Samaria’s history, it discloses allegiance to idols.

Israel kept some idols of Canaan and they also utilized some of the idols of their foreign neighbors.  The LORD wouldn’t tolerate rivals; He responded in judgment.

IDOLATRY IS NOT OUTDATED!

It doesn’t belong to the superstition of ancient people.  Anything…and I mean anything that takes the place of God is an idol and the cause of God’s judgment of sin (verse 5).

[5]  All this is because of the transgression of Jacob and the sins of the house of Israel.  What is the transgression of Jacob?  Is it not [the idol worship of] Samaria?  And what are the high places [of idolatry] in Judah?  Are they not Jerusalem?  (AMP)

God’s people had committed sins against the LORD.

Micah didn’t name the specifics; he simply accused both Israel and Judah of offending God.  They deliberately rebelled against the LORD and failed to live up to His expectations.  Failing to attain God’s goal and plan for their lives made the people liable to the prosecuting action of the Judge.

God’s judgment isn’t simply an outburst of rage; one that we sometimes display as parents when our children are disobedient and rebellious.  God’s judgment is a settled disposition that resolves the issue of rebellion.  When we rebel and choose to go our own way, we can expect judgment from the LORD.

Learning from the Tragic Effects of Judgment (verses 6-7)

God’s judgment brings destruction

Micah referred to the destruction of the impressive city of Samaria in verse 6:  “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble”

This impressive city, the reputation for its beauty and military strength, became nothing more than a hill.  The city wall toppled.  Future generations used the site to plant vineyards.

Human beings must beware of what they call security.

Feeling secure in wealth and military might lead to destruction.  Armies can be bested and cities can be destroyed.

God’s JUDGMENT can bring disappointment

The Israelites gave their allegiance to the idols of the day, and the idols were destroyed by the Assyrians.  They then had no place to turn.  They were not only defenseless but bitterly disappointed in their so-called gods.

God’s great grief in His judgment (v.v. 8-9)

God discloses His aching in judgment in verse 8:

“Therefore I [Micah] will lament and wail; I will go stripped and [virtually] naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals and a lamentation like the ostriches.”  [AMP]

God’s is portrayed by Micah as one distraught with grief by vivid pictures such as jackals howling and ostriches crying in the night to illustrate intense grief.  Micah draws back the veil that allows us to see God’s great grief over sin.

God discloses His sadness over one person’s failure and to learn from another person’s mistake.  (v. 9)

“For [Samaria’s] wounds are incurable and they come even to Judah; He [the Lord] has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem.”  [AMP]

Not only was God hurt over Samaria’s failure, but He was also sad that Judah failed to learn from their neighbor’s mistake.

JUDGMENT WAS ABOUT TO COME!

Jerusalem was to face the consequences of judgment in the same way as Samaria.

God’s people stand at a unique place and time in history.  We possess the story of former generations.  The lesson is obvious; we ought to learn from the errors of their ways.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  “What Does dolatry Mean?” by Jack Wellman, The Christian Crier.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search, Settings advanced.

Youtube:  Law & Order theme music from television.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV), or where noted.

Vine”s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W.E. Vine and Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr.

It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood…So Get Off the Donkey!

BIBLE SCRIPTURE:  Luke 10:30-32

[30]  In reply Jesus said:  “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits.  They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.”

[31]  “By chance a priest came along.  But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  [32]  A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.”  (New Living Translation – NLT)

The story Jesus told is something that could really happen.  In fact, it does really happen all the time.  When we read or hear the story of the Good Samaritan in our bibles, we tend to look down on the Priest and Levite being so heartless and selfish in their thought process.

But in taking a deeper look and asking:  “Is there ever a legitimate reason to stay on your donkey and pass on by?”

My wife and I have had requests over the years from several churches we’ve been a part of for taking a meal or two in helping someone who was in need–sickness, death in the family or financial assistance, to someone going through cancer treatments and their insurance company, through work, didn’t cover all of the costs.  And to be really honest here, my enthusiasm wavered at times (not my wife’s) in helping.  I had become cynical in my doing from past experiences of ingratitude by those we helped.  I had to let it be known, I would go ahead and help this time, but in doing so, complained as I drove over to their homes.

I didn’t want to get off my donkey one bit.

Maybe that’s how the Priest and the Levite were in the story Jesus told.  I’m sure they must have had some logical reason to pass on by when they saw the man bleeding and naked lying on the side of the road.

HERE ARE BUT A FEW OF THE POSSIBLE REASONS –

#1.  DEFILEMENT:  

One of the reasons may have been that they have disqualified themselves from temple service by handling blood or a dead body.  “YUCK”!  For a Priest or Levite, Temple Work is a career job.  Helping the injured man would have made them “ceremonially unclean”.  They had places to go and ministry to perform…for God no less!  Surely that was more important than helping some stranger by the road they didn’t even know.

#2.  DANGER:

Another likely reason they passed on by was that on that stretch of road it was dangerous for travelers.  This was a road people avoided if they could because it was a hilly, wandering road out in the middle of nowhere!

They knew about the thieves and robbers who hid out along this stretch of road.  If the Priest and Levite had more time, more money, they would have avoided the road altogether.  No doubt, they had heard of gangs setting traps by placing a seemingly injured person, who was actually part of the gang, by the side of the road.  The Priest and Levite were too savvy to fall for that kind of trick.  No way were they going to allow themselves to be unsuspecting travelers, stopping to give aid while the rest of the gang, hiding in the bushes, pounced upon the helpless rescuer.

#3.  DELAY:

It’s just possible that the reason these two passed on by was a simple matter as time restraints.  They were on a schedule.  Maybe they were running late.  Frequently we find ourselves held captive by tight schedules:  Work, our kid’s sports activities, church meetings…you know what I’m talking about.  At times, we feel like we’re racing through our days and can’t ever catch up!  We’ve got our poor old donkeys running full speed ahead.  We don’t have time to even notice the guy by the side of the road, much less stop and give a helping hand.

It’s easy to see the Priest and Levite had at least 3 logical reasons to walk on by.

As many times as we have heard pastor’s sermons regarding the Good Samaritan, we’ve blasted them, for their CHOICES.  I know I can’t say “yes” to everyone who asks me for a helping hand.  I can’t do everything anyone asks me to do.  None of us can!

The fact is that everything you say “yes” to… is something else you had to say “no” to.

So, Who Is Your Neighbor–Who’s MY Neighbor?

The LAWYER in Luke 10 finds himself ‘questioning’ Jesus, not asking questions to clarify his understanding.  There’s a big difference.  [See htttp://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/asking-or-questi…re-a-difference/ ]

In Marvin Vincent’s Word Studies, the words directed to Jesus in verse 27 is responding to loving his neighbor: “And he, determined to account himself of reproach, said to Jesus…AND WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?”

WHO WERE THE SAMARITAN NEIGHBORS?

ISRAEL’S next door neighbors occupied the country formerly belonging to the tribe of Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh.  The capital of the country was Samaria.  When the ten tribes were carried away to Assyria, the king of Assyria sent people from the surrounding conquered countries to inhabit Samaria (2 Kings 17:24; Ezra 4:2-11).  These foreigners intermarried with the Israelite population that was still in and around Samaria.  These “Samaritans” at first, worshipped the idols of their own nations, but being troubled with lions, supposed it was because they had not honored the God of that territory.  So a Jewish priest was therefore sent to them from Assyria to instruct them in the Jewish religion.  They were instructed from the 5 Books of Moses but still retained many of their idolatrous customs.  The SAMARITAN neighbors had embraced a RELIGION of a mixture of Judaism and idolatry (2 Kings 17:26-28).  Since the Israelite inhabitants of Samaria had intermarried with the foreigners and adopted their idolatrous religion, SAMARITANS were generally considered “half-breeds” and were universally DESPISED by the Jews [See Footnote [i] ].

If We Are “Neighbors,” then What Kind of Neighbors Are We?

A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING.

Earlier this month, my wife had extensive surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Washington.  This facility is over 100 miles in each direction from our home and as you near the surgery center, the traffic conditions can stress out even the calmest person.

Because of the distance, we had been planning out the details for some time ahead of the scheduled surgery; thinking about lodging for me while she stayed overnight in the hospital.  My son and his wife live about 45 minutes away from the Surgery Center, making my stay comfortable.

My wife also planned out some meals for us when we returned home with a stocked pantry, and things seemed to be in place.  So when we finally returned home (very uncomfortable car ride for over two hours), we picked up our dog at the kennel and tried to settle in.

WHO’S YOUR NEIGHBOR?

The next morning, my wife received a call from a neighbor that lives behind our home:  “Hi Dianne.  I noticed when you got home yesterday that you were in some pain and discomfort.  Is there a problem?”  She explained the details of her surgery.

Our neighbor responded with concern, “We would like to furnish you both with meals for a few days and walk your dog twice during the day as well.”   My wife was surprised at the offer from a neighbor we knew in passing only, saying “Thank you.  You are so kind in your offer.  But my husband is really a good cook, so we should be just fine!”

The conversation didn’t end here with our neighbor:

“We think your husband needs a break while looking after you.  Do you guys have any dietary restrictions?”  “No”, my wife answered, and the next two days we had home prepared hot meals and our feisty little dog had his daily two walks…in the RAIN…without a complaint from our neighbor.  What a blessing.

Now you might be thinking at this point what was the great SPIRITUAL AWAKENING and, what does your neighbor and the Good Samaritan have in common?

Luke 10:33 –  “when he saw him, he was moved…”

The Samaritan noticed the man in need alongside the road.  He could have remained on his donkey and said, “Is there anything you’re in need of?  No?  When I get to my town, I’ll ask the church to pray for you.  Don’t forget, let us know if you need anything.  God bless!”

Now don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not saying that asking if you can help one in need and praying for that person isn’t necessary.  What I’m saying is, putting your FAITH into action speaks much louder than words only.  With over 40 years of sales experience, I learned a valuable lesson:  Don’t ASK questions that a person can answer “NO” to:  “Do you need anything?”  Our questions should begin with the letter “W”:  “When do you folks eat dinner, 5, 6 in the evening?”  I think you get the idea!

Verse 34 –  The Samaritan got off the donkey!

“He went to him and dressed his wounds, pouring on [them] oil and wine.  Then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him”  (Amplified Bible).

BUT WAIT!  THERE’S MORE!!

Verse 35 –  Good Neighbors go beyond what’s asked for!

“And the next day he took out two denarii [two day’s wages] and gave [them] to the innkeeper, saying,  Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I [myself] will repay you when I return.”

Most of us when in need, whether from ill-health, financial distress, death in the family, when asked by others if they can help in a particular way will answer “No, thank you.  We’re fine.”  So the inquirer responds in kind while still sitting on the donkey,  “Okay, but if you need anything, call us,” and it ends there.

So who are my “Samaritan Neighbors”?  Did I really know who they were?

Our two loving neighbors are openly Lesbians.  As a Christian and lover of God’s Word, homosexuality IS CONDEMNED!  [Romans 1:26-28; Jude 1:7; 1 Tim. 1:10-11; Mark 19:6-9; 1 Cor. 7:2; 1 Cor. 6:9; Lev. 18:22, 20:13].

But as BELIEVERS, we should hate ALL SIN…but LOVE the SINNER, as hard as that might be to swallow at times!

I made calls to our church the moment we returned from the hospital to say we wouldn’t be in church for a while because of my wife’s surgery and didn’t want them to worry that we had left the church for some reason.

PASTOR’S RESPONSE:  “Thanks for letting us know.  If you need anything, let us know!”

It’s been over two weeks now, and not one phone call, not one visit from the assembly and one more thing…not a phone call from our own children since their mother’s hospital stay!

I’m not angry, I’m sad and disappointed that the”religious”…the priest and the Levite…have remained seated on the donkey as I have been over the past years.  I have held out my hands with this and giving it to the Lord in forgiveness.  NO MORE, LORD!

God’s Spirit has clearly spoken to my wife and I, through all this.  The next time you know of someone in need in the community, LOVE them through Christ Jesus and get down from the donkey and put your FAITH into ACTION; preparing meals without asking, dropping by their house and giving them support, even if it’s just holding their hand and saying nothing (Job 2:13).  If they reject your LOVE, that’s okay.  For God will say to you, “You are not doing this just for them.  You are doing this because I first loved you!”

MATTHEW 25:35-40

verse 40:  And the King will reply to them, “Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me.

 

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  GotQuestions.org  “Who were the Samaritans?”

Music/Video:  YouTube – “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” – Mr. Rogers Television Show for kids.

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do We Actually “Trust In God” or Do We Just Say We Do? – [PART 2]

Do We Really TRUST?

PART TWO–Walking In The Divine Path or The Aimless Way:

In Part One, we saw illustrations given by the prophet Isaiah regarding 4- contrasts of  TRUST IN GOD:

1.  Between inhabiting the holy city  and “lofty” ruins (Isaiah 26:1-6).

2.  Between walking the divine path and the aimless way.

3.  Between working with supernatural ability and human inability.

4.  Between rising to eternal life and to judgement.

In PART TWO, I’ll pick up the conversation where I left off in Walking In the Divine Path or The Aimless Way.

“[7]  The way of the [consistently] righteous (those living in moral and spiritual rectitude in every area and relationship of their lives) is level and straight; You, O [Lord],  Who are upright, direct aright and make level the path of the [uncompromisingly] just and righteous.  [8] Yes, in the path of Your judgements, O Lord, we wait [expectantly] for You; our heartfelt desire is for Your name and for the remembrance of You.  [9] My soul yearns for You [O Lord] in the night, yes, my spirit within me seeks You earnestly; for [only] when Your judgments are in the earth will the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God).  [10] Though favor is shown to the wicked, yet, they do not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness they deal perversely and refuse to see the majesty of the Lord.  [11] Though Your hand is lifted high to strike, Lord, they do not see it.  Let them see Your zeal for Your people and be ashamed; yes, let the fire reserved for Your enemies consume them”  (Isaiah 26:7-11 AMP).

Look at verse 7, where it tells us that the way or path of righteousness is level and straight.  Then Isaiah calls God “You, O [Lord], Who are upright.”

The NIV translation of the same verse is a bit different in wording: “O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth”; this is actually the same word but because Hebrew and English phrasing are different.  The idea here is, God’s path is level because God is level; God’s path is straight because God is straight; God’s path is righteous…you get the picture.  In other words, we walk in God’s path by imitating the character of God.  Now I don’t think Isaiah is telling us God’s path is a stroll in the park, but he is saying that the path is easy to find.

–God Repeatedly Reveals His Character To Us.

First, He reveals His character via His WordSecondly, He reveals Himself through the incarnation of Jesus.  And thirdly, He reveals Himself via other Christians around us.  All God is asking us is to imitate Him!

–Every single command God has given us.

His commands are a reflection of some aspect of who He is.  Imitating God may not be easy, but the requirements are clear!  By contrast, the way of the world is aimless and…clueless.

Character Reflection

–Isaiah Gives Us Three Pictures of People Who Refuse to Follow God:

FIRST PICTURE given in verse 10–The Message Bible.

“If the wicked are shown grace, they don’t seem to get it”

SECOND PICTURE in verse 10 (b)–The Message Bible.

“In the land of right living, they persisted in wrong living, blind to the splendor of God”

THIRD PICTURE in verse 11–The Message Bible.

“You hold your hand up high God, but they don’t see it.”

Even though the proof of Jesus’ death and resurrection is evident, people are still refusing to come to terms with God.  The apostle Paul says the same thing in Romans 1:18-32.  People who you come in contact with daily know the righteous acts of God; they can see the divine path out in front of them but they willfully refuse to walk in it; then encourage others not to walk in it either.  They choose to walk the aimless way.  Which path are you walking?

THE THIRD CONTRAST: WORKING WITH SUPERNATURAL (divine) ABILITY or HUMAN INABILITY–

[READ Verses 12-18]

Everything that we accomplish in our lives has been done by God working in us.

City Bible Church-North Sound isn’t located here in Lynden, Washington because a small group of Christian believers established it.  God established His Church.  God used (names) to build this church, working through them, gifting them with talents and abilities.  And if this church continues to grow in number, it’s because God will continue to do His work in this place.  For that reason only, God’s name is honored!

–Our Power or God’s Power.

Are we as a church, in the 21st century working in our power, or relying, trusting in God’s power?  Are we as a church just ‘doing’ and our efforts are cast into the wind?   By contrast, Isaiah tells us what happens when we work in our own ability:

[17] As a woman with child drawing near the time of her delivery is in pain and writhes and cries out in her pangs, so we have been before You (at Your presence), O Lord.  [18] We have been with child, we have been writhing and in pain; we have, as it were, brought forth [only] wind.  We have not wrought any deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not yet been born”  (Isaiah 26:17-18 AMP).

–Giving Birth!

Isaiah is using the images of a woman giving birth and describing that it takes a lot of effort.  For nine months the child is growing inside the womb and after nine months, the day finally arrives.  Oh, how I remember those joyful days so long ago.  They will always be permanently imprinted on my mind.  The thrill, the joy of being a father, WOW!

Now husbands might think they understand what their wives are going through or went at the time, but not really–right ladies?  I once heard a woman describe what her childbirth experience was like: ‘Taking my upper lip and pull it over my head.” 

Seriously, this image of a woman struggling to give birth in verses 17-18 is the strongest image Isaiah could come up with.  But nothing comes of all that labor.  Imagine after going through labor ladies, this doctor tells you that you didn’t give birth to a baby–it was just gas!

That’s what Isaiah is trying to get across here.  When we work in our own strength we achieve nothing.  Even if we men were to work as hard as a woman giving birth (and that will never happen), our work accomplishes nothing.

3-Questions For The Church:

1.  Are we as a church in God’s supernatural ability or our own inability?

2.  Are ALL the programs we come up with and are doing just programs, making a ‘big splash’ for all to see, taking a lot of effort but accomplishing little?

3.  Are we laboring in God’s strength in accomplishing His plan for eternal salvation?

THE LAST CONTRAST IN ISAIAH 26:19-21:

[19]  Your dead shall live [O Lord]; the bodies of our dead [saints] shall rise.  You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!  For Your dew [O Lord] is a dew of [sparkling] light [heavenly, supernatural dew]; and the earth shall cast forth the dead [to life again; for on the land of the shades of the dead You will let Your dew fall].  [20] Come, my people, enter your chambers and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the [Lord’s] wrath is past.  [21] For behold, the Lord is coming out of His place [heaven] to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also will disclose the blood shed upon her and will no longer cover her slain and conceal her guilt.”

–“Shut the Front Door”!

ISAIAH draws up on the blackboard for us the instructions for this last contrast:  Between the eternal destination of the righteous and the wicked.

God’s people will rise to eternal life in the middle of ‘shouts for joy’; to share in the festivities of God’s final triumph on earth.  The wicked; the lost souls, will rise to eternal punishment.

The previous three contrast:  Inhabiting the city of salvation vs. the lofty ruins;  Walking the divine path vs. wandering the aimless way;  Working in God’s strength vs. working in our own inability–all are choices we have to make.

Grabbing the Door

–ONE WAY, AND ONLY ONE!

In my investigation regarding “TRUST IN GOD” this past week, I uncovered an old children’s song “One Door and only one”.  It goes like this:

One door and only one

And yet its sides are two.

Inside and outside

On which side are you.

I’ll go on with more of the songs lyrics that fits in nicely with the choices that must be made, sooner than later:

One Door and Only One

And yet its sides are two

I’m on the inside

On which side are you?

One Lord and only one

And yet the ways are two,

Right way and wrong way

On which way are you?

And if the contrasts in the song are not enough to convince you by now, let me give you just a few more choices:

One strength and only one,

yet the works are two.

His strength or our strength,

which strength are you?

One eternity, and only one,

yet the results are two.

Eternal life with God or

eternal separation from God,

WHICH RESULT WILL BE YOURS?