Heaven is the real world…

I fell in love with another Bible verse recently. Probably because it awakened me to a subtle error I had been participating in. The book of Colossians tells us to “Seek those which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:2-3).

The Spirit of God used that verse to remind me again that this is not my real home – heaven is. That’s why my heart ought to be there. It’s also why my thoughts should be there too!

I read something by Pastor Eugene Peterson recently where he told the story of preaching on a Sunday morning, following the sermon a high-energy executive came up to him and said, “This was wonderful pastor, but now we have to get back to the real world, don’t we?” Peterson writes,

I bristled. I had thought we were in the most-real world, the world revealed as God’s, a world believed to be invaded by God’s grace and turning on the pivot of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

What I’m growing to appreciate is that heaven is the real world. It’s the one that lasts. That’s why the Bible refers to it as eternal. In heaven there is “fullness of joy” because Jesus Christ is there. (Psalm 16:11).

Answer this simple question: Have you ever wanted something so badly that it held your mind’s attention? It captivated your heart’s desires? Eventually you got it only for it to break? It now lies at the bottom of a landfill somewhere in South Jersey? How is it that our culture has convinced us that that kind of thing is real, and a heaven that lasts and is filled with joy is not?

That’s why I’ve spent my week thinking on things that are above. Thinking about Jesus. Who He is, and what He has done for our world (John 3:16-17). I guess I just don’t want my desires or my thoughts to be consumed anymore with the stuff that doesn’t last. You’ll never find heaven in a landfill, but you’ll find a lot of your personal possessions there.

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Listening and obeying

The Bible says a great deal about listening to God’s voice. When we read his Word we need to be attentive listeners. When we hear his Word taught we need to be asking “How can I change because of what I have heard?”

Author Ken Ramey captures this truth well,

Listening is hard work because application is inherent in it. You have to connect the information to your life, and do something about what you hear. . .”

 He goes on to explain,

A proper response to God’s Word begins by having an open, receptive heart. But it is not enough to just humbly and gladly accept the Word. You must act on it. You must be reactive to the Word. A chemical reaction is when chemicals undergo change. Perhaps you remember those high school chemistry experiments, when the test tube boils over after mixing two chemicals together. When you hear and receive God’s Word, it should immediately elicit some kind of reaction. It should produce some change in you.

There is an inseparable relationship in the Bible between listening and obeying. Throughout the Scripture, listening is equated with obeying. In many passages, a direct connection is clearly made between listening and obeying (Exod. 15:26; Deut. 6:3-5; Luke 6:47; 8:21; 11:28). They are like two side of the same coin. They are synonymous terms. In fact, there is a direct lexical link between the words “hear” and “obey” in both the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament word for “hear” is sama. This is the same Hebrew word used for “obey.” There is no separate word for “obey” in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the Greek word for “hear” is akouw. The word for “obey,” is hupakouo, which literally means “to hear under,” is a derivative of the word for “hear.” The implication is that, in God’s mind, hearing and obeying are one in the same.1

Connecting listening with obeying is essential.  Understanding the meaning of these words is so helpful. Hear again the author’s conclusion of his word study:  The implication is that, in God’s mind, hearing and obeying are one in the same.

Doing what God’s Word says is not optional if we are to grow in Christ. It is far better to think of the doing part as the examination at the end of the instruction to determine if you have learned what God is teaching.

For additional study consider: Deuteronomy 8:1-3; 11:13-15; Isaiah 55:1-3; Proverbs 1:33; Luke 11:28

1. Expository Listening by Ken Ramey

The truth about how anger works…

I struggle with anger. Perhaps you do too. When I succumb to my anger it feels like I don’t have control over my emotions, thoughts, and choices. It seems like decisions are being made for me. It feels like I’m in a box. But is that reality? The following video illustration helps to clarify. If you are receiving this via email or Facebook you may need to go to the home page www.philmoser.com  to view it. Special thanks to Pastor Jack and his family for participating. Running time about seven minutes.

The angry man believes certain things about his emotions, thoughts and choices. He believes them so strongly, because he feels them so deeply. But God’s word offers rock-solid truth, and that unchanging truth brings hope. The best way to correct the faulty belief system of the angry man (and hence gain victory over our angry responses) is to put it up against God’s Word. The following slide shows us how…

The difference between wants and needs…

Perhaps you’ve heard God described as “Jehovah-Jirah.” That name means “The-Lord-Will-Provide.” 

The Old Testament Israelites should have learned that lesson well.  For forty years they roamed the wilderness, while the Lord wonderfully provided precisely what they needed. However, they soon forgot that the Lord was daily providing their needs. Every morning God dropped the equivalency of 240 freight cars of manna (a small bread-like flake) upon the ground. When they needed water He miraculously provided it from a rock.

Still, it wasn’t long before they got their needs confused with their wants, and began to complain (Num. 11:5-6). Sound familiar? I read recently that sales catalogues exist to create dissatisfaction with what we already have. That statement is probably true about our entire culture. Wherever you go it seems we are told we don’t yet have enough, or the latest, or the best. Such a spirit of dissatisfaction will never bring about a spirit of gratefulness to the Lord who will provide.

The solution, quite simply, is keeping our wants from becoming confused with our needs. That is what allowed the apostle Paul to say that he had learned “contentment” in whatever state he found himself (Phil 4:11). Few people were more precise than Paul in understanding the difference between his wants and his needs

Paul wrote: “… all things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant . . .” [Phil. 3:8 in The Message].

Paul’s only need was Jesus Christ, everything else was a want. Does that sound radical?

 To the apostle Paul it sounded satisfying.

Courage in the Face of Storms

There is a simple prayer uttered by the early disciples of Christ in Acts chapter 4.  In the face of threats from the religious bureaucracy of the day they prayed to the Lord for courage. In their words, “grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:29). Remarkably, in spite of the persecution that ensued, God honored that request.  What you discover is a group of men who preached the gospel about Jesus Christ in spite of the outcome.

While at the temple they were found to be preaching the message of salvation through Jesus and they were thrown in prison (Acts 5:17).

 Unbeknownst to the jealous religious leaders, and the jail-keepers that night an angel let them out of prison. The next morning when the leaders went to the prison to bring them to trial, they opened the door and found they weren’t there! But these prisoners didn’t simply evaporate. While the high priest wandered how he could find them, a messenger brought him word that they were back telling the truth about Jesus in the temple (Acts 5:25) – the very place where they had been arrested the first time. When confronted and asked to stop preaching the message about Jesus, Peter responded, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

 This time before their release they were beaten (Acts 5:40). That would seem to be a fairly effective deterrent for most of us. If when we proclaimed a message we were beaten for it, we might have a tendency to speak with greater political correctness the next time around. However, this group had a different perspective. Know where they went upon their release? Right back to the temple, and there they “didn’t cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42). What a great example these disciples provide us with.  The Gospel of Jesus was something worth being courageous about.

Thinking on the Morally Excellent

Even if you are a student of art you may not recognize his name. Bertoldo de Giovani. None of his work has endured. His significance is found in that he was the tutor of the greatest sculptor of all time: Michelangelo. He was only 14 years old when he came to Giovani, but it was already obvious that Michelangelo was uniquely gifted. One day Giovani came to the studio to find him toying with a piece of sculptor that was far beneath his abilities. Giovani grabbed a hammer, stomped across the room, and smashed the work into tiny pieces, shouting his way into history. He exclaimed, “Michelangelo! Talent is cheap, dedication is costly!”

The pursuit of excellence in all walks of life will take a great deal of dedication. Certainly that is true in our Christian life as well. That is why in Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul challenges us to think on things that are excellent. The word excellence in the Greek language is derived from the same root as the word meaning “to please.”  Biblically speaking, when we are pursuing the things that are excellent we are seeking to please God not man (Galations 1:10). When Jesus Christ was on earth he modeled that lifestyle. He always did that which was pleasing to the Father (John 8:29). He did not live selfishly in order to please himself (Romans 15:3). In fact, his overriding desire was to know the will of His Heavenly Father and do it (John 5:30).  The Christian, then, is to be dedicated to the pursuit of the things that God calls excellent.

With that understanding in mind, what would Giovani do ifuix he examined your life with a hammer? Would he discover someone bent on seeking the will of God, and doing it?  Or would he find you tinkering with things that have no eternal significance?  One is the pursuit of excellence. The other? Nothing more than trivial pursuit.