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place of extreme Beauty, Delight, or Happiness
know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do
not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a
one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether
in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was
caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not
lawful for a man to utter.
is a term used for a Persian Garden.
The Greek translation of the Bible called the Septuagint calls
the Garden of Eden paradise. Paul
says someone experienced paradise in an “out of body” experience in
2 Corinthians 12. I believe
that someone was Paul. The
thief on the cross that died trusting in the Lord was taken with the
Lord to paradise. The
overcomers or true believers in the Ephesian church are going to have
access to the tree of life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God
(Revelation 2:7). While each
of these letters in Revelation 2 and 3 seemed to be addressed to a
specific church that existed in that day, each message is to those who
will hear in all of the churches. So
paradise seems to be the eternal state of the believer.
And that is something to anticipate with joy.
was in the Garden of Eden. That
was a beautiful garden that had not been spoiled by sin.
But paradise for the thief on the cross, for Paul and for the
remnant of true believers in the churches of Revelation 2 and 3 seem to
be in different places. While
theologians might argue about whether paradise for the thief on the
cross is exactly the same place as paradise for Paul in his out of body
experience, it is obvious that paradise is a beautiful place that has
been prepared for the those who have turned from the sin of unbelief and
have trusted in this One who has been willing to bear the punishment
that we deserve because of our sin.
The final dwelling place of the believer is obviously a paradise
in the sense that it will be a place of extreme beauty, delight and
happiness. I suppose that
the Father’s house in John 14 must be in the center of this garden.
I think that the real attraction of that Garden will be the Lord
Himself. The Lord had
unhindered communion with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before sin
entered into the picture. Because
of the cross, there will be unhindered communion with the Lord in the
final abode of the believer called paradise.
Only We Could See!
our day, people who claim to have visions and revelations are generally
considered to be mentally unstable.
Many of them are. People
who have written about “out of body” experiences have in many cases
had beautiful things to report while “dead” and yet by their own
testimony, they died “the first time” as unbelievers.
These stories are not to be believed since they do not agree with
the Biblical truth that only those who are saved, born again, and
converted will see paradise. The
rest have the wrath of God abiding on them according to John 3:36.
Satan is a great deceiver and he is doing his best to keep
there are people that I know who have had the veil between the physical
world and the spirit world drawn aside, and like Paul, they have seen
things that they couldn’t properly express.
In addition, there are records of this veil being drawn aside in
the Bible. Just like today, the experiences weren’t common, but those
that occurred were very real.
saw a ladder ascending to heaven in Genesis 28:12.
Elisha and his servant saw the chariots of fire protecting Elisha
and his servant in 2 Kings 6:17. In
Isaiah 6, Isaiah saw the Lord in heaven on his throne with the angels
ministering to Him. Peter,
James and John had the veil pulled aside when they saw the Lord talking
to Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.
And then there is the experience that the Apostle Paul recounts
of a man in 2 Corinthians 12. That
man seems to have been Paul. I
personally believe that Paul had this experience when he was stoned and
left for dead at Lystra in Acts 14:19.
After being dragged out of the city, he got up and went back into
Future is Glorious for the Believer
don’t expect to see paradise until I am there eternally. I
don’t expect to have the experience of Paul.
But I do expect to see paradise.
It will be beautiful and the Lord will be the attraction there.
We may get to talk to Moses and Elijah and Paul if we are willing
to stand in a long line. We
will also be reunited with loved ones who were “overcomers” or true
am quite happy to stay here, but I am excited about seeing the other
side as well. I hope all of
my friends and loved ones will be reunited with me in paradise.
for the week of August 2, 2015
8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who
love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
all things work together for GOOD to those who love God? The
Lord says that they do so they must, but in what sense is this true?
I believe that the all things that work together for good to
those who love God are the things that the Holy Spirit does for
believers in Christ as mentioned in the chapter.
Unwise Use of this Verse
the news recently a woman was found in her car having been shot.
She has not died but I am certain she does not think getting
shot was “good.” This week, there have been shootings in
movie theaters, shootings at Army posts, and shootings in many other
places where the inhumanity of man to man has been demonstrated.
I do not think any of these shootings were “good.” This
week a six year old drowned at a recreational beach a few miles from
where I live. The drowning was an accident, but it will
change the life of that family forever. I doubt that they are
thanking the Lord for the death of that child.
had a committed Christian friend who took care of her husband as he
died a slow death from colon cancer. While she took care of him,
she was diagnosed with breast cancer which was apparently cured.
Then after her husband died she remarried and within months of
her remarriage, she was struck with brain cancer. We watched her
die a slow death. This is what God calls GOOD? No way!
would not be helpful and could even be considered cruel to tell all
these people that “all things work together for good” to those who
love God. To do so is implying that they don’t love God, and
some of these people might not. In addition, for those who do
love God, we are saying that this is the “good” that God has
wished upon them. I strongly urge people to think before
misusing a verse like this and thinking that they will be a help and a
comfort to those who are suffering.
realize that there is a sense in which God can use evil for our good.
We would not have known how much God loves us if there had not
been disobedience in the Garden of Eden. But to say that the
sorrow that came into this world because of that sin is “good” is
not something I am willing to say. Thorns, thistles, wars,
murder, chronic sickness, and sorrow are the result of that
disobedience in the garden. Even though the saved that die in
car accidents, and that die in war, and that die from cancer do
experience the ultimate “good” of being free from sin and its
consequences, I don’t think that is what this verse is talking
about. The normal sense of the words would be taken to mean that
all things work together for good NOW and that ultimately good is
going to come out of tragedy. While that often happens, that
isn’t always the case. Sometimes people come to know the Lord
because of sorrow and tragedy but sometimes they don’t. So
what does the verse really mean?
the chapter there is a great conflict between the flesh and the
Spirit. The flesh is our nature that we got from Adam and that
nature is expressed in appetites or “fleshly lusts” that “war
against the soul (1 Peter 2:11).” The Holy Spirit is the
indwelling Spirit of God that we are given the moment we trust Christ
(Romans 8:9). The Holy Spirit gives us power over the flesh or
carnal mind. He gives us hope or the promise of a glorious
future. The Holy Spirit helps us pray. He predestined the
saved (those who are called or named saints) to be conformed to the
image of the Lord.
conclusion of the matter is seen in the final part of the chapter.
If God be for us (the true believer), who can be (successful)
against us? Romans 8:35 says, “Who shall separate us from the love
of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” And so, yes, ultimately we
end up on the winning side if we are truly saved. But when going
through these trials it is well to remember that the Holy Spirit is
not engineering these difficulties. Instead the Holy Spirit is
doing good by strengthening us for the battle.
things in this life do not work together for good because Satan is
alive and active on planet earth. He knows how to destroy that
which glorifies God. But all things that the Holy Spirit is
doing for us is good and is for our good. And that is
for the week of August 9, 2015
Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you
are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in
Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we
are of all men the most pitiable.
to Get Depressed without Really Trying
week I had a couple of depressing experiences. The
first was when I got together with some of my family at a convenient
(and reasonably inexpensive) restaurant.
As I sat there and looked at each of those present, I couldn’t
help but think that when we were young we used to go visit “the old
people” in our family—old people like us!
There is nothing wrong with getting old.
It is better than the alternative, but what happened to the time
and to the dreams? Did we
really make our mark in the world and are we leaving it better off than
the way we found it?
I had another experience that really emphasized the futility of this
life. I signed up for the
website that has been developed for my graduating high school class.
When I did, I noticed how many have died.
My best friend in high school died at age 59.
Some of my classmates died shortly after graduation.
Many of us are still around even though most are retired, and we
have likely accomplished most of what we are going to accomplish.
We were the class that was going to change the world.
I hate to be a cynic; but
if we changed the world, we didn’t do a very good job!
of us think we are going to do great things when we are young planning
our future; but, actually, we do just what everyone before us has done.
We are born, we spend years getting ready to do something great,
we spend forty years trying to accomplish that, we retire; and we die.
Along the way, many of us have children and raise a family and
they go through the same motions.
Profit Under the Sun
wonder Paul said that if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we
are of all men most pitiable.
Paul was probably thinking that the troubles and persecutions of
Christians in his day were meaningless unless there was hope beyond the
grave. He was not talking
about hoping to be saved, he was talking about having something to look
forward to because he was saved. We
all need to have something to look forward to or life becomes
meaningless and depressing. Paul
was looking forward to the future when the resurrected Lord would return
and set things right. He was
looking forward to a future that was much brighter than the present
Paul may have been referring to the persecution of Christians, I have
thought that taking the “hope” of the Christian away from him would
leave believers with nothing. We
get up every morning with the confident expectation that whether we are
sick or poor or friendless or homeless, we have a better future prepared
for us, and it is for eternity. Take
away that hope and life becomes the life of the preacher in Ecclesiastes
when he said all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
He considered life to be chasing after the wind.
The preacher in that book had experienced about everything that
could be experienced. He had
partied like no one else. He had gained wisdom, he had built things, he
had acquired lots of possessions. And
yet, he came to the conclusion that there was no profit “under the
while it is true that there is a cycle to life and that cycle means that
we live, we reproduce, and then we die.
Because of us others live and reproduce and then die.
That cycle would be so meaningless if there was not something
more to anticipate. We who
are saved live with that hope every day.
If that hope were to be taken away, we would certainly be of all
people most pitiable. We
would have been living a lie. Since
most Christians live for eternity and do not get their fulfillment from
“this life under the sun”, we won’t even have the toys to leave
behind to our children.
really don’t know how those who think that this life is all there is,
manage to get out of bed in the morning.
I don’t care how many toys a person acquires, how much power a
person has, or how much success a person thinks he has, it all ends when
this life is over. A person
might get a footnote in a text book somewhere but since nobody reads
books any more, what will it matter?
am spent time with a group of Christians this weekend where we took a
loaf of bread and a cup of wine and we ate of that bread and wine
together. We did this in
order to show the “Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians
11:26)!” UNTIL HE COMES!
I am a believer, and that keeps me from getting too depressed
when I realize that most of this life is behind me.
There is HOPE!
for the week of August 16, 2015
Problem with the Doing Plan
5:12-13 And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a
man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and
implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me
clean.” Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am
willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him.
the Lord Ever Unwilling?
Lord had the power to heal and this leper knew that.
However, the leper wasn’t sure that the Lord would want to heal
him. So he approaches the
Lord with respect and says, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me
clean.” According to the
Old Testament law this leper should not have been in the city, he should
have been outside. He should
not have approached the Lord. He
should have been putting his finger over his lip; and he should have
cried, “Unclean, Unclean.” (See Leviticus 13:45-46).
This was to keep him from infecting others with his disease.
But the Lord never questioned his presence and the Lord didn’t
have to worry about being infected.
When he touched people he didn’t get defiled by them in any
way, rather they got cleansed by Him.
would the Lord be willing to cleanse the leper?
Of course! The Lord
had power to cleanse and the apostles had that power.
The Lord used that power to convince people that He was the Son
of God. The apostles used it
before there was a written New Testament to prove that they were
commissioned by the Lord to preach as witnesses to the resurrection.
Their power proved that they had the authentic message of God.
Today we have the Bible, verified by scholars, verified by our
consciences, and verified by fulfilled prophecies connected with the
Lord’s first coming. Most
of us who preach the Gospel today do not have the miraculous power to
heal. While miraculous
healings do occur from time to time, that is not the norm.
The Bible has become the final revelation of the Lord for this
age, and it no longer needs to be confirmed by unusual miracles.
is a picture of sin. A
sinner is unclean and only the Lord can cleanse him.
We know that the blood (the Lord’s death by crucifixion) of
Jesus Christ God’s son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
That passage is written to those in the “family,” that is to
believers. The blood is
available to all but not all are cleansed.
Only those who want to be cleansed and who trust in the Lord are
cleansed. But does the Lord
want to cleanse all? Absolutely!
In 1 Timothy 2:4 Paul tell us that the Lord, “desires all men
to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Why then does Satan convince people that the Lord might not want
to cleanse them?
people think that they have committed sins that are too great to be
forgiven. However, God
wouldn’t have sent His Son to the cross because of His love for the
world (John 3:16), if He hadn’t wanted to save and forgive all.
But Satan has many ways to convince people that the Lord does not
want to save them. I am glad
to report that the Lord has never turned anyone away who in simple
trusting faith has come to Him for salvation and cleansing.
In Matthew 11:28 the Lord says, “Come to Me, ALL YOU who labor
and are heavy laden, and I WILL give you rest.”
the Lord Ever Turn Anyone Away?
have said that the Lord never turns anyone away who comes to Him in
simple trusting faith. However,
not everyone comes to him that way. Nicodemus did come with the right
attitude in John 3, however. He
came confused and he left enlightened.
He came in darkness and he lift with spiritual light.
He came an unbeliever and he left a believer.
He came lost and he left saved (See John 3:17).
Even those who come with the wrong attitude are not turned away,
but those with the wrong attitude usually do turn away because they will
not accept the fact that salvation is based on God’s plan and not
Luke 18:18-23, a rich young
ruler came to the Lord wanting to know what he could DO to inherit
eternal life. Now it would
be possible to go to heaven on the doing plan if we could actually keep
the moral code of God, but only the Lord could to that. This
young ruler thought he could do it and when asked what the law said
about inheriting eternal life, the ruler quoted from the Ten
Commandments. He mostly
quoted commandments having to do with loving his neighbor.
He said he had kept that law from his youth.
But the law says that you are to love your neighbor as you love
yourself. When the young
ruler was told to sell all that he had and give to the poor, he
couldn’t bring himself to do that.
He didn’t love his neighbor as himself.
He like everyone else that is trying to get to heaven by doing
will find that they have fallen short.
And unless we all admit that, we are never going to be able to
trust the Lord’s done plan rather than our doing plan.
Even the rich need to be saved.
But they are not saved by selling their goods and giving to the
poor, but by trusting in the blood of Christ.
That is God’s done plan.
can confidently affirm that the Lord is ready, willing and able to save
all who come to him in simple trusting faith.
He may not be ready and willing to heal our diseases in our day
and age, but He will save, forgive and cleanse everyone who knows that
they have a sin problem that only the Lord can cure. Thank
for the week of August 23, 2015
Depths of Despair
on my right hand and see,
there is no one who acknowledges me;
has failed me;
one cares for my soul.
is a prayer of David, the man who had been anointed by Samuel to be
king. He had slain the
giant; but now he was
fleeing from Saul, the man whose place he had taken when he fought
Goliath. Saul should have
been leading his army in the battle against the giant, but David the
shepherd boy did it instead. Now,
when Saul realizes that God is going to give the throne to David, he
tries to destroy David in order to keep God’s will from being done.
Obviously, Saul wants to keep the kingdom in his family.
But thwarting the known will of God is sin and always causes
confusion. So David has to
flee from Saul and ends up at the cave of Adullam.
to the Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge, “David was twice in
great peril in caves: on one occasion, in the cave of Adullam, when he
fled from Achish king of Gath; and on another, in the cave of Engedi,
where he had taken refuge from the pursuit of Saul. It is not certain to
which of these events this Psalm refers; though probably to the
former.” I believe that
this Psalm is more likely associated with the Cave of Adullam.
In 1 Samuel 22:1-2 we read, “David
therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So
when his brothers and all his father's house heard it,
they went down there to him. And
everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt,
and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became
captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.”
He then protected his father and mother by sending them to Moab
while he was fleeing from Saul.
Did No One Care for His Soul?
David figured that the 400 men came to him in order to further their own
careers and to be important people in the coming kingdom of David, or he
had to assume that they came to him because they loved him and wanted to
defend him. It is true that
they had messed up their lives and coming to David would give them a
fresh start, but didn’t they care for his soul?
They were risking their lives to defend him.
know that there were three of them that definitely cared for David’s
soul. We read about them in
2 Samuel 23: 13-17. David
didn’t have access to Red Roof Inn’s, McDonald’s or better yet,
Bob Evan’s. He didn’t
have dry cleaners or even automatic washing machines. He didn’t even
have access to shower and bathroom facilities.
He did not have refrigerators but had to live off the land.
This was the situation with a man whom God had anointed King?
No wonder he could wonder if anyone cared for his soul.
But there were were at least three that loved him. We
aren’t told their names but we are told what they did.
These three risked their lives to get David a refreshing drink
from the well in Bethlehem. This
was a well David had likely enjoyed while growing up.
These three men broke through the ranks of the Philistine army to
get David that drink. His
wish for this refreshing drink was their command. Yes,
was another man who cared for David.
His name was Jonathan, and he would normally have succeeded his
father Saul as the next king. But
he loved David and even warned him to flee when Saul lost his mind and
began trying to slay David.
wonder how these men who loved and defended David would have felt
reading this Psalm. NO ONE
CARES FOR MY SOUL! I suppose
that there could be something about the language that I am missing.
Perhaps David was only talking about the nation and those who
were defending Saul. But I
suspect, that when David was fleeing from Saul, when he was totally
discouraged and depressed, he said things that he likely didn’t really
mean. He may have felt that
even his friends were turning against him.
But good friends would understand.
I friend “loves at all times (Proverbs 17:17).”
What a blessing it is to have a few friends like that.
That kind of friend reflects the love of God who loved us when we
didn’t love Him.
Lord is a friend who loves at all times.
No matter how many times we fail Him, He will not fail his
friends. And His friends are
those who trust Him. He has
laid down His life for friends.
But while it is nice to know that the Lord loves us even when we
do things we shouldn’t and when we speak unadvisedly, it is nice to
have real friends that also reflect that Christ-like character.
If we have at least one friend like that, we need to thank the
Lord for that friend. And
then we need to try to be that kind of friend to someone.
for the week of August 30, 2015