Friday, 2/15/19 – Tough Question

“Paradise, Heaven, Abraham’s Bosom – I’m confused!!!”

I had to chuckle when I first read this question. It showed me the enquirer was digging deep in God’s Word and mining the sort of questions that have challenged the saints through centuries.

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The question as it originally came to me was this, “When Jesus is on the cross and he says to the thief, ‘’I tell you the truth, today you will be in Paradise with me.’ what exactly is He saying? Because Jesus didn’t go to heaven that day, He spent time in hell…right. And what is paradise, is it heaven or like Abraham’s Bosom?”

Right away I knew I had my work cut out for me. But hey, the best steak is worth the chew! – Right? 

As I researched I was surprised to learn that even the early church father’s could not agree on this. In fact, the topic is far more complex that the question above articulates.

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The term “heaven” appears in the very first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The original Hebrew word used throughout the Old Testament is in the plural “shamayim.” In scripture it is used of the place where birds fly (Matt. 13:32), the place where the stars are located (Isa. 13:10), the realm of angels (Matt.18:10) and where God dwells (Deut.4:39). Paul curiously writes of having been caught up to “the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2).

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The term “Paradise” appears in Luke 23:43, 2 Cor. 12:4, Rev. 2:7. The same Greek word (paradeisos) is used for “garden” in the Greek Old Testament, e.g. “the Garden (or Paradise) of Eden.” In Judaism “the Garden of God” also refers to the place where righteous souls go and await the resurrection (See Luke 16:22 “the bosom of Abraham” and Rev. 6:9 souls of the martyrs under the altar.)

To me, all this adds tantalizing tidbits to the question at hand, but I hesitate to get too dogmatic about details.

As to how Jesus could be three days in hell and “today” be with the repentant thief in Paradise, we can add a few more questions…

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If our understanding of Paradise is correct, it seems that a similar construct can be discerned when speaking Hell. Two Greek words are used in speaking of these nether realms: “Hell” and “Hades.” Hell (aka “Ghenna,” “the lake of fire,” etc) is “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41) and will be where the unrighteous go after the final judgement (Rev. 19:20-21; 20:10-15). If Jesus had visited Hell after his crucifixion there would have been no one there! “Hades” (Hadas) makes more sense. This appears to correspond as the opposite to Paradise, it being a place where the unrighteous dead await the judgement.

To the thief on the cross Jesus promised “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Yet when he arose from the tomb three days later He told Mary, “I am not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17). More to chew!

Into this mix we must also remember that Christ in his fullness has all His Divine attributes. He is Eternal, and He is Omnipresent. This means He is capable of being all places at all times. But at what point did He again resume that fulness?

Perhaps rather than trying to discern the more difficult aspects of Christ’s statement , I.e. “Today” and “Paradise,” we should focus on His words “you will be with Me.” For me, at least, that is sufficient.

Press on…

Note: This enquirer also had a second question. I’ll tackle it next week! 

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Thursday, 2/14/19 – Discipleship: the Bible

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The King James Bible was commissioned in 1604 and first published in 1611. Many of the original words and spellings in the 1611 version would seem very odd to us today…

“That which we haue seene and heard, declare we vnto you, that ye also may haue fellowship with vs; and truely our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Sonne Iesus Christ.” – original, 1611

The 1769 update was less cumbersome, containing slightly ‘modernized’ spellings and word forms…

“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

The 1982 update (NKJV) is the most contemporary and has further ‘modernized’ spellings and word forms.

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

photo of child reading holy bible

Though numerous other translations are available today the King James is still the favorite of many. One narrow-minded fan once referred to it alone as the ‘Holy’ Bible and added, “If it was good enough for St. Paul then it’s good enough for me.” But of course Paul did not have a KJV or any other Bible. He had access to only a few hand-written parchment copies of books of the Old Testament in Aramaic, and they were precious to him. As he requested of Timothy, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.” (see 2 Tim. 4:13)

But to best understand the nuances of scriptural vocabulary one must return to the language in which the New Testament was initially written: Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament.

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I believe that the rule of Rome and the subsequent introduction of Greek as the dominant language was all very much a part of “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) Paul mentions in preparation for Christ’s entry into this world and the propagation of the gospel which followed.

Greek, you see, is a most rich, precise and nuanced language. A single Greek word can require several words in another language to fully convey its meaning when translated. This is one reason so many Bible versions are possible and why cross referencing them is helpful in studying a passage.

What a great God we have Who pays such attention to detail and works all things to restore us to fellowship with Him! How He must love us! He wants nothing more! “He devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.” (2 Samuel 14:14).

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ? Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Wednesday, 2/13/19 – Pressing on…

time clock sleep count

It had been an exhausting day–physically, emotionally, and mentally. I crashed into bed that night, slept deep, hard and fast. About 3 AM I pulled myself out to make a washroom trip… probably the only thing that could have forced my body into movement. Bumping off a wall or two I tottered my way to the washroom and lifted the lid of the laundry hamper. Thankfully, at the last second, the fog cleared and disaster was averted.

“Be alert and of sober mind,” warns Peter (1 Pet. 5:8). Fuzzy thinking can get us into a heap of troubles!

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“Sober” is an interesting word. We tend to think of it as simply meaning the opposite of drunk, which it does, but it also means to be serious, restrained, not giddy. Peter calls Christians to be “of sober mind.” Peter also calls us to “Be alert,” To ever be wide-eyed, “on the watch” for prowling predators.

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

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Perhaps you’ve seen those nature shows. Some frail and innocent creature is nibbling away at the undergrowth when suddenly its ears perk up… its body stiffens as its gaze darts about looking for what its senses say is surely near. Over there–it spots movement…  a lion! The creature darts madly zigzagging through the landscape. Other creatures taking its cue stampede. The lion, eyes locked on its single, frail quest pursues, galloping at maximum stride. Will it outrun its prey; will the target tire and succumb?

Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

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What can halt a rampaging lion? The “king of the beasts,” we call him. Must we all tremble under his rule?
But wait…. there is a bigger Lion. A Lion with our best interests at heart! A Lion Whose roar shakes the earth! A Lion Whose appearance can halt the predator and send him cowering and whimpering away!

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Christians know this Greater Lion, this King of the king of the beasts and King of the kings of men– Do you?

Don’t stumble about in the night any longer! Sober up! Be alert! It’s a jungle out there. Come to the Great Lion!

Press on…

Tuesday, 2/12/19 – Pressing on…

20190211_0729031 Peter 5:7 was my mother’s favorite scripture verse. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” For her it was the King James version imbedded in her memory and which gave her comfort, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” I remember her often reciting it… “Casting… care… careth…” it had an appealing ring.

Mom had good reason to rely on this promise. A play accident when she was very young had damaged her developing spine in an era when medical science could do little to correct it. She endured years of therapy which involved being hung weighted in a door frame, in hope of stretching her warping spine. She wore a heavy metal body brace beneath her clothing and became a target for the taunts of her schoolmates.

She told me the story of how one schoolyard bully threatened repeatedly to plough his fist into her spine and cripple her permanently. One day, fed up with this, she said to him, “OK… go ahead. Give it all you’ve got!” The bully did exactly that!

But mom knew a thing the bully had forgot: the heavy metal jacket she wore under her clothing!

The therapy was of little help. Kyphosis and scoliosis grew her into a truncated hunchback. No doubt she wondered if she would ever find love.

20190211_072825She served with the Red Cross during World War II. Some of her fondest memories were the smiles she brought to the wounded, souls far more disfigured than she. She did find love, and soon after the war ended she and my father were married. Dad took a job in a T.V. repair shop – cutting edge stuff back then. Mom worked in a bookstore, which she loved. I was born in 1951.

But even my birth brought challenges, negotiating my passage through her twisted and compressed organs. Year’s later when I began to have seizures doctors reasoned that this was the cause. When my grandmother died her father-in-law moved in and in time developed Alzheimer’s. When I was very young the same scenario had developed with her own father – till she found him dead one morning in our living room armchair. Three days past my 16th birthday my father died also and my widowed mom took in boarders to help make ends meet. This continued several years as she influenced the lives of many. Eventually worsening Parkinson’s disease forced her to close this chapter of her pilgrimage.

Mom died July 23 1990 from frailness of body, pneumonia, and finally a heart attack.

20190211_072934Throughout her life mom struggled with recurring nervousness. Another scripture to which she often turned was this,

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matt. 10:29-31)

She told me once of a time she heard the Lord’s voice clearly and softly say to her, “Little girl, you worry too much.” Mom was a frail and faithful saint. Her quiet acceptance of trials and her developing habit of casting her cares upon Him is a legacy I cherish.

This same care is available to all who call upon Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. He cares about you… now… so much that He gave His life to restore you. Cast your all upon Him today.

More tomorrow…

Need help casting? Use the Contact page.

Monday, 2/11/19 – Pressing on…

 

animal animal photography beak bird

In his message this past Sunday Pastor Andrew shared insights from 1 Peter 5:5-11.

The first of these verses speak to us of humility: “submit yourselves”… “clothe yourselves with humility”… “humble yourselves…” Each statement puts the onus on us, not God, to do something. Essentially, that thing involves a change of mind… a repentance!

Pastor Andrew pointed out to us how a definition of humility as “self-lowering” can itself suggest a certain self-pride.

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I found this thought intriguing. But I believe I see his point: one must believe oneself to be “above” in the first place if one is to “lower” oneself in the second place. Truly humble people cannot announce their own humility. Truly humble people are unaware of their humility. They are only aware of the grace and glory of God.

“Humility,” explained Pastor Andrew, is really more akin to “honesty.”

Consider the Apostle Paul’s evaluation of himself. His words focus on the grace and the glory of God, yet also reveal his humility,

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Cor. 15:9,10)

Paul simply saw himself as a sinner saved by the grace of God, being transformed for the Glory of God, as he confessed to Timothy,

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Tim. 1:15b,16)

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Pride and deceit were the devil’s original devices, the opposite of honesty is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy derives from the Greek hypokrisis “acting on a stage… to play a part, pretend.” Do you find yourself “play acting?” Do you need a “change of mind?”

Repentance is just that. It turns you toward the grace and glory of God. It moves you toward an honest underhandedness — a position “under God’s mighty hand.”

More tomorrow…

Listen to Pastor Andrew’s full message here. Look under ‘Media’ for the Feb. 10 message.

Friday, 2/8/19 – Tough Question

“What does the Bible mean by ‘We walk by faith?’”

The exact phrase is found in the King James rendition of 2 Cor. 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
The NIV reads, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” The Amplified version expands it, “for we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises]

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In the passage above Paul is writing about the frailty of these earthly bodies and how they are unsuited for eternity. He reminds his readers of the transformation that will come, and that by comparison all present troubles are indeed “light and momentary” (4:17). The believer rests in this hope and thereby “walks by faith, not by sight.

This idea of the Christian walking, or living day-to-day, by faith is found throughout the New Testament.

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Paul knows that in addition to their frailty, these bodies are also corrupt; their natural (fallen) inclinations are always to self and sin. The believer must refuse these, turning instead to the wishes and enablement of the Holy Spirit within. This is that “working out” of one’s salvation Paul spoke of to the Philippians (Phil. 2:12).

To the Galatians Paul wrote,

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Gal. 5:16-18).

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” Paul writes (v.24). Just as he had said of himself, “I have been crucified with Christ…” (2:20). That “old man” is indeed crucified, but not yet expired. He yells and curses from that cross, even while writhing and growing ever weaker. Paul was well acquainted with this struggle too (See Romans chapter 7).

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Our job is to think twice in all the little decisions of life… to “keep in step with the Spirit” (v.25)… to choose the Spirit over the flesh… each righteous decision one more “step” toward holiness. One day, that “old man” will pester no longer. We will not need to think “twice” for only the righteous thought will remain.

This journey is all by faith–our steadfast reliance upon the Holy Spirit. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Press on…
Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Thursday, 2/7/19 – Discipleship: Priorities

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Some days when I get home from a good walk, or from driving about on errands, I am eager first thing to visit the washroom! You probably know the feeling.

Yet, urgent as this may be, it is not in such a moment the first thing I will do. Before this priority can be satisfied I must shut the front door, remove backpack and boots, hang jacket and headwear, check the room is not occupied, then wash my soiled hands. Only then can I give what is most important the attention it requires.

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Our priorities can often get jumbled by the necessities of life. But the disciple of Christ must keep clearly in focus the things that in God’s eyes are most primary. We must seek His Will above our own.

A key verse regarding this is Matthew 6:33 “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

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At first, this takes discipline, but soon it becomes habit; eventually it becomes our desire. God transforms us, “renews our minds,” then what Jesus said becomes true in our hearts: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7). Why? Because our will becomes aligned with God’s will. The things we desire will be the things of the kingdom of God.

Our journey to maturity in Christ is progressive. It requires our diligence and transforms our desires. Consider the steps and goals along the way in the following passages:

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2)

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly…” (1 Cor. 3:1-3a)

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.” (Heb. 5:12)

“…let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity” (Heb. 6:1)

Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

“…one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13,14)

“…what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day…” (1 Cor. 15:3,4)

Again, Matthew 6… “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mart. 6:31-34)

Our Discipleship training manual challenges us to “Make a commitment to base every major decision on Matthew 6:33.” (p.46) When we do this, determining life’s priorities becomes much clearer.

Press on…

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ? Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.