Heaven Is a Wonderful Place — Alternative Verses

September 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Posted in Eschatology, False teaching | Leave a comment

I concluded my sermon series on hope this past Sunday with thoughts about our final hope of being in the Lord’s presence in heaven.  I quoted that old spiritual song, Heaven Is a Wonderful Place, because it talks about seeing the face of our Savior as part of the glory of heaven.  There is great hope in that – a hope far beyond anything else in the world.  That’s why Paul said “we don’t grieve like others do who have no hope.”  So how would others, because they have no hope, have to sing that song?  Here are some rewritten verses of that old song for people of other belief systems.

I know that some could be offended at these words.  This is not my intent; my purpose is to point out, in a light-hearted manner, that only followers of the real Jesus have a hope beyond this life.  The beliefs of other religious systems offer no real hope.  Others might say these verses are exclusive and simplistic.  I would agree, but they still present the truth.  I found these verses in my files hand scribbled with pencil on the back of some other notes.  I tried to look them up to see where I might have found them, and can only conclude I must have written them myself at some forgotten time in the past.

The Christian Version:

Heaven is a wonderful place,

Filled with glory and grace;

That’s where I’ll see my Savior’s face.

Heaven is a wonderful place.

Muslims

Heaven is a wonderful place,

But of mercy there is no trace.

I dread the day I see God’s face,

For judgment is in that place.

Eastern Religions

Heaven is a wonderful sound,

but we will never be crowned

to earth we’re forever bound.

So let’s stay here for another round.

Mormons

Heaven is not a real place.

If I’m good while I’m in this place,

I’ll be a god in outer space,

With my planet to call home base.

J.W.s

Heaven is a wonderful place,

But it’s filled and out of space.

What about the rest of the human race?

For them, not a saving grace

Naturalists/Humanists

Heaven is a crazy lie,

A promise of “pie in the sky.’

No such thing as “sweet by and by.”

So in our hopelessness we cry

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The Sovereign Lord Who Bought Them

March 25, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching, Security and Assurance, Theology | 7 Comments

While recently reviewing verses I’d learned in the past, I was struck by some thoughts from 2 Peter 2:1.  In spite of the chapter change, this verse is a follow up to the argument in chapter 1:12-21, which is, in my mind, the definitive chapter about the inspiration of God’s word.  Peter tells us that Christians will have two sources for knowing the truth when he and the other apostles are gone.  The first is the accounts of those who were eye-witnesses of Jesus (which we call the New Testament) and the second is the word of the prophets (which we know as the Old Testament).  See 2 Peter 3:1-2 for a similar description.  But in the beginning of chapter 2, Peter tells us the negative or warning side of that matter.  Just as there were false prophets in the Old Testament days, so there will be false teachers in the New Testament days.

“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.  They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves.” (2 Peter 2:1 NIV)

I had three thoughts as I pondered these words.  First, the language makes one wonder if the position of teacher has, in the New Testament era, replaced the role of prophet from the Old.  Today the main method God uses of getting his word to his people is not prophets speaking forth his word so much as teachers expounding what he has already given.  Second, I noticed what is denied by the false teachers of the New Testament era.  They deny the sovereign Lord who bought them.  This should be no surprise, because so many false teachings deny the sovereignty of Jesus.  Whenever someone says Jesus is not fully God, that person is a false teacher.  But, third, they deny the sovereign Lord who bought them.  Notice, as I often point out when it comes to salvation issues in the New Testament, that the tense is past; the purchase has already taken place.  Anyone who denies that God’s people are already redeemed, and were so at the cross, also runs the risk of being a false teacher.  Teachers of the true gospel know that we are redeemed, that we have been purchased, that salvation of God’s people is already guaranteed.  There is such great security in knowing my redemption took place at the cross, for then it is dependent on God’s unbreakable promise and not on my wavering faith and weak commitments.

Abraham and Isaac; Assurance and Prosperity

January 10, 2012 at 10:38 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching, Security and Assurance | 1 Comment

January 10, 2012  Here is a thought from my devotions that should encourage us in our self doubts and reveal the fallacy of the popular prosperity gospel.  Those who say God blesses our faithfulness with material prosperity imply that those who are not wealthy don’t have enough faith.  That teaching leads to many self doubts among the non-wealthy; it makes them think they are not wealthy because of their sin or lack of faith.  As I read Genesis yesterday, it occurred to me that each time Abraham or Isaac sinned, the story of the sin was followed by a mention of God’s prospering them, yet Genesis never says they were repentant or even that they changed their ways so God would honor them with wealth.  It simply tells us God blessed them with wealth (you should read here “in spite of their sin!”).  In other words, God’s material blessing of Abraham and Isaac was a matter of sovereign grace and not a matter of faithfulness.

Notice the pattern:  In chapter 12 verses 11-13, Abraham calls Sarai his sister and not his wife.  In verse 16 Abraham was treated well for her sake and Pharaoh gave him livestock and servants; in other words, Abraham was blessed financially because he lied about his wife.  In verses 19-20 Pharaoh discovers the lie and sends Abraham away, but the very next paragraph (13:1-2) tells us that Abraham became even more wealthy.  When Abraham lied about his wife the second time, he was again blessed with livestock, slaves and silver (ch20).  Finally, when Isaac follows his father’s sin and calls Rebekah his sister, the discovery of the lie is once again followed by a statement of the man’s wealth (26:1-13).  In later years we could add Jacob to this list.  Though he and his father-in-law were constantly trying to out deceive each other, Jacob was made a rich man.  God blessed these men because he chose to do so and promised that he would.  He fulfilled that promise, not because of their faithfulness, but in because of his faithfulness in the midst of their unfaithfulness.

That should encourage those of us who doubt God’s promise because of our sin and unfaithfulness.  God keeps his word, in spite of us.  When the Bible says those who trust in Jesus have eternal life, it is true, even when we sin.

Problems with the Prosperity Gospel #8

September 26, 2011 at 10:48 am | Posted in False teaching, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I recently posted an article called Seven Problems with the Prosperity Gospel, but decided to add another point to those thoughts here.  It’s odd that I didn’t think of this when I wrote that article, because this has been one of my major complaints against Prosperity Preacher’s and their message.  So anyway here’s problem number eight:

The Prosperity Gospel causes us, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to focus on the temporal rather than the eternal.  It is a teaching that implies the most important things are what happen next in this world.  It’s a perspective that plays directly into the hands of the secular humanist philosophy.  Jesus’ words are plain: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt 6:19-20 NIV)  That’s a pretty simple command that tells us to focus on riches that last forever.  The Prosperity Preachers tell us to focus – also in some cases, entirely in others – on this world, on riches that are temporal.  But Jesus doesn’t leave it there; he adds, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (v.21)  We will put our hearts in the temporal if we focus on riches that are temporal.  The implication of this last phrase is that we will be just like the secular humanists, whose message says this world is all that matters.  Paul would later add this thought, “set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  (Col 3:1-2)  “So,” Paul adds, “we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4:18)

See also my article titled Following Jesus with Selfish Motives

Our Hope Is in the Real Event

September 13, 2011 at 11:07 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching | 1 Comment

I recently attended a funeral of a friend’s mother.  It was a Roman Catholic mass.  I am making no judgment on the woman’s faith or on that of anyone else attending, but the service did raise some questions.  The priest who spoke gave a confusing message.  Often he spoke of the woman’s salvation because she had faith in Jesus.  But then, sometimes in the next breath, he spoke of her salvation because she had been baptized and had received the Eucharist.  I wanted to ask, “Well, which is it? her faith or her baptism and sacrament?”  If her faith saved her, then why did he refer to the sacraments so often?  But if the sacraments saved her, why did he quote scriptures about faith?  This confusion got worse near the end of the service when the mass was served.  I sat there listening to the priest bless the elements, knowing they teach that those elements actually become the body and blood of Jesus.  I couldn’t partake with that understanding, and choose to remain seated when people were invited to the altar to participate.  As I sat there I was saddened by the people going forward.  I wondered how many of them really believed that they were receiving Jesus in those elements, and that was their salvation.

To believe that a piece of bread, properly blessed by a priest, can save seems so hopeless.  I’m glad, as a pastor, I don’t have that responsibility and authority.  What if I blessed it wrong?  What if someone was lost because I used the wrong formula or had a bad day or a particularly sinful week?  That’s scary!  But mostly I’m glad that our hope is not in blessed bread or wine but in the thing pictured by that bread and wine.  I believe the elements of the Lord’s Supper are simply reminders or pictures of what Jesus did for us.  Our hope is in Jesus’ death on the cross.  Our hope is in his shed blood for our sins.  We have assurance not based on a man’s blessing or on a blessed element that supposedly becomes something special.  We have assurance because the bread and wine remind us of something truly special – a real historical event.  Jesus died for our sins.

A NOTE ADDED LATER:  By the way, the next day, I read the following in my devotions, and though it speaks of Jewish priests, the principles apply here  as well:

Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.   And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.  (Hebrews 9:24-28 ESV)

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  (Hebrews 10:12-14 ESV)

Seven Problems with the Prosperity Gospel

August 30, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Posted in False teaching | 10 Comments

In Sunday’s sermon, I mentioned seven problems with the “prosperity gospel.”  Since these points were not in the notes we handed out, I said I would try to post them here this week.  So here are:

Seven Problems with the Prosperity Gospel

1)  The gospel taught by prosperity preachers (PPs for short) robs God of his sovereignty and puts us in his place.  First, this is done by substituting a false definition of prosperity for the real one.  The Bible does teach prosperity for those who meditate on and apply God’s word to their lives (Psalm 1, Joshua 1:8), but as Sovereign, he defines what prosperity for any given person looks like – we don’t.  PPs use a Madison Avenue/Wall Street definition of prosperity and read that into the biblical passages, but that is not God’s definition.  Genuine prosperity is being where God wants you to be and doing what God wants you to do.  When people fulfill God’s purposes for them, they are as prosperous as they can be.

2)  The prosperity gospel ignores a lot of scripture.  There are passages which help us understand that trials and suffering sometimes come into our lives to build our character (James 1:2, Rom 5: 1-5), or to achieve eternal goals (2 Cor 4:16-18), or to give us an eternal perspective (2 Cor 5:1-10).  The PP would lead us to believe that we can overcome all our troubles by seeing them removed, but the scriptural teaching is that we can overcome our trials by God sustaining us through them.  Sometimes God gets more glory when his people are triumphant through trials and afflictions than he would if those were taken away.  Paul prayed for the removal of his “thorn in the flesh,” but God wouldn’t take it away; it was there to demonstrate the sufficiency of God’s grace in his life.  Which brings up the next point.

3)  The prosperity gospel ignores numerous biblical examples to the contrary.  Consider the lives of Job, Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joseph, Elijah;  these men were anything but successful by a worldly measure for most of their lives.  Yet they were each a huge success by the measure of God’s Kingdom.  And of course, by the standard of the PPs, Jesus himself was an ultimate failure.  Yet his “failure” accomplished salvation for us.  This thought shows the ridiculous hypocrisy of the prosperity teaching; we are to be like Jesus, but he was not “successful” as the PPs define success.

4) The prosperity gospel confuses our sinful and selfish desires with God’s will.  James 3 & 4 show us how our selfish ambition is opposed to God, how it causes division in the church and is easily confused with God’s will.  Such confusion is not good preaching; it is called boasting and bragging.  In the parable of the Sower and the Soils, Jesus tells us that his word can be choked in our lives by thorns; those thorns are the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things.  In other words, the things PPs tells us to pray for are the very things that can thwart God’s working in our lives!

5)  The prosperity gospel is a denial of grace, because it lifts our works and our faith to a place of prominence, but biblically God’s grace and glory should have that place.

6) The prosperity gospel hurts those who are not quickly healed or quickly rewarded by telling them they don’t have enough faith; that’s the only reason PPs can give to unanswered prayer.  But the Bible often emphasizes how God honors those with very little faith.  The parable of  the mustard seed demonstrates this as does the man who said to Jesus, “Help my unbelief!”  At the same time he seems to give the biggest trials to those with the most faith:  Consider Joseph who spent about 20 years in prison and slavery, or Ezekiel who lost his beloved wife, or Hosea who was asked to love an impossible and unfaithful wife, or the apostles who died terrible deaths because of their testimonies.

7)  The prosperity gospel only works in our materialistic Western culture and fails outside of it where the majority of Christ’s followers are poor and persecuted.  It is an absolute affront to believers in places like Somalia to imply they have a lesser faith because they are not “prosperous.”  Christians in places like that have a far greater faith than you and I can probably even imagine.

An Open Letter

June 20, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Posted in False teaching, Grace and Faith | Leave a comment

An open letter to the members of the International Christian Church, and other Church of Christ communities that teach the same things and use the same methods:

I can appreciate a group of people that has great zeal for Jesus and that emphasizes the Bible as God’s Word, and I can appreciate those who want to be all that Jesus said his disciples should be.  But there is a question about you that puzzles me.

You call yourselves “sold-out disciples” of Jesus, and that sounds wonderful, even exciting to me.  But my question, for those of you who can be totally honest, is this “Are you really?”  You like to emphasize what Jesus said his disciples are or should be, and, from my experience in talking with some of you, you claim that your members meet that standard.  Do they?  Do you, really?  I would encourage you to look inside yourselves and see if you can answer that question honestly in a positive way.  Remember that Jesus said a man’s lustful thoughts make him guilty of adultery; he said a man’s anger makes him guilty of murder. (Matt 5:21-22, 27-28)  Be honest with yourselves, only you and God really know and no one else needs to know; have all your efforts to be sold-out disciples changed your inward thoughts from hatred to love and from lust to purity?  All the time?  Anything other than that seems to fall short of the sold-out discipleship you so confidently claim.

Over the years, every time I’ve conversed with one of your members about the necessity of baptism for salvation, and there have been several occasions, I come away feeling uneasy, not because we disagree, but because of how the conversation is handled by your members.

You presume to teach the rest of us the truth.  OK, the Bible tells us we should always be ready to make a defense for the hope in us.  However, those I’ve talked to have never made that defense with gentleness and reverence as the passage says, only with combative and interruptive behavior not fit one who teaches God’s Word.  The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, but must gently correct those who oppose him, demonstrating patience when wronged.   Those of your persuasion I’ve talked to over the years could in no way be described as gentle, reverent, or patient; in fact, quarrelsome is a much better description of what I’ve run into through these discussions.  (Gal 6:1; 2 Tim 2:24-25; 1 Pet 3:15)  Do you fit the profile of a disciple here?

I am not asking this question because I am totally pure in these matters.  I am not.  I am asking this question because I know and readily admit that in myself I can never meet the standard of discipleship Jesus demanded.  No matter how sold out I may be, there is a depth of sin in my life that keeps me from living a life of perfect discipleship.  I’m willing to bet, if you’re honest with yourself, you will say the same thing.  Yet you seem to indicate that only those perfect disciples are real disciples.

That puts us honest people in a bind.  We must go on playing the game so we look good to our leaders and church friends, even though we know ourselves to be something different inside, and thus throw our honesty out the window, or there must be another way.  I thank Christ Jesus who gives a righteousness that’s not by law, that’s not a result of my supposed sold-out discipleship.  It is a gift from God.

I’m not a perfect disciple of Jesus, but I have a perfect Savior.  I’m counting on his life to save me, not on my own merit of baptism or discipleship.  When you are able to honestly admit your shortcomings and inner failings, trust Jesus to save you apart from all self efforts.  Then you can respond to Jesus in thanks and love for his great gift.  Then you will discover the really good news called the Gospel.  Then, and only then, will you discover what real discipleship is all about.

Insist on These Things

June 14, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching, God's Love, Grace and Faith | 3 Comments

Paul told one of his younger pastor appointees to insist on certain things, “so that those who trust in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.” (Titus 3:8)  As a pastor myself, I must ask on what things Paul thinks a pastor should insist.  Here is what the previous verses say in summary form.  We were once led astray, but God saved us.  His salvation is not because of our good works, but is according to his mercy, goodness and loving kindness.  He saved us by pouring out the Holy Spirit on us to wash and to regenerate us.  He did it all through Jesus Christ.  (Notice that God and Jesus are both given the title of “Savior” in this passage)  We can be justified by his grace and become heirs of the hope of eternal life.  It doesn’t get much more basic to the Gospel than that.  In other words, what preachers are to insist on is the Gospel – the true Gospel – the God-centered Gospel: the Gospel that glorifies God and recognizes our sin; the Gospel that puts Jesus in his rightful divine place as Savior; the Gospel that focuses on God’s doing rather than ours works; the Gospel of grace.

Isn’t it interesting that what causes our hearers to devote themselves to good works is not pushing good works, but insisting on God’s grace!  If you’re a pastor, preach grace; insist on it!  If you’re a lay person, sit under a pastor who preaches grace.

We’re Still Here

May 21, 2011 at 7:26 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Eschatology, False teaching | 1 Comment

Well, we’re still here on May 21, 2011.  This morning I “just happened” to read Psalm 75, and so much of this ancient song is appropriate for today.  God says, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly.  When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.”  God appoints the time, and as I’ve already noted elsewhere, only he knows that time.  Harold Camping doesn’t; neither do I; nor does anyone else.  Anyone who claims to know is only arrogantly boasting of things he knows nothing.  Notice the next verse of the Psalm, “To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horns.  Do not lift your horns against heaven; do not speak with outstretched neck.'”  Only God can exalt a man, and those who exalt themselves will be brought down.  The next words of Psalm 75 are “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man.  But it is God who judges:  He brings one down, he exalts another.”

Let’s not exalt ourselves because one man was wrong.  Rather let’s pray for those who gave away their life savings to advertise for a false prophet.  Let’s pray for those who will now say, “See the Bible was wrong again!”  For it’s not the Bible that was wrong, but one man’s false statements about it.  Let’s pray this draws people to the truth rather than drives them away.  Jesus Christ will return, but no one knows the day or the hour.  It is not for us to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

Will Judgment Come on May 21?

April 20, 2011 at 10:26 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Eschatology, False teaching, Questions for Pastor Glenn | 1 Comment

Pastor Glenn,

What do you think about all these signs around town calling May 21 the Judgment day and October 21 the day the world will end?  I am curious because I went to one website that listed all these dates since creation of the world and apparently these dates fall into proper order.  I don’t really get what they mean and how they came up with them!

Dear ________

They make some stupid assumptions; then add some spurious calculations; then get all the media attention they can get.  They will then tell you that all churches but theirs are corrupt and you must follow them.  Its has happened many times over since Jesus left the earth, and they’ve all been wrong.  The same people promoting May 21 have missed some other dates already.  Jesus promised to come back and said only the Father knows.  Best to stick with his plain words.

Pastor Glenn

My short answer was do to the format: communicating on Facebook.  There is, of course, much more that could be said.  Interestingly enough, the same day I got this question, I had read Acts 1 in my devotions.  Acts 1:8 is a verse well known to Christians, and the verses immediately before it address this very issue.  After his resurrection, the disciples met Jesus on the mountain he told them about.  They then asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  So Jesus responded, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”  Note the plain truth of the statement.  But what struck me is the connection between this and verse 8.  Jesus’ entire answer is “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.  BUT you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  There is a big BUT connecting these two thoughts.  In other words, rather than speculate about such things, Jesus wanted his followers to focus on something else, on what he called them to do.

If Jesus comes back on May 21, 2011 or October 21, 2011 or December 21, 2012, that would be wonderful!  But that shouldn’t be our focus.  Our focus should be knowing Jesus Christ and making him known to others around the world.  Let’s let the Father worry about such things and be about the business to which he called us.

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