Friday, July 29, 2016

AGAPE--Bible Verses

I'll jump back intou our Love Series next week...  Today on my "day off" I'm busy recording/producing vids and music for my PastorBradRocks YouTube channel---including a three-part teaching series about Jesus & Noah -- how Noah foreshaddowed the ministry of Jesus in some really cool ways!  I'll post that soon!

So--today let me simply share some verse on LOVE to encourage you.  As you read them--consider two things: a) the fact that all of these verses are about the same AGAPE love Paul is speaking of in 1 Cor. 13, and b) as your read, consider the attributes of Agape we've talked about thus far---how do they impact your understanding of these verses?

 1 John 4:8 - He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

Romans 5:8 - But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

John 13:34-35 - A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

John 15:13 - Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

1 John 4:18 - There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Thanks for reading---Remember to share!  Catch you on Monday!

Blessings,
Brad




Thursday, July 28, 2016

LOVE is not self seeking

AGAPE is not self-seeking.

My “go-to” translation is the NIV, but whenever I’m doing a phrase by phrase study like this it’s always helpful to consider multiple translations. After all, every translation we have was created by a team of dedicated Christian scholars who know far more about Greek and Hebrew than I ever hope to.

Many Greek (when studying the NT) words convey a range of meanings that can be fleshed out in slightly different ways depending on their context. The Greek here literally means, AGAPE “does not seek the things of itself.”

Here are two additional solid translations of this phrase: 
LOVE… 
“does not insist on its own way” (ESV). 
“does not pursue selfish advantage.” (Phillips) 

I'm intrigued by Phillips version, "...does not pursue selfish advantage."  Have you ever known a person who always seems to work situations for their own benefit? They seem nice and agreeable, etc. but there’s just this constant undertow; this manipulation of perspective, emotions etc.; constantly pushing things toward their benefit, their way, their idea. In today’s terms I think Paul might have penned this section of the love chapter, “Love isn’t passive aggressive.” 

In a more general sense, “self-focus” is the antithesis of AGAPE.

AGAPE’s anthem is, “It’s not about me—it’s all about God and His Kingdom; It’s not about manipulating others according to my will, but empowering others toward wholeness in Christ.”

In another of Paul’s letters he nailed what this attribute of love is all about:
"Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (Phil. 2:3-8, NLT) 

It is in this sense that Paul writes AGAPE “is not self-seeking.”

Thanks for reading.  If you are enjoying this study--I think you'll totally enjoy Joyce Meyer's book on this subject (below).  I encourage you to check it out!

Remember to share on Facebook, Twitter, etc!

Blessings,
Brad

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Can We Trust The Bible? Part 2 "Copies"

We'll get back into our LOVE series tomorrow.  But today I wanted to share my second installment in a teaching series I'm doing on YouTube called, "Can We Trust The Bible?"

Confidence in Scripture is PARAMOUNT for Christ-followers.  Our entire world-view hinges on it.  The gospel, the resurrection, the ten commandments, "Love one another..."  "Love your neighbor..."  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you..."  And on and on we could go---ALL comes from Scripture.  If we can't TRUST the Bible---we're in deep trouble.

So, can we?

That is what this YouTube SERIES (on my channel Pastor Brad Rocks) is all about!
If you're a fan of 80s Rock and you love Jesus--I invite you to SUBSCRIBE today!

In Part 2 (Today's teaching) we'll answer the questions:
CLICK HERE to watch Part 1 "Eyewitnesses"


  • Do we have the original documents of the Bible?
  • Why do copies of the Bible--created by people hundreds of years ago--matter?
  • Can we really trust copies?  Didn't they make errors and change things?
  • And a lot more!
Enjoy!
 
Thanks for reading/watching!  Remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

LOVE is not rude

I grew up reading the original version of the NIV.  It translated 1 Cor. 13:5 -- Love "is not rude."

The "new" edition of the NIV translates it,  Love "does not dishonor others..."

The New American Standard translates this same phrase, “…does not act unbecomingly.” 

Interesting…

So what is the literal meaning of the Greek here?

“Aschemoneo” is a Greek verb that means “to act rudely, wildly, improperly or unbecomingly…" 

By implication we might use it this way, "That person lacks tact... They need to think about others before they speak unnecessarily hurtful and unkind words, or act in ways that are hurtful, disrespectful and rude."

AGAPE doesn’t shy away from speaking truth (as we'll see a little later in this passage), All of us have been called onto the carpet and held respsonsible by people whom we KNOW love us and have our best in mind.  AGAPE never holds back from doing this.  But AGAPE always acts and speaks from a perspective that values people and seeks other's best in light of God's Truth.

In Romans Paul calls us to intentionally do the OPPOSITE of aschemoneo when he says, “Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans `12:10) The word “honor” here means to “value” and not just in an arbitrary way. God gives us a powerful and clear motivation for doing this—because each of us as brothers and sisters in Christ are VALUED by God.  As John wrote, "We love, becase He first loved us." (1 John 4:19).

Every Christ-follower has been redeemed by the precious and priceless blood of the Lamb. Each of us is a sinner saved by the same grace. And all of us have received our Lord’s command to “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) 

Jesus didn’t just say, “Love one another…” He qualified exactly HOW we are to love each other when he said, “… as I have loved you.”  To maintain a crystal clear understanding of what Jesus meant by these words, all we need to do is imagine Christ dying on the cross for us.  This is how Christ loves us and this is how he calls us to love our fellow Christ-followers.

The Cross is the ultimate example of what it means to value and honor others above self.  So, when Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:5 that “AGAPE does not dishonor others,”  He is saying AGAPE never treats people like they are of “lesser value.” It never looks down it's nose at others.  It values people highly and treats them with respect and dignity.

As Christ followers we are called to AGAPE (note it's a verb, not a noun) our enemies and our neighbors, i.e. everyone. And we are called ESPECIALLY to AGAPE our fellow Christ-followers.

John 13:34 “Love one another as I have loved you…” was NOT spoken to unbelievers, but to Christ-followers—for ONLY Christ followers understand personaly and intimately how Christ-has loved us. Only Christ followers know that His love for us is not given on the condition of our “deserving it” or “earning it.”  And so in like manner  our love for others and for our fellow Christ-followers cannot be conditional.

I know... that’s a lot to take in isn’t it?

Friends, this is why we have awesome promises like “For God is working in you, giving you the DESIRE and the POWER to do what pleases him.” (Phil 2:13) 

Friends we cannot pull off a life of AGAPE on our own strength.

“I (Jesus) am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me (plugged in) and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do NOTHING.” (John 15:5) 

The Christian life is not a “natural” life. It’s a “super national life.”  We don't receive the Holy Spirit just to make us feel good.  He comes as a source of POWER. (Act. 1:8)  The purpose of a MISSION--that we might LIVE as AGAPE AMBASSADORS for Christ.  He comes to empower, motivate, convict, encourage and guide our steps.  We can walk in AGAPE ---- ONLY ---- when we stay connected to Jesus and daily allow His Holy Spirit to direct our lives.

Stay “plugged-in” to Jesus today my friend and allow Him to produce in your life the FRUIT of AGAPE that honors others!

Thanks for reading.  If you are enjoying this study--I think you'll totally enjoy Joyce Meyer's book on this subject (below).  I encourage you to check it out!

Remember to share on Facebook, Twitter, etc!

Blessings,
Brad

Monday, July 25, 2016

LOVE is not proud

Today we continue on with our study of what many call "The Love Chapter;"  1 Corinthians 13.  We're focusing on vs. 4-7 where Paul describes the nature of AGAPE.

We're up to attribute #5:  "AGAPE is not proud." (1 Cor. 13:4)

There is such a thing as “healthy pride” –

I’m proud of my kids. 

I take pride I a job well done, etc.

But Paul isn’t talking about healthy pride. He’s talking about fleshly pride.

The word Paul uses here is physio (Greek), which means: arrogant or puffed up. We’ve all seen this attribute in action. Our culture has many ways to describe this kind of pride. We use words like conceited, egocentric, wise-guy, uppity, overbearing, on an ego trip, immodest and big-headed. We say things like, “Wow, that guy’s pretty full of himself, or stuck on himself…” All of this is what Paul says AGAPE is NOT.

Paul employs a NEGATIVE statement here. He says, “AGAPE is NOT…proud.” If we flipped this over and make it a POSITIVE—“AGAPE is…” statement—it might go something like this. "AGAPE is humble, modest and unconceited.

When you know who you are you don’t need to blow your own horn. Jesus, as always, is our great example. He was God in the flesh and he knew it. And because he knew it, he didn’t feel the need to run around trying to impress people. He simply lived his life, focused on his mission. He lived his life for an audience of One---His Heavenly Father.

I think that might be the key to understanding this attribute of AGAPE. AGAPE lives for God, not self.  This kind of focus eradicates arrogance and produces a mission-focused attitude; an attitude that says, “It’s not about me—it’s all about God and His Kingdom.” 

As children of God through faith in Christ, we can—and indeed we are commanded to—have the same mindset and attitude as our Savior. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature F5 God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…” (Phil. 2:5-7)

AGAPE has no use for self-promotion. It’s focus is God-promotion. AGAPE understands that self-centeredness is always a road block to Christ-like living and so AGAPE chooses to lay self on the altar daily and to embrace an attitude that seeks first God’s Kingdom (Mat. 6:33) and encourages others to do the same.

It is in this sense that AGAPE is not proud.

Thanks for reading.  Remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad



Friday, July 22, 2016

LOVE doesn't boast

We don’t have to dig very deep to figure out what this attribute of AGAPE is all about. The Greek word here means the same thing as the English word—“to brag.” Stated a little more bluntly, AGAPE isn’t stuck on itself. 

AGAPE fully understands that it’s not the center of the universe—and for the Christ-follower, we would add that AGAPE knows EXACTLY WHO IS the center of all things---GOD. 

If you look at this statement from a slightly different angle, Paul is saying, AGAPE is humble and meek. Please never confuse humility and meekness for weakness. Jesus exercised humility and meekness when he CHOSE to leave glory in Heaven, be born into this broken world in a body of flesh and endure all of the hatred and torchure this world would throw at Him---FOR YOU AND ME. Would you call that weakness? I would not, but THAT IS the epitome of humility—choosing to take the role of the servant for the greater good.  

When Paul says, “AGAPE doesn’t boast,” he is saying, AGAPE is happy to take the backseat, or the role of the servant FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM.  

AGAPE is always driven by mission. 

It’s all about what will exalt the Father and the Gospel and grow the Kingdom. Selfish boasting does nothing for the Gospel—so AGAPE want’s nothing to do with it. Selfish boasting puffs up self over God—and in so doing dishonors and displeases God, so AGAPE want’s nothing to do with it. 

In Christ we power and privilege beyond anything this world can imagine. But in God’s Kingdom, that privilege (to be sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ) and power (God’s very presence living within us) is not FOR selfish gain. It’s FOR others and for the Kingdom.  We are "saved" to "serve."  We are redeemed and endowed with grace and holy-spirit power that we might spread truth, life and blessing wherever we go—all to the glory of God. 

AGAPE does not brag, it serves. It doesn’t puff itself up, it lifts others up. It doesn’t promote it’s own agenda, it promotes God’s Kingdom agenda.

It is in this sense that Paul says, “AGAPE doesn’t boast.”

Thanks for reading.  Remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

Thursday, July 21, 2016

LOVE does not envy

"LOVE does not envy..." (1 Cor. 13:4)

When I hear the word “envy” I instantly think of the color GREEN, as in the old saying, “I’m green with envy.” I want something you have… sort of like coveting.

That's my initial thought… so now let dig a little deeper and see if my first impression is accurate.

Right out of the gate, when I look at this passage in the New American Standard Bible (I typically use the NIV) I see that it does NOT use the word ENVY, but rather JEALOUS, as in “Love patient. Love is kind and is not jealous…”   Hmmm.. okay, let's keep digging.

ACCORDING TO StudyLight.Org
THE GREEK word here is “dzayloo,” a verb that means "to burn with zeal, to be heated or to boil with envy, hatred and anger. In a good sense to be zealous in the pursuit of good.”

So, AGAPE is BALANCED. It possesses deep yearning and pursues that which is good with zeal, but it keeps that zeal in check and doesn’t allow it to “boil over” in a harmful or unhelpful way.

Benson’s Commentary (BibleHub.Com)
Benson writes, “Love envieth not — The advantages, gifts, or graces, which others possess, but rather takes pleasure in them, and by friendly participation makes them its own.”

I think I’m getting the picture here… 

It is a positive thing to desire good and godly things, but we must keep a reign on our heart and make sure that our “zealous desires" don’t morph into “jealous desires." It’s a noble thing to be motivated to achieve good things, but it’s sinful and harmful to envy or covet the success of others.

When we celebrate the gifts, abilities and achievements of others and allow them to bless and inspire us, that’s awesome. But when our only response is to turn GREEN with envy (my intial hunch was a good one)  and to covet those gifts and abilities—that is harmful. It doesn’t help us, or anyone around us.

And so it is in this sense that Paul says, AGAPE does not envy; it is not jealous.

Take a moment today to ponder this aspect of AGAPE.  Ask God to fill you with passion to pursue good things and to set you free from any desire that it tainted by envy!

Below you will see a link to an AWESOME book on this subject by Joyce Meyer!  I encourage you to check it out!

Thanks for reading.  Remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

LOVE is kind

Last time we looked at what Paul meant when he said, "AGAPE is patient."  Today, we'll dig into what it means to say, "AGAPE is kind..."

Paul says "AGAPE is chrestotes."  Chrestotes is the Greek word we translate “kind” in 1 Cor. 13:4.   When we read or hear that "Love is kind,"  we all instantly have a vague sense of what that means, but let’s dig a little bit into the Greek today and see how accurate our notions are.

Once again I’m going to my well of reference tools. Today, in addition to my trusty BibleStudyTools.Com reference, I actually went old-school and pulled a couple BOOKS off my shelf!  Remember books---those things we used to open and read with words printed on paper?

THE BOOKS I USED TODAY:
The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Amazon link at bottom of page)
& The Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary.

So, how does the Bible define “kindness”? 

BibleStudyTools.Com
“It (kindness) is manifest in what is called ‘common grace.’ God is kind to all he has made (Psalm 145:9), even when his creatures are ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35 ; cf. Matt 5:45). His kindness is intended to lead to repentance, not to rejection of him (Rom 2:4).

EXPOSITORS BIBLE COMMENTARY
“Chrestotes (Greek) is the divine kindness out of which God acts toward men. It is what the Old Testament meant when it declared that God is ‘good.’… The Christian is to show kindness by behaving toward others as God has behaved toward him.” 

NELSONS ILLUSTRATED BIBLE DICTIONARY (& Other Resources)
Kindness is a loyal love that perseveres in maintaining relationship. 

SUMMATION
Kindness is focused on blessing others. Its ultimate goal is leading others to a place of wholeness. It does not wink at sin or ignore wrong-doing, but in its actions it always strives to communicate genuine care for others and it always leaves the door open for restoration, reconciliation and relationship. 

This is how God treats us and how He expects us to treat others. It is in this sense that Paul says, “Love is kind.”

Pause and ponder how God has extended kindness to you and express your gratitude to Him for it. Then, go extend that same kindness to others today!

Below you will see a link to The Expositors Bible Commentary.  This is an EXCELLENT, very readable Bible study tool.  If you're hungry to dig deep, I encourage you to check it out!

Thanks for reading.  Remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

LOVE is patient

AGAPE is patient.

That sounds so nice, but what does it really mean?

As we examine each descriptive phrase Paul uses to define the nature of AGAPE in 1 Cor. 13, I will tap into some of my favorite online study tools.  I encourage you to use these tools in your own study as well!

According to BibleStudyTools.Com
"Patience implies suffering, enduring or waiting, as a determination of the will and not simply under necessity. As such it is an essential Christian virtue... We need to "wait patiently" for God, to endure uncomplainingly the various forms of sufferings, wrongs and evils that we meet with, and to bear patiently injustices which we cannot remedy and provocations we cannot remove."

According to Biblehub.com
Patience is "...remaining under, endurance; steadfastness, especially as God enables the believer to "remain (endure) under" the challenges He allots in life." 

According to StudyLight.org
Patience in the New Testament is "...the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings."

From the above notes it's pretty obvious that patience is rooted in mission; having a purpose, knowing what it is and choosing to remain focused on it and faithful to it no matter what obstacles, hardships, setbacks or inujustices come along.  Christian patience sees all of life through a FAITH lens.  It understands that NOTHING enters our life--no trial, no struggle, no harship, set-back, delay, etc. comes our way--that GOD isn't aware of.  Thus patience is a close cousin to TRUST & FAITH.  It "rests" in God... it "waits" upon the Lord --- knowing that He is in control--working all things together for good--in the lives of all who LOVE (agape) Him! (Rom. 8:28)

It is in this sense that Paul says, "Love is PATIENT..."

Spend a few moments with the Lord today reflecting on these thoughts.  Ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate this amazing FRUIT (Gal. 5:22-23) in your life!

Below you will see a link to an AWESOME book on this subject by Joyce Meyer!  I encourage you to check it out!

Thanks for reading.  Remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad



Monday, July 18, 2016

Can We Trust The Bible? Part 1 of 6 "Eyewitnesses"

YES---I WILL begin our series on LOVE... tomorrow :-)   But on the next 6 weeks, I will be releasing one video per week dealing with the question, "Can We Trust The Bible?"  You can watch all of them (once the series is complete) at my PastorBradRocks YouTube channel!  Enjoy & be blessed!

The Bible is a really BIG deal for followers of Christ. It’s God inspired Word to us; the revelation of who He is and His plan and purpose for creation and for our lives----that’s pretty big stuff! So, it follows that we place a lot of TRUST in this book. If you have a relationship with Christ, you don’t need a video or a blog to “prove” the trustworthiness of Scripture to you because God speaks to you through it all the time. But if you are not a follower of Christ (or honestly even if you are) it’s a good thing to be reminded of WHY we can trust the Bible – not just on a “spiritual” level---but also on a scholarly and historical level as well!

In this series of videos I will talk about six questions that historians and scholars ask of ancient texts (not just scripture) to determine whether they are accurate and reliable.. I think you’ll be encouraged by how well the Bible stacks up in each of these six areas. In this first video I explore the question, “Does the Bible contain eye-witness accounts?” Eye-witness accounts are a HUGE deal to historians!

Thanks for reading/watching!  Remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

Thursday, July 14, 2016

What is real LOVE? Part 1

Before I dive into today's thoughts... let me give you a heads up---I will be tied up over the weekend and unable to blog until Monday.  So don't worry if you don't see anything from me for the next couple of days... as the TERMINATOR said, "I'll be back!"  ... Or at least that's the plan.

I want to begin a series on LOVE today.  I get really bummed out when I hear brothers and sisters in Jesus... and not "rookie believers" but people who have been following Jesus for a long time---talk about "love" in a totally whimpy, watered-down way that empties it of the transforming power it's intended to possess.

There are four Greek words for love (you know the New Testament was originally written in Greek right?)... but ONLY one form really applies to this discussion---AGAPE.

When Jesus commands us to LOVE one another... to LOVE our neighbor and to LOVE our enemies---AGAPE is the type of LOVE he calls us to.  When John 3:16 says, "God so LOVED the world..." Yup, that's AGAPE again...  When the Bible talks about LOVING God with all of our heart, mind and strength... guess what....  once again--AGAPE.  So, it seems to me that understanding what AGAPE is, and how it works--would be HUGELY IMPORTANT to those of us who desire to LOVE God and others in Jesus' name.

Paul defines AGAPE this way:
AGAPE is patient, AGAPE is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 AGAPE does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 AGAPE never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8)

There is so much in that passage... there's no way to tackle all of it in this little blog post.  So, for the next several posts, I will take one of the phrases above--beginning with "AGAPE is patient" next time... and we'll break this down.

My hunch is that as we do this---we'll be both blessed and surprised by what we discover!  I know over years what I have discovered again and again is that AGAPE love is deeper, tougher, holier and more sacrificial that my flesh EVER feels comfortable with.  In essence--living a life of AGAPE is a "super natural" pursuit (You don't do it without the Holy Spirit).

As an OVERVIEW this week we can say that AGAPE has little to nothing to do with feelings and almost everything to do with our WILL and COMMITMENT to God.

Two snap-shots from Jesus' life illustrate AGAPE in action:

1) In the Garden: "Not my will, but yours be done..." (Lk. 22:42)  This is the essence of loving God--surrender of our will to His.  The greatest prayer we can pray if we want to grow in our AGAPE for God, is "God, empty me of me, and fill me with you!"

2) On the Cross:  When you pause and reflect on WHO Jesus was... and then look at what He was willing to endure FOR YOU.... THAT - is AGAPE.  It had NOTHING to do with feelings---and EVERYTHING to do with honoring and fulfilling the Father's will... pretty amazing!

Okay---so we'll explore this topic in depth over the coming days.  I'll catch you again on Monday. In the mean time--if you want to get a head start--google search the question, "What does the bible teach about patience?"  You might be challenged by what you find!

Below you will see a link to an AWESOME book on this subject by Joyce Meyer!  I encourage you to check it out!

Thanks for reading.  Remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What Happens When We Die?

Yesterday we considered how the Bible defines life & death… Today—I want to build on that...

THE BIBLE'S DEFINITIONS OF "LIFE" & "DEATH" HELP US MORE CLEARLY UNDERSTAND IT'S TEACHING ON THE AFTERLIFE, A.K.A. -- What happens at the time of our physical death and afterward?

Like yesterday--in this blog I'm just sharing my preliminary study notes on this subject--but I'm super confident that you'll discover some great nuggets of insight and encouragement as you read and ponder...

So what happens when our physical bodies die?

I want to credit a very helpful article I found at: http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/what-does-bible-say-about-death

We do not go to Heaven… 

John 3:13 “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man.”

According to Jesus himself, no one at that point had “gone to Heaven”. Except for He (Jesus) Himself.

Peter on the Day of Pentecost said the same of King David.
Acts 2:29, 34 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day…For David did not ascend into the heavens.”

Enoch was taken away by God (Gen. 5)... Elijah was carried up in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11)... Paul and John were both granted amazing visions of what they described as a Heaven, but if we take Jesus as His word, no man has gone to Heaven.

And in the end--Revelation 21--We do not go to Heaven. God comes down to earth... (the New Earth).

Revelation 21:1-4 “Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

So, if we don’t go UP THERE… what happens? 

The Bible compares death to rest or sleep  more than fifty times.

When we fall asleep, we are unconscious; we are not aware of the passing of time or of what is going on around us (All of us have drifted off... then woke up feeling like no time had passed.)

Example of Braind Tumor Surgery—Going under... then "waking up…"

That is how the Bible describes death as well.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 (NKJV) “...for the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing… their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished”,  No emotion, no stress, no frustraition... rest.

It makes sense that after Lazarus was raised from the dead, he doesn’t share what he saw or experienced. He didn’t have anything to tell, except that once he was dead, and now he is alive! He didn’t experience hell or heaven. He was simply “sleeping” in his tomb.

So, is there life after death? 
John 11:25-26 Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die."

2 Corinthians 5:8 (ESV) “…we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Philippians 1:22-23 “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far…”

So the Apostle Paul teaches us that to be apart from our earthly bodies results in our being WITH the Lord---and that THAT IS GOOD—FAR PREFERABLE to remaining in our mortal, earthly bodies. EXCATLY what that experience of “being with the Lord” entails—we’re not told.

Revelation 14:13 “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.’"

Words the Bible uses to describe our experience of death:
Paul:
Desirable, Better by far, with Christ

John & others: Blessed, Rest, Sleep,

Ecclesiastes:  Unconscious state

The Bible also describes death (this restful, with the Lord period) as TEMPORARY. 

1 Thessalonians 4:16 (NKJV) “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”

1 Corinthians 15:50-57 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Revelation 20:12 “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life (all who trust Christ have their names in this book). The dead were judged according to what they had done (based on performance, not grace) as recorded in the books.”

Thanks for reading---remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

How Does The Bible Define Death & Life?

I'm currently teaching a series at NEChog called "LIVE Right!" In a couple weeks, as part of this series, I'm going to be wrestling with the question, "How Does The Bible Define Death & Life?" 

I know the whole "death" thing sort of a bummer topic, but it's also kind of an important one for us to consider--since ALL of us will experience it. So, today I just want to kind of pull back the curtain and let you see some of the bible passages I’m considering on this topic.

Today’s blog will focus on “How The Bible Defines Life & Death”… Tomorrow—I’ll get into how that definition impacts our experiences here, now and beyond.  This might seem a little bit “dis-jointed” since it’s just my preliminary “study notes”… but I think you'll still discover some insight and encouragement from it… the passages are powerful!

HOW DOES THE BIBLE DEFINE DEATH & LIFE? 

God is the author and the source of life.

Genesis 2:7 “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath (or spirit) of life, and the man became a living being (or soul).”

Psalm 36:9 “You are the giver of life. Your light lets us enjoy life."

Connection/Relationship/Union with God = Life. Autonomy/independence from God = Death…

Disobedience in the Garden broke the union Adam and Eve had with God and thus resulted in death—physical and spiritual.

Even if our heart is beating—we are “spiritually dead” if we are not walking in relationship with God.

Romans 5:12 "When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”

Romans 3:23 “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.”

Romans 6:23 “…the wages of sin is death.”  Again---this does not mean as soon as we disobey God our heart stops beating. It means—when we chose autonomy from God…doing it our way instead of trusting God (ala, Adam and Eve) – the result is SEPARATION from God, or spiritual death.

John 3:16 “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in (acknowledges “sin”, repents, surrenders to, trusts in and follows) him shall not perish (remain in a place of spiritual separation from God, or death) but have eternal (abundant, real) life (union/relationship with God).”

DEATH to autonomy (self) is KEY to new spiritual birth, or LIFE in Christ!

Romans 6:11 “…count yourselves dead to sin (living with YOU on the throne of your heart) but alive to God in Christ Jesus (with Christ on that throne).”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” “SELF” is dead… Autonomy from God is history… My life is ALL about being with… following… glorifying and knowing JESUS!

This is what Jesus meant in John 3:16 by “eternal life” – it’s union with Him.

This is what the ministry of “reconciliation” is all about…

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

Thanks for reading---remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad


Monday, July 11, 2016

LIFE is SCHOOL & DEATH is GRADUATION.

My Grandma Rachel always said to me, “Bradie boy, life is school and death is graduation.”  

I’ve thought about that statement a lot over the years. She was so right. The parallels between life in Christ and school are uncanny!

I remember when I was a young guy—just preparing to enter ministry. I knew school needed to be part of my preparation. The very first step of course was getting “ADMITTED”.  I had to be “ACCEPTED” in order to attend. That’s what the gospel is all about—"acceptance" & "admitance." We enter God’s family through repentance and faith---and upon entrance we are immediately led, but our Guidance Counselor, The Holy Spirit, into God’s school, called “discipleship”.

God’s School has many classes: 

Victory 100:
In Victory 100 we experience God’s deliverance, provision, grace and amazing love. It’s an awesome class!

Koinonia 210: 
In this class we experience authentic relationships with fellow classmates. We learn how to live out God’s “one another…” commands, like, "love one another..." "forgive one another..." "...encourage one another..." etc. Man, I’ve learned so much from this class over the years!

Worship 300:
In this class we learn how to lay our lives on the altar of sacrifice and live a every day for the glory of God.

Suffering 101:
This class isn’t very popular, but it’s a requirement for graduation. In Suffering 101 we learn from Professor James how to “Count it all joy when we face trials because we know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2) We also learn some amazing things about the sustaining, transforming power of God’s love and grace; lessons we could never learn apart from suffering. It's funny--nobody wants to sign up for this class.  But everyone who's experienced it -- raves about the powerful truths the learned from it!

Word 201: In Word 201we learn all about the greatest “text book” ever---The Bible—this ink on paper text that is infused with the living truth and Spirit of God Himself! As we study this book we learn who God is and who we are. We learn why we’re hear and what our purpose is. This amazing book encourages us, challenges, comforts us, renews our mind, transforms our heart, conforms character into the character of Christ and fills us up with strong faith in our awesome Heavenly Father! This is one of my favorite classes!

Prayer 202:
In this class we learn how to express ourselves to God... how to cast our cares on Him… how to approach His throne of grace through faith in Jesus and receive help and mercy… how to rest in Him… Listen to Him and commune with Him. Wow, this class is mind-blowingly awesome!

And of course, like any school, there are tests: Opportunities for us to demonstrate what we’ve learned.

As Professor James wrote in his chapter of our great text book, “… "...you know that the testing of your faithproduces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4)

As we pass through God’s School our hearts are prepared for graduation—which is NOT the end, but the BEGINNING of a whole new—MUCH GRANDER life! Can you imagine if graduation from High School was THE END? How aweful that would be. But it’s not—it’s just the beginning of a whole new—much larger chapter in life. And this graduation we call death is the same—a mere transition from school to REAL LIFE with God—forever!

Thanks for reading---remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Are You Dying To Live?

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24) 

The Bible (God) has a different view of what REAL LIFE is. REAL life dies to the things of this world so that it can come alive to eternal things. People who possess REAL LIFE (a.k.a. “eternal spiritual life”) have died to self and to the ways of this world—and have been “born again” –through faith in Christ and the infilling/presence of His Spirit—into a new realm: The Kingdom of God. (John 3:3, Rom. 8:2, Col. 1:13) We are no longer citizens, just of this planet. We are citizens of Heaven (Phil. 3:20); called to manifest the ways of Heaven on earth. (Mat. 6:10)

This is the reality Jesus is speaking of when he says, “…unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  Jesus set this example for us supremely. If Jesus had not surrendered his life for the Father’s Kingdom plan; if he had lived a naturally long life and died a natural death—He would no doubt still be held up as an amazing teacher, but we would know nothing of salvation through faith in Him. There would be no ekklesia--cleansed by His blood, no people of God “in Christ” on this planet. But, because he did lay down his life, because he died to self—long before he died on a cross—He produced MANY “seeds” … many followers who know Him as Savior and Lord.

The very same principle applies to our lives. If we cling to our earthly lives—we may experience a small modicum of fleeting success in the here and now—but all of that will quickly fade into emptiness and loss against the backdrop of eternity. However, if we die to self and to the ways of this word and surrender to the Father’s Kingdom plan—like our elder brother and Savior Jesus did; if we lay our lives down—daily—living our lives as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1) we too will produce much fruit for the Kingdom of God.

So the question becomes… Are you dying to live?

Are you willing to die to the flesh and the things of this world—that you might LIVE in the truest sense of the word?

As you go through your weekend—let the Apostle Paul’s testimony guide your thoughts.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

Thanks for reading---remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

Thursday, July 7, 2016

LIVE RIGHT 2: How Faith Works

Here's a really helpful way to think of FAITH.

"FAITH is the tool we use--to access that which God's GRACE provides."

God's GRACE provides Salvation... We access that salvation by FAITH (in Jesus).

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith..." (Eph. 2:8)

GRACE (Jesus) provides forgiveness, peace, courage, wisdom, purpose, joy, etc. Paul writes in Eph. 1:3, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."

EVERY Spiritual Blessing... 

Ponder that statement for a moment.

If you made a list of EVERY Spiritual blessing it would be a pretty long list wouldn't it?

It would include things like:
Strength to press on when you're tank is empty
Assurance in uncertain times
Victory over addiction, past guilt, worry and trials,
Power to live a God-honoring, etc.

We could go on and on.  The point is ALL of it is PROVIDED by GGRACE.... but it's only ACCESSED by FAITH.

Paul said it this way...
"The righteous will live by faith." (Rom. 1:17)

"LIVE" in this verse means FUNCTION... or OPPERATE.  A paraphrase of this verse might go like this"  The righteous (Christ followers) will opperate and function---they will approach every aspect of life--from a FAITH perspective.  When trouble comes they will USE their faith (trust in God) to ACCESS God's wisdom, peace and strength.  When temptation comes they will USE their faith to ACCES God's TRUTH (His Word... His Promises)... like, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7) And "Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight." (Prov. 3:5-6).

By FAITH Christ followers "tap in-to" the riches of God's spiritual provision, power and blessing and MANIFEST it in the physical--here and now--realm.

This isn't a "name it-claim it" teaching.  This isn't about turning God into a "personal blessing machine" that we just go to for the stuff we want.  This is THE WAY CHRIST FOLLOWERS (people who have surrendered their lives to the Lorship of Jesus) -- walk (live) victorious, fruitful--God honoring lives.  This is how we WALK WITH GOD... by faith--we walk with an awarenss of His presence & power in our lives and that presence & power provides everything we need to live as Children of Light in a darkworld.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." (2 Pet. 1:3)

Thanks for reading---remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

LIVE RIGHT: How bad do you want to live?


How badly do you want to live? I’m not talking about having your heart continue to beat for another day… I mean LIVE – LIKE ABUNDANT, fruitful, joyful LIFE? 

Zig Ziegler said “The trouble with some people is that they’re about as committed as a kamikaze pilot on his 39th mission.”

LIFE = God’s presence. Where God is, life is. Where he isn’t, life isn’t.

This is why God said to Adam and Eve in the Garden, "...but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die." (Gen. 2:17)  God's point wasn't that they would bite into the fruit, clutch their chest and fall over dead.  His point was--when you disobey me--your sin will create a separation between you and me--and that equals DEATH in the most real sense.... spiritual death... eternal death... no eternal hope, joy or purpose.

That great memory verse I learned as a kid says it perfectly, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish (remain disconnected from God by sin) but have eternal life (union with God).” 

If you have Christ in your life... If you’ve accepted Him as Savior and follow Him as Lord—then His Spirit lives in you.  And that Spirit is brings LIFE! (Rom. 8:1-2)

LIFE = CONNECTION with God. Sin separates us from God, and thus leaves us DEAD.

"For the wages of sin is death,.." (Rom. 6:23)

Repentance and Faith in Jesus RECONCILES us to God (reconnects us) and brings us back to LIFE (spiritually/eternally) – or as Jesus said it, we are “born again” (John 3:3)!

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord."  (Acts 3:19)

Friend, if you want real life, it starts with moving beyond sentiment and good intensions...

“One of these days I’m really gonna commit to trusting Jesus…” 

You have to up your commitment level past that of the “veteran” kamikaze pilot’s… and as NIKE used to day, “JUST DO IT.” Take the plunge. Dive in and give Christ your life. Trust Him, seek Him, follow Him---and guess what...I promise, in time, you will begin to experience the fruit of trusting and connecting with Jesus—and that fruit will be real life! 

“The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10)

Thanks for reading---remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Four Keys To Effective Prayer - Part 4

(Based on Nehemiah 1, and an article by Pastor Rick Warren)

"Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them … I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’” (Nehemiah 1:8-9 NLT)

I noticed in all of my hurriedness these past couple weeks---I sort of botched this little series on prayer up pretty good.  I think I made "confession" keys 2 and 3...  So, today let me clear things up as we finish series with key #4 .

KEY #1  Base your prayer on God's Character: 

God is good and faithful and when we come to Him with a surrendered, humble heart... when His Word abides within us (John 15:5)... when we delight ourselves in HIM (Ps. 37:4)... we know He hears and answers our prayers in just the RIGHT way (Rom. 8:28)--and we can trust that!

KEY #2  Confess aany sin(s) you're aware of. 

God's grace is poised and ready to be poured out on us when we confess (1 John 1:9)--again, a pure surrendered heart is KEY to and effective prayer life.

KEY#3 Claim the promises of God. 

Nehemiah prays to the Lord, saying, “Please remember what you told your servant Moses” (Nehemiah 1:8a).  Nehemiah reminds God of a promise he made to the nation of Israel. In effect, he prays, “God, you warned through Moses that if we were unfaithful, we would lose the land of Israel. But you also promised that if we repent, you’d give it back to us.”

Does God need to be reminded of His promises? No.

Do we?  ABSOLUTELY!

THE FINAL KEY, #4 is  Be very specific in what you ask for. 

Again, this is more for your benefit, than God's.  God doesn't need help figuring out what you need.  But, if your prayers consist of general requests, how will you know if they’re answered?  If I pray, God grant me a good day today... what is "good"... really?   If I pray, "Father, I ask for you to open a clear doorway for me to share with someone about your today--and I pray that you will make that opportunity so obvious that I can't possibly miss it."  Now that's specific... you'll know when God answers a prayer like that!

Thanks for reading---remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

Monday, July 4, 2016

Real Freedom

Happy 4th of July!

On this day we love to chill, reflect upon and celebrate this awesome thing we call freedom!  I am so grateful to live in a country where I can live free!

A THOUGHT TO CONSIDER:

Did you know you can be "free" but still be in bondage, or you can be in bondage and still be FREE?

Many in our country today are free in body but spiritually lost and in bondage to all sorts of emotional, relational, psychological, chemical, etc. prions.

On the other hand--throughout history--many believers have found themselves in all sorts of physical bondage--but in their hearts they remained as free birds!

In Acts 16 Paul and Silas are going about their day when they encounter a woman in serious BONDAGE, she's possessed by an evil spirit.  Paul drives the spirit from the woman - setter her FREE.  You'd think everyone would be overjoyed--right?  Nope, turns out this poor lady was a slave.  She was owned by wicked men who made money from her--by exploiting her condition.  When she was possessed she had psychic powers and people paid money to have her do phychic readings... When Paul set her FREE all her wicked owners saw was their "cash cow" going away.

Here's what ACTS 16:19-24 says happened next...

When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them..."

Friends, Paul and Silas were FREE in the deepest sense of the word!  The joy of salvation and the presence of Christ in their hearts overcame EVERY struggle!

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (Rom. 8:37)

Celebrate this wonderful "physical" freedom we have in America today--and THANK GOD for the AWESOME FREEDOM we have through faith in Jesus!  And always remember--that just like the passage above says--when we face difficult times with God's Joy/Strength--people around us watch and listen.  And God usese our witness in powerful ways!  If you're curious how God used Paul and Silas' witness you can read the rest of the story HERE.

Thanks for reading---remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad

Friday, July 1, 2016

Four Keys to Effective Prayer -- Part 3

KEY #3: Confession

(Based on Nehemiah 1, and an article by Pastor Rick Warren)

"Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them … I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’” (Nehemiah 1:8-9 NLT)

As it turns out--Monday will NOT work for me :-)  Wow---have you ever had "one of those summers?"  Anyway--I'm excited to share the second key to effective prayer with you TODAY!

  Key 1: Base Your Prayer On God's Character!
Key 2:  Confess the sins of which you’re aware.

Key 3: Claim the promises of God. 

Nehemiah prays to the Lord, saying, “Please remember what you told your servant Moses” (Nehemiah 1:8a).  Nehemiah reminds God of a promise he made to the nation of Israel. In effect, he prays, “God, you warned through Moses that if we were unfaithful, we would lose the land of Israel. But you also promised that if we repent, you’d give it back to us.”

Does God need to be reminded of His promises? No.

Do we?  ABSOLUTELY!

Whne you pray--standing on the Promises of God---it empowers, refreshes & refocuses YOU.  So take some time today to ponder and pray -- God's promises.  If you have a hard time thinking of some, here are 10 to get you started!

Thanks for reading---remember to share!

Blessings,
Brad