A Glimpse of Heaven

Because the 4th and 5th chapters of the book of Revelation have been coming up in different ways in my study life, I decided to do a lectio divina reading of this text. In chapter 4, here’s what stood out for me:

“After this, I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven!” Revelation 4:1a

How amazing and wonderful that God would allow John (and us) a glimpse of the world to come! The description of heaven is, well, unworldly. Like nothing ever seen before. John uses words that describe valuable gems, robes of pure white, golden crowns and crystal. Imagine the most ornate and beautiful throne room and multiply that image by a million. The eyes are dazzled.

The animals around the throne are also only “like” the ones we know on earth– a lion (majesty), an ox,(strength) a man (intelligence) and an eagle (sovereignty). They are covered with eyes–maybe denoting that in heaven things will be seen completely and clearly. There are hints of the natural world, too– thunder, lightening, a rainbow. The kinds of things that produce awe in us, even here and now.

Everything is about the worship of God. This reminds me of the Santus, a hymn that used during many Christian liturgies:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts,
heaven and earth are full of thy glory.
Glory be to thee, O Lord most high.
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

When you worship on Sunday, remember the communion of saints — those in heaven are worshipping right along with us! Keep that beautiful glimpse of heaven with you for the rest of the week!

For more about heaven see:

Heaven is a World of Love by Jonathan Edwards — Book Review

90 Minutes in Heaven — Movie Review

Living in Heaven

,

What Matters Most?

The true proficiency of the soul consists not so much in deep thinking, or eloquent speaking, or beautiful writing; as in much and warm loving. Now if you as me in what way this much and warm love may be acquired, I answer, — By resolving to do the will of God, and by watching to do His will as often as occasion offers. Those who truly love God love all good wherever they find it. They seek all good, they always acknowledge and defend all good. They have no quarrels. They bear no envy. O lord, give me more and more of this blessed love! It will be a magnificent comfort in the hour of death to know that we are on our way to be judged by Him whom we have loved above all things. We are not going to a strange country, since it is His country whom we love and who loves us.

St. Teresa

For more about love see:

Hesed–God’s Love in Action

Charity = Love

Learning to Love

We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza– Book Review

I’m choosing to review this book, not because it is Christian, but because it is important. It describes a situation that is tragic — a black teenager is shot and killed by two policemen. He doesn’t hear their calls to stop because he is wearing ear buds, as he reaches into his pocket for his cell phone, they assume the worst and respond with deadly force. The story is told from the point of view of two protagonists — the black journalist who is assigned to cover the shooting, and her best friend –the wife of one of the policemen. (this book also has two authors, one white and one black) Both sides of the question are presented honestly. The real difficulty, it seems, is a failure to communicate difficult feelings, feelings that are hard to accept and understand. Bringing them into the open is key to resolving issues around race in our society today.

We Are Not Like Them: A Novel by [Christine Pride, Jo Piazza]

Will these two women be able to remain friends? The question is left unanswered, but they are trying. Is there an outcome to this kind of situation that will satisfy everyone? Probably not. One thing is clear — race is an issue that must be brought into the light and discussed, and the only possible solution is a very Christian virtue — love.

There are discussion questions at the end, and this would make an excellent book club read.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. Excellent and thought-provoking. It’s a new book that you can probably check out of your local library.

For more book reviews see:

,Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi–Book Review

A Couple of Good Books

Grace by William Kent Krueger–Book Review

Manger by Lee Bennett Hopkins — Book Review

Manger by Lee Bennett Hopkins (2014-09-01)

This book for youngsters is based on the Germanic tradition that the animals in the stable spoke on the night when Jesus was born. Each animal portrait, beautifully and realistically done by illustrator Helen Cann, is accompanied by a poem about the Christ Child. Each poem is by a different author, and all are simple enough for young children and early readers to understand. Every animal has its own gift to offer the special baby.

Children and parents will fall in love with the lovely pictures and tender message. It would make a nice Christmas gift, and reading it together could become a treasured tradition.

VERDICT: 5 STARS

For more Christmas books for children see these posts:

Christmas Every Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren–Book Review

The Silent Noisy Night by Jill Roman Lord — Book Review

Who Sang the First Song by Ellie Holcomb — Book Review

His Commandments

I’ve come to the last chapter of 1 John in my lectio divina study, and here’s what stands out for me:

“…his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3b

Many worldly people believe that to become a Christian, to submit to God’s will, would impact their life in a negative way. How boring to spend free time reading the Bible, praying, and going to worship services! How dull to be barred from behaviors that our society considers acceptable! Life would not be fun at all!

When our children were young, we tried to stress the truth that following God’s rules was not meant to be a punishment, but would make our lives easier. We might miss out on some momentary “fun” but the rewards were far more important. We would have better relationships, a support group in our church family, peace during difficult circumstances, and more. Better yet, at the end of our lives, we would not have too many regrets.

In the book of Matthew Christ tells us:

 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

That yoke is really simple, in fact it boils down to one word: love. Love God and love one another. The more you practice love, the easier it will be. And the rewards are great.

23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our LORD.” Romans 6:23

For more about obedience see these posts:

A Long Obedience In the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson — Book Review

Walking in Obedience

Obedience?

.

The Attributes of God

In my husband’s weekly Bible study class, we’ve been studying the attributes of God, and I thought today I would share some of that information with my readers. So far, we’ve gotten through what are considered the incommunicable attributes of God. Incommunicable means that these are qualities belonging to God alone, and they cannot be used in relation to human beings at all.

The first attribute is simplicity or unity. This means that all of the qualities of God are present all the time. He is merciful, just, holy, wrathful and more all the time and all at once.

The next attribute is self existence. God was not created,

The third attribute is immutability. God does not change. Although there are times in the Bible when God seems to change His mind, this is really for the benefit of humans — God already knows and has decided what will happen.

The fourth attribute is impassibility. God does not suffer or experience emotional changes. Again, when the Bible says God is grieved, this is really an attempt to explain things in a way humans can understand — it is not a statement about the nature of God.

The fifth attribute is omnipresence. God is everywhere all the time.

Finally, God is eternal. He was not created (see attribute #1) so He has no beginning and no end. God does not exist with time — He is outside of time.

It’s hard to wrap your mind around these qualities, isn’t it? That’s because God is God, and we are not. Later on I’ll post about the communicable attributes of God, which are easier to understand because there is some human equivalent.

For more about Bible study see:

The Greatest Bible Study

Study Resources for Ladies

A Prayer Before Study

Perfect Love

As I continue my lectio divina study of 1 John, in chapter 4 what strikes me is this:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18

I have to admit that I am a fearful person. I’m always good at catastrophizing — thinking that the worst possible outcome to any situation is what I’ll have to face. Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about sin — not just my own individual sins, but the sins of our society, and the sins of our ancestors. The older I get, the more I realize how bad we all are. Prejudice, genocide, slavery, war… all these things have happened in the past and are still going on. I’ve realized that at some point, we’ll all be judged by God, and it won’t be pleasant. We won’t be able to excuse ourselves by saying we didn’t know, didn’t personally participate, couldn’t help ourselves. This is a fearful thing.

However, a pastor friend told me to remember that although we will be judged, we won’t be condemned. Why? God’s perfect love has already provided the propitiation for every sin I can imagine. He sent His Son to take our punishment. This passage is not telling me that I must love perfectly (I can’t) but that when I understand God’s perfect love, I can stop being afraid. He has already covered all our sins, past, present and future. He has redeemed us.

That doesn’t mean we have a free pass, the right to ignore all sin and sin some more. In gratitude and repentance, we should say:

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love each other.” 1 John 4:11

Loving one another means speaking up when we see a wrong, trying to help, getting involved. “No one has ever seen God”1 John 4:12a — but they can see His love in us. Let people see God in your love. He loved you first.

For more about loving one another see these posts:

Little Children, Love One Another

Love One Another

By Our Love

#Ligcon

The last weekend in September saw more than 1000 people gather in Pittsburgh for a conference put together by Ligonier Ministries.(#ligcon was the hashtag for the conference). My husband and I attended while visiting with friends in the area. The conference featured presentations by such Reformed notables as Burk Parsons, Stephen Nichols, Steve Lawson and Derek Thomas. Many of the talks were on topics dear to the hearts of Lutherans: Grace Alone, Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, for example. My husband said each presentation was a sermon, and they were not too difficult for the average layperson to understand.

,Ligonier Ministries was founded by the late teacher/theologian R. C. Sproul in Ligonier, Pa. 50 years ago. (It is now located in Orlando). Sproul, who died 4 years ago, began Ligonier as a teaching ministry which focused on small groups of students and grew to be a major force among American Protestants through publications, conferences and the Reformation Bible College. Following the lead of its founder, Ligonier remains committed to a high view of Scripture and the theology of the 16th century Reformation.

I would recommend Sproul’s books (there are many), and if you would like to learn more about Ligonier Ministries, follow the link below:

https://www.ligonier.org/

They sponsor several conferences a year in different areas of the country, and it is well worth the time to attend one. They also offer a variety of educational materials.

For a book review of one of Sproul’s books see this post:

The Holiness of God–R.C. Sproul–Book Review

For some Sproul quotes see:

R. C. Sproul on God’s Word

Flee to the Scripture– A Quote by R.C. Sproul

R.C. Sproul on Repentance

Jesu, Jesu

This hymn was used in a church I visited recently. I love it, and it has an interesting history. Following African independence movements during the 1960s and 1970s, some Western missionaries encouraged the composition of Christian songs in African idioms. Thomas S. Colvin (1925-2000) was one of these missionaries. “Jesu, Jesu” is Colvin’s most popular hymn. The melody is adapted from a Ghanaian folk song he heard during his years of service in that country.

The reference to foot washing in stanza 1 (John 13:1-17), makes it an appropriate hymn for Maundy Thursday. However, the general theme of service is always suitable. It stresses the equality of everyone in Christ (John 13:16). All people — “rich and poor” and “black and white” — are our neighbors. I hope you enjoy it this morning.

When Words Matter Most by Cheryl Marshall & Caroline Newheiser–Book Review

Sometimes we’re called to speak the truth into the life of a friend, and some times are easier than others. We may need to encourage those who are worried, provide strength to the weak, admonish those who are going astray or comfort the grieving. All of these are times when we can come alongside one another with words that help and heal. In this book the authors share stories of women they have personally known who have been impacted by hearing and applying the word of God to their lives.

Part 1 covers the biblical basis for building one another up through our conversations, and the kinds of situations that may arise. The authors emphasize the need to speak the truth “in love”, even when the subject broached is difficult. We are to be “gracious friends”– friends who listen, forgive, and serve sacrificially. Part 2 gives readings from scripture to suggest to those who are struggling in different ways –worried, weary, wayward or weeping. Knowing some appropriate verses will help us to gain confidence in speaking the right word at the right time.

At the end of each chapter there are questions that could be used in a small group study or for individual journaling. There are also some recommended resources at the back.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. If you’re a word person (as I am) you’ll love it; if you’re not, you’ll get some helpful suggestions. An easy read, perfectly biblical in approach and content.

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For more about the importance of our words see:

Thankful Words

Words of Praise

Truthful Words