The Hope of Heaven

The Thessalonian believers were troubled.  They wondered what would happen to those who died before Christ came again. Here are Paul’s words of comfort to them and to us:

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Notice, he does not say do not grieve;  of course, we will mourn the loss of a loved one.  What he does say is this:  in spite of our sorrow, we can have hope.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ are not lost to us forever.  We can be assured that the God who resurrected Jesus is keeping them safe until He comes again.  At that time:

“…. the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

We don’t have many details, but we know that heaven will be a lovely place.  The City of God, the new Jerusalem will be:

“… prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”  Revelation 21:2

God will live with us.

” They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.”  Revelation 22:4-5

Best of all:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

So, whatever your situation, be encouraged.  If you are in Christ, you have something to hope for.

 

For more about heaven see these posts:

Living in Heaven

Martin Luther on Heavenly Blessings

The Beginning of Heaven

 

 

 

Take It With You

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I just finished a book titled Leading with Gratitude by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.  It’s primarily directed toward managers and business executives, explaining how expressing gratitude to employees will result in increased productivity, better morale and less turnover.  If you read the book, you’ll find there is plenty of research to support these findings.

And there is more!  Gratitude is good for the person expressing it as well.  The authors recommend keeping a daily journal of the things you are thankful for. Several studies of more than 2000 people shows:

“The benefits of counting blessings are tangible, emotionally and physically….People are 25 percent happier and more energetic if they keep gratitude journals, have 20 percent less envy and resentment, sleep  10 percent longer each night and wake up 15 percent more refreshed, exercise 33 percent more, and show a 10 percent drop in blood pressure compared to persons who are not keeping these journals.”

What a simple way to improve our lives!  In addition, another researcher, has this to say about the relationship between gratitude and joy.

“In my twelve years of research on eleven thousand pieces of data, I did not interview one person who had described themselves as joyful who did not actively practice gratitude.”

The last chapter of the book is called Taking It Home.  The authors recommend that we practice showing appreciation not only in our work lives, but with our friends and family and yes, even others with whom we come in contact. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Make a commitment to give some undivided attention to your loved ones
  • Be excited to see them
  • Give immediate positive feedback to family members
  • Give them a break (we all make mistakes)
  • Be grateful to your spouse
  • Practice random gratitude  (smile at people, say thank you, remember someone’s name)
  • Be grateful for obstacles and even cranks (remember my previous post about how obstacles are opportunities? see An Opportunity?
  • Serve others together
  • Smell the roses
  • Write letters of appreciation

Of course, if you’re a Christian, none of this is surprising.  As you can see in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians which I listed at the beginning, we are to give thanks in everything.  So, I agree with the authors and I say wholeheartedly, practice gratitude and take it with you.  Take it everywhere you go and spread it around as much as you can.  You’ll be a happier person, and so will those around you.

Thankful Saints

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18

We’ve adopted a new routine in our adult Sunday School class.  Each week before we begin the lesson, we try to answer this question:  Where have you seen God at work this week?  Most of the time, we see God at work in the good things that happen to us — someone recovers from illness;  we enjoy a beautiful day;  a friend encourages us;  and so on.   Today I’m reminding myself that God is at work in our difficulties also.

Our lesson last week was the story of Joseph.  Things just seemed to get worse and worse for him.  He’s sold into slavery, accused of rape, cast into prison.  It would be easy to feel that God had forgotten him.  Yet this was far from the truth!  God was at work.  He had a plan to bring good out of all the bad.  We all know that in the end, Joseph is becomes a respected advisor to the Pharoah, and is able to save his family and others from famine because of his God-given ability to interpret dreams.

The verse above tells us that, as saints,  we should give thanks in all circumstances.  God has a plan, and He’s working things out in ways that will ultimately benefit us and others.  We just have to trust Him.  I admit this is hard for me.  I’m sure it’s hard for you as well.  Keep this verse in your heart today as you give thanks.  Thank God for the good things, and also for the bad things He will use to bless you and others in His good time.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.  God loves you and so do I!

 

Good Leaders Encourage

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Long ago (1990) and in a universe far, far away (Camp Hemlock Overlook, Va.) I walked with Christ on Women’s Rainbow Via de Cristo #21 where I sat at the table of Deborah. Years later someone asked what I received on that weekend that I would most like to pass along.

I thought long and hard and I can boil it down to one word: encouragement. A VDC weekend is probably the only place in the world where all you have to do to get a round of applause is stand up and state your name! It’s a place where virtual strangers (who quickly become sisters in Christ) will hug you. On a VDC weekend, people really listen to what you have to say and they don’t judge you. They pray for you and with you. It’s a place that feels safe, and very, very, encouraging.

Here’s the best part: the weekend happens only once, but you can pass it on by giving someone else that great feeling of encouragement EVERY SINGLE DAY for the rest of your life. Encouragement is listed as one of the spiritual gifts that build up the Church, and every one of us can prac-tice it. Here are just a few suggestions:

  1. Send a birthday card
  2. Write a thank you note
  3. Give a pat on the back –“great job!”
  4. Hug someone
  5. Bake/cook someone’s favorite
  6. Say “I love you”
  7. Help someone with a job or project — before they ask
  8. Ask someone to pray for you (yes, that is encouraging, because it shows you trust them)
  9. Listen, really listen when someone shares with you
  10. Pass along a book you found helpful/interesting/inspiring

Well, you get the idea.  It’s not very hard.  It won’t cost you much.  And it can change somebody’s day, maybe even their life.  It may change your life as well.  Give it a try.  Go out and pass it on.  That’s what good leaders do.

The 4 Wills of God — Book Review

Most of us at some time or another ask the question, “What is God’s will for my life?”  According to author Emerson Eggerichs, the correct question, the one we should be asking, is simply, “What is God’s will?”  He asserts that there are four statements in the Bible which specifically identify a behavior as God’s will:

  1. John 6:40 — Believe in Christ
  2. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 — Abstain from sexual sin
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 — Give thanks in everything
  4. 1 Peter 2:13-15 — Submit in doing right

Dr. Eggerichs asserts that as long as we are keeping these four “foundational” commands we can be assured that we are acting within God’s will and are free to make other decisions based on our best judgement.  He also believes that:

“As the apostle John told us in 1 John 3:21-22, when we keep His commandments and do what is pleasing in His sight, then whatever we ask–as individuals in specific circumstances– we receive from Him.”

I have several issues with this book.  First, I’m not convinced that Bible verses which include the phrase, “this is the will of God” should be singled out as the only, or even most important instructions concerning God’s will.  Paul, in his letters to the churches, lists many examples of appropriate and inappropriate behavior for Christians.  Aren’t these God’s will for us as well?

The 4 Wills of God: The Way He Directs Our Steps and Frees Us to Direct Our Own by [Eggerichs, Emerson]

Second, original sin renders us unable to perfectly or completely follow God’s will, no matter how good our intentions.  If we could do that, we wouldn’t need a Savior.  Our decisions will always be tainted.  Doing our best, or trying, won’t cut it, and doesn’t insure that our motives for decision-making will be pure.

Third, I feel that Dr. Eggerichs comes close to saying we can manipulate God.  If we follow these rules, we’re pleasing to God, and He will give us the things we want, often in surprisingly miraculous and unexpected ways.  Although he is careful to point out:

“Our omniscient God knows what is wisest and may countermand our conclusions”

and

“(we don’t) receive miraculous interventions like this every time (we) pray…”

he gives example after example of God supplying the right amount of money or intervening miraculously to fulfil the need of someone who has prayed and who is “within God’s will.”

The bottom line is, this book may actually damage the faith of some who are disappointed by decisions that don’t work out as they hoped or prayers that seem to be unanswered.  It also promotes a legalistic view that assumes our failures stem from insufficient faith and obedience.

If you would like to learn more about this book and author, follow the link below:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/the-4-wills-of-god

P.S.  In case our readers are wondering why I would post a review of a book I do not recommend, the Lutheran Ladies became reviewers for B&H Publishing some time ago.  We receive free books to review in return for posting the reviews on our blog and on other venues.  This is my first negative review.