Groundhog Day In Heaven!


February 3, 2016

 -- hibernate varmint shadow pest woodchuck fur groundhog guess predict forecast phil hibernation

Lamentations 3:21-26

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Yesterday was Groundhog Day!  While the origins of this celebration date back to the late 18th century among Pennsylvania Germans, the largest celebration is in Punxutawney, Pennsylvania where up to 40,000 people gather to see Punxutawney Phil emerge from his burrow. From Wikipedia:

      According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges…then spring
      will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow
      and retreat…into its burrow, and the winter…will persist for six more weeks.

Twenty three years ago, on February 12, the movie, Groundhog Day was released in American theaters.  The plot featured Bill Murray as meteorologist Phil Conners who was sent to Punxsutawney to cover the festivities.  But he gets caught in a time warp that repeats February 2nd for at least 34 years (there are estimates of up to 10,000 years!)  The loop of the time warp is finally broken when Phil uses what he has learned for the good of others.

I began to think about the plot of that movie and what it will be like in heaven.  I know the focus will be on Jesus Christ, and we will never tire of worshiping and praising Him! (See Psalm 45:17; 145:1, 2; Ezekiel 48:35; II Timothy 4:18; Revelation 1:6; 4:8-11; 5:8-14; 7:9-12;11:15-18; 14:1-5; 19:1-8; 21:1-8, 22-27; 22:8, 9).  But will it be the same praise and worship over and over and over again for all eternity?

And then I thought of Lamentations 3:21-26:

      This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  Through the LORD’S
      mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They
      are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my por-
      tion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him.”  The LORD is good to
      those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.  It is good that one
      should both hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

There is a lot we could say about this marvelous scripture Jeremiah wrote after Jerusalem was invaded and sacked by the Babylonian army in 586 BC.  In the middle of 154 verses of grief and tears, the prophet lifts his spiritual eyes toward heaven and for a few verses sees God who is still good, merciful, compassionate, faithful, and loving – One in whom we can safely put our hope, no natter what the circumstances surrounding us!

But it is verse 22 that caught my attention as far as the movie Groundhog Day is concerned:  “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  If His compassions are new every morning, then I can’t see a life lived out in heaven of repeated sameness day after day!  New compassions suggests a freshness of life that every day will be an adventure!  Verse 22 seems to suggest that it is not just the Lord’s compassions that are new every morning.  His mercies and faithfulness are also named, and will probably be fresh and new!

Yes, I know that it says in Revelation 22:5 and 6, “And there shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light….‘These words are faithful and true.’ ”  Since there shall be no night there…nor light of the sun, it follows that days would not be measured in heaven as they are now!  But if and however time is measured in heaven, it would never be a boring loop of repetition!

I hope Punxutawney Phil (the groundhog) did not see his shadow yesterday!  And I hope Winter will soon be over where I live in Pennsylvania, as well as for you.  May the early Spring be more than warmer weather.  May any Winter darkness in your life give way to the Son-shine of a glorious Spring that lasts until you see Him face to face!

Reaping Bountifully – V


February 1, 2016

II Corinthians 9:6-8, 11

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Let’s see if we can finish up our study of Reaping Bountifully from II Corinthians 9:6 through 8 and 11:

      …He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows
      bountifully will also reap bountifully.  So let each one give as he pur-
      poses in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a
      cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound toward you,
      that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abun-
      dance for every good work…while you are enriched in everything for
      all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.

We have learned several things:

•      As with natural farming principles, the amount of seed sown is in direct relationship to the amount of crop available for reaping!

•      The seed sown is what we give back to God – a portion of what He has given us in the first place!  As Solomon said in I Chronicles 29:14 concerning the abundant gifts of rich materials the Israelites had given to build the temple:  “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this?  For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You.

•      Recognizing that all our wealth and resources come from God – and He still owns them, and us too (see I Corinthians 6:19, 20) – helps us to give a portion back with a joyful heart.

•      Such giving delights God who desires to pour out upon us even more blessings!  Jesus even told us the rate of return in Matthew 19:29:  “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”  A one hundred times payback!  That works out to Ten Thousand Percent Interest on any investment given gladly to God!!!  This does not mean that everyone who gives a dollar will be then given back a hundred dollars!  Or the one who gives a thousand will receive a hundred thousand!  But I think the principle stands.  And while such investment returns might destroy us in this earthly life by being corrupted by excessive wealth – God banks it all in heaven for our perfect use for His glory when we reach that perfected heavenly state!

•      We also learned from verse 8 of our scripture of a two-fold result that comes from giving joyfully and abundantly:

      *     …that we might…have…all sufficiency in all things….

      *     …that we…may have an abundance for every good work….

Yes, our Lord blesses us because He delights in us, His children, and wants us to have our needs daily needs met.  But He also blesses us so we can give more away – so we…may have an abundance for every good work….

But what does our passage say will be the final result of abundant and joyful giving here and now?  Here is verse 11:  “…while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.”  Again we are reminded – and as someone once said – “We are blessed to be a blessing!” – enriched in everything for all liberality!

One of the great joys my wife and I have is an expanded capacity to give to the causes of God’s work.  My first church in 1972 paid me $5000 a year to be their pastor.  My wife and I faithfully gave back to God’s work a tithe – 10% – $500 a year given to mission and church work.  Over the last 45 years, our Heaven Father has entrusted us with a lot more from which to tithe.  And we have increased the percentage of our income to be given away, so now we are able to give almost twice that original yearly amount every month!

But there are more results to mention from verse 11 of our scripture:

•      Our joyous giving “…causes thanksgiving through us to God.”  When my wife and I give, it causes great joy and thanksgiving to flow from our hearts to God’s ear!  We feel privileged to be helping to expand the Lord’s work!

•      The recipients of our gifts also thank and praise God for His meeting their needs through our giving!

Thanksgiving and praise given sincerely to our Heavenly Father is perhaps the greatest gift His child can give Him.  He basks in it!  It even says in Psalm 22:3 of God that, “…You… inhabit the praises of…Your people!  God dwells in our thanksgiving and praises!  So if you want to feel close to God, praise and thank Him!  And Abundant Reaping resulting from abundant sowing (giving) will greatly facilitate our own and others’ thanksgiving and praise!

Spirit Intercession – I


January 18, 2016

Romans 8:26, 27

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

I find too often Christians either do not know the role the Holy Spirit plays in their lives, or they misinterpret Scriptures that inform them of that role. One such Scripture is Romans 8:26 and 27:

      Likewise the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not
      know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself
      makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
      Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit
      is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will
      of God.

Let’s take this in its parts:

•      Romans 8:26 – “Likewise….” This points back to what Paul has laid out for his readers in previous statements in Romans, especially in chapter 8.

      *      Romans 8:1-4 – “There is now no condemnation…” for believers in Jesus Christ because He has fulfilled the requirements of the law before God, and “…Jesus has made…[us] free from the law of sin and death…” by His sacrifice on our behalf on the cross.

      *      Romans 8:5-14 – Our lives must then be lived out by the power of the Holy Spirit within us to be pleasing to God. We are to constantly win the battle between the sinful flesh nature and God’s nature – both within us – by relying on the Spirit to lead us and give us victory.

      *      Romans 8:15, 16 – We, as Christians, are never to live in “…the spirit of bondage again to fear…,” because we are adopted as God’s full children – “The Spirit Himself bear[ing] witness…! We are to be so close to Him as His sons and daughters, that we can even “…cry out, Abba, Father…” – Abba being roughly equivalent to ‘Daddy!

       *      Romans 8:17-25 – We have the promise not only of new eternal bodies free from “…the sufferings of this present time…,” but also the promise of a renewed creation.

Likewise…” – in the same way as our loving Father gives us so many other blessings…

•      Romans 8:26 – …He also gives us “…the Spirit…help[ing]…us in our weaknesses.” We have a lot of weaknesses, especially evident if we rely on our own direction and strength. I have struggled with several addictions over my lifetime – food, nicotine, alcohol, drugs, pornography – and I found it practically impossible to overcome compulsive/ addictive behavior until I gave up and let the Holy Spirit work out His victory within me!

•      Romans 8:26 – And what is one of our weaknesses to which Paul is referring? “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought….” Just consider those things for which we need to pray:

      *      Our own struggles to overcome our weaknesses.

      *      The challenges facing our loved ones – often related to their need to surrender to the Lord, and their stubborn refusal to do so.

      *      The direction of our personal mission in this life.

      *      The complexities of world – terrorism, uprooted societies, large scale immigration, differences between dominate nations and cultures.

      *      The problems facing our own country and the leadership we need to solve national challenges.

                                                      …How do we pray? What do we say?

We will explore Paul’s answer in our next blog on Wednesday.