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Friday, October 17, 2014

Your father and Your Father

Dear Reader,

(In this letter your earthly father will begin with the small "f." Your heavenly Father will begin with a capital "F.")

We oftentimes project onto God the weaknesses and attributes we don't like about our fathers. This can cause us to avoid our Father, even though He is perfect. Then we miss out on the greatest relationship we could possibly ever know.

For example, having a mean father could cause you to think God is mean, so you avoid Him, and miss out. There are numerous weaknesses in our fathers, even the fathers that we have good relationships with and love very much. They are all imperfect, and can never completely fulfill the relationship needs we have. Some of our relationship needs can only be met by our Father.

Here's another example: Your father may rarely, if ever, tell you that he loves you. And you are rightfully hurt by this. You may not know anything about your Father and you, maybe even without knowing it, project the unloving attitude of your father onto your Father. Despite the fact that the Bible teaches that God is love (1 John 4:8), you wrongly see Him as unloving and avoid Him.

The best way to avoid projecting the weaknesses and faults of your father onto your Father is to get to know you Father firsthand. Read the Bible to see who He really is and how much He loves you. See the actions that He has taken to show you how much you mean to Him. Whether or not you have a healthy relationship with your father, you need, and can have, an amazing life-building relationship with you Father.

Here is a short list of your Father's characteristics. There are many more, so read the Bible to get to know Him better.
  • Not forgetful - Isaiah 49:15       
  • Slow to anger - Psalm 103:8-10
  • Patient - 2 Peter 3:9
  • Kind, merciful and gracious - Nehemiah 9:16-17
  • Strong and gentle - Isaiah 40:10-11
  • Disciplines us when necessary - Hebrews 12:5-11
  • Energetic - Isaiah 40:28
  • Empowering - Isaiah 40:29-31 
  • Forgiving - 1 John 1:9
  • Immortal - 1 Timothy 6:15-16
  • Able - Jeremiah 32:17,27
  • Always present - Jeremiah 23:23-24; Acts 17:27
 Take some time and see if you have been avoiding God because you're projecting onto Him a weakness of your father. Then come close to God and He will come close to you ( James 4:8). Call on God now.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Nosy Little Jimmy and the Eternal Torment Preacher

"Boy, I hope that preacher man catches on!"

(Knock-Knock! Knock-Knock-Knock!)

"Preacher, are you in there?"

"Yes. Who is it?"

"It's me, Jimmy Sternbush, Sam Sternbush's youngest boy."

"Oh yes, Jimmy, come in."

"Man, Preacher, you got an awesome office."

"Thanks Jimmy. I decorated it myself. Have a seat. So Jimmy, what can I do for you?"

"Preacher, somethin's got me kinda confused. It's some of the songs we sing in church. They don't always jive with what you say when you're a preachin'. And I don't know if I should believe you or the song or neither."

"Well, Jimmy, could you give me an example of what you mean?"

"OK. That song we sing by the Planetshakers - 'Nothing is Impossible' says that God can do anything. And that Phillips Craig and Dean song we sing all the time 'You Are God Alone' says that God is unstoppable. But you said in church last Sunday that God's not gonna get everything He wants."

"No, Jimmy, you must have misunderstood me. I believe nothing is impossible with God."

"Well, Preacher, you told us to memorize Bible verses, so I remembered one you read last week. It was 1 Timothy 2:4. It says that God our Savior 'wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.' You were talking about how some people believe God's gonna save all people. And a lot of those people use this verse to say that God will save everybody. But you say they are wrong."

"Yes, Jimmy, that's right, that verse says that God only wants to save all people, not that He will actually do it."

"Well why won't He? If He's God, why can't He do what He wants to? You mean He can't do everything? You mean He ain't unstoppable? You mean millions of people will burn in hell forever, and God won't or can't save 'em?"

"Jimmy, I think you're confused."

"I know Preacher! That's why I came here, so you can unconfuse me."

"Jimmy, it's hard to explain why God can't save all people."

"Maybe it's hard to explain because it ain't true. Why don't you just believe God can do what He wants? He wants to save all people, and He can save all people. It's not like that's a bad it?"

"No, Jimmy. It would be a good thing if God saved all people. But it's just not going to happen."

"Why not? Is there something stronger than God that won't let Him? You are always tellin' us that God is the Almighty. Well, is He or isn't He? Preacher, you need to believe what you're a tellin' us to believe. You don't wanna be one of them hippogrits, do ya?"

"No Jimmy. I don't want to be a hip-o-crit. This is one of the deep mysteries of God that we just can't fully understand in this life."

"Well, Preacher, I don't think it's hard to understand. God wants something good and He's able to get it. Not much mystery in that. I'm a thinkin' maybe you're the one that's confused. I think we oughta stop singin' those songs or you oughta stop preachin' what yer preachin'. Well, I'm gonna go fishin'. You think about what I've said, OK?"

"I will Jimmy. Good luck fishing."


Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Resurrection

What causes you to think about a departed loved one? The photo that's always there but sometimes catches your eye and heart in a special way? A certain sound that reminds you of their voice? Just the mention of their name, even if someone else is being referred to? A certain song that they loved?

God can use this guy to bring peace? Yes.
My brother-in-law Jason loved the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Whenever one of their songs comes on the radio, my wife Shanel thinks about him. The same with me. Their music reminds us of him. And when I hear any of their songs I think to myself, "I'll see Jason again." God uses the Red Hot Chili Peppers to trigger anticipation in me. And I'm very glad He does.

God knows the pain that comes from loss. He'll see over 150,000 of His children die today, and over 150,000 tomorrow, and the next day, and so on. 

That's over 3.9 billion people in the course of an average human life - 70 years. Over half of the world's population will die during your lifetime. That's a lot of grieving people. But God can provide peace amidst all of this grief.

Trigger Happy?

Do the everyday triggers that remind you of a departed loved one cause you to painfully think to yourself, "I miss him so much." Or do they cause you to joyfully anticipate, "I'll see him again." Are you looking back in pain, or looking ahead for the gain?  

Day by day time carries you farther away from the loved one you knew. But time also propels you toward the loved one you'll know again after the resurrection. It's God's promise of the resurrection that can and should bring you joy and peace, even in the midst of loss. This is the kind of peace that comes only from God. You can't get it anywhere else. In the Bible, Philippians 4:4-7 tells us how we can access this supernatural peace, whether suffering the loss of a loved one, or any other crappy circumstance of life: 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

These words were written by the Apostle Paul to people who knew Jesus. Their personal relationship with their Savior gave them personal access to God's peace. 

Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? Do you know Him? If so, follow the words in the verses above to obtain God's peace.

If you don't yet know Jesus, call out to Him right now. Turn from your sins and to your amazing Savior. He will hear you, and He will come to you. 

Then you will be able to "rejoice in the Lord always," even if the circumstances in your life are horrible.

Then you can "let your gentleness be evident to all," even when some people deserve a very hard punch to the face.

Then you can "be anxious about nothing," even though you should be anxious about a lot of stuff.

Then you can "in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  Notice that again - "in every situation...with thanksgiving." The ability to give thanks to God in difficult circumstances is one very strong indicator that you have the peace of God.

Then you will have "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding." This peace from God transcends - or rises above - your understanding. That means that you can't understand or explain how you have peace. But you will know where your peace comes from - God.

The peace you will get from God "will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Jesus will protect your heart and mind, even when peace-stealing circumstances and people surround you. 

I have this peace. And I wouldn't trade it for the whole wide world. It's not based on my circumstances. They can and do change frequently, and usually without my permission. And they usually scream, "No peace for you!" 

But the peace I have comes from God. It is based on His stability. Hebrews 13:8 tells us,

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 

How's that for solid and trustworthy?

The peace in your life can be consistent and steady if it's coming from God. Or your peace can be thrown around by life's ups and downs, which are almost always out of your control.

The triggers will remain in your life. How will they affect you? Will you be trigger happy, or trigger sad? Lean on Jesus, follow the words from Philippians, and enjoy the peace of God.       


Sunday, March 30, 2014

"That alien looks just like my dead brother!"

How would you respond if your dearest dead loved one knocked on your front door?

On ABC's Resurrection (which airs on Sunday nights), I was surprised at the reaction by some of the people who encountered their returned relative. Some were overjoyed. Some were very suspicious and stand-offish toward the newly raised individual.
1950 Germany not 1952 New Mexico, USA. Status: Another German April Fool's Day hoax from a weekly photo magazine called "Neue Illustrierte". It was published in Cologne and is dated March 29, 1950. #alien #aliens #ufos #paranormal
We were all so happy after my brother's resurrection.

It seemed to me the difference was in what each person thought was possible. Those who seemed to be spiritual knew that resurrection was very possible with God. The unspiritual people had no room in their thinking for the possibility of resurrection, so they were confused and skeptical. And there were some people who seemed to be in between the two - cautiously believing.

On Resurrection, one of the doubters thought his returned father was an alien. Hollywood probably contributes greatly to this idea. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (first released in 1956 and remade in 1978) was not a movie about resurrection, but did revolve around aliens taking over human bodies, so that you could not tell who was human or who was alien - until it was too late. Too often we give credit to, or blame, aliens for things we don't understand. 

What about you? Would you see your returned loved one as a miracle of God, or as a disguised visitor from Mars with evil intentions? Do you even expect to see your dead friends and family again?

You should.

I can't say for sure what the dead will look like when they are raised. Though I did have a very vivid dream about my brother, Troy, being resurrected. In the dream, he approached me at one of my daughter's school functions. He was shorter than I remember (he had all the height in my family - my Mom, Dad and I are all under average height). He was also dressed like a farmer going to church (we weren't farmers, and he never went to church). Nevertheless, I knew it was him. I knew he wasn't an alien. And I was overjoyed to see him. This is because I know God will resurrect all of the dead. I was shocked, but I didn't doubt.

But the Bible does give us some encouraging clues about the resurrected in 1 Corinthians 15, what I consider the fullest revelation we have of resurrection in the whole Bible. It was written by the Apostle Paul. But I would encourage you to read the entire Bible to get the big picture on, not only resurrection, but all things pertaining to God.

I will make a few comments on the text in red.


1 Corinthians 15 

New International Version (NIV)


The Resurrection of Christ

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.


The Resurrection of the Dead

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (Verse 22 leads into this section that talks about the resurrection of all people - the good and the bad. There will be two distinct resurrections that will occur in the future.) 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,
    for tomorrow we die.”

33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.


The Resurrection Body

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (Note the contrast between the bodies we are born with and the bodies we will be resurrected with: perishable, dishonored at death, buried in weakness, natural vs. imperishable, glorious, powerful, spiritual.)

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. (We are now like Adam. We will then be like Jesus.)

50 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. (This is describing of the first, blessed resurrection that will occur at the return of Jesus to the earth. All of the faithful will be resurrected at this time. The rest of the dead will be raised 1000 years later at the Great White Throne judgment. See Revelation 20.) 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (Here's another contrast between the natural and spiritual bodies: mortal vs. immortal.) 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?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (All of our victory is because of Jesus.)

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.


Have faith in God. He will raise all of the dead. And He will reconcile all people to Himself through Jesus. The resurrected will not be aliens in the sci-fi sense. But they will be unlike anything we now have on the earth - imperishable, glorious, powerful, spiritual, immortal. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I Will Be With My Brothers Again

(The following is an excerpt from chapter 10 of Jesus and Hitler: Salvation For The Worst Of Us, Salvation For All Of Us Through The Savior Of The World)

Reunion With My Brothers

During the writing of this book, my brother-in-law Jason died tragically in a house fire at the age of thirty-six. His wife and toddler twins escaped physical harm. However, the emotional damage done to all who loved Jason can’t be measured.
"Resurrection of the Flesh" (1499-1502) Chapel of San Brizio, Duomo, Orvieto, Italy
Life can change in the fraction of an instant. The sledgehammer-to-the-face blow inflicted by death brings a pain to our hearts unlike any other. Our minds race to crushing thoughts: “I’ll never see him again,” “I didn't get to tell him how much I loved him,” “How can I go on?”

The hole left in our hearts can never be filled by comforting words. Some things in life are just too big for us to handle alone. It is a pain that only God can give us true relief from. Only He can give us “the peace of God which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). This is a supernatural peace that can’t be explained because all of our circumstances are screaming at us that we should be in anguish, but we have peace. We can gain temporary relief by artificial means—drugs, alcohol, denial. But is that what we want, temporary relief? God’s peace is free, but it is truly priceless.

Often in life we ask “Why?” and no answer comes. This is where we need faith. This is where we look to God. People will sometimes ask God for a sign after a loved one has died. They want to have tangible evidence that their loved one is OK. I don’t fault them for doing this. I did the same thing when Troy, my older brother and only sibling, died at the age of thirty-one. I don’t even remember what sign I asked God to show me. I’m not telling you to not seek a sign. God may grant you one. But we have God’s words not only as a sign, but as a promise. His words in the Bible tell me that He wills that “all men be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). His words also tell me that He “sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). All people are in good hands—God’s hands—whether in life or death, blessing or judgment, whether He gives you a sign or not. Jesus truly is the “Lord both of the dead and living” (Romans 14:9). Oh, if we only knew the depth of God’s love for us!

When my brother Troy died, I believed in eternal torment for unbelievers. This belief tormented me. I did not know if my brother made it to heaven. Was he right with God? I loved my brother and we were very close. But he didn’t know Jesus or live his life in a way that honored God. He often mocked me when I tried to tell him about Jesus or lovingly warn him that God was not pleased with his life. I told him about God’s grace and forgiveness, but he didn’t want to listen. My brother did soften towards God a bit just before he died. But did he pray the “sinner’s prayer?” I don’t know.

Not knowing where he stood with God haunted me. One minute I would have images of him burning in anguish in a literal lake of fire forever. I’ll say that again—forever. The next minute I would see him walking beside a sea shore in heaven, free from sin and the wheel chair that he was confined to the last eight years of his life following a car wreck. These conflicting thoughts would leap uninvited into my mind for many years.

My eyes well up now as I write this. I remember the point when my belief finally changed from
eternal torment for unbelievers to universal salvation through Jesus. I envisioned a reunion with my brother. He was reconciled to God. The joy was unimaginable. Sitting there captured by the vision, I began to bawl like a stubble-faced baby. I couldn’t control the tears and sobs. I went from hoping I would see Troy again to knowing I would see him again, fully restored according to God’s will. My heart swelled to the bursting point in thankfulness to God. The greatest tension in my belief system had changed to the greatest comfort in my understanding of God. Thank You Father!!
I do know confidently that both of my brothers are in Jesus’ hands, and they will be resurrected. I miss them very much. But the vision I have of reuniting with them brings me great joy. I’ll just have to be patient until the vision becomes reality. It will be worth the wait. I know the eventual reality will dwarf the wonderful vision I now see. I know that God’s will for them is going to be accomplished. Thank You Father. Thank You Jesus.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Does God's Judgment Need to be Eternal to be Effective?

The answer to this question is a resounding "No!" Let me explain.

Most people will not come to personally know Jesus in this life. Many of us have been taught that these people will suffer in hell for eternity.

Those who do come to know Him in this life are cleansed from all of their sins, are reconciled to God, and are in good standing with Him. These will die in good standing with God, and they will be raised from the dead in good standing with God in the first resurrection.

Those who do not come to know Jesus in this life will remain in their sins, die in their sins, and they will later be raised from the dead still in their sins in the second resurrection. Jesus spoke about these two resurrections in John 5:28-29,

28 Wonder not at this, because there does come an hour in which all those in the tombs shall hear his voice, 29 and they shall come forth; those who did the good things to a rising again of life, and those who practiced the evil things to a rising again of judgment. (Young's Literal Translation)
Let's focus on those who are resurrected to judgment. We must ask, "What is the ultimate purpose of God's judgment of these resurrected sinners?" Jesus tells us in John 5:22-23,

22 For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son: 23 That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which has sent him. (King James Version)

All judgment has been committed to Jesus for this ultimate purpose - "That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father" (v.23). No one can honor the Father unless they also honor the Son.

The word honor in verse 23 means to prize, to revere. Do all people currently prize and revere Jesus? No. Will all people eventually prize and revere Jesus? Yes. He will accomplish this through judgment, and He will continue the judgment until all people honor Him.

Will this take an eternity to accomplish? No. Theoretically, if it took an eternity to do this, it would never be completed. The very idea of an eternal judgment leads one to believe that Jesus is not able to bring all people to the place where they honor Him. Will He fail? Don't bet against Him.

Jesus will successfully complete all of the work His Father gives Him to do. And it won't take an eternity to do it. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 explains this,

24 Then comes the end, when [Jesus] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he has put all things under his feet. But when he says all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (KJV)

There will be an eventual end to Jesus' work of bringing all things under God. Once Jesus has done all of the Father's will, He will hand over the completed kingdom to His Father. Then Jesus will be subject to His Father, as will all people that are subdued by Jesus.

Part of the subduing of all people includes the judgment in which all people will come to honor Jesus. This will obviously not take an eternity to accomplish. It will come to completion at some point in the future. It will be a tremendous event when Jesus gives the finished kingdom over to His Father. It will be the climax to all of Jesus' faithful, hard work.

You will be a part of this glorious kingdom. Maybe you don't yet know Jesus. Why wait? Call out to Him now. If you come to Him now, and give Him the honor He is due, you can be saved from the wrath and judgment of God. John 5:24 tells us,

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (New King James Version)

Jesus is the only safe harbor you can flee to in order to escape God's wrath and judgment. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 says of those who are followers of Jesus,

... wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

Followers of Christ have already been delivered from the wrath to come. Unbelievers will face the wrath of God unless they repent and turn to Jesus. At that point, they too will be delivered. God's wrath and judgment are coming. Will you be subject to His judgment, or be delivered from it today by Jesus, the Savior of the world?

Jesus will eventually save all people. 1 Timothy 2:4 says,

[God our Savior] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (KJV)

But some will go through the judgment and wrath before their salvation. The salvation of all people will happen because God is able to do it. He asks the prophet Jeremiah, and us, in Jeremiah 32:27, there any thing too hard for Me?

To that I answer a resounding "No!" What is your answer?