September 29, 2008

The Length, Breadth and Height of this House is Equal in Measure

And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. Revelation 21:21, NKJV

Last week, I read an article about the Yankees' last game at the Stadium as fans walked on the field prior to the last home game of the season and capturing a moment of baseball history, upon "The House That Ruth Built,” which will no longer exist next season.

While many fans have a great expectation, of the new stadium facility, under construction across the street, I wondered how many had the same hopeful expectation about seeing heaven, seeing the LORD Jesus Christ, or even His return to establish His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:1-2, NKJV

Well, the new Yankee Stadium facility is not the New Jerusalem city the apostle John is talking about, but what he saw, the coming new heaven and earth, it must have been a breathtaking sight!

However, here is an event where people were brokenhearted of a building that will soon fade away to rubble and dust and at the same time feel an anticipation of joy waiting for the new stadium to open, where they can walk in and look in awe at what they will see.

“But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.” Luke 16:17, ESV.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5, NKJV, emphasis mine.

Every one of us will one day cease to live here on earth and will enter into eternity, forever, without an opportunity to escape hell or to desire anything more than heaven itself. The choice is ours, the free-will given by God to choose.

"The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass." (Revelation 21:21)

I know that I would be in awe of seeing streets of pure gold in the New Jerusalem city! Words just could not describe what that sight must actually be like.

Those streets of pure gold would never have to be repaved either, there would never be any cracks in it, nor would it ever wear down and have any potholes in them either!

The apostle John described the dimensions of the New Jerusalem saying, “The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.” Revelation 21:16-17, NKJV.

So how big is this New Jerusalem city? Well, it is certainly bigger than Yankee Stadium.

Well, 12,000 furlongs multiplied four times is 48,000 furlongs. One furlong is equal to 220 yards, so 48,000 furlongs would be approximately 1,400 miles. 1,400 miles the New Jerusalem city will be in its length, width and height. And the walls of the city, 144 cubits, would equate to 216 feet in thickness. A wall 216 feet thick and 1,400 miles high and there are four walls of this New Jerusalem city!!!

Now that would be a remarkable sight in all of its glory!

Plot a 1,400 square mile on the United States to get an idea of the magnitude what the New Jerusalem city will look like.

Jesus said that in His Father’s house there are many mansions (John 14:2) and if it were not true, Jesus would have said so and yet, He has gone to prepare a place for every person who has repented of their sins and placed their faith and trust, for their eternal salvation, in Him and Him alone.

Yet, many will never see or enter heaven because they have not been born again and instead have the wrath of God abide upon them (John 3:3-7, 36). If a person is not born again, they will be eternally separated from God in hell.

The Bible says that in hell, people stand up eagerly waiting for new people to arrive (Isaiah 14:9).

And yes, you read that correctly, there are people in hell that will stand up as they wait for the arrival of those who have chosen to reject God’s gift of salvation of grace through faith in the LORD Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Read these two versions from the Bible, God's Holy Word:

“In the place of the dead there is excitement over your arrival. The spirits of world leaders and mighty kings long dead stand up to see you." Isaiah 14:9, NLT

"Hell from beneath is excited about you, to meet you at your coming; It stirs up the dead for you, all the chief ones of the earth; It has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations." Isaiah 14:9, NKJV

The New Living Translation says that those who have been long dead stand up to see you coming, as if you are an important person to be honored for entering hell and to be in their company!!!

Who can forget the roaring of the crowd at Yankee stadium when Aaron Boone hit the game winning home run against the Red Sox, to send the Yankees to the World Series in 2003? Is a similar sound heard for the one who enters hell for eternity?

I do not know about you, but I do not want hell to be excited about anyone's anticipated arrival! Not even Aaron Boone or anyone else. As you read either of those verses again, is this true of you? Have you rejected God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ? Would there be world leaders and mighty kings in hell anxiously waiting to stand up for your arrival in hell?

Those who will miss heaven will have done so at the expense of their own selfishness of temporal satisfaction, while ignoring the sacrifice made for them that is their redemption and their eternal security.

I could hardly imagine what the sounds would be like for anyone arriving in hell, but I do believe, by faith, there is an exceeding joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents (Luke 15:7-10).

Yogi Berra and the fans may way good-bye to the stadium that has seen some amazing things happen over the years, but none of them, in all of history’s greatest events, will ever compare to the arrival of the King of kings and the LORD of lords, Jesus Christ and the New Jerusalem city.


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17


Reference

Meyers, R. (2006). e-Sword. The sword of the Lord with an electronic edge (Verson 7.8) [Computer software].

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) is adapted from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. All rights reserved.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

An Unbiblical Chain Email

I received this from a friend of mine earlier this week and she sent it with good intentions, yet she just does not have a better biblical understanding for stuff like this.

She replied enthusiastically with thanksgiving for the proper biblical understanding that I provided to her in my reply and I thought you might be blessed by reading the reply too. Here is what was sent to her.


Novena - One Hail Mary and One Our Father

Novena: You were chosen to receive this novena. The moment you receive it, say: Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus, Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

GOD WANTED ME TO TELL YOU, It shall be well with you this coming year. No matter how much your enemies try this year, they will not succeed. You have been destined to make it and you shall surely achieve all your goals this year. For the year 2008-2009, all your agonies will be diverted and victory and prosperity will be incoming in abundance. Today God has confirmed the end of your sufferings, sorrows and pain because HE that sits on the throne has remembered you. He has taken away the hardships and given you JOY. He will never let you down.I knocked at heaven's door this morning, God asked me... My child! What can I do for you? And I said, 'Father, please protect and bless the person reading this message...

This is a Novena from Mother Theresa that started in 1952. It has never been broken. Within 48 hours send 20 copies (Or as many as you can - God does know if you don't have 20 people to send it to. It's the effort and intent that counts.) to family and friends. This is a powerful Novena. Couldn't hurt. Can only help.

My reply follows below, but first, let me ask, do you know what Novena means? Well, according to dictionary.com, the definition for Novena is a devotion consisting of nine separate days of prayers or services. So whoever has sent this, is likely a Roman Catholic church-goer and does not understand what the word Novena means. This in no way consists of nine separate days of prayers or services at all, which alone is disqualifying biblically.



GOD WANTED ME TO TELL YOU, It shall be well with you this coming year.


If God truly has spoken such to a person, who is this person and what kind of life have they been living that I should trust in this? Why isn't the world changed right now, because of these "prophetic" words? Why isn't it well now and why do we have to wait until next year? Isn't it bad enough as it is now?No matter how much your enemies try this year, they will not succeed. Paul asked God three times for the messenger of Satan to be removed, the thorn in his flesh and God did not answer Paul's prayer (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

In addition to that, Jesus said that we would experience persecution and tribulation because of the Word, (Matthew 13:21, Mark 4:17).

In Paul's letter to the Romans he asked what could separate us from the love of Christ? "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" These things imply what they say, tribulation (we see that in the financial markets), distress (look at the climate and weather related disasters), persecution (fierce attempts to silence Christians from preaching against homosexuality, removal of the Ten Commandments), famine (we see this in third world countries and even here at home), nakedness (look around the poor neighborhoods), or danger (everywhere), or threats to kill with a deadly weapon (locally and globally).

It's just absurd for someone to say that God has restrained every attempt of the enemy from a person. Just look at Job! (Job 1-3). He was a righteous man of God and God allowed Satan to ruin his life, because He knew Job would not curse God for his losses and he was told by God that he could not physically touch him. Job lost everything, including his children in a matter of hours and he still did not curse God for his tragic losses, yet his wife wanted him to! (Job 2:9).

The apostle Peter even said that we should rejoice in partaking in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13), so the statement which implies the enemy will not succeed is contrary to Scripture.

The Christian and the unbeliever will both suffer attacks from the enemy. That will never go away until Christ returns and Satan is bound for 1,000 years and then tossed into the eternal lake of fire.

There is no easy road to walk for the Christian.

Jesus said, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it." (Matthew 7:13-14, New Living Translation)

The apostle Paul said to Timothy, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12).

So how much do you really want to live a godly life in Christ knowing that you will suffer persecution and God will allow such persecution to occur in your life.


You have been destined to make it and you shall surely achieve all your goals this year.

Yes, this is possible, but not just because God said so. Sin has not been removed from this world, nor has Christ returned to restore His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

When He comes, the lion will lie down with the lamb and the two will not be predator and prey. This type of theology, "You have been destined to make it and you shall surely achieve all your goals this year," is nothing more than a "name it and claim it" type of theology and it is not biblical.

For the year 2008-2009, all your agonies will be diverted and victory and prosperity will be incoming in abundance. Today God has confirmed the end of your sufferings, sorrows and pain because HE that sits on the throne has remembered you. He has taken away the hardships and given you JOY. He will never let you down.

If God has confirmed the end of your sufferings, sorrows and pain then that would mean you are no longer living, because only in heaven will "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4).

God remains on His throne, but emails like this remove Him from His throne when unbiblical stuff like this is written and circulated on the internet.

It's not that God will never let us down, but we often let Him down by the way we live, selfishly and sinfully.

He will never leave us, nor forsake us, but we have and often walk away from Him, when we shouldn't.

This is a powerful Novena. Couldn't hurt. Can only help.

No power is contained in such an email that holds no solid biblical teaching whatsoever.

This actually does hurt people, in a spiritual way because they are being led to believe that what they are reading, even praying to be true, when it isn't. The use of Scripture has been misinterpreted severely by the originator of the email, just as the serpent had done in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3, NKJV) and as Satan tempted Jesus when he was in the desert for 40-days (Luke 4:1-13, NKJV).

Can this help? What do you think? The answers are found in the Bible and that is where to look and which is true.


Reference

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

September 25, 2008

Just, and the justifier of him which believeth. Romans 3:26

Today's devotional reading written by Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

"Just, and the justifier of him which believeth." Romans 3:26

Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. Conscience accuses no longer. Judgment now decides for the sinner instead of against him. Memory looks back upon past sins, with deep sorrow for the sin, but yet with no dread of any penalty to come; for Christ has paid the debt of his people to the last jot and tittle, and received the divine receipt; and unless God can be so unjust as to demand double payment for one debt, no soul for whom Jesus died as a substitute can ever be cast into hell. It seems to be one of the very principles of our enlightened nature to believe that God is just; we feel that it must be so, and this gives us our terror at first; but is it not marvellous that this very same belief that God is just, becomes afterwards the pillar of our confidence and peace! If God be just, I, a sinner, alone and without a substitute, must be punished; but Jesus stands in my stead and is punished for me; and now, if God be just, I, a sinner, standing in Christ, can never be punished. God must change his nature before one soul, for whom Jesus was a substitute, can ever by any possibility suffer the lash of the law. Therefore, Jesus having taken the place of the believer-having rendered a full equivalent to divine wrath for all that his people ought to have suffered as the result of sin, the believer can shout with glorious triumph, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?" Not God, for he hath justified; not Christ, for he hath died, "yea rather hath risen again." My hope lives not because I am not a sinner, but because I am a sinner for whom Christ died; my trust is not that I am holy, but that being unholy, he is my righteousness. My faith rests not upon what I am, or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, in what he has done, and in what he is now doing for me. On the lion of justice the fair maid of hope rides like a queen. (Bold emphasis and underlines added.)



Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92) was England's best-known preacher for most of the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1854, just four years after his conversion, Spurgeon, then only 20, became pastor of London's famed New Park Street Church (formerly pastored by the famous Baptist theologian John Gill). The congregation quickly outgrew their building, moved to Exeter Hall, then to Surrey Music Hall. In these venues Spurgeon frequently preached to audiences numbering more than 10,000—all in the days before electronic amplification. In 1861 the congregation moved permanently to the newly constructed Metropolitan Tabernacle. Spurgeon's printed works are voluminous, and those provided here are only a sampling of his best-known works, including his magnum opus, The Treasury of David. Nearly all of Spurgeon's printed works are still in print and available from Pilgrim Publications, PO Box 66, Pasadena, TX 77501.

September 12, 2008

My first week in Seminary

September 2, 2008 began an exciting chapter in my life, as I started attending seminary classes at Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, New York.


Getting here was not easy and I am not referring to travel either, though it was a challenge to move all of my stuff from my 950 square foot apartment, to a 14’ x 22’ room and I have a roommate who lives next door to me and we share the kitchen and bathroom. He’s a nice guy too, from Ohio who is pursuing a Master of Arts in New Testament studies, which is a two year program compared to my three year study for a Masters in Divinity with a concentration in Bible & Theology.

After a hectic and stressful move into my new apartment on campus, classes began the day after Labor Day.

My first class was Initiation to Spiritual Formation (Tuesdays 3:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.) and there are about 80 students in this course that is structured to help students become more focused in their spiritual lives and in becoming more like Christ. I belong to a small group too in this class, six other men, our mentor Dan, a third year student, who has interned with a men’s ministry of a local church and myself. In this small group, we will pray for one another, discuss how our lives are while we are in school and address any struggles we are facing whether it has to do with our personal lives, work or academic related issues.

This past Tuesday, we had a great time of prayer for one of the new members of our group who had been facing some family issues as well as struggling with what God has called him to do.

There is quite a bit of reading to do for this class too, so I need to keep up with the syllabus and not fall behind at all.

My next class is just 45-minutes later, from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., with Dr. Bryan Widbin who teaches Hebrew Bible and the Eastern Mediterranean World. This is going to be challenging and fun! I am learning to read and write Hebrew in this class and will soon have my first test.

So far, I have learned to recite the consonants of the Hebrew aleph bet and can write those letters fairly well and now I have to learn the vowels and how to read the consonants with the vowels.

Hebrew is read from right to left while following the position of the vowels underneath or next to the consonants, so that the word is correctly formed. Again, this is not easy, but so interesting to learn.
For three hours on a Tuesday night in this class, I am not bored at all! This class also has about 80 students in it too. There is a really great website for anyone who wants to learn a little more Hebrew, which is Hebrew for Christians.

Wednesdays I do not have class so that leaves me some time to work nearby at The Home Depot.

Thursday mornings from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., I have Dr. Widbin again for another Old Testament class, Reading the Old Testament. This is another packed class with about 80 students here too.

The day before I had called Cablevision to order cable service for my room, since I did not want miss what was on television while in seminary. Well, after realizing the amount of work I had ahead of me, especially with learning Hebrew and the reading requirement for the Reading the Old Testament class, I distinctly heard the Holy Spirit say to me, "Cancel the cable" and I had no arguement with that.

The focus of this class is to be able to read the Old Testament in its historical context through proper exegesis and hermeneutics, which is discovering the original intent of the Old Testament authors and then properly interpreting the original intent to our lives today.

Fee and Stuart (1981) state that a person cannot simply make a text of Scripture to say what pleases them, (though this does occur among many false teachers of the Bible,) where such personal interpretation is then credited to the Holy Spirit.

There is a particular verse in the Bible that support this statement from Fee and Stuart, first is when Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would come and guide the disciples, as well as every believer into all truth (John 16:13) because He speaks not from his own authority but speaks only what He hears God speak.

Fee and Stuart further adds that the Holy Spirit cannot be brought into a contradictory position regarding the infallible Word of God, whereby someone has misinterpreted the Scripture, because it was the Holy Spirit who inspired the original intent.

This can also be found in Scripture from 2 Timothy 3:16 which says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” All Scripture is inspired, it is good for teaching others, for reproving the truth, for correcting those who are wrong, to be right again with God and Scripture instructs every believer how to live in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

On Friday mornings from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., I have Theology in the Global Context and this is an interesting class as well, a little small in size with only about 43 students. The course catalog describes this class better than I can so, “This course provides an introduction to the doctrinal categories of western theology. It also introduces students to the place of western theology within the global context of other theological models including Latin American, Asian and African theologies. Its purpose is to provide students a western doctrinal and theological grid with which to think theologically in ministry while developing an appreciation for other theological systems.”

The first day of this class, last Friday, we were asked to share what God has done in our lives this past summer that we would share with the class. I shared that after 20 years, since high school, I had finally graduated from college at Nyack and my successful completion of my undergraduate degree was a huge stepping stone to bring me to where I am today.

One couple in the class shared that while they were reading their daily devotions, they were asking each other what God is to them. They decided to ask their two year old the same question and she said, “God is precious.”
“Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise.” Matthew 21:16, Psalm 8:2
This was just so heartwarming to them and to the class too, knowing that as parents they were bringing up their daughter in the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord (Ephesians 6:4, NLT).

My next class began in the second week, on Monday night from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Perspectives in Mission and this I believe is going to be a very good class, particularly as a pastor in the future. This course seeks to “explore the biblical foundations, historical patterns, current issues and practices for doing mission, with the goal of providing practical tools for mobilizing the church to be engaged in God’s global mission. One strong objective for the class is to enable pastors to recognize and empower those with a missions calling on their lives.”

The reading requirement for this class is heavy and I am very much looking forward to what I will learn in this class. This course also requires that I write a biography report from a list of books about missionaries. I have to also right a one page report on the main textbook that will be used for this course, The Next Christendom, which his due November 17th. I will also be required to pray for a particular country or people group for 30 days and to journal and a 15-20 page paper at the end of the semester regarding a case study of a mission-minded church.

Times Square Church, where I attend weekly, is a mission-minded church and look forward to learning what the mission, vision, values and strategies are they are implementing for the case study I have to write.

My last class, which is only last for this post, is on Saturdays is Personal/Professional/Theological Foundations for Ministry, which meets 1 – 2 times a month during the semester. My first class for this course will be on September 20th and is described, “Beginning with a theological foundation, this course shows the relationship of emotional, spiritual and professional formation to effectiveness in ministry. Examination is given to principles of ministry, and personal and emotional integration in the life of the Christian leader.”

I have been told that there will be anywhere from 80 – 100 students in this class.

In between all of that I work part-time at The Home Depot in West Nyack, which is located at the Palisades Mall and that is just another testimony of God's provision for me coming to ATS. I have been able to witness to a few people I work with and quite a few of them are asking many spiritual questions too since they know I am attending seminary and these questions were initiated by my co-workers first, which then gives me the opportunity to share my faith more openly with them.

Seminary is great although I greatly underestimated how demanding the course load would be as a graduate student, but I am very happy to be here. I cannot thank God enough for all that He has done to bring me here, giving me the opportunity to learn more and to be able to apply that to my life and in ministry to others. Being here at ATS is truly an answer to prayer, where God has given me the desire of my heart and I cannot thank Him or praise Him enough that I am here.

So, God worked out my finances regarding financial aid, which covered my tuition and housing completely, He opened the door for me to work at The Home Depot with a flexible schedule too and I work, live and go to school all within a two mile radius. Only God could have done all of that and I am sure it was planned out even before I was laid off last November.

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Psalm 139:16, NLT.


Reference
Fee, G. & Stuart, D. (1981). How to read the bible for all its worth. (3rd ed.). Grand Rapids. Zondervan.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If You Want to See God, Read Your Bible

I love reading my Bible.  Do you?  I have enjoyed reading the Bible through Professor Grant Horner's bible reading plan that opened up s...