Heaven is not the goal.


Are you an evangelist?  Do you feel the conviction to share the Gospel with those around you, and long to see your friends and family members “saved”?  Are you afraid of eternity – both for yourself and for your community?  Do you want to go to Heaven?

It would be a very disturbed person who truly longs in his heart to not go to Heaven.  Almost every culture and worldview has some form of paradise as a goal destination in the afterlife and they utilize this as a reward for moral or ethical living during their lifetime on Earth.  As the old bluegrass hymn states, “Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die”.

Often times when we share the Gospel and when we think of our own personal fear of eternity, we are driven to tell people how to not go to Hell, or how to get to Heaven.  God becomes merely the guard of eternal bliss and we need to do whatever it takes to make Him happy and appease Him so that we can get through the gate.  Jesus, however, teaches us that He came to the Earth so that we might know and love God and spend eternity with God.  Yes, He spoke often and terrifyingly about Hell, but when He discussed His mission and purpose, He said,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

– John 10.10

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

– Luke 19.10

Consider the story of Lazarus.  It might seem a strange choice in discussing this topic, but read carefully (I recommend reading the entire narrative of John 11):

“Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha…Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was…So Jesus then said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.’  So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days…When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’  The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’.”

– John 11.1-45

Jesus had some friends whom He loved and who were all siblings:  Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  He received word that Lazarus was sick, but Jesus knew that it was the will and plan of God to exemplify His glory by raising him from the dead.  Thus we see in verse 6 the conjunction “so” or “therefore”.  Verse four states that the sickness is intentional for the glory of God, so when Jesus heard Lazarus was sick he remained where he was – in order that Lazarus would die.  By the time Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days.  There was no doubt he was dead.  But Jesus had a plan and He raised Lazarus from the dead.

Notice here that absolutely nothing is said about Heaven, Hell or the afterlife.  Not one thing.  We are infatuated with the afterlife, and anytime someone dies momentarily and is resuscitated we immediately ask them what they saw and experienced.  People have written books and made millions of dollars by declaring that they have been to Heaven and seen loved ones.  Doctors tell horror stories of people who have died and come back talking about spiders and demons and dark places.  But in the Bible, the man who was dead and buried for four days is offered no platform for testimony about his experience.


Are you not so curious about his experience?  I am too.  I want to know where he went, who he saw, if he interacted with God the Father, all of it.  But Jesus’ intention was to prove  His love for the family, His power to raise even the dead, and His identity as the final resurrection.  Everyone eventually will rise again at the end of the age – just like Lazarus, and therefore his resurrection was so insignificant that no mention is made of Lazarus’ experience.  Jesus wants us to look at God and His glory, not at the experience of a man.

It is extremely dangerous to build a theology on the silence of Scripture, but it is right and good to build our doctrines and beliefs on what the Scripture actually says.  Jesus did  come to save us from Hell, but He came so that we might have abundant life and a relationship with God and saving us from Hell is merely a consequence of being right with God.  You can read more about the new birth here.  He is primarily concerned that we know and love God:

“One of them, a lawyer, asked [Jesus] a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’  And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul’.”

– Matt 22.35-37

This is the foundation on which the Old Testament Law is written and on which the New Testament covenant of grace is established.  Loving God with everything we have.  God gives us Spiritual life through the salvation experience so that we can love Him.  Sin is the barrier between us and God, not us and Heaven.

This is why Jesus prays for the disciples and for the Church that we would be united with Him the same way that Jesus and God are united:

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.  The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.  Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.  O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

– John 17.19-25

It has been said that we can test our hearts and our salvation by asking the simple question:  Would you want to go to Heaven if God (or Jesus) were not there?  It is, in part, a trick question because when paired up against the other option – of course no one wants to go to Hell.  However.  If your end goal is Heaven, if your desire is to see deceased relatives, if you just want to get to that place where there is no more sorrow and pain, then you have missed the boat and probably do not know God.  You desire only His benefits and not Him.  You love His blessings, but not Him.  And the greatest commandment and foundation for our salvation is loving God.

What is your end goal?  Do you love God?  Or are you just looking for a pain-free and comfortable eternity?

Can philosophy lead us to Jesus?


Until relatively recently, in world history, it has been widely understood that there is a larger power at play in the world.  Societies have engaged the supernatural world in a variety of ways, creating some major world religions and countless tribal traditions celebrating the unknown, creating images to worship and developing folklore to explain the inexpiable.  As philosophy has developed over the centuries and as it was influenced by scientific theories – namely evolution – a growing number of people began to reject the idea of the supernatural, an eternal soul, and ultimately meaning in life.

Philosophy and science can lead us right into the arms of God, or they can lead us directly away.  Many of the greatest minds throughout history in both the scientific and philosophical world were Christians, and their studies and theories enhanced their faith.  Others were not, but we have much that we can learn from them as well.  When we live without faith, we seek to enhance our pleasure while on the world.  We are unsure, at best, if there is an after life and we long to make our earthly lives as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.  We have all watched in amazement, however, as some of the most successful, beautiful, outwardly happy people kill themselves and throw away their lives.  It is because when people have attained everything that this world has to offer, they are still left unsatisfied and wanting.

C.S. Lewis, a great philosopher, was led to theism and ultimately to faith in Jesus Christ because of this very reality.  He was not yet a believer, but had become convinced of the existence of God when he made this profound statement:

“A man’s physical hunger does not prove that that man will get any bread: he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating, and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist.”  In other words, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

– C.S. Lewis

The Bible verbalizes this truth in a variety of ways as well.

“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.”

– Ecc 5.10

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

– 1 Tim 6.17-19

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

– Matt 5.6

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

– Mat 6.24

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

– 2 Cor 5.1

Even when our Earthly tent (our bodies) are destroyed, even if everything we own gets swallowed up in fire, we will find our eternal home and fullest pleasure with God in eternity.  Thus, seeking to attain pleasure here on the Earth is futile and impossible, if we strive for money and worldly pleasure.  We may experience moments of happiness, but it will not ultimately satisfy.  It will not last.

Do you know that you were made for another world?  Or are you still storing up your treasures here on Earth, where moth and rust destroy?  Have you bought into the lie that philosophy and science do not serve God?  He is the creator of the mind, the universe, the natural laws and there is nothing that will be found or tested that will ever disprove His existence or the Bible.  Science and philosophy are His tools, and tools that can help us to understand Him and the world around us better.  Let us reclaim our thought life, our jobs and our pleasures for God.  Let’s not put Him in a little box that we take out on Sunday mornings and keep separate from everything else.  We were created for another world, and for relationship with Him.  Let’s live for that.

To know the unknowable


Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed with the vast amount of information, history, promises and truths within the Bible?  It was not uncommon for people in the early church to have entire books of the Bible memorized, but even rote memorization does not immediately enlighten us to the countless truths found therein.

We know that God, the author of Scripture, is so vast that we cannot comprehend or know everything about Him.  He is infinite.  This is part of the reason we will exist eternally after death, so as to continue to learn and love more about Him.  At our moment of glorification, we will have a level of perfected knowledge:  we will understand why things happened and how they all orchestrated to God’s glory:

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”

 – 1 Cor 13.9-10

God has revealed to us everything that we need for this life and for Godliness.  And to that end, there is a very real expectation that we know what He has revealed to us to know!

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

 – 2 Peter 1.2-3

And did you know that Paul prayed for the Ephesian Church, that they would know the love of Christ “which surpasses knowledge”?  He prays that believers would know that which is beyond knowing!

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”

– Eph 3.14-19

Our Spiritual life is not just an attribute of our personality.  Our salvation is not just fire insurance from Hell.  Our walk with God is not an inoculation that keeps us spiritually healthy.  God has revealed Himself to us, to a measure, and wants us to know Him!  He already knows everything about us, there is nothing more that He can learn – He created, ordained and orchestrated everything about us.  But we can always learn more about Him.

Do you want to get to judgment day and confess that you never read the book He wrote for you?  Do you want to claim ignorance as your excuse?  Let us press into God.  There is no greater joy.  Let us pray for one another, that we would love and know Him in that great measure, “beyond knowledge”.  Let us spend time with Him, be transformed by Him, and love Him with everything we have.

To forgive the inexcusable.


I was raised in a household that was relatively consistent and God-focused.  We had rules, we had expectations, we had family devotions, and doing the right thing – the God-honoring thing – was praised.  I experienced the loss of a few friends in High School, and learning how to process death and eternity only helped me to develop a more eternal focus as a young person.  The grace of God was praised and understood to be the greatest gift possible, but it was not until I was in my mid twenties that I first-hand understood the expectation, ability and grace of extending the grace that had been given me.

In order to become a Christian, in order to “be saved” or to “be born again”, we must first understand that we are sinners and the eternal consequence of our sin is death and damnation.  That is the very reason that we need a savior.  We will understand that fact on various levels when we come to faith.  A child might understand that disobeying his mother and lying to his friends is sinful and that God is angry about that sin.  An eighty year old man might carry the weight of a lifetime of one particular sin or set of various sins ranging from pride to theft, adultery or even murder.  Regardless of our life experience or age, we must understand the simple fact that we are hopelessly separated from God because of our sin.  This is why Jesus said,

“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

– Luke 5.32

Jesus is not stating here that there are righteous out there, He is making the point that there are none who are are righteous on their own and His purpose is to draw sinners to repentance.  No matter what sin, no matter what age.  If you feel the conviction of the Spirit in your life pointing out sins and drawing you to change, then you are a child of God.  Jesus’ death and substitution in our place is adequate to cover any and all sins, we need only confess them and repent from them.

As we grow in our faith and get to know God more intimately, we will realize progressively the depth of our sins.  Even the eighty year old man who understands a lifetime of sin will walk through a process of maturation and understanding with God after he repents of his sins and begins walking in faith.  And the more we understand our guilt, the more we will understand God’s grace and the depth of His forgiveness.  To this experience, Jesus states:

“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

– Luke 7.47

If you do not understand your sin, your sinful state, and the punishment you deserve, then the grace of God is of little or no consequence to you.  It is no big thing for God to welcome you into Heaven eternally because you think you deserve it, or you only committed small offenses which God could overlook or forgive easily.  The one who is forgiven little loves little.  This means he cannot love God, and he cannot love others.  He will be unwilling to forgive others who offend him, he will be unwilling and unable to offer grace, because he himself has not received it.

The one who has been forgiven much, conversely, loves much!  This person recognizes his sin guilt, is amazed at the grace offered, and responds in gratefulness and love.  This person, in return, can turn to others and graciously love and forgive others who offend him, because he understands the grace that has been given.  And the more deeply we understand the weight of the cross, the depth of our sin, and the measure by which we have been forgiven, the more deeply we will love and forgive others.

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

-C.S. Lewis

It is not every day that someone sins against us in what we would naturally consider an “inexcusable” way.  Different cultures respond to offense differently, and while there are some who tend to harbor grudges and allow feuds and multi-generational hatred develop, every culture and every person has forgiven someone something on some level.  Perhaps someone stepped on his foot, told him a white lie, ate his left overs or borrowed his car and did not fill up the gas tank.  These are easily forgivable offenses for most people.

But consider that God calls our focus and service to self adultery.  He has forgiven us the sin of adultery.  How many people would forgive their spouses the sin of adultery?  And not just a one-time offense, but serial adultery?

God, being holy in nature, cannot overlook any sin, and all sin is punishable by death and damnation.  Adam and Eve brought the curse upon all of creation by eating a piece of fruit that God had forbidden.  Have you ever eaten a forbidden cookie?  God’s holiness will not excuse that, it will only punish it.  If you have confessed your sins and asked Jesus to place that sin under the fountain of His blood, then that sin has already been punished and you are considered redeemed.  All sin will be punished.  Either in eternity through damnation, or in the death of Jesus Christ.  We cannot and should not seek to add to God’s wrath.  Rather, we are commanded to love as He loved us.

Thus, C. S. Lewis states that it is not an option for us to love and forgive, but it is the very mark of a Christian.  If you have been forgiven, Jesus says, you will forgive and love in like manner.

So how is your grudge level today?  How is your forgiveness level?  Are you resting in and praising Jesus for His grace and forgiveness?  Are you pouring out grace and forgiveness in the same manner you are receiving it?  Let us learn to love like Jesus, so much so that we will be known by our love and forgiveness.

Can People Be Saved After Death?

heaven and hell

I had a conversation with a friend recently regarding the nature of death and whether or not people will have a chance to be saved after they die.  This is a relatively new belief that was made widely popular by Rob Bell and his book “Love Wins”, and it is defined by theologians as “postmortem evangelism” (PME).  It is certainly a warm fuzzy thought and comfort: that people can get through life and either never hear of Jesus or deny His salvation, but then be given one last chance as they stand at the brink of eternity to choose between Heaven over Hell.

The good thing, and the truth found within this belief, is that Jesus is the only way to find eternal salvation.  It is still exclusive and right in this claim.

But the problem is that Scripture clearly teaches that this is an impossibility.  The author of Hebrews makes a clear assertion that upon our moment of death we will be taken to judgment.

“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…”

Heb 9:27

This is a difficult concept to understand.  We know that God, being Spirit (John 4.24) and being the creator (Col 1, Gen 1-3), exists outside of time.  He is not governed by the physical laws that uphold the world (Is 57.15), and the passing of time to God is irrelevant (Ps 90.5, 2 Peter 3.8, Ps 102.12, 24-27).  So it is not only possible but likely that when we leave our physical bodies we will enter into that state of existence where time does not constrain us.  In short, we can go straight from death to judgment – with everyone (even those who are still alive when we die) – at the end of time.

When we go to the judgment, we will go through two phases.  The first is the Great White Throne Judgment where the believers will be separated from the non believers (Rev 20.11-15).  The non believers, at judgment will be sent immediately to Hell.  Then the believers will give an account for the deeds that they did while in the body, the Bema Seat judgment (1 Cor 3.12-15).  This is the time where all of our deeds that were preformed to the glory of God will be refined from our sinful and wicked ones through fire and rewarded to us as Heavenly, eternal treasures:  treasures that we can present to Jesus as gifts.

Not only does Scripture teach that judgment is what awaits us at death, Jesus also taught in a parable of the impassable chasm between Heaven and Hell in his story of Lazarus and the Rich Man.  The story teaches us that after death the two were taken immediately to their eternity (through judgment):  Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom (Heaven/the New Earth), and the rich man to Hell (Luke 16.22).  The rich man could see Lazarus and in his torment begged Abraham to let Lazarus give him a drink of water, but he was denied (Luke 16.23-26).  Abraham told him that the chasm between Heaven and Hell was impassable (Luke 16.26).  No one can go from Heaven to Hell, and no one can go from Hell to Heaven.  Abraham also condemned the rich man for his actions while he was alive and asserted that he was receiving the reward for his wickedness in life (Luke 16.25).

Scripture regularly teaches that our eternal destiny is based on our actions in life, whether to eternal blessing or damnation:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

– 2 Cor 5.10

 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

– 1 Cor 3.8

“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”

– Rev 22.12

“I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.”

– Rev 2.23

“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”

– John 5.28-29

The deeds we preform and the salvation we receive or reject while alive will determine our eternity after death.

We also need to consider the sovereignty of God over salvation.  Paul teaches us that everyone who will come to God for salvation was predestined to be saved before the foundation of the world:

“…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

– Eph 1.4-6

Those who have been predestined have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 21.27), and they have been there since before time began.  This is why Jesus so boldly taught the disciples that God has given some people on Earth to Him, and everyone that God has given to Jesus will come to Him:

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”

– John 6.37

The sheep analogy is continued and completed in this, as well.  Jesus says that we are His sheep, and His sheep know His voice and come when He calls (John 10.27-28).  Those who are not Jesus’ sheep are goats.  We are fundamentally, by nature, different creatures.  And that is why the first judgment will be the separation of the sheep and goats (Matt 25.31-46).

The last point we need to consider is the command and urgency of the Great Commission and missions.  Jesus came to bring salvation to the world, and the last thing He said as He was leaving the world was “Go and make disciples” of the whole world (Matt 28.18-20).  Paul said that He was obligated to the lost to preach the gospel (Rom 1.14-17).  And we are commanded to be disciples, and part of being a disciple is to make disciples.  If people had a chance to be saved after they left this Earth, then there is no urgency to go and tell.  Why?  Because anyone standing in front of two destinies, a fiery prison of suffering in Hell or eternal blessing in Heaven, will choose Heaven.  If everyone will get to see those options and choose, then there is no point to struggle to take the Gospel to the world.

Ultimately, Jesus taught us that belief in Him, through the Gospel, means that one has already begun their eternal life while alive on Earth.  Whoever does not believe still has the wrath of God abiding on him.

“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

– John 3.36

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”

– John 5.24

And ultimately Jesus taught that those eternal destinies are already determined before life, those who are damned are already judged and condemned even though they might still be physically alive:

“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

– John 3.18

In summary, God has chosen us for salvation from the moment that He created the world.  His plan cannot be thwarted.  When we die, we go immediately to judgment – judgment for our deeds in the flesh and our belief in Jesus – and after judgment we will enter eternity in either Heaven or Hell, and the chasm between the two cannot be passed, in either direction.  This is why evangelism is so necessary and urgent, because we only have a limited time on Earth and then we will spend an eternity in reward for our faith or our lack of faith.  No, people cannot be saved after they die.  So let’s get our own salvation established and then let us be obedient to the ultimate call of Jesus to go out and make disciples of the world, so that we can be obedient and we can spend eternity with our brothers and sisters from all nations!

Life is but a vapor

This week my small group was studying the end of James 4,

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”  Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”  But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.  Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

– James 4.13-17

And while the instruction is a reprimand towards the arrogant who seek to make their success and livelihood here on Earth without considering God and eternity, there is a very real application to all of us in our daily lifestyles and choices.  Less than twenty four hours later an accident was reported of a couple with whom I went to seminary.  They were on furlough and preparing to go back to Rome for their third term, and a semi truck hit them and killed the wife and mother of three.  She was thirty one years old.

Our life is but a vapor.  

Whenever someone passes away, it is natural for the community to consider the realities of life and death.  And when someone so young is taken, many are left asking the question that we all need to ask before we die:  “Why”?  What is the meaning of life?   What happens next?

Kyra knew the Lord.  She understood her sin, she confessed her sin and asked Jesus for forgiveness and found refuge in His righteousness that He provided by living a perfect life on Earth, dying in our place and raising again to conquer death.  She and her husband gave their lives in order to go and share this Gospel with the people of Italy.  And now she is resting in the presence of Jesus Christ, having begun the rest of eternity which we all aim to find.

While this feels like a tragedy, having been taken at such a young age and leaving her husband and three young children behind, we can take comfort and peace in the fact that she is now with the Lord and that she gave her life to things that will matter in eternity.  She invested in the treasures that moth and rust will not destroy.

James teaches us that God is in sovereign control over our lives.  He teaches us that every plan we make should be established with the mindset,

“If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

If the Lord wills, we will live.  Jesus reprimanded the Hebrew people for the same attitude and used this statement to declare the brevity of life:

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’”

– Luke 12.20

He was using the illustration of a wealthy man who was building barns and storing up treasures for himself.  Yet God says, “This very night your soul is required of you”.  God allows us to live and takes us when it is His sovereign plan for us to enter into eternity.  Some will go when they are four, some when they are twenty four and some when they are ninety four.  God is in control of it all.

Therefore, we should be diligent to live unto God and prepare for eternity.  Jesus says,

And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

– Luke 12.22-23

He also instructs us,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

– Matt 6.19-21

The meaning of life, the “chief end of man” as catechisms phrase it, is to know God and to enjoy Him forever.  Kyra was a beautiful example of this.  She knew God, she enjoyed Him, and now she is enjoying Him face to face.  She invested in the treasures of eternity and is receiving her reward as we speak.  And Jesus taught His disciples,

“Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!  And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?  If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!  And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying.  For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

– Luke 12.25-31

We will probably never know why Kyra’s life was so short here on Earth, but we can be confident that God will take care of Reid, her husband and her children.  He has promised to.  And He is grieving with them.  God is our comforter, and he takes every tear and keeps them.

“You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?”

– Ps 56.8

Perhaps you have recently lost a loved one, and are considering the meaning of life.  Perhaps you are exhausted of living for the world and are looking for an eternal purpose.  Perhaps you simply are considering what happens after death.  God has offered us a hope and a provision for our eternity.  Because all of us have sinned, we all deserve an eternity separated from God in Hell.  The punishment for any and all sin is eternal death.  But God loved us so much that He offered His son as the perfect sacrifice to take our place.  Jesus died so that we might be forgiven.  He took our punishment, and after three days in the grave He rose to conquer death.  If we confess our sins, and proclaim Jesus as Lord over our lives, we can be forgiven and spend eternity with Him.

Meet Jesus today.  Live for the things that will matter in eternity.  Store up treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy.  Because life is a vapor, and we might not be here tomorrow.


Sometimes you do not belong.


Twice in my life I have lived in big cities where almost everyone is transient.  People are in search of community, people are independent, people are unreliable, but you can always find friends and someone to do something with.  Twice in my life I have moved into communities where almost everyone is home-grown, somehow related to everyone else, they are tight nit and no matter how much they think they like you and no matter how long you live amongst them, you will always be an outsider because you are not blood.  And twice in my life I have lived in foreign cities where I was an outsider by every meaning of the word: language, skin color, values, religion, everything.

There are times in your life when you know you just do not belong.  It’s like that last day each year in college, you have just taken your last final exam, you walk through the dormitory and half of the residents have already packed up and headed home for the summer, you no longer have a reason to be there and you get that empty feeling in the pit of your stomach and you know it is time to go home.  But sometimes it lasts for weeks, or months, or years.  You will never be a native, once you have moved.  And in some places that means nothing, but in other places that means everything.  Relationally, anyway.  We chronically live our lives in cliques and cool kid clubs.

After Jesus returned to Heaven and the early church was planted, there was much persecution and Christians were scattered.  They were forced out of their homes and they had to flee for their lives, settling in foreign communities.  They were outsiders.  They were not blood.  But they were born of the Holy Spirit and had the bond with God of being His child.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

– Eph 2.19-22

Since the Church at large was being persecuted and scattered, the unifying factor for believers was their faith, and no longer blood.  They were one in Christ and found their community and comfort in caring for one another and corporately relying on God.  They were being nit together, formed into a temple for the Holy Spirit.  Often we misunderstand the purpose of the Church and individual faith, considering ourselves to be lone ranger believers who are each a temple of the Holy Spirit.  But we learn here that we, corporately, make the Church and in unity with one another become the temple; the dwelling place for Him.

When we function as the body, we have a place and we belong.  But it is not our ultimate home.

For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

– Heb 13.14

We were saved unto an eternal salvation and will one day be taken “home” to be with the father, forever.  Only there, in our new and glorified bodies will we truly belong.  Only there will we be blood, will we be native, will we be truly at home.  And since we are longing for that eternity, we cannot make peace with our Earthly dwelling.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

– 1 Peter 2.11

We must continually wage war against our sinful flesh.  We must continually fight the fight of being comfortable and lazy and make ourselves aware of the hurting and needy around us.  There are some people in your church who are not blood, who do not belong, and who are hurting and broken.  Skip lunch on Sunday with your cousins and buddies and go love on that hurting and lonely couple.  Tell your crib mate that you will talk to them later and go welcome that visitor and get to know someone new.  But beware the temptation of shallow and transient relationships, too.  We are to function as the body, to hold one another accountable, to be involved in each other’s lives, carrying one another’s burdens and forming the temple for the Holy Spirit.  Let’s break out of our comfort zones, let’s remember that our true home is eternity with Christ, and let’s build the temple of the Holy Spirit by unifying, welcoming, embracing the believers that God puts into our paths.  Let’s break the mold.

Do people go to Hell because of sin or because of who we are?


Hell.  It’s a scary topic.  We do not like to talk about it much because it is unpleasant and focuses on the wrath of God instead of the love of God.  We like warm fuzzy things, we like forgiveness, acceptance, tolerance and love.  But Jesus talked about Hell and destruction regularly, and that more often than Heaven.

But I want to pose a simple question for us to ponder:  do people go to Hell because of sin or because of who we are?  While this may seem a theological acrobatic at first, how you answer this question will establish the foundation of your belief system about man, God, sin and salvation.


It has to do with the nature of man.  Do you believe that mankind is inherently good and we have a sin problem?  Or do you believe that mankind is inherently wicked and incapable of doing good?  If you believe that mankind is good then Jesus is supplemental.  If you believe that mankind is wicked then Jesus is everything.  If you believe that mankind is good then we deserved Christ’s atonement.  If you believe that mankind is wicked then Christ’s death on the cross was completely unmerited and an act of grace.  If you believe that mankind is good then we all get a shot at Heaven.  If you believe that mankind is wicked then we all deserve Hell and Heaven is a gift.

Let’s consider the first sin.  It is unique in that before Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, there was no precedence for sin, and they were designed to live forever; death had not yet entered the world.  Adam and Ever were placed in the garden of Eden with a single rule:  Do not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Were Adam and Eve perfect?  No, they were not – in that they had the ability to sin.  They were innocent; the only true, genuinely innocent human being to ever walk the face of this Earth.  But they still had a sinful nature that chose to rebel and disobey.  We also see that Eve lied to the serpent before lying was defined as a sin…our natures are deceptive.

Through that one sin, death entered the world.  We know that the punishment for sin is death (Rom 6.23), and we know that all have sinned (Rom 3.23).  But we also see that,

“For in Adam, all die…”

– 1 Cor 15.22

We are all in Adam in the sense that we are human beings.  We have a human nature, which is a sinful nature, which is undeniable.  Paul explains a bit further in this passage:

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…”

– Rom 5.12

We have indeed all sinned.  But we have all sinned because it is our nature to sin.  There is no person who has ever walked the face of this earth without sin – aside from Jesus Christ.  And it was Adam’s falling from innocence to the temptation of sin that solidified that we are now all under the burden of enslavement to sin.  We all carry the burden of original sin:  we are not born innocent and given the same opportunity to live in freedom that Adam was given.  It is now, “appointed unto man to die” because of Adam’s sin (Heb 9.27).  No baby can live forever if he is able to not sin.

What else does Scripture have to say about who we are?

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

– Rom 8.6-8

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

– Rom 5.10

“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds…”

– Col 1.21

“…for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.”

– Eph 5.8

We are born hostile towards God, unable to please Him, enemies of God, alienated from Him and darkness.  Scripture says that we ourselves are darkness without Jesus.  But the most ominous of descriptions is this:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

– Eph 2.1-3

We are born Spiritually dead, enslaved to sin (Rom 6.20).  We are incapable of any righteousness (Rom 3.10).  We are unable to please God.  We are wicked.  We are born separated from God – because of the judgment that came upon the world when Adam sinned, and the whole world is groaning under the judgment (Rom 8.22-24).

Hell is a place of judgment and retribution.  The punishment (or wages) of sin is death.  Eternal death.  We are already dead, spiritually when we are born, and we are destined for an eternity of death unless Jesus intervenes.  We are born guilty and we continue to add to our sentence with every sin that we commit.  God is holy and righteous and would not send anyone to Hell who had not sinned and did not deserve it, but because we are in Adam, we are all born deserving it.

We sin because we are sinners.  We are spiritually dead.  We are aliens from God, enemies of God even, and incapable of doing anything good.  So, does God send people to Hell because of sin, or because of who we are?  Both.  They are one in the same.  Even the smallest sin would condemn us as guilty, but all of us have enacted an abundance of sins that makes the judgment “guilty” easy.  And we are incapable of doing anything good or pleasing to God until we come to faith.  Our very nature is sinning, and therefore damnable.

But God.

My two favorite words in all of Scripture.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 – Rom 5.8

God is ready and willing to consider your sentence served, if you confess your sins and hide yourself in Jesus Christ.  He paid your penalty so that you might live.  He will reconcile you to God, He will give you His Spirit and make you no longer a child of sin and wrath, but a child of grace.  He will give you life and destine you for an eternity with Him.  In the same way that we are born in Adam, we can be reborn in Christ.

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

 – 1 Cor 15.22

Trust Him today.

The Ultimate Act of Love

What is the ultimate act of love?

It is clear what we culturally believe in movies:  remember “City of Angels”?  Seth, the angel, gives up his angelic nature and takes on humanity and death for just a moment with Maggie.  The movies John Q, The Road to Perdition, Pay it Forward, X-Men, The Matrix all tell the same basic story:  one’s love for another (or the whole world – like Neo in the Matrix) drives him to give up his life for the other’s well being.

When men in America ask for permission of their girlfriends’ parents to marry their daughter, part of the expression of undying love and devotion is, “I will always put myself between her and danger; I would die for her”.

Sacrificial death.  The Japanese capitalized on it with the kamikaze pilots during WWII.  “Divine Wind” is the literal translation of the word kamikaze, and is built on the unifying belief in the culture which unites Samurai and Bushido codes alike:  Loyalty and honor until death.  The greatest act of devotion to the country was to give one’s life.

The jihad:  Service to God.  “The struggle” as it directly translates – either internally to the fulfillment of religious duty or externally against the enemies.  The greatest jihad according to Ibn Habbaan (author of Book of Jihad) is “the one in which your horse is slain and your blood is spilled.”  Death.  For God’s honor, or the furthering of Islam.

Around the world, in various religions and in various cultures, we unanimously agree that the greatest act of love and devotion is to give one’s life for another.

God is the creator of the the universe.  He established natural orders and He defined love because He is love (1 John 4.8, 16).  If God created us to understand love and placed that intrinsic understanding of love within human nature, then wouldn’t it follow that God would express Himself in the same manner by which He defined love?

Have you ever thought of the absurdity of Almighty God, the one who spoke all things into existence, humbling Himself to take on the form of man, and submitting Himself to human cruelty to the point of death (Phil 2.5-8)?

Some people believe that God is limited.  He is the giant clock maker who set all things in motion, and when pieces of His creation break, He has to jump in a fix them.  He does not know the future, He does not know what will happen, He is reactionary.  But God defined love, and it was His plan from before He spoke the world into existence, to redeem sinful human beings through His own death.

“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

 – Rev 13.8

Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world.  Not after however long Adam and Eve lived in Eden and then fell.  Since the moment God said, “Let there be light” (Gen 1.3).  And the plan was so settled that when Adam and Eve did sin, God told them He had a plan (while cursing the Devil in the snake’s body):

The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed; 
He shall bruise you on the head, 
And you shall bruise him on the heel.

 – Gen 3.14-15

Jesus is the seed of woman – the Devil bruised His heal by killing Him on the cross, but Jesus crushed His head when he defeated death through His resurrection.

God established the order of creation:  Mankind in need of a savior, the retribution for sin being found in blood alone (Heb 9.22), and Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for the sin of the believers.  Redemption.  God could have set up another route to salvation.  He could have created a world in which there is no sin.  He actually did create a world in which there is no rebellion from His ways:  Heaven!  The angels long to look into the mystery of salvation (1 Peter 1.12).  Because they are in a setting in which they are in God’s presence, they are worshiping Him continually, and they do not understand God’s plan of redemption experientially.  But they understand the magnitude and glory of it, and that is why all Heaven rejoices at the salvation of one soul (Luke 15.7).

But here on Earth God has a perfect plan of redemption by the blood of Jesus Christ:

But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

 – Is 53.10

God, who is love, defined what love was, and then acted it out.  He loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life (John 3.16).

And the only response to such great love is to die to our flesh daily, take up our cross and follow Him (Matt 16.24).  If God would die for us, and offer us eternity with Him, what less can we give back to Him than to offer our lives back?

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 – Rom 12.1-2

Do you love the fall?


Fall is in full swing.  The leaves are changing, the air is brisk, and here in Denver we have even had some snow!  Everyone loves fall, don’t they?  The changing of the seasons, the the colors, the pumpkin spice lattes.  The pumpkin-flavored everything.

I was at church on Wednesday and was chatting with a woman from Ukraine who made the unique statement that she does not like fall.  I was so surprised, I am pretty sure I have never heard someone say that, so I dug a little bit.  “I just don’t like death.  All of the trees and plants are dying.  They turn nice colors but they are dying.”  She continued, “In Ukraine we associate flowers with death because we put them on the graves and as soon as they start to droop and die, I have to get them away from me.”

Wow.  I was quite intrigued by her thought process and I felt quite shallow that I have accepted the “changing of the leaves” without processing the reality of the reason that they are changing.

Now, we know that large trees are not fully dying – they drop their leaves and draw their resources inward to survive the winter.  But it is quite morbid, in a sense, that we revel in the changing colors that are a consequence of death to the plants or individual leaves.

Have you ever considered God’s perspective on death?  People regularly quote Paul saying that for him “to die is gain” (Phil 1.21) and that he would rather be “absent from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5.8).  But what about God?

“Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His godly ones.”

– Ps 116.15

Precious.  It is precious to Him when we draw our last breath and enter into His presence.

And conversely He takes no pleasure in the death and ensuing destruction of the wicked:

“Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?”

– Ez 33.11

God loves us so much that He gives us blessings in this life.  He draws us to Himself, He gives faith, fullness of life and satisfies us here on the Earth.  But His greatest gift is Himself.  Eternity in relationship with Him, worshiping Him, loving Him and enjoying Him forever.  And it is precious to Him when we leave this earth and enter into His presence.

That is why Paul could say:

“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.  O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?’”

– 1 Cor 15.54-55

Death has no victory or sting over those who will leave Earth for the New Earth.  Is it scary?  Absolutely.  Will it hurt?  Perhaps.  But God gives us grace for the moment.  He gives us mercies for each day, and He will help His children to die well.  Will those left behind be sad?  Yes, they will miss the one who has gone on.  But we have an expectation of glory (Col 1.27)!

I was talking with a friend last night whose mother is sick and awaiting a liver transplant.  I asked him if the situation scared him, and he answered quickly and definitively, “No.  If she passes on, she will go to be with God, and I will join her in no more than fifty years.”

When I moved overseas, with the expectation of only being gone for four years, it ripped my heart apart.  I cried like a baby for the entirety of the first flight.  And no one died!  I was just leaving for a few years!  But my friend has a solid and Biblical perspective.  To die is gain.  To go into eternity is to be in the presence of Christ, the Savior.

And God sees the death of His children as precious.  When you approach death’s door, if you are abiding in Christ, your death and homecoming will be precious.

Let us live as such.  Let us remember that to die is gain.  Live this life to it’s fullness through the power of the Spirit and the freedom of grace.  Let us honor God in everything – eating, sleeping, drinking, working, relationships.  And then, when God calls us home, let us rejoice and consider our passing as precious and be expectant of our future glory:  eternity with the all-satisfying, almighty, gracious, holy God who loves us and saved us from His own wrath.

But let us also live lives of urgency.  Because there are many dying around us every day that have no hope.  To them death is the doorway into an eternity of damnation and suffering.  Torment and pain will be their existence forever, if they die without the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.  This is why we can hate death.  It is the punishment for sin (Rom 6.23).  It is a judgment and consequence on our physical bodies for having sinned in any way throughout our lifetime.  Though death can be a passage of hope for the believer, it is a passage of terror for those separated from God, and God forbid that we trivialize the expectation of judgment upon anyone.

There is no greater thing in life than to live a life of eternal significance, and to do so is to obey Jesus’ final command:  Taking the Gospel to those who do not know it, and making disciples.  Let us not revel in death, as it is terrible for so many, but let us not fear it either, as we have the hope of glory.

Praise God!