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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday Message- Heaven

There are two stories that start this message.  The one was when I read a fellow blogger this week who said to the effect of, "I was raised a Jew; therefore, I never really considered Heaven or Hell."  Which I considered, and wondered why it was that God seemingly didn't stress the concept of Heaven more in the Old Testament.  The second was in a dream I had last night.  It was another of my infamous "tornado dreams."  Now, if you know me in the waking world, you know that I cannot help my excitement at Thunderstorm and Tornado Warnings, and ofttimes will stupidly say, "Bring it on!"  But last night, I considered that the waking bravado is only my subconsciousness's way of dealing with the fear of the storms that leaks out in dreams.  But then, it went a step too far- the step of seeing that atheists might say my Faith in God is merely the subconscious's way of dealing with the uncertainty of life.

Now, not being an atheist, I realize the illogic of that statement starts at, "but faith is not an uncontrolled dream,"  and branches out from there.  But when Dr. Jeremiah's sermon today was on the existence of Heaven as a real place, I had to debate things further.

And the fact of the matter is, the Jews have no excuse for not realizing Heaven as a place- it's just another of the many things that they disregard and mis-interpret in the scriptures that they have.  For example, turn to Genesis 28- the story of Jacob's ladder.

10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it[c] stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[d] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.


So already in the Pentateuch the existence of Heaven, and God's residence there, was established.  But the Jews were- and are- distracted by the promises based on earthly existence.  A long time back, a Messianic Jew spoke at a Church I attended.  When questioned about the Jewish thought of Heaven, he said that they seemed to look at the afterlife of being in "little cubicles".  I really didn't understand that, then or now, or where they would have gotten that.

But while I considered that as the main time the OT mentioned Heaven, it wasn't the only one as I gave thought to it.  If Genesis gave nothing but it's existence, Psalm 24 talked of it's Master:


Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.[a]

They will receive blessing from the Lord
    and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek your face, God of Jacob.[b][c]
Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
    lift them up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty
    he is the King of glory.


Now once again, while there is so much more in the verse, the one thing you HAVE to take from it is that God is King in Heaven- and that man will be given an access to it.  If you dig a little deeper, you see that that entry requires "clean hands and a pure heart."  But that is just a requirement, NOT an passport.  To actually get in, you need two more things- Blessing and vindication.  And how would one get these?  Again, this would have been obvious to Jews who opened their heats to their own scriptures.  Let's look in the words of the prophet Zechariah, chapter 3:

 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan[a] standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”
Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.”
Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.
The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.

So even the High Priest came before the Judgment of God in filthy rags; but the Angel (Jesus), re-dressed him.  And in this dress- this VINDICATION- he was allowed into Heaven.

So the excuse of not having Heaven and Hell stressed in the OT is without merit.  It is there, for those with eyes to see.  But if you are involved, as they were, more with the works of God in the mortal vale, you aren't looking towards it.

Dr. Jeremiah went on to tell the story of a couple he knew.  The wife was the singer at a very lavish wedding, and the wedding was to have a very lavish reception afterwards on the top floors of a tower in the city.  When it was time for the reception, a satin ribbon guarding the stairway into the reception area was cut, and the guests filed past the Maitre d', who held a book with the names of the guests in it.  When the woman and her husband got to the MD, he could not find their names in the book.  "But I was the singer at the wedding!"  she pleaded to no avail.  The MD called a waiter over and had him escort them to the service elevator and send them to the parking lot.  On the way home, the husband asked what happened, and she said, "I was so busy with the preparations, I never got around to sending back the RSVP.  I figured, I am the singer in the wedding, I'll be on the list anyway..."


Remind you of the story of the Wedding Feast that Jesus told?  In that story, the one man was thrown out because he wasn't in the wedding clothes- the clothes that were put onto the High Priest WHEN HE WAS VINDICATED.

I have run into many people- as blog friends and Facebook friends- that believe that "singing at the wedding" is enough.  I am a good person, I do good deeds- that should be enough.  After all, God is a loving God.  That would be good enough, if, like the Jews, we were ONLY to be concerned with the things of this earth.  But it isn't.  Because it isn't, we need to consider God is first a HOLY God, and He cannot abide our filthy rags.  To be with Him, we need the BLESSING, we need the VINDICATION.  We need to RSVP.  Singing at the wedding isn't enough.  Being a good person with good deeds, even having "clean hands and a pure spirit" doesn't cut it.  You have to have your RSVP with Jesus on file.  Or else, as Jeremiah concluded, "you'll be going down on the service elevator that doesn't stop at the garage."

3 comments:

  1. I really love how you wrote this, Chris. Especially the line about RSVPing to God. I don't attend church but know I have RSVP'd with God. I thought I had been doing that when I was younger, but, working my program has made me see, I was selfish in my faith. Now, I'm not ashamed to believe in God, I pray for myself AND others. I hand things over the best I can because I realize I'm not in control. He is. I'm just his work in progress.

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    1. I like to think of Sunday Message as a place where the not-necessarily-churched can gather for encouragement. In fact, we were just discussing this on a similarly occupied friend does likewise. God doesn't abandon us because we don't gather in a building.

      And I don't think it's all that uncommon for us to be selfish (or perhaps better put, self-centered) in our faith. It is a growing point of maturity to see it, though.

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  2. Yes! singing at the wedding isn't enough! Great explanation.

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