Heavenly Realms

I know now that there is a dimension surrounding us called the heavenly realms. Most people are not aware of this dimension. Certainly non-Christians are not. Sadly, because we are so immersed in our secular and materialistic society, Christians to whom this dimension should be home are only dimly aware of it, if at all. The heavenly realms, to believer and nonbeliever, seem like a distant echo reserved for people who have died.

This needs to change. Christians have blessings in the heavenly realms and have access to them now.

This movement into the heavenly dimensions of life and the blessing that Jesus Christ brings is a two-staged process. The first stage is spiritual regeneration. We need to have our old self-centered hearts of stone replaced with hearts that are centered on God. This regeneration may take place in a dramatic conversion or it may take place quietly during a Sunday-school teacher’s lesson. However it happens, it is a gift of God that we do nothing to deserve and can’t achieve through our own efforts.

The next stage in the process, however, is different. It is the development of a Christian mind. The apostle Paul writes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 12:2.

It is with the new mind that we begin to distinguish the sights and sounds of the heavens and that we begin to discern with our hearts. As we learn to think Christianly, we are able to articulate the individual notes of creation that sing God’s glory, whereas before, the notes were all compressed together. Our minds are like prisms that distinguish the colors of God’s glory that previously seemed a brilliant white light.

How we get this Christian mind is no mystery. Nor is it a mystical experience. It comes through the process of education. Just as it takes years of education for an engineer to think like an engineer or a doctor to think like a doctor, so it takes years to learn to think like a Christian. It requires all the effort that we can muster and then some. And even then, the transformation comes slowly, over a period of time.

…from Spiritual Encounters

Sermon 4 Peace.docx


She had inherited twenty million dollars. That’s a lot of money any day, but it was immense in 1890.

She was the belle of New Haven, Connecticut. No social event was complete without her presence. No one hosted a party without inviting her.

Sarah was rich. Well known. Powerful. And miserable.

Her only daughter had died at five weeks of age. Then her husband had passed away. She was left alone with her name, her money, her memories,…and her guilt.

She fled to San Jose, California.

She bought an eight-room farmhouse plus one hundred sixty adjoining acres. She hired sixteen carpenters and put them to work. For the next thirty-eight years, craftsmen labored every day, twenty-four hours a day, to build a mansion.

Sarah’s instructions were more than eccentric…they were eerie. The design had a macabre touch. Each window was to have thirteen panes, each wall thirteen panels, each closet thirteen hooks, and each chandelier thirteen globes.

Corridors snaked randomly, some leading nowhere. One door opened to a blank wall, another to a fifty-foot drop. One set of stairs led to a ceiling that had no door. Trap doors. Secret passageways. Tunnels.

The making of this sad estate ended only when Sarah died. The completed estate sprawled over six acres and had six kitchens, thirteen bathrooms, forty stairways, forty-seven fireplaces fifty-two skylights, four hundred sixty-seven doors, ten thousand windows, one hundred sixty rooms, and a bell tower……….a sad, sad story.

There is, wrote Paul, a “worldly sorrow” that “brings death.” A guilt that kills. A sorrow that’s fatal. A regret that’s deadly.

Does a worldly sorrow plague you? We would do well to ask, “What is a contrite spirit? What should be our attitude?”

Diverse Set of National Concerns Topped by Widespread Economic Worries

September 13, 2010

The diversity of the United States population has been well-documented: a multi-ethnic mixture of more than 310 million people, comprised of individuals from a wide range of educational and economic backgrounds. Providing effective leadership for such a country is exceedingly challenging. The range of worldviews, faith perspectives, and personal dreams and expectations held by Americans makes it difficult for a national leader to possess a comprehensive and coherent point-of-view that a majority of the public will support.

The latest national survey by The Barna Group underscores the breadth of opinions and concerns that Americans possess.Breadth of ConcernsThe national survey among 1,000 randomly chosen adults found that more than 40 different national issues were listed by a significant number of people as matters that they consider to be the most important for the nations leaders to address. Those issues related to dimensions such as strengthening the nations economy, environmental protection, morality, health care, national security, education, international relations, lifestyle, government corruption, constitutional rights, oil dependency, and the role of government.The population groups among whom the greatest diversity of issues were expressed included adults in their mid-20s to mid-40s; residents of the western…

via The Barna Group – Diverse Set of National Concerns Topped by Widespread Economic Worries.

Americans Believe the Church Should Serve the Poor

October 25, 2010

Most Americans believe that the Christian faith has made positive contributions to American society during the past few years. A new nationwide survey from The Barna Group reveals that most of those contributions fall into one of three categories. Surprisingly, the survey also discovered that Americans are even more likely to identify negative contributions to society by Christianity in recent years.

Positive Contributions
In response to an open-ended question – meaning that survey respondents were not prompted with a list of possibilities but were asked to provide answers off the top of their head – one out of every five adults (19%) mentioned how Christians in the United States have helped poor or underprivileged people to have a better life. Adults under the age of 25 were especially likely to cite such service (34%). Others who were more likely than average to point out how Christians have helped those in need included blacks (28%) and those who describe themselves as “mostly liberal” on social and political matters (29%). Interestingly, evangelicals (11%) and those who say they are “mostly conservative” on socio-political matters (11%) were among the people least likely to list this as the greatest contribution of American Christianity.

The second most prolific contribution named related to evangelism – i.e., efforts to advance belief in God or Jesus Christ or to promote becoming an adherent of the Christian faith. Overall, one out of every six adults (16%) offered this response. Evangelicals (25%) and non-evangelical born again Christians (23%) were among those most likely to list evangelistic efforts. While one-quarter of all Protestant adults (26%) named evangelism, just one out of ten Catholics (11%) followed suit.

The third most common contribution listed was shaping or protecting the values and morals of the nation. This perspective was given by one out of every seven adults (14%). Those in the “mostly conservative” segment (19%) were among the most likely to mention this contribution. Young adults, Skeptics, and people in the “mostly liberal” categories were only half as likely as the national average to mention this outcome.

Overall, just 6% mentioned positive contributions by the Christian faith that related to marriage, and 5% listed favorable actions related to stopping abortions.

Slightly more than one out of every ten adults (11%) said Christianity had not made any positive contributions to the United States. This perspective was most common among people associated with a faith other than Christianity (23%) and Skeptics (27%).

The most frequent response, however, was the inability to think of a single positive contribution made by Christians in recent years. One out of every four respondents (25%) said they could not recall anything of this nature. Skeptics (34%), unchurched adults (33%), and Independent voters (29%) were more likely than other people to fall into this response category.

Negative Contributions
When asked to identify what they thought were the negative contributions of Christians to American society in recent years, the most frequent response was violence or hatred incited in the name of Jesus Christ. One out of five Americans mentioned such vitriolic attitudes. This was most likely to be mentioned by people associated with non-Christian faiths (35%) and by evangelicals (31%).

Three other responses generated similar levels of support. Thirteen percent said the opposition of Christians to gay marriage was the largest negative contribution. People 25 or younger were twice as likely as other Americans to mention this. Blacks (20%) and Skeptics (20%) also registered above-average levels of concern about that position.

Twelve percent cited churches being too involved in politics as a major negative. Another 12% named the sexual abuse scandals involving Catholic priests as the biggest black-eye for the Christian faith. Those revelations were particularly disturbing to young adults and Hispanics.

Relatively small numbers of respondents mentioned negative contributions such as the perceived intolerance or bigotry of the Christian body (2%), the failure of Christians to be assertive enough (2%) and the failure of believers to reflect genuine Christian values in their lifestyle (2%). Intolerance was a particularly common reply among Skeptics (12%).

Overall, one out of every eight adults (12%) said they could not think of any negative contributions of the Christian population to American society. Surprisingly, evangelicals were among the subgroups that were least likely to say they were unable to identify any negative contributions by Christians; just 6% of evangelicals fit that category, positioning them as the single, most critical subgroup of all (statistically tied with the 7% of liberals who gave that reply). Evangelicals were especially hard on Christians with regard to their failure to reflect the values and lifestyles taught by Jesus. For instance, while 25% of the nation listed failings such as violence, hatred, bigotry, intolerance, and lack of love for others, nearly twice as many evangelicals (48%) listed those same items.

Another one out of five adults (19%) said they did not know what the negative contributions of Christians had been.

Additional Outcomes
The survey also pointed out some interesting patterns and connections.

§ Although many churches are worried about offending people by sharing the gospel, less than 1% of the population complained that Christians are too aggressive in their evangelistic efforts. This corresponds with recent Barna studies that have shown that relatively few Christians discuss their faith with non-Christians in ways intended to encourage non-believers to adopt the Christian faith.

§ The people who seemed least aware of either the positive or negative contributions of Christians were the largest segment of Christians: Notionals. Along with the unchurched, Notional Christians were the segment most likely to not be able to identify either a positive or negative contribution of American Christians. Nationals currently represent about half of all Christians in the U.S.

§ Most of the non-Christian segments of the population cited serving the poor and underprivileged as the best thing that Christians have done.

§ Overall, there was a more extensive and diverse list of complaints about Christians and their churches than there was of examples of the benefits they have provided to society.

§ It is ironic that Baby Boomers – the generation famous for Woodstock, sexual liberation, the rise of recreational drug use, introducing the culture of narcissism, and the explosion in the number of divorces – was also the generation most likely to applaud the morals and values that Christians have stood for in the U.S.

George Barna directed the study and cautioned readers to realize that because the questions were asked in an open-ended format, the percentages of people providing many of the responses is substantially smaller than would have been the case had respondents been asked directly if they felt the items listed were significant contributions. The company plans to conduct additional research in this area in the future.

Privacy Rights

We all like our privacy. There is a fortress of privacy within all of us which is impregnable, our own private possession. It is difficult to venture out of the fortress because we are forced to face new experiences and problems. Our inner selves are considered our own for us to invite whom we wish and whom we love….

This "leave me alone" attitude of contemporary life is dangerous because it contradicts the essential nature of the Christian as a man for others. When we begin to care about people, we sacrifice a private life, the fortress is impregnated, and we no longer belong only to ourselves. Beware—that will cost. But we are not our own. We have been bought with a price. We belong to God.

When is the last time you allowed your privacy to be invaded to care for at least one other person?

Heaven Thoughts

In the days the eastern emperors were crowned at Constantinople, it is said to have been a custom to set before his majesty a certain number of marble slabs, one of which he was to choose to be his tombstone. It was considered good for him to remember his funeral at his coronation. Life is time, and the purpose of time is to prepare for eternity. A Greek philosopher, Anaxagoras, was asked why he thought he was born. His answer was, “That I may meditate upon heaven.’

To the uninformed eye, a caterpillar turns into a completely different creature when it becomes a butterfly. If a child had never been instructed that one emerged from the other, he would not recognize them as being related. But the scientist knows that when a caterpillar changes into a chrysalis, the whole of its body material undergoes a complete transformation except for a central and essential nerve that controls its entire system. This is retained. Then why shouldn’t our spirits have greater powers in the next life? Why should they not be able to repeat our likeness in a celestial and sanctified form, so that we shall be as easily recognized by other spirits in the next world as we are by other bodies in this world?

What you think today matters even there. Think a little more of heaven and a lot more on what you say here!

The Oil of Kindness

There was an old man who carried a little can of oil with him everywhere he went. If he passed through a door that squeaked, he poured a little oil on the hinges. If a gate was hard to open, he oiled the latch. So he went through life lubricating all the hard places and making it easier for those who came after him. People called him eccentric, odd and other degrading names. But the old man went steadily on, refilling his can of oil when it became empty and oiling the hard places he found. He did not wait until he found a creaky door or a rusty hinge and then go home to get his oil; he carried it with him.

There are many lives that creak and grate harshly day by day. They need lubricating with the oil of kindness, gentleness, or thoughtfulness. That can of oil is predominantly one that characterizes the Christian religion. The task of using it belongs to those who claim to be Christians. As the old man kept his oil with him, so we need to keep our Christian kindness handy. It does no good if left at home or in the church.

“Is That Necessary”

Every time you look at your wallet or your paycheck, humanly speaking, the temptation arises, “How can this improve my way of life? How much more can I buy with it? Can I buy a better home, perhaps, or use it to live a cut above the common standard?” It is part of our Adamic nature to want more pleasure, more comfort, more things. During World War II, posters everywhere queried the driver, “Is this trip necessary?” The questions looms large even today.

We are in a spiritual warfare, and we should analyze every purchase with the same question, “Is this expenditure necessary?” “Does this purchase allow me to better serve my Lord and reflect His stewardship of creation?” Or more importantly, “Could this purchase be used in any way to touch another for the purposes of Christ?”

Check your wallet and your heart!

Beautiful Character

In a great cathedral in Europe, there is a window made by an apprentice out of the bits of stained glass that were thrown away as worthless refuse when the other windows were made; this is the most beautiful window of all. You can build a noble character for yourself, in spite of all the hurts and injuries done consciously or unconsciously by others, with the fragments of the broken hopes, joys and the lost opportunities that lie strewn about your feet. No matter how badly others have hurt and marred you, they cannot prevent you from building a beautiful character for yourself; conversely, others by their best work cannot cause you to build a beautiful character. The fine character of your father or mother is not yours. You’ve got to build your own.

Build well today!

Do You Believe in Angels?

This happened in 1956 during the Mau Mau uprisings in East Africa. The story is told by veteran missionary Morris Plotts.

A band of roving Mau Maus came to the village of Lauri, surrounded it, and killed every inhabitant, including women and children—three hundred people in all. Not more than three miles away was the Rift Valley Academy, a private boarding school where children were being educated while their missionary parents worked elsewhere. Immediately upon leaving the carnage at Lauri the Mau Maus came with spears, clubs, torches, and bows and arrows to the school, bent on destruction. You can imagine the fear of those children at the school. Word had already reached them about the destruction of Lauri. There was no place to flee. The only resource was prayer.

Out in the night, lighted torches were seen coming toward the school. Soon there was a complete ring of these terrorists about the school, cutting off all avenues of escape. Shouting and curses could be heard coming from the Mau Maus. Then they began to advance on the school, tightening the circle, shouting louder, coming closer. Suddenly, when they were close enough to throw a spear, they stopped. They began to retreat, and soon they were running into the jungle. A call had gone out to the authorities, and an army had been sent in the direction of the school to rescue the inhabitants.

But by the time the army arrived, the would-be assassins had dispersed. The army spread out in search of them and captured the entire band of raiding Mau Maus. Later, before the judge at their trial, the Mau Mau leader was called to the witness stand. The judge asked him, “On this night did you kill the inhabitants of Lauri?” The leader replied, “Yes.” “Was it your intent to do the same at the Rift Valley Academy?” “Yes.” “Well then,” asked the judge, “why did you not complete the mission? Why didn’t you attack the school?”

The leader, who had never read the Bible and never heard the gospel, replied, “We were on our way to attack and destroy all the people at the school. But as we came closer, all of a sudden between us and the school there were many huge men, dressed in white with flaming swords. We became afraid and we ran to hide!”

%d bloggers like this: