Tag Archives: persecution

God’s will, not the popular will or giving in to adversaries

I’ve been in business, the military, for the most part, there are generally accepted best practices and that’s what you follow in order to conduct business or execute military tactics. Sure you don’t always follow the blueprint, you do want to take advantage of different circumstances.

Ministry? Wow! Things are just all over the place, people tell you what they expect, and they are not interested in any other consideration. It does astound me how people who have been part of a church for decades, know so little about church, about the Bible, about doctrine. And before you give me this “doctrine isn’t important, blah, blah, blah…” It’s all about love. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Have ever really stopped to think what you’re talking about? Doctrine is what keeps us doing what we’re supposed to be doing, and why we’re doing it. Way too often the church gets off into sentimentality, emotionalism, what makes me happy, “well Jesus would want me to be happy!!” Really?

The Blackaby’s have some good advice “…If you concentrate on your opponents, you will be sidetracked from God’s activity. Don’t base your decisions on what people are doing. They can prevent you from carrying out God’s will (Rom 8:31)”. People just aren’t interested in why, why not we should, shouldn’t do something. That is what doctrine is about, developed over decades/centuries, by the greatest minds. In the Lutheran Church that is over 500 years and have had some incredibly great minds. But that doesn’t matter, no one’s interested in coming to me to find out what they should do, they come to me to tell me what they want and what I should do. That’s backward and destructive.

Now of course the quandry is this, if I’m not “cooperative”, as I’ve been accused of, then how do you resolve the issue of people leaving, running out of money. Well, the Blackaby’s certainly address that. Paul was being strongly confronted in Ephesus, riots broke out (Acts 19: 23-41), no doubt people were telling Paul how he was messing up, should give up, doesn’t have it, needs to leave. Paul took a lot more abuse then I probably ever will. He knew he was being faithful to God’s will and stuck with it. I need to do my best to discern God’s will, not worry about what others are pressuring me to do, not what is the popular move, not give in just because of adversaries and opposition and stick to what I’m doing.

Furthermore people just don’t seem to get that the way they “want” things, not based on any other consideration, because frankly they don’t know what they’re doing or what any of it’s about, they don’t care, just want it their way. How do you somehow pacify people who want to make the rules, but have no idea of what they’re doing. Further they don’t understand that no one else is really interested in their world-view, no one is going to follow their agenda, because it’s not anyone else’s and most people can tell it’s just wrong. Again that’s what doctrine is about, not some guys opinions, but people who have worked hard to try and reconcile what we are taught in Scripture and how we have to deal with that as a group. Too many people honestly think that they can just make it up and because that’s what they want, based on nothing other than their emotions, sentiments, feelings, that everyone should just follow along. It’s amazing, people today really aren’t looking for truth, what should be, they are looking for what I want and to somehow justify their completely unfounded opinion.

Just because I’m being opposed and deserted doesn’t mean I’m wrong. It does seem to mean that there are a lot of misguided, opinionated people around me, another reason why this church was failing when I got there and it is up to me to stay faithful to what God is leading me to do in ministry and to trust Him with the results. His church will prevail, Jesus promised us that, it will prevail on His terms and in His time. I am responsible to do my best to carry out His will in my little part of the world. It certainly wasn’t easy for Paul and the church as a whole, even up to the present. No reason it should be easy for me.

Mutual submission like husband and wife applies to rulers and citizens

Continuing our study in God at Work by Dr Gene Veith. Dr Veith examines the different vocations, callings, of the average Christian and right now our group is talking about “Calling as a Citizen”. As Dr Veith points out we are called to be good citizens in Romans 13. Despite the contemporary nonsensical propaganda, Christians are higher in the demographics as “good citizens”. Quick reminder, there are those who consider themselves “Christian”, but when you see the “fruits of their works”, i.e. church attendance, service, Bible study, prayer, groups, a lot of people talk a good game, and they’re something, but not Christian. This is evidenced by a lot of current research and by the hard cold fact that we are called to spiritual disciplines in the Bible and way too many today just disregard it.

So let’s be serious here, quit quibbling, there are those who are faithfully trying to live the Christian life and as part of that they strive to be good citizens.

Now, having said, that, as I often say, there is nothing in the Bible that says either God is to be stupid or we are. Of course one of the first objections to this idea of submitting to rulers is “guys like Hitler and Stalin?” No! Certainly the early Christian church had crackpot rulers. Nero and Caligula jump immediately to mind. All Roman citizens, Christians included, were required to “burn incense as a way to acknowledge the divinity of the Emperor”. Dr Veith refers to those who continue to witness to Christ in countries that legally forbid Christian evangelizing. Certainly Moslem countries, but secular states like China, Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea also persecute Christians for worship, witnessing, public prayer.

Dr Veith writes: “It is clearly not the calling of a ruler to oppress his people. his purpose, again, is to love and serve his neighbors – that is, his subjects. A good ruler will thus be one who works for their good.” (Dr Gene Veith God at Work p 105). This can obviously be subjective, I don’t like the ruler of Moldovia, so as a citizen I can see how he’s not serving the way I think he should. Well no! You may not think he is serving the public good, because it’s not your good, but unless he is actively persecuting, or making demands that a Christian, in general, would have to conscientiously refuse, he is serving the public good. He may not be doing it well, but he still has to be obeyed. That goes for providing physical protection for our persons and our property.

Now if the ruler makes laws that single out and penalize groups, e.g. requiring people to honor this leader like a “god”, somewhat the situation Dietrich Bonhoeffer was with Hitler, or the Roman Emperor Decius, the one who required incense to be burned as a sacrifice to himself. Christians refused, First Commandment, there is no other “god”, then God the Father. Pope Fabias and Alexander of Jerusalem, among many other Christians refused and were put to death. So no, we can’t get all Moral Majority and decide what is or isn’t acceptable unless it truly conflicts with our biblical understanding. However, we are called to disobey when we are called to violate something that would articulably be proscribed in the Bible. Such as the Christian doctor who refuses to perform an abortion. Bear in mind, as was the case with those who refused to burn incense, there is often a penalty. That we are prosecuted or harassed,as the disciples were, they were joyful that they were honored to suffer for Christ. It’s not a dishonor to suffer for Christ, but it will still be suffering and probably hold you up to public abuse. Spouses are called to mutually submit and serve, I think you could certainly make the case the if rulers are not being submissive and serving for the general good, then they are “acting outside of their vocation”.

Let’s talk about it some more, Wednesday mornings 10:30am. The coffee shop at the corner of Beaver and W King Sts in York, Pa. Parking is right behind the church walk about 50 yards east to the coffee shop. If you come for the first time, I will even buy you coffee.

“Predestined to a great inheritance in Christ” First St Johns July 12, 2015 Ephesians 1: 3-14

[click on above link for audio version of this sermon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have been pre-destined in Christ from the beginning of the world said … AMEN!

Christians are starting to get a little too much of a “bunker mentality”, I’m going to stay in my own group, I’m not going to share Christ with other people, I’m just going to treat it as my viewpoint and not try to get anyone involved.” That we are essentially under siege, many would claim that Christians in the world are oppressed and yes there are many who are openly persecuted. So we take on this attitude of being beaten down, forced to shut up, sort of like a beaten dog and just keep a low profile. A radio preacher really drove home the point, though, that sure, maybe we are getting a little beaten into hiding. But can we really justify that when we talk in terms of who we are in Jesus? Can we really justify a persecution complex, the “everyone’s picking on me poor, poor pitiful me mentality”, because I’m in Jesus and let everyone know about it? The Concordia Self-Study Bible points out: “Divine election is a constant them in Paul’s letters [the note describes 33 verses in Paul’s writings, from a number of citations in Romans, Colossians, first and second Thessalonians and Titus], in today’s periscope, “…it is emphasized in the following ways: he chose us, he predestined us, we were also chose, having been predestined”[1] Based on the fact that we are chosen, God has “pre-destined” us to salvation, that we are in His Lordship of our life, are we really justified in thinking that we are some kind of a victim?

It’s sort of like professional wrestling. How does it work in professional wrassling? The hero goes out and takes a beating, he gets taken down, it all looks hopeless and then …? Right? He gets off the floor, and eventually rallies to give a beat down to the Undertaker or the Iron Sheik, or whoever the bad guy of the day is. Not all the time, but I think under the circumstances of today, that’s kind of how we feel. We might take a beat down for Christ and as I’ve said before, for us here, it’s really not so bad. But we certainly know Christian brothers and sisters who are paying a heavy price for being Christian disciples. But because we are saved in Jesus, because we are baptized children of the Father, how can we really think that no matter how much persecution we endure, that we’re oppressed?

The fact of the matter is that we are saved. We know we are saved because of the tangible signs that we’ve been given. We are baptized into new life, we do take the Body and Blood of Jesus, we do hear His preached Word and read His written word. We know, just like the wrassler, I have been a big fan of Killer Kowalski, we do know how this ends, we do know where our eternal life begins. To be sure, life here matters. I’m not trying to downplay our earthly life. But we are so much more than that, and we certainly can’t justify thinking of ourselves as victims. We’re not! Sure we may get a metaphorical bloody nose once in awhile, get the short end of the stick. But for what it matters we have been chosen, we have been predestined to eternal life in Christ. For me that is enormously reassuring. I’m not saved in anything I do, for that matter, I can’t accidentally mess it up. I am saved, I am forgiven, I am predestined by the Creator of the Universe, God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to life eternal. To life “…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) We are the victors in Jesus! We are Hulk Hogan in terms of Christ, we are His. He gives us true life, not just in the resurrection, which considering that is eternal life in Him in the perfect, unlimited, exciting life in our perfected bodies, the way we were meant to live life as a Christian. But also that we have abundant, fruitful lives because Jesus is the Lord of our life in the here and now. Sure we might take some hits for it, but when you really look objectively at what the rest of the world thinks of as “living”, we are so blessed to have a life in Jesus that is about the truly important things in life. We get to live a life that is meaningful and is not all about the sin that we see that is all around us. We are free in Christ, not like the person who is enslaved to lust, or greed, anger, bitterness, drugs, consumerism, violence, the list goes on and on. Even someone who is so caught up in the world, like Bob Dylan is quoted as saying “All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.” For those in the world, they are enslaved to those sins, that is what “life” is to them. For them to feel as if they are “living” they need to constantly have an increased amount of the newest things, the most popular life, more ponography, more substance abuse, they are slaves to their things. We should have pity and compassion on those who are in the world, because they are caught up in such hopelessness, things that make them dead now. Do Christians struggle with those things? Yes, they do. But unlike those who are enslaved to the world, we know that we have been saved from those enslaving things, we know that we do have true freedom and true deliverance. We are not tied to those things, we know that the Holy Spirit continues to save us from the things that dominate other’s lives. It is not through our efforts that we are saved, even in the midst of struggle we have the Holy Spirit to turn to and guide us away, make a way possible to overcome. Sadly for those in the world who somehow think they have the upper hand, they don’t have that choice, they are victimized and snarled in their sin.  Others in the world try to help them overcome, but it is remarkable how ineffective and even more deadening when others use the methods of the world. Often it leaves people even more victimized. But over and over we see how faith based methods of saving people from sin work in astonishing ways.

So how can we say we are victims when we have the assurance of being saved, no matter how bad we might mess things up, we know that the Holy Spirit is waiting for us to turn to Him? We know that what Jesus did and does for us brings us life more abundant in the world, and in eternity. As I said, how can we whine about some temporary imposition, when so many around us, are tangled in their sin, completely addicted to their sin and lost to eternal separation and punishment because they rejected God’s salvation in Jesus? They are victims, we should have great pity and compassion for them. And we who have been pre-destined from the beginning, who know what our life is here and eternally, how can we really feel as if we are the victims?

Father, help us all to know in our hearts, to the depths of our souls, the riches in Jesus that we have been given and that we are pre-destined to receive in Jesus. We are comforted constantly in prayer, in trial, in the constant reassurance that we have, that we are truly holy, sanctified, set apart in Jesus. He took all of our sins on Himself, and on the Cross He paid the price for all those sins. Because of that He gave us the promise that through Him we are sufficient to be in the presence of our holy, perfect, just, gracious God to life and life more abundant here and in the eternal world of the resurrection. Take out that journal and write about the ways you have been delivered, about the assurance we have in Christ of being saved from the evil in the world and that we are pre-destined to life eternal and more abundant in Jesus.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom.

[1] Concordia Self Study Bible p 1804

Dealing with trials so that God can use you to witness to others to Jesus

The Blackabys point out how Paul used his circumstances to continually witness to Jesus (Experiencing God p 177)  When someone gives me the “prosperity Gospel” nonsense, Paul is the first person I refer them to. If Paul isn’t the greatest Christian in history he’s in the top five. Yet Paul suffered a lot during his ministry. He was regularly jailed, beaten. He often went without food and water. He was shipwrecked and just generally subjected to harassment and abuse. But he didn’t lash back about those circumstances but used them to demonstrate his faith in Jesus and what Jesus did through Paul. He witnessed to mobs who wanted to abuse him, he witnessed to others jailed with him, to those who were judging him. Paul really never tried to defend himself when Festus was judging him, only witnessing to Jesus to the point where Festus says that Paul almost had Festus convinced of Jesus.

Certainly our witness is much more effective when people see us living our life in Jesus. Sometimes they’re not always seeing the best, but maybe they need to see that side also. Maybe they need to be assured that to be a Christian does not mean that you have to be perfect. Let people see Jesus in you and what that means in real life, wether that is as Paul points out in prosperity or in need. How is God going to use the circumstances that you are dealing with in order to bring someone to salvation in His Son Jesus Christ? What better service could you do then be God’s instrument to bring someone else to salvation?

True disciples in Jesus, not phoney expectations

This is from Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Experiencing God Day by Day p 142: “James and John sought to outmaneuver their fellow disciples in order to gain the places of greater honor next to Jesus (Mark 10:37). Over and over the disciples’ actions showed that they did not truly understand who Jesus was (John 6:7-9; Mark 6:49). Even after three years with Jesus, Peter was afraid to confess Christ before a young servant girl (Matt 26:69-75).

Yea these guy’s definitely failed, but I respectfully disagree being in Jesus does not mean that we all of a sudden become lions for Jesus. As a Lutheran we certainly know that we become a new creation in Jesus. Baptism makes us a new man or woman, we have been born again in the Spirit a new creature. We absolutely do. But Martin Luther always cautioned that the old/worldly person would always be lurking waiting for the chance to jump in and assert itself.

When it’s not about Jesus it’s about me. I have no doubt that the ratio is well over fifty percent weighted to me. Sure they became new men on the day of Pentecost and we praise God for that. We do become spiritual beings in Jesus and the Holy Spirit does keep working on us.  I pray that we do respond to Him when we are called on, that we are raised up far more than we fail.  But the beef I have with Reformed theology falls in to works righteousness theology, that we have to become virtually perfect. This side of heaven we aren’t going to be perfect or even too close. I’ve talked to too many people who have given up, have despaired because some uneducated, self-proclaimed “evangelist”, who doesn’t know what he/she is talking about and makes it up. Who genuinely thinks he/she has reached some state of perfection and thinks everyone else should be. They just don’t know what they’re talking about. The Blackabys certainly are much better educated than me, but all Reformed theology still breaks down in this works righteousness and creates an environment where too many give up because they can’t reach an impossible goal of perfection.

I’m not saying give up and don’t strive. Christians should always be striving for Jesus. But don’t get sucked into this idea that you’re going to be perfect and have it all together. Too many have been spit out the “big box” church because of faulty teaching and faulty people. These are the kinds of Jim Jones/cult kind of thinking that causes serious spiritual dysfunction. The fastest way to truly die is to let your spiritual life be undermined.

Look at ISIS, all the places where Christians are truly persecuted and truly living for Christ. They don’t have the time and resources for big box Christianity, the Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll, nonsense. We have brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia who have and continue to suffer persecution. While people sit in their non-denominational big boxes being amused and convinced they’re perfect just by virtue of being them, the denominational churches, the ones who live the life and put it on the line are out there truly serving. I wonder when non-denominational churches are going to be sending military chaplains who are right on the front line. Who are going to do the work of Lutheran World Missions, for those who sit in pretty sanctuaries, world pleasing sanctuaries.

The big box phoney churches can try to sell that you need to be perfect, but for those who are living the life by actually serving, who are suffering, who know the real world of Christianity, we aren’t perfect. Dr Luther knew the old man, and I certainly have never known a Christian more real than Martin Luther. We need to quit creating phoney expectations that are not Biblical and are only in the head of some self-important big box player to the crowd. Let’s stand up as true brothers and sisters in Jesus accept that we and those around us are fallible and go out and really live the life in Jesus. Let’s not set people up for failure which the big box churches are doing.

NFL’s Benjamin Watson Urges ISIS Victims, Christians to ‘Stand Firm’ With Jesus in the Face of Death; Says Rise of Persecution Indicates Christ’s ‘Imminent Return’

The following is from christianpost.com dated March 4, 2015

NFL’s Benjamin Watson Urges ISIS Victims, Christians to ‘Stand Firm’ With Jesus in the Face of Death; Says Rise of Persecution Indicates Christ’s ‘Imminent Return’

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BY SAMUEL SMITH , CP REPORTER
March 4, 2015|4:49 pm
Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints.(PHOTO: EAG SPORTS MANAGEMENT)

Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints.

Outspoken Christian NFL player Benjamin Watson recently issued a powerful Facebook post writing about the Islamic State and the rise of Christian persecution throughout the world, asserting that all Christians should be ready to die for upholding their faith in Jesus Christ.

“The images keep flooding our timelines and news feeds. Men being burned alive or beheaded by masked assassins. Stories of families on the run, fleeing their homes while they are pillaged and burned,” Watson’s Saturday Facebook post explained. “Their testimonies hold a familiar chord: ‘Convert, Pay or Die!'”

Watson, an 11-year NFL veteran who’s a tight end for the New Orleans Saints, wrote that although extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram in Nigeria have risen to prominence and are out to destroy Christianity, believers should never deny Christ in order to save their lives.

Watson cited Luke 12:8 and further explained that Jesus specifically told his followers that those who deny Him in in the face of death will be punished.

“‘And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God’ Luke 12:8,” Watson wrote.

Although Watson admits that the idea of being killed over his faith in Jesus is a frightening thought, he wrote that it’s important to remember that some of the bravest followers of Christ were killed for refusing to denounce Jesus.

“The persecution of Christians is not a new concept. As early as the first century we read about the Spirit-filled boldness of Christians, like Stephen and Paul, who proclaimed the Gospel through beatings and imprisonment, torture and death,” Watson wrote. “We remember Christ’s disciples, most of whom were killed just like their master. Roman emperors like Nero executed Christians in the most ghastly ways, using them as torches to light the evening sky.”

Although Christians have been beaten, killed and tortured for thousands of years over their faith, Watson further emphasized that the light of Christ continued to spread because of the brave followers who stood firm in their faith.

“In spite of all this adversity, Christianity continued to spread because men and woman, empowered by the Holy Spirit, stood strong in the face of certain death; some being delivered and others falling,” Watson wrote. “As I sit here in a 21st century United States, I can’t help but wonder when we, too, will face martyrdom for our faith. On this very day nearly 50 countries have laws that restrict or outlaw Christianity, leading to the harassment, imprisonment and death of those who follow Christ.”

The post continued by listing the number of countries today that prevent Christians from practicing their faith, such as North Korea and China.

“On this day, in countries like North Korea and China, Christians gather for church underground to avoid being arrested by police. On this day, in Nigeria thousands mourn the deaths of their loved ones killed by Boko Haram in their quest to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. On this day, in Cuba, Christian ministries continue to risk their freedom as the country continues to feel the effects of Communist rule,” Watson continued. “BUT, on this day, Jesus’ words in Luke still ring true.”

Although many Christians live safe, well-protected lives in America and other countries that protect religious freedoms, Watson contends that persecution of Christians in America will come sooner or later.

“Rest assured, fellow Americans, if it hasn’t already, our day WILL COME,” Watson asserted. “My only hope in such trying times is the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the X factor. He will give us the strength, words, and vision when our backs are against the wall. Jesus promised the believer many things. Eternal life, abundant life, peace, purpose and forgiveness to name a few. He also promises that they, like him, WILL be betrayed, hated and persecuted, even to death. (Luke 21:12-19).”

When that day arrives, Watson encourages Christians not to tremble in fear when in the face of persecution because it’s a sign of the nearing return of the Messiah.

“[W]e must WAKE UP from our slumber, be on guard and stand firm. A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Watson added. “Spiritual unity in the body will help us weather the coming storms. We must REMEMBER that as terrible as things are and will become, they are simply signs pointing to one thing; His imminent return.”

Sheep protected and led by the Great Shepherd First St Johns, York, Pa. Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24 November 23, 2014

to listen to the audio of this sermon, please click on the above link or copy and paste into your browser

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who will be together in the glory and plenty of eternity in Christ shouted out … AMEN

Our readings today are about eschatology, these are eschatological studies, don’t try saying that at home, I’m a trained professional. I’m thinking in terms of the ultimate Thanksgiving. You think you need a big kitchen table at your house for Thanksgiving? Think about how big God’s table is going to be that He will need for His promised time of life in the Resurrection. “And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel.” (Ezekiel 34:13)

If you’ve ever been to Quincy Market in Boston, there is a restaurant named Durgin Park. This restaurant goes back to the turn of the 20th century and if you’re in the right parts, well you can tell how old it is. They have great seafood, they have great prime rib, lots of other dishes, but here’s the deal, it’s served to you family style. You don’t have little tables all around, you have big long tables and you just grab your seat. There’s no maitre di, no pretense, you get a menu on the way, grab your seat, order your food and while you wait get to know the people all around you. It’s one reason you go there. It’s not for the service, the wait staff seems to make it their mission to see how uncomfortable they can get you, the food is great, like I said the atmosphere is early 20th century, but it’s great food, in an “interesting” facility. There are plenty of other people around you and you all know you’re there to meet people and you do, very little in terms of being bashful. Get a great dinner, stay for awhile, you have to because there’s so much to eat, and enjoy the impromptu goings on.

This is what it will be like at the dinner that God is promising Ezekiel. Being invited to the White House for dinner is a series of hoops and rolls, waiting, anticipating. How will the feast that God is talking about happen? “I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out… I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness…” You won’t be expecting anything and then you will be in His presence and He is going to give you the ultimate offer you can’t refuse. Durgin Park’s food is good, but how much better, how much more, how much more fun will the feast, the banquet at the end of time be? The ultimate open menu; You want New England Lobster, here it is. Cheasapeake Bay crab cakes? The best you’ve ever tasted. Chicago prime rib? New York City pizza, … what, huh? Really pizza, at the marriage feast of the Lamb? OK, you got it.

He promises us that we will be with people scattered from all places. Places that for a day were cloudy and dark, that’s where we are right now. Life…, in terms of eternity? It’s a day, it’s over before you know it, life is not reality, the resurrection is reality, this is eternal reality. You may be in those dark, cloudy places where you know you don’t belong. Not because you’re good or too smart or even unworthy, you’re there because He took you up, the Father saw His Son in you. Jesus came to you and said “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt 25: 34). You will be there for one reason and one reason only and it has nothing to do with anything you did, it’s all about how you were saved by Christ. You were saved in baptism, you became that new creation in baptism, you were faithfully led by the Holy Spirit to worship, to take the Body and Blood of Jesus. Those small bits of bread and wine, His Body and Blood, are only a reminder of the immensity of what you will inherit, of what the Father will bring you to “…the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

In our passages today God is showing you the ultimate Thanksgiving Day feast. You didn’t do a thing for it. Moms, you aren’t going to cook, you aren’t going to serve, you aren’t going to clean up, you will be there with Christians from around the world, rejoicing with each other that you are saved, that you are eternally going to enjoy all the great gifts of the resurrection, the new world, the world the way it was intended to be, life and life more abundant. Abundance you can never imagine in the here and now.

A friend of mine had relatives in Lithuania, his parents were from Lithuania. My friend took them to the grocery store and when they got inside and saw all the marvelous food just waiting to be taken off the shelf and put in the shopping cart they were so overwhelmed some of them actually started to cry. That will be us when we’ve been rescued from the clouds and darkness of the world and brought to the marriage-feast.

I know for many people this may not sound initially inviting, you will be sitting with people that you may have never met, Christian brothers and sister, and they will be from all the places that God scattered them in life. Many will probably have gone through difficult, even serious trials, some life or death trials because of their faith. But they won’t talk about the unpleasantness of those trials, they will talk about how thankful they are that even through difficult times God provided, God gave them the hope and promise of being provided for. They will be celebrating their deliverance, we all will be, we all will be celebrating how faithful God was to provide in life, even in those times of pain and loss. The pain and loss of earth will be a dim memory, even if it was only a few hours ago for some.

The idea of sitting with a bunch of what you might think of as strangers might seem a little uncomfortable to some of you, but if you’ve ever had to do a lot of traveling, which often involves being in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people, meals are often a chore and often uncomfortable. That’s why Durgin Park is appealing to many who are traveling to Boston, they will be with a bunch of other people who want to be with a friendly group and I can assure you I’ve never had a bad dinner there. But in the resurrection we will be with people who are true brothers and sisters in a world that will dazzle even us who think that we’re hard to impress. We will be like the relatives from Lithuania, overwhelmed in delight at what God has provided for us and for those whose earthly life might have been in material poverty and need.

In his book “Heaven” Randy Alcorn writes: “We know that people in Heaven have lots of feelings – all good ones. We’re told of banquets, feasts and singing. People will laugh there (Luke 6:21) Feasting, singing and rejoicing involve feelings.”1

Alcorn quotes Seneca the Roman philosopher who said, “The day thou fearest as the last is the birthday of eternity.”2

I have no doubt that you will enjoy your Thanksgiving celebration with family and friends, it will be a time of pleasure and belonging. But it will be a snack compared to what you will be given when you are picked by the Lord and brought to that banquet, eternally in the presence of the crucified and Risen Savior, our Redeemer. It won’t be a feast of just food and companions, it will be a feast of life and life more abundant, a world that will be just waiting for you to enjoy it’s splendour, its activity and its vastness, a world where even in eternity you will not be able to experience everything it has to offer. God is an infinite God, He delights in the pleasure of His children. To be sure, the world is often not very delightful, if not downright troubling. But the world that God brings us to will be a continuous celebration of life, eternal life to His glory, forever and ever …

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

1Randy Alcorn Heaven p 284

2Ibid p xvii