Will We See Our Pets In Heaven?

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We have all asked the question to ourselves, right?  A lot of us have had furry companions in our lives that we’ve held a special bond with.  Most likely our dearly loved pets won’t live as long as we will and it makes it very hard when they pass away.

I was opening the mail with my wife just a few days ago, and we came across a package of advertisements.  Since we are both bargain shoppers and can’t pass up a good deal, we paged through the small one page leaflets and came across one of them advertising a book.  It was by an author named Gary Kurz and it was titled “Cold Noses At The Pearly Gates.”  On the book cover was a subtitle that said “A book of hope for those who have lost a pet.”

My curiosity got the best of me and I looked it up on Amazon to see how it was reviewed and what the story behind the book was.  Apparently the book was written by a long-time Baptist pastor who had a love of animals.  According to the book description and reviews, after extensive biblical study, he concludes that yes, you will see your pets in heaven.  It got very good reviews (4 ½ stars out of 5) from people who had pets pass away that were looking for some encouragement.

I had a couple pets growing up that I loved very much.  My favorite was our dog named Kirby.  I remember when I was in 5th grade I came home from school and my parents excitedly showed me a new puppy that was running around the back yard.  Kirby was a part of our family for 15 years.  One of the things I will remember is how happy he was to see me when I came home.  The dog would literally be so happy, he would actually smile.  His lips would be pulled back showing his teeth and he’d be grinning from ear to ear like a real person.

So will I see Kirby in heaven?  Will you see your furry friend in heaven?  Well I am going to do my own writing on the subject.  I do have some thoughts about this and I will bring in scripture to support what I have to say.  Some of it may not seem to tie in at first, but please keep reading.  I pray that this will all be an encouragement for you.  So here we go.  I will start with a few things we need to know.

#1-  You were made by a loving creator

I am not going to post all of Psalm 139 on here, but I would encourage you to read it on your own time.  It is one of the most beautiful things written in the Bible.  I will highlight a few of the verses for the purpose of this post.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body

    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

How often we forget that we owe everything to our creator.  Our life would not exist if not for the one who created us.  Not only were we made, but we were made wonderfully.  We are a marvelous creation!  What a joy it will be to actually meet our creator face to face!

#2- We cannot see the face of God in our current state

I want to bring up a story from the book of Exodus.  Moses was very discouraged about his task of leading millions of ungrateful, complaining Jews to the Promised Land.  He needed some big-time motivation.

In Exodus 33, Moses is having a conversation with God and he makes a bold request.

Verse 18:  Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.”

Here is God’s reply.

20 But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 The Lord continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. 22 As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.”

As we stand now, we cannot see the face of God.  Nobody can.  If we did, we would die.  Are you familiar with the Holy of Holies?  Let me give you a brief description and background.

When the Jews were led by Moses and future leaders, they didn’t have a permanent home for generations until they settled into Jerusalem.  During that time, they did a lot of traveling and their temple was mobile.  It was a series of tent-like structures that were able to be easily put together.  When it was all put together, God actually resided in the inner-most tent, which was called the Holy of Holies.  This area was where the Ark of the Covenant was located and it was where God’s presence was.

Leviticus 16:2

The Lord said to Moses, “Warn your brother, Aaron, not to enter the Most Holy Place behind the inner curtain whenever he chooses; if he does, he will die. For the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—is there, and I myself am present in the cloud above the atonement cover.

The only one allowed in the Holy of Holies, or Most High Place, was the priest, and that was only one very special time each year.  Anyone else who ventured into that room instantly died!  Why?  Because, as God told Moses, “for no one may see me and live.”

I have one more point to look at before we get more directly to the question at hand.

#3- Our reaction to seeing Christ in all his glory

The apostle John was one of the most important figures in the New Testament.  He was one of Jesus’ best friends on earth.  Nobody knew Jesus more personally.  They spent three years together.  They ate together.  They sat around bonfires together.  They laughed together.  But John was in for a rude awakening when he saw Jesus in all his glory in heaven.

The book of Revelation was a vision of heaven and the end times that God gave John.  One of the first things John sees in his vision is of Jesus in all his glory.  Here is what he saw and what his reaction was.

Revelation 1:12-18

12 When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. 13 And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. 15 His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. 16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.

What a shock this must have been for John when his only reaction is to fall as if he were dead.  Your reaction will be the same.  I promise.  Every knee will bow.

So here is the answer to my question:  Will we see our pets in heaven?  And my official answer is:  WHO CARES!??  At the risk of seeming misleading and insensitive, hear me out and be encouraged!

When you get to heaven, you are going to see God, your creator, in ALL his glory!  The one that stitched you in your mother’s womb.  Who made the inner parts of your body.  Who loves you more than you can ever comprehend.  We will see him.  There will be no Holy of Holies.  All of heaven is the Holy of Holies!  You won’t see just the back of him from a crevice in a rock.  You will SEE GOD!

Revelation 5 gives a beautiful description of worship in heaven.

11 Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. 12 And they sang in a mighty chorus:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—
    to receive power and riches
and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and blessing.”

13 And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
    belong to the one sitting on the throne
    and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

Now I want you to take a pause and imagine something.  You’re in heaven and you’re witnessing this.  You see Christ in all his heavenly splendor.  You’ve fallen on your face in awe.  You’ve seen God.  You see millions of angels worshipping.  You see every creature in heaven and on earth singing “Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

In the midst of this, you raise your hand and yell, “Excuse me!  Excuse me!”  The singing stops.  It’s quiet.  Everyone looks at you.  You say, “Sorry to interrupt, but can someone tell me where Fluffy is?”  Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?

If you haven’t figured it out, this blog post is not going to have much to do with pets.  But I want to give you a reason for real hope.

Look at Revelation 22:3-5

No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

Did you catch it?  We will see his FACE!  Praise God!  Can we even imagine what this looks like?  Can we even imagine our joy?  No more night.  We will bask in his presence.  No more curses.

Revelation 21:3-4

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Maybe we will see our pets in heaven.  Maybe we won’t.  I can assure you there is nothing in the bible that says one way or the other, regardless of what Baptist preacher book writer says.  But whatever comes to pass when we are with God will be the absolute best possible outcome for us.

Brothers and Sisters, the things of this world of ours will pass away.  I honestly don’t mean any disrespect when I say this, but if you are seriously concerned about whether or not you see your pet in heaven, either your God is too small, or your heaven is too lame.  There is a reason God tells us to not love this world.  We are in a temporary situation.

If you were to know that you’re going to die tomorrow, how would you react?  Would you be sad?  I know there have been times where I have really looked forward to something, like a camping trip, and I’ve thought to myself this… Boy, I sure hope I don’t die before this camping trip!  How sad that would be!  We love this world way too much!

1 John 2:15-17

15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

Those are some very tough words from John.  But there is a reason he says this.  As Solomon continually says in Ecclesiastes, the things of this world are meaningless!  They’re like chasing the wind.  We must, as Christians, have an eternal perspective.  Paul had it.

Philippians 1

20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.

Paul understood.  He knew that the rewards Christ’s followers receive in heaven FAR outweigh any fleeting joys we may have here on earth.

As for the Baptist preacher who wrote “Cold Noses At The Pearly Gates”…  I want to take one of his books and smack him across the face with it.  How about we look at the big picture.  Because of the unfailing love of our Creator, we have the opportunity as children of God  to be with him in heaven for all of eternity.  We were made to worship God.  And worship him we will forever!

Hallelujah!  Praise God!  I pray that this will be an encouragement to you.  We have a real hope.  No matter how your life is going right now, we can point to the future and have something to look forward to!  No more pain.  No more crying.  No more sorrow.  Eternity with our loving Creator!

Thank you so much for reading this.  If you feel deceived in any way, I apologize.  I pray that this was an encouragement for you.  I welcome questions or comments.  If you enjoyed reading this and think others might benefit, please share this.  The easiest way is clicking the Facebook icon below and posting it.  I appreciate the support I have received from you guys!  God bless!


The Battle Within

kakabeka falls

There is an epic war inside of me.  A colossal battle between good and evil.  It is embedded in all of us.  For me, it is a constant struggle.  I see God’s glory.  I see his ways are good.  I want to do what is right!  I am so inspired!  What the heck did I just say to that person?  Did I really just do that?  Why?  What is wrong with me?  I witness my eyes, my hands and my tongue being driven by an evil force.  I know what is right.  I want what is good.  I try so hard!

Welcome to the battle within.  You must be equipped and armed for this struggle.  The enemy is an extremely manipulative liar.  He is relentless in his attacks.  I write this to try and help you thwart his efforts.  Thank you so much for showing your support by reading this!  I am very encouraged by the positive feedback I have received about this blog.  This battle within me is something I have always struggled with. I’ve learned some ways to fight this and it is extremely important to me that I share these tactics with whoever is willing to listen (or read).

We are definitely not alone in this battle.  Paul speaks of it in Romans 7.

 Romans 7:15

 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.

 Man, how true that is.  We can all relate, right?  I want to do what is right, but instead I do what I hate.  I hate what is spewed out of my mouth, yet it goes on spewing.  I hate what my hands do, yet they keep on doing.  I hate what my eyes look at, yet they keep on looking.  I hate the evil my mind thinks, yet it keeps on thinking.

So, how do we combat this?  In order to answer that question, there are some biblical truths that we must be grounded in.  I will share these three biblical truths with you, and then I will nicely tie it all together at the end and explain how it helped me battle.

Truth #1:  You are already forgiven and free

I want you to take a pause right here.  I just really don’t want you to blow by this part.  This truth #1 has changed my life.  I am convinced that if you don’t grasp and understand this truth, that we, as Christians, are already forgiven and free, then you can’t live life to the fullest for God.  This truth is summed up in one simple sentence stated in Romans 8:1.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Sounds simple enough, but the implications are HUGE.  To understand this verse fully is to understand what true Christianity is.  So what does it mean that there is no condemnation?

Well, we deserve to be condemned.  When we stand before the holy presence of the creator of the universe, our verdict is obvious.  Guilty.  Death.  Eternal separation.  Hell.  Condemnation.  Such knowledge makes us try harder.  We fight against sin for all we’re worth.  Maybe your desire to be with God causes you to REALLY dig down and try to be rid of sin in your life.  But that is a very dangerous road to go down.  You’re well on your way to trying to earn your salvation.  You can read the bible every day, pray all day long, volunteer at the homeless shelter, care for widows and orphans, lead a bible study and try your absolute hardest to avoid all sin in your life and still…  STILL you will be guilty, dead, eternally separated from God, and be condemned to hell.  No amount of good works will get you into heaven.  Our efforts to earn our own righteousness are laughable when compared to God’s holiness.

If you’re saved, if you’re in Christ Jesus, then STOP trying to earn your salvation!  Dear Christian friend, you are ALREADY saved!!  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Thank God!!  If you are in Christ Jesus, you’re already forgiven.  The verdict has already been decided.  When Christ died on the cross, your past sins, present sins, and future sins were all washed away.  Paul continues on in Romans 8.

Romans 8:1-4

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Some of that may be a little confusing, but let me highlight one part.  He condemned sin in the flesh.  That happened when Jesus was crucified.  What does that mean for us?  It means that therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Why?  Because Jesus bore our sins back in AD 33 and those sins were condemned, or in other words, wiped away.  So instead of US being condemned just as we deserve to be, our SIN was condemned! 

We did absolutely nothing to deserve this.  No amount of effort will obtain this.  It is a free gift from God for those who put their faith and trust in Christ.  We are free of condemnation.  When we stand in the holy presence of our creator, he will see us as righteous.  Clean.  Holy.  Not guilty.  That is what Christianity is all about!

Romans 8:33-34

33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

 

Truth #2:  You belong to God

 1 Corinthians 6 & 7 tells you that you were bought with a price.  God did the unthinkable in sacrificing his Son so he could be with you.  He purchased you with Christ’s blood and therefore you belong to him.  Be encouraged by this!  This means that we belong to God and not to Satan.

Once we belong to God, nobody else can claim us or take us.  One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in John 10.

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

What wonderful truth!  Jesus is telling all who are listening that he is the Good Shepherd.  We, as his sheep, belong to Jesus and even though the wolf (Satan) is coming (verse 12), Christ will protect us.  No one can snatch us out of his hand. 

This knowledge has been huge in my own life concerning resisting temptation.  Satan has fed lies to me.  And he will to you.  He will tell you that you don’t really belong to Christ.  He will lie and try to convince you that you can be snatched.  He will use your sins and weaknesses and try to leverage them to get you to think that he has control over you.  Satan has had me convinced that I am powerless to resist certain temptations.  He tries to get me to believe that I am a slave to my sin. 

Don’t believe the lies!  You are FREE from the power of sin and death!  When the devil tries to convince you in your time of weakness that he has any power over you, tell him that you belong to Christ!  You were bought with a price, you’re free from the power of sin and death, and NOBODY can snatch you from the hand of Jesus!

John 8:34-35

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

 

Truth #3:  Nothing can separate

This point I will make short.  The end of Romans 8 is so encouraging to me. 

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing, nothing, nothing, NOTHING will separate us from God’s love.  Satan can’t separate us.  Other people can’t separate us.  Guilt can’t separate us.  Addictions can’t separate us.  Habits can’t separate us.  Past mistakes can’t separate us.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God!

Conclusion

So, here is my conclusion.  Here is how I tie it all together.  I started by talking about the battle within.  The battle is between the power of sin and death within us and the power of the Spirit.  We know that we are already forgiven and free, we belong to God, and nothing can separate us from his love.  How can we use these three truths to fight this battle?

For me, when I think to myself that I am already forgiven, it brings me to a point of true humility.  I am in awe of God’s grace and Christ’s redemptive work for me on the cross.  God I am so broken.  I am so flawed.  I am guilty of high treason against the creator of the world.  I stand at your judgment seat and see myself as guilty.  I deserve death and eternal separation from you.  Who am I that you would care about me and, even more astounding, love me?

Yet here I am, able to approach you because you have freed me!  You chose to nail my sins on the cross with Christ and I am justified!  I am found not guilty in your court of law.  On judgment day, you will see me without blemish!  Lord, how can I do anything other than give my life completely to you?  You have set me free from the power of sin and death!

Christ has empowered us through the Holy Spirit to fight our sin.  Don’t believe Satan when he lies to you and tries to tell you that he has ANY power over you.  Tell him, I don’t belong to you.  You have no hold on me.  I am a child of God and he has me in his hand and promises he won’t let go!  NOTHING can separate me from his firm grip on me and NOBODY can separate me from his love!  I AM HIS!

I hope and pray that you are encouraged by this and you fight this battle with a new perspective.  If you have any questions or need prayer, please contact me.  I can be reached at tcoeguy@gmail.com.  Lastly, if you enjoyed reading this, please help spread this by posting this link on your Facebook page.  It is really easy to do.  Just click on the Facebook logo on the bottom of this article.  Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.  God bless!


3 Hours of Darkness

 

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I know it might be difficult with winter looming, but imagine for a second that it is a beautiful spring day.  It is your day off from work and you’re outside enjoying the glorious sunshine.  As noon arrives, it quickly gets dark out.  Not just the kind of dark that happens when a thunderstorm rolls in, but dark like midnight.  In fact, it is so dark that you can see stars in the sky.  This darkness lasts for three full hours until 3pm and then the sun comes back out.

Now if this really did happen, don’t you think this phenomenon would be recorded in history?  Of course it would.  And how would you explain it?  Solar eclipse?  An act of God?

Well this did actually happen about two thousand years ago, and it was recorded in history by several historians.  Three of these were gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  We will get back to them in a minute.  But another three were not.  These guys are going to be the focus now.  Their rock star names are Thallus, Phlegon, and Africanus.  Their job, as historians employed by their government, was to document and try to explain why for 3 hours in the middle of the day in 33 AD, it got completely dark.  Let’s meet them!

We’ll start with Thallus.  Thallus was a historian, who in AD 52, decided to write a history of the eastern Mediterranean world since the Trojan War.  He was not a Christian.  Now, we have no record directly of his history books, but that is alright because a lot of his historical writing was quoted in books that we do have.  One of these we do have now that does quote from Thallus is from a historian named Africanus.  Slightly confused?

Let me give you an example.  Let’s say someone writes a book.  I will just throw out a random name off the top of my head… Mike Brumm.  Let’s say Mike Brumm writes a book entitled “How to Twerk.”  Unfortunately, after many years, all of Mike’s books were destroyed in a tragic twerking accident.  We are in luck though.  Jeremy Stimack has also written a book on the subject called “Twerking for Dummies”.  And in this book, he has already referenced many of Mike’s twerking techniques.  So let’s say many years pass and for some strange reason you’d like to learn more about this ancient art of twerking.  You go to the Library and find Jeremy’s book.  Not only are you going to learn from Jeremy’s knowledge on the subject, you’re going to learn from Mike as well, since his techniques are referenced in it.

The same applies to these to these historians.  Even though the historical works of Thallus have been lost, his material was referenced by Africanus in books that we do have now.  So, what is the subject matter in which Thallus and Africanus are writing about?  They are both documenting and trying to figure out why, starting at noon on a spring day in 33 AD, for three hours it got completely dark.

But these two weren’t the only ones trying to figure this out.  Meet famous Greek historian Phlegon of Tralles.  He was definitely NOT a Christian.  His task was a daunting one.  Write a history book which starts from the first Olympiad (677 BC) and went all the way to the current (at the time) Olympiad (137 AD).  This impressive work was actually 16 books long.  Sort of like an encyclopedia.

Here is an expert from Phlegon:  In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (i.e., AD 33) there was ‘the greatest eclipse of the sun’ and that ‘it became night in the sixth hour of the day [i.e., noon] so that stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia, and many things were overturned in Nicaea.’

Hold up a second.  Where have I heard this before?  AD 33.  Noon.  Became night.  Great earthquake.  Let’s go to Matthew chapter 27 which describes Jesus dying on the cross:

Verse 45:  From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.

Woah.  How about Mark chapter 15.

Verse 33:  At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.

Woah again.  How about Luke chapter 23.

Verses 44-45:  It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining.

Matthew, in his account, continues the story of Jesus on the cross in verses 46-54.

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi,[c] lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[d]

 47When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

 48Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

 50And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. 52The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

 54When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Boy, that sure sounds a lot like the secular historian Phlegon’s account of the day becoming night and great earthquakes occurring.  Even the exact time of day is agreed upon by the gospels and non-Christian historical writings.  I don’t know about you, but this totally blew me away!

There is more.  Two of our historians, Phlegon and Thallus, tried their best to explain how this miracle happened.  Did you notice it in Phlegon’s history book?  there was ‘the greatest eclipse of the sun’.  How else do you explain it being dark in the middle of the day?  But there are HUGE problems with this theory.  First, this event was documented by the apostles and historians as lasting three hours.  The longest possible time a solar eclipse can last is 7 minutes.  Also, this happened near the time of the Passover, which occurred at a full moon.  Pause for a second right here.  If you didn’t figure it out, it is a 100 percent impossibility for there to be a solar eclipse at the same time as a full moon.

Our last historian, Africanus, agrees.  Around AD 221, Africanus wrote a five volume History of the World.  He converted to Christianity as an adult.  His historical knowledge was so impressive that Roman Emperor Alexander Servus gave him the official responsibility of building his library at the Pantheon in Rome.  Here is what he wrote…

On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Savior falls on the day before the passover; but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun. And it cannot happen at any other time but in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last of the old, that is, at their junction: how then should an eclipse be supposed to happen when the moon is almost diametrically opposite the sun? Let opinion pass however; let it carry the majority with it; and let this portent of the world be deemed an eclipse of the sun, like others a portent only to the eye. Phlegon records that, in the time of Tiberius Caesar, at full moon, there was a full eclipse of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth—manifestly that one of which we speak. But what has an eclipse in common with an earthquake, the rending rocks, and the resurrection of the dead, and so great a perturbation throughout the universe? Surely no such event as this is recorded for a long period.

I am blown away by this account, written 1,800 years ago!  What is Africanus saying?  He is saying that the explanation Thallus and Phlegon give of a solar eclipse is bull.  He explains why it is a physical impossibility for there to be an eclipse of the sun around a full moon.  Then he takes it even further.  He says, OK, even IF a solar eclipse was possible, that doesn’t explain the earthquake, rending rocks, and resurrection of the dead!

So, what is it that we have here?  If it isn’t a solar eclipse, what actually happened?  What caused the sun to darken so much to the point where the stars came out?  Well, I think we can make a pretty educated guess.  Before Jesus died on the cross, he bore the sins of the world on his shoulders.  Your sins.  My sins.  For the first time in the life of Jesus, God turned his back to him.  Oh, how God’s heart must have ached when his son cried out, “My God, My God.  Why have you forsaken me?”

I believe God darkened the sun to demonstrate his mourning and his power.  When Jesus breathed his last breath, all hell broke loose.  Earthquakes shattered rocks and tore the temple in two.  People who were dead climbed out of their tomb.  Even the guards and centurion who were previously mocking Jesus and telling him to come down if he is really the son of God believed when they saw these signs.  “Surely he was the Son of God!”

God demonstrated his power by darkening the sun for three hours, then he again demonstrated his power by raising his son from the dead after three days!  So, solar eclipse?  I don’t think so.  God showing off his power in a very real way?  I think yes!

Thank you so much for your support and taking the time to read this!  May your faith be strengthened brothers and sisters.  I would love comments and questions.  God bless!

Jon Prior


If You Could Have Anything…

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A guy was shipwrecked on a small island all alone and he stumbled upon a magic lamp.  He rubbed it and a genie popped out.  The genie tells the man, “I will grant you any one wish you want, but you can’t ask for more wishes.”  The man thinks it over and says, “OK.  I wish for a hundred more genies.”

 Hello friends.  First of all, I want to thank those who took the time to read my first post on here, ‘Believe’.  I was amazed and humbled by the positive response.  I would also like that thank you, the reader, for reading this, my second post.

 I want to share something I have been learning recently.  It has to do with prayer.  I do not intent this to be just another interpretation or commentary on the Lord’s Prayer.  I know that if you’ve ever been to church you’ve heard more than one sermon about how to pray.  I have heard many.  But some of those sermons, though well intended, miss the mark on how we are instructed in the bible to pray.

 Let me give you an example from me personally, and perhaps you can relate.  If I could take those sermons I’ve heard about prayer and boil them down to a single theme, it would be this:  Your prayers shouldn’t be just a laundry list of requests.  Instead, your prayers should be thanking God and acknowledging His greatness.

 Don’t think that I am going to suggest this isn’t good advice.  It is all good.  But for me, hearing that enough became a problem.  In my prayers, I would thank God for this, and thank God for that, and I would acknowledge how awesome God is.  Then I’d be done.  I’d rarely ask God for anything, because like we’ve heard in church, we aren’t supposed to give God a laundry list of requests.  In fact, I’d even sometimes have a touch of guilt if I did ask for anything.  Have you ever felt guilty about asking God for something?

 Here’s what I have learned lately about this line of thinking.  About feeling guilt for asking for stuff.  About how we aren’t supposed to bring a laundry list of requests to God.  I’ve learned it is NOT biblical!  Not only does it say in the Bible that we CAN ask for stuff, it says we are SUPPOSED to ask for stuff!

 Let me give you a couple examples to prove my point.  Most of us know the story of Solomon.  He was the son of King David and Bathsheba.  Right before David died, Solomon was crowned King over Israel.  In that day, Israel was a very large world presence.  God spoke to Solomon shortly after he took over and gave him an offer that, to us, seems unbelievable.

 1 Kings 3:5-  That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

 Think about this for a moment.  Put yourself in Solomon’s shoes.  He found the magic lamp!  This is where the genie comes out and grants you any wish you want.  One of my favorite cartoon movies is Aladdin.  I’m sure most of us that watched it wished we found this magic lamp ourselves and wondered to what we would wish for. 

 Solomon tells God what he wants in verse 9.   “Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

 Solomon asks for wisdom to govern God’s people.

 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!

 So God, just like Robin Williams the genie did for Aladdin, grants his wish.  Not only does he give Solomon wisdom, but he makes Solomon the wisest person (other than Jesus) to ever live on earth!

 Now I want you to take a pause.  I want you to imagine yourself fast asleep tucked into bed.  You’re happily dreaming.  And just like Solomon, God appears to you.  Imagine this.  Just like Solomon, God tells you that he is going to give you anything you want.  Think about it.  What do you want?  Think BIG.  Healing for someone?  A repaired marriage?  To break a habit or addiction?  Maybe, like Solomon, it is wisdom.   How would it change your life if God gave it to you?

 Now here’s the kicker.  God telling you that he will give you anything you want… has already happened. 

 Jesus is speaking in John 14:13-14.  “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.   Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”

 I don’t think you can only read that once.  Verse 14 says “Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”  Repeat it several times in your head and capitalize ANYTHING.

 This is God appearing to you in that dream you imagined before.  Here’s the truth.  God wants Christ’s name to be glorified here on this earth.  And one way God does that is answering prayers.  We are the benefactors. 

 Still not convinced we can be asking God for stuff?  Here is another example that Jesus gives.

 Luke 11:5-10

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

 This is a really tough scripture for me because it seems to contradict the thought of many Christians.  We aren’t supposed to burden God, right?  Don’t bring your laundry list to God.  Or even worse, I have heard this lie:  God is too busy with large world problems to be bothered with your small request.  Apparently those people have a cute little box they like to put God in.  Again, there’s a problem.  It is not biblical. 

 What’s Jesus saying in this scripture?  Keep pounding on God’s door!  Be stubborn.  Say, “Here I am again, God.  I’ve asked and asked and asked for you to take this sin out of my life.  But here I come again knocking.”  Don’t believe the lies that God isn’t to be bothered.  God not only lovingly allows you to keep knocking on that door, but he commands us to!

 That leads me to my last question:  What are you praying for?  There’s a story in the book of Joshua in the bible that is one of the craziest answered prayer stories you’ll read.  Joshua was leading the Israelites in battle against their enemy.  God had promised them complete military victory.  As the Israelites were kicking their butts, Joshua realized a problem was happening.  The sun was going down.  If it gets dark, the enemy escapes and Israel does not have their complete victory.  So what does Joshua do? 

 Joshua 10:12- Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.”

 So here is his prayer:  Dear Lord.  We need more daylight to completely wipe out this enemy.  You know that sun up there that is ready to set soon?  Can you make it stay right there for about a day or so?  And God does it!  The sun stands still in the sky and you can bet His name was glorified in that moment.

 Here’s my point.  When it comes to praying for stuff, THINK BIGGER!  Stop with the cute little safe prayers.  That would be like finding a magic lamp, rubbing it, a then a genie comes out saying you can have anything you want.  And then you say, “I want a blow pop!  You know, one of those suckers with the gum inside.”  And then the genie says, “Wait, wait.  I am giving you anything you want and you’re asking for a stinkin blow pop?”

 Think about it.  One reason God loves to answer our prayers is because His name is then glorified.  Is God going to glorify himself by answering your weak easy prayer, or will God be more glorified by radically answering an impossible prayer?

 If God could answer one prayer for you and you’d know for certain that prayer would be answered, what would you pray for?  Healing?  Leading a loved one to Christ?  To finally break that sin or addiction?  Fix a broken marriage?  To be used by God in huge ways?

 Bring this prayer to God.  Be persistent.  Don’t give up.  Keep on knocking.  Be stubborn.  Don’t believe other Christians that tell you that you aren’t supposed to ask God for stuff.  When you pray, acknowledge God’s greatness, be thankful, and ask away!

 Thank you so much for reading this!  I welcome comments/complaints/suggestions.  Have a blessed day!

 Jon Prior


Believe

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Greetings to everyone who reads this!  I hope this day finds you doing well.  I would like to thank you in advance for taking the time to read something that has been on my heart lately.

Now, I want you to take a pause as best you can and imagine something.  I would say close your eyes, but that would impede reading ahead, wouldn’t it?  Do what you have to do to slow down.  Imagine the worst has happened.  You have died.  Not in 50 years, but today.  You’re way too young to die, but you wouldn’t be the first.  Pick a way that you’ve died.  Car accident.  Work accident.  Act of terrorism.  Something.  Got it?

You’re now surrounded by vast white emptiness.  Well, it is sort of empty.  Because you’re not alone.  You see people as far as your eye can see.  There seems to be an eager anticipation of something.   You know that you’ve died.  Suddenly you see a familiar face in the crowd.  It takes you a few seconds to place who it is.  That guy used to be your neighbor until he moved out of state a few years ago.  Good guy.  Treated his family well.

You continue to look around at the throngs of people and start seeing more people that you know.  A former co-worker.  Someone you’ve seen at church before, but can’t remember his name.  Your high school math teacher.  As you’re on your toes looking around, you see someone a fair distance from you waving.  You look in disbelief as you realize it is one of your best friends.

You’re about to move from your current spot when something happens.  Ahead of you, the whiteness has been peeled away as if a door had opened.  You hear gasping.  A figure enters your presence and your knees get week.  The people you recognize no longer matter to you.

You are standing in the presence of the Son of Man.  He is wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest.  His head and his hair are white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes are like flames of fire.  His feet are like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thunders like mighty ocean waves.  (1)

You have seen Christ in his glory and all you can do is fall down and exalt him.  You profess your love for the Lamb of God.  You’re not alone.  Every knee has bowed.  And everyone is crying out, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”  And “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered.  Blessing and Glory and Honor and Power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

Some time passes and you see lines forming.  It is the time of judgment.  With extreme interest, you look ahead to someone you don’t know that is getting judged.  A book has been opened in front of him.  Every single thought and deed for this person has been recorded in this book, whether good or bad.  And everyone has their own book.  (2)

Every negative thought and action read aloud by the judge brings a cringe on the face of the one getting judged.  The verdict is an obvious one.  Guilty.  Then another book is opened.  The Book of Life.  Names are in this book, including the name of one being judged.  (3)

The Lamb of God then stretches out his arms and says “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful with what I have given you.  Great are your rewards in heaven.” (4)

The next one stands before the judge.  This time it is someone you recognize.  It is the guy you’ve seen from time to time at your church.  The process is done again.  The book is opened and everything thought, done, and said is brought before the accused.  The Book of Life is opened and this time… this time there is no name to match the one being judged.

He pleads his case.  “Lord! Lord! I prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name!”   But the Son of Man replies, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.” (5)

You look in horror as this man is cast away from the presence of God and you know his fate.  Eternal separation from God.  Eternal damnation.  A lake of fire.  Constant torment. 

You see dozens more in front of you in line being judged.  Some are written in the Book of Life and you get to see the positive outcome.  Some are not. 

Then you see your good friend is next and fear grips you.  Your friend isn’t exactly the church-going type.  He is a good person and he has politely declined your invitations to go to church with you.  It’s not like you’re going to push it, right?  I mean nobody wants someone else’s religious beliefs shoved in their face.  In our culture, it isn’t politically correct, right?

Your fears are realized.  After the books are opened, your friend pleads his case.  He has tried to be a good person.  The Lamb of God says, “Away from me.  I do not know you.”

Several more people are judged and then finally, you are next.  But something different happens.  The pattern is broken.  The Lamb of God smiles, opens up his arms to you, and says “My Child.  You have loved ones praying for you and because I want to make my name great in the world, I am going to answer their prayers and heal your earthly body.”

You open your mouth to protest, but it’s too late.  The next thing you see is blankness.  You feel pain all over.  You hear beeping noises.  You hear unfamiliar voices.  “We’ve got a pulse.”

Alright, now fast forward.  You’ve recovered, but you remember everything that happened when you briefly passed away.  You vividly remember every detail of the judgments.  The two books.  The pleading of those not in the second book. 

Here is my question to you, the reader, as you sit where you are.   If you actually witnessed this first hand, how would it change your life?

Think about it for a minute.  I will give you time.

How would you look at people differently?  How would you see the unsaved people in your life?  Will it still matter if you get nervous talking to people about Christ?  Will it still matter if it isn’t politically correct to share the gospel?  In our culture today, it is considered rude to push your religion on people.  After you’ve experienced this, will that matter?

This is actually only a small part of the ultimate point I’m trying to make by writing this.  The biggest question I want to pose is this:  Do you REALLY believe what you say you believe?  If you agreed that this experience of judgment would change you, then you have to ask yourself how strongly you believe what you say you do.

Think about it.  Ecclesiastes 12:14 says that “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”  Do we really live our lives like we really REALLY believe that?  When faced with temptation and we willingly disobey God’s commands, do we REALLY believe God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad?

We as Christians will say that we believe everything in the Bible is true.  I certainly do.  We can also agree that the Bible states clearly that everyone we see has one of two eternal destinations:  heaven or hell.  We say we believe that.  But are we really REALLY living our lives like we believe that?  If you witnessed the judgment first hand and it changed how you see people, then the answer is no.  You aren’t living your life like you really believe it.

Mark 16:16-  Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.

It is so easy for us to sit back and say, “Oh yeah.  I believe”.  Do you really?  What does the word “believe” mean to you?  Does it mean you make a mental check in the “believe box” in your mind and call it good?  Or does your belief convict you?  Does it change you?

If you really believe that our Creator demonstrated his unfailing love by sending his son to die on the cross so we can spend eternity with him, then the only logical response is to completely give ourselves up for his cause.  To quit making excuses and live a life pursuing righteousness.  To love God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your strength.  And how do we love God that much?  By obeying his commands.  (6)

I encourage and challenge you to live your life so that it reflects what your beliefs are.  Thank you so much for reading this.  I would love to see questions and comments.  Have a blessed day!

-Jon Prior

Our heavenly Father loves us with an extravagant abandon. Passionate, undignified worship is our only reasonable response. – Matt Redman

(1) Rev 1:13-15

(2) Ecc 12:14

(3) Rev 20:15

(4) Matt 25:21

(5) Matt 7:22-23

(6) 1 John 5:3


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