When I hear the phrase “grand entrance,” I see richly-dressed VIPs entering a gala event, their arrival announced with trumpet fanfare. Is that what these two verses indicate will happen when we get to heaven?
…Then God will give you a grand entrance (other versions say “rich welcome”) into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:11
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— Jude 24
I will be home at last, where I belong. My Savior and Older Brother, Jesus, will draw me into his incredible embrace, and my Father will throw a lavish party. My dad and brother and grandparents will be there, and oh! what a welcome I’ll receive. Shouldn’t that be incentive enough to keep plugging on faithfully for a few more days?
My cousin, Carolyn Caines, sent me a poem she wrote after reading my July 19 posting based on Psalm 139, and I have permission to share it here with you:
You may get poems every week or check out Carolyn’s web page at: www.carolyncaines.com
After Jesus used his power to cast out a bunch of demons from a wild man into a herd of pigs, how did the villagers respond? They begged him to go away and leave them alone! (Matthew 8:34)
After Jesus exposed the shameful secrets of an outcast Samaritan woman and revealed His own true identity, how did the villagers respond? They believed and begged him to stay on and teach them! (John 4:39-40)
Jesus always created a stir wherever He went. The response of people depended on what was in their hearts. And sometimes the most favorable response was from the most unlikely—a bunch of Samaritans whom the disciples would have just as soon avoided in the first place.
He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
(John 1:10-12 NLT)
What is my own response, and yours, to Jesus, really? There can be no neutral ground.
When Jesus saw crowds of needy people, he mixed a couple of metaphors to describe them: sheep without a shepherd, and crops ready to be harvested. In either case, decisive measures were required: First he told his disciples to pray that someone would go (Matthew 9:38), but in the next verse (Mt 10:1 and on) he tells them that they will be the ones!
As I read chapter 10 this morning, I jotted down the main principles Jesus gave as he commissioned them:
–Go! Proclaim the Kingdom of God! Give freely!
–Don’t worry about your needs. God will provide.
–Expect suffering, but don’t fear or worry. God will be responsible for you and the outcome of your work.
–Stay faithful and focused, not distracted by family ties, personal ambition or the desire for comfort.
–You will be rewarded!
At that point, a great song came to mind:
“Come and join the reapers, all the Kingdom seekers,
Laying down their lives to find them in the end.
Come and share the harvest; help to light the darkness;
For the Lord is calling faithful men.” (by Twila Paris)
Did you know that God has “secret service”? No, it’s not a team of armed men protecting Him. (Peter, Jesus’ only self-appointed protector, proved that his aim was pretty bad.) The “secret service” that Jesus recruits is all about our serving Him without calling attention to ourselves. In Matthew 6 this principle is applied to giving, prayer, and fasting. The key is motivation: If my reason for doing things like this is human approval, they’re worthless in God’s eyes and I get no reward from Him. What brings God’s approval is acts of “secret service” meant for His eyes only.
Matthew 5:16 seems at first to contradict this because there Jesus tells us, “let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”! The difference, I think, is motivation: If I am doing it for God and others just happen to observe, God is glorified and pleased.
One more thing about “secret service.” Those who guard important officials are focused on the welfare of the one they are assigned to protect—even if it costs their own lives. In this way, my service for God IS like that: My life is to be all about Him, no matter what happens to me.
…everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ … I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:7, 13)
Today we’re packing and tomorrow we fly to the other side of the world for another two or three years to continue with the work God has given us to help provide His Word for people groups that still need it.
A few years ago we were in this same situation. We were flying out of LA the next morning. But I could hardly face the idea of going for how many years, leaving all our family behind and whatever kind of “security” I might feel in my home country.
At that very time, God gave me this verse from Psalm 139.9:
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast. (NIV)
This is just what I needed, and it fit our situation exactly—wings…dawn…far side of the sea…! The reassurance of God’s presence, guidance and protection is my security no matter where He takes me and what He allows to happen.
Satan’s three temptations presented to Jesus have poignant parallels in the lines that lure us today:
“Turn these stones into bread” is now “You need it” or “You deserve it.”
“Jump from this high place because angels will catch you” (a ploy for public attention) is now “You’ve got it; flaunt it.”
“I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world if you worship me” is now “The end justifies the means.”
Do any of these sound familiar?
Of course, the response to each of these was straight from the Scriptures which point us back to God and away from ourselves. (See Matthew 4.)
Last evening I watched a movie of a well-known atheist reading a passage from his book in which he described the God of the Old Testament with a string of 20-30 extremely nasty words. I wondered if this man has ever read through the Old Testament. Because the God I find there is nothing like that.
To a sheep, his shepherd is diligently caring and jealously protective. But to a predator, the shepherd is fierce and dangerous.
To a bear cub, his mother is gentle, nurturing and loving. But just let a human wander into the area, and she turns into a killing machine.
Similarly, those who come to God as His humble and obedient children find Him to be a self-sacrificing Savior, faithful Father, abundant Provider, and worthy King . But those who rebel and defy Him will indeed experience His powerful fury. In Revelation 5:5-6, our Lord is revealed at the same time as a Lion and a Lamb:
“Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered.
In an Asian language that I know, “bahot” refers to a snack eaten to stave off one’s hunger when the meal is still too far off.
This morning as the pastor opened the communion service, he suggested that communion is something like that (a “bahot”) in advance of that great feast that we anticipate someday in heaven. A reminder that we’re part of God’s family who will gather around His table someday to celebrate when we’re all home at last .
Four times in John’s gospel, he refers to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.” Obviously he felt so loved and secure in his relationship with Jesus! And at the Last Supper, he occupied the privileged and intimate position on Jesus’ right side.
But when Jesus appears to John in Revelation 1:12-18 (especially verse 17), John faints dead away!
One thing I love about Jesus is how He, the blazingly glorious King of Kings and Eternal God who can destroy His enemies with the breath of his mouth, is also my caring and compassionate Friend who has chosen me to be His and who concerns Himself with the details of my life. But as I enjoy this delightful companionship, I need also to fall at His feet in awe and worship.