December 2019

A New Year’s Eve Riddle for you:

I’m more powerful than God. I’m more evil than the Devil. The poor have me; the rich need me and if you eat me you will die. What am I?
Answer: Nothing

Can you imagine a sermon about nothing? A preacher rode his horse into the town square. He asked the people there for a topic and he would give them a sermon. A man in the crowd jokingly said, “Nothing!”  So, the preacher dismounted his horse and began preaching on “nothing.” God created the world from nothing. God gave us laws in which there is nothing unjust. There is nothing in us to justify us. While Christians have nothing of which to boast, we have Christ. And in Him, we have nothing to cause us grief, nothing to disturb our peace, and nothing to fear in eternity. Finishing his sermon, the preacher mounted his horse and left.

Even a sermon on nothing can save souls – for nothing is impossible with God.

Gospel – Luke tells us…“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.”

We are all on watch now. The servants of the first watch in the first century were not ready. The Pharisees were focused on themselves. Romans occupied the land. The people were oppressed with fear, anxiety and financial burden. The Pharisees paid strict observance to tradition not the truth and not God. John the Baptist even heralded the Master’s coming but they rejected it as well as rejecting the Master Himself. The result?

When Jesus died there was a great earthquake that shook the temple. The lintel broke so the great doors to the Holiest of Holies would no longer close. Anyone could now enter into the Holiest chamber. No one needs to knock.  This lintel also supported the outer veil and when it fell it tore the veil from top to bottom. From the public POV it would symbolize that the shedding of His blood was sufficient atonement for ALL sins. No more sacrifice was needed. Also, the doors being open resulted in the great temple menorah “the servant lamp” being blown out from the wind. This kept happening over the next 40 years despite repairs. God’s presence would no longer remain in the temple. No need to keep the lamp lit.

We are the second watch. Will we do any better? Are our people oppressed with fear, anxiety and financial burden? Yes. Do we focus on tradition over the truth? No. We mostly stick to scripture.

When should we be ready? Paul teaches that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief,” so the Lord does not come as a thief to His own.

Are we His own? So far, our doors seem unbroken and our candles remain lit so I would say “So far, so good.” We’re ready for Jesus the King to come to us but are we ready for His Kingdom? The Kingdom of Heaven? I found a survey online supposedly taken by Christians. Do you believe in Heaven? The results were: Believe (62%), Don’t believe (31%), Don’t know (7%). I’ve also heard fellow Christians (many of them) say that they believe nothing happens when you die. You die and then there is nothing. You just stop. Just an FYI – Nothing doesn’t exist. The concept exists. We may look at a stationary object that contains a vacuum and inside that vacuum there are no particles of matter and think that it is nothing but even that wouldn’t be true. Science tells us that vacuum is like a boiling sea or appearing and disappearing particle pairs which produces great energy fluctuations which can create matter at any given second. It’s scientifically impossible for you to die and do nothing or be nothing or even for nothing to happen. Biblically speaking there can never be nothing because there is God. God is everything. Biblically and scientifically nothing doesn’t exist. Which leads us to what happens when we die?

HEART – When we die our hearts stop. Did you know our hearts have two brains?

Two brains which explains why we have a need for more. We contemplate the eternal. This is our heart. Our heart is infected with the power of life. God placed that in there for us. Scientific research today shows that the Bible has been right all along. The heart has intelligence and plays a particular role in our experience of emotions. 

The heart’s nervous system contains around 40,000 neurons called sensory neurites that communicate with the brain. Prominent medical experts have discovered that many recipients of heart transplants are inheriting donors’ memories and consequently report huge changes in their tastes, their personality, abilities, and, most extraordinarily, in their emotional memories. 

Scripture says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

We are hungry for answers of eternity. Who is God? Why are we here? What’s it all about? What happens when we die?

SCIENCE / NDES – Science has done a great deal of research into NDEs (Near Death Experiences) and the results of this research deserves very serious consideration as positive evidence for the Christian doctrine of Heaven. There’s a cardiologist named Michael Sabom who had a patient named Pete Morton. Pete left his body during cardiac arrest. When he came back, he described the resuscitation procedure with such detail and accuracy that Dr. Sabom could have used his description to teach future physicians how to properly resuscitate a patient. Dr. Sabom says that people brought back saw details that they could not have otherwise seen. In almost every case he validated and confirmed what each patient said by reviewing the medicals records and interviewing other hospital staff members. Dr. Sabom ended up becoming an advocate for the afterlife. His research lasted 5 years and he published a book called “Recollections of death” and published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A Radiation Oncologist named Dr. Jeffrey Long read the research from the journal and found it hard to believe. Dr. Long was at a dinner with friends and talking about it when a friend of his named Sheila told him that she had a severe reaction to a particular food that she didn’t know she was allergic to and the reaction caused her to code. Her heart stopped. She died. He asked her details about her experience which she shared. She described all the medical procedures she witnessed and then described how she went up to heaven and met God. Hearing this from a friend led him to do his own research. Over the next 30 years, he studied thousands and thousands of accounts from all over the world. The research he did provides significant evidence that there is life after death. 

And that the bible had the same information and it’s been there all along.

  1. NDE research shows that you leave your body behind and are still you but in a new spiritual body. In 1 Corinthians 15we find out that our heavenly bodies will shine and reflect His glory. We will move about in limitless space unlike our limited earthly bodies. Bodies that also will no longer age, deteriorate or decay. It will retain its glory in a fragrant and eternally fresh and perfect state endlessly. We’re buried in weakness but raised in strength. Biblical speaking this spirit body is only part of it because we will also have a brand new physical body (Philippians 3). Our physical body will be restored and healed just like Jesus’s resurrected body. A physical body that can do what the spirit body can. 
  2. People who have died reported that after they had their out-of-body experience they were whisked away to a glorious place where they were greeted by family members, friends and loved ones who passed away prior to them even pets. In Luke 16, Jesus tells us that people we are in relationship with here will be with us in eternity. Relationships were always intended to be forever and to reach greater heights in heaven like our well-designed human hearts crave. When my wife and I were dating I used to draw hearts with our names in them and the word forever underneath. Some people have jewelry or even tattoos that are similar and who knew we would be so close to the truth? Real truth in common places.
  3. People around the world reported seeing a being of light that they knew to be God. Oftentimes the being gave them the feeling of a man. For people that knew Jesus in life they recognized Him. This being of love knew them and revealed everything about their lives to them in a life review. They also claim this meeting with God changed their lives. Just like it states in 1 Corinthians 4. God will reveal everything about us to us even the things we hid or lied about even to ourselves.

Heaven is a real place. Jesus says, “I go a prepare a place for YOU (John 14).”
You go to be with God. Jesus also said to the thief on the cross, “Today, YOU will be with me in paradise (Luke 23)”. Revelation 6 – Shows we are connected to our earthly identity and we have free access to God. All our questions are answered. We also have true unity and speak with one voice. We will finally communicate in truth and love. Paul Simon wrote a song called “Sound of Silence” about a dream he had. Yup! In a sermon about nothing, I’m also talking about a song about silence. This is tricky stuff. If you don’t know the song your homework is to look it up and listen to the lyrics. They’re incredible. In his dream, everyone worshipped a God made up of neon lights and no longer listened to one another. People were more focused on technology. Imagine that? People lost their ability to communicate. There was a great silence that disconnected everyone. No unity. No community. But the truth lay hidden in common places (subway walls, tenement halls). If we listen to the silence, we can hear the song of truth. That song of truth will lead us to love that we need communicated more than anything. That is what is happening in Revelation 6. We will finally get along and be in synch. No sorrow. No pain. No confusion. Just love, truth and total understanding with perfect communication.

Again, in Luke 16, Jesus gives us a great example of the afterlife in a different kind of parable. It’s the only parable where Jesus uses names and it’s very revealing and one of my favorites.

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.” The translation says he was not only fed but made completely happy every day. He’s clothed in purple, the color of royalty – also the color of the veil in the temple and actually symbolic of Christ – the red of Christ’s blood combined with the blue sapphire of the law – the difference is Christ gave His riches to us. Christ wraps us up in His purple cloak.

“And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table.” The translation is that he was discarded like our garbage cans in the street. He was destitute. He has nothing. He would’ve been content with the crumbs that fell from the table. Do you know what these crumbs are? There was no paper, napkins or toilet paper. Wealthy people wiped their hands on disposable remnants of bread used for hygiene not eating. Those are the crumbs he would’ve been happy with.

“Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.” The poor man died discarded like roadkill. Just left there. Abandoned. No burial. No send-off. No-one cared. He had nothing. He was carried by angels.

“The rich man also died and was buried” A nice funeral, a dignified send-off for him.

“and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.” He still has eyes to recognize and still has understanding. He has his senses despite the suffering. He still seems human and unfortunately, still acts human.

“And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’” He can still reason. He’s a Jewish man who is able to recognize and knows the name of Father Abraham. He hasn’t let go of his humanity, his selfishness. He still expects others to cater to his needs. He hasn’t changed. And in hell, his every movement is agony.

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’” Despite what we know about the life of Lazarus did he ever lose his faith? Apparently not, so he had something of great value. His faith. Not nothing. Though the rich man was a Jew did he love God or his fellow man? Did he care about Lazarus? Did Lazarus ever get any of those crumbs? Does he even see Lazarus now made whole with no sores? In this parable, there is a great chasm between them. But we know that Christ holds all the keys. He holds the keys to Heaven, Hell and Death. It is true joy when we realize that Jesus controls everything.

“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’  But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Isn’t that so true? If we are ignorant of the Old Testament won’t we also be ignorant of the New Testament? We need the Word of God. 

I mentioned that Christ wraps us up in His purple cloak. He gives us His Kingdom. He gives us everything. 

Lastly, we will be with God in Heaven forever but not as we may imagine. There is a new Heaven under construction and this new Heaven will incorporate our earth. Revelation 21 says that there will be a new Heaven and a new earth and we will have access to both. Those physical bodies with spirit abilities will come in handy. We’ll have superpowers.

I’m a marketing guy and I see posters and brochures for travel destinations. They use pictures that represent the closest thing to perfection on earth. Heaven on earth. But these are images of moments and not the real thing. Heaven is the real thing and it’s eternal. We don’t belong to a broken earth but to a perfect Heaven. That is our true home. That was His plan all along.

The problem is we are ruled by this world. We ignore our hearts. We focus on the temporary things and NOTHING eternal. 

The point is Jesus repaired our relationship with God. That is the point of the crucifixion. Jesus binds Himself to us through His love. That is the gift of grace. We did NOTHING to deserve that.

The power is Jesus holds the keys to Heaven, Hell and Death. Jesus cannot and will not be locked out of our lives. There’s NOTHING we can do to stop Him. He lives in eternity. He lives in our hearts and souls and we’re wrapped in His eternal cloak of riches.