Reflections on Heaven, Part 3

I expect to be in Heaven in the near future: both because of my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior and because I do not expect to live much longer.  I am 81, a cancer and open-heart surgery survivor.  I am not improving or getting any younger but, praise the Lord, I will soon have a new body (maybe I will be 33 again) and be like Jesus!

People will say that I have died but actually I will be more alive and happier than ever!  I think the first thing I will do when I get to Heaven is praise our Father God and thank Jesus repeatedly for paying the price of my sins through His death on the cross and crediting me with His righteousness and worthiness of Heaven.  I imagine wanting to apologize to our God and Savior for my sins contributing to His suffering and death.  Wow!  Talk about shame and regret…

Next, I think I will look for Mom and Dad.  I was the youngest of three sons and very spoiled.  My parents were both employed.  Mom was an office worker for the U.S. government and my dad operated a machine that made the lead type used to print the newspaper.  We were comfortably well off but not wealthy.

Jo Ann and I were married in 1950.  We were both nineteen and sophomores in college.  Our parents paid our tuition and helped us with our living expenses.  I became pastor of Trinity Methodist church in Margate City, near Atlantic City, when I was twenty.  This church provided us with an apartment over their fellowship hall plus an annual salary of eighteen hundred dollars.  We started having children about every eighteen months and had six of them by the time I graduated from seminary in 1960.

During this first decade of marriage our parents were so generous, and I am not sure I ever adequately thanked them.  Today in our retirement we live quite comfortably and it is due to both our Father’s care and that of our parents.  I look forward to the opportunity in Heaven to thank them and to tell them how much I truly love them.

There is also a Christian businessman I want to find.  He owned two Christian radio stations.  We were good friends and cared deeply for each other despite many dissimilarities!  He contacted me to officiate at his wife’s funeral service, but when his own passing occurred I did not attend his funeral observance because no one notified me of his death.  It pains me that I was not there to pay my respects, yet I anticipate seeing him again in glory!

There are numerous laymen I want to find from the seven churches we served in our 46 years of ministry.  These are laymen who honestly loved us as we loved them. They were dear friends and our brothers and sisters in Christ.  What a joy it will be to see them again!

Do you think we will recognize each other?   I think we will, though we shall have new bodies.  Praise the Lord!  No more groaning.  No more pain or weakness.  We are going to be like Jesus so there will be no more sin, and we shall serve Him perfectly.  We will truly live in love.

I pray that you will join me in accepting Jesus’ invitation to repent, believe, and follow Him (Mark 1:14-17).  Then we can look for each other in Heaven and join together in worshipping the Father, the Son, and the Spirit!

See you there!  Praise the Lord!

-Pastor Dick Bridge

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Pastor Bridge has been married to Jo Ann, his childhood sweetheart, for over 61 years.  They pastored churches for 46 years. They no longer go on bicycle tours and race kayaks but they do enjoy rides on their motor cycle trike.  Praise God!

 

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Are You Worth Your Salt?

Salt is used as a preservative, as a seasoning, and was highly valuable in the ancient world- it was even used as currency for trade.  Jesus encouraged us to be the “salt of the earth.” But what does this look like?

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”- Mark 9:50

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”- Matthew 5:13

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”- James 3:9-12

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” – Colossians 4:5-6

As salt stops corruption and preserves the integrity of food, so followers of Christ in preserving the Word of Truth strive toward lessing the corruption of the world.

Having salt in one’s speech was termed by the Greeks as attic salt, or “having refined, delicate wit.”  The apostle Paul was surely familiar with this as evidenced by some his instruction: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but only what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).

Tidbits on Salt

The word salary is derived from the Latin word salārium which was the salt ration given as payment to Roman soldiers.

Mary Magdalene was from the city of Magdala which was known for its salt trade.

The Chinese were pioneers in salt production; they would sink deep bamboo shafts into the ground to extract brine and boil it, leaving behind salt crystals… nearly 4,000 years ago!

Salt that has been exposed to the sun or rain, or has been cast upon the ground, will lose its flavor and preserving quality.

The exchange of salt for slaves in ancient Greece gave rise to the expression, “not worth his salt.”  This could bring fresh insight concerning one being worth their salt as a slave of righteousness, “For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman.  Likewise, he who is called while free is Christ’s slave” (Rom. 6:18; 1 Cor. 7:22).

At the Feet of Jesus

She slips into the party knowing she is unwanted.  Feeling their scornful stares and hearing their weak attempts to whisper, she moves undaunted toward her objective. They watch with disgust as she falls at the Prophet’s feet.  Overwhelmed by remorse, tears of brokenness begin to stream down her face.  His feet are thick with dust, the remnants of His journey still clinging heavily to them.  Her tears pour out upon them, cleansing them, her hair then wipes them dry.  She adorns His feet with kisses and anoints them with perfume.

How beautiful are these feet that have carried the Gospel!  How worthy they are of praise, she tells herself.  Her act of worship does not go unnoticed.  Soon the Teacher speaks the words she has longed to hear.  “Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

This account is found in Luke 7:36-50 and is a truly beautiful story of how a hopeless sinner met a grace-filled Savior.  No longer did the woman’s identity rest on the things she had done but on what Jesus had done for her.  Yet there were many who were present that did not see it that way.  Simon the Pharisee could not see past the woman’s sins and apparently didn’t think Jesus should either.  His thoughts recorded in Luke 7:39 show his hard-heartedness, “If this man were a prophet he would know who was touching him and what kind of woman she is- that she is a sinner.”  It seems this woman must have had a reputation that preceded her, and Simon, being a “religious” man, wanted nothing to do with her.

I cringe to think how often similar scenes play out in churches across our nation.  People with less-than-stellar reputations enter places of worship seeking redemption, but instead find only contempt and condemnation.  How many times have we looked down on those in search of reprieve and offered only religion, forgetting that we also were once dead in our sins?

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ” (Colossians 3:13)

Simon, however, was not the only one with a distorted view, for there were other guests present who said among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:49)  They knew that only God could forgive sins, and yet this Man from Nazareth was claiming to be able to do so!  Their perception of who Jesus was and what He could do was totally wrong.

“Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has served you; go in peace.” 

Sadly, we live in a world where this is still the case.  Many (including some Christians) believe there is no forgiveness for them or certain others, that they have strayed too far and are beyond redemption.  They fail to realize that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:39). God does not measure us on what we have done.  Rather, He desires for us to respond to His invitation to follow Him.  If you are struggling to offer or accept forgiveness it is likely that you, too, have a distorted view of who Christ is.

Much like the two men in the parable Jesus shares with those gathered in Simon’s house, we all owe a debt we cannot afford to pay (Luke 7:41-42).  God’s standard is perfection and none of us measure up.  But instead of giving us our due punishment, He came and lived the perfect life we couldn’t live and died the death our sins have warranted.  He did this not because we earned or deserved such salvation, but because that is what true love does, for “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

It is this same love shown to you that God is calling you to show others: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).  “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).  When we reflect on how much grace we have been shown, we are encouraged to share it with others.

I am aware that some will insist on self-reproach in stating, “But you don’t know what they did to me,” or “You don’t know what I have done.”  In the midst of feeling worthless, you may feel there is no chance of forgiveness, and I would have to agree in some measure.  For in our own strength we don’t possess the power to receive or grant forgiveness.  That kind of power can only be found in Christ.  And so, like the woman in the passage above, we must come whole-heartedly and broken to the feet of Jesus.  That is the true picture of worship and the only place to find forgiveness.

Kyle Hubbard

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Kyle Hubbard is a follower of Jesus Christ, who has a heart for the hurting and the father of a precious 3 year old little girl.

What is Forgiveness and Why Does it Matter?

Forgiveness involves both God’s grace and mercy.  His grace is an unmerited (undeserved) favor toward us and His mercy, born of His compassion, entails an offered reprieve from eternal suffering.  However, before we attempt to define “forgiveness,” we must first understand what it is not.

Forgiveness is not merely accepting someone’s apology for slight or hurt, nor can someone be forced to receive another’s forgiveness.  Rather, forgiveness is a construct of and issues from a grander source: Love.  To “forgive” means to “remit, or cancel” one’s sins.  Hebrews 9:22 declares that God, Who is perfectly just, cannot forgive without atonement (restitution), for “without shedding of blood there is no remission for sins.”  The atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross makes forgiveness possible in that it speaks both “for us” and “against us.”  For unless we allow the cross to reveal the full severity of our sin, it will not take that sin from us.

“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:11-12).

Who needs forgiveness and who forgives?

All of humanity needs forgiveness for our disobedience reaching all the way back to the beginning in Eden, for “through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).  But through the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to us (Acts 13:38-39).

The rift in our relationship with God requires reconciliation with Him, and only God made this possible Who reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… and He has committed us to the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19).  This shows that as much as we need forgiveness we also are required to forgive others just as our Father in heaven has forgiven us (Matt. 6:14-15).  Relational reconciliation in love is the reason for the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.

What does it mean that I am forgiven?

Though referenced in the previous question, the idea that we have been given the “ministry and message of reconciliation” is further expounded by the apostle Paul when he declares that we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us!  He goes on to proclaim that through Christ’s atonement we can become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:20-21), for we have redemption through His blood, and the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7).

Forgiveness of one’s sins truly involves sharing in Christ’s death and only then sharing in His righteousness: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

How do I know that I am forgiven?

Jesus said, “But when the Helper [Holy Spirit] comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26).

“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent” (John 6:29).

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, for anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

“It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins… But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God… by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:4, 11-14).

Clearly, faith and belief are necessary to be forgiven and thus reconciled to God as one comprehends the tragedy of human fallenness and the power of the Cross.  But there are two sides to forgiveness and reconciliation: There is one who offers, and there is one who either receives or rejects the offer.  In no way, however, does rejection invalidate the substance of the offer.  To explain this further, another question can be asked:

Where does forgiveness take place?

Though acknowledged and continually avowed in the mind per choice, forgiveness takes place in the heart, aided by the Holy Spirit.  This applies to forgiveness both received and given.  And outward evidences surely assist in confirming sincerity.  “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10).

True faith in Christ will result in repentance as a change of conviction toward sin (particularly one’s own sin) flourishes in response to the renewing of one’s heart and mind (1 Tim. 1:5). This progression is part of growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ that we must choose to faithfully pursue lest we fall from our own steadfast discipleship (2 Peter 3:17-18).

Jesus Christ died to sin once for all (Rom. 6:10).  Yet, the actual canceling/remission of an individual’s sin is conditional upon the individual’s acceptance of the Cross.  Thus, there is no forgiveness of those who insist on trying to pay their own sin-debt and earn their way into God’s favor (John 3:36).  Thankfully, those who are forgiven have Christ’s “payment” applied to them, a most gracious Gift that advances from offered to accepted upon heartfelt cooperation with a loving Savior.

…forgiveness is a construct of and issues from a grander source : Love

-Jon Scott Birch