The Supreme Value

August 2, 2013

“I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me — that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.  He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said.”  (1 Corinthians 15: 3-4)

I have now shared with you six eternal values that are the hallmark of people who live life in Christ at its deepest level of meaning and then “graduate” into eternal life.  There is another value I must share with you because it is the supreme and absolute value, the “door” that must be opened if we are to find all these eternal values.  This seventh value is the value we place on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Let me explain.

Suppose I asked you to write your answer to this question: “What is the Gospel?”  Imagine that I asked you to accompany your answer with Scripture verse references.   How would you answer my question?

As you search the Scriptures, you will discover the seventh eternal value:  Easter is far more important than Christmas.  When the Apostle John wrote his Gospel, he devoted approximately half his twenty-one chapters to the thirty-three years Jesus lived on earth and half his chapters to just the last week Jesus lived.  Of the eighty-nine combined chapters of the four Gospels, four chapters cover the birth and first thirty years Jesus lived, while twenty-seven chapters cover the last week Jesus lived.  Why is the last week of the life of Jesus so very important, and why is Easter far more important than Christmas?

Easter is when Jesus died and rose again for our salvation. The cry of the church all over the world on Resurrection Sunday is:

He is risen, indeed.   


Metamorphosis

July 30, 2013

“…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”          . (1Corinthians 15:50)

Another arresting statement made by Paul in his great resurrection chapter is that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, because corruption cannot inherit incorruption.  What Paul means by this statement is that we cannot go to heaven with a physical body.  When God decides that He wants us in heaven, He must perform a metamorphosis on us that prepares us to spend eternity with Him in heaven.  God works that miracle metamorphosis through our death and resurrection.

As Paul describes the resurrection of believers at the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ he also tells us that those who are living when Jesus returns will be changed.  They must be changed because they cannot enter into heaven with their physical bodies.  They, too, must experience a miracle metamorphosis to prepare them for heaven.

Here Paul is declaring a sixth eternal value:  our heavenly bodies will be so much greater than our physical bodies we must experience a metamorphosis to live forever in heaven.  This is just one more way the Scripture consistently tells us that heaven is greater than earth and the best things in life for believers await them in the eternal dimension of life.

The Shepherd Psalm of David tells us that God makes us lie down to discover the green pastures and still waters of life.  But, then we get up again and the green pastures turn brown and the still waters become disturbed.  Many see a metaphor of the believer’s death as the Great Shepherd coming into our life making us lie down in death that He might give us the green pastures that never turn brown and the still waters that never become disturbed in heaven.


Little Clay Pots

July 24, 2013

“Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”   (2 Corinthians 4: 16)

Many years ago when John Quincy Adams began crossing a street, he was in such poor health it took him five minutes to approach the other side.  A friend who was passing that way asked, “How is John Quincy Adams this morning?”  He replied, “John Quincy Adams is doing just fine.  The house he lives in is in sad disrepair.  In fact, it is so dilapidated, John Quincy Adams may have to move out soon, but John Quincy Adams is doing just fine, thank you!”

John Quincy Adams was no doubt acquainted with the verse of Scripture I have quoted.  Paul writes that we have an outward man and an inward man.  In two of my favorite translations the outward man, or our body, is referred to as a common earthenware jar and a little clay pot (JB Phillips and the Living Bible Paraphrased.)

Paul declares a fourth eternal value: Our inward man is a greater value than our outward man. These verses Paul wrote to console those who were persecuted at that time are also a consolation for persecuted believers today or those who may be in the final stages of cancer that is causing their physical bodies to perish.  When they have prayed for healing and it appears that God is taking them home, their inward man can be renewed while their outward man is wasting away.

As some believers study the resurrection chapter they want to believe they will hold on to their physical body.  The great news is God is going to replace our little clay pots with spiritual bodies.


A Spiritual Body

July 19, 2013

“It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”  (1 Corinthians 15:44)

Have you ever seen a dragonfly with its double wings moving like a helicopter from one flower to another?  This amazing creature actually begins its life under water.  For about two years it exists as a shellfish with a long narrow body like a knitting needle.

If you did a cross section on that shellfish you would find that it has two respiratory capacities.  With one it can absorb oxygen from passing water through its body like other shellfish; however, it has another respiratory system that will one day breathe air.

When the two years of its underwater life have ended it rises to the surface of the water, moves to where land begins, dries its magnificent wings in the sun and then begins the second dimension of its existence.

The Apostle Paul writes that we are also designed to live our life in two dimensions and God has provided a body for us to live in each place.  He has given us a body so we can live on earth and a body so we can live in heaven.  Paul labels our earthly body “a natural body” and our heavenly body “a spiritual body.”  He then identifies a third spiritual value:  A spiritual body is a greater value than a natural body. 

Since I have spent several decades trapped in a quadriplegic body I really resonate with Paul when he declares that a spiritual body is prepared for me.  How I look forward to that spiritual body that will not have the limitations of my present body.  With great joy I anticipate the spiritual body God has prepared and Christ has made possible for me.

Do you value your spiritual body?


Temporal and Eternal

July 16, 2013

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you,  the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”    (John 17:3)

To appreciate eternal values we must define these two words.  The word “eternal” literally means “that which was, that which is, and that which always shall be.”  The word “temporal” relates to that which is temporary.

Jesus made it clear that we have eternal life because we are related to the true God and the One Whom He has sent.  They are eternal and we have eternal life because we are related to them.  We must also make the observation that the words “eternal life” are referring to a quality of life as well as a quantity of life.

The word “value” also needs to be defined.  The dictionaries tell us “a value is that quality of any certain thing by which it is determined by us to be more or less important, useful, profitable and therefore desirable.” When we bring these two concepts together we should realize we are discussing what is more or less important, useful, profitable and therefore desirable in this life and in the life to come.

A second eternal value is that the eternal is a greater value than the temporal.  The Apostle Paul wrote: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable (1 Corinthians 15:19 NKJV).  Paul so highly valued the eternal he sacrificed his life here for the rewards he was sure awaited him in eternity.  If there were no eternal dimension he should be pitied.

Do you value the eternal more than the temporal?


In Step with Eternal Values

July 13, 2013

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”   (2 Corinthians 4:18)

According to C. S. Lewis, “Life was not meant for pleasure only, nor for ease, but for discipline.  Not for temporal, but for eternal values; not for the satisfying of a life here on earth, but for the development of a life for heaven.”   He also wrote that “the clergy have been set aside and trained to look after what concerns us as creatures who are going to live forever.”

Some believers live as if their life span is everything and eternity is nothing, while some live as if eternity is everything and their life span is nothing.  Some are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good while some are so earthly minded they are no heavenly good.  As in everything there is a need for balance, but there are many Scriptures that exhort us to be more heavenly minded and to hold eternity’s values in view while we live out our lives here on earth.

One eternal value is that the invisible is a greater value than the visible.  A reason for this is described in the verse above.  What is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.  The Old Testament prophets were called “Seers” because they saw the unseen God and many things God wanted them to see and then share with the people of God.

God is a Spirit and a spirit is unseen.  We are told in the Scripture that faith is the evidence of that which we cannot see.  Do you value that which you cannot see more than what you can see?


Applied Resurrection

March 29, 2013

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NKJV)

A mother of small twin daughters realized her bone marrow transplants were not going to work.  In beautiful handwriting she wrote out The Living Bible Paraphrase of three chapters written by Paul about resurrection.  When she gave them to me she asked me to explain them at her memorial service simply so her daughters would understand them.

The first was the great resurrection chapter of the Bible, the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians.  The other two were the fourth and fifth chapters of Second Corinthians.  I call these last two chapters: “Applied Resurrection.”

The first application of the resurrection of Christ is that just as Jesus was buried and raised from the dead, we are buried in the hope of our own resurrection.  If that is not going to happen we should be pitied because we suffered for Christ in this life.

If you want to have a personal Easter I challenge you to read these three chapters slowly and devotionally in a good translation or paraphrase you can understand like The Living Bible Paraphrase or The Message.

C.S. Lewis told us the clergy are people who have been set aside to remind us that we are creatures who are going to live forever.  They are also to teach us that life is a school in which we are to learn eternal values.

Applied Resurrection teaches us that though our outward man is perishing, it is possible for our inward man to be renewed every day while we’re learning to appreciate the difference between the visible and the invisible, the temporal and eternal values.

May your Easter be a time of reflection on eternal resurrection values.


Why Hope?

March 24, 2013

“I would have despaired, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  (Psalm 27:13)

The Apostle Paul concludes his great love chapter by profiling three eternal values: faith, hope and love.  We know that love is an eternal value because God is loveWe can also understand why faith is one of the three eternal values because faith brings us to God.  But why is hope one of the three great eternal values?

God plants hope, or the conviction that something good exists in this world, in the heart of every human being.  When you get into the lives of many people and understand their battles and challenges you cannot help but wonder how they could believe there is something good in this life.

When I was in college my dormitory was located at the end of Hope Street in Los Angeles adjacent to the Los Angeles Public Library.  The same day I learned in a course that more than 25,000 people committed suicide in 1952 because they lost hope, a man committed suicide by jumping from the top of my dormitory.

The newspaper reporter who recorded the story was more eloquent than he knew when he wrote: “An unidentified man jumped to his death today from a tall building at the end of Hope Street.”

David knew that he would despair if he ever lost that conviction God put in his heart the Bible labels hope.  Hope is an eternal value because it is meant to lead us to faith, and faith is to lead us to God.

Let your hope bring you to faith and your faith to God.  And remember that people around you are despairing without that hope you have.


A Fruitful Legacy

January 20, 2012

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My name.” (John 15:16 NIV)

Jesus had been with the apostles for three years when He spoke these words.  It was as if these men had been in a three-year seminary with Jesus with no days off  – no weekends, holidays or summers.  It was just Jesus 24/7.  He was now about to be arrested and suffer all the things Mel Gibson so graphically portrayed in his film about the Passion of Jesus Christ.

These words must have fallen like a bombshell on these men.  They had all made choices.  But He now informed them that He had made the choices.  He had chosen them.  They had not chosen Him.  He chose them for a purpose.  That purpose was that they were to be fruitful.  They were to bring forth fruit that lasts.

That is the definition of what we call a legacy or legacy giving.  A legacy is fruit that lasts long after we have gone home to be with God for all eternity.

By application, we do not choose Jesus and take Him into our plans.  He chooses us that He might take us into His plans.  It is not all about us – it’s all about Him. Jesus adds the commentary that when we understand this, God will start answering our prayers.

Mother Teresa told us that the only safe, sure, wise, and lasting investment is what we give to God.  Have you produced fruit for Christ that will last beyond your lifetime?  Wouldn’t you like to leave a legacy of lasting eternal values?


A Priority Focus

January 13, 2012

“But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me…” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Picture your priorities as a target with a bull’s eye surrounded by a dozen circles.  As you think and pray about your priorities, what would you call the bull’s eye of your priority target?  Once you have determined that, how would you label the dozen circles that surround your bull’s eye?

Great men of God like Paul could reduce their priorities down to one thing.  Paul’s one thing was to forget what is behind and strain forward to win the prize at the end of the race.  That prize was what God was calling him to do.

Can we reduce the forty eleven things that are spreading us thin down to one thing?  If we were to do so what would that one thing be?  Sometimes there is great wisdom in forgetting the things that are behind.  Then there are times when there is even greater wisdom in determining our one thing type of goal for the future.  How do we do that?

One way is to consider what we might call the “eternal values.”   None of the things we are going to leave behind when God calls us home are worth living for while we are here.  Jesus told us: “…  This is… life, that they may know You … and Jesus Christ …” (John 17:3).

Would knowing God and Christ be an eternally focused bull’s eye for our priority target this year?  Think of how that priority focus will dramatically affect the dozen circles that surround it when our life becomes an expression of the life of God and the risen living Christ.