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One last bit of background before we jump into the verse by verse (mostly) look at the Song.

The Song is a short book as compared to other books like Genesis with its 50 chapters or Isaiah with its 66. It is made up of 8 chapters and a total of 117 verses. It would not be a difficult matter to memorize the entire song.

In this short song, there are 470 unique words used by the author.

  • 47 of these words (fully 10%) are not found anywhere else scripture.
  • 51 are used 5 times or less outside of the Song.
  • 45 are used 6 – 10 times.
  • 27 are used 11-20 times.

That leaves us with 300 common words.

Since this is an ancient language, many of these unique words are not found outside the Song either. For this reason, much of what we understand about this work must be derived by context and interpretation.

As striking as these unique words that fill the book, perhaps more strange is what is missing. There is no mention of God in the Song or any of the normal names for God.  But that is not all. It also does not contain any of the major religious words of the Old Testament, such as glory, mercy-seat, throne, ark, ram, ox, bull, altar, offering, evil, law, faithful, truth, atonement, sin, honor, bless, prophet, save and many more. This Song stands distinct from all other literature in the canon of scripture. This uniqueness tends to explain why there are so many different ways people look at this song, and why we need to keep from being too dogmatic about our approach to it.[i]

My Goals:

  • Each one who reads this blog will take the Song into their own prayer life.
  • We would identify ourselves in the Song.
  • We would each see and sense God’s passion for us.
  • We would each see God’s passion for every believer.
  • Each of us will take steps toward greater spiritual maturity. I would define this as, a passion for working with Christ in His ministry toward others.

Come back next week as we start in earnest to look at this wonderful Song of Songs.


[i] The Song of Solomon – an Introduction and Commentary – G. Lloyd Carr – Intervarsity Press – 1984 pp 41-42

BenHeadshotThanks for reading today.

Come back next week.

See you next week.

Ben

Hi all,

Today and tomorrow I'm going to re-air 2 posts from three years ago about the nature of Jesus. I think these two posts will bless you and I pray we would together turn our eyes toward Jesus. Here we go.

===

Let's dig into Jesus’ answer to Philip’s request:

Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." - John 14:8

Have you been pondering this passage?

Here is what jumps out at me – Now normally I would put all these words in red, this being Another Red Letter Day, but today I am going to paint a just a few words in blue so they stand out.

It would be awesome if you read this out loud (or out quiet) but I want it to be oral. The more faculties you involve the more tuned in you are, so let’s have a faculty party today.

Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. "After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. "In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." ~ John 14:9-21

I know, that is kind of a big chunk of scripture for a blog post, but as you can see from what is highlighted, there are some pretty strong ties from top to bottom.

Here is what I saw as I pondered this passage.

There are two (or maybe three) aspects Jesus emphasizes, that He says will enable us to see the Father.

Indwelling, or cohabitation

The first is the fact that, as He says, “I am in the Father.” This He says three times, and two of these are followed with “and the Father is in Me.” He tells Philip and the rest of the disciples that they can know God. They can “see the Father” right before their eyes because Jesus is indwelt by the Father.

The best way for them to see God was to look at Jesus.

Words and Works

The second way they could see God was to look at the things Jesus was saying and doing, His words and works. He actually tells them that if they were not sure what to believe about Jesus’ relationship with God, this indwelling thing, they should believe just because of the works He was doing. He was… – well as Luke tells us:

You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. - Acts 10:38

Jesus, because God was with Him, the Spirit of God dwelling on the inside, did works that demonstrated God, His character, and nature.

We read again in my favorite of all scriptures (I am pretty sure this is the top of my top ten list:)

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, - Hebrews 1:1-3

We see here that Jesus is not "like" God, fuzzy around the edges, like what the prophets taught, according to verse 1. Instead, Jesus is the “exact representation of His nature.” He is not a partial image, where He is only depicting "the good parts" of who God is, but Jesus is a complete revelation of God. If you don’t find it in Jesus, it is not in God. Jesus is the complete study guide to God the Father. Jesus is perfect theology. [Tweet This] There is nothing in Jesus that is not in God, and there is nothing in God that is not in Jesus. And God has seen to it that what is recorded in the Word about Jesus is enough of a revelation for us to know the Father.

So my first takeaway is pretty simple. The best way to know God, and what God is like is to look at Jesus, His words and His works. He, Jesus, tells us this repeatedly and these other passages reinforce this idea, that He only ever did what God was doing, or would do, and His words were coming straight from the throne of God.

But Jesus does not stop here. He does not simply say, you want to see God look at Me! He takes it to a place that changes everything.

Come back tomorrow, and we will see as the other shoe drops.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by.

See you again soon. In the mean time…

Shine where you are screwed in.

Ben

6

The path

The path of knowledge.

Do you know this path? Have you walked this path of knowledge - of knowing.

The path of knowledge is not a bad path.

But is it the straight and narrow path the Lord has set before us?

Jesus said,

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. - John 14:6

When Jesus says “follow me” and “I am the truth” does it militate for a ‘knowledge above all’ mentality?

What if you walk the path of knowledge all your days—does it bring you to the pearly gates?

Perhaps

It probably will get you to the gate—but according to Jesus, many will make it to the gate, and never get in.

You can be on the right path—going the right way—believing all the right stuff—with an impeccable doctrinal pedigree—and never cross the threshold of the kingdom of God.

When I was a young child I was taught that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. These words accompanied every evangelism method I ever learned in some form or another.

And yet, most of my life I sought after knowledge, rather than intimacy. My need to be right—correct—trumped my commitment to relationship over and over again. More than once, I walked out of relationship—out of community—because I valued doctrine above relationship.

We protestants are really good at this.

We leave fellowship, even split congregations over doctrinal disagreement.

Here are just a few of the disagreements that split churches:

End-times Theology

Creation Theology

Spiritual Gifts and their relevance today

Mode of baptism

Worship style

You get the idea. We put our opinions—thoughts—ideas—above our love.

We crucify relationship to protect the truth.

If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. - 1 Corinthians 13:2 NASB

One thing that makes this so hard it that Jesus self identifies as the Truth. He is the Word. He is the embodiment of everything that can be known.

And yet God, in His infinite wisdom, puts Truth in flesh so we can see Him, hear Him, touch Him, grasp Him. Then God, in His infinite love, crucifies the Truth, nails Him to the cross. And why?

Our Father crucified the Truth to restore relationship.

Paul puts it this way:

…having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. - Colossians 2:14 NKJV

He took His own Word - the Law and nailed it to the cross.

And why?

To take the law out of the way.

The law—and this path of knowledge—the way of being right—is a road block to our relationship with God. It had to be taken out of the way so that love could flourish.

Is knowing important? Yes—but not as important as loving.

Ben NelsonHave a wonderful day!

Walk in the light.

BenEncouter cover samples covers only

Reminder—If you are willing to write a blog post or review for my new book “Encounters With Jesus,” email me and I’ll send you a free PDF of the pre-release manuscript.

Send your email to ben@AnotherRedLetterDay.com

Thanks!

2

My Christmas Gift

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Here's a rebroadcast from a couple years ago that I think you will enjoy - Merry Christmas!

God is the ultimate giver. I was thinking about this, and wondered if I could catch God giving in every book of the Bible. Most of the books of the Bible have way more than one gift from God. This is a very – VERY – limited.

He Gave:

Genesis – a covering for sin - 3:21
Exodus - the law – 20:1-17
Leviticus – the scapegoat – 16:10
Numbers – a bronze serpent for healing – 21:9
Deuteronomy – Salvation and Victory – 33:29
Joshua – a leader, Captain of the Lord’s army – 5:15
Judges – a deliverer – 3:9,15
Ruth – a Kinsman Redeemer – 4:1
1 Samuel – a giant killer – 17 
2 Samuel – a shepherd king – 5:2
1 Kings – His presence dwelling in His temple – 9:3
2 Kings – Eyes to see into the spirit realm – 6:17
1 Chronicles – mighty men of valor - 11
2 Chronicles – His presence in the temple – 7:14
Ezra – Protection to temple builders - 6
Nehemiah – rebuilt walls – 6:15
Esther – a happy ending – 10:1-3
Job – double restoration – 42:10
Psalms – sins forgiven, diseases healed – 103:3
Proverbs – Wisdom – 8:1-31
Ecclesiastes – Time – 3:1-8
Song of Solomon – Romance – 8:7
Isaiah – The Messiah – 7:14, 9:6-7, 53
Jeremiah – a hope and a future – 29:11
Laminations – new mercy every morning – 3:23
Ezekiel – assignments as watchmen – 3 & 33
Daniel – miraculous signs and wonders – 4:2
Hosea – Love when we were unfaithful – 3:1
Joel – prophesies, dreams and visions – 2:23
Amos – His word to proclaim – 3:8
Obadiah – Deliverance – 1:17
Jonah – His enemies repentance – 3:10
Micah – a ruler from ancient times – 5:2
Nahum – a just punishment – 1:3
Habakkuk – a revelation for a set time – 2:3
Zephaniah –Justice – 3:5
Haggai – the fear of the Lord – 1:12
Zechariah – a fountain to cleanse us from our sin – 13:1
Malachi – the Sun of righteousness with healing – 4:2
Matthew – great rewards – 6:6
Mark – a King making His triumphal entry – 11:10
Luke – a Father to come home to – 15:24
John – His Only Begotten Son – 3:16
Acts – His Holy Spirit – 2:1-4
Romans – sonship – 8:15
1 Corinthians – The gifts of the Spirit – 12:1-11
2 Corinthians – Spiritual weapons – 10:3-6
Galatians – The Fruit of the Spirit 5:22-23
Ephesians – The full armor of God – 6:10-18
Philippians – righteousness through faith – 3:9
Collisions – redemption, forgiveness of sins – 1:14
1 Thessalonians – the Word of God – 2:13
2 Thessalonians – a share in Jesus’ glory – 2:14
1 Timothy – abundant grace – 1:14
2 Timothy – all scripture – 3:16
Titus – Salvation – 2:10
Philemon –every good thing – 1:6
Hebrews – access to the throne – 4:16
James  – every good and perfect gift – 1:17
1 Peter – pure spiritual milk – 2:2
2 Peter – all things that pertain to life and godliness – 1:3
1 John – forgiveness to those who confess 1:9
2 John – grace, mercy and peace – 1:3
3 John – prosperity and good health 1:2
Jude – prayer in the Holy Spirit – 1:20
Revelation – The Lamb of God – 1:6

Go thou and do likewise!

Be a giver this Christmas.

11

Jesus Heals a Leper

The stories and news reports were reaching my little village and a spark of hope began to spring up, perhaps for the first time since the day I pulled my shirt over my head to get into bed that night nearly four years ago. My wife asked me about the white splotch under my left arm.

I had to pack my things, leave my home, my wife of nine years, and my three beautiful children, and go live with the lepers.

Some say there is no way out of this village, but I have seen many leave. Their destination? The grave. Welcome to No Hope Flats, my home.

Jesus meets a leper in Matthew 8.

This leper put into words the thought a great number of good God honoring Christ followers have every day:

Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean. ~ Matthew 8:2

A number of things intrigue me about this statement.

He acknowledges Jesus as Lord.
He doesn’t question the ability of Jesus to heal.
He doesn’t actually ask Jesus a question.

He begins on a very good footing. He calls Jesus “Lord.” This is as much a fact today as when He walked the shores of Galilee. Jesus is Lord. As He sat on the hillside teaching, the people could tell – they knew this was not some gifted teacher. The authority which He carried declared it.

He had demonstrated right from the start of His ministry that sickness and disease were under His authority, and the leper had, no doubt, heard these stories. He, our leprous friend, does not wonder about Jesus’ ability. He is confident that he has come to the one man who could set him free from this living death of leprosy.

He does however have ONE HUGE QUESTION that is stuck right in the center of his being.

Will He or won’t He?

He does not frame it as a question though. It is almost as though if he asked the Lord the question, it would force an answer, and the thing he dreads even more than living with his disease is going back to the land of no hope.

When Jesus comes on the scene suddenly hope springs up. It stands boldly on our friends splotchy right shoulder saying – ask Him, ask Him, ask Him. But in his left ear he hears some familiar words. I bet you have heard some of these in your left ear.

  • You deserve this disease
  • You certainly don't deserve healing
  • He won’t help the likes of you
  • Maybe if you were a better father (mother, son, daughter)
  • Maybe if you were a better Christian (prayed more, served harder, slept less, ate less)

You no doubt have heard others. That left shoulder liar has a HUGE repertoire to shut down hope.

Today there are a few words I want you to hear. I want you to hear Jesus speak them to you. If you can identify with our leprous friend, I want you to read these next few lines out loud – YES out loud – do it – really – it’s important that you hear Jesus' answer to this unspoken question.

I am willing; be cleansed. ~ Matthew 8:3
I am willing; be cleansed. ~ Luke 5:13
I am willing; be cleansed. ~ Mark 1:41

Just in case you are not sure you understand what Jesus said, here is Matthew's account in a few different translations (keep reading out loud – it will help)

I am willing; be cleansed by being cured. AMP
I do want to. Become clean. CEB
I want to! Now you are well. CEV
I want to heal you. Be healed! ERV
I will; be clean. ESV
Of course I want to. Be clean! JBP (I love this one!)
I will; be thou clean. KJV
I do choose. Be made clean! NRSV
Of course I wish to. Be clean. VOICE

Are you getting the point. There is no equivocation here. Jesus takes this non-question, these waves of doubt and hope that are tossing our new friend to and fro, and calms them with this one phrase.

I want you to hear Him speak these words today, and not just in your right ear, but in your inner most being. “I Will, be clean.

BenThanks for coming by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

====

This was originally posted in June of 2013. It encouraged me this morning, and I hope it encourages you too!

====

Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation; Common English Bible (CEB) Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible; Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society; Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) Copyright © 2006 by World Bible Translation Center; English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.; J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS) J. B. Phillips, "The New Testament in Modern English", 1962 edition by HarperCollins; King James Version (KJV) by Public Domain; New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.; The Voice (VOICE) The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

Thanks to Pastor J. for the Church Photo - Check out his blog - Lillie-Put: http://josephelonlillie.com/

When I started this pondering about the Sabbath, I really thought – two or three posts – I had no idea of going 2 weeks. Monday I start Christmas I promise, and later this morning you can be looking for a quickie birth announcement, as my first grand-baby is coming this morning.

There is one last passage that I want to toss briefly into the mix. It's in Hebrews. Actually half of the third chapter and all of the fourth deal with Sabbath and entering into the rest prepared for us. We could have a lengthy Bible study on this passage, and it would be really worthwhile going verse by verse, but I do not have time here and now to dig in. Perhaps in the new year. For now – a couple key concepts.

The rest God offers is entered by faith.

For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. - Hebrews 4:2

This faith was demonstrated in obedience, or perhaps I should say lack of faith was demonstrated by disobedience.

Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, - Hebrews 4:6

There is yet a place of rest available for our entry.

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. - Hebrews 4:9

We must find this tension of living in the rest God has provided and striving for a rest yet to be entered.

Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. - Hebrews 4:11

In this letter to the Hebrew Christians, the writer exhorts them toward faith, diligence and obedience.

Lest you be compelled into some legalistic observance of old law, I want you to understand that these three are one.

We are not called to believe facts and creeds, and enter by the sweat of our brow in religious labor, and the keeping of hundreds of ceremonial laws.

The “work” you (we) are called to, is faith, and what faith looks like is abiding. Living in Christ, living, seated in heavenly places in and with Christ. Hearing His voice and responding to it daily. This is the call.

Loving Him and His people, these are the commands He has given, and this is what faith looks like.

Love is the path to rest. [Tweet This]

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

Have a blessed day

And for now you can call me

Grampa Ben (watch for the announcement later today [big smile])

 

7

Shining through

So what does the Sabbath point to?

I realize I never really got to the Sabbath yesterday because I was so taken with the picture of circumcision. That really got me yesterday, and if you missed it, check the tail end of yesterday’s post.

Back to the Sabbath though, the passage we’ve been poking around all week – Colossians 2:16 ends with dashes in my Bible.

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- - Colossians 2:16

So the next verse really needs to be included in the conversation too!

…things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. - Colossians 2:17

I love it in the New Living Translation:

For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. - Colossians 2:17 NLT

I know some of you, in the comments have mentioned this, and it has taken me a long time to get here, but hey – I’m plodding here.

Jesus Christ is the reality – the Greek word here is body, so you could say that Jesus is the embodiment of the Sabbath. He is a living breathing Sabbath. He is rest personified. He demonstrates what it means to keep the Sabbath everyday.

And to take it one step further, as I am want to do, this word body – σῶμα – sōma – is the same word used here:

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. - 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

If then Christ is the embodiment of the Sabbath, and we are the body – embodiment – of Christ, does it not stand to reason that our live ought to be a walking demonstration of Sabbath?

In case you are not sure the answer is an emphatic yes!

But wait Ben, it sounds like you are saying Christians should lay around doing nothing. Doesn’t rest mean no work? Didn’t God tell us to stop our labors on the Sabbath? If we live in a constant state of Sabbath, how will anything get done?

Oh – I am glad you asked, because there are some red letters that will help us with this little paradox.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. - Matthew 11:28-30

Christianity is a state of working at rest.

We rest from our labors to earn a place with God.

Jesus’ work on the cross earned us that place.

We rest from our labors to earn forgiveness.

Jesus’ blood purchased forgiveness once and for all.

We take up our work in the kingdom of God.

Jesus’ yoke is easy and burden is light.

This idea of a yoke, is one of work, but not solo work, work in partnership with Jesus. Like two oxen plowing a field, it is God’s plan to link you up with Jesus, and for the two of you to do the work He ordained for you, and created you for.

So, in the same way that He has prepared heaven and a future home for every one in covenant with Him yet He calls us to be seated in heavenly places today, so it is that He has prepared a future rest for each of us that is yet to be seen, yet the cross provides a Sabbath rest for us today.

The real work of appeasing and pleasing God was completed with the words, “It is finished.” That was the violent and bloody cutting off of your sin, the once and for all burial of your transgressions, the completion of your reconciliation to the Father. All that is left for you to do today is place your faith in THAT work, that finished work.

I pray for you today, that you will stop your working to earn favor with God, and rest in the favor that Jesus bought for you.

You can enter covenant with Jesus right now, if you have never done so. Simply come clean with Him about how you never have been able to “measure up.” It’s not like He doesn’t already know, but He wants you to own your sin, to confess it, and then to give it to Him. In confessing your sin - it is best to name it, out loud every sin you can remember. Be honest with God. Remember, He already knows, but in saying it out loud, you are putting it in Christ's tomb. Next time you look in there it will be empty! Confession breaks your old sin's hold on you. It gives you a place to point when satan tries to accuse you. "Look satan, I put it over there in that empty tomb and it is GONE!!!" [Tweet This]

Once you give Him your sin, and see that His blood on the cross paid the price for it, there is nothing between you and a wonderful relationship with your Father and mine. Simply ask Jesus to be the Lord of your life.

The Bible promises:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, - John 1:12

The only thing left to do is to put your faith, your trust, your life into His hands.

If you have done that while reading this post there a couple things I would ask you to do. (What more work?)

Tell somebody, someone you know if a Christian.
Plug into a local body – a good Bible believing church.
Start reading the Bible for yourself. If you don’t have a bible – go to http://www.blueletterbible.org/ or http://www.biblegateway.com/ and start reading. I suggest starting with Mark because you will get to know Jesus quickly.

Lastly, I would love you to tell me about it – either in the comments below or you can email  me: Ben@AnotherRedLetterDay.com

What a great way to start Christmas at Another Red Letter Day.

Ben NelsonThanks for reading today.

See you again soon.

Ben

Here is a related post you may enjoy: Remember to Rest

9

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My friend Felecia from A Life Sanctified (a wonderful blog, I highly recommend you follow) asks:

Q: Ephesians 6:12 says (in the NLT) “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

As you probably know, I did a blog post on this verse and purposely didn’t address what falls after the last comma because I don’t really understand it. I’ve always been a touch concerned about the “evil spirits in heavenly places.” WHY would God allow evil spirits in Heaven? Is “heavenly places” some peripheral part of Heaven? Perhaps just outside the pearly gates where Pinkerton’s patrol to keep out the “evil spirits?”

This is a great question Felecia, and I do have some thoughts. Admittedly some of what follows is extrapolated from what is written explicitly, but I will try to document why I believe what I believe as much as possible. The executive summary is that there are three different things referred to as "heavens" in the Bible.

The Third Heaven

Let’s start with Paul’s telling of his (we assume) trip to the “third heaven.”

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a man was caught up to the third heaven. - 2 Corinthians 12:2

From his description

was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. - 2 Corinthians 12:4

I think it is safe to say this is what you and I might call heaven, where you would find the throne room of the Almighty. This is the place described by John, Isaiah and others, the location of the sea of glass, and that heavenly worship service.

This would also be the heaven we are invited to be seated in, since it is the heaven Jesus was raised up to:

which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, … and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, - Ephesians 1:20, 2:6

The First Heaven

Then there are many references in the Bible that speak of the “heavens” that are clearly that which we can see and perceive with our natural senses.

For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. - Psalms 19:1

This to me is a precursor to Paul’s comments in Romans 1

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. - Romans 1:20

This heaven is visible and reachable if you have the right equipment all by natural means.

The Second Heaven

Then there is another aspect that the Bible speaks of as another heavenly realm, which you have referenced here.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. - Ephesians 6:12

We see it in Daniel 10 where Daniel prayed in Chapter 9 and heard nothing for twenty-one days. Finally an angelic messenger makes an entrance, and describes a battle between what I take to be “spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” and Michael the Archangel.

Then he said to me, "Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. - Daniel 10:13

Since this is for the most part an invisible realm, my understanding is that, to put it in natural terms (which will always fall a bit short in explanation of supernatural reality) it exists more or less in the same space that we are in. To think of it in SciFi terms – an alternate reality, that co-exists, and is just as real, or perhaps more real, that what we can touch and feel.

In this day and age of wireless communications, microwaves, and satellite signals, it is not a stretch for anyone to understand that there are things going on beyond what we can feel and see.

So – if that satisfies, you can stop reading here. I do have a couple further thoughts that might muddy it up a bit.

We do know that at least at one time, satan stood before the throne (I guess I am actually assuming it is in the throne room) and accused our brother Job. This has often complicated my understanding of God not allowing sin in His presence.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. - Job 1:6

I suppose that does not have to be in heaven – could have been on earth – or some other neutral territory, since long before Job was on the scene, satan was cast out of the Third heaven.

One last thing – my understanding – though I would not defend this to the death – is that the pit of hell is actually in heaven. This comes from Revelation 14:

…he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." - Revelation 14:10-11

Well – that’s enough unpleasantness for today. I hope that sheds a bit of light on the heaven question.

What do you think? Please jump in and add to, or correct what I have said. The conversation is the best part.

I bet Pastor Joe Lillie (@josephlillie) could shed more light on the matter. He is doing (and has been for quite some time) a series blogging through every mention of heaven in the Bible simply called Heaven. You should check it out.

Ben NelsonThanks much for stopping by. If you have questions of your own you would like to discuss, I would love to take a shot, and see what others have to say.

See you again soon.

Ben

5

meadows

As we consider the Sabbath and the Red letters, we come to today’s groundbreaking idea. Jesus seemed to thrive on turning the religion of the day on its head, and He sure did with this statement.

Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."- Mark 2:27

With this statement, Jesus is changing the framework through which we see all law (well all of God’s law anyway.)

Have you ever wondered how David could write that poem with 176 stanzas about his love affair with the law of God.

David understood something about the law of the Lord. I have an old Bible that has this verse on the title page:

Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. - Psalms 119:18

This is often my prayer as I open the word.

And when I read it, or pray it, I can’t help but see the word pair – “behold Wonderful” – so that my prayer runs more like this.

Lord, as I open Your word today, help me see Jesus, the Wonderful One.

The law, as we saw a couple days ago, and specifically the Sabbath was a gift from God to His people. The Sabbath is not intended as a curse or burden.

One indicator that you don’t understand God’s law, particularly under the new covenant, is when it becomes burdensome. Believe me, this happens to all of us. We look at what God is calling us into, some new level of discipleship or commitment, and we think “God, why are you putting me through this?”

When we do as the old song suggests, trust and obey, when we walk by faith and not by sight, He will lead us into more joy, more passion, more victory (perhaps more persecution, more trouble, more fiery furnaces) and ultimately more of His presence.

How often do we wield the law like a battle-axe to break others? That is what the Pharisee’s were trying to do with Jesus and the disciples. They were always finding fault. But the law of the Lord is meant to be a mirror. Consider this:

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. - James 1:23-25

As I read this, I wonder if we are getting close to an answer for the question I posed on Monday. What is the Sabbath commissioned to do in the life of a believer?

The Sabbath was made for you! It’s a gift. It is intended for your good. As you embrace it you will find that you “will be blessed in what he [you] does [do].”

Oh, while we are on the subject of the benefits of the law, and in particular the Sabbath, I have to throw in one of my favorites here.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

The law, and in particular, the Sabbath is a gift. It was made for you.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by. I will be back on this, so come back again.

For now, for today, press in!

Ben

Press Here to Exit

Yesterday, after I blogged about prosperity, I had a great day. I meditated on the word and everything I put my hand to prospered, just like Psalm 1 promised.

How blessed is the man who does not
walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.

Psalms 1:1-3

So I decided to do a little experiment.

Late in the day, I decided that rather than glory in my wonderful Lord and Savior, I would feel sorry for myself. A couple of stupid circumstances that were out of my control, or perhaps I should say were the result of my inaction, got up in my face and said to me:

“Isn’t life unfair?”

Well, I decided to agree with them for a bit –
just as an experiment you understand
in the interest of science
for you, my readers

And I am happy to report back to you that the Bible is exactly correct! (who would have thunk it, eh?)

It was as though these little, stupid (can I say stupid in a G rated blog?) circumstances had a 200 horse power leaf blower and they pointed it right at my day’s prosperity.

All my joy blew out of the room.
All of my motivation seemed to be tumbling toward the door with it.
My productivity, my focus, my drive, my plan all cycloned together and exited, stage left.

The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

Psalms 1:4-5

To test my theory just a little further, I went to bed with my eyes directly on my own plight – self-pity central.

You won’t believe what happened!

When I woke up I was right there in my funk. Can you believe it? A good night sleep didn’t clear things up at all.

So here is the big secret.

The gates that lead to the presence of the Lord, where there is ample joy, pleasure, productivity, prosperity and life for all of us to enjoy, say “To enter be THANKFUL”

Inside those gates there is one of those automatic door buttons with a sign above it that says “press here to exit.” The button itself read “Self-Pity.”

The great news is that I did eventually wise up, get up off the ground where I had been rolling in – well – you know – shook myself and began to thank God for everything I could think of.

And here’s the best part – I could here His voice almost immediately – “Welcome back son, how did that work out for you.”

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by today.

See you again soon.

Ben

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