The Water of Life

flowing-waterfallI recently learned that the story I was told as a boy about the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon searching for the Fountain of Youth is a MYTH!  Even as a youngster, I suspected that the Fountain of Youth itself was mythical, but now to learn that Ponce de Leon never actually even searched for it… It makes me think that I’ve been drinking from a fountain of gullibility all these years!

In John 4:14, Jesus promised to give water which would become in those who drank it a “fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”  Myth?  Something for the gullible to believe in?  One might think so, except for the real evidence that Jesus rose from the dead never to die again.  Hundreds of reliable witnesses attested to His resurrection, and many were willing to die rather than alter their testimony.  And then there’s that otherwise inexplicable empty tomb.  So, it seems more than credible that Jesus possesses everlasting life, and it’s no stretch at all to believe that Someone who has eternal life could share it with others.

The Scriptures describe Jesus giving us eternal life as if it were as simple as Him giving us a drink of water.   But this water is special — miraculous in fact.  What gives it its life sustaining properties?   The answer lies in the Source of the water.   Revelation 22:1 reveals that “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal” was “flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

In Chapter 11 of “Heaven: O For a Home with God,” we wrote the following:

Before God’s throne, Jesus fulfills His promise and gives “of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (Rev. 21:6).  “For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters” (Rev. 7:17).  And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17).

I’m getting thirsty.  How about you?

“There’s a fountain free, tis for you and me
Let us haste, oh haste, to its brink”

– Steve Klein


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The Way that Leads to Life

difficult wayI have written much about the glorious expectation of heaven.  If you are like me, you find strength and solace in allowing your mind to dwell on the wonders of that eternal home of the soul.   But in focusing on heaven, and cherishing it as the home we have been created to inhabit, we must be careful not to generate false expectations.  Not everyone will make it home.  In fact, most will not.

“…the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  (Matthew 7:14, ESV)

Of all of the inconvenient, unpopular truths that have ever been spoken, these few words of Jesus, uttered near the end of His sermon on the mount, may be the most troublesome for the average person.

Why is the way hard that leads to life?  What makes it so hard?

The way is hard because believing can be hard.  Whoever believes can receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:16), but believing isn’t easy.   There are impediments!  Satan makes sure of it.  He veils this world in the darkness of man-made philosophy, human suffering, false teaching, and misplaced priorities.  The apostle Paul describes this sad reality in these words: “If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

The way is hard because you have to obey the gospel and keep commandments.  The Bible declares that God will punish “those who do not obey the gospel” with “flaming fire.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).  As we’ve said, some hear the gospel, but choose not to believe it.  Others want to change or adulterate it to suit their personal preferences.  And still others believe it, but choose not to obey.  They may even express contempt and disdain for the very idea that one must obey to go to heaven.  Yet, all over the pages of the New Testament, we see that obedience is necessary for salvation, and that failing to obey is the sure path to doom.  “For those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:8).

The few who enter heaven “are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).

The way is hard because you have to give up things – passions, pleasures, possessions, and sin.  A wealthy young man came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to have eternal life (Matthew 19:16-26).  Although he’d been keeping the commandments, Jesus told the young man that he lacked one thing: He needed to give up his possessions.  “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  “And the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” 

It’s strange, but just like this young man, many find it hard to give up things they cannot keep in order to gain things they could possess for all eternity.  Jesus makes the point bluntly in Mark 9:43-48:

“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—  where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—  where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’   And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire— where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

 Yes, the way IS HARD that leads to life.  But, what an adventure it is, and what a glorious end awaits!  In the amazing words of an old hymn…

There are so many hills to climb upward,
I often am longing for rest,
But He who appoints me my pathway
Knows just what is needful and best.
I know in His word He hath promised
That my strength, “it shall be as my day”;
And the toils of the road will seem nothing,
When I get to the end of the way.

(When I Get to the End of the Way,  Charles Tillman)

 

~ Steve Klein

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The Half Has Not Been Told

It is crucial to think about heaven. Think about this, if we spend eternity there, all but a tiny, tiny speck of our entire existence will be spent there. Why do we get so wrapped up in this world when the time we will spend here is only a small blip on the radar compared to eternity?  Shouldn’t we think about heaven?

But there’s one thing we must know, even after reading what the Bible has to offer on describing heaven, I’m still convinced “the half has not been told.”  Heaven’s glories will still surpass even what God, with human words, has sought to tell us about it.  We will just have to plan to see it for ourselves.

It reminds me of the story when the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon in God’s nation of Israel.

Sheba Travel
No matter how long and difficult the journey was, the Queen of Sheba was determined to see God’s kingdom. How much more we should desire to make the journey to Heaven!

She traveled a thousand miles through desert territory to see Solomon’s kingdom.  Such a journey must have been hard, but is was certainly worth it.  Even more so, heaven will be worth the journey for us.  No matter what trials we face, we press through them all just to see the city.  “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God”  (Acts 14:22).

The queen was quite wealthy herself and yet God’s kingdom “took her breath away.”  The text says when saw it, “There was no more spirit in her” (1 Kings 10:5).  It was a place with unmatched wisdom found in its leader, a place of beauty and a place filled with wonderful riches.  When she saw the kingdom, she said, “I did not believe the words until I came and saw it with my own eyes, and indeed, the half was not told me.  Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard” (1 Kings 10:7 – emphasis mine).

All the earth sought the presence of Solomon, who surpassed all the kings in riches and wisdom (1 Kings 10:23-24).  If that was people’s desire for Solomon, how much more so should we seek THE KING who gave him such riches.  Solomon would have been nothing without the Lord.

ShebaBeforeKing
Imagine the moment when the Queen of Sheba saw the king and the glories of his kingdom. Such a moment is coming for the Christian…in heaven.

The kingdom of Solomon was filled with gold, for silver “was accounted as nothing in the days of Solomon” (1 Kings 10:21).

Imagine it.  Silver was counted as NOTHING!  It reminds me of heaven where there is a street of gold (Rev. 21:21).  In fact, the city itself is pure gold (Rev. 21:18).  As we stated in a previous post, the place is surely fabulous when gold is the asphalt!  Eclipsing all of this is the glory of the One we most desire to see.  Our God.  King of Kings!

Why did Solomon enjoy all of this?  It was because God loved him and delighted in him (1 Kings 10:9).  But dear friend, the same can be done for you if you become a Christian and live your life for God.  God is ready to pour out all the riches of heaven upon you.  Read carefully these verses.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”  (Ephesians 2:4-7, emphasis mine)

And what will your reaction be?  I’m pretty sure it will be something like, “This place exceeds everything I ever imagined.  The half was not told me.”  Heaven!!  Don’t miss it for the world.

– Jeff May

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The Saved and the Innocent: Making Heaven Brighter

fatherchildIt is hard to imagine a world so bright and glorious that even the sun and moon could add nothing to its illumination.  But there is such a world.  For Christians, it’s the world to come, and it’s called heaven.

As John saw the heavenly city, he described it as a place that “had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.  And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it” (Revelation 21:23-24).

There is something fascinating in that description.  God’s glory illuminates heaven.  There is no need of sun nor moon.  Yet, MORE glory and honor is brought into the city by those who inhabit it.  It’s as if, unable to be made more glorious by any physical source of light, heaven is somehow beautified by the light-filled beings who enter in.

Every human being who as ever lived will inhabit eternity…somewhere.  Those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus will dwell eternally in heaven (Revelation 5:9).  Other beings will be there as well.  Angels to be sure, but also innocent children.

When a husband and wife, through the providence of God, conceive a child in this world, an immortal soul has its inception.  If the child passes from this life in the womb, or anytime before adulthood, the Scriptures indicate that the child is safe and will enter the heavenly abode — “for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:13-14).

It is a painful and traumatic experience to lose a child; it is an experience that my wife and I have had, and that my parents also went through.  But there is comfort in the hope of being with the child in the world to come.  When King David’s infant son died, he said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23).

The desire of a loving parent to spend eternity with an innocent child who has passed on can be very powerful.  In fact, it can change the entire trajectory of a person’s life.  And ultimately, it changes heaven itself.  In the glorious light of God’s presence, the sweet presence of innocent children will surely make heaven all the more extraordinary.

May every adult who has been touched by the loss of a child be inspired to seek the comfort that the child as found in heaven.

 — Steve Klein

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Have You Noticed The Robes?

whiterobesIn the book of Revelation, the apostle John is given the thrill of a lifetime — the opportunity to see into heaven itself.  In Revelation 7:9, he sees, “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.”  The scene is fascinating.  It’s not just one thing catches your attention.  Everything does.  The throne.  The Lamb.  The size of the numberless multitude with palm branches.  And every one of them is clothed in a white robe.

But how could so many human souls have robes that are white when our own righteousness is like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6)?  John is told how.  All of these people who are gathered around the throne of God in glistening white garments “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).

Two things about the robes must not escape our notice:  First, the people in heaven had washed their robes.  Did you get that?  They had washed their own robes.  Nobody did it for them.  They had taken action.  Second, the robes had been made white in the blood of the Lamb.  There would have been no opportunity for anyone to wash their robes had the Lamb not provided His cleansing blood!  We have access by faith into grace.  God provides the blood through His grace (Ephesians 1:7).  We apply it to our souls in faithful obedience to the gospel.  “You have purified your souls in obeying the truth…” (1 Peter 1:22).

I long to stand before the throne of God adorned in a robe clean and white.  Don’t you?   The Lamb of God has provided the cleansing agent so that we might wash our robes!

So, with your mind’s eye, take a look again at what John saw.  Notice the robes!  All of the robes of all of the redeemed before God’s throne are white robes.  None are spotted.  None are stained.  Wouldn’t a dirty, stained or soiled robe be out of place in such a scene?  Wash your robe!  No matter how filthy and grimy it has become, no matter how long the stains have set in, not matter how you’ve failed in your efforts to conceal those embarrassing black blotches, no matter what a wretched sinner you have been, be assured of this one thing:

There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

 – Steve Klein

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Why Do You Stand Gazing?

Anything that lifts our eyes upward and sets our minds on the heavenly things is a blessing indeed. On Tuesday of this past week a very rare cloud formation appeared over Costa Rica. And as you will hear in the video, it made the videographer think of the Lord’s return.

These things we know:

The Lord is coming again (Acts 1:9-11).
He will return in the clouds.
The lost will be separated from Him (2 Thess. 1:8-9).
Saints will admire the sight of Him.
Saints will rise to meet Him in the air and ever be with Him (1 Thess. 4:17).
He will come “as thief in the night” (unannounced), hence the need to always be ready (2 Pet. 3:10-11).

Enjoy the YouTube video and remember to look in the clouds often. Think of Him, prepare to meet Him by obeying His gospel and live faithfully ’til the day He arrives. Oh, for a home with God!

– Jeff May

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Lapho Ezulwini (There in Heaven)

Heaven is not a home for me alone. It’s not just for people who look like me, live in my country and speak my language. Heaven will be home to all the redeemed of all the ages from every corner of the globe. The apostle John was privileged to view our heavenly home, and he “looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes…” (Rev. 7:9).

If you are like me, you have probably considered some aspects of this before. You may have wondered if you will see your loved ones and relatives in heaven. You’ve probably imagined getting to meet great Christians like Peter and Paul there. It will be their home too. But have you ever tried to picture all the people on earth right now, far flung all over this planet, whose culture, language, and social status are all entirely different from yours, who will also call heaven their home?

On trips to Africa in recent years, I have been privileged to sit with native brethren in Christ in huts, and block buildings, and under the shade of trees, and hear them sing hymns to my God and theirs. The Ndebele Christians of southern Zimbabwe speak a language that is both beautiful and mystifying to my ear. To hear them praise God in song from their hearts is touching even when one does not understand their language. But to have the words translated for you, and to realize that a beautiful song that they love to sing is about our mutual home in heaven, is extraordinarily moving.

Lapho Ezulwini is a song they sing over and over again. Translated into English, the words mean something like this:
There in heaven, it is my home.
There with the Lord, it is my home.
There will I rest and rejoice.
Now I remember, it is my home.

There is no stubbornness in my home.
This is a different world from my home.
We are in darkness here on earth.
They are in light, in my home.

The Savior is there in my home.
It is where I will see Him at my home.
He is its brightness. He cares about it.
Nothing frightening enters in my home.

I long to be there in my home.
I draw myself closer in my home.
Lord, quickly find me.
Let us meet in my home.

Even now, as their voices echo in my mind and resound in my heart, I am filled with a desire for heaven. O for a home with God!!

Listen to a snippet of Lapho Ezulwini as sung by a group of my brethren in Gwanda, Zimbabwe, in July of 2015.

 – Steve Klein

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You Can Learn A Lot From A Dog

Throughout scripture God uses the animals to teach spiritual lessons. He even uses something as tiny as an ant to teach the value of hard work (Proverbs 6:6).

In the final chapter of our book on “Heaven: O For A Home With God”, we refer to a dog named “Hachi” to teach us how we should be looking for Jesus every day and remain loyal until He returns. The message learned from this dog is so powerful.

We thought you might enjoy this video to show you the entire story of Hachi. Get your copy of the book today and learn more about this wonderful adventure that leads from here to home. May God help us also to keep waiting for the Master.

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Practicing for Heaven’s Game

In May of 2002, NBA Superstar Alan Iverson sat down before Press members and unleashed a rant that has become one of the most famous press conference tirades in American Sports history.

Iverson was upset at his coach, Larry Brown, for contending that Iverson’s missing practice and practice habits may have cost his team another final’s appearance.

Iverson could hardly believe he was having to answer questions about practice, saying, “I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we in here talking about practice. I mean, listen, we’re talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, we talking about practice.”  

In a span of two minutes, Iverson would say the word “practice” more than twenty times!  NBA players reacted mostly with laughter and mimics of the interview.  They know how tremendously important practice is for the successful athlete.  Their dads probably pushed them saying, “Practice makes perfect!”

Listen to the contrasting sound of two 1992 “Dream Team” members.

Michael Jordan’s teammates say his practice habits were intense.  It was like they had a game instead of a practice.  Jordan says, “Every day in practice is like a competition – so when the game comes it’s nothing that I haven’t already practiced.  It’s a routine.  Whatever happens in the game, okay, I’ve done this before.”

Larry Bird says, “I don’t know if I practiced more than anybody, but I sure practiced enough.  I would still wonder if somebody, somewhere, was practicing more than me.”  He continues, “Push yourself again and again.  Don’t give an inch until the final buzzer sounds.”

Practice is even more important for the Christian.  Eternity’s game is coming. We are simply in practice now.  Switching analogies, we are in the dress rehearsal now.  One day, if well prepared, we will be ushered onto the stage and the curtain will open for the big play.

Our practice includes reading God’s word, living it out in daily life, praying to God, developing Christ-likeness and serving others.  We not only accept it when our Heavenly Coach corrects us and shows us our flaws, we covet such a coach. We say…

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Try me, and know my anxieties;

And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting”

(Psalm 139:23-24)

We practice to hone our knowledge and skill (2 Pet. 3:18)  We practice to learn how to defeat our opponent – not being ignorant of his game (2 Cor. 2:11).  We practice to become spiritually fit for heaven (1 John 3:7).  We practice to build spiritual muscle and stamina so that we are still going strong in the final quarter (Phil. 3:12).  One of the strongest Christians ever said it this way…“Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Tim. 4:15).  That sounds a little like Jordan and Bird.

The truth is, heaven’s eternal game is for those who love the game so much they begin practicing it now.  They love to study and pray and sing and serve.  They love seeing themselves becoming like the Master player Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).  Those who never practice, never show great desire, and never show any progress will not be on Heaven’s Dream Team.

For now the gym is open.  The roster is not settled.  Opportunity is there for all. Will you practice today?  It’s what all of God’s franchise players do.  Watch today’s ESPN video.  Think about it and have a blessed day.

 — Jeff May

 

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Winning the Triple Crown

American Pharoah.  If you have followed sports and national news recently, you know the story.  Misspelled though his name may be, the thoroughbred is horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.  What an amazing feat by a marvelous creature.  But it pales somewhat when I recall another horse that won that Triple Crown back in 1973.  His name was Secretariat.

I am old enough to remember Secretariat well.  He won all three races — The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and the Belmont — in record times that still stand today.  In his victory in the Belmont, he led by 1/16 of a mile coming down the backstretch and finished an amazing 31 lengths ahead of his nearest competitor.  But his most impressive run may have been in the Kentucky Derby that year.

secretariat31lengths

In his Derby effort, Secretariat broke slow out of the gate, but still ran the first quarter mile of the race in a respectable 2515 seconds.  The second quarter mile was faster at 24 seconds.  The third quarter mile went by in 2345 – he was still accelerating. The fourth quarter mile was faster still at 2325 seconds.  And the last quarter mile was run at the blistering pace of 23 seconds flat.  He was still accelerating as he crossed the finish line!!!

I pray for a heart like Secretariat’s to finish strong in the spiritual race that ends at the throne of God.  To be able to run harder at the end than at the beginning would be such a joy. And like the great apostle Paul, my hope is to “finish my race with joy” (Acts 20:24).  Fairly late in Paul’s life he wrote, “I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven” (Phil 3:14, CEV).

No one knows exactly how far along they are in their race.  But for me, I am certain that I am near the final turn — perhaps even now on the backstretch.  With every stride, a voice within seems to say, “Run harder!”  Let the one who holds my bridle use the whip as often as He needs to keep me moving faster and faster.  “I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart” (Psalm 119:132).

“Run harder!”  Three crowns await – a heavenly triple crown!

  • The crown of glory. “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).
  • The crown of life. “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
  • The crown of righteousness. “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

 “You know that many runners enter a race,

and only one of them wins the prize.

So run to win!

Athletes work hard to win a crown that cannot last,

but we do it for a crown that will last forever.”

(1 Corinthians 9:24-25, CEV)

As you contemplate running your race, you might enjoy watching Secretariat in his 1973 efforts in the Belmont and Kentucky Derby.  Run hard.  Finish with joy!

– Steve Klein

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