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When Clarence Odbody Teaches Theology

One of my favorite movies of all time is Frank Capra’s 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life. Though I’ve watched parts of it dozens of times, I could sit down today, enjoy it again, and yes, need a Kleenex for the tears that would undoubtedly roll down my cheeks when George Bailey kisses that stairwell knob, rediscovers Zuzu’s petals, and greets all his friends who bring money to help repay his $8000 “debt” to Potter.

Unfortunately, some people have gotten some of their theology from the movie, and specifically from Clarence Odbody, George Bailey’s guardian angel. He is presented in the film as an Angel Second Class who, if he is able to save George’s life and convince him of the good he’s done for others, he just might earn his wings after 200 years of being unsuccessful. At the end of the movie, with the Bailey family and friends all singing around the Christmas tree, a bell sounds supposedly indicating that Clarence had indeed earned his wings.

It’s a Wonderful Life may be a wonderfully heart-warming movie, but it’s definitely not the source for developing our angelology! Why do I say that? Because of what I’ve read and heard lately by loving, well-meaning people with regard to the death and heavenly promotion of Lydia Byrd last Wednesday. You can read more that her story here and here and her funeral service here. And her mom’s blog can be read here.

Lydia, a few months short of her eighth birthday, did not become an angel when she went to Heaven. Nowhere in the Bible is this even suggested. Angels are angels. People are people. True angels do not earn their wings; they’re created with them to begin with and some have up to six wings (Isa. 6.2).

Yes, lovely Lydia had angelic beauty, but again, she did not become an angel when she went to Heaven. She’s still Lydia. Lydia without pain and suffering. Lydia without anymore tumors. But when her parents one day see her again in glory, she will not have angelic wings or a halo; she will be Lydia.

Do we have any similarities with angels? Yes…

Angels are “persons” in that they have personality and names (though Michael and Gabriel are the only ones we know), they worship God (Heb. 1.6), they rejoice (Rev. 5.11-12), they communicate (Rev. 19.9-10), etc.

Angels are servants of God as are believers (Heb. 1.14; Mt. 4.11).

God’s angels are “elect” (1 Tim. 5.21) as are Christians (2 Tim. 2.10), but only believers are elect with regard to redemption. In fact, salvation history is something that angels find intriguing and want to explore further (1 Pet. 1.12).

Angels even take on human likeness at times and give us an opportunity to show hospitality toward them without being aware of it (see Heb.13.2)! But, that does not mean that we ever become one of them.

Misunderstanding of a few verses has probably contributed to this mistaken notion that people, especially children, become angels after death. For example, Matthew 20.30 states that “in the resurrection [people] neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Notice it doesn’t say that people become angels, but that they are like them in that believers in their glorified bodies living in the eternal heaven will no longer marry. Angels have never married. Believers in heaven will no longer have spouses either. There is a similarity there, but not equality.

When believers get to heaven they will not mistake some angel for their loved ones. They will see and recognize angels as angels and their saved friends and family as part of redeemed humanity. Let the Bible be your source of authority, not Clarence Odbody.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Angels, Bible Study, Heaven, Theology

 

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Don’t Die Twice!!

Biographer: Jobs refused early and potentially life-saving surgery:

Apple CEO Steve Jobs refused to allow surgeons to perform what could have been life-saving surgery on his pancreatic cancer, says his biographer Walter Isaacson. In one of his deepest discussions with him, Isaacson says Jobs told him he regretted his decision to try alternative therapies and said he put off the operation because it was too invasive.

Isaacson reveals these and many other inner thoughts of the man who entrusted him with the writing of his life story in the upcoming book, “Steve Jobs.” The author talks to Steve Kroft in his first interview about Jobs, the late technology visionary whose innovative products like the Macintosh, iPhone and iPad changed the world. The interview will be broadcast on “60 Minutes,” Sunday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

“I’ve asked [Jobs why he didn’t get an operation then] and he said, ‘I didn’t want my body to be opened…I didn’t want to be violated in that way,'” Isaacson recalls. So he waited nine months, while his wife and others urged him to do it, before getting the operation, reveals Isaacson. Asked by Kroft how such an intelligent man could make such a seemingly stupid decision, Isaacson replies, “I think that he kind of felt that if you ignore something, if you don’t want something to exist, you can have magical thinking…we talked about this a lot,” he tells Kroft. “He wanted to talk about it, how he regretted it…. I think he felt he should have been operated on sooner.”

He finally had the surgery and told his employees about it, but played down the seriousness of his condition. Isaacson says he was receiving cancer treatments in secret even though he was telling everyone he was cured.

Steve Jobs “waited too late” for a potentially life-saving surgery. Consequently, he died.

Those who wait too late for soul-saving “surgery” will also die…twice. Twice?! Yes…

First death:

Lungs stop breathing. Heart stops beating. Kidneys and liver stop filtering. Brain stops executing. Body dies and decomposes. The soul is separated from the body. This “first death” is the common lot of all humanity.

For believers in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, the first death is actually a blessing. Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” and “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1.21, 23) and “…we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

When Christians die, their soul immediately goes to Heaven to be with Christ. Jesus told the dying thief, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23.43). When Jesus Christ returns, all believers will receive resurrection bodies that will never again be subject to sickness, weakness, death, or even aging (1 Cor. 15.50-57; Rev. 21.4)!

Second death:

The soul is separated from God forever. The soul of an unbeliever goes to Hades immediately upon that person’s “first death”. At the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20.11-15), the souls of all unbelievers will be reunited with their resurrection bodies, judged according to their works, and then cast into the lake of fire, and experience the “second death.”

Steve Jobs died once. That’s a fact that captured the world’s attention. I cannot speak authoritatively about whether or not he was prepared for death. What I do know is this: Only those who know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord are prepared for death. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

When a person puts their faith and trust in Jesus, their name is written in Book of Life. “And if anyone’s name [is] not found written in the book of life, he [is] thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). Is it any wonder then why Paul wrote, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Repent while you can. Trust Christ while you can. Please don’t “wait too late”!

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Death, Heaven, Hell, Jesus Christ, Salvation

 

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When you’re 7-year-old is dying…continued

A few days ago I shared part of a blog post written by a dear friend whose 7-year-old daughter is dying from brain tumors (read that post here). Each day brings new challenges for Willie and Stacey as they lovingly care for their daughter, Lydia, and tenaciously cling to their faith in the sovereign God of the universe. Here is another excerpt written on Tuesday, October 18 (read the Byrds’ Nest blog here). Read it and cry with them. Read it and pray for them. Read it and marvel at God’s sustaining grace…

Clinging

I think yesterday ranks as the hardest day of my life. September 11th, 2009, diagnosis day, was a day of shock, but yesterday was just plain hard. Witnessing her in pain is too much to bear. As we were traveling down the road at 4 am, my sweet man at the wheel, I was reminded of another middle-of-the-night trip to the hospital.

January 30th, 2004 ~ Willie driving and me having labor pains, knowing that soon our precious God-gift, wrapped in the flesh of a baby girl, would be ushered into this world…into our arms. Yesterday morning ~ Willie at the wheel, me hovering over her ~ me, with pains of my heart and her, with pains in her precious head, wondering if we would soon be giving her back to Him…into His arms.

I hovered over her, kissing her head and whisper-praying to our Father, “Lord, please take away her pain.  Take her if you want. She’s yours anyway, but thank you for letting us have her for a little bit. You can take so much better care of her than I can.” Don’t get me wrong, I love her with ever fiber of my being, but trying to make her stay on this broken earth just doesn’t seem right. Not when we know she wants to go Home. She’s expressed to us in many sweet, precious ways that she longs to be in heaven. To be free from these tumors. To be free from this painful world.

He knew even before He made her His plan for her.
His perfect plan.
Not 87 years on this earth.
Not 47.
Not 17.
7.
7½ she’d say more precisely. I feel that her 7½ years have not been wasted, but have been used for His glory. I pray her story will continue to etch His story deep into some hearts.

He doesn’t want us clinging to His gifts,

He wants us clinging tightly to Him.

My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me. –Psalm 63:8

 

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Children, Death, Parenting Children

 

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Remembering More than 9/11

Who will forget what they saw on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001? Our collective jaws gaped open when we saw jet airliners filled with passengers veer off course and plunge into the World Trade Centers. We were dumbfounded to learn that another jet had plowed into the Pentagon and yet another crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Unless we lose our ability to remember anything about our lives, we will never forget that day.

We watched thousands of people die right before our eyes. We saw people jump from windows, preferring a quick death of a fall to the tortuous death of fire. We watched in utter dismay as the two 110-story skyscrapers collapsed, one-by-one, with clouds of dust and debris spreading for miles and lasting for days.

And as Al Mohler noted, “The symbolism was unavoidable.” In attacking the Trade Centers the terrorists were attacking America’s economy. In attacking the Pentagon they were sending a message to the world’s greatest military power. America didn’t seem quite as powerful that day. No, she seemed more vulnerable than ever.

9/11 has been the subject of millions of conversations. With events like these and the ensuing conversations, accusations are made, fingers are pointed, and countless questions are asked. That’s pretty much the way it’s always been, and it was certainly that way in Jesus’ day, just read Luke 13.1-5.

Should we remember what happened on 9/11? Absolutely. But, there’s more that must be remembered…

Our depravity is equal

Pontius Pilate issued an order that caused innocent Galileans to be killed either on their way to offer sacrifices at the Temple or possibly within the very precincts of the Temple. And to make matter worse, he had their blood was mixed with the blood of their sacrifices!

The common misconception of Jesus’ day and ours: when tragedy strikes, it’s partly because of some sin in the lives of those who hit the hardest by the calamity. Evidently some thought that about the murdered Galileans. Someone probably thought similar thoughts about those who died on 9/11. So, what was Jesus’ take on such a conclusion? “No! These people didn’t die because they were worse sinners!”

Okay, so what about the 19 terrorists themselves? Were they greater sinners? Surely they were! And it’s easy for us to think back to 9/11 and feel utter disdain for those Islamic terrorists who murdered “innocent people.” How wicked! How despicable! Yet, anyone of us, left to himself, could commit the vilest of sins. After all, haven’t we thought the thought? Haven’t we murdered others in our mind? Haven’t we conceived, yea, even dreamed of sexual escapades in violation of our marriage vows? Haven’t we wished so-and-so would go to hell? Such thoughts come from our wicked hearts (Matthew 15.19).

All people are born equally depraved? Every human being is dreadfully sinful (Jeremiah 17.9; Romans 3.10-12). At the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.

We all have the same sin problem. We all have the same need for our sin to be cleansed and forgiven. We all have the same need of a Savior!

Our enemy is spiritual

Our enemy is NOT Islam! It’s not any other religion for that matter. Our enemy is NOT flesh and blood (Ephesians 6.12).

Our enemy is spiritual and he has several names and descriptive titles: Satan, Lucifer, that great dragon, the old serpent, the deceiver, the accuser, the deceiver, the father of lies, the prince of the power of the air, and the wicked one.

Who do you think motivated Pontius Pilate to murder these Galileans while they were trying to offer sacrifices to the God of Israel? None other than the one who was a murderer from the beginning (John 8.44)!

Satan hates God, despises Jesus, and can’t stand the Holy Spirit. He loathes the church of Jesus Christ and everything even remotely connected to Christianity. And he has a great host of fallen angels, demonic spirits, who are anxious and ready to do his evil bidding. These demons love to occupy a human body so that they might accomplish hellish destruction in and through that person.

One day he will empower the antichrist, also known as the man of lawlessness and the Son of Perdition, and will create hell on earth during the Great Tribulation. That’s partly because Satan is the ultimate terrorist (Hebrews 2.14-15)!

Our theology is crucial

The problem of evil and suffering is one that demands an answer. It’s the widespread presence of evil and suffering that causes many to doubt whether there is a God at all, or if there is one he must either not care about our condition or if he cares, he’s too weak to do anything about it.

Evil and suffering is commonly divided into two categories: moral and natural. And both are included in our text. The murder of the Galileans is clearly a moral evil, just like the attacks on New York and Washington. Natural evil comes without a moral agent. A tower falls and people die. A tornado twists and people die. An earthquake shakes and people die, a tsunami comes ashore and people die. A hurricane blows and people die.

And then there’s cancer, infections, and a vast variety of diseases that weaken, cripple, and kill people every single day…many of which are Christians.

How can a God of love and omnipotence allow such natural disasters? Why does He allow “good people” to suffer so? Why does God allow terrorists to terrorize? Why doesn’t He put His foot down and stop this madness?

Who is God anyway? According to the Bible, God is sovereign (Daniel 4.35; Psalm 115.3; 135.6). As Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe, He is completely in charge and rules without exception. He builds up kingdoms and tears them down. He elevates and humbles.

God’s sovereignty is universal and unlimited, because limited sovereignty is no sovereignty at all.

Secondly, God is holy. Evil cannot be attributed to Him. His holiness and righteousness are absolute. The same can be said about His love and grace and mercy.

So, if God is holy and just and loving and kind and merciful AND He is also in complete control of all the affairs and all the events of all the people on planet earth, then the question becomes, “How does He exercise His rule?”

The Baptist confession of faith gives us a solid answer: “God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.”

God decrees with purpose. He permits with purpose. He allows evil people to make evil choices, BUT He’s always in control of the whole, and He holds everyone accountable for their decisions.

Our death is inevitable

Unless the Lord Jesus comes and raptures all believers, we are going to die. It’s not a matter of if but when (Hebrews 9.27).

Regarding the tower that fell in Siloam (Luke 13.4), R.C. Sproul wrote, In effect what Jesus was saying was this: “You people are asking the wrong question. You should be asking me, ‘Why didn’t that tower fall on MY head?’” (The Holiness of God, p. 161).

The thousands who died on 9/11 went to work that Tuesday morning much like they had done on any other Tuesday. They showered, ate breakfast, stopped at Starbucks, kissed their spouse and kids, jumped on the subway, read the morning paper, and then DIED! One day, you and I will also.

Our soul is eternal

C.S. Lewis wrote: “Pain insists upon being attended to; God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

And that’s exactly what He was trying to do to his contemporaries in our story. He was shouting as it were and trying to awaken them to repentance (verses 3, 5)!

Ultimately, repentance is of utmost importance because, if you do not repent, you do not merely stop living life here on earth. No, if you refuse to repent of your sin and trust Christ as your Savior you perish, that is, you die twice. The one death involves the separation of the soul from the body; the body goes into a cold, dark grave; the soul goes to Hell.

When a person’s soul goes to Hell, that’s the second death because then your soul is separated from God for all eternity (see Revelation 20.11-15; 21.8).

With all due respect to those who died on 9/11, and with all due honor and respect to those first responders on the scene that Tuesday morning, the ultimate Ground Zero was at Calvary 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ died on the Cross to make atonement for sin!

Jesus suffered and died to make atonement for your sin. He wants to save you, and He will, if you call upon Him, confessing and repenting of your sin and trusting in Him and Him alone as your Savior and Lord. Just don’t wait until it’s too late! Turn to Him before you experience your own 9/11.

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Jesus Christ, Luke, New Testament, Theology

 

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Treating God Like Chopped Liver

“What am I, chopped liver?” If the Lord ever used urban language, He might have used this expression in 2 Kings 1. King Ahaziah sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, as to whether he would recover from an injury he sustained when he fell through the lattice in his upper chamber. Instead of seeking God’s face for the answer, he wanted to consult with the “lord of the flies” (the meaning of “Baal-zebub”).

Bottom line: God was being treated like chopped liver! He was being ignored. He was being viewed as having little value or worth. And that proved to be a deadly mistake.

To guide your reading of 2 Kings 1, here are some plot points:

  • The Injury (2a)
  • The Inquiry (and Idolatry, 2b)
  • The Interception (and Insult, 3-4)
  • The Interrogation (5-8)
  • The Infernos (9-12)
  • The Intercession (13-14)
  • The interruption (15-18)

Four Life Lessons from 2 Kings 1.1-18:

1. There are no accidents with God.

Ahaziah’s fall in verse 2 may appear to be an accident, but you need to read 1 Kings 21.21-22 where God promised Ahab, Ahaziah’s father, that all his sons would be cut off. In other words, God’s sovereign plan was being fulfilled. Ahaziah hardened his own heart, did that which was evil, and treated God like chopped liver.

God is always accomplishing His divine purposes. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115.3). “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135.6).

2. Occult involvement must be avoided.

Just like Ahaziah, scores of people today (and some of them Christians!) want to know the future, but not in the way God has prescribed. They check their horoscopes. They call a psychic hotline or consult with a palm reader. They play with a Ouija board. God’s position on such activity has always been definitive: Stay away!

Notice Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 10.19-20: What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.

So, Paul is issuing a stern warning: Investigation can open the door for demon infiltration!

If you want to know more about the future, read the Bible!

3. Disregarding God is always an act of stupidity.

There a number of ways we do it: blatant disobedience, ignoring biblical preaching and teaching, snubbing the admonition of our parents, turning a deaf ear to the wise counsel of a loving friend or coach, etc.

And when you treat God like chopped liver, you run the risk of getting out of God’s will, leaving His protective care, facing His corrective punishment, or even meeting an untimely death (just ask the Corinthians)!

4. Persistent impenitence leads to an incredibly hard heart and inevitable judgment.

Ahaziah’s life story is tragic and sad. It’s one filled with rebellion and hatred of God. He blatantly refused to repent of his sinful ways. He was brazen, arrogant, and threw away his last opportunity to repent. He traveled that awful path previously taken by the Egyptian Pharaoh who conversed with Moses. He, too, hardened his heart and God destroyed him.

There is a time – we know not when – a place we know not where,

That marks the destiny of men – from glory to despair.

There is a line – by us unseen – which crosses every path,

A hidden boundary between – God’s mercy – and His wrath.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy (Proverbs 28:13 ESV).

 

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Mistaken identity and divine sovereignty…

The Today Show featured two families who experienced an incredibly unusual experience of mistaken identity. You may recall the event that took place back in 2006. Nine students from Taylor University were involved in a horrible auto accident, with eight of them dying. The only survivor was a blond-haired young lady, who had been thrown from the van, and was found with a purse by her side. Someone put the purse with the girl as identification for her transport to the hospital. Badly injured, she would spend time in ICU and a total of five week in the hospital after the accident. The girl’s name? Since the purse belonged to Laura Van Ryn, that’s who she was believed to be for the next five weeks.

However, as she slowly recovered and began speaking again, the bittersweet discovery was made that the surviving girl was not Laura Van Ryn, but actually Whitney Cerak. Laura was the one who died in the crash.

As you watch this video, you will hear two families speak clearly about their faith and confidence in the sovereignty of God. How refreshing to hear testimony like this on a major network television show! How encouraging for these two families to unashamedly speak about their Lord. See this emotional and God-honoring video interview here.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2010 in Theology

 

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