Friendship is a gift intended to reflect the reality of our restored relationship with God.  You are both hard-wired and spiritually designed for relationships.  In fact, if you neglect to build meaningful relationships in your life, you will live less than God desires for you.  Genesis 15 informs us that, “Abraham believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Romans Chapter 4 picks up on Abraham’s faith and concludes that simply believing what God says He will do is the basis of true faith.  What’s interesting about Abraham is that he is identified in the Bible as “a friend of God.”  The apostle James continues the theme of Abraham’s faith and concludes that, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” and he was called a friend of God” (James 2:23).  Faith, then, is claiming to have a friendship with God by simple faith.    

That’s important because the Bible describes all of us as “enemies” of God.  The apostle Paul explain it this way in Romans 5:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

Our sin separated us from God and made us His enemies.  But in this case, God loved His enemies and devised the way for us to be friends forever.  While Jesus walked the earth he was rebuked by the hyper-religious as a “friend of sinners” (Matthew 11, Luke 7).  It was meant as an insult and a put-down, but was in fact the truth.  Jesus came to befriend us in order to bring us back to God. 

What a privilege to be called a “friend of God.”  But it is a greater gift to know Jesus is the “friend of sinners.”  He first loved us!  By Him and through Him, we are offered the spiritual intimacy of a treasured friendship.  As a witness to our restored friendship with God as our heavenly Father, we are to build and maintain relationships with one another.  The Bible calls this “fellowship.”  In the words of John, Jesus was manifested to the world in order that we may have fellowship with God and with one another (1 John 1).  In fact, it is hardly appropriate to call oneself a Christian if you are not actively building relationships in the local church with other Christians.

This is one of the modern church’s greatest flaws.  Many churches are nothing more than preaching centers where individual Christians come to meet their “must do” quotas.  But they effectively live without any substantial personal investment in relationships centered in the Gospel of Jesus.  Helping people make faith-friends as a strategic part of growing faith is a core mandate for the church.  To that end, I start a new series this Sunday on the theme of  “Christian Fellowship And Friendship In A Lonely World.”  I would love to see you there at 9AM or 11AM.  I want to give you some friendly advice about friendship.

In the friendship of faith,
Pastor Deric

Heaven Is The Ultimate WOW!

Heaven is the ultimate WOW!  After you have lived a while, there is less and less about which you would pronounce that short benediction, ‘OH WOW’ (presuming that you have seen at least a few of the world’s natural wonders like the Canadian Rockies!).  I try to keep that word for the things that have a high and holy place in my heart (like my grandkids!).  Every time I’m with them I feel my heart shouting, “OH WOW!”  It’s pure delight.  Just so you know, God Himself is keeping one of His biggest ‘wows’ for the end.  Heaven is His grand finale at which we shall all be coherently mumbling “wow, wow, wow.”

In simple terms, heaven can be explained, in the words of Jesus, as “the Father’s house.”  Along with a reference to the new heaven, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem, John said that he “heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.”   The exiled old preacher envisioned heaven as the place where God and man are dwelling together in perfect friendship.  Heaven is your true and eternal home.  God designed it for all who repent of their sin and trust in the Lord.  It’s a mystery, but the Bible says that, “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”  We are joined to the Lord when we trust in Him by faith.  Faith leads to heaven.

One of God’s first acts when we get to heaven is to “wipe away every tear from our eyes” because He has eradicated death, mourning, crying, and pain.  Human beings need to be comforted and cared for in their mourning, crying, and pain.  Heaven is the destination at which all our earthly suffering will be removed, forever.  As so many have noted, “heaven is the place of ‘no more.’  No more sea (separation and chaos),  no more tears, no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, and no more pain.

In fact, heaven is the place where the Lord Himself will make all things new.  Revelation 21:5 says, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  The word new, as used by John, is a word that describes new in the qualitative sense.  It’s not new because it follows the old.  It’s new because it’s completely different, unique or one a kind.  All things will be made new in heaven.

Heaven is the place where the Father finally and fully gives Jesus what He asked for in His high priestly prayer recorded in John 17:23-24: “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.   Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Remember the wonderful words written so long ago by Fanny Crosby:

When my life work is ended and I cross the swelling tide,

When the bright and glorious morning I shall see,

I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,

And His smile will be the first to welcome me.

Thru the gates to the city, in a robe of spotless white,

He will lead me where no tears will ever fall,

In the glad son of ages I shall mingle with delight

But I long to see my Savior first of all.

Church family! I’d love to study about heaven with you this coming Sunday morning @ 9 or 11 AM.  We will celebrate communion together as well.  See you then, God willing.

Pastor Deric