28 April 2016

26 April 2016

BSF 2015-2016: Heaven

What will heaven be like? It’s only natural to wonder what our eternal home will be like.

God gave a glimpse of heaven to Moses, Isaiah, Paul, and John. These men did their best to describe what they saw, but truly it was indescribable. But ultimately, their visions inspired them to passionately pursue God on earth. They all longed to be with God. So they endured their hardships and sufferings on earth because of what was promised to them in heaven.

To be in heaven is to be in the perfect presence of God and the complete absence of sin. God’s glorious presence in eternity should inspire us to passionately pursue Him today.

God is preparing a place just for me – the new heaven and the new earth. But that new heaven and new earth won’t be ready until after Jesus’ millennial reign on earth. When a believer dies now, he immediately is in God’s presence in the current heaven. The current heaven is the intermediate state before the new heaven and the new earth.

So what should we do now until we are in God’s presence in heaven? We must be good stewards of creation, value what God values, help the helpless. We should do the work of Jesus until He returns or until we die and go home to Him. One day we will be with God in His perfect, eternal garden. But right now, we should plant God’s Word, prune ourselves and others to be more like God, and praise God for who He is and what He has done.

Here are some characteristics to look forward to about the new heaven and the new earth, the eternal city:

  • The eternal city is holy and secure.
  • The eternal city shines with the brilliance of God’s glory. There is only light, no darkness.
  • In the eternal city, there will be no sin and no fear.
  • The eternal city is full of precious metals and stones.
  • The eternal city is full of God’s people. Our differences will delight us instead of divide us.

Things to Think About
  • The earth is not our home; we’re just passing through. God Himself is our home, and we are on our way there.
  • As much as I am longing and awaiting to be with God, He is longing and awaiting to be with me.
  • We should have our hearts and minds set on God and heaven so we can do His work now on earth. Don’t be so heavenly minded that I’m no earthly good.
  • God’s presence in heaven creates glorious growth and breathtaking beauty.
  • God’s presence in heaven generates passionate and productive people.
  • God’s presence in heaven inspires selfless service and ceaseless worship.
  • What are you pursuing right now? Are you pursing God? He is the only One who can provide satisfaction now and for eternity. He never will fail us.

This Week’s Memory Verse
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’” Revelation 21:3 NIV

21 April 2016

19 April 2016

BSF 2015-2016: Revelation 21:9-22:5

This week, we continue to look at the new heaven and the new earth – this time we see more details about this special place God is preparing for us.

An angel carried John away in the Spirit to a high mountain where he saw the holy city Jerusalem coming down from heaven. The city was shining with the glory of God and adorned with beauty. The city was filled with God’s people. There God will dwell with His people for all eternity. He never will leave His people.

The city was adorned with jewels and precious metals. The city had a high wall with 12 gates guarded by 12 angels. On the 12 gates were the names of the tribes of Israel. On the 12 foundations of the wall were the names of the 12 apostles. Each of the gates was a single pearl. In Scripture, the number 12 symbolizes completeness and unity.

Using a golden measuring rod, the angel measured the city, which is a perfect cube. One side of the city measured 12,000 stadia or 1,500 miles. We do not know if this is a literal figure for the size of the city, but this number does represent the vastness and majesty of God. And there will be room for all believers in this city! The walls of the city were 144 cubits thick, or 216 feet.

The city did not need a temple because God and the Lamb were the temple. The street of the city was pure, transparent gold. The city did not need the sun or the moon because God was the light of the city. There was no more night – no more spiritual darkness.

The only people in the city are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Every nation, tribe, and tongue will be represented in cultural diversity. The gates were always opened. Nothing impure or dangerous could enter the city. God’s people were safe and secure in the city.

Everything in the city reflected the holiness and purity of God. We will be pure and clean. There will be no shame or sin.

But we don’t have to wait until heaven to live in the fullness of Christ. Following Jesus today prepares us to reign with Him in eternity. Which activities currently are not equipping me or positioning me to reign effectively with Christ?

In the first five verses of chapter 22, John saw Eden restored. Consider these comparisons between Genesis and Revelation:

Genesis Revelation
God created the heavens and the earth. God created or renewed the new heaven and the new earth.
God created the sun. There was no need for a sun.
Night was established. There was no night.
God created seas. There were no seas.
Satan deceived. Satan was defeated.
Sin entered the human race. Sin was banished.
A curse was announced. The curse was removed.
Death entered. There was no more death.
People hid from God. People run to God and live in His presence forever.
Paradise was lost. Paradise is regained.
Sorrow and pain began. There will be no more tears and no more pain.

John saw the river of life flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. The tree of life was on either side of the river. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden and from this tree so they would not eat from the tree of life and live eternally in their sinful state.

In eternity, we will serve God night and day. We will be in His presence for all eternity. The eternal city is a vast kingdom of the fullness of God’s presence and the absence of sin. We will be fully satisfied.

Things to Think About
  • Do you look forward to seeing your Savior face-to-face?
  • Consider the price Jesus paid so you can see Him one day. Does this send you to worshipping Christ and celebrating your relationship with Him?
  • The eternal city radiates the fullness of God and the absence of sin.
  • The eternity God is preparing for me is what I was created for. I will have eternal pleasure and joy because I will fulfill my eternal purpose.
  • Are you living in light of eternity today? Are you trying to fulfill your desires in worldly pleasures or in God?
  • Do you have a deep longing for God’s promised Paradise? Do you have a commitment to live now to reflect His promised Paradise?

This Week’s Memory Verse
“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” Revelation 21:22-23 NIV

14 April 2016

12 April 2016

BSF 2015-2016: Revelation 20:11-21:8

This section of Scripture begins with the Great White Throne Judgment. Unbelievers will stand individually before God and give an account of all of their actions throughout their lives. They will see their actions in light of God’s holiness. Unbelievers will be punished eternally for their sins and for rejecting Jesus as their Savior.

This is different than the Judgment Seat of Christ, a time when believers will be held accountable for their actions in the name of Jesus. They will not be held accountable for their sins because they are covered with Jesus’ blood.

Either God the Father or Jesus the Son is seated on the throne. Though we don’t know who is seated on the throne, we can be sure that He who sits on it will judge justly and rightly.

John saw the throne descend from heaven. He also saw all of creation flee from God’s holy presence. There is no place for unbelievers to hide from God’s upcoming judgment.

John saw books being opened. The books contained every action of every person who ever lived. Unbelievers are held accountable for everything they had done. It’s possible that God’s Word also will be opened since it is the holy standard of living. Sin will be viewed from God’s perspective, and His divine judgment will be seen as true, right, just, and fair. The Book of Life also was opened. All believers’ names are written in this book.

The second death is a spiritual death. It is eternal separation from God. The beast, the false prophet, Satan, death, and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire, which is the second death. Every unbeliever was thrown into the lake of fire.

John saw God dwelling with His people face to face in the new heaven and the new earth. The first heaven and the first earth passed away because they were cursed by sin. There are two thoughts about the new heaven and the new earth – either God will create a new heaven and a new earth or God will renew the existing heaven and earth.

We do know that the new heaven and the new earth will be infinitely perfect. God promised there would be no more tears, no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain. God Himself will wipe away our tears. And God promised that those who overcome will inherit everything and be His children.

We will spend more time looking at the new heaven and the new earth in the coming weeks.

Things to Think About
  • Everyone will spend eternity in one of two places – in the new heaven and the new earth or in hell. These are real places! By God’s grace and Jesus’ death, I will be spending eternity face-to-face with God in the new heaven and the new earth. Where will you be?
  • Every person is made with an eternal soul. Our souls are the essence of who we are. Our souls were created for eternal fellowship with God, but many people reject God and choose to live eternally separated from God instead of eternally fellowshipping with Him.
  • The horrors of hell testify to the seriousness of sin.
  • The reality of hell testifies to the sincerity of God’s love.
  • The joys of heaven testify to the magnitude of God’s grace.

This Week’s Memory Verse
“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Revelation 21:1-2 NIV

07 April 2016

05 April 2016

2016 brackets: Championship update

The annual family bracket challenge is officially completed. I can’t believe that I am the two-time champion! Also, I am stunned by Chris’ performance. He easily had his worst bracket ever. He humble accepted the fact that everyone – particularly Avery – beat him. But he does not look forward to the time when both Avery and Damon have better brackets than his!

Here are the final rankings (in order of ESPN points standing):

0-3 in Final Four
38-25 overall
800 total points

0-3 in Final Four
37-26 overall
690 total points

Shirley (Grandma Hromada)
0-3 in Final Four
37-26 overall
650 total points

Jon (Grandpa Hromada)
0-3 in Final Four
36-27 overall
570 total points

0-3 in Final Four
34-29 overall
530 total points

0-3 in Final Four
29-34 overall
460 total points

BSF 2015-2016: Revelation 20:1-10

This week’s passage is a very difficult and controversial one. There are many interpretations of the passage, and we simply don’t know exactly what God means in these verses. But we do know that God is in charge, Christ is the Victor, Satan is the loser, and believers’ eternal destiny is to rule and reign with Christ.

These 10 verses discuss the Millennium, a time when Christ will reign on earth for 1,000 years. There are three viewpoints of the Millennium:

  • Amillennialism – Amillennialists believe the Millennium is a symbolic reign not a physical reign. They believe Christ’s reign is taking place now during the current church age. They don’t believe in a literally or physical 1,000-year reign. This reign ends with Christ’s second coming.
  • Premillennialism – Premillennialists believe Christ will return before the Millennium, then He will establish a literal earthly rule for 1,000 years (or a very long time). During the Millennium, Satan will be bound. After the Millennium, Satan will be released. There will be a final battle, then Jesus will judge the dead and inaugurate the new heaven and the new earth.
  • Postmillennialism – Postmillennialists believe Jesus will return after the Millennium. They believe the Millennium is 1,000 years when the Gospel is spread, transforms the earth, and ushers in Christ’s second coming.

There is biblical validation for all of these viewpoints, but we don’t know which one is God’s viewpoint! Complete your own study and investigation to determine which view is yours.

At the end of chapter 19, the beast and the false prophet were captured. Now in chapter 20, John saw an angel coming from heaven. The angel held a key and a chain. The angel’s purpose was to bind Satan and throw him into the abyss. The abyss is a bottomless pit where demons await their eternal judgment which is the lake of fire. The abyss is Satan’s prison.

The angel seized Satan then locked him in the abyss for 1,000 years. Satan will not be released until God says so. Satan was rendered powerless. By imprisoning Satan, God prevented him from deceiving the nations.

John saw people sitting on judgment thrones during the Millennium. These people reigned with Christ and judged others. We do not know specifically who these people are, but we do know that they are believers.

The first resurrection is mentioned in verse 5. We do not know specifically what this is, but we do know that all believers will be brought back to life and will receive new resurrection bodies when they reign with Christ.

At the end of the Millennium, God released Satan from the abyss. God determined that it was necessary for Satan to be released to accomplish God’s good purposes. Satan continued to deceive people. He gathered people from all over the world to be his army that fights against God. But the time has come for Satan and his followers to be defeated fully, completely, and for eternity.

God sent fire from heaven to devour Satan’s army, made up of the inhabitants of the earth. God threw Satan into the lake of fire, along with the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented forever.

Things to Think About
  • Satan is a deceiver. He makes himself look good and makes us think that the things he offers are good. Satan wants us to think that he is in control. He bombards our culture with lies.
  • Satan intends for all to live in deceit.
  • How are you protecting yourself from Satan’s lies and deceit? Pray that Satan does not lead you into deceit. Guard your hearts and minds with God’s Word. Resist Satan with God’s Word.
  • Principle – God’s truth leads to victory, but Satan’s deceit leads to ruin.
  • Apart from Christ, we are hopeless and we cannot resist sin. Only with the power of Christ can we resist sin and withstand Satan’s deception.

This Week’s Memory Verse
“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” Revelation 20:6 NIV

01 April 2016

Easter 2016 in photos

Easter was a two-day affair for us. On Saturday, we had an egg hunt with Mommaw and Poppaw then went to a bigger hunt at their church.

Damon needed only a little instruction. He quickly figured out what hunting eggs was all about!

After that, we all ate dinner together, along with Aunt Linda and Uncle Dave, and enjoyed some of Avery and Damon's treats.

For the past several years, we have spent Easter Sunday with Mommaw and Poppaw, Grandma and Grandpa, and Aunt Karen. It's so nice to have everyone together! And it's a prime opportunity for lots of pictures. Thankfully, the kids cooperated and gave us some decent shots.

One more egg hunt meant two baskets – and bellies! – full of goodies.