Monday, July 20, 2009

What Does the Bible Say About Racism?

Marcus "Goody" Goodloe is an excellent stand-in for Erwin McManus when Erwin isn't speaking. Goody continues Mosaic's series entitled "Diversity".

A couple of months ago, the President of USC gave a talk saying that LA is the capital of the Pacific Rim and there was no other city like it. Creativity, according to the president, is the backbone of the "City of Angels". "If creativity is the number one export of LA, then diversity has to be number 2" says Goody. Los Angeles is diverse is every aspect It is the 18th largest economy in the world. It has 10.5 million people with a third of them born outside of the city. There are 600 different religious groups, 120 different cultures, 96 different cradle languages and 49 press and media outlets. Outside of their own homeland, more people from Seoul, Korea and from Mexico live as citizens in LA than any other city in the world.

Normally when we hear about diversity, our thoughts go to the issue race and some people fear the subject because of racism. Diversity can lead to tensions of race. Most of us were not born during the 1965 riots that took place in LA, but many were here in 1992 when the Rodney King verdict came out and riots erupted. Only 2 years ago, we saw an epic riot between Latinos and African Americans in the public schools. There are tension even in the LA prisons between races. It is a sort of burden in the city. So, if La is the hub of the Pacific Rim, isn't there a big opportunity to have an impact in this area?

Goody went to a golf club recently for a pickup game. There was a 74 yr. old Korean, 2 Anglos and then a Polynesian kind of guy. You can pick up a game pretty easily in golf, but there are rules of etiquette. "Have you ever been in a conversation where someone is violating social educate so much that you feel embarrassed for them?" Well, Goody bumped into one on the course. "My man (was)in full conversation Def Com 5 mode... There are people in the other fairway hitting the ball ... and one man shouts, 'will you keep it down?'" Then his new friend started telling him a story about the issue of keeping it down. He was at the Chester Washington golf course where he was playing golf with Jim Brown, a retired 60's activist and football player. "He was telling the story in a loud voice. Jim looked up and said keep it down and his buddies were talking and said "Edward, ________, just hit the ball." Goody pauses during his story like something was very wrong. "Hold on...I want to do this right...Violation - Illegal use of the 'N' word by a white man. We don't roll like that. You'll get your nose busted up like that."

We've made some progress on the issue of race, but we have a long way to go. It can be argued in the new testament that 2/3rds of Paul's writings are conversations about tensions between people of different cultures. In Numbers, Miriam and Aaron got upset with Moses because of the wife he married who was of a different race. Jesus engages with a Samaritan woman where the conversation immediately goes to how Samaritans have no dealings with Jews. In Galatians, the Apostle Paul confronts Peter because he was acting one way in front of his Jewish friends and then acting another way in front of Gentiles. "It was all about a clash of cultures and race."

"But I want to call your attention to another passage of scripture that, up until recently, I had never viewed from the lens of diversity, but it is appropriate for tonight" In the book of Jonah, Jonah is a spokesperson for God and he has been called to speak on God's behalf in Nineveh. The people there do not honor God. They are a violent people. God gives the people and opportunity to turn from their ways by sending Jonah.

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me." But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, "How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish." Then the sailors said to each other, "Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity." They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, "Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?" He answered, "I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land."

The story goes on from there, but like Jonah, we often run when the issue of race arises. If L.A. is to be the city that embraces diversity, "we have to be willing to have the tough conversations." We can have these conversations for a greater reason. The men on the boat found that Jonah had moved in the opposite direction of God when God had directed Jonah to Nineveh. "We are gong to have to be courageous. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the absence of self."

"Often when I was growng up I would hear the story of Jonah and hear the story as a story of Judgement. The scripture gives Jonah a do-over. The Lord came to Jonah for a second time.

On the very first day, Jonah went before the people and, right away, they believed. The people had been given an ultimatum by God to change or their city would be destroyed and they listened! This was why it was so important for Jonah to go in the first place. But Jonah was actually displeased when the people listened! He became angry and prayed to the Lord. He knew that God was slow to anger and that God would exercise grace, so he tells God that he basically doesn't want God to bless these people. The Ninevites where dark complected and their noses were wide. They were from a different culture.

We have to be honest in our own views of different cultures and of our own perceptions. I've been married for 12 years and I was in San Francisco when I met my wife. Goody booked a flight to approach her father for a traditional request of him to have the hand of his daughter. Goody waited an hour and a half, but it was a no-show. A voicemail was on his future wife's cellphone which was her father refusing to meet Goody. So Goody was really down about the whole thing. Trying to honor her parents, he just says that the relationship has been difficult to accept. One time, Goody went by the house upon his wife's request. "I just had the inability to walk in...It was hard to step into a place where I knew I wasn't welcome." He and her father went out on the back deck that overlooked his estate. Her father, in so many words, said he thought races should be kept separate. Goody could accept the fact that this man didn't care for him, but what Goody found hard to accept was his lack of authenticity; his lack of owning up to who he was. Goody had paid $180 to fly out to see this man and there was virtually no resolve at all.

"So we need to have courage. We need to have authenticity and we need to have grace Whether you are the oppressor or the oppressed...we have to have grace." In verse 4, the Lord asks if Jonah has any right to be angry. In Psalms 139, "Should not my grace extend to them as well?"

"In life, as in a dance, grace guides our blistered feet. Our worst is never so bad that we are beyond God's grace even if it's racism or sexism. And neither is our best so good that we are beyond the need of grace." Author unnamed

"Up until now, diversity has been a noun...I want to make it a verb..I need twenty people up on stage right now...If you identify yourself as Anglo, Caucasian or White, come over here. If you are an African American or Black, stand over here. If you are Latino, Mexican, over here...Alright, this is how we try to engage the conversation of diversity. We begin to define by race, so already we are at a deficit. But what if...diversity hinged on pendulums; our passions and our pains. If you've lost someone recently, come to the center here. If you are addicted to a behavior, come over here. If you are passionate about ending human slavery, come over here....At the very essence, we are all human. This is where Jesus continued the conversation. In fact, Jesus' inaugural message from Luke 4 begin with pain and passions.

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Maybe the world is looking to us in LA to teach the world about diversity.

Monday, July 6, 2009

What Were the Disciple's Darkest Hours?

In the "One Prayer" series sponsored by some of the largest churches in the nation, Andy Stanly talks about our darkest hours and God's presence during these times. One of the most dramatic moments in all of human history took place in an environment... we've come to know as "Upper room" The disciples and Jesus were coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. This was a time when the Jewish people would come and celebrate the memory of the time when their people were finally delivered from Egypt after 400 years of slavery. Their ancestors were told by Moses to paint the blood of a lamb over their doorways which would mark their homes to be "passed over" by the angel of death when all the first born children of Egypt were to die because the Egyptian Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go despite warnings from Moses.

The disciples and Jesus had been through so much and they had had Passover several times together. But at this moment in the Upper Room, things seemed to have spiraled downward. People were trying to get Jesus alone so they could arrest Him. More and more, they were experiencing rejection and persecution. Jesus was, even now, talking about His own death. "Things are going to be bad in Jerusalem." He would say, which left the disciples wondering why He wanted to go to Jerusalem in the first place. Not only was it dangerous, but they had to sneak into the city under the cover of darkness to avoid being seen. It was a time when there were no shouts of joy or shouts saying, "Hosanna!" No one could even know they were in the Upper Room.

Mark 14:17 talks about this event; "When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me." So, here they are in one of the most intimate settings of their culture, at a dinner table, and even as the disciples were in their darkest hours, Jesus now is telling them that one of them will betray Him! What's worse, they knew who this person would betray Jesus to because things had gotten so bad and they now knew His enemies.

"They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely not I?" "It is one of the Twelve," he replied, "one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."

As we look at our Bible, it is not a book about great times and wonderful living. It is a book about the troubled times from the lives of people who discovered that in the midst of uncertainty, God was still trustworthy. This is a book where we read about Joseph, who was hated by and sold into slavery by his brothers. But we go on to know that God was with Joseph all along. We read about King David, who found out his son had raised up an army to kill him, but we later find out that God was with David throughout his ordeal. We read about the first-born children, in Egypt, who were ordered to be killed, but we found the God was there! We read about the how the all the babies in Bethlehem were killed, an entire generation, but we know know that God had the world in His hands through the birth of Jesus. We read about the times when it seemed like evil had won and the bad guys were successful, but then we see that God was there.

Now, in the Upper Room, Jesus begins breaking bread and pouring the wine, saying that the bread is His Body and the wine is His Blood. It was more death talk to an already somber group. What's worse, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus tells the disciples that all of them would fall away. He tells Peter that he would deny Jesus.

"Here's my question for we continue to experience extraordinary uncertainty in our families, in our jobs, with our children, with our culture, with our leadership, with our Congress, with our Senate...with our economy...with our scholarships. Can you trust God...when there's absolutely no evidence of His activity in your life, in your culture, in our country and seemingly at times, in our world? Our answer to that question will determine our response to the uncertainty in our lives right now." The dilemma right now is that we sometimes equate God and God's presence with physical blessings.

But, if you had gone to the disciples back in time and asked them, "When were the darkest moments in your ministry?" They would probably say it all began in the Upper Room. These were likely the darkest because it probably seemed like they had wasted all this time with Jesus. But then, if you asked the disciples, when did God do His greatest work in each of them, they would likely say that it was during those darkest hours!

"That's a difficult message for American Christians...But this is not only our story because it is reflected in the Gospel...but this is our own experience....The greatest things begin in the biggest messes...This is what God does...Will we maintain faith when we cannot see His hand? As our faith begins to waiver as we look to the left and the right, now more than ever, (the Bible) is the place we need to go." We might hear this message and say this is all fine, but this won't change our circumstances. It won't get us a job or put our kids back in school or heal our land. But although this doesn't promise a cure for the storms, it allows us to embrace our circumstances with the knowledge that God is still in charge.

"When Sandra and I were in the Washington for the Inauguration...they took us to this giant hall to wait for President Obama...we weren't standing in line, we were just spread out...the President was going to be coming out...I was standing behind...Reverend Otis Moss. He was born in middle Georgia in 1835...he was an a 16 year old, he saw the worst that this country had to 19, he decided to be a preacher...he became a part of the core group of friends with Martin Luther King...He experienced racism and hatred that many of us never will...but he kept his faith...As he shared with Coretta Scott King right in front of me, he drifted off and said, "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him...Now, (Rev Otis Moss's) "all things" were so different from the "all things" that many of us have experienced..."But Pastor Stanley, sometimes it takes him a while"...I was about to meet the President, but I realized I had just met a saint...God will not stop working. He still has your world and your family in His hands. I just met a man who maintained faith through horrible circumstances.." The end of the verse, Pastor Moss did not quote is "and for all who are called according to His purposes."

Our faith often rests in our knowing that God still has our whole world in His hands.

Friday, July 3, 2009

How Can I Experience God's Joy?

One of my favorite (if not my favorite) online messages was one delivered by Johnson Bowie at Victory World Church. In fact, his being a guest speaker was how I actually discovered Johnson. Although I have listened to this message several times already, I chose to listen again so that I might share its richness with others.

"As you can tell, I am not Pastor Dennis Rouse. He did not magically and incredibly grow younger and better looking and become me..." is how Johnson opens, but he notes that Pastor Dennis and his wife, Colleen, (were) in China at the world's largest revival.

Johnson moves on to talk about the continuation of the "Inside Out" series. The focus of the series is to dive into what it would look like if the outside of us actually reflected what was going on in the inside of us. Hopefully, it would be a good thing. Maybe we could get to the place where we take off the "love mask" and actually learn to love people. Maybe we could get to a place where we don't pretend to be happy but we actually have Joy inside of us. What would it look like if God came inside of us to actually live through us? As Christians, our bodies become a temple for the Holy Spirit if we allow God to live inside us.

But as Christians, we are in this process of slowly dying to ourselves. John the Baptist said, "I must decrease so that he might increase." So, if we are taking up 99% of ourselves, that only leaves God with 1%. In Galatians 5, God gives us a picture of what this does and doesn't look like:
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like." Define "like" and we have to put our natural selves there. In other words, when we live apart from God, this is the stuff that happens. All of these things become the fruit of our life. We have this warning from God. Not only that, but we then even risk not going to heaven.

But if we invite God to engage us and if we invite Him to come and live inside of us, "then we would have nine earth-shaking, amazing characteristics that would absolutely define our lives if we would let it." These characteristics are summarized in verse 22. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Wouldn't it be awesome if these things defined our lives? It looks a lot better than the first list! If this was on our tombstone, it would be incredible.

The first fruit of the Spirit is love. Not the love we typically think about, but supernatural love, like "love your enemies". This is so hard for us. "I feel like a two year old when I read that...pray for 'em..God, bless them...Lord, let their brakes fail...let them get a ticket. Bless them reeeaaal good." But we have to let the Spirit work through us, so God helps us by showing us how to die to ourselves.

The second fruit of the Spirit is...Johnson sings "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands..." We're talking about the supernatural Joy of God in our lives. "How many of you are really happy? C'mon, how many? You're all lying!! I tricked you into it...You're not happy all the time...If you are, you're weird and I would like to meet you...People don't just walk around happy...Life is not happiness, but life can be Joy."

"Look at the news! Iraq is imploding. You're probably going to get the bird flu on the way home. Don't open your mail because there's probably anthrax in there. If you haven't been fired first, a Recession is going to hit. You probably got into a fight with your wife this morning and make sure you check your tires for nails when you leave!" There's just bad things surrounding us and it makes it hard for us to be happy! We're being controlled by our circumstances and it hinders the Spirit of God from working in us.

See, here's our problem. We confuse happiness with Joy.

Philippians 4:4 says, "Always be full of the Joy in the Lord. I say it again, rejoice." Some of us read that and say, "That is impossible. Have you seen my life? God has obviously not seen my life and Paul probably had it made." "Well," responds Johnson, "Paul did have it made. Paul had one of the best lives of anyone who's ever lived. It is actually documented that when he wrote this, he was on the beach at Fiji...He was a big scuba diver...He had it made...How he got there was on his chariot Escalade with the spinners, you know?...Paul had some nice camels! I mean, Paul had it made!! Kind of..."

"I don't know if you know about Paul's life, but before this time...He had been shipwrecked 3 times...I've never been shipwrecked, but once would be enough! He's been left for dead. He's been bitten by snakes. He's been cold and naked. He's been flogged. He's been beaten with rods 3 times. He's had humongous rocks thrown at him until he was dead, was dragged outside the city and left for dead. Then God said He wasn't done with him yet, He raised him from the dead and sent him on...but man, always be filled with that Joy!...It doesn't make sense! But at this point, it had to have gotten better for him, right?...But we find out that Paul wrote this...while he's literally chained to a prison guard. I've never been wrongfully in prison, but I don't know if I'd be 'guys, I've got some crazy Joy for Jesus'...The guard would be like, 'Bro, that's the whole reason you're in here'...Paul is completely wrongfully imprisoned, but he is singing!...How could he be so happy?...Paul wasn't happy. He was filled with Joy."

That is what we are trying to explore in this message. What is the difference between happiness and the "Joy that passes all understanding"? The Latin root for happiness is "hap" which means circumstance or luck. When everything is going great, we're happy. When it is not, we're unhappy. It's like we ride on this roller coaster of circumstances and it controls us! We might as we be playing the lottery. Whatever we get in that morning, we decide to be happy or sad.

"I made my first million. Yeah!...get a new Escalade...It gets repoed...Phsstt...Everyone is talking good about me...yeah!...then they start spreading rumors....You know how it is on a Saturday morning...the comforter is pulled up and it is glory-filled...The pillow is fluffy...and it just doesn't get any better than this...and then "Momma! Daddy!! Come get me!! (Deflates)...I know what it looks like when we look at our bank account...Honey, we're eating grass for the next month. If the cows can do it, we can too!..Being controlled by our circumstances just doesn't work...C'mon, you know these people. They are like Tigger one moment and then Eeyore the next...'Hey, hey, hey..I just closed a big girlfriend is really good looking...and I just saved a whole bunch of money by switching to Geiko!'...And then you see them the next day...'I got fired, so I'm cleaning out my office. My girlfriend is not good looking anymore. I got dropped by Geiko...'"

The pursuit of happiness is this dead end. In Will Smith's movie, "The Pursuit of Happiness", Will's character says the writers of the Declaration of Independence probably put "the pursuit of happiness" in there on purpose because they knew it was never really achievable and it would always keep people moving and chasing. It becomes a constant pursuit.

But Jesus never told us that the Christian life would be happy. In fact, Jesus wept a lot! He wept over Israel and He wept over the death of Lazarus. He told us to weep with those who weep. That's not happy! Johnson is tired of meeting people who know nothing about the Bible, but quote things that aren't even in the Bible. Like they want to get a divorce because "God wants me to be happy." "Chapter and verse, please!?!...let's think about that...God wants you to be happy, right?...What about your wife and your kids that you're leaving? God doesn't want them to be happy, just you?"

See, the thing is God doesn't offer us happiness. He offers us Joy. The Hebrew word for Joy means "to leap or to spin around with pleasure." When Johnson dances, he stays in one place "Q-Tip, throw it away. Q-Tip, throw it away." But, when Johnson thinks about Jesus, he just starts going nuts because he is filled with Joy over what Jesus has done for him!

David was on to this in Psalms 16:11. "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." We don't even know what "fullness of Joy" means, but the more we lean into God, the more we will experience His Joy. We don't have to live a life of worldly riches to experience Joy! We can live it right where we are with Him and the Spirit! "It makes me not want to sin, because when we sin we are separated from God." But it is in His presence where we find Joy. Joy transcends disasters. It's not that God doesn't care about our troubles. He wants to heal us!

Nehemiah 8:10 says "the joy of our Lord is your strength." We've been there when we don't want to get up, but then there is this whisper where the Lord says, "You're mine" and it gives us the strength to get up and conquer the day.

Johnson was on a mission trip not too long ago where his team went to this little, itty bitty town in the middle of nowhere. They woke up in the morning and they were going to spend time in a bus for a couple hours that day. But after the buses, they were put in two pickup trucks. "I don't know if you've ever shared a pickup truck with 15 other people, but it's not my definition of happiness...So, do the math...there were 2 people in front and about 13 other people in the bed of the pickup...But they know we're Americans, so there is no way they will make us ride that long like this...We're too good for this...but then...30 hour...2 hours...3 1/2 hours in the back of a pickup!...and we are supposed to go spread the gospel...but we did it!...and it was like walking on chalk dust...but guess what happened when we were about to leave?...It rained!...We get stuck in the mud and have to push the truck out...the ride is 3 1/2 more hours through a mountain pass...Then we get there and there is this horrible party music playing that keeps us up until 6am in the we all wake up...and everyone was joyful..because the Joy of the Lord was their strength!"

Johnson met this lady in Nicaragua whose son was Marvin. Marvin is in his late 50's with horrible Muscular Dystrophy. His mother and he live in this stick hut with two rooms. Her job is to get up every day and cook for him and help him around. She is in her late 70's! This is something that some Americans would kill themselves over. So, when Johnson and his team showed up, they were thinking, "Okay, guys, here she comes, we're Americans, let's get ready to pray." But this 70 year old lady comes up saying through her tears, "Other followers of Jesus!" and she is praying over them. It totally took them by surprise and it touched everyone. "She had joy that we didn't even know about!" We complain over air conditioning and plumbing. But this lady had Joy despite all her troubles. "We got rocked!" Sometimes we have to remind ourselves why we should have joy.

Paul says, "I want to stir you up by way of remembrance." We have to remember what God has done for us. When we are feeling down, let's remind ourselves how God has been faithful to us. We are a new person in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" God says we are saints! We are wholly and dearly loved. All the guilt and the shame are gone. What did Jesus call what He was doing? THE GOOD NEWS! We've had a spiritual blood transfusion! Jesus died so we wouldn't have to go to Hell. In His presence is Joy! We've been saved! We can stir ourselves up in the Joy! Keep our eyes on the author and perfecter of faith!

Paul also, says, that we are the "adopted sons and daughters of the Living God." We've seen the stories where the adopted children are playing second fiddle. But this verse was written in an environment when the Romans would adopt citizens into the empire despite their past as the Empire spread. We are defined by God, not by our past, but by His grace.

Johnson found this new definition of Joy,

Joy is "the emotion evoked by the prospect of possessing what one desires."

Zephaniah 3:17 says, "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

God is delightfully looking down on us. "I get this mental image of Jesus being like a dad at a tee ball high 5's to all the other dads...He has to be giving high 5's to all the angels...but the angels must be like, have you seen their life?...They suck!...But God doesn't look at what we've screwed up in our lives. He looks at us as His children!"

1 Peter 1 says, "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." Not even death can take this away from us.

2 Corinthians 2 says that wherever we go we carry the aroma of Jesus Christ with us. Our joy is what this world does not have. Nothing can take it away. The old is gone and the new has come. We have joy because we know that, while we were still sinners, God died for us. We have to start stirring ourselves up.

"You have not seen anything yet...Start thinking about the eternal...I think we have our misconceptions about what Heaven is...It's gonna be this really long church service...Hopefully the speaking will be better...hopefully the worship might be as good...hopefully they'll play the song everyone likes."

C.S. Lewis wrote the "Chronicles of Narnia" which is symbolic of God and His relationship to us. Aslan, the lion, represents God in the story. In one of His conversations with one of the children, Lucy, Aslan talks about Heaven.

Aslan turned to them and said, "You do not look so happy as I mean you to be." And Lucy said, "Aslan, we are so afraid of being sent away and in your presence is fullness of Joy. You have sent us back to our world so often." "No fear of that," said Aslan, "Have you not guessed?" And their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them. "See, there was a real railway accident", said Aslan softy. "Your father and mother and all of you are, as you used call in the Shadowlands, dead. But the term has ended and the holidays have begun. The dream has ended. This is the morning. And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a Lion. But the things that began to happen after that were so great and so beautiful I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories and we can most truly say we live happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page. Now, at last, they were beginning chapter one of the great story which no one on earth has ever read, which goes on forever and in which every chapter is better than the one before.

This is what lies ahead for us! It is only the title and the cover page! This is where the really good stuff is. Revelation 21 tells it another way.

"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. And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for a husband. And a wedding ceremony began and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men and He will live with them and they will be His people and God Himself will be with them and God will be their God. And he will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things is passed away. And He who is seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making everything new.'...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. The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it. Nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful. Only those who's names are written in the Lamb's book of Life.

A real God is writing your real name in a real Lamb's Book of Life. That is our Joy. Death has no hold over us. Death is only Paradise in disguise. There's no fear in death. Circumstances have no hold on us because we know what's on the other side. Easter wasn't somber, it was an endzone dance. Death was defeated. Stir yourself up. You are a lover of God and you are known by God. Take joy in that. We have to start thinking about that. We've been rescued. Always, we must rejoice. Our eternity will be with Him.