Friday, July 11, 2014

Vacation Planning

Embarking on that grand vacation can be an overwhelming experience - particularly when we sit down to actually plan for it. Numerous considerations have to be factored in, while planning such a trip, before that itinerary can be developed. Few such things for consideration include weather, budget, accommodation, activities, sightseeing, transportation, dates, luggage, etc.

If the entire family is going, then expect to have agreements and disagreements as to what each individual wants or does not want to do. Then it boils down to making sacrifices and compromises.

Anyone who has planned or has been part of such vacation planning can attest to what I am talking about. Now, if you've ever planned a project then you know how detail oriented you have to be, in order to complete that planning exercise. One has to take that goal, break it down into smaller tasks comprising of monthly or weekly tasks, further breaking them into smaller daily tasks. Then the team has to nibble away those manageable tasks one by one to get to those bigger tasks, and ultimately accomplish their goal.

If a one or two week vacation involves such meticulous planning, how much planning would a wise person do for that eternal living in heaven? Do we even dare to mention about this fascinating destination - heaven, to our family members during family gatherings?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Proverbs 10

Today is July 10th and hopefully you are reading Proverbs Chapter 10 today. All I will do is just scratch the surface and leave the rest for you to learn and meditate.

Those first nine chapters of Proverbs are considered as an introduction to the Book of Proverbs. It essentially teaches us that our life is a grand total of all those decisions we make everyday. Who, what and where we are today, is a result of the sum total of choices and decisions we made up until yesterday.

Chapter 10 is where King Solomon begins those short sentences with powerful meanings - the real stuff.

The first verse speaks about those various choice children have - either to bring home honor or dishonor. In this verse, it does not matter what our current age is. It neither matters whether we have both our parents alive or around us - it is a tribute we can pay towards their sacrifices in order to foster their legacy. The right thing to do is to bring them honor. Ephesians 6:1 tells us to obey our father and mother. As a general rule, God designed parents in such a manner they will only ask their children to do what is right.

In the second verse, King Solomon contrasts a life used to earn tainted wealth versus upright living. Acquiring wealth is certainly a wonderful thing and wealth is an excellent servant, but it makes a hopeless master. Around us, there are numerous ways to acquire tainted wealth. Those shortcuts leading to tainted wealth seem to promise lot more in a relatively brief period of time. Those stepping onto that path become blind of the destructive power of tainted wealth until it starts swallowing them. Such wealth has no lasting value. Righteous living, on the other hand does not seem to promise much in the short run, but it emerges as a true winner in the long run. We should treat wealth as a means for living and only worship Our Lord; He is sure to take care of all our needs, including wealth when we walk upright and honest.

May the rest of this chapter shed further wisdom into your soul.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Our Pets in Heaven

Our pets become part of our family and we love them. Ever wondered what happens to those pets we currently have or had in the past, when we arrive at heaven? Whether our pets get to heaven along with us is a poignant thought pet lovers have.

The Bible does not speak specifically on this subject, but if you pays close attention, you will find few points. This is mainly because the Bible is aimed towards the well being of human beings - the crown jewel of God's creation.

Going back to Genesis, we learn about God creating all those birds, animals and sea creatures for His glory and pleasure. Coming to think about it, there are numerous birds, animals and fishes which we have not yet seen with our eyes - but they do exist out there. In the garden of Eden, man co-existed with animals, and it was man's sin which pushed even animals out of the Eden.

When you get closer to God and try to understand Him, you'll learn one thing - He is a fabulous creator, and not a destroyer. God is the best architect and engineer - His creations proclaim the works of His hand.
Romans 11:33-36 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!
For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
    Who knows enough to give him advice?
And who has given him so much
    that he needs to pay it back?
For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
When some of us occasionally get angry, in that fury we tend to destroy certain things around us. Others get this sudden urge to act on impulse without thinking much. They do whatever comes into the head at that particular moment - good or bad, as long as it does not hurt anyone. However, the nature of God is that He seldom gets angry to that point of destroying things around Him. Nor does He act on impulse. Sure, He rarely gets angry and His anger cannot be compared to our anger. His anger is righteous anger, which is caused because there is some sort of violation to His character.

At one point God decided to destroy every human being on earth, except Noah's family. During the progressive course of events, He made sure those animals He created were not affected by His wrath. For this reason, He asked Noah to build a huge Ark. The big lesson we learn from Noah's story is that God keeps track of each and every animal and takes wonderful care of them.

Fast forward few thousand years until we arrive at the story of Jonah. Jonah was disappointed and upset that God did not destroy Nineveh as they already repented after hearing Jonah's preaching. We also read that Jonah waiting upon a hill to see how the destruction would come upon them. Jonah was angry at God for accepting their repentance and deciding to forgive them. Here, we read that one reason why God did not want to destroy the city of Nineveh was because of His love towards the animals in Nineveh.
Jonah 4:11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left - and also many animals?”
Recall that animals also suffered as a result of human sin. They were happily enjoying the fruits of Eden Garden once upon a time. It's not just we humans who praise the Lord - every single creature worships it's creator. Likewise, Our Lord remembers every one of them. Below is a quote from Luke, where Jesus mentions about sparrows being used in the temple.
Luke 12:6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
When we take pets into our homes, we are in a way acting like God by providing them food and shelter. Though it sounds simple, taking care of pets is a huge task as they require food, water and also crave for our attention all the time.

Bible speaks about few animals in heaven - lion, calf, eagle etc,. As heaven is specially tailored and destined to be a place meant to enjoy life with God forever, let us have faith in that Master Architect. He certainly will make Heaven a wonderful place where every citizen can "Party with God" to our fullest extend, forever and ever, without becoming tired.

Listen to this - it is out of pure love overflowing from our hearts that we desire our dearest and loved ones to be along with us in heaven during that "everlasting life". This is the very reason pet lovers are concerned whether their pets will be along with them in heaven. As God is the source of love, He wants to see everyone growing in love and He nourishes the presence of love. His goal is to together keep all those who love each other - simply because He is that Love.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

About Rapture

While browsing CNN headlines yesterday, I came across an article, "Even Jesus wouldn't buy 'the rapture'. Just reading the headline I wondered, "How many of our Christian friends really know about this concept of rapture?"

Everyone is scared of death and at least some of us have attempted or at least thought about how to avoid this terror. Listen to what King David had to say about terrors of death when his son Absalom rebelled and dealt treacherously towards him:
Psalm 55:4-5 My heart is in anguish within me;
    the terrors of death have fallen on me.
  Fear and trembling have beset me;
    horror has overwhelmed me.
On top of this natural fear, like a mantra, we have heard our parents and grandparents recite the golden rule about death, over and over, "All those who are born have to die one day." Learning that death is inevitable does not make us feel any better; rather increases our fear many-fold.

The mantra we heard is not mathematically 100% accurate and certainly has exceptions. We read in Genesis 5:24 that Enoch walked with God and was taken to heaven directly. Another Old Testament superstar, Prophet Elijah, was caught up to heaven in a fiery chariot, as documented by 2 Kings 2:11. These two individuals did not taste death during their lifetime and therefore the general statement about death does not constitute a mathematical 100%, rather puts it in the vicinity of - say, 99.9999999999%.

I can almost visualize your face and your head nodding in disapproval about the mathematical calculation involving Enoch and Elijah, while supporting the general rule about death. Let me now draw your attention to another passage in the scripture. This time it is from the writings of St. Paul, where he speaks about the second coming of Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
Here, we are told by Paul to stay informed, rather than ignorant or uninformed. We are told not to grieve, but to have hope that Jesus will come and wake those up, who fell asleep in him.

Pay attention to the next part, which talks about the second coming of Jesus. Three things will be evident that marks the second coming:
(a) A loud command,
(b) Call of the archangel,
(c) A large trumpet call of God which will be heard so that everyone alive is alerted.

Our beloved ones - our family and friends who passed away ahead of us will not miss out on this great event. They will be awaken first to witness the second coming of Jesus. Suppose it takes place during our lifetime, we can meet our beloved ones who passed away, once again on this earth.

Next, those who are still alive will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. It means, those who are alive at that moment will not taste death, but will be given "new bodies" to suit their heavenly life. They will be transformed to their new bodies without actually experiencing death.

This future event, during the second coming of Jesus Christ, where those who are still alive will be caught up to heaven without tasting death is termed 'Rapture'.

Anyone scanning for the term 'rapture' in the Holy Bible will not find it. Neither will we find the word 'Trinity' in the Bible. Rapture is a concept explained using the writings of St. Paul.

Here is another writing of Paul which supports the concept of rapture. Both those passages - the one above and one below, are referring to the time of the judgement - a time that is known only by Our Heavenly Father. Millions, if not Billions of people will still be alive at that time, and those who are alive at that moment will not die, rather be taken directly into the next life after receiving their 'new bodies' fit for heavenly life. All this will happen in a split second, according to Paul.
1 Corinthians 15:51-55 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
   “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”
Here, Paul is making us aware of a mystery - which is complex for all of us to understand, where death will be swallowed up in victory.

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry and Hermione find the following quote inscribed on the tombstone of Harry's parents, Lily and James, "The last enemy to be conquered is death." This statement was originally given to us by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:26. Yes, the last enemy is death. Death originated when sin took birth. The death of death translates to the death of sin. That calls for a jubilant celebration in the Eternal Kingdom of God.

Some of us may be present at the time of this great event of rapture. For such individuals, it is going to be an awesome experience. For others who are going to taste death for certain, let me quote the wise Dumbledore, "To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure."