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SPIRITUAL ASSASSINATION (AND A TIMELY RESURRECTION)

Just as in the case of the Lord Jesus who was marked for assassination by His enemies (who succeeded but failed), so is every dedicated real Christian likely marked.

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Some of these spiritual assassination attempts will succeed (we have Scriptural examples). The vast majority will not. But no matter. Physical death is not the end of the story. Every real Christian so marked is also marked for resurrection just as our Founder was marked. He was destined to die for a great purpose but was also destined to rise again not long after. In His case it happened on the third day after His death. (This also happened to be the third day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.) For the vast majority of real Christians, however, their resurrections will come much later. There will be a day in the future when all will rise again together. Old-timers referred to it as “that great gettin’ up mornin.’

I say “the vast majority” because there were some who actually received their resurrections from death in the first century AD. In this, I am not referring to Lazarus or others whom the Lord or the apostles raised up because those people had to die physically a second time. I am instead referring to those mysterious resurrections which took place soon after the Lord’s resurrection referred to in Matthew’s Gospel:

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. [Matthew 27:50-53]

One wonders if there were others elsewhere in various locations who were also raised at that time. The city of Jerusalem was not the only place saints of old were buried though it is possible more might have been buried in its environs than elsewhere. One wonders further just who these saints might have been. What qualified them to be resurrected at that time? Were they Old Testament saints from centuries past? Or were they first-century believers who died at some point during the Lord’s ministry? What if some of the well-known national figures were included in this group, such as David, who was buried in Jerusalem?

THE PRIVILEGE OF RESURRECTION

Because there is so much misunderstanding or lack of information about the future resurrection of those who have passed, the subject must be put into context. We know the Scriptures are clear that all will be resurrected, both the saved and unsaved:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” [John 5:25-29]

In addition to this, the Lord makes it clear that the future resurrection unto Life is a privilege not given to everyone or just anyone but only to those who are worthy:

Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” [Luke 20:34-36]

It is likely the case at most funerals that the person who died is assumed to have gone to heaven. Imagine all the funerals (term used very loosely) worldwide for all time. The dearly departed was likely loved by someone or maybe a great many. To question his or her eternal destination at such a time is probably the height of protocol-breaking or certainly awkward. According to the teachings of the Lord and the entry requirements He mandates, most of these people went to the opposite place they were assumed to have gone.

The point, of course, is that “going to heaven” and participating in a future resurrection unto Life is not automatic or a right but a great privilege and blessing reserved only for a relative few. It is something, in the words of the Lord Jesus, to attain. The Greek word means “to hit upon, meet, happen, obtain.” It is something to strive for, to work toward, and to make oneself worthy to receive. This does not mean we can earn our salvation, which is impossible, but that we must work within the context set forth by the Lord Jesus to be “considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection of the dead.”

WHY THE LORD JESUS WAS A MARKED MAN

We are in a war. It is a spiritual war. The devil is a mighty foe. He is very powerful. He attacks his enemies. His aim is to eliminate anyone attacking him or his kingdom. Those who do the most damage are at the top of his list. But the Lord Jesus, on the other hand, is so much more powerful He could squash the devil like a bug any time He felt like it. And He will protect His children in this world who work for Him the same way He protected Himself from the many assassination attempts upon His life before He surrendered to His destiny as the Sacrifice Lamb.

A close friend told me the other day something a pastor had recently preached. The pastor said to the effect, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the Lord was killed or murdered. He laid down His life willingly…” I said “Well, the pastor is wrong. It is in fact, both. The Lord certainly laid down His life and made Himself vulnerable, but He was also murdered. The apostle Peter said this very thing in the first anointed message of the Church on the Day of Pentecost.” Here is the passage:

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” [Acts 2:22-24]

It is often said that Stephen was the first martyr of the Church but this is not true. It was the Lord Jesus who was the first martyr. He had to be first. He was indeed greatly persecuted by evil unbelievers and eventually suffered physical death at their hands. He was the first to die and also the first to rise. It had to be this way. Nothing else could have possibly worked otherwise. The Lord Jesus is both the Door and the one who opened the door to Life. He is the only spiritual Warrior who could defeat death, hell, and the grave. He had to go first to do this because He was the only one worthy. It would have been impossible with anyone else because everyone else has sin but He never did. He was thus worthy to attain His resurrection and eternal life.

And because He did attain it He makes it possible for His followers to attain it as well. They must be cleansed of all sin, however, or forget it. But He has the power to do that. He has the power, with His own Blood, to cleanse a person of all of his or her personal sin. He also has the power to raise one up to new life in this world, fill one with His Holy Spirit which enables one to be properly equipped for service and the spiritual battlefield, live an overcoming life over sin, and also to work for Him within His kingdom doing works that He did. THESE are the people, in general, who are the worthy ones.

Thus, heaven is not nor has it ever been automatic, the only condition met being death. It is reserved only for those who submit to the salvation method of the Lord Jesus. Now, granted, there will be those who are also judged by Him to be worthy who do not fit the apparent conditions within the context of His teachings. Paul alluded to this possibility in the following:

For there is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. [Romans 2:11-16][1]

It is thus possible that one may never hear the Gospel and still go to heaven. (Consider all those who died prior to the Lord’s ministry or who lived at great distances away on other continents long before the Gospel ever reached their lands.) But this can only be possible if the preceding qualifications are met. How many millions, and indeed, billions of people who have ever lived on this planet lived in such a way that they did their best to honor their conscience, strove to do good and shun evil, and reached out to a Creator they knew must exist. These are things beyond the realm of human judgement or knowledge. No one can see such things but the Lord. Only the Lord Jesus knows all hearts. He is the best possible Judge of one’s soul. He will make the right decisions. He will always render perfect judgments.

THERE IS LIKELY A CONTRACT ON YOUR LIFE

If you are a big enough threat, expect to be attacked. But know also that the Lord has means to grant you victory. I knew someone several years ago who was attacked severely and his entire life was essentially destroyed. The devil’s aim was to do even more. His original goal was to destroy everything including the person’s life. But it didn’t work out quite that way. Because this man had walked with God the Lord allowed his former life to be destroyed but preserved the man’s spiritual life. He preserved the man’s ministry and life purpose. He worked with the man over several years to sort out all the ramifications which resulted from both a diabolical Jezebel attack and also a Judas betrayal. The enemy meant total destruction and it should have been such in that he threw everything he had at him. It was a pure assassination attempt in the first degree.

But it failed. Rather than be overcome by the severe repercussions of the spiritual attack, this man worked with the Lord over several years to work everything out. He patiently crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s. Everything was settled above board and properly. And it was done with no evil intent toward his human attackers who assisted in the plot. This man had what might be termed an ongoing resurrection. Though the enemy tried with all his might and though he succeeded at destroying much, he failed at destroying all. This is always a dangerous outcome. It made the man who was marked for death an even greater threat than he was before.

It also meant he survived the worst. This man will never have to go through such again. You may know people like this. Their experience is noted for something many have gone through over the last quarter century or so. There are people who represented a threat to the enemy who for all practical purposes should not have survived the attempt against them who then later became a greater threat than before.

Those who are forced to go toe to toe with some gnarly Goliath, who face otherwise certain death and destruction, and live to tell the story of a great victory are the kind of people you want on your team. They have already experienced a type of resurrection, reminiscent of their future one, and rejoined the Lord on the battlefield. The assassination they were marked for is what they mark the enemy with and have greater power and ability given by God to achieve that objective.

All praise and glory to the Lord Jesus.

© 2022 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

WAKE FROM SLUMBER: EMBRACE THE REAL KINGDOM

         Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” [John 18:36]  

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       The reality of the kingdom of the Lord is much more far-reaching than most Christians acknowledge. Many believers have made varying compromises toward this simple but extremely profound fact, that the Lord’s kingdom is thoroughly and unapologetically spiritual.

          It is something that cannot be replicated in the material world but that has never stopped Christians from trying. There have always been ongoing, incessant movements throughout the Church Age to demystify the nature of the Lord’s kingdom and thoroughly revamp it into materialistic modes and representations. There has always been the strange thought in many Christian circles that material representations and symbols are indispensable to a proper understanding of the kingdom, in that without such the reality of real spirituality is both unknowable and unapproachable.

        What this actually represents is complete ignorance of the Lord’s kingdom and an attempt to reformulate it into outward representations created to capture the mind and thus, the heart. But it doesn’t work. It only functions on a mundane level that many Christians are apparently satisfied with and only serves to cover up and cloud over the possibility of knowing the actual kingdom.

IMAGE IS EVERYTHING? NOT

         There is a reason the Lord God said from the very beginning to never make any kind of graven image or material representation of what is thought to be of the spiritual world or the things that comprise it. Invariably, if one is wont to create such, one will invariably create something sinister regardless of how benign it may appear outwardly. In the most obtuse sense, someone feels he must construct a small image to which he will direct his “spiritual” energy and thought, in that he may feel a strong need for such though completely ignorant of why or why it must be such. These efforts grow in time to full-fledged statuary of perfect human forms, something the ancient Greeks perfected centuries before the Lord’s time.

       We still have a great many examples of this ancient “art” and many more representations, of course, that have been created since. It gets seriously goofy when one lays eyes on the ridiculous stone figures of such people as George Washington and other founding fathers of America. This entire thing could not be more of a joke. I think Washington himself would be greatly embarrassed and would probably lead the charge in getting rid of them. One of the even more goofy efforts in this vein is the trend that began a few decades ago in constructing statues of baseball players outside major league baseball parks. Baseball players? Seriously? I like baseball but whoever signs off on this stuff needs to have their head examined.

         The Lord has always warned against any of this stuff because people can be so easily deceived and begin seeing these things as reality. But they are mere idols. Other than the Lord Jesus, every human being who ever lived is flawed and sinful regardless of what they or others may think. No human being is worthy of a statue nor is the human being in general worthy of such, nor is such a proper representation anyway. Everything about unregenerate humanity is actually antithetical to spirituality, the antithesis of honor, and screams out the need for humility.

THE DEFAULT MUST BE RADICALLY ADJUSTED

         Human beings are all going to hell without the Lord’s salvation. Regardless of all the good we know about everyone, there is also all the bad which must be acknowledged. Something must be done about it. Human beings can get so caught up in their own good looks or accomplishments, or the many material items they may have been able to acquire, and believe that all of that is somehow indicative of spiritual worth and self worth. It is not.

         Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” [Luke 12:15]

         The default eternal destination of every human being is hell. If something is not done to correct that then that is where one will end up. If one does nothing to change and attempt to get right with God one has no chance. But one must not only begin the process, one must see it through, no matter what it takes or how long it takes. Eternity is riding on it. The Lord stood before Pilate at His ongoing trial and stated this very clearly. Here was God Himself making it very clear that His kingdom was not of this earth. Pilate was an intelligent man but completely failed to grasp this truth.

         Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”

         Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

      Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.” [John 18:33-38]

         Here was God. YHWH. The Great I AM. Standing before a mere human potentate. His rabid enemies right outside wanting to kill Him. This pretty much tells you all you need to know about the real nature of this world and of humanity. Why such a great divide? How did this happen?

         It is obvious that the real Gospel calls for radical change and transformation, something the majority of Christians have never engaged in and often shun. Many of these have substituted material representations and large material structures costing great amounts of money to build and maintain. Many have substituted counterfeit doctrines and teachings resulting in spiritual ignorance. What would the Lord say?

         Keep in mind that the Lord never wanted to be replaced by human leaders but allowed it only because people insisted. We also know He doesn’t dwell in houses made with human hands.

         Why then the temple? Again, the entire paradigm changed forever after the Babylonian Captivity. A second temple was built but it never had anything in the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant was gone and has been missing ever since then. The third temple built by Herod, that which authorities insist was actually still the second temple, was also empty where it mattered. Was this a sign?

DOING WHAT COMES NATURALLY

         And then the Lord came and they killed Him. They wanted the material. They wanted the money. They wanted the prestige. They wanted the honor. But the Lord said all of that was a complete joke and what one really needs is to get one’s spiritual eyes fixed. He stood before His inquisitors with nothing. This Man who made the universe, who created the planet, who set off Creation. This Man stood before them with nothing that they could see. And yet He was rich beyond measure. He would go through the process. He would allow them to kill Him. But He also warned them of what was coming and the judgment they would face. They paid no attention, just as most people pay no attention to what is required of them to gain eternal life.

         It would be good if all Christians would get spiritual. It would be good if we would all pay attention to actual spiritual reality. If we did the things the Lord actually told us to do it would make more sense. The things the apostle Paul taught regarding spiritual gifts would make more sense. All Christians would flock to spiritual truth and do all that was required.

         More Christians would wake from their slumber.

       While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” [Matthew 27:19] [1]   

         © 2018 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Defining “Fruit”: THE PARABLE OF THE TREES (3)

         Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us!’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’

         “Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come, reign over us!’ But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’

         “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come, reign over us!’ But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?’

         Finally all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come, reign over us!’ The bramble said to the trees, ‘If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.’” [Judges 9:8-15]

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         The trees that produce good fruit never reign over other trees. Never. They refuse. It is not in their nature. It is not the will of God.

         The nature of good trees is to be what they are as God made them and produce good fruit. Good trees do not produce bad fruit. Good trees only produce good fruit.

         Only bad trees reign over other trees. Bad trees produce only bad fruit. Some of their bad fruit is the desire to reign over other trees. Only bad trees reign over other trees.

         In the above passage from the Book of Judges, three good trees are mentioned:

The Olive Tree

The Fig Tree

The Grape Vine

         One bad tree is mentioned: The Bramble

         The Bramble was a thorn bush. It produced no good fruit. It only produced bad fruit. It produced thorns.

         “For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit.

         “For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.” [Luke 6:43-44]

CHRISTIANS RULING OVER CHRISTIANS

         Good trees producing good fruit NEVER accept the reign over Christians. Only bad trees producing bad fruit reign over Christians.

         This is a very difficult concept to understand for Christians since the majority has always been ruled over by other Christians. It seems no matter how many times the Lord Jesus tells the story most Christians just don’t get it. They insist that they must be ruled over by one of their own.

ABIMELECH

         In the above passage from the Book of Judges, the people of Shechem chose Abimelech, The Bramble, as their king.

         The name Abimelech literally means, “father is king,” or “Melek (“king”) is father.”

         Abimelech was one of Gideon’s 70 sons. In his attempt to become the sole king and rightful heir of his father, he killed every single one of his brothers except one: Jotham escaped.

         It was Jotham, the lone survivor, who told the Parable of the Trees.

         Abimelech was eventually mortally wounded by a woman who dropped a big rock on his head, crushing it. Yet, so that it would not be said he was killed by a woman, he commanded his armor bearer to run him through with his sword.

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE WOMAN?

         But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head, crushing his skull. [Judges 9:53]

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         “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” [Genesis 3:15]

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         “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.

         “But the greatest among you shall be your servant.

         “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

         “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” [Matthew 23:10-13] [1]

            © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Behind Enemy Lines: This World is Not My Home

         The apostle Paul was told his fate. After appearing before the man Nero left as a representative, Paul was told he lost his case. He knew what that meant. But he had already known anyway, because the Lord revealed it to him beforehand in the spirit. He was happy that his day had come to see the Lord…

         But he was also greatly saddened because he wanted to keep working. He wanted to minister to others, and to continue revealing the light of the Gospel message and blessing whoever he might. He wanted to continue being used as a vessel for God’s glory regardless of the sacrifice and pain.

         He was a scrapper!

         And so are so many believers the world over who continue smiling as they face great discomfort, neglect, and rejection for knowing and loving their Creator and Savior. And this is their great victory—they can smile! They want to smile, and they cannot help but smile and express their joy, even though at times it may be in their spirit and not visible to others.

         The great hero’s of the faith are those who soldier on regardless of the cost. Like Paul, they are determined to finish their course. Imagine what Paul was thinking as he laid his head down for the last time on this side of eternity. He must have thought about how blessed he was, how he gave it his all, and how he was so fortunate to love and be loved by so many people…

         Then, in his final seconds, he probably thought about how blessed he was in that he was also given the awesome opportunity to present his body as a living sacrifice one final time to honor and glorify his King. He had been doing just that during his entire ministry, and he had the many scars to prove it.

         The reality is that Paul would have never stopped living and working for God. He would have continued until his body simply quit functioning, even though he was most likely racked with pain every day due to all of his injuries and suffering. He knew at the end how short life really is and how much more he wanted to do, but also that his time of departure was not his decision.

         Unless the Lord reveals it, no one knows his or her future. Some who thought they would live long did not. And some who thought their passing was eminent lived on for many more years. We’ll all be checking out at some point, either young or old. We know that. But let it be in God’s timing. And in the meantime, we will do our work for God with courage and dedication, with a heart of love and gratitude, continuing to be thankful for our many blessings.

         Paul gave everything he had in life, and in the end gave everything he had in death, always in surrender and obedience. With nothing more to do or give, his very last thought was probably associated with the following:

         “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” [2 Timothy 4:6-8]   

         “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” [Philippians 1:21]

         There is no sense in arguing with a man with an experience. Paul not only walked with the Lord on a daily basis, the Lord actually made it a tad easier at times by circumventing the usual convention and showing up in 3D:

         And there occurred a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, “We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks.

         But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.” [Acts 23:9-11] [1]

         Paul understood the stark reality of life on this planet. He knew there was a God. He knew God by name. He knew this world was a temporary place. He knew there was a constant battle going on, and he knew the more he witnessed for the Lord the more the battle would break out around him and upon him. For “Christians” who experience no battle of this kind, it is obvious they are doing little or nothing for God.

         Real Christians understand this is a fallen world and that the human inhabitants of this world are spiritually blind until a legitimate spiritual new birth takes place. When that happens the blind think the unblind are nuts, simply because the ones who see claim the reality of the spiritual world.

         And they reveal truth.

         And they expose the devil.

        And as a result they experience a backlash from evil forces otherwise known as persecution.

         For some, Christianity is only cultural. For others it is merely a ritualistic religion. But for Paul, it was life and death. It was warfare. Due to the nature of his calling and anointing, trouble seemed to follow him wherever he went. He was a wanted man. The devil hated him and repeatedly tried to take his life. But as it was with the Lord, the devil failed on each and every occasion. When the time came for Paul’s retirement, though, it was the Lord Jesus who made the decision. And it must be noted that real retirement for the real Christian is physical death.

         Paul died the same way John the Immerser died. It was relatively quick and painless. And the next thing he knew he was at his retirement party in heaven welcomed with applause and hugs all around. They probably all sported miniature funny hats and had a big cake. And at one end of the group was the Lord, with a big smile.

         Good job, Paul.

         © 2013 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.