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Our PRESENT Heavenly Residence INTERLUDE

Just a word of personal testimony that it really "works."

I've dearly loved my N.T.B.I. office over the years. Got it fixed up the way I like it; authentic pages of historic old Bibles hanging on the walls, favorite photos of wife and kids, plaques and other gifts of love from students over the years, cool "knick-knacks."

And then there's the books; a real quality selection, including some rare, out of print editions almost too "hot" to keep on flammable wooden shelves (the volatile content tends to burn holes in successive layers of shelving (and flooring!), if you don't place them with great care and keep an eye on them!).

Friends like the late, great scholar and author Theodore P. Letis ("The Ecclesiastical Text") have actually expressed a bit of good-natured envy when they've visited.

In the past few years (blame it on Lyme and related considerations), I fell into the habit of working out of our home much more. I got Levi his own key, and he had been using the office more than I! He liked the solitude and the surroundings.

I have not been up to my office a great deal since Levi's death. I was actually in the midst of sorting and sifting through my files and papers, determining what to take and what to toss, as we move from the Bible school into a new ministry, at the beginning of summer, 2017.

So, there is a MESS of papers gloriously strewn across desk and floor, exactly as I left it before we went to Virginia the month Levi took his life.

I went up the hill to my office a few weeks ago to get something. Feeling pretty emotional just being there. Memories, and Levi's presence pervaded.

As I rummaged about, I turned over one picture that was face down in the midst of chaos on my desk, forgetting for a moment what it was. It was a great photo of Abel and Levi as little boys, in their jammies, nestled together in one bed, big, beautiful, boyish grins on their faces as they stared up at their mom, who was taking the picture.

That old familiar lump surged up into the throat. I decided I'd better quit while I was ahead, and turned to leave. Turned smack into another photo of Levi as a boy on my bookshelf, this time solo, with that great head of thick, wavy hair, and that same grin. For some reason, I felt it would be good for my "healing process" to stop and FORCE myself to pick up that picture in my hands and just study it for a minute.

It didn't feel healing. It felt horrible. The lump in my throat was now a granite boulder the size of a Ford pick-up truck. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I literally felt sick to my stomach. Grabbing from my desk what I originally came for, I beat a hasty retreat, but then my eyes settled on a candle that Abel gave me as a gift a couple Christmases ago. Yes, a little office thingamabob that was not even from Levi, but from his big brother.

The candle had a special scent. It was supposed to have that distinctive, slightly musty smell of "old books." Not sure exactly what it was that did it to me. I guess just that the emotions were already so well primed by that point. And the realization that swept over me that this is how both boys saw their dad; sitting in his office, candle burning slowly on desk as he studies away, surrounded by pictures of them and the distinctive smell of all those old books. Just a wave of mushy sentimentalism involving BOTH boys.

At this point, I simply HAD to get out of there, and quick. It was a quiet point in the afternoon; could hardly hear a sound outside, but I wanted to make sure I wouldn't run into anyone in the hall outside on the way home who might want to stop me for a conversation, because I really felt I was on the very verge of losing it. I could see myself just doubling over right in the hallway, sobbing my fool head off, making a scene.

The coast was clear, so I made a break for it. Made it all the way around the corner and down the hallway, and into the stairwell.

But right there on the stairs, I ran into a student I hadn't seen for months. She was very pleasantly surprised to see me, and showed it. Any other time, it would have felt really good; she was kind, friendly, smiling, and clearly missed her old teach. But I was making tracks on my escape route, and could not brook delay! It felt quite rude, but I was as brief as possible in returning her greeting, and swiftly brushed by her.

She, on the other hand, stopped cold and planted herself in one position on the stairs and stood there, clearly hoping to chat. I'm sure I left her bewildered.

I was ready to burst by the time I made it through the stairway door and started down that long maintenance hall, on my way out of the building. I really felt I could just collapse right there in a heap; curl up into a fetal position on the middle of the floor and just weep, wail and moan for the next hour or three.

Then it hit me: "practice what you preach, preacher." Your PRESENT Heavenly Residence, REMEMBER?

My mind went to Ephesians 2:6: "and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in Heavenly places in Christ." And to Colossians 3:1-4: "for ye are dead, and your LIFE is HID with Christ in God."

It came to me, I thought on its meaning, considered the ramifications, and thanked God for the truth of it. I claimed it by faith, and let the truth of it just wash over me.

And I felt almost instantly at peace. No lie. I felt lifted ABOVE my circumstances and momentarily, but significantly released from the back-breaking weight of my sorrow.

I felt "hugged" by Him. It "worked." I mean, it REALLY "worked!"

Oh, I have had good "results" before, where meditating on our position in and possession of the HEAVENLIES encouraged my heart, lifted my spirits and brightened my outlook -- PLENTY of times, really!

But this time, it was SO dramatic and SO instantaneous a change, it struck me as singularly remarkable and I felt it my duty to relay it to you.

I hesitate to preach an "experience," because you just can't always rely on them like clockwork. God does not obligate Himself to formulas and recipes. Experiences tend to be highly subjective, and are very personal; tailored to the individual. One size does NOT fit all!

For any number of reasons, your experience may not match mine. Maybe part of what went into this particular instance for me was just the sheer amount of study I've done on the subject and how much it's been on my mind.

And I don't think it's actually God's objective for us to feel "exhilarated" all the time; it's a normal part of life to experience loss, and suffer grief; if we did not, we would not learn EMPATHY with others (II Corinthians 1:3-6), nor fellowship with the Lord in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10; Isaiah 53:3) and perhaps we would not be driven to our knees, and to the Lord (II Corinthians 1:8-9; 12:9-10).

On the other hand, I think our kind, merciful Lord knew I was just due for one BIG "HUG" (Psalm 42:8; 61:1-3).

This is why we really insist on preaching the objective, unchanging standard of the WORD OF GOD as our only absolute, inerrant, faithful and reliable rule for faith and practice (please see II Peter 1:16-22). We walk BY FAITH, not by sight (or by experience)!

So, because I, Ernie, had this exhilarating experience does not guarantee you'll have exactly the same any time soon. I PROMISE YOU THAT DOESN'T MAKE IT ONE TINY BIT LESS TRUE!! Ephesians 2:6 is every bit as true as Genesis 1:1 and John 3:16, whether we EVER have the fun, exhilarating experience in this life or not. It is the inspired, inerrant WORD, and it ALWAYS "works," though I may not always EXPERIENCE just what I'd like or expect to.

Still, it WAS amazing, thrilling and encouraging, and I just had to tell you!

More later, Lord willing.

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