Monday, September 30, 2013

Even if There's a Shutdown...

Today is the first day in our 39th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures* this week are:

  •  Habakkuk; 2 Cor 7
  •  Zephaniah; 2 Cor 8; Psalm 74
  •  Jeremiah 1-4; 2 Cor 9; Psalm 130
  •  Jer 5-7; 2 Cor 10; Psalm 75
  •  Jer 8-10; 2 Cor 11

Today, I visited a family that is struggling financially.  Unemployment doesn't mean that bills stop piling up, and too many collectors are knocking at the door.  It's easy for people to get discouraged during times like this.  I know--I've been there myself.  You can even get to the point where you think that God has stopped caring about you, and where words of praise and gratitude are hard to come by.  Habakkuk  3:17-19 says that we need to remember God in worship, even when things are difficult.

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer's;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

Today, I want to ask you to pray for this dear family, and for all who are either unemployed or underemployed during these difficult times.  Pray that God will protect and provide.

As we stare a government shutdown in the eye, many people have questions, concerns, and fears for the future.  I won't give you any sort of Pollyanna promises or trite phrases to make you feel better.  The truth is that it could get worse...much worse...than anybody imagines.

But even if it does, God is still God.  God is still good.  And God is still in control.

Habakkuk realized that it could get worse.  The crops could fail.  The livestock industry could go bottom-up.  These were the two great money-makers of Habakkuk's day.  Everything else depended on these two.  But Habakkuk says that even if things fall apart, still he will praise the Lord.  Because God is the God of our salvation.  He is our strength.  He strengthens us and steadies us.

And even if things get worse, God will be there for you.

So praise Him.  Worship Him.  In good times, and in bad.  

Oh, and one more thing--trust Him.  He will see you through.

*Taken from the ESV

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Yoke's On You!

Today is the final day in our 38th week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures* today are:  2 Chronicles 34-35; 2 Corinthians 6.

"Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together (Dt 22:10)."
Today's NT scripture is about being unequally yoked.  2 Corinthians 6:14 (KJV) says:  "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"  Essentially, God's Word is telling us to be careful who we team up with.  Whether it's in the area of romance, close friendship, or business, keep in mind that you can only truly be close to people with whom you share the same values.

God created us for partnership.  In Genesis 2:18, God said that it was not good for man to be alone.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

As I've often said in weddings and in premarital counseling, the first and second strands in a cord represent husband and wife, but the third strand that holds them together is God.  With God at the center of any union, there is oneness and blessing.  If people are unified in faith in a marriage, friendship, business partnership, or other kind of relationship, then they will flourish.  If there is disunity in the things that matter most, there is bound to be trouble.

Eugene Peterson's The Message puts 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 this way:

Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. God himself put it this way:
“I’ll live in them, move into them;
    I’ll be their God and they’ll be my people.
So leave the corruption and compromise;
    leave it for good,” says God.
“Don’t link up with those who will pollute you.
    I want you all for myself.
I’ll be a Father to you;
    you’ll be sons and daughters to me.”
The Word of the Master, God.

Some people believe that interracial marriage wrong, and even claim that the Bible says not to marry outside your race.  Hogwash!  God's prohibitions against Israelites marrying the Canaanite races had nothing to do with race, and everything to do with religion.  Moses had a Cushite wife, and God cursed Miriam and Aaron when they criticized the union (Numbers 11:1-15).  Though she was of a different race, apparently she shared the same faith--and that was the most important thing.  Racially, the Canaanites weren't that different from the Hebrews, but in terms of faith, they couldn't be further apart.  Ethnic differences are nothing--differences in religion are everything.

Some time ago, my teenage daughter told me something that made me so proud.  She had a male friend who was interested in developing the relationship into a romance.  Though she liked him a lot, she knew that God only blesses romantic relationships where the two people are united in faith.  So she told him, "I only date Christian boys.  If I'm going to go out with somebody, then we have to share the same values and world view."  The young man was not a Christian, and took it personally, as if she were being snobby, judgmental, or rude.  But she was simply being true to her beliefs.  And as a result, she found out later, she avoided having to deal with a serious moral difference between the two of them.

A lot of people think that they can partner with someone who doesn't share their same faith, values, and moral background.  God's word says that we shouldn't be unequally yoked, or teamed up with, unbelievers.  It's not that we're better than they are--it's just that oil and water are incompatible.  So too are the divergent values of Christ and the world.  If you think you can team up with an unbeliever, then the yoke's on you!  So be careful who you're yoked with.

*Scriptures taken from the ESV.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Prophetesses in the Bible

Today is the fourth day in our 38th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures* today are:  2 Kings 22-23; 2 Corinthians 5; Psalm 73.  

On the heels of last week's article, "Should Women Remain Silent in the Churches?" comes another scripture about a strong female leader who spoke for God.  In 2 Kings 22, we read the story of Huldah, a woman who was known to speak for God so strongly, that a kind and a high priest sought her out in order to hear from the Lord.  

And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the Lord.” 10 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.
11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying, 13 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”
14 So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her. 15 And she said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. 18 But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, 19 because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’” And they brought back word to the king.

So powerful were the words that Huldah shared with the king that he instituted a massive religious reform in the land, as a result of the things she spoke.  

Which leads me to wonder what people mean when they say that women aren't spiritually equipped to teach or lead men.  Really???  So, the prophetesses in the Bible through whom God spoke--they were really sinning, because they should have remained in quiet submission?  

If women are not to lead, not to speak for God, then what shall we do with Miriam, Huldah, Deborah, Isaiah's wife, Noadiah, Anna, and the daughters of Phillip the Evangelist?  Click here to read a great article entitled "Women Prophets in the Bible."  Should we simply ignore their witness?  Should we say, "Yes, I know that there were plenty of female prophets in the Bible, but we shouldn't allow women to be ordained or teach or preach in our churches?"  
I think not.

God has gifted women as well as men to speak for Him--to teach, to preach, and to lead.  

I don't really know why some churches are still having this conversation in the 21st century.

This past week, I attended the "Elevating Preaching" conference at Wake Forest University, School of Divinity.  There, we heard from three distinguished leaders in the field of preaching.   Among them was Dr. Anna Carter Florence, who is the Peter Marshall Associate Professor of Preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.  Dr. Florence holds degrees from Yale and Princeton.  She has written two books: Preaching as Testimony, and Inscribing the Word.  What an amazing spirit she possesses!  As she speaks, you know you're hearing from God.

And yet, some would disqualify her from ministry simply because of her gender.

Dr. Carter Florence spoke about the four girls in Wilcox County, Georgia, who stood up to a sixty-year-long tradition of racially segregated proms.  Up to this point, students in that county had a choice of attending the "White Prom" or the "Black Prom."  This year, for the first time in Wilcox history, students hosted an integrated prom.  These four young women served as prophetesses to their whole community--not speaking in religious words, but still declaring God's truth that all people are equal before their Creator.  Prophetesses continue to speak!

What would we do without strong women who are willing to speak the truth?  What would we do without the mothers who bore us on their knees and nursed us at their breasts?  Without godly mothers and grandmothers who taught us the Bible in our homes?  What would happen to the churches in our nation if our daughters refuse to speak the truth, for fear of being told that they are "out of line?"  Should we tell them that their place is in the home, but not church?  May it never be so.

Just as God calls humble men to strength and leadership, so God also takes women who are meek and submitted to Him and turns them into strong prophetesses who can speak His word to those who will listen.  I hope that you will speak for women's rights in your church, that you'll advocate for all the Huldahs, Miriams, and Deborahs in your congregation.  I hope that your attitude will be one of affirmation and empowerment to those women who hear God's voice, and are courageous enough to speak His truth--even in some churches that still suppress the female voice.

*Scriptures taken from the ESV.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I Got Caught Wogging!

Today is the third day of our 38th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures* today are:  Nahum; 2 Corinthians 4; Psalm 149.

Yesterday, I got caught.  At church, no less!  Doing what I never want people to see me do.

I was wogging.

Yes--wogging.  That combination of walking and jogging that's kind of embarrassing because you're just telling yourself that everybody can see how out of shape you are--so out of shape that you can't just flat-out run for miles and miles nonstop.  Click here to learn more about wogging.

And I got caught wogging.  Embarrassing!

"How far do you jog?" she asked.  I told her that I didn't measure it--I was just jogging til I couldn't jog anymore and needed a breather, and then walking until I caught my breath and could jog again.  (Later, I measured the outer perimeter of our parking lot at .2 miles, not counting the entrance and exit lanes, so that gives me a pretty good gauge for future wogs.  All I have to do then is count laps.  I don't want to be caught wogging again, unable to answer the most basic of questions about it.) 

The person who caught me wogging is a runner herself, and was actually very encouraging to me.  I shared with her something that I have learned--not from physical exercise, but from the spiritual exercise of meditation.  Pulling out my smartphone, I showed her the scripture that I had been meditating on while I wogged.  

Yesterday's scripture was from our daily readings.  It was 1 Corinthians 3:16-18:

16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 
18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Today's wogging meditation was also from our reading.  It was 1 Corinthians 4:7-9, 16-18:

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed...16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troublesare achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Those are two very good meditations for wogging!  The first has the idea of being transformed (which is the point of physical and spiritual exercise).  The second talks about endurance and focus--two things that are necessary in spiritual and physical workouts.  

So, how do you meditate while walking or running?  Get a rhythm going so that your feet and breaths become regular together.  Click here to learn more about the rhythms and ratios of breathing and stepping.  Once you've got your rhythm, add verses of scripture.  You'll find yourself grouping words together, and sometimes omitting words, in order to create a cadence.  It's okay to alter scripture some, to suit this purpose.  Just like the military uses cadences (jody calls) in order for sodiers to pace themselves while running, you can use verses of scripture.  Speak them quietly on the inhale, speak them louder on the exhale.  Who knows, you might even discover a rhyme or two...such as

Though outwardly we're wasting away,Inwardly we're renewed day by day.

 With a passage of scripture the length of 1 Corinthians 4:7-9, 16-18, I stick to a verse at a time (or even a part of a verse), repeating it over and over.  Then, I change to a different verse after completing one lap.  If I weren't doing laps, but running a long course, I'd just change verses every few minutes or so.  Keeping the verses in my pocket lets me pull them out whenever I want, to take a look at them.

in our prophetic scripture this morning, Nahum 1:15a says:

Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him    who brings good news,    who publishes peace!

This is a picture of a runner, with good news of peace in his mouth.  Sorta seems to fit, doesn't it?  If you're a runner or walker, why not try making it a spiritual exercise as well?  Add a short bit of scripture to your routine, and repeat it with each step, with each breath.  Peace and good news will come to you, and you'll be energized by it, to be a source of peace and good news to others.

*Scriptures are taken from the ESV.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Today is the second day in our 38th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures* today are: 2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33; 2 Corinthians 3; Psalm 71.

I remember one of the best funerals I ever conducted...not because I did a good job or anything, but because of what there was to say.  As I share this with you, I'll change the gentleman's name.  I stood in the pulpit and said:

"Nobody liked Ronnie.  Ronnie was an abusive drunk.  He was mean to everybody, and didn't seem to have a good bone in his body.  Ronnie was a low-down, dirty, rotten scoundrel...until he met Jesus.  
"You see, I never met the Ronnie that most of you knew just two or three years ago.  I met Ronnie when he staggered to the front of the church at a revival service and gave his heart to Jesus.  And Ronnie was changed from that point on.
"Not everybody who has a "salvation experience" genuinely has a conversion experience.  But Ronnie did.  Jesus changed him from the inside out.  He didn't just say, 'Praise the Lord, I'm going to heaven when I die.'  No--Ronnie said, "I'm going to live every day until I die, serving my Jesus!'
"And he did.  Now, don't get me wrong--Ronnie didn't instantly become perfect, or suddenly change into SuperChristian.  But he did change.  So, the Ronnie I knew wasn't the same person as the Ronnie that most of you knew.  The Ronnie I knew was better.  The Ronnie I knew lived for Jesus--and he died in the arms of Jesus, trusting His Lord for the future, just as he trusted Him to cover the sins of the past."

Now that was a good funeral!  Not because of what I said, but because of Ronnie's life, that I had the privilege of testifying about.

As I read our Old Testament passages today, Manasseh reminded me of Ronnie.  It seems there are two Manassehs almost--the one we find in 2 Kings and the one we find in the second part of the 2 Chronicles 33 account.

2 Chronicles 33 says:

He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hostsand worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put my Name.” In the two courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.
He took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple, of which the Lord had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them.” But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.
10 The Lord said through his servants the prophets: 11 “Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols. 12 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and give them into the hands of enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their enemies; 15 they have done evil in my eyes and have aroused my anger from the day their ancestors came out of Egypt until this day.”
16 Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end—besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the Lord.
17 As for the other events of Manasseh’s reign, and all he did, including the sin he committed, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 18 Manasseh rested with his ancestors and was buried in his palace garden, the garden of Uzza. And Amon his son succeeded him as king.

That's the first version of Manasseh--the low-down, dirty, rotten scoundrel version.  And 2 Chronicles 33 agrees with it, up to a point.  But when verse 17 (above) says "the other events of Manasseh's reign," it leaves out a huge chunk of story that we really need to hear.  Chronicles fills in the rest:

10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.
14 Afterward he rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, west of the Gihon spring in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate and encircling the hill of Ophel; he also made it much higher. He stationed military commanders in all the fortified cities in Judah.
15 He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. 16 Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel. 17 The people, however, continued to sacrifice at the high places, but only to the Lord their God.
18 The other events of Manasseh’s reign, including his prayer to his God and the words the seers spoke to him in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, are written in the annals of the kings of Israel. 19 His prayer and how God was moved by his entreaty, as well as all his sins and unfaithfulness, and the sites where he built high places and set up Asherah poles and idols before he humbled himself—all these are written in the records of the seers.20 Manasseh rested with his ancestors and was buried in his palace. And Amon his son succeeded him as king.

It seems that Manasseh needed the utter degradation of defeat and destruction in order to bring him to his knees before God.  Like Ronnie, he had to get to the bottom before he could see his need for the Lord.  Once he sought the Lord and prayed and humbled himself before God, the Lord restored him.  

2 Corinthians 3 talks about people who seemingly have veils over their hearts, that divine truth cannot penetrate.  

16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Manasseh turned to the Lord.  The veil was taken away.  He experienced the freedom that comes from knowing God's Spirit.  From that point on, he was transformed into who God wanted him to be, ever-increasing in the Lord's glory.  Ronnie's story was the same.  In sincerity, he turned to the Lord and allowed the Lord to change him.

Today, I want to ask you--are you in Manasseh's position?  Have you found yourself at the bottom, like Ronnie did?  Maybe you don't have a literal hook in your nose, but Satan has been leading you around nonetheless.  Has the enemy of your soul led you where you don't want to go?  Do you need release?  The Bible says that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  God wants to give you freedom today.  Turn to Him and trust Him.  Turn away from your sin, and pray that God will restore you.

Maybe you're not in a Manasseh or Ronnie place in your life.  Maybe you're like the Chronicler or the author of 2 Kings...and you have to decide how you're going to remember someone.  You've taken a good look at a person's life, and now you have to figure out not just what their story is, but what their story means.  The writer of 2 Kings chose to remember only the negative things about Manasseh, while Chronicler saw the full scope of God's redemption within the wayward king's life.  How will you see the Ronnies in your life?  How will you remember them?  I hope you'll give them as much grace as God does.

*Scriptures taken from the NIV.

Monday, September 23, 2013

New Heavens and a New Earth

Today is the first day in our 38th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures* this week are:

  •  Isa 64-66; 2 Cor 2
  •  2 Kings 21; 2 Chr 33; 2 Cor 3; Ps 71
  •  Nahum; 2 Cor 4; Psalm 149
  •  2 Kings 22-23; 2 Cor 5; Psalm 73
  •  2 Chr 34-35; 2 Cor 6

Our congregation has been experiencing a lot of loss lately.  With one funeral yesterday and another tomorrow, I was surprised to read of yet a third death in the church family, just last evening.  With this in mind, I was glad to find Isaiah 65:17-25 in our scripture today.  It gives promises for a new heaven and new earth, saying:

17 For behold, I create new heavens
    and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
    or come into mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
    in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy,
    and her people to be a gladness.
19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem
    and be glad in my people;
no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping
    and the cry of distress.
20 No more shall there be in it
    an infant who lives but a few days,
    or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
    and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
    they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
    they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
    and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain
    or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
    and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer;
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
    the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
    and dust shall be the serpent's food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
    in all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord.

Oh, how I wish that there were one single place in the Bible that spelled out a detailed doctrine of the afterlife!  As it is, we have many scriptures that talk about judgement, including Isaiah 66:15-24, which is also in our readings:

15 “For behold, the Lord will come in fire,
    and his chariots like the whirlwind,
to render his anger in fury,
    and his rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment,
    and by his sword, with all flesh;
    and those slain by the Lord shall be many.
17 “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig's flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the Lord.
18 “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory,19 and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. 21 And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord.
22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth
    that I make
shall remain before me, says the Lord,
    so shall your offspring and your name remain.
23 From new moon to new moon,
    and from Sabbath to Sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
declares the Lord.
24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
Rather than going into every single scripture that discusses the afterlife (which would be exhausting, to say the least), I'll simply say that while some passages are symbolic or perplexing, there are a few things that are clear.  One day there will one day be a judgment, followed by blessing for those who please the Lord by their faith and obedience, and destruction for those who reject Him and demonstrate that rejection by their disobedience.  
Another thing seems quite clear to me--when the faithful get where they're going, there will still be work to do.  It won't be sitting on a cloud playing a harp.  Life will look very much like--well, life.  Only it will be life in a restored Creation, life focused on god, life in which we work and celebrate and worship and live together in the blessing of the Lord.
New Testament scriptures (which I'm not getting into today) give a more detailed picture of what's to come--but today we have God's promises as He gave them through Isaiah.  My prayer is that when each of us stands in the judgment, we'll emerge on the other side into the brilliance of God's glory.  May God bless you, and may you know His Truth that leads you into perfect peace.

*Scriptures today are taken from the ESV.