Archive for September, 2017

If you are like me, you have spent little time thinking about heaven. There is so much living to do. So many responsibilities and so many tasks to do down here.

Our churches cooperate with this by seldom teaching about it. One of the reasons is most pastors don’t think of heaven much. They frequently receive little teaching from seminaries regarding heaven. Thus, pastors and Christians often have low expectations about heaven. One pastor even said he dreaded going there because it was going to be boring.

Therefore, many of us set our hopes on getting a raise, getting a new house, or accomplishing more at church to gain recognition. This disobeys God’s command to “set our minds on the things above, not the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2, NAS). God wants us to look forward to heaven. He says to us, “Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world” (1 Peter 1:13, NLT).

But why?

One thing is so we have the strength to face the daily battles with bills, raising kids, and all the other problems. Paul encourages us with “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later” (Romans 8:18). We can also be encouraged that these sufferings are producing rewards which God would not have given us without the sufferings (2 Corinthians 4:17).

God knows heaven is great and he wants us to anticipate it with eagerness. He says “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NLT).

Then, how can we look forward to something we have never imagined or experienced? By relying on the Holy Spirit to use our imaginations. May we remember some of our most enjoyable and experiences and imagine what heaven would be like if it were much better.

For me, I imagined what a day in heaven would look like. It would include living in a castle in the country, much like the flyover scenery from the beginning of the Sound of Music. I would be living with a family of many loving brothers and sisters. It would be a bright autumn day with Jesus coming over in the afternoon to go fishing with me. We planned to fish in a lake on the castle property which was full of large fish. Jesus and I planned to catch enough fish for a fish fry in the evening in which the castle family would be there. Afterwards, Jesus would hold a strategy meeting for those interested in developing a plan to reach worlds unknown for his purposes.

Will heaven be just like this for me. No. It will be much more exciting and exhilarating. But this exercise has helped me to become more excited about going there. I am sure many of you can imagine a day even more joyous and pleasurable for you, for he has promised that in his presence “is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11, NAS).

God wants us to look forward to heaven because it’s much better than here. In spite of our earthly families, friends, and achievements, the benefits of heaven are much better by far according to Paul (2 Corinthian 5:8). And he should know. He had been there before he wrote about it.

Why wait until this life has little to offer before we start thinking about heaven? Let’s get excited now about where we are going so we can better endure the challenges of this one and be prepared for the next one. May we learn to set our hopes on fully-experiencing the benefits of heaven, which will be even better than whatever we can imagine down here.

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Face the Pain

I am beginning to realize how I have been running from a truth for several years now. The truth is that I am mortal. This means someday I will die. I know it sounds morbid, but it’s a truth we will all have to face one day. Yet, I haven’t fully-faced this painful reality. Despite three major surgeries in the last four years, I have continued to ignore the obvious.

It seems like God wanted me to face this pain when I almost died four years ago from an aneurism which nearly burst. But emergency surgery saved me. However, the doctors found extensive artery disease requiring six bypasses to fix the problem.

When I recovered from the surgery, I believed I was good for another twenty years. No. It seems the next year they discovered another aneurism requiring immediate surgery.  After the surgery, I put it behind me again and thought I didn’t need to face my mortality for another twenty years. No. A follow-up exam two years later found a new fast-growing aneurism, which also required immediate surgery.

Because I had not fully-faced the pain of my mortality, I have viewed doctors, tests, results and surgeries as enemies of my soul. They mess with the lie I will never die. This put me under a lot of stress. However, by accepting my mortality, I am beginning to see them as friends. They are my partners in postponing the painful reality as long as possible.

We all have painful things we avoid facing. This could be a difficult childhood, a failed marriage, bad health, or a major mistake we have made.

We must reach the point where the pain to avoid facing it is greater than the pain to confront it. God will need to bring us to this point.

In facing our pain, we need to ask God to help us be honest and depend on him to reveal the truth to us. We then need to ruthlessly turn away from the lies we are still clinging to regarding the situation. We need to rely on him to give us the guidance and strength to press on toward healing. Like me, we need to see how running from our pain is hurting our ability to live a joyful and powerful life today.

Two things which are helpful in this healing process are to talk and listen to God through praying the Scriptures and to seek out quality counselors.  Some of my richest times of gaining strength have been in praying the psalms. In those times, I both meditate and pray the requests in the psalms. I often digress and have a conversation with God about how the verse applies to my situation.

Counselors, both professionals and spiritually mature friends, can help us sort out the tangled confusion of our thoughts and feelings. One of my favorite verses is, “Victory is won through many advisors” (Proverbs 11:14, NIV).

So, what are you running from? Ask God to help you know. Ask him for the courage to face whatever it is. Be encouraged! God is relentless and loves us so much he will never give up helping us face our pain and transforming us to be like Jesus.




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