Heaven

Life and Legos

Have you ever had assumptions made about you? People are really great at assuming. They assume they know your motives, your reasons, your “whys”. They make assumptions about choices and decisions. These assumptions are often fueled by rumors. Rumors that we are all too quick to listen to and pass along.

These rumors and assumptions can really get us down for we are rarely given an opportunity to defend ourselves.

Have you ever been faced with a terrifying bit of news? Of course you have. Whether it’s an unwelcome diagnosis from a doctor or a piece of news that comes to our ears through a news anchor, we have all had those moments.

These terrifying moments can bring on major fear and anxiety for they make us realize that we have zero control over what happens.

Have you ever been accused wrongly or unfairly treated? Whether it is through favoritism, a misunderstanding, or because of standing for what is right, these moments come to us all.

These unfair accusations can make us really angry, because, well…it’s just not fair!

Have you ever been broken-hearted or hopeless? Perhaps through the loss of a loved one, the betrayal of a friend, or the realization that you will have chronic pain for the rest of your life?

These moments of despair can make us depressed and zap all the joy from our lives because we just don’t feel like going on.

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I just finished reading the *biography of John Bunyan. He dealt with all of these things and more. As a young man, assumptions were made about him because he had been quite the wicked young man. The Lord got a hold of him and radically changed him but people just couldn’t forget the old man. He faced more trouble when his young wife died and left him with four young children to care for. Later on, he received the news of a prison sentence for a crime that wasn’t even a crime by the law of the land. It was totally and utterly wrongful imprisonment. While imprisoned, his precious Mary, his oldest (and blind) daughter passed away. When he was finally released from prison, his rabid opponents tried to stop his ministry through rumors and wrong accusations.

John found himself in a prison cell for twelve years. The religious wars in England at the time were ferocious and the tides turned every which way at any time. But, no matter which way it turned, his young wife (his second wife) found herself up against a brick wall in any effort to get him released.

Now, he could have grown depressed or angry. He could have ended up languishing in bitter disillusionment and unabated fury. But he didn’t.

Instead, he picked up quill and paper and started writing. And kept writing. And then wrote some more. His best known work is called Pilgrim’s Progress and is still a best seller among Christians today!

What was his key? Why could he continue on, despite the ill treatment and the heartbreak in his life?

There’s a small quote of his that shows us how he managed to do this. I have been mulling it over and over in my mind since I have first read it. I believe it is the key for us all–

“If ever I would suffer rightly I must first pass a sentence of death upon everything that can properly be called a thing of this life, even to reckon myself, my wife, my children, my health, my enjoyments, and all as dead to me and myself as dead to them. The second was to live upon God that is invisible.”

You see, he was putting scripture into practice. Paul basically told us this same thing in Philippians 3:8–

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

And so we must realize that it’s only in releasing our grip on the things of this world that we can experience the peace and joy that God has promised. It’s only in surrendering our sense of fairness, our reputations, our family members, our health, our finances, our futures to God and His Sovereign will that we can conquer our fears, worries, anger, and despondency.

This brings to mind an example of this I saw just a few years ago lived out right in front of my eyes. How well I remember the calm acceptance of my brother and his wife as they faced the fact that her journey on this earth was winding down to an end. It is because they were learning to release the things of this life to grasp instead the bright shining eternal gift of Christ.

As believers, the more we die to self and gain Christ, the more we are victorious in our Christian lives.

This isn’t exactly what most want to hear. In our self-obsessed culture, we want God to fulfill our dreams and pour down blessings.

But the actual blessings we receive from God aren’t all that appealing to the carnal soul.

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The other week, my son came into the house and said, “We have lots of legos!” I was confused and followed him out the door. What I saw sitting in the bed of his truck were 5-6 boxes of varying sizes filled with legos! A customer’s children had grown tired of legos and she didn’t want to bother selling them, so she asked if we wanted them. My son loaded them up and brought them home. Thousands of dollars worth of legos.

When our grandchildren laid eyes on those boxes they grew wide with excitement. As we pulled one off the truck and they saw all of the pieces and parts and potential, they were thrilled. Particularly the oldest, who at six years old, could really appreciate them.

Now, to an adult or a small baby, eh… who cares. Legos are not really their thing, right? Not really considered that big of a blessing. And maybe even a nuisance.

But to a child? Wow.

I think God’s blessings are a bit like that. They don’t look all that attractive to the unbeliever. Forgiveness of sins and peace with the God of the Universe? Eh. Not all that important, as they yearn after the worthless “fool’s gold” of this world. Peace and joy in the midst of trial? But they want promises of NO trials.

It isn’t until we are saved that God’s blessings fill us with awe and appreciation. Because they are specifically for those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and eternal life.

And so victory and blessing in the Christian life isn’t going to look all that appealing to the unbeliever or perhaps even to the immature believer.

It isn’t until we give up the temporal for the eternal that we begin to understand.

 

I wish I could say I am able to live out the truth of John Bunyan’s statement above. I wish I could say that God’s blessings are always enough for me. But, unfortunately, in my battle with my flesh and my {ever-loosening but still tight} grip on this world, I cannot. I can only write about it in hopes to encourage us all towards this ideal, knowing that God will faithfully continue His work in those of us who are His as we journey together towards the eternal city.

 

for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

 

 

*A Pilgrim Path: John Bunyan’s Journey by Faith Cook. Highly recommend!

 

What Does the Bible Say About… (Patriotism)?

Today I want to ask the question: What Does the Bible Say About Patriotism? And then turn to the scriptures to see if we can find the answer. In the recent years, Patriotism has seemed to be rising in a great wave across some lands. So what does the Bible have to say about this? Or does it say anything at all?

We certainly tend to feel patriotic when our country is at war or our nation is threatened. It is understandable to feel a bond with our fellow countrymen during difficult or troubling times. It is even understandable to want to unify with our fellow man to make our country a better place to live.

I have been watching many Christians join with people of all faiths to “make America great again”. I, like you, are watching the waves of “Great Awakening” Tours crisscross this land. We are being told that we will make the world wonderful if we just come together to make certain changes and perform specified social actions. And if we do not want to help, then we are guilty of not loving our country or our fellow man.

For some of you, I’d imagine there is some pressure to join this trend, for many churches have joined this growing movement.

So how should we feel about patriotism? Shouldn’t we love our country? What place should patriotism actually have in a Christian’s life?

While I haven’t (thus far) found anything in scripture declaring it is inherently wrong with loving one’s country or even fighting for it, I do believe it is so important to keep it all in perspective by seeing what scripture has to say about who we are in Christ. (This is not an exhaustive look at this subject. If you have something to add that I have missed, please comment below). But, from my own personal study of this subject, I have come to this conclusion–

 

We are pilgrims and sojourners. This world is not my home.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13)

 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, (I Peter 2:11)

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:20)

 

From these verses, we learn that, as believers, we are to consider ourselves sojourners on this earth. We are just passing through on our journey to get home–our real home which is heaven. Jesus is preparing a place for us that will be glorious beyond anything we can think or imagine–

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:1-4)

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)

 

Now, you may be thinking– are these two things mutually exclusive? Can’t I be passionately patriotic while still understanding that this world is not my home? Perhaps.

But what I have noticed is that, oftentimes, patriotism edges out passion for Christ. When we get caught up in the temporal happenings of this world we get distracted from our true purpose and calling as followers of Christ.

Patriotism, at least in this current age, is also being used to unify people in order to make this world a better place. On the surface, this sounds amazing. Who wouldn’t agree with this?

But, again, as we search the scriptures and evaluate the world around us, we know that man will never have their utopia here on earth. Since the beginning of time, this has been the goal. And ungodly men who have no thought for God believe they can attain it. In fact, they think they are so close now that they can almost taste it.

But will the world get better and better?

Scripture tells us, oh so plainly, that it will not.

But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:37)

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, [b]unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

I have only given two of many scripture passages that refer to the “end of the age”, “the last days”, or the second coming of Christ. It is abundantly clear that the world will worsen and worsen until God’s wrath pours down upon it in those horrible tribulation years.

Except for one brief moment. For one fraction of a moment, it will seem that all is peaceful and perfectly unified. (see Revelation 6:1-2)

So is it wrong for me to be patriotic?

No, there is nothing in scripture that would lead us to believe it is wrong to love our country. In fact, we are told to obey our leaders and submit to them (Romans 13:1). But, just as a visitor to another country loves that country and respects its leaders, so we, too, as pilgrims, love and respect the countries that aren’t our true homes.

I think the passage that has had the most influence over me over the past few years is Colossians 3:1-4. I had memorized it for no reason (at least not any reason I knew) except that it seemed like a good core chapter to know. And, while I have a good bit of the whole chapter memorized, it’s those first four verses that have weaved their way through my brain and heart, constantly reminding me that this world is not my home. As I have meditated on these verses I have come to realize that my passion and efforts should be spent mostly on the things that are above and not on things of the earth–such as fixing this temporal world, being popular, making our country “great again”.

Of course, we must give great attention to this life. We must work in order to have money to live, we need to care for our families, and, yes, we are called to be good citizens. But all of this should be done always with an eternal perspective in mind and a heart that is willing to submit to God’s sovereignty and to obey His Word.

As believers, we must first and foremost submit our dreams and desires to God’s will. His will may not be to take any of our nations (I know many of you do not live in America) back to the “good old days” or on to a “brighter and better future”. But, rather, I suspect, it is the coming end of the age, where the nations are now being prepared for that final evil kingdom before Christ returns to reign which is foretold in Revelation.

And, so while we can and should love our countries and do what we can to make them a better place to live, the fervor given to this should pale in comparison to our passion for Christ. Our hearts and minds should be focused on Christ and living for Him rather than on fixing what is wrong in this temporal and dying world. Our efforts, time, energy, and gifts should be used for increasing God’s Kingdom rather than any earthly kingdom. For we are His alone! We belong to God’s Kingdom now and we are just “a-passing through” this old world.

 

This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through,
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

This World is Not My Home, first verse (anonymous)

 

 

 

 

What Will Heaven Be Like?

How do you picture heaven? Do you imagine a place full of white, fluffy clouds, harps, and snow-white robes? Do you wonder if you will get bored floating around in this ethereal place for the rest of eternity? I know these were some of my thoughts before God, through His Word, started to slowly open my eyes to the reality of what’s ahead for all those who trust in Christ as their Savior.

It was “nutshelled” for me yesterday when I went to hear my brother, Pastor Dean Good, as a guest speaker at a Bible Study in my parents’ community. His topic was heaven and it was very insightful. He gave me permission to share here today. (The points will all be his but what is written will be my own expansion of those points, much of it drawn from what he shared but put into my own words.)

We have to come to grips with the fact that life is short. Dean shared his own story about losing his wife after twenty short years. Many of you will remember that happening, as I shared about it here on the blog. But he also reminded us that death will happen to everyone. We always act so surprised and, yet, everybody dies. And the minute you die nothing we fretted or stewed over or strove for on this old earth matters a bit. Only one thing matters: Do you know Jesus Christ?

If we can say yes, we definitely do know Christ, then death should not be something we fear because we know with certainty where we are going.

But many of us still feel uncertain and nervous because we can’t really know what it’s like. Well, that’s true. The Bible doesn’t tell us too much about heaven. My husband has often said over the past two years that we probably have no idea how awesome heaven is. In fact, if we realized what is ahead, we probably wouldn’t want to stay on earth. I love this verse that expands on this thought–

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  I Corinthians 2:9

And so we know that heaven will be incredibly awesome! From this passage and others. Today, we will specifically look at Revelation 21:1-8 in our efforts to understand a bit more what heaven will be like and who will be there.

First, let’s see how heaven is described.

All things will be new. The old will have passed away and all things will be new (Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17f; 2 Peter 3:13)

It will be a physical place. We will walk around and eat. There will be economies, vineyards, governments. We won’t be hanging around bored somewhere in the clouds (see the end of Isaiah 65 for just one evidence of this).

The New Jerusalem will be a holy city. It is hard to think of a city that is perfectly holy. Since the beginning of time, cities have seemed to be where sin and wickedness congregate. Corruption, tyranny, prostitution, gambling, human trafficking, the selling of illegal substances, and crime often begin and flourish in cities.

But this will be a city without evil. It will be perfect with no sin or corruption of any kind. Isn’t that so hard to imagine? It will not only be beautiful but it will be perfectly safe.

The New Heaven will also be perfect. No presence of sin, no more curse, no death, no sorrow or tears or pain. We will have no fear because there won’t be anything to fear. Can you even imagine??

Here on earth we sometimes expect perfection but why? Why do we expect things to go according to our plans when we live on a fallen, sinful earth? But in heaven, we will be able to expect (and we will receive!) perfection. That’s actually hard to comprehend, isn’t it?

Second, let’s look at the certainty of Heaven.

Revelation 21:5-7 says this–

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said [b]to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It[c] is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes [d]shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

Notice the words “for these words are true and faithful.”

Last night, my husband and I watched another couple of episodes of the series Against All Odds (link below). It is the story of the birth and life of modern day Israel. Watching that makes it clear that Israel is only there for one reason: God has ordained it. In fact, God had promised it in His Word long ago. This reminded me how true and everlasting God’s promises are. Which reminded me of how true God’s Word is.

God will fulfill His promises and His words are true and faithful.

Which leads to the final and third point: Who will be in heaven?

If God’s Word is true regarding Israel; If His prophecies have come true at the rate of 100% throughout history; If He is truly faithful–well, then we know that what He says about who will be in heaven is absolutely true, as well.

Verse 7 says that those who thirst for living water will be given the fountain of life. Those who have repented and trusted Christ as their Savior are the only ones who may enter. The evidence of their salvation are their good works but that is not the means for their ticket to enter. Only those who realize that they are utterly destitute but for the atoning work of Christ will enter heaven.

Verse 8 of Revelation 21 tells us who won’t be there. But that is only if they continue in these sins. Christ’s sacrifice has wholly covered these sins by His blood if we but repent and turn to Him! It is not too late to submit our rebellious heart to the One, True God who longs that no man perish but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

I know that this is a tough truth for so many of you who have loved ones who just don’t seem to get salvation. It is so tempting to “save” those who are living in sin who may have made a “decision for Christ” as a kid. But, as Dean has said–there will be many who made a “decision for Christ” who won’t be in heaven. The Bible is so very clear that true salvation yields fruit. This is throughout scripture: Those who are saved desire to serve and obey Christ. It is a hard truth to face and it costs much. But that doesn’t change that it is true.

This truth should compel us to share the Gospel and challenge our status-quo self-absorbed loved ones who think they are going to heaven. While we can’t know if any soul is truly saved (only God knows this), we can and should earnestly pray and have the hard discussions.

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As we move into these last days, it is hard to imagine that anyone can’t see that what is happening is of biblical significance. But, as I told my husband last night, if someone can ignore the true miracle of Israel’s rebirth, then I guess they can ignore anything. When Israel became a nation, the final hour of this age began. While we should never set specific dates, it seems foolish to live as if everything will return to normal. We are so obviously in the last days. Heaven is closer than ever for those who love God!

And with this recognition should come a deep burden to share the Gospel. Heaven is a wonderful place. And those who are saved will go there. But Revelation 21 says that those who aren’t saved–those who insist on rebelling against God and living in sin–will go to hell–

 But the cowardly, [e]unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

I don’t especially like this doctrine and I can see why people try to reason it away. But it’s there. Not only in Revelation 21 but all throughout scripture. May we remember this as we seek to reach the lost and, particularly, those who think they are saved but may not be.

Heaven will be a wonderful place for believers. Of that we can be sure. While we may not know a lot, we know enough. May we passionately share the Gospel so that more people can experience this amazing wonderful place. But, more importantly, that they may avoid an eternity in hell.

 

 

*Against All Odds is currently free (with ads) on Tubi. Find it here. I highly recommend!

 

 

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