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Archive for August, 2011

…or “Heavenly Thoughts” (or at least I desire so) or “Random Musings on the Life and the Afterlife” (which is more likely).

A number of different positive and negative details have brought me to thinking more than a few thoughts about heaven lately. Beauty in nature, sermon comments, Scriptures I’ve read, and various quotes I’ve come across have been among the positive inputs, while governments’ foolishness, review of my purposefulness, and personal back pain have been pointed reminders that this is not my home.

One of my least liked sayings is quite common to high school and college students: “These are the best years of your life.” When I hear some evidently less than content adult say this to a young person I want to explain to them how their words are an invitation to suicide for some segment of the young people they are saying it to. If it doesn’t get any better than this with the yelling parents, the sneering peers, the self-accusing mindset, and the “you can never be good enough” and “indulge yourself” advertising, why continue living? In some ways the saying is of course legitimate and Solomon agrees: “Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting. Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them….The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.'” (Ecclesisastes 11:9-12:1,13-14) So he is advising that you put away vexation while you are young and healthy and enjoy life. But how do you do that with all of the accusing elements I mentioned before these verses? You acknowledge your Creator by enjoying life and following impulses according to what pleases Him and in consideration of the fact that you will be brought to account hearafter concerning all that you do.

If all there is, as the Naturalist and Post-modernist say, is this life then the quote my 3rd son found the other day is indeed apropos for all time: “The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears this is true.” (Branch Cabell in “The Silver Stallion”). It is a bit humorous until you think about it a second time. If “it doesn’t get any better than this” and “If the dead are not raised [no heaven], let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (I Corinthians 15:32) So the optimist and pessimist and Naturalist and Post-modernist are claiming there is no heaven but they don’t really believe it. Under stress they call out for God and wish for heaven. And if they were correct it would render false this claim, “He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  And I affirm the truth of the Word of God and say “let God be found true, though every man be found a liar…” (Romans 3:4). But if man cannot find the work of God in the beginning, creation, or the end, heaven or hell, why even discuss these things? Modern man agrees with this statement and refuses to discuss anything that is not either from empirical evidence or personal feeling. But this is the very point of the statement that man can not discover God’s works from around him or within him but from God’s revelation only: “‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit…But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised…For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2: 9-10, 14,16)  These things not having entered the heart of man include the glories of heaven. The Spirit of God and the mind of Christ are one and the same, the discernment to understand and affirm the Word of God, the Bible. So by God’s revealed Word we understand that, as the song says, “Heaven is a wonderful place; filled with glory and grace; I want to see my Savior’s face; for heaven is a wonderful place.” That is indeed what makes heaven such a draw to His saints, not gold streets or reunions with loved ones or even lack of pain, but seeing His face. As Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. (Matthew 5:8)

Someone might say at this point, “All this talk of heaven when there is so much to do on earth” or “Some people are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” But to be truly heavenly minded, that is aligned with the thoughts of God, will most certainly propel one to be of the most earthly good. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (I John 3:2-3) Seeing God is our motivation for being pure in heart. The pure in heart will be at peace with God and at peace within themselves both of which cannot help but make them inclined toward pursuing peace in all their interactions with others. We cannot be pure of our own accord but “He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.” (I John 3:5-6) So we pursue holiness to please Him and to confirm and affirm our relationship with Him in anticipation of our sight of Him; this brings good to us and the world around us as we minister God’s goodness to the world. So denying the motivation and need for considering heaven not only lessens the holiness of the believer it lessens the value to all mankind.  And Francis Bacon takes this up in another way, “They that deny a God destroy man’s nobility; for certainly man is of kin to the beasts in his body, and, if he be not kin to God by his spirit, he is a base and ignoble creature.” (“Essays”) Not only the help to man is denied him by not focusing on God (and by extension seeing His face one day), but also the very value of man as made in God’s image and one for whom Christ died to save, so that he becomes nothing more than “a base and ignoble creature.”

We are in fact commanded to focus upward. “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Whien Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4) The whole rest of chapter 3 and on to 4:6 Paul promotes consequences of this focus being holy living within oneself, toward others and toward God. When He is revealed; we also will be revealed with Him. As the hymn says,”When by the gift of His infinite grace, I am accorded in heaven a place, just to be there and to look on His face will through the ages be glory for me. O that will be glory for me, glory for me, glory for me. When by His grace I shall look on His face, that will be glory, be glory for me.”

In the description of heaven in Revelation 21 and 22 I again select verses especially focussed on His beauty and desirability to us.  “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’ And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’…I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life…There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 21: 3-5,22-27; 22:3-5) Why is there no pain and crying? He makes all things new. Why is there no night and no need of lighting? He lights them. What will we do there? We will enjoy Him and serve Him. Whose your Daddy then? “They shall be His people.”

But we are not home, yet, and so we look forward as it says in the Jeremy Camp song,

“I know the journey seems so long
You feel you’re walking on your own
But there has never been a step
Where you’ve walked out all alone

Troubled soul don’t lose your heart
Cause joy and peace he brings
And the beauty that’s in store
Outweighs the hurt of life’s sting

But I hold on to this hope and the promise that He brings
That there will be a place with no more suffering

There will be a day with no more tears
No more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place
Will be no more, we’ll see Jesus face to face
But until that day, we’ll hold on to you always”

We can say in the most desperate of times with Job, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another.” (Job 19:25-27)

How should we live until we leave? “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14) “Let love of the brethern continue.” (Hebrews 13:1) “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” (Revelation 22:17) “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (I Thessalonians 4:17-18) ” 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.” (II Timothy4:7-8)

The God of heaven and His presence are worth dwelling on and living by in the light of His Word.

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