Heaven on Earth!

Day 282

More than often, I am asked what I think heaven will be like.  I always laugh because I have my own vision of heaven.  I always hope that it is ‘tailored made.”  For example, I love to eat!  Imagine a table of the best food ever and I could just eat and never have to worry about it being healthy or if it will make me fat!  I also hope that my dogs will be there with me.  I can see them running to me with their floppy ears and I would then get to spend forever with them.  And then of course, it goes without saying that my hope is that I am there with my all those I love so much.  While I wish I had the answer of what heaven is like, I only can imagine!

However, I believe that Jesus gives us a clear answer to what heaven will be like.  He is with his disciples when he gets the word that his dear friend, Lazarus is very ill. He doesn’t rush back to heal him. In fact, he tells his disciples that “Lazarus is dead.  For your sake I am glad I was not there so that you may believe” (John 11:14-15). When Jesus does get to his friend’s house, Martha and Mary are angry at Jesus for not coming sooner.  Lazarus has now been dead for four days! (v.39).  But, what does Jesus do?  He goes to where they laid him in a tomb and raised him from the dead.  Lazarus comes out of the tomb live and well.

I believe that’s what Jesus wants us to know about heaven and our salvation.  We are raised from the dead!  We are made whole, well, and alive!  Whatever was hurting us, no longer hurts.  Whatever we were suffering from, we no longer suffer.  Whatever has made us sad, we are no longer sad.  If we are lonely, we are no longer lonely.  

There is a catch here…I don’t believe that we have to wait till that last day on earth to experience the joy of being made whole. It can start right now!  Jesus comes to us and raises us out of this life into a life with Him.  We just have to open our hearts and let Him into our lives. 

Let us pray.  Gracious God, open our hearts to hear your Word.  Help us to know that your kingdom can be found right here on earth and that we don’t have to wait till our last day on earth to spend time with you.  In your name we pray.  Amen. 



HOPE!

Our daughter, Christina was born on December 21st.  She loves Christmas! She calls one day to tell me how excited she is about Christmas and how she has already bought many of her gifts. She says, “I cannot wait for Christmas!”  I asked her, “Christina, are you waiting for Christmas or are you waiting for Christ?” After a long moment of pause and silence, she responds, “Both – Whichever comes first!”

Christmas Day is only now a few short weeks away. And, as we wait for the day to come there is so much to do! Our expectations are high!  Our days are filled with preparing for the big day!  We are putting up our trees, decorating the house, and going to Christmas parties.  We do all of these wonderful and fun things in our waiting!

What is the difference?  Isn’t Christmas about the coming of the Christ child?  Is Christmas not the reason we celebrate that special day? I believe the answer is ‘yes’ for most of us; however, I do believe there is a difference between waiting for Christmas and waiting for Christ.

In his gospel, Luke tells us what to expect when the end days are coming.  There will be wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, nations will rise against nations; you will be persecuted, betrayed, and hated because of your love for Jesus Christ.  You will see signs in the sun, moon, and stars; there will be confusion, the heavens will shake, and there will be so much fear that people will faint.  So, be on guard and make sure that your heart is not weighed down with all the things of this world.  Things like worry, self-indulgence, and dissipation so you are not caught unexpectantly when Jesus comes.  And, most of all, pray for strength when you are faced with these times of trial.

Isn’t it true that so many of these prophecies are already happening?  Jesus is coming again and that is a promise!  On Christmas day, we celebrate the coming of Christ!  However, in my experience, I go through a lot of work and spend a lot of money preparing and waiting for that special day.  And, within two hours of opening our gifts we have given each other, it seems to be over.  Our expectations of that day are so high that when it is done there is a certain amount of disappointment and let-down.

However, in our waiting and preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ, we have something that we do not have that Christmas morning.  We have ‘Hope.”  In this life, we are going to face times of trial, disasters, confusion, pain, and suffering.  But, in the end, we have ‘hope’ that we will continue to live in the presence of Christ! There will not be disappointment. We will not be let down. Jesus will far exceed any of our expectations!

Our gospel writer states, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28).  Redemption! Saved from sin!  Saved from evil!  Free to live a life with Christ!

We know the day of Christmas – December 25th.  But, we do not know the day when Christ will come again.  So, be on guard and make sure that your heart is not weighed down with all the things of this world.  Things like worry, self-indulgence, and dissipation so you are not caught unexpectantly when Jesus comes.  And, most of all, pray for strength when you are faced with these times of trial!

Whichever comes first – Christmas Day or Jesus Christ, waiting for Jesus to come again promises to be worth the wait!

Light of Life

Yesterday, I had the privilege of doing our children’s sermon.  Sometimes when I feel sad about things going on in my life, I like to focus on the baptismal font.  So, I moved the font to the front and center of the aisle where no one would miss seeing it. When the children came up to hear the Word of God, I wanted them to know that it was important to know who Jesus was and what Jesus means in their lives, but also to know who they were – a Child of God!

In John 8:8-20, the scribes and the Pharisees had brought a woman to the temple to be stoned because she had committed adultery.  When Jesus comes on the scene, he tells them that anyone who has not sinned, can throw the first stone.  Since no one could not qualify themselves as sinless, they all backed away.  Jesus lets the woman walk away, unjudged.  However, here is what I love the most:  Jesus tells them, “I know where I come from and I know where I am going…If you know me, you would know my father also.”

This life is so hard. We have all kinds of voices talking to us – to tell us how we are to feel; how we are supposed to look; we aren’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, and it goes on and on.  If we are not confident in who we are – a Child of God…and know who Jesus Christ is – the One who died on the cross for us, it is so easy to hear the things of this secular world and not the Word of God that tells us how awesome we are because He created us!

Jesus was confident about who He was – the Son of God; and where He was going – to be with His Father! He did not care what the Scribes and Pharisees had to say or what they thought about Him!  He knew Who He was and to Whom He belonged!  Who cares what they think about Him!

Jesus claims that He is the Light of the world.  You see, this is how we become the Light of Life! (John 8:12) When we recognize who we are and to Whom we belong, the Light – Jesus Christ – is in us and with us!  Nothing else matters!

Let us pray.  Jesus Christ, Lord, Savior, and friend: When this life becomes so hard, help us to hear your words of love, grace, and mercy. Like the adulterous woman, please do not judge us when we know we have sinned.  Help us to remember who we are – your child and to Whom we belong – only You! Lead us and guide us to be the Light of Life in this world. Amen.

A Misunderstanding

I hate that sinking feeling of when I have realized that I completely misunderstood what it is that I am supposed to be doing.  I think it has happened in every new job I have ever had.  It’s easy to get side-tracked.  Even as a pastor, my focus should be to always help people develop and deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ – whether through worship, prayer, devotions, and/or ministries.  But, then suddenly I find myself worrying about the stuff that has nothing to do with people’s relationship with God; for example, the mundane maintenance of the church building.  I am sometimes reminded from others that it isn’t my job to worry about those things.  But, it’s hard to stay focused on what we are “really” supposed to be doing.

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There is No Other God like Our God

In the song, Forgiveness, the author and songwriter, Matthew West tells the story about a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver.  It turns out the drunk driver was a young college student.  He was sentenced to jail.  The mother did the unthinkable – she forgave him.  She forgave the man who killed her daughter.

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God’s Mountain

As I think about the world and the mess we are in concerning our values, morals, and the way we treat each other – I can hardly imagine a place where that will no longer be the case.  But, what if there was such a place?  A place on earth where all will come to worship our God.  A place where everyone gets along and treasures our differences – the way we look or think.  What if…there was no violence – only love and caring for one another.  Can you even imagine?

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The Goodness of God

In a conversation with a friend from Pennsylvania, she told me she was thinking of leaving her church.  When I asked her why, she said that many of the ‘20 somethings’ would go out on Saturday night, drink heavily, even to the point they would show up for worship on Sunday morning still intoxicated.  But, they would claim that it was OK because they were covered by God’s grace.  In other words, how they lived their lives did not matter because God would just forgive them.  This is referred to as “Cheap Grace,” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Theologian and Martyr for Jesus Christ.  He states, Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”  If any of us fall into this mindset of “Cheap Grace,” we are headed for a very slippery slope that has the potential to lead us to the wrath of God.

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