I Can Only Imagine

I just finished watching the movie, I Can Only Imagine.  I don’t think it’s an accident that the next adult Sunday School lesson I’ll be teaching is from the book of Romans and titled “The Transformed Life.” God does that to me all the time! Bart Miller’s story is one of transformation, redemption, forgiveness, hope and most of all music.  His father was abusive and angry, his mother left, and for young Bart, music anchored him, lifted him up, and gave him a dream.  I won’t say more, because you should see this film for yourself.  You’ve probably heard the song, but it’s worth another listen:

 

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A Joyful Direction

The quote below comes from a sermon preached by John Donne in the early 17th century, during a time of plague.  It reminds us that our ultimate, joyful destination is an expansion and continuation of the joy we experience in Christ right now.

“Howling is the noise of hell; singing the voice of heaven. Sadness the damp of hell; rejoicing the serenity of heaven. And he that hath not this joy here lacks one of the best pieces of his evidence for the joys of heaven, and hath neglected or refused that earnest by which God uses to bind his bargain, that true joy in this world shall flow into the joy of heaven as a river flows into the sea. This joy shall not be put out in death and a new joy kindled in me in heaven. But as my soul, as soon as it is out of my body, is in heaven, and does not stay for the possession of heaven nor for the fruition of the sight of God till it be ascended through air, and fire, and moon, and sun, and planets, and firmament to that place which we conceive to be heaven, but without the thousandth part of a minute’s stop, as soon as it issues, is in a glorious light, which is heaven…The true joy of a good soul in this world is the very joy of heaven. And we go thither, not that being without joy we might have joy infused into us, but that, as Christ says, ‘our joy might be full’ (John 16:24), perfected, sealed with an everlastingness. For as he promises that ‘no man shall take our joy from us’ (v. 22), so neither shall Death itself take it away, nor so much as interrupt it or discontinue it. But as in the face of Death, when he lays hold upon me, and in the face of the devil, when he attempts me, I shall see the face of God (for everything shall be a glass, to reflect God upon me), so in the agonies of death, in the anguish of that dissolution, in the sorrows of that valediction, in the irreversibleness of that transmigration, I shall have a joy which shall no more evaporate than my soul shall evaporate—a joy that shall pass up and put on a more glorious garment above and be joy super-invested in glory. Amen.”7

The path is Narrow

Matthew 7:13 & 14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Jesus of course was speaking of the afterlife. Why is it that it’s so hard for people to get to heaven?  And why is it so easy for us to find ourselves in hell? Apparently if human kind were a pie graph, a narrow 10-20% sliver would be in heaven and the other broad part of the pie would easily be in hell. The thing is, we LIKE doing bad things. We like to drink in excess, eat in excess, and smoke our paychecks away. There’s plenty of evidence that Americans fornicate without restraint as well. Look at divorce rates (even among Christians), look at how many have sexual relations before marriage, and how many registered sex offenders there are. And when it comes to gossip, complaint, little white lies, slander, or plain ol’ discouragement . . . look no further than the social giants of the internet. Pleasure however, is not happiness. And if we continue to revel in what pleases us, what we are really doing is refusing Christ. We would do well to remember that.

The truth is that it takes discipline to do right. It takes restraint and focus to keep ourselves safe from, well ourselves. But there is hope and His name is Jesus Christ. Even if we fail at trying, that’s something. It means that we are no longer just stopped, but we’ve turned around, and made an effort to move toward Jesus. We don’t need to be perfect by any means, because Jesus did that for us. Still, there’s a difference between messing up and regretting it, and knowingly messing up and justifying it.

Here on Earth.

What I’ve been given is time. Not life, not really. If I believe in what the bible says (and I do) my life, as it were, is a blink compared to the life that awaits me in a very real kingdom finer than those described in any legend or myth. Still, the time I’ve been given here is such a great gift that I can’t even grasp it. What do I do with it? How am I to spend it and with whom?

I’m still trying to work out the first question for myself and my family, and with a firm assurance I can tell you I am a terrible steward of time. I waste it, and mock it, and complain about it either dragging on too long. or flying by too fast. I often wonder what I could’ve done better in time past. Then I turn around and wonder what I can do to improve my future, and promptly begin scheming. How utterly human of me.

Why not live in the moment? Now is the best time of all. Insight is all we need, a.k.a prayers of wisdom. To remember we aren’t given a spirit of fear is to resolve to use our time wisely. We profit nothing when we fear what the future holds, or fear what some might think of our past. It does no good at all, yet it is done everyday. Certainly time should be thoughtfully and lovingly spent with a large dose of bravery in the mix. Because here on Earth we have little time to decide where we’ll be spending eternity. As to who we should spend time with . . . time will tell.

Worth Waiting For

“So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This has been a favorite passage of mine for a long time.  It’s easy to become depressed as we age.  We lose our parents;  our children don’t seem to need us anymore;  we can’t do the things we used to do physically, and even our mental faculties aren’t as sharp as they used to be.  Paul reminds us in this letter to the Corinthian church that these things are only outer and temporary–they’re not what really counts.

What really matters is our relationship with God.  As we worship, study, pray and fellowship with other Christians, that inner nature grows stronger.  It doesn’t depend upon health, or a great job, or material possessions or other people.  God loves us as we are, and meets us where we are.  He is the one person in our life who will never change and never leave us.

Paul tells us that all the painful and frustrating losses are really just growing pains.  They are preparing us to let go of this world and ready ourselves for the next.  That new life with God will be so glorious, we won’t even miss all those fleeting things that seem so important right now.  Listen to this description of the things that will last forever:

“Behold the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with then as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Revelation 21:3-4

Isn’t eternal life with God worth waiting for?

 

“To Die is Gain.”

Once upon a time . . .

when humanity was young, and quite innocent; they lived in a place of unimaginable beauty and endless possibility. And then humanity was deceived. We failed to trust our creator, and though the lie was not ours, the doubt and greed fully belong to us. The rejection was not of the place, the food, or the vast kingdom that in inheritance belonged to us as well. The rejection was power and love our Father and Lord possessed. We rejected Him.

What was not known in the dawn of time was that with the failure of trust, blinded by greed and naivety, revelations would be made. The tree of knowledge of Good, and Evil. The name says as much as it implies. Before what would they have known? Neither good nor Evil. The infinite wisdom of God would be too much for them to bear. A better way is to slowly introduce information, to take eternity and explain and teach. God wanted to show us the universe while building a relationship.

From the very beginning it was Him who loved us more.  Suddenly, too suddenly, we knew what worse than bad was. We knew shame, and embarrassment, and lust. We knew regret, and sadness, and fear. We were overwhelmed.

Still God our Father loved us. For our own sakes, he removed us from Heaven. People without self-discipline tend to ruin good things. Not to mention Everlasting Life (The tree of Life) combined with Irrational, self-destructive sin would be disastrous. Therefore, we were separated. How painful that was. Not only for us, but for God. The Alpha and Omega that feels anguish as well as joy. Can you imagine first being rejected by your children, and then having to remove them from the situation to protect them? Maybe some can, because all this resulted in a broken world. A world that for our own sakes requires a barrier of sorts.

Luke 16:26 “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”

Not only between heaven and hell, but between heaven and earth. It’s a burden we must bear. Although Christ came so that we can eventually see our heavenly home, we mustn’t risk it with open borders. Narrow is the road. While we have hope of seeing not only our loved ones but also our merciful Savior, there’s still a gap. A lonely realization that we are to suffer here till our time comes. As Christians, it’s not that we don’t believe in a better, very real, life that exists beyond our reach; it’s that we cannot follow where they go. It’s the harsh separation that stares us in the face. Our despair comes with the knowledge that these bodies we inhabit must endure here for a time.

Philippians 1:21&22 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose?  I do not know. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

The End?

Living in Heaven

“If Miss Watson had told Huck what the Bible says about living in a resurrected body and being with people we love on a resurrected Earth with gardens and rivers and mountains and untold adventures–now that would have gotten his attention.”
Randy Alcorn, Heaven

I’ve already told you I was an English major, and I love to read.  So I had to include at least one post this month about a book.  How could I resist this quote, it’s from Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven, and it mentions a classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry  Finn.

If you want to learn what the Bible has to say about heaven, I recommend Randy Alcorn’s book.  I didn’t agree with all of his conclusions, but it is comprehensive and for the most part, biblical.  We did a study of it several years ago at our church.

I don’t think Huck was much for book-learning, but I think he would have like to talk about heaven with Randy.

Has anyone else read Heaven?  What did you learn?  Would you recommend it?