Tag Archives: heaven

Partakers Of Eternal Life

weekly theme #23*

week containing the second Sunday of Easter

When Barnabas arrived in Antioch (Acts 11:23) he showed not a smidgen of self-focus.  He rejoiced in what others had done and encouraged them.  Then he went to get an expert for these kinds of situations – Saul (Paul).  Verse 24 of Acts 11 is a wonderful testimony of him.  “Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith.”  In a sense, God used Barnabas to resurrect Paul.  Paul was going through a personal, inner crucifixion – the death of his heart’s desire.  Because of Saul’s zeal for Jesus, the apostles had sent him to Tarsus for his own safety, and they seemingly had forgotten him.

Waiting can be a painful, suffering time.  Nevertheless, when my heart’s desire dies, it allows God’s desire to grow within me, and I am resurrected to his service.  I am also given the promise of life everlasting where all things are new – earth, heaven, my body, even my way of living.  I am unable grasp what everlasting life will be like, but I can believe in the concept of it. “That is why we live by believing and not by seeing.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  Sometimes belief in the next life sustains me during this life.

I cannot expect a “good” life now, at least not if I’m a warrior in the battle between good and evil.  If I am on the sidelines, caring mostly for my own affairs, then I tend to expect a “good” life.   However, the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians describes a life of spiritual war with terms like: pressed by troubles, perplexed, hunted down, knocked down, and suffering.  Yes, I can experience all these things even if I’m not in the war, but if I’m not in the war I will not share in the rewards of victory available to me now and in the future.  “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather we look forward to what we have not yet seen.  For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.”  (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Sacrifices and suffering seem less intense, even ignorable, when they are for someone I love.  Moreover, love can move my fear out of mind.  (1 John 4:18)  If a loved one is in a burning building, I can look past the source of fear to the one I love.  It is love that propels me.  It is not fleeing from where I am, but running to my love.  The way through my crucifixion is not by more willpower or courage but by greater love for what is on the other side of what I fear.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Christianity Beyond Belief

Todd D Hunter has written an engaging book.  In my opinion, the foundation of the book is the idea that the goal of the Christian life is not to get into heaven but to live like Jesus.  I venture to say some of you are saying, “Of course!”  But there are many in the USA church who do not live that way.  It’s actually an interesting clash in most of us.  We certainly want to go to heaven, and we’re counting on going there, but our minds and lives are rooted deeply in this world.  The concept Jesus mentions in his most famous prayer, “thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, doesn’t really get fleshed out.

I really enjoyed Hunter’s concept of living in God’s story.  The Bible starts with creation and ends with the eternal river of life.  All of human history falls between those two events, and that includes my life.  And yours.  We are part of God’s story.  We have been given a speaking part in a story that includes some of the greatest characters of all time.  I awake in God’s story every day.  All I have to do is play my role as it’s written.  Yet, even though all of us have gone off script, he keeps us in the story.  He keeps pointing to the script that’s prepared especially for me.

I’ll close with a couple more of my favorite thoughts from the book: 1) My need is not so much to add spiritual activities to my life, but to make my daily activities spiritual.  2) Learning to walk with the Spirit includes some stumbles and falls.  Keep walking.  Trying and failing is success.  Not trying is failure.

My notes on this book can be downloaded in MS Word format from the blue “FILES box” in the left side-bar of this blog.

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Filed under Be Like Jesus, Cacophony

Love Wins

I read Love Wins by Rob Bell.  Actually, I listened to Rob read it to me.  It was a book on CD from the library.  Prior to reading the book, I heard a lot of chatter about it among “churchy” circles, and I had read Bell’s interview in Time magazine.  Those two things combined to create great anticipation for what I was about to read.  I was disappointed.

I repeatedly heard from friends, preachers, and forwarded e-mails (e-gossip) that Bell said there was no hell and that everyone goes to heaven.  So I expected to find clear, repeated statements from Bell to that effect.  Not so.  What I found instead were some questions that couldn’t be easily answered.  They made me think, and that thinking brought some ideas that didn’t fit my current beliefs.  Sometimes I held steady in my beliefs, and sometimes I adjusted my mindset.  So, rather than throw out everything in the book, I decided to let it be a tool for God to change me.  Let me share a couple mindset adjustments resulting from reading Bell’s book.

Being Good – The parable of the prodigal son is full of symbolism.  One of those symbols is the Father’s interest in reconciliation with his wayward children.  He looks for them, longing for them to come home.  He has no demands except a humble, freewill return to him.  And when the wayward child comes home, Father throws a party. But this parable also has a child who has remained consistently faithful to Father.  He has worked hard at being a “good” son, but Father has never thrown him a party.  In his anger, the “good” son refuses to join in the Father’s joy for the return of the wayward child.  This book helped me realize that I had an attitude similar to the “good” son.

 I liked movies where the bad guys lost, not when they changed their ways.  I wanted to see the guy who cut me off in traffic get a ticket rather than become a better driver.  I chose to complain about how I’d been wronged rather than pray for the offender.   I, the “good” son, believed mercy and forgiveness should bow to my idea of justice.  My priority was not the redemption of “those people”, but that all my good efforts and sacrifices would earn me VIP entrance into God’s “party”.  Admitting “those people” into the party was not fair.  What I failed to understand is that just being with Father can be a “party”, and all that he has is mine.  Welcoming wayward siblings home does not need to diminish my joy.  In fact, if I let it, my joy will increase.

Becoming Holy –I had anchored on getting to heaven, and it was hindering me from getting where God wanted me to be.  Getting me into the Kingdom of Heaven is not God’s goal.  He wants the Kingdom of God to get into me.  Right now I’m incompatible with God’s Kingdom.  My selfishness, complaining, judging, and an armload of other things can’t be admitted into Heaven.  They just won’t fit.  If all those things were in heaven, it wouldn’t be heaven.  I grew up believing that all those sins would be instantly cleansed forever, and I’d walk into Heaven perfected.  But some of Bell’s questions made me wonder why I’m waiting to shed those sins.  God doesn’t want me to wait to be holy – an intimate love for God that eclipses all other interests.  I can’t sit around waiting for heaven; there’s work to be done!

I really benefited from reading this book.  If you read it, give yourself permission to sift the wheat from the chaff.  Then plant the wheat.

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What Will Heaven Be Like?

I was listening to people talk about what heaven will be like.  It made me kind of sad.  I don’t think heaven will be about games of golf, or food, or fishing, or even having a nice house.  I think it will be more than that.  I think it will be less than that.  Here’s what I think.

Have you ever loved someone?  I mean illogical love.  I mean love where you wanted to be around the person just to be around them.  You didn’t have to go to dinner, or the show, or anything.  Just being with them was enough.  Being beside them for an hour seemed like the blink of an eye.  You wished time would stand still and you could be with them forever.  That’s what I think heaven is like. 

I’ll just want to hang around Jesus.  We don’t have to do anything special because just being with him is enough.  No earthly activity, person, or object will come close to the satisfaction of being with him.  I’ll be content for eternity.

Boring?  Never!  Experiencing the infinite Christ will take an eternity, and the more I’m with him the more I’ll never want to leave his presence.  The love will only get stronger.

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Filed under Christianity, Inside Phipps