Posts Tagged: Heaven

Heaven’s Christmas

I hang fragile memories

on a fragrant tree, while Silent Night

sings lullabies of human

understanding. And I

wonder–What is Christmas

like in heaven?

 

Does the soft glow of windowed candles

flicker for us in prayer, while carolers

harmonize glory hymns to the

Holy One? Do angelic hosts gaze down

upon star topped heavens and

praise God for creation?

 

God, do you laugh deeply as you watch a soul

unwrap heaven like an eager child? Their eyes wide with

wonder as they experience first sounds, vibrant colors.

and run their fingers over the texture of your love.

 

Are we your present, your delight?

 

 

Grief Sings

I sing when the horn

of victory is too faint with grief to hear. May belief

be the miracle in my melody, and others hear the harmony of heaven.

Heaven Is not Distant

In previous posts I shared my desire for God to move heaven from abstract images to concrete, life-giving, substance. Yesterday, while touring Saint Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, God pulled back the veil.

There is a mural painted by Frank Duveneck . My first walk through, I saw only Jesus on the cross and the person I thought might be his mother (actually Mary Magdalene) pleading for a different outcome. I began to cry, her position at the cross is one I’m quite familiar. I came back to the painting later, this time I noticed God behind Jesus’ out stretched arms! Suddenly I realized that there is a heavenly perspective of our circumstances, not just our view at the foot of the cross.

God is not helplessly watching our vulnerability, he is actively, intimately aware of our sorrow, pain, and longings. He not only knows all things work to our good, but how they work to our good. His arms are outstretched even as our arms are outstretched. For example, when Stephen is stoned, “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) Heaven is present at this horrific moment and Jesus is standing to receive Stephen. When Saul is about to ratchet up persecution, heaven opens and a blinding light, stopping him in his tracks.  Jesus questions Paul directly. “Why are you persecuting me?” Even when heaven is not revealed to us, God is near! The comforter has come to rest, like a dove, on all who believe.

I’ve been struggling with the level of burden God has given to us. But, seeing the record of those who have gone before us, reminds me that heaven is not distant even when I can’t see. I have security, strength and a power to do what he has called me to do. We can paint earthly reminders of those who have gone before us. We can create vaulted ceilings to reflect the beauty and majesty of the heavenly realms and it is breath-taking. How much more so is heaven’s view of us. We are God’s beautiful stain glass window, a glimpse of heavenly glory is revealed in the way he walks with us.

Frank Duveneck Mural

Mary Magdalen at the foot of the cross.

Keeping my Eyes Fixed on Heaven, Where the Sun Never Sets

Hebrews 12:2 …fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

How do we turn the page on the darkness of suicide? Sometimes it feels like we are fighting an invisible and silent monster that steals our children, our spouse, our friend right out from under us. It can happen in an instant or a long drawn out torture over years. Suicide is brutal and depression relentless. My depression started at age 6, and I still feel its claws attempting to draw me backwards into oblivion at age 40. The monster keeps us from our purpose in this life being fulfilled. It may be my thorn in the flesh, but Christ is my light, my sword and my compass. The relationship he has built with me since the age of 20 has proved to me that there is purpose in my sufferings.

Christ suffered our most pervasive sorrows. He hungered, he thirsted, and he was wounded. He was deeply burdened by the state of humanity, he got very little sleep, he was persecuted, and abandoned by those who should have loved and understood his mission the most. The cross loomed before him and he grew more deeply depressed the closer he got to the cross. In a way despair was the final temptation of Christ. It almost killed him before he made it to the cross. And from the cross he cried, “Daddy, why have you abandoned me?” Isn’t that at the heart of our rejection of God, we want to be rescued from our despair. And if he doesn’t we believe he isn’t able or a cruel God. But . . .

Joy is set before us. What did Jesus have as his finish line? His joy was being with his father! Oh dear reader can I share that joy with you? When the Lord and his pleasure in us is set in our minds we can bear any cross! If you have never experienced your heavenly father in such a way to motivate you in this life, here are just a few reasons why he is our joy.

  • Hebrews 2:9-10 We will be crowned with glory and honor in heaven and are made perfect.
  • John 14:2 God’s house there are many dwelling places prepared for us.
  • Ephesians 1:3 Blessed us with every spiritual blessing
  • Revelation 21:22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And 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. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.…
  • Isaiah 60:20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.

Oh for such a day when sorrow ends! I can take hope and not lose heart when my eyes are fixed on the things of heaven. I encourage you to taste and see that the Lord is good in your suffering. Jesus said that if you have seen me, then you have seen the father. (John 14:7) The monster of suicide and depression is no match for the light of heaven. Lets set the joy of being with God before us.

What’s in a Name?

Revelation 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

“Does God change our name in heaven?”, was a question asked last night during bible-study. This really got me thinking. Our name is written in the book of life, but what if the name isn’t our earthly name? What if it is the name God has given to us–a reflection of his love and delight in us?

I am convinced that names matter to God, just look how many he has. Immanuel (God with us), Adonai (Lord/Master), and El Emunah (God of Mercy) are just a few. God also changed the name of his chosen throughout scripture: Abram-Abraham, Jacob-Israel, Simon-Peter, Saul-Paul. Why? Because, these new names more accurately describe the character of the person and God’s active presence in their lives. God has a purpose for each of us, and I sure would like to be fulfilling his name for me on earth. Concerning Revelation 2:17, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary states:

The new name is the name of adoption; when the Holy Spirit shows his own work in the believer’s soul, this new name and its real import are understood by him.

Beloved, you may have a name that does not accurately depict who God created you to be. We get a new name, reflecting his fingerprint on our lives and the depth of its meaning is just between us and our heavenly Father. How cool is that!

Sold Out for Heaven:What does Heaven Treasure?

   Matthew 6:19“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and ruste destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Garage sales are a chance to cleanse, and a nice distraction for me today (Wrote this Saturday). Recently I heard that a family may have found pirate treasure in their attic–complete with mummified hand. Gives me chills, just thinking about it. Case in point that you cannot take the treasure with you . . . and apparently you can’t always take your hand with you either.

Sometimes we get too focused upon the clearing out of our junk and miss the second part of the verse. Store up treasures in heaven. What does heaven value? Heaven values anything that lasts for eternity, has ongoing results, and is not limited by sin. A few examples are found in Jesus’ prayer:

A personal relationship with God

  • We call him Father
  • His name is backed by the power of his holiness
  • results occur on earth and in heaven when we call on his name

God’s will

  • He desires good things for us (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • His will is trustworthy
  • Obedience always works to the good of his creation

Forgiveness

  • We have a sin debt we can’t pay
  • He paid it for us,
  • So pay the debts others who owe us

Purity

  • He sacrificed a spotless lamb for us
  • Delivers us from the grip of the evil one
  • Shows us how to live an abundant life

 

Are we sold out for Heaven? When we know how valuable the kingdom of God is, everything else is. . . well . . .rusty.

Sewing New Memories into the Fabric of Life

Acts 1:23So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Bitter-sweet day yesterday. Natalie had a field trip to our local baseball stadium (yes, she held my hand the whole time). It was so much fun, but something about the trip caused me great sorrow as well. When we first moved to this state, I painted a mural of the ballpark for Jonathan’s room. The last time I was at a game was last year for my anniversary while in the midst of planning Jonathan’s funeral. His birthday is on Mother’s Day this year. Being at the ballpark brought all of those things to the surface.

I know from other survivors that this is quite common and that it is important to sew new memories into the fabric of my life, so I’m glad that I went. When Jonathan was little we brought him to a game early for autographs. He got a helmet and his catcher’s mitt signed. That night he slept with the glove on his hand and the helmet on his head. It was such a sweet image in my mind.

The disciples were fresh off the crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus spent forty days preparing them for ministry, Christ ascends to heaven, and now what? Now they pray! Now they select a new apostle to replace Judas. Now they wait for the Holy Spirit. Much of this year has been spent learning to wait. God’s instructions were clear to me; he has been removing stumbling blocks, teaching me patience, healing my anger and replacing it with compassion. Showing me that his way is the best way. May each of you be open to the new thoughts, new memories, and new experiences that God wants to sew into the fabric of your life.

Lord, I praise you for this amazing crowd of witnesses! I give you this day. Do with it what you will. Amen

Opening Heaven in my Grief

The line was 2 and 1/2 hours from the door to the family. I stood there shaking, unsure whether to flee or stay, my own grief deeply moved by the loss of a dear friend. I knew that I was grieving for my son now, in a way that I could not at his funeral. The tears kept coming and I finally stopped fighting them. It just is.

Often, I have heard, the things that you are unable to grieve while you in the midst of shock and pain come out in odd places, and this was mine. As we celebrated Mike, I grieved Jonathan. But, I also saw heaven in a different light. The head knowledge that Jonathan was with Jesus became heart knowledge. I felt that Jonathan was with Jesus, because God gave me a glimpse of heaven through the eyes of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  The whole trip to Huntington my mind was on the story recorded in Acts 7. As Stephen was being stoned to death he declared, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

For the first time I could clearly see that my son was with Jesus! The heavens had opened and Jonathan saw the glory of his heavenly father. Depression clouds our perspective of heaven, we cannot see who we are or whose we are. Heaven was not a place that took my son from me, it is the place that received his weary, battered spirit and restored it!

 

It is God’s will that are sight is restored in our earthly bodies. (Isaiah 61:1-4) I have been with men and women as they were dying, I have seen the difference between those whose eyes are fixed on things above, and those who cannot see past their earthly goods. A dear woman who I sat with in her last days was ministering to me, even as she struggled to take her next breathes. Another woman spent her dying days cursing others around her, her only relief came when I sang hymens to her. Some see heaven so clearly that it changes how they live on earth, how they treat others, how they see God. Heaven is changing me! It makes me look beyond the grave to see that God is sovereign in all things, even my son’s death.

Wanting to be Heaven Minded So that I am Earthly Good

Colossians 3:1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

“They are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.”, is a false saying! Yesterday I was at  a funeral for a man who was an interracial part of our community, our state, and our lives. Even the Governor and Senator came to pay their respects. Mike’s son shared, “It was not all the things that he did to improve our lives that made him a great man, it was the fact that he loved the Lord his God, with all his heart, soul and mind.” Mike was heavenly minded! I contend, that if your mind is truly on the things of heaven then you will be doing the greatest good here on earth.

I have a son in heaven! To say that he has turned my head towards heaven is an understatement. Jonathan’s death has made me cling to the only one who gave me love, value, purpose and meaning in the first place. Jonathan’s death has forced me to renew the foundation that Christ laid, to strengthen it, and to fix my eyes on Him. Jonathan’s death has increased my longing for things above, and I pray that my longing grows deeper. I want to be heaven minded, because this earth deserves nothing less than my best!

Heaven: Keeping my eyes fixed on the finish line

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens

Today I have to attend the funeral of my great aunt. Knowing that her death was coming soon, I declared that I could not stand to lose one more person in my life right now. But loss comes no matter what we declare. We cannot hold so tightly to anyone that we forget that our days are numbered. We have to love deeply, care deeply, but hold onto relationships with our hands open.

My cousin is celebrating that his mother is with Jesus! He reminded me to long for heaven more than I long for earth. How do we grow to the place where we engage our earthly life to the fullest and yet yearn for heaven at the same time? I have been close to friends who have accomplished this. I can see clearly that they walk this earth with one foot already in heaven.

As my friend faced cancer, yet again, she shared her struggle with seeing God for a moment and feeling his presence with her. She could not face the cancer again without knowing that her best friend Jesus was by her side. As we studied scripture she found comfort and his close presence was restored.

Do you and I love God so much, live in obedience to him, and are so familiar with heaven that we find ourselves longing to be released from the confines of sin? To go home. Scriptures say that we are foreigners here when we become princes and princesses of his kingdom. He adopts us! Just saying those words stirs my longing.

I want to live this life to the fullest! Every person that I have observed, through scripture and in my life who have accomplished living as Christ have had their eyes fixed on heaven. It is the finish line! They have served, given to others, forgiven deep transgressions, built up others with the goal of heaven in mind. My eyes have not yet been fully trained, disciplined to keep my eyes on Jesus. Jesus endured the cross because he had his eyes fixed on heaven!

Lord, grow me to this point that my longing to be with you, trumps and motivates everything that I do in my earthly body. Amen!

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