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Posts Tagged ‘heaven’

Where I grew up as a kid back East, everyone lived in neighborhoods.  The people who lived on your street were part of the neighborhood, almost like an extended family.  In a strange way, we were all connected by our neighborhood – it defined us, shaped us, and supported us in ways that exceeded even our families.

I see Life in a similar way.  We all live in a City of Life, and we have chosen to reside in certain social neighborhoods within that City.  These neighborhoods are defined by their jobs and careers, their moral or immoral values, or by their hobbies and pastimes.  Whatever it is in Life that drives our hearts is what determines our social neighborhood.  It is not the physical streets of brick and pavement, but the avenues of the heart where we really reside, and our neighborhoods are populated by those whose life’s pursuits are the same as ours.

Just as in the physical world, there are a lot of reasons why we choose our spiritual neighborhoods.  Some of us just settle for wherever we live, while most of us move around the City of Life until we find the group that we feel most comfortable in.  And, of course, there are always the homeless that wander around with no home at all.

Throughout the City are many different precincts that overlap and share streets with other groups, some crisscrossing each other, some running parallel, and others merging for a short distance before diverging from one another.  We see each other in the marketplace, waving hello to friends from the Political neighborhood, the Military compound, the Business precinct, and others, but at the end of the day, we always come home to the street that we live on.

The Spiritual neighborhood that I moved to many years ago is unique in that all the streets here point to the ocean. While other neighborhoods are focused on the present, the Spiritual neighborhood looks to an eternal land that lies over the Sea of Death. There are a few distinct major areas in this neighborhood each with their own main thoroughfares heading to the coast – Christian Blvd, Islam Blvd, Hindu Ave. and a few other less broad streets – but since the seacoast is very irregular, they all point in different directions.

If one was to look at the ocean to which these streets lead, you would see many bridges leading out to sea.  Almost all of them extend over the horizon, but there is only one that that makes it all the way across to the land on other side of the ocean.  From where you stand on the seashore, you can’t see the other side of this great ocean, so it is hard to see which one of these bridges is the true Bridge.  Some people believe that all the bridges will join together somewhere out there over the ocean, so it really doesn’t matter which one you travel on, but most folks believe that there is only one that makes it all the way across.  All the others fall short.  Of course, everyone believes that their bridges is the only one that makes it all the way to the eternal life that awaits them on the other side.

Each of these neighborhoods have a myriad of side streets, all claiming to be the best street to lead directly to the true Bridge.  Some people have spent a lot of time figuring out why their street is the correct one and offer reams of analytical scholasticisms to prove their point.  Others just assume that theirs is the best and could care less why.

That would be fine if it wasn’t for all the friction that this causes.  I have watched a lot of neighborhood rumbles take place, not only between the main Spiritual sections of town, but also between the smaller neighborhoods within each section.  Turf wars can be bloody, or they can be calm dissertations of futility, but they all serve one purpose to identify which street you belong to.

Why are they so contentious?  Well, one could say that it is because they don’t want the others to ignorantly fall off into the ocean by taking a long walk off a short pier.  But then why do they get so angry and adamant?  Maybe they are really just trying to prove to themselves that their neighborhood is the right neighborhood, and their street really is the best street – or at least it seems that way, especially to folks from other parts of the City who, from a distance, watch these skirmishes (or crusades, depending upon which side you are on).

I saw myself standing under a streetlamp looking at my roadmap.  There are several Maps, one for each neighborhood with several different versions, each claiming to be better than the others.  The funny thing is that, even with the same version of the same map, people from different streets see different directions.  I’m not sure if that is a matter of perspective or choice, but it sure can seem confusing if you don’t know where you are going. 

I’m not sure why they like those other streets.  Some of them are very dark like Wicca St., some have artificial fluorescent lighting like Mormon Ave., and others are broad and easy streets that were built a long time ago like Presbyterian Blvd.  I suppose that they like the look and feel of their own street because it appeals to the desires of their hearts.  Some like dark streets so they can hide in the nooks and crannies there, others like to have their own lighting systems that they have made up themselves, while others could care less how bright it is as long as they don’t have to change the light bulbs.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I chose to live on my particular street in the Christian neighborhood because the streetlights are brighter here, and I can see better on this street than some of the dark alleyways chosen by some of my neighbors.  Mine isn’t a broad avenue like some of the others – it is strait and narrow – but it is brightly lit.

There is no doubt in my mind that this street leads directly to that Bridge over the Sea of Death and will ultimately take me to my eternal home.  The map I am holding points me in a simple and clear direction, so I don’t have to guess as long as I keep that map before me.  I can feel the ocean breeze coming down the street and can hear the sounds of the seagulls, and down at the end of the street, I can see a faint glow that filters through the haze on the horizon.  As I walk the length of this street, I can smell the scent of Beulah Land that lies over the ocean. 

This is the way, not because I think so, or because my parents settled on this street, or because of my friends and neighbors live here, but because I can hear the sound that calls me over the sea to a land that is fairer than day.

… And that’s what leads me on.

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How Great is God

I like praying at night.

When I stand out on my porch and look up at the heavens, it just seems like God is so much closer.  I know that isn’t really true, but it sure feels that way.  There’s no noise, no distractions, no lights – just me and God.  It’s not that He can hear me better with the lights turned down low, or that there’s a lot less things going on that He has to pay attention to.  I think it has more to do with me being able to hear my own heart.

Looking up into the night sky, you can see all these stars!  Zillions of them!  How come there are so many stars? And why is the Universe so big?  Is just for us?  It sure seems like God went to a whole lot of trouble just for decoration.

But then I remember the Psalm that says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork”.  He created them so we could see His glory.

Well, I’ll tell you, I, for one, am impressed.  That’s a lot of stars up there.  And to think God is bigger than all that.

I know from Physics that the energy released when you break chemical bonds is the same amount of energy it takes to put them together.   And if just splitting some of the atoms in a couple of rocks can blow up a whole city, think about how much power it took to create the Earth … and then look up at the sky.

When God says that He is All-Powerful, that just puts my little pea-brain into tilt.  I just can’t get a grip around that.  All Powerful.  Not this powerful, or that powerful – ALL Powerful.

How small is our faith!  Don’t we understand that He promises us that whatsoever we ask for in faith believing He will do for us?  Not only is it promise, but Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, died and shed blood to establish those promises.  Why is it we just can’t seem to get it?  If we did, we be standing out there with long grocery lists in our hand, rattling off everything we could think of.  But we don’t, do we?

Faith is a funny thing.  You can’t catch it in a bottle, you can’t put it in a box, you can’t study it in a textbook, and it’s not something you turn on like a light switch.  We have to seek for it with our hearts.  We have to pull ourselves out of the husk of this carnal flesh, and reach forth into the Spirit of God to grasp that substance of things hoped for.

The world does not understand that.  But our hearts do.  When we reach through that Door that He has provided for us and touch the hem of His garment, in our grasp we feel the evidence of things not seen.

How great is God!

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Hope

Oh God, where are you? Can you see me? Are you watching? Or are you busy paying attention to 7 billion other people who need you just as much, or actually much more, than I do?

Have you chosen to set yourself apart from us,  just far enough back so that we can almost touch you, but not so close that it would dissolve faith? Sometimes there are miracles; sometimes all the crying in the world cannot get you to move. Sometimes I can feel the Spirit so strong I feel like dancing; sometimes it feels like the heavens are brass and the door to your presence is slammed shut.  Sometimes you feel so close that I feel enveloped in you; sometimes you are so far away that I wonder if you are really there or not.

Belief in God has never been natural for me. The whole concept of God watching over us seemed so foreign to me that it was much easier to believe in the postulates of science than in the hopes of Heaven. Why would God do things this way? How come He doesn’t show Himself in the sky so we can all settle this debate once and for all?  He does, after all, want everybody to go to Heaven, right?  So where exactly is He?

And really, where is Heaven? Is it some far out place way out in the cosmos or buried in some other dimension?  How come it is way out there and we are down here?

We are immersed in the reality of this tangible world and it therefore captures our attention.  Sometimes it’s a lot easier to not believe than to believe, especially when you’re praying your guts out and it seems like God is deaf.   Heaven can only be hoped for, not seen.

But then there are those times when God reaches down and touches you.  Or heals some blind person. Or answers some prayer of yours that was just impossible.  Or reaches out and touches you in a place way down in your heart that even you didn’t know was there.

Sometimes He just acts like God, and it is unmistakably Him.  And then you know.

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I read a chapter of Proverbs every day. Whatever today’s date is, that’s the chapter I read, and there’s always something in there for me that day. The one that stopped me today was Proverbs 16:4 –
The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” 

Wow. What is that supposed to mean? There’s another scripture in Isaiah 45:7 that says, I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”  There are some other Scriptures in the Bible that can really scramble your theologies about the nature of God if you stop and think about them.

Now, I’m not a genius but I’m smart enough to realize how stupid we are. There are a whole lot of things that I don’t think we will every grasp in their entirety until we get to the other side. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, it is as if we are looking through a glass darkly – we can’t see clearly – but when we die we will see things the way they really are.  Isaiah said it even better when he said, And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” (Isaiah 25:7).  There is a veil over our eyes, a covering that keeps us from seeing things the way they really are in the scope of Eternity.

(Sigh) It seems like the more I learn, the less I understand.  But Voltaire once said that to know that you know what you know, and that you don’t know what you don’t know is wisdom.  Yeah, I get it. We really don’t know, do we. We just think we know.

But one thing I do know is that God is really real – not just as a theological idea or a point of belief or doctrine to be argued over, but real, as in more real than real. I’ve had a lot of supernatural experiences with God and I know a lot of other people that have also.  Maybe not everybody gets to hear God speak out of the heavens, but it does happen.  And it is not all that uncommon.  And then there are visions, instant healings, and other sorts of miracles.  I’ve seen this stuff with my own eyes.  And I have heard Him speak to me.  I would never have believed if I hadn’t.

But I get a little reticent when speaking about this stuff because a lot of people have not experienced things like that and I’m always afraid they will start looking at me narrowly if I mention them.  As if to say, “You know, he’s really a nice guy, but he’s just a little nuts.”   Sorry, but why should I be afraid to mention these things?  I mean, I didn’t do them to myself, and by golly, there’s a lot of other people that have had the same experiences, so why, as Paul once said, should it seem a thing incredible?  If God can raise the dead, why can’t He speak?

All I know is that God really is real.  He’s there.  And no, I don’t understand how or why God created evil … but He says He did, and that’s good enough for me.  It says in that same chapter of Proverbs that the highway of the upright is to depart from evil and that he that keeps his way preserves his soul.  I guess that’s all I really need to know.

And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. (Job 28:28)

 

 

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Everybody I know is going to Heaven. (Let me think for a minute … yep, everybody). From the Alpha+ personalities that charge ahead in their own self-righteousness to the casual believers who relax in their own languid reassurance that all is cool with the “Man Upstairs”. The only folks I know who say they’re not going to Heaven are the ones who don’t believe in Heaven anyway! Well, I guess that just makes everything convenient then. We can all relax and be raptured.
But somewhere there is a line.
If everybody is right, then nobody is wrong; and if everybody else is wrong, what makes you think you are right? Peter said that he knew and was sure that Jesus was the Christ. That’s all fine, but it’s not God who I am wondering about — I trust God. It’s me I don’t trust.
A guy named Howard Pitman had an experience years ago when he died in an ambulance and went up before God. God showed him the Day of Judgment where he saw billions of people going up before God to be judged. Multitudes were shot down into Hell like showers of sparks. Some souls went up to Heaven, but nowhere near as many as those who went to Hell. But every once in a while there would be one who would come up before God and there would be a pause … and then they would be shot down into Hell. He said that when he asked what that was, God replied that those were the self-righteous who thought they were supposed to go to Heaven and stood there justifying themselves to God.
It’s been years since I listened to that vision, but that one scene has never left me. It lines up with the admonition Jesus gave us of the broad and narrow paths. While we may all have our own perspective of what is required to get to Heaven, only one perspective matters – and that would His.
Let us be careful that we don’t walk so squeaky clean that we become Pharisees or so detached from righteousness that we think that going out and looking at the trees is a religious experience with God. Some will echo the old assertion of “I don’t smoke, and I don’t chew, and I don’t go with them that do”, all the while sitting completely stagnant in their lack of mercy for others. Others will float around in their spiritual effervescence, dispensing feel-good prophesies laced with love and sugar plums so that everyone will know they are loved but be clueless as to the holiness that God demands.
There is a walk in the Spirit that found in neither of these extremes nor anywhere between them. It is a completely different path, a different perspective, and an entirely different goal. It is a place of surrender before God where you no longer matter. It is being as porous as an open window so that the Spirit of God can pass through you to shower the true mercy of God on others. You will never gain that place in God through your own efforts or spirituality – only through surrender.

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