Monday, June 6, 2016

heaven

"What is heaven like?" the little girl asked her dad. Are their butterflies and rainbows and dancing?
I don't know daughter. He said. The Bible doesn't tell us much about heaven, but their will be no more sadness, no more pain, lots of singing praises to God and spending time worshipping Him...

Oh the little girl sighed. Anything else? What about the animals?

Oh and there will be lots of animals the dad replied.

What else dad?

I don't know daughter. I guess we'll find out when we die."

I can't believe how easily we dismiss thoughts about heaven and teach little children and new believers to do the same. We make it sound boring, unrealistic, imaginary. This delights Satan who does not want us to meditate on heaven and a new pure world with Jesus.

 Heaven should be the thought most constantly in our heads and yet for so many of us it seems a distant fairy tale land that we feel guilty about thinking of when this world has so many problems.

Yet Colossians 3:2 says to Set our minds above not on earthly things.  Is it possible that thinking of heaven is what God wants us to do to gain strength for our current condition and passion and love for His kingdom.

C.S. Lewis says "Most of us find it very difficulut to want "Heaven" at all- except in so far as "Heaven" means meeting again our friends who have died. One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained; our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognize it.

I think we have a serious problem when Christians wait more eagerly for Christmas than they do for heaven. Beyond that, the truth is that many church-goers aren't excited about heaven at all. Like the song by Albert King says "Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to go now."

It's terrifying and tragic that as Christians sacrificing for the Lord we know and care not about heaven- where we are going to spend eternity. So often we act without thinking about heaven, without looking up, just doing the world's things, and it's almost prophetic of the time we are living in because it demonstrates that as a Christian people and church we are asleep if we are not awaiting heaven and looking forward to it daily.

Randy Alcorn believes that God has given us glimpses of heaven in the Bible to fire up our imagination and kindle a desire for heaven in our hearts. And that's why Satan will always discourage our imagination- or misdirect it to ethereal notions that violate scripture. As long as the resurrected universe remains undesirable or unimaginable , Satan succeeds in sabotaging our love for heaven.".. "What we need is a Biblically inspired imagination." Read the book "Heaven".

Think about the best things that have ever happened to you that are pure, good, and beautiful. The Bible says that all good and perfect gifts are from above, coming down from our heavenly Father. So think about each animal, pure beauty, innocent relationships without the sin, without the hurt, without the fear. Think of the things that make your heart come alive. Imagine us in our original condition pure and holy, undefiled masterpieces of God, and the world around us lively and lovely.

I don't know about you but I want to receive a Biblical imagination and I want to think about heaven more then I think about the things of this earth. Satan wants us to get caught up in everything this world has to offer us so we won't care about heaven. Let's pray to God to transform our thoughts and help us to think about heaven- the way He created it- so that we can look up to Jesus and spread his light to a fallen world.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Hide this mess

I remember when I was little and it was Friday- the day when I was supposed to make my room super clean- I would get distracted and play until finally my mom was ready to come look and inspect. So super quickly I would put all of the dirty things inside the closet or under the bed.

 Even as a little kid we quickly learn that nobody enjoys our messes and we learn that it is easy to disguise things in order to put our best foot forward. We learned the art of hiding what we didn't want to be seen.

I think as a society and as a church we have became pretty talented at hiding as well. We dress our best and say "Happy Sabbath" when we go to church and when we ask people how they are doing we rarely get more than a "I'm doing great", "Praise God", or "I'm blessed."

Which is awesome- praise God- if being in the house of God, His people really feel blessed. But if you talk to many people and their families outside of the church, without the makeup on or fancy clothes, you can find a lot of real struggles, sickness, grief, depression, fighting. People need help, support. Their is a lot of messiness that is hidden under the smiles.

Even though our natural instinct is to hide, hiding often hurts us by creating walls around our hearts and leaving us feeling all alone. Hiding means that we are afraid and it takes away our opportunity to be found and experience the art of healing.

In the first book of the Bible Adam and Eve, the first creatures, who were so loved and valued by Christ felt extreme shame after sinning and so they hid. They were afraid of their nakedness and what they had done. They knew that they had created a mess out a beautiful thing.

And God had to pursue them. He had to call for them to ask them "Where are you?" to help them come out of hiding. And Christ gave them grace for their mistakes and clothes to comfort them.

The amazing thing about God is he says that he wants to take our brokenness and our weaknesses and use them for His glory. So often when we share our struggles, when we boast about what Christ has done through our mess.. that's when other people stop feeling so alone and realize that everyone is struggling with something. That's how we learn to trust each other and that's how we build true community- we take off the masks- we reveal the mess that God is changing.

There is so much freedom and pure joy when you feel loved by people that actually know and understand you. I know for me, some of my best friends, in all my life have been given to me only by God in the weirdest circumstances. Like when I had lice, or when my friend passed out in a dirty place in Peru, or when I was forced to live with people for eight months or go on a longgg adventure with them. You see everything- the good the bad- and the beautiful thing is when you can look at each other and laugh and love and forgive each other anyway.

2 Corinthians 12:10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

struggles of faith

I ask my newly converted friend what he's going to do this summer and as he replies "I'm going to study the Bible more", I find myself rolling my eyes. As I walk through church to teach  the kids' class I find myself laughing at the "other convert" being an active recruit for prayer. He is always praying... I think to myself. Inwardly I can't stop myself from wandering... Can't wait to see you stick around and follow Jesus for a year maybe 2 years and see how peppy you are. Hang out in the church a little longer see what it's really like.

I know it sounds terrible, but I just can't help classify most of my Adventist friends as raised in the church or "converts" based on how excited they are about Jesus. Been in the church for a while? Your family was Adventist? You probably go to church most Saturdays, skip Sabbath School, don't really care that much about your faith...

Newly convert? Oh I see you praying, telling all your friends how great God is, going to all the extra meetings, sharing your testimony like it's golden and your on Operah.. No don't bother trying to give me a Bible study, I'm "good" and saved too, sorry I'm not as smiley as you are.

When did I become so cynical about a faith I've surrendered my life too again and again?

The problem is not the new believers or converts who are on fire for God.

The problem is me with little fervor, quick to judge and become burnt out... Why am I so
bitter? Why am I like the judgmental second son that isn't so happy when his lost brother returns home and his dad throws a party?

Do I think I am faithful because I have followed God for so long? Does that make me a recipient of extra mercy, extra blessings because I have followed God for this or not done that? Do I wish I would have sinned more so I could try it? Do I desire to be rebellious against Christ and the faith?

Why do I look around and see big sins and fail to see my own selfishness and pride that separate me from the character of Christ? Why is it so easy for me to live on the fence thinking that "I am holier than thou" yet not spending enough time on my knees or in the Word of God to defeat the enemy and fight the battle of God?

So often if I hang out in Adventist or Christian circles (at college, at church, at summer camp)  I see a lot of nice people with a really small amount of faith. I know that sounds critical, harsh, judgmental and it is. But I believe from my heart that so often following Jesus is reduced to wearing the goody good sticker on your forehead which means you are nice to people and say and do the right things.

But in my heart I feel the longing for a faith that is so much bigger and a Biblical Savior who is so much more powerful than politically polite. And I want to know this Jesus- this God- I want to see this Hero, this crazy romancer in my life, in my friends' and families' lives, and in the church. And when I see Him, when I experience Him, I awake from my sleep and worldly daydreams and become ALIVE.

How do I nourish my own personal EXPERIENCE with God to pursue a long term relationships with Him that will not easily fade?

Where do I get the authentic faith to marry a sex offender and love him as a husband? To leave my family and friends behind (for nonselfish motives) and go to another country to sacrifice my health, my career dreams, my money for them? How do I walk to a cross- the most painful death known to mankind- and let someone pierce nails through my hands?

Sometimes I listen to my friends talk about Jesus and their lack of relationship with Him. They tell me that they do the right things but they don't really know Him personally and they desire their faith to get stronger. And sometimes I ask them if they have ever experienced Jesus for themselves? And so many of them tell me no and that's something I don't get.

See for me, I know Jesus because I know He has loved me personally, healed me personally, rescued me when I needed it the most. I know He has called me, I know He has used me. I have confidence in Him and His plan for my life.

Yet sometimes I think the church has taught us about Jesus but not how to know Jesus. Maybe in the families many Adventists grew up in they were given "spiritual milk" and taught basic principles of Christian love like being kind to one another, sharing, saying happy Sabbath, forgiving our family and friends. Yet maybe they didn't learn how to eat solid food?  and instead were taught they could have the world and follow God too? (We think we don't have to commit suicide to our self and our own dreams and desires and pursuits of this world and that literally strangles us) Maybe I don't know how to eat solid spiritual food? And maybe it's easy to look at many professed Christians or people in the faith and say well they're doing that.. so it's ok for me to live like this.

1 Corinthians 13:2 says Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly—as infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for solid food. In fact you are still not ready, for you are still worldly.

-- Basically where I'm at right now, is I love God but I know my faith and love relationship with Him needs resurrecting. I want to follow Christ and His commandments but I'm tired of being defined by rules or high expectations. I desire authentic faith and I know that my spiritual walk can't be lived on the mountain alone but will journey from valley to mountaintop. Yet I need a spiritual attitude adjustment that will better equip me to love people for God commands me to love in every part of the journey. I want more faith and real food.