Tag Archives: heaven

Biking

bike

I have been biking the last few Saturdays on a trail near my house. The trail had been closed for a time in the midst of the COVID shutdown, so I was excited to get back on it after some time away.

I learned a few things “getting back into the saddle.” The first thing is that you cannot get right back to where you once were. You have to ease your way in. I found that I was not going as fast as I was and that it took more energy. When I got home, I felt soreness in my shoulders and back.

The other thing I learned is that it is not best to bike in the baking sun of midday. The sweat was pouring down my face and all down my back in the 90-degree heat. On weeks when I rode a little later in the day, the sun was not as sweltering and there was a breeze along the way.

Lastly, I discovered that even the slightest incline can make a bike ride more difficult. I didn’t even realize I was going uphill until my body started objecting with aches and pains. Turning around and going downhill feels like a dream after that.

These experiences mirror the Christian life in that it sometimes takes time to get it right, to hit our stride as Christ’s disciples. We need to be patient with ourselves and not get discouraged when we don’t follow Christ the way we should or we miss opportunities to witness. More chances will come along. The path is long and God will never give up on us, so we should not give up on ourselves.

Life as a Christian can get uncomfortable sometimes. But don’t let the heat of hard times get to you. You can find ways to get around the heat and keep moving forward for the Lord and his plan for your life journey.

Uphill battles in our Christian way can startle us but when we keep pedaling through, we know that the downward slope is on the horizon with an easy ride toward heaven because Christ went up the hill of Calvary and came down victorious over sin and death forever through his death and resurrection.

Whether you bike or not, keep on going forward in the name of the Lord. As the Scripture says, “Let us run (bike) with perseverance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

A Boat in the Storm

When the disciples were with Jesus on the boat and a storm blew in, the disciples turned immediately to Jesus. But Jesus was asleep. “Save us,” they pleaded. But Jesus calmly said, “O you of little faith,” and quietly said to the wind and the waves and the rain, “Be still.” And immediately they were still and the disciples were astonished: “Who is this man that even the wind and the sea obey them him?”

This story is very much like our lives. We are very much at peace in the boat of our lives with Jesus asleep inside. Then when a storm comes along and rocks the boat of our lives, we panic and we rouse Jesus from slumber, begging him to save us. Jesus, without much fanfare, stills the storm in our lives and renews faith in us. Peace returns to our hearts and Jesus remains to dwell by our sides.

The boat of our lives continues to sail until it reaches the shore of heaven, where we will dwell in perfect harmony in blessed union with Christ and our fellow lifemates giving praise to our God who welcomes us to the eternal banks of glory in paradise.

The storms that come along can be all sorts of things. They can be physical upheavals like sickness and disease, chronic illness or pain. They can be earthly like rainstorms, hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes or other disasters. They can be spiritual turmoil like lack of faith and trust., a loss of reliance on prayer and devotions and a turning away from Scripture for help and strength.

When Jesus tells the wind and waves, “Be still,” he is telling us too, to be still. We are not to get anxious or panic when things start going wrong. The arrival of trouble means that we need to look to God and know that he is who he says he is. “Be still and know that he is God,” Psalm 46:10 says. In our stillness, we know and remember that God is trustworthy, faithful, strong, confident, courageous, comforting, loving, peaceful and caring. These attributes will never change, though the world continues to change all around us. The trouble and turmoil of this world obey the voice of the Lord. We should never think that trouble and turmoil can overcome the power of God in our lives.

When we think of Jesus sleeping in the boat during the storm, we often think he is not caring or paying attention to our troubles and turmoil. But the truth is that he is asleep because he is not worried about the trouble and turmoil. He is taking care of them.

Making a House a Christian Home

home sweet homeSome friends of mine recently moved to a new house and posted this on on their Facebook page when they closed on the deal: A house is made of walls and beams. A home is made of love and dreams.

What a beautiful sentiment to ponder as they embark on a new adventure in a new dwelling place.

This got me to thinking: What makes a house a Christian home?

A Christian home is a place where there is genuine love for one another and for Christ.

A Christian home is a place where the Word of God is shared and perhaps even displayed through plaques with favorite verses.

A Christian home is a place where forgiveness flows from one to another.

A Christian home is a place where prayers are said over meals and at bedtime and at anytime.

A Christian home is a place where all our hopes and dreams are grounded in the good news from Jesus who comforts us with these words, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2).

We know as Christians that our homes here on earth are only temporary, but our eternal dwelling place is in heaven, where we will join with all the saints in praising the name of our Savior, Jesus. May our homes here on earth give us glimpses of our home yet to come.

 

 

Sweet and Bitter Truths

scrollIn a recent article in Christianity Today, Lisa Fields, an expert on biblical literacy, said: “When it relates to biblical literacy, I always think of Ezekiel, when God commands him to eat the whole scroll, and it will be sweet and then bitter. It just reminds me that in Scripture there will be some bitter portions and some sweet portions. There are some difficult things I have to wrestle with, but because I believe God has called me to this work, I have to take all of it” (“Black Bible Reading Endures,” Christianity Today, January/February 2019, 17).

It is true that the Bible does not sugar-coat the fact that the wages of sin is death and that there will be suffering in this world. It does not hide the fact that people turned against God, that there was betrayal and hardship among God’s people that still happen today. We cannot change the fact that there is sin in the world and that there will bad days sometimes as we wait for the Last Day to come.

But the sweet news comes from St. Peter who tells us, “Rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13). The sweetness is revealed in Revelation 21:3-5 in John’s vision of heaven:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

In the end in the bliss of heaven the bitterness will be no more and we will only taste the sweetness of salvation won for us in Jesus.

Let the first thing we do each day until that time always be to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). That sweetness of the goodness of the Lord supersedes all bitterness.

Broken and Restored

potteryOn this Ash Wednesday and throughout the Lenten season, we consider the fact that we are broken because of sin in our lives, but we are restored in Christ.

There is a centuries-old Japanese method of repairing broken pottery called Kintsugi (which means “golden joinery”) or Kintsukuroi (which means “golden repair”). In this method pieces of a broken piece of pottery are joined back together with a special lacquer dusted with gold, silver or platinum. Beautiful trails of gold glint and sparkle where the cracks once existed, creating a unique and beautiful effect. The method can be pain-staking and takes long periods of time to complete. But the results are stunning.

I find it interesting that this method dramatically celebrates the brokenness in the piece of pottery and in essence rejoices in what the brokenness brought about—something even more beautiful than the piece was before. The brokenness is not hidden or ignored. The gold coloring reveals the richness and preciousness which now exudes from the pottery.

In the Bible, we hear Isaiah say to God, “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). We are each molded by God into creations like pieces of pottery.

Because of the presence of sin in the world, we can crack and break and become broken. But God in his mercy joins the pieces of our brokenness back together in glorious fashion through the suffering and death of his Son Jesus, whose blood repairs our brokenness and his glorious resurrection seals our status as forgiven and whole children of God who will walk the streets paved with gold in heaven forever.

The repairs of our brokenness were painful and difficult to be sure for our Savior and being restored from our brokenness can be trying for us from day to day. But the struggle is worth it and in the end it makes us more beautiful. For in Christ we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the signs of our brokenness now repaired only proclaim to the world how glorious and brilliant the work of the Lord is in our lives.

All That Matters

all that mattersDear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

When I lead Bible class in my church, there are times when the only answer I have to a difficult question someone has is: “We will have to ask Jesus that one when he returns in glory.”

We as humans are an inquisitive bunch. We want to know and understand everything right away. But there are simply some things that we will never know this side of heaven.

What we need to remember is not so much what we do not know, but what we do know:

• We are children of God.

• Christ will appear to take us home to heaven.

• We are dearly loved by our Savior.

• We are forgiven and saved from all our sins through the suffering and death of Christ.

In the end, no questions about what we don’t know really matter, because what we do know is all that matters.

The Great Sustainer

sustainerSurely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. —Psalm 54:4

Psalm 54:4 is good for anyone going through trying times. It gives hope when we feel helpless. I like the use of the word surely here. There is a confidence and a certainty about it. God WILL BE my help. There is no doubt about it.

I also like the fact that this verse does not stop with the help. It assures us of the Lord sustaining us. There is help for the long haul, not just for now. There is a future plan that God has in place to keep us going in our faith and in our life with him. There is no end to the care that our Lord provides for us. Even unto eternity, he sustains us by taking us to heaven with him when we die.

His help and sustaining are ever-present and ever-giving. We are never in this life alone with our Great Sustainer beside us.

Lift Up Your Heads

lift up your headAt a conference I attended recently Pastor MItchell Gowen of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Aiea, Hawaii, talked about the experience on January 13, 2018, when for 38 minutes residents and tourists in Hawaii scrambled to react to a terrifying emergency alert on their phones that read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” The alert turned out to be a false alarm, but there was no way of knowing that during that frightening period.

Those Gowen was with at his church at the time asked what they should do. Most decided to run to the basement. But Gowen decided he was going straight to the parking lot to “watch the show.” If this was indeed his last day, Gowen wanted to be there to see it.

I admire Gowen’s reaction born of faith. As Christians, our last day on earth is not something that we should be afraid of. Because it means we will be with our Savior in heaven. It means the end of tears and pain and sin and the beginning of a perfect eternal life won for us through the death and resurrection of Christ.

I think of this verse from Luke 21:27-28:

At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

When the end comes for each of us, it should not be time for us to look down or look away, but a time, by God’s grace and strength, to look up and see what God has accomplished to bring us salvation. At a time or an hour we do not yet know, Christ will come and no matter when that might be, we as his faithful people need to be ready, as Gowen says, to “see the show.” And what a sight it will be!

Gospel Goodbyes

gospel goodbyesI must admit that I am not very good at goodbyes. After spending time with my family or friends at a holiday event or summer vacation far from home, it is hard for me to bid farewell to these people I love so much.

Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Texas talks about the difficulty of leaving colleagues at a church he ministered at to begin work at another parish. What has helped him get through it, he says, is remembering the what he calls the “gospel goodbyes” that happened in the Book of Acts {“Multiplied + Divided,” Christianity Today, December 2017, 49).

The way that Paul framed his goodbyes to the church members he loved so much was to connect them to the good news of the gospel, that we will be together in the end in heaven with our Lord, who died and was raised that we might have eternal life with him. So it is never “We will never see you again,” but “See you next time, either here on earth or in heaven.”

Consider this “gospel goodbye”:

Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers (in Antioch). After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.  —Acts 15:32-33

This gospel goodbye was characterized by a blessing of peace. The people of Antioch knew that Barsabbas and Silas had to move on from them to spread the word about Jesus. Barsabbas and Silas’ goodbye was made with encouraging words to those in Antioch to continue the faith there.

What a great example for us to follow to incorporate blessing, peace and encouragement in our goodbyes in the name of the Lord.

Now take a look at this “gospel goodbye”:

When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. —Acts 18;27

Those Apollos was saying goodbye to helped him to get settled in his new place and made sure he would be welcome there. They did not stop him from carrying out his calling by asking him to stay with them. They made sure to support him in his new venture.

I think it is good for us in our own gospel goodbyes to realize that God’s plan for our loved ones is often beyond us and that our loved ones are doing their best work in the Lord in places that are not near us, but that that does not diminish our bond with them.

One of the most compelling goodbyes is this one between Paul and the elders of Ephesus as he leaves for his mission to Jerusalem:

When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. —Acts 20:36-38

You can feel the pain, but you can sense the overarching love among them. I like that the goodbye is accompanied with prayer. It is prayer that will continue to bind them together. And though they will not see Paul’s face again on this earth. They have the faith that they will see him again in the courts above, singing praises to the Lamb, who will wipe every tear of parting sorrow from their eyes.

I am reminded that even the word “goodbye” is a shortened version of “God be with you.” So each parting we experience in the end is a reminder that God is with us wherever we may be and he always will. Thanks be to God.

 

 

Treasures in Heaven

damaged packageIn an article in October 22, 2017 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reporter Aisha Sulton relayed the story of how her father had shipped several boxes of her childhood memorabilia from his basement, but how only one tattered box actually arrived at her home. The note inside from the post office said, “During the processing of your package the contents became unsecured and required rewrapping in order to forward it.”

All that was left of her childhood possessions were a couple elementary and high school yearbooks. All the other papers, ribbons, trophies, journals, personal letters and photos that were in those boxes originally were gone forever.

Sulton said she felt a pinch in her heart for the lost items for several days afterward. But then Hurricane Harvey hit and she witnessed on the news how hundreds of thousands of people lost everything they had in the rising waters. She was able to put her own small loss into perspective and recognize the fact that, as Henry Havelock Ellis write, “All of the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”

Which called to mind for me Matthew 6:19-21:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

For us a Christians, we need to always remember that we need to loosen our grip on our earthly possessions that will one day be destroyed, but to hold fast to the treasures of heaven of forgiveness, life in Christ, and salvation in him that will never pass away, but will be with us forever.

Think of ways this week that you can start letting go of some of your earthly possessions and ways you can begin to hold on more tightly to the things of heaven that really matter.