What makes heaven, heaven?

There are, no doubt, many answers to this question, all of them true to some degree. Obviously we cannot fully comprehend the gloriousness of heaven in this life, but there was one thing that struck me today, a fragment of the answer, that I found quite profound.

I was praying through the Lord’s prayer and paused at the line “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” One of the things that makes heaven, heaven, is that God’s will is always done there.

It is impossible that a by-product of God’s will could be a state of hellishness. The execution of His will must, as a reflection of His nature, lead increasingly to a state of heavenly greatness and perfection.

It is important to note that this certainly does not mean that, on this broken and corrupted earth, it is never God’s will that we should suffer. That is clearly not true; He willed that His own Son should suffer. What it does mean though, is that any suffering that is a part of his will, is only so, because of the deeper, greater, more wonderful good that it can achieve.

If God’s will is always done in heaven, and if indeed that is one of the things that truly makes heaven, heaven, then I must be careful never to balk at his will on earth, no matter how challenging it may seem in the present moment.

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Get your hopes up

I don’t think I’ve ever told someone to get their hopes up. On the other hand, I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve used the opposite as a warning to others or a mantra to myself.

We seem to have this cultural fear of hoping in something that may disappoint us. It is as though the thought of disappointment weighs on us far more than the idea of living in a state of cynicism or pessimism.

I am hugely guilty of this, which is why I was so surprised when a song entitled ‘Get your hopes up,’ by Josh Baldwin came up on my Spotify playlist.

The words were so counter-intuitive that I paused to listen, and was surprised at how compelling they were. One of the key refrains of the chorus says

“Get your hopes up, our God is for us, He’s brought us back to life.”

As someone who easily lapses in to cynicism and worry, this was a good reminder to look up. As a Christian, I have every reason under heaven to get my hopes up. Not only have I been given the assurance of an eternity in heaven, by no merit of my own, but I have also been promised that God will work all things here on earth for my good and his glory.

She is no fool who has her hopes always upward in the promises of Jesus.

 

Hope is a killer

bench-free-photo_385-95Have you ever dwelt in the agonizing wilderness of uncertain hope? A friend and I have discussed this many times. While I have heard it said, that a person couldn’t live even one minute without hope, it has been my experience that hope can also be tormenting.

I came across this verse in Proverbs 13 some time ago, and it resonated with me: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Do you know what that feels like? To feel sick in your heart, even in your whole body, over an unfulfilled hope? A hope that clings on, without closure, deferred week after week? I know what that’s like. Hope is a killer.

But not always.

The pain of unfulfilled hope comes when we put our hope in things that are uncertain. The solution is to hope in that which is guaranteed. Yes, there are things I will wish for that I may not receive, but when my daily, hourly hope is in the promises of God I will experience “fulfilled longings that are like a tree of life.”

If my daily hope is in my salvation; in a God who loves me; in someone who will never leave me; in a future that is secure and a guarantee that all things will work for good; if my hope is in these things, then my heart will not fall sick, because I will discover, daily that my hopes are fulfilled.

The one thing that makes you most useless to God

I doubt there is any sin more prevalent in the hearts of fallen humanity, nor one so destructive than that of pride.
In fact, the other day, I began to wonder whether there was any person more useless to God than the one whose heart is consumed with pride.crumpled-up-paper_2540467

I doubt there is.

I know for myself that when I am focused on my own importance, on building my own kingdom in which I reign supremely as queen, I am about as useless to God and His Kingdom as I can be.

For the Christian who is genuinely focused ahead on the glory of heaven, one thing that should be most frightening is that we may get there, only to look back and discover that we spent our lives being largely useless to God.

As I reflected on this, I began to see, with joy, that God is in the business of destroying pride. In fact, as I look back on the greatest trials I have faced, I can see that God was using them to slowly chip away at this barrier that stands in the way of me being used for noble purposes.

It has made me realize that I should rejoice in any situation that causes my pride to be crucified. For it is in those moments of humility before the Lord, that He can use me for greater glories than I would ever be able to achieve on my own.

The anti-butterfly effect

UntitledYou know why I often find it so hard to make decisions? It’s because I have this innate fear that I could somehow screw up my life. It stems from something called the butterfly effect.

We all know it. It’s that idea that the smallest decision could potentially have life changing consequences.

What if I don’t go to that party and the love of my life was there?

What if I drive through the back streets instead of the main road and someone runs a give way sign and hits me?

What if I take this job over that one and it makes all the difference in my career?

What if I go on a mission’s trip?

What if I stay home?

What if I marry him?

What if I don’t?

We so often live in fear that our lifelong happiness could hang on our next decision.

But guess what?

It doesn’t.

We’ve been doing a series at church about decision-making and the will of God, and as I was sitting there one night I was struck by the amazing reality of what governs my life.

It’s the anti-butterfly effect.

I can’t screw up the end game.

And my happiness isn’t dependent on circumstance.

Sure I can make dumb decisions and they can have consequences, that’s just common sense, but I can’t screw up my life, because my life is hid in Christ.

He is my anti-butterfly effect because He’s promised to work all things for my good.

The Pain of an Unfulfiled Life

624265_93192944No matter how awesome your life is, you know the pain of unfulfilment. You know what it’s like to be sitting in that dark, lonely place, with the aching knowledge that something is missing from your life.

It hurts.

Most of the time you get over it. You move on and focus on other things. But it will be back.

Is that a bad thing?

What if this life wasn’t meant to fulfil you? What if the depths of your soul and your personality couldn’t be fulfilled by material things, or even by people? What if your dreams were never going to be in reach?

Could you be ok with that?

I think I could. But only if one thing is true: Only if this is not all there is.

Because if this is not all there is, then my temporal fulfilment no longer matters.

If this is not all there is, then this is not my only chance at happiness, and maybe I can be willing to give up that which I cannot keep, to gain that which I cannot lose.

What if you got to Heaven… and God wasn’t there?

Golden-CrownHave you ever asked yourself whether you’d still want to go to heaven if God weren’t there?

I’m really not into rap, but I just can’t go past this song by Shai Linne:

“Would you be satisfied, to go to heaven, have everybody there in your family that you want there, have all the health and restoration of your prime and everything you disliked about yourself fixed, have every recreation you’ve ever dreamed available to you, and have infinite resources and money to spend, would you be satisfied…

… If God weren’t there?”

This question hits me pretty deep, because to be honest, there’s a big part of me that thinks I would be satisfied; there’s a big part of me that looks forward to and longs for heaven because of all of those things.

But that’s not what I want for my life, nor for my eternity.

May it be my ever increasing desire to say along with Linne and King David that:

“I don’t wanna go to heaven if God is not there.

Whom have I in Heaven but You (nobody), And earth has nothing I desire but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, however – the Lord is my portion forever… forever… “

I’m having to remind myself this week that my hope and my treasure is not in a place or in things, but in a person. Heaven is not heaven without God. May He be the sole desire of my heart.

Google as my Crystal Ball

I hope the idea of Google as a crystal ball seems absurd to you. It does to me too, but sometimes, I’m afraid, my actions tell differently.

We live in a world engorged with information. Decades ago, if we were driving home and thought of something we wanted to find out, we’d think, ‘I’ll have to get down to the library sometime this week and look that up.’ Now we try to stop ourselves from googling while driving.

We have become so accustomPicture2ed to having information at our fingertips, that the concept that something may be unknowable is virtually inconceivable.

Quantities of information beyond our comprehension have become a cheap commodity; an expectation. Google has become our all-knowing god; our source of all truth. I fear that far too often we forget that it has limitations. For example, it cannot tell the future.

I’m ashamed to admit it (though I suspect I’m not alone) that I have, on occasion, asked (or been tempted to ask) the Google-god things that it cannot know. ‘What should I do in this situation?’ ‘Am I going to get married?’ ‘Will that student ever mature into a decent human being?’

We humans have become inflated with information to the point that we tend to believe there is nothing we (or Google) cannot know. Remember this human: Our knowledge is but a drop in the ocean. And the future is, as it always has been, in the mind and hand of the Almighty alone.