Heavenly Thoughts in a World Full of Low Places

Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh, wouldn’t that just be heavenly!”? The Apostle Paul probably used that phrase from time to time, and since he had once been caught up into heaven in a vision, he knew what he was talking about. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on heavenly things, not on earthly things”. (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV)

What do heavenly things look like, and how often do we focus on them, as opposed to earthly things? How would life change if we followed Paul’s exhortation and set our hearts on heavenly things? I took a minute and tried to imagine that.

Soul Food versus Comfort Food

So, stop and think: are there options heaven offers that you haven’t thought of yet? Is there something you would want there, that you don’t want now? Is there something you would cease to want, there, that you DO want now? What if there was something far more valuable than money, way more satisfying than pleasure, and much more comforting than food? What if this fallen world provides the merest shadows of what our Father actually intends for us to have?

heavenly things

Take time, for instance. It is almost impossible for us, so wrapped in finite time, to imagine eternity. How much longer will it be? How will infinite time change our perspective, broaden our horizons, and expand our potential? The heavenly view of time will change everything, and we will perceive such a gap between our old earthly sense of time and our new heavenly one that we will consider the earthly view of time laughably outdated and inadequate.

Infinite Possibilities

If you can stretch your mind to make that comparison, then apply the same differential to everything else. Our concept of pleasure will totally change, replaced by its infinitely greater counterpart. The ability we have to experience comfort and joy and love will be multiplied exponentially, and we will find that our limited view of life itself will explode into an infinitely more fulfilling one, the one that God intended us to have.

Our understanding of intimacy and relationship will expand as well. Paul hints at this in 1 Corinthians 13:12, when he says, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” God wants us to know Him as he knows us; and He wants to replace the incomplete and transient with the perfect and eternal.

Don’t Settle

In “The Weight of Glory”, C S Lewis says, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Paul tells us in this to set first our hearts, and then our minds on higher, greater, heavenly things. The good can be the worst enemy of the best. Don’t keep aiming too low. First, connect your passion to the living God. Sing! Dance. Rejoice in honest prayer and test the purity of repentance. Open your heart to eternal possibilities. Then, set your mind on things above. Instead of hungering for the things of this world, discover heavenly wisdom and truth that will change your trajectory. You may just find that you’ve been aiming too low. This sad but whimsical poem tries to express the tragedy of aiming too low. Set your sights higher.

Shootin’ Too Low

On top of Ol’ Smokey, all covered with snow,
When winter time comes, Friend, why, that’s where I’ll go.
There’s nothing that brings a man laughter and cheer
Than to go out and hunt in the cold time of year;
When the snow covers all with a blanket of white
And the brisk, bracing air makes a man feel just right;
There’s nothing I know of that so entertains me
As a hunt in the snow—why, my Friend, it sustains me!
There was no better thing, I don’t mind tellin’ you
Than to hunt for some game with my Old Hound Dog, Blue…

You see…Blue was much more than a dog, or a pet:
In all of my life, he’s the best friend I’ve met:
A companion, a soul-mate; much more than a friend,
And it just broke my heart when old Blue met his end.

We were huntin’ on top of Ol’ Smokey one day
When a turkey just happened to flap out our way;
Well, Blue pointed him up, and he stood there stock-still,
When the turkey flapped over the crest of the hill,
And I, in my haste to taste fresh, roasted game,
Pulled my shotgun right up to my shoulder, and aimed!

But, as I was gettin’ that turkey in sight,
I may have been dazzled by all of that white,
when I fired at the turkey, cause something went wrong,
And I saw that shot go where it didn’t belong—
An explosion of white from a snow-covered log,
Made it hard to see Smokey, or turkey, or dog!
And I waited to look, when the powder had cleared
When my eyes were exposed to a sight that I feared…

For the turkey flew down from the snow-covered hill,
But my good old dog Blue lay there, breathless and still.
Yes, there on the ground was the dog that I loved,
For it seems that my aim was just not high enough.
On top of Ol’ Smokey, all covered with snow,
I lost my dog Blue from a-shootin’ too low…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_

What on Earth Are You DOING, For Heaven’s Sake?!

I would bet that at some point in your life someone asked you, “Just What on earth do you think you’re doing?” That question usually refers to a specific action, but I wanted to challenge you to reframe that into a much more cosmic question. In the grand scheme of things, what are you doing here on earth? Although our current culture focuses a great deal on how we feel, remember this: Life is not about feeling, it is about DOING.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12: 12-16, NIV)

Paul started this “love chapter” by exhorting us to be living sacrifices, and to follow Christ’s selfless example. In verses 9-11 he talks about the need for sincere love. Here in verses 12-16 he says that DOING love is more important than FEELING love…

He acknowledges that love is a great motivator, and I bet your own personal experience would bear that out. (Think about some of the things you have done because of love—whether foolish things to pursue romantic love, or acts of service inspired by unselfish love… We have all found ourselves doing something differently at some point because of love’s motivational pull.)

The Foolish and the Sublime

Here are two very different examples: The summer I was 15, I was on the aquatics staff at YMCA Camp Flaming Arrow in Kerrville, Texas. Hoping to meet girls on our day off, I put “HI THERE” with adhesive tape on my chest for about a week. You know, that way at Ingram Dam where everyone gathered to swim, I could just point to my chest instead of making introductions…

When I removed the tape, my tan lines said HI THERE all by themselves for at least a couple of weeks. So it WORKED! (True story. Yeah it’s a dumb thing, but I was 15 and it did actually help break the ice with local girls a couple of times. It was, however, a little embarrassing on Parents’ Day at the end of the session, since I was on the aquatics staff and was in the pool working with kids with a chest that said, “HI THERE”…) True story.

  (NOT an actual photo)

doing

A few years later, I was on staff at the Navigators’ Eagle Lake Boys’ Camp in Colorado Springs. At the end of the summer, I donated a big portion of my salary to the camp (which, my Dad pointed out, was supposed to be my spending money at college that fall; when he had to replace it, it actually meant that HE had given the money to Eagle Lake. Sorry, Daddy. My heart may have been in the right place, but the net result of my decision fell on you…)

Both of those actions were motivated by love in one form or another—one foolish, and one sublime—but both were done in hopes of having a different outcome than would have been achieved by standing pat. The point is, what are you doing differently today because of love? What outcome are you hoping for?

Paul says here that love will help us overcome adverse circumstances. The circumstances may not change, but Paul says that doing thinks in love creates new possibilities. It enables us to view the world differently: to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. I have to say I am ashamed at how often I am NOT patient in affliction or faithful in prayer. How about you?

Doing the Thing that Changes Everything

Love inspires generosity towards others, and it even helps us act differently towards those with whom we disagree. Do you bless those who persecute you, or do you curse them? If we are living sacrifices, Paul says, we will be empathetic and live in harmony with others. Burt Bacharach’s1965 pop song said, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”… The Beatles said, “Love is all you need.” How true.

One of my best friends in college was a summer missionary in Zambia, Africa. During her term she saw villages ravaged by poverty and malnutrition, and it touched her deeply. When she came back home, she told the director of the Summer Missions program how disturbing it was, how uncomfortable it made her, and asked, “How can God love those little children?”

His answer was surprising: he said, “I hope you are never comfortable again, Kathy, because one of the ways God shares His love is through you.” Yes, God loves the world through his Son and through His Spirit; but as believers who are part of the body of Christ today, He is doing His work on this world through us. What are we doing in this world for heaven’s sake?

There is too much division in our world and in our culture, and not enough blessing; too much selfishness and not enough sacrifice. Paul said a living sacrifice is not stuck up or conceited, but spends time doing loving things, which creates a means for God’s love to reside on earth through us, to us. Be loving today. Make the same decision tomorrow.

Doing Life, Doing Love

Love is not emotion or the giddy way you feel;
It is more than feelings, (although feelings may be real);
Love is more than romance, or the love songs used for wooing:
Love is found in how you do the things that you are doing.
Do them well, and serve as if you worked for God above,
And fill your life with godliness by doing things with love.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Is Heaven Really a “Life or Death” Situation?

Where do you go for answers on important issues? Google? Chat GPT? Your mom? Do you research exhaustively (also known today as “watch YouTube”, lol)? Or do you just throw up your hands and say, “Heaven help us!”? Bookstores have a self-help section, but there are some things you just can’t find on Google or in a self-help book…

There are times in life when we encounter “a life or death situation”. We use it when the chips are down, or when things really matter. It could refer to everything from having surgery to choosing between heaven and hell. Those situations require some extra diligence because, well, they are life or death. Kiefer Sutherland ran into them on every episode of 24.

Your “Life or Death” Situation

The Apostle Paul had a somewhat curious notion about that saying; he believed that all of us are in a “life or death situation”, and that it was actually through the pain of death we are able to experience the true richness of life. He says:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20-21 NIV)

(This is Day 55 or so of our walk through the Bible, by the way. You’ve made it to Galatians, the first of Paul’s epistles after Corinthians, the “G” in  “God’s Electric Power Company”, an acronym to help you remember Galatians-Ephesians-Philippians-Colossians!)

What About Heaven?

When you think about life or death situations, perhaps the ultimate one revolves around eternity. Is there eternal life? Is there eternal death? There has to be one or the other, don’t you think? People spend a lot of time thinking about it, although Loretta Lynn, Kenny Chesney, Allison Kraus and Mark Lowry have sung a song that says, “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, but Nobody Wants to Die”. It’s a somewhat humorous answer to a somewhat serious question: do you want to go to heaven?

heaven

If you interviewed the average person on the street and asked them what they needed to do to get to heaven, they would probably say something like, “Well, if I’m good enough, I think I’ll make it.” “If I have more good deeds than bad deeds, then I hope God lets me in.” These opinions seem logical from the human point of view about justice, and in fact most religion is based on earning God’s favor by doing more good stuff. If I just do enough for God, maybe He’ll like me enough to let me into heaven.

I’m sure that improving oneself or doing good stuff for God is a commendable thing, but Paul says here in Galatians that we have another option.

How Do You Get There?

There’s an amazing secret in this verse, one that I hear echoed in Scripture and teachings all the time. The Christian life is not about doing good, or being righteous, or even about love. It’s about being crucified. It’s about dying to your old self so that you can live in your new one. trading a physical life for a spiritual one. As Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” We are spiritual beings, not spiritual doings.

We will not find permanent joy and peace anywhere in our carnal, physical life. In this world, we can’t rehabilitate the flesh, dress it up, make it better, improve it, or serve God by being busier with it. We get this wrong in church all the time as we try to redeem culture or cash in on the latest marketing fad. Those are fleshly things which will never deliver eternal value. The only way to utilize the flesh is to crucify it and replace it. So what should you do today to improve?

Consider this advice from Jesus: “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV) When we are able to do that every day, we’ll be able to walk right past that “Self-Help” section. Stop doing things for God and start. Being. God’s.

Getting to Heaven

How do I get to heaven? Everybody wants to know.
If there’s a heaven, surely everybody wants to go!
If I am good enough, then maybe God will let me in,
But I feel sure that I am out because of all my sin.

Maybe if I lose my pride, accept the fact that Jesus died,
and let myself be crucified, then I can be reborn inside!
What Christ gives to me, He can live in me, so that I can be
Living eternally– it’s by believing and not by achieving
That we’ll be receiving and so not be grieving
That this earth we’re leaving. We live by the love of God,
Bought by the Son of God, Born to be one of God’s,
Learning the secret of Heaven by seeing this:
Not getting there on my own, but by being His.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Do You Want to Know What Heaven is Really Like? Then Read This

Where Everybody Wants to Go

Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody really knows what it’s going to be like. If you do the math, only one person has ever been qualified to talk about what it will be like because he came from there. His teachings abound with references to heaven, and they are not about harps, angels, and streets of gold. In fact, most of them–like this one–should make us scratch our heads and think:

What It’s Really Like

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.” (Matthew 25:14-19 NKJV)

So, Where is Heaven, Anyway?

What on earth did Jesus mean about heaven?
In these verses, as He often does in the book of Matthew, Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven. It was a major theme in his preaching (see the Beatitudes, and read through his parables), and is certainly highlighted in Matthew, where Jesus used the phrase more than 50 times. Some scholars think that “heaven” is actually interchangeable with “God”, but that Jewish sensitivity to using God’s name prevented Jesus from using it unnecessarily. Since Jesus did occasionally use the phrase “kingdom of God”, I think when he says the Kingdom of Heaven, he is pointing us to something specific.

The Only Eye Witness

Consider this: of all the people who ever lived, Jesus alone is qualified to make distinctions about heaven. In all of history, He’s the ONLY man who ever lived who had been there BEFORE he came to earth. His Father lived there, and even while on earth, Jesus spent time with him every day. And when Jesus tells us about the kingdom of heaven, he is talking about a real place with a real King, and he is reminding us that we are subjects in that kingdom. So, what does that mean?

In this somewhat unusual story, Jesus describes how subjects of the king are given talents and expected to invest them wisely. Wait, what?! Does that mean heaven is all about investments, banking, and ROI? What will it be like to live in God’s kingdom? What observations can we make from this passage?

When Does it Start?

First, it appears that our citizenship in heaven begins here and now. Second, there is accountability in the kingdom; and third, all of the citizens of heaven are given assets to be accountable FOR. As you reflect on your daily activities, what resources have you been given? Would you say that you are bearing fruit? Are you creating a profitable return?

heaven investment

Your Journey Has Already Started

In terms of heaven, how do we apply this story? I think a good way to start is to understand the benefits and responsibilities of living in the Kingdom. Retell this story to yourself by putting God in the place of the man who was traveling, and your own name in place of the servants. “The kingdom of heaven is like the Lord, who called ____________ (YOUR NAME HERE) and gave talents to you, according to your ability. After a long time, God came and settled your account.”

So, what talent(s) do you think the king given has given you? And what have you done with them? Have they been used profitably? Being a good subject means that you can’t hide your talents. What are you doing with them? Someday you will settle accounts with the one who gave them to you: invest them wisely.

Invest Wisely

Heaven Starts Here

Thoughts of heaven may inspire a throne that burns with Holy Fire,
Or angels sitting on a cloud and singing songs of praise real loud.
But Jesus knew of heaven’s ways–
He’s the Alpha-Omega, the Ancient of days–
He spoke of a king that none could denounce,
Who will look at our books and will settle accounts.
He will show us our talents and tell us our story,
Asking if we used our gifts for His glory;
And we will be utterly chastened to find
That we wasted our talents and gifts, and our time…

He’s the King we are serving, we don’t have to wait
‘Til we’re standing in front of the heavenly gate!
The Kingdom of Heaven begins here, today:
Don’t take all your talents and hide them away,
But put them to work for the King and his Son;
When He settles accounts, He will tell you, “Well done.”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread