Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog
There is so much debate out there as to what Heaven will actually be like. Some make the argument that we just can’t know for sure. We know that there will be no tears in Heaven, so since that is the case there will definitely be some meatloaf there. Because in a place where there is no meatloaf present, I would cry. Now with that out of the way, let’s look at three quick promises about Heaven.
First there is the promise of “relationship.” In Revelation 21:3 it says, “He will dwell among us…” Not just any relationship, an actual relationship with Jesus Christ.
The second promise is that of “Relief.” In the very next verse it says, “God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” How many of us can’t wait for that day?
Now the third promise is one that is pulled from a verse that many people do not like to read. In Revelation 21:8 we see that there is a promise of “refuge.” You see, Heaven is going to be so great because of who will not be there. After we get a glimpse of what is promised to those who love Him (James 1:12), we see what is promised to those that don’t. Yet even here we see a blessing. Heaven is going to be place that is absent of, “…the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars…” Heaven is going to be a place filled with family. The faithful Church family.
I’m going to Heaven! It’s a choice. It’s a choice to live right and follow Christ no matter what. You have the ability to say it confidently and you should never have to wonder if you’re going to Heaven. It’s a promise! Take hold of that promise, because it’s the only thing that matters.
This time of year our minds go back
To days gone by, down memory’s track
Of laughter, stories, food and walks
Singing, sharing family history and talks
Some who once were in our clannish stable
Have left our banquets for the heavenly table
Childhood recollections may be larger than life
And death or loss may cut like the proverbial knife
Football played on the lawn or watched on the screen
Presents opened and distant relatives seen
For the blessed, much spiritual guidance and contemplation
And talk of our hope and our common anticipation
Do you miss those times of hearth or home?
Or revel in its prospect, when kids and kin soon will come?
Are you in the company of those Scripture upholds?
Those who desire a better country, with streets of clear gold?
Who are longing for a room in the Father’s house?
To bask in the Light that no tears can ever douse?
To stroll the banks by the gentle River Of Life,
A place of happiness, joy, peace, but no strife.
A place full of family, both known or which we meet
Of those we met in Scripture or those who made our lives sweet?
Are you longing for something far better than here,
Where sight replaces faith, where peace tramples fear?
Is your life centered around new heavens, new earth
Where righteousness dwells, only those of the new birth?
Do you long for what happens after being put in the ground
The home of the soul where eternity is found?
Let’s long for and live for that heavenly land
Where we’ll see God’s dear face and hold Jesus’ hand.
Most of us are familiar with the intimate words spoken by Jesus to His followers in John 14:1-6. They were words of active comfort for a man who was imminently facing the worst suffering humanity could ever know. Yet, from those gentle words of guidance, we find a beacon to show us what kind of life it is possible for us to live—no matter what!
We can live a fearless life (John 14:1). Our hearts don’t have to be troubled. That doesn’t mean we won’t face fears and uncertainties. How can we avoid it? But we can let our fears be subjugated to our Father. We can trust the Bible’s promises and follow its guidance on this (cf. John 14:27; Phil. 4:7).
We can live a faith-filled life (John 14:1b). A “theocentric” (God-centered) point of view will influence our decision-making and daily living. We can have assurance and conviction (Heb. 11:1), but we must have a faith accompanied by works of obedience (Js. 2:20). All of us have lives centered around something that we make most important of all. There are many noble things that could fill in that blank—profession, family, friends, or the like. These may be part of our identity, but they should not define us. Our faith should define us.
We can live a focused life (John 14:2-4). Jesus urges His disciples to focus on at least three things:
We live in a world full of distractions—technology, appointments, hobbies, politics, and sports. Never let any of those things get your life out of focus.
We can live a follower’s life (John 14:6). We must believe that Jesus is the only way. We must shun the politically-correct notion that says there are many ways. We must live the exclusive way that Scripture teaches. We cannot serve God on our own terms. We must submit to His way and His truth, and we can enjoy the eternal life He offers.
Fame, fortune, fun, friendship, and such may draw and lure us. But none of those things will last. Jesus points to the kind of life we should live. May we be wise enough to listen.
I once was without representation,
Not a citizen of that chosen nation,
Enslaved and oppressed,
Deprived of the best,
And discouraged by my lowly station,
But my freedom was bought at a price,
With the one ransom that would suffice,
Sweet liberty was bought,
And my freedom I sought,
When I opted for virtue instead of vice.
Independence is becoming and sweet,
It is found when I fall at His feet,
And make Him my Master,
I avoid pain and disaster,
He offers me victory for my defeat.
I celebrate privileged position,
Embrace His heavenly mission,
Knowing the blessings He gives,
Is because He still lives,
He hears the faithful disciple’s petition.
As we celebrate the blessings in this land,
Bestowed by a Providential hand,
Let us never forget,
That He paid our great debt,
He’s preparing what’s infinitely more grand.
Whatever may become of our dear country,
I pray that our eyes will always see,
That no earthly place is home,
We are strangers who will roam,
’Til we reach the Great City across the sea.
Saving for retirement. Exercising and losing weight. Mending a broken relationship. Daily Bible reading. Many are the objectives, goals, and needs we all have in this life, but just as many are the excuses we often give for not addressing them. We fall back on lack of time, how we feel, whose fault it is, and generally why we cannot do what we know we should be doing. It seems that until we are convicted of our need to do something, we will always find ready excuses.
But, when we are motivated to do something, we will not let anything stop us. We find the time, muster the will, and channel the discipline necessary to keep plugging away until the objective is achieved.
Living for Christ is the greatest objective there is. It fulfills the very purpose for our existence. It benefits everyone around us. It is imperative to gaining heaven as home. It positively influences those closest to us. But, when it is not our greatest priority, we will come up with a bevy of excuses. These run the gamut from sports activities to work to hypocrites to personal weakness to whatever else may come to mind. Until we are motivated, we will find excuses. So, what should motivate us to live for Jesus?
All of these (and more) are excellent motivation for enduring the difficult in order to successfully overcome in this life. They will help us to eliminate every impediment that stands in our way. As the writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2).
Are you one who looks back with affection,
Reminiscing about days of yore?
Waving flags and praying for protection,
For your nation from shore to shore.
There are songs and celebrations sweet
Speeches that rouse the emotion
Fierce loyalty for the land beneath your feet
That inspires a most patriotic notion
But what about the better land beyond,
The place you can truly call your own?
Is that yearning great, is that hope fond,
To live in the land of the Risen Son?
If so, are you packing and preparing
For the journey that will reach beyond time?
Down here do you feel alien and wayfaring?
Is citizenship there of importance most prime?
Join a people most ancient whose love was great
For a better, a heavenly country
Who felt like exiles here, were the object of hate
By earthly counterparts who put their scorn bluntly
Fix your eyes on a grand immigration
Made possible by the Great Emancipator
Make sure you’re a member of the holy nation
And your eternal home will be infinitely greater.
Ft. McHenry (Maryland)
One of the most recent lottery winners, Jesus Davila, Jr., has an interesting backstory. He once spent 12 years behind bars for the manufacturing and selling of cocaine, a felony. This week, he claimed $127 million after taxes. Sounds like a rags to riches kind of story, doesn’t it? It is interesting, and not a little sad, to read about some past winners of the lottery:
To say there are mountains of additional, equally pitiful stories is to understate the matter. Certainly, not every one who wins the lottery winds up on skid row or in the morgue because of it. Yet, neither is it the panacea one might believe it to be. How many others, who can ill afford to play, squander money on a regular basis in the hopes of striking it rich? The overwhelming majority will never achieve that, but even many that do wind up worse than before they won.
In the ever-elusive search for happiness and satisfaction, mankind will come up empty when looking to material things for the answer. Jesus taught that it’s a hollow pursuit (Mat. 6:19). Paul says not “to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). Jesus warned that your life does not consist of your possessions, even if you have an abundance of them (Lk. 12:15). The good news is that there is a true treasure, one that never disappoints, that never depletes, and will never go away. Peter calls it “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…” (1 Pet. 1:4). Strive to “win” that!
When Greek politician Andreas Papandreou died in 1996, he left his entire hefty estate to his third wife, Dimitria Liani. His three sons and a daughter, who had married a politician who was Papandreou’s political enemy, were disinherited when she and her siblings’ refused to ostracize this enemy. It was contested in Greek court for years, but so far that will has apparently not been overturned. Certainly, money can bring out the best and worst in people. The children’s point of view is almost certainly that they, as blood relatives, have as much or more right to their father’s inheritance than a woman he married in the last decade of his life (information via Ray Moseley, Chicago Tribune, 9/29/96).
In the New Testament, sin is legitimate grounds for the Heavenly Father to disinherit us. Paul tells the Corinthians this in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. But his message is one of good news. With God, it is possible to go from disinherited to inheritors. He tells them, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” This passage reveals several important truths.
First, there is a pertinent fact. “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” He repeats the thought in verse 10. That phrase indicates missing heaven and all the reward of it (cf. Mat. 25:34).
Second, there is a potential fraud. “Do not be deceived.” How vital that message is for our current culture! There is so much deception about the consequences of sin that it is impossible to keep up with, document, or catalog it.
Third, there are the particulars framed. Notice the sinful individuals enumerated—”fornicators…idolators…adulterers…homosexuals…sodomites…thieves..covetous…drunkards…revilers…extortioners.” Each of those lifestyles and behaviors merit greater study, but these are the ones who are disinherited by the Father. It is His estate and, as such, His call to make.
Then, there is a past forgotten. Human beings can carry vendettas and grudges to their graves, but the living God is not prone to such weakness. He does require repentance, implicit in the phrase “such were some of you.” Because they changed, God put the guilt of their sins in the rear-view mirror.
Finally, there is a purification forged. Paul concludes, “But you were washed…sanctified…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” God does not just leave us to wallow in our sins. He provides a way of escape. If we take it, He will make those past sins as if they never existed!
In other words, we can go from disinherited to inheritors!
While so many in religion and even the media latch onto sensational tales of traveling to the “other side” and coming back with stories about heaven (they do not ordinarily wind up going the other direction), these individuals often claim (necessarily without proof) to have seen or heard things from God, Christ, and other heavenly inhabitants. Sadly, much of what they claim to have experienced is at odds with or even contradicts what God communicated to us through His Word. Despite the high-drama and mystical tales, these undoubtedly sincere folks are right about something incredibly important. Heaven IS for real!
The Bible describes it (Rev. 21-22). Jesus is preparing it (John 14:1-4). The Father lives there (Mat. 5:16; etc.). Those who travel the “narrow road” (Mat. 7:13-14) and are faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10) are going to be allowed to dwell there forever (cf. Ps. 23:6; Mat. 25:46; 1 Th. 4:13ff). The Bible communicates that it is a place reserved for those who believe and obey the will of God (2 Th. 1:5ff). It is not for those who refuse to submit to His authority (Gal. 5:19-21; etc.).
Heaven is described as a place where treasure is (Luke 18:22). It is described as a place where our citizenship can be (Phi. 3:20). It is a place where our hope can be laid up (Col. 1:5). It is a place where our name can be reserved (Heb. 12:23). It is a place where we can have an inheritance (1 Pe. 1:4). It is a place described as that which will be new (Rev. 21:1).
I suppose it is human nature for us to want to have blanks filled in and details more fully supplied. That’s why claims of going to heaven and back have long captivated people. Perhaps it strikes the chords of our hearts and imagination more than words, howbeit Divine words, on a page. Yet, those words produce living hope to those who are staking everything on the truth of those words (1 Pe. 1:3). They are neither fairy tales nor wisps of wishes. God has given us enough to know, as we measure the claims alongside His providence and answered prayers, that His Word can be trusted. We don’t have the full picture yet, but we know it will be more glorious and joyous than we are able to understand in this body confined by time. Thank God that Heaven really is for real!