What’s so great about heaven

This is probably going to sound a little weird, but through my Christian life I have always lacked an excitement or interest in heaven. It’s not that I don’t care at all, but I’ve probably been overreacting to other things — the fact that many people become Christians just for the assurance of heaven (“fire insurance”); this vision I have of grumpy old men in church, trudging through life singing “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” and just waiting for the day we can get out of this place and away from these people and to our secret club in the sky. It often seems selfish to me — singing about all the rewards and benefits we’ll get. The Bible says a lot more about us spending eternity worshipping God. People should focus on that, I’d think smugly. It’s also maybe been a little difficult for me to get excited about — it feels so distant, and so abstract at times. All we seem to have are ideas, and lots of false ones (e.g. harps, and wings, and becoming all-knowing). I believe in heaven, I’m thankful for it, but I’ve never been one to dwell on it much.

heb13However, for some reason over the last few years, thoughts of heaven have started to force themselves on me. The ideas I read in scripture stick in my heart, and at just the right, healthy moments, they pop up. When we returned to America after our first few years overseas, for example, and I sadly realized we no longer fit in either place perfectly — my mind said, “You’re citizenship is in heaven.” Hm. I hadn’t really appreciated what that meant before.

I’m beginning to understand why people like to think, talk, and sing about heaven. I’m beginning to get what’s the big deal about it.

Imagine if this was all there was. Imagine if this was the best and the worst. You have these 80 years, give or take, and then – blackness. And what if you spent them in pain? In agony? What if you spend them childless? Cancerous? Homeless? And all that longing, all that aching, never had a hope. If it doesn’t get better now, it’ll never get better. If you don’t make this right, it’ll never be right.

Sometimes we feel like this is true. But for the follower of Christ, this is not true.

You do have hope.

Yes, you have hope that God will change your circumstances while on earth. He answers prayer and does amazing things. He has a plan for your life. But more than that — you have a standing hope and assurance that the end of the story is perfect. When you find your aching heart wondering, “When will this go away? When will this get better?” You have an answer: when I die or Christ returns, this will go away and get better. In heaven, it will be better.

Heaven is real, in time and place. It’s not just a nice idea. Your deepest longing will be fulfilled. Will you have the baby you didn’t have on earth? My understanding of scripture says probably not, but you will have your longing filled. Your aching will stop. Your joy will be full.

This is an amazing thought for us — most people and religions lack this concept (and all lack the assurance — some have the idea of a heaven, but don’t know if they’ll go there). My heart breaks for them. What a painfully hopeless life!

…That’s a tangent for another day. Today I want to encourage you to think about and grow your appreciation for heaven. We should have a balanced view — not living a life that is “so heavenly-minded that it’s no earthly good,” as I once heard a professor say. The Christian has heaven to look forward to, but a purpose to live on earth. Don’t check out yet. But if you’ve never allowed yourself to meditate on and accept the comforts of heaven, start opening your heart to it. Pray for a better understanding and a realistic hope.

Below are a few things (of many!) scripture says we have to look forward to in heaven. Would you take the time to appreciate what they really mean for you, in real life, today?

A citizenship and belonging – But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” -Philippians 3:20

A glorified, healed body – “…Jesus Christ, who will transform four lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” -Philippians 3:21

A beautiful, permanent home to live in – “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” -John 14:1-2

Endlessly worshipping the Lamb with all believers from all times and places – See Revelation 5:9-13

Comfort for your pain and mourning – He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

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Who is going to heaven? Not the good people or those who had hard lives or deaths. Not the well-meaning, well-liked, or hopeful. If you read this post and love the idea of heaven but have any doubt that you’ll definitely be going there, I would love to chat with you more on the subject. Please message me using the “Contact” button at the top of the page. 

Throwback Thursday: What if God never says “Yes”?

As days turn into months and then years, it’s the question that starts lurking in the back of your mind but you’re afraid to really ask out loud. What if God never says “yes”? The Psalmist asked it, in Psalm 77: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will He never show His favor again?” It’s a fair question, but one with tough answers. On the one hand, you hear people say statistics about how high of a percentage (67?) of people who get help for infertility eventually get a baby. And a friend read in a book that a man who has worked in the adoption field for decades said he has never seen a couple who is praying for a child eventually not somehow get a child. Even Psalm 77 answers its own question by citing all the miraculous and faithful things God has done in the past, presumably awarding trust that God will surely do them again.

And these things may be true. But I’m a realist, and do you know what else is true? There are surely people in the world and in all of history that have waited and tried everything and waited more, and they never became parents. And I could be one of them. If we’re honest, deep down every fertility-challenged woman is, somewhere inside, freaking out at least a little that she could be one of those women. And then what?

Then this is what: God is still good and faithful and trustworthy. He does not disappoint. He is still loving and almighty and worthy of all praise. We have still been blessed from the first day to the last. His grace upon grace is overwhelming and sufficient, and He has never failed. We will still serve and worship Him until our dying day and forevermore. As we’ve said in the valley and will say on the mountain, God’s goodness is not dependent on the things we get; moreover, our hope for joy in life and our greatest treasure is not found in children, or money, or things, or safety, or whatever else we are seeking. Our hope is in Christ, and when we have Him, all other things are but a dim shadow compared to knowing and serving and loving Him. So praise be to God, even if He never says “yes” to this one thing. And praise be to God that we knew this truth in the valley, so we did not waste our lives working and waiting and putting everything into this one thing that never came to be. Instead we put our everything into eternal things that will never be destroyed. If God says “no” forever — and He might — praise be to God, forever and ever.

I would like to invite you to read one of my all-time favorite Bible stories, in Daniel 3. This is a true story of three noble servants of God who were going to be thrown into an oven for refusing to worship other gods. When given a chance to change their minds, they proudly proclaimed that they know God can save them and believe He will, “but even if He does not, we still won’t worship your gods” — and the BUT IF NOT is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, in your faith. May God daily give you and me a heart like those men.

daniel 3

Reposted from September 13, 2013

Throwback Thursday: What I Have is Enough

I live in an area with a largely non-Christian population. When I was first coming to accept that we are on a road of infertility, I began asking myself a question I think most Christian woman in similar circumstances are drawn to ask: How can this be used for God’s glory among others? At first glance, anyone would think that it brings God the most glory to bless His followers with children. Especially in the non-Western culture where I live, children are seen as a sign of God’s blessing on your life. I struggled at first with God denying us this fruitfulness, because I felt like it make Him “look bad” in front of these non-believers. Now they’ll mock us because they can say You don’t bless us, I would pray, Please, Lord, this isn’t helping our case very much! 

I’ve only more recently come to consider the great, and perhaps even greater, statement it could be to radiate peace, contentment, and joy in the midst of trial and waiting, or even the total denial of children. Imagine the message it sends, in a culture where children are so highly valued and longed for, to confidently proclaim, “I would love to have children, but God has denied me. Fortunately, my hope in this life is not in children. I already have my hope. My joy in this world is not in a baby. I already have my joy.”

I know there are many women all over the world who, when faced with infertility, would say that they will stop at nothing to have a child. No expense can be spared, no price is too great, to finally hold that baby. But what if, in the midst of this, you stood in stark contrast, saying, “What I have is enough. Christ is enough“? How would those around you respond? And what would be their impression of Christ then?

I don’t want this to be interpreted that there is a line of “too far” that you can go or “too much” you can pay to conceive, but I do challenge you, if you haven’t already, to ask the Lord to grow your heart to honestly say: In Christ, I have enough. 

psalm 73

Reposted from August 27, 2013.

Keep choosing joy

A great quote on joy this morning:

joyquote

And I just liked this little encouragement, especially in light of the definition above. Maybe you’ll want to print it out and stick it somewhere as a little reminder.

choosejoy

Be truly glad!

joy

1 Peter 1:6-7 (New Living Translation)

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

As treasures of the darkness grow

When Trials Come by Keith & Kristyn Getty

Rejoicing with Those Who Rejoice

I’ve been wanting to a write on this topic, but she says it so well I’ll just share her post!

Dwell in Me

Joseph, favorite son of Jacob, was sold into slavery by his own brothers. The motive? That boy was daddy’s favorite, and they were jealous. Murderously jealous. In fact, if a tribe of Ishmaelites hadn’t shown up at just the right time, the original plan was to kill the boy, their brother, the favorite son of their father.

It’s really a sad story. I can’t imagine being so totally rejected by my own brothers and sister. It would be heartbreaking.

But this story has a truly remarkable ending. Joseph is raised up among the Egyptians. He becomes the number two guy in all of Egypt and prevents the people from starving during a severe, seven-year famine.

He also finds himself in a position to make an important choice.

When Joseph’s brothers who sold him into slavery appear before him wanting to purchase food for their families, he could have repaid their evil…

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We are loved at the end of our rope

Before I share this song, I have to recommend the artist. I have fallen in the love with All Sons & Daughters in recent years, and I think you will too! If you’re looking for some new (or new-to-you) Christian/worship music, check out their album Season 1 (or any of their albums are great!).

This is a lovely, simple song about how incredibly blessed we are, in all seasons of life. Perhaps today in your pain, sadness, confusion and/or waiting, it will prompt you to journal a list of blessings in your life. 

We are loved at the end of our rope
When we’re less there is more of the Lord
In the fight for our souls we must learn to let go
And abandon who we are

We are loved when we feel all is lost
When the shadows are cast on the cross
Only then can we know the embrace of the one
Who’s carried us along

We are blessed, we are blessed 

We are loved when we feel most content
With who we are, nothing more nothing less
We’ll inherit the earth declaring Your worth
Bring glory to Your name

We are blessed, we are blessed 

We’re blessed, we’re loved
Our hearts, our souls
We now rejoice, rejoice

…And just for fun, I’m adding a bonus song! My favorite song by them, called Dawn to Dusk:

Be all there

I’m not big on idolizing human beings (as none of us should be, I think we can all agree). Really, I probably overreact to my pre-Christ culture, which included the secular obsession with the rich and famous, as well as Catholic saints (for the record, I love Catholics and had a great experience growing up Catholic, but I reject the practice of idolizing saints). However, I have learned in recent years the balance of appreciating people who have spent their lives well for the Kingdom, leaving an eternal legacy that far outweighs any earthly one. I don’t want to teach my children someday that some people are super-saints who we hold up high and revere as near deity. We strive to be like Christ, and need no other example, of course. But in a world that truly does idolize people who, by my assessment, are really wasting their lives for no worthy cause, I see the value in encouraging future generations to look to people who spent their lives for the One Worthy Cause.

All that to say, I have said before that Jim and Elisabeth Elliot are two of my earthly heroes. By my estimate, they spent their lives for eternal causes and left an admirable legacy. In short, the Elliots, with several other similarly admirable people, put all their energy into taking the gospel to an unreached tribe in Ecuador. When the men reached the tribe, they were killed on the spot. Later, Elisabeth and the women took their children to live among the same tribe that killed their husbands. Their love and forgiveness were two major factors in slowly leading that tribe to Christ. Aside from that inspiring story, the Elliots are also very godly people in general who have a lot of biblical wisdom to offer (I recommend reading any of their books).

So I said all of that to point to two of Jim Elliot’s famous quotes that are special to my life. They’re not more important than scripture to me – not even close — but they echo ideas from scripture in a wise way, and I appreciate that.

Since we were first married, my husband and I have had this quote framed in our living room:

elliot1

You may have heard it before. We cherished it as a bit of a family motto from the beginning, in seeking to go into the same line of work as the Elliots. It was a long process with a lot of waiting, and even after we got started we were instantly thrown off course and sent, at the last minute, to a different country than planned. We clung to this motto as we lived in a “stand-by” country for a couple years.

But I was clinging all the more to this motto in our years of infertility (see, there is a point to all this rambling!). I really do think that, in addition to, and perhaps more than, talking about where we geographically are in life, Jim Elliot was encouraging us to “be all there” in any situation in life. It was a great fear of mine that I would waste those barren years (which, at the time, I didn’t know weren’t endless) just waiting for them to be over with already. That’s a fear I have for you, too.

One reason I’m convinced he meant that is because of the second quote I want to share. Jim wrote it to Elisabeth before they were married, in a loooong time of debating/praying over whether it was best for the Kingdom that they should marry at all.  I found it in my favorite Elliot book, Let me be a Woman, while I was in the midst of a loooong, long distance engagement with my now husband. He said:

elliot2

How applicable to infertility! Let us hate the thought of spending months or years, lost so much in our longing that we forget to live! …and may we likewise hate the thought of living for anything but the Kingdom!

An extra thought: Could I encourage you to at least use some of this time as an opportunity from the Lord to pray about if you really are using your life to the fullest extent for the Kingdom? He may not ask you to move to another country or be killed by a tribe (but He really may!), but He may be asking more of you, and this is His time to get your attention. Don’t let it pass you by because your eyes are fixed on something else.