Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Adopting a heavenly perspective

Back in the 1990s my immediate and my extended family used to rent a house on an Island once a year. We'd converge from three or four different states on this rental and enjoy a week together at the beach. Of course this was an event that was eagerly and fervently anticipated. We'd email and telephone back and forth about our plans once we got there. I would look at the photos of the rental house at least once a week. I'd google for maps of the place and look at all the roads leading to and from and around the house. How far was it from town? What restaurants were nearby? Where was the bike rental place? There was no detail spared in looking up and anticipating our visit.

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:2).

I was talking with a friend the other day about a concert she was planning to attend. I got excited for her, because it was a big concert. We both laughed as I asked if she looked at a schematic of the auditorium to see where she and her companions would be sitting. Looking at photos of the venue, looking up biographies of the men in the band. It was exciting to think of the big event, and no detail was spared in all the discussion about what the concert may be like.

Do you ever have excited conversations with friends or family about a big upcoming event you're really looking forward to? You know you have!

Why don't we do that with heaven? We talk more about upcoming concerts and cabins than we do heaven! But heaven is a fact. It is real, and it is there. We are definitely going. Even the concert could be canceled or the rental cabin could burn down, but the fact of our going to heaven if we are saved by His grace is real and unalterable. As a matter of fact we are already citizens of heaven!

You would not believe how many people look at me strangely because I talk excitedly about the place Jesus is preparing for us. Or remark on the trees lining the River of Life, or the color of the emerald rainbow surrounding God's throne, or meeting up with Noah or David or Hannah and walking with them, or any number of things that the bible describes as the future promise. Being in heaven with Jesus is THE MOST EXCITING THING in the entire universe, it awaits every Christian, and yet few talk about it! We talk about the big concert or the summer cabin with more excitement than we discuss the glories of the place Jesus is preparing for us.

It is important to have an eternal perspective. It is the secret to contentment, because it puts earthly trials in their place. It ignites hope. It soothes the heart. Adopt an eternal perspective because it is exhorted in the bible for us to do so.

Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)

We do this in several ways. Have an active prayer life. Talking to Jesus sets the mind on the things above, because that is where He is.

Also, read the bible, and focus on the passages where it describes the things to come in concrete terms. Like the passages in Ezekiel after chapter 39 when the Millennial Kingdom is set up (the kingdom will be on earth and limited to a time of 1000 years but we ourselves will be glorified by then and living in an eternal body). Read Revelation 21 and 22. Read the passages in Corinthians and Thessalonians describing the glorified body.

The truth of the word will permeate your heart and mind and this sets you up for thinking of the things above. (A side note: AVOID all books describing heaven tourism, books like "Heaven Is For Real" and such nonsense. Stick with the words God gave us in describing His holy habitation, they are true and trustworthy).

Then, think on these things. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8). And what is more pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent than His heaven and our home?

Finally, talk about these things. When I speak of making a date with a friend in heaven and going to see David or Noah or Hannah, they look at me funny. But these names are not just bible characters, but real people dwelling in heaven in real worship right now. When the time of glorification comes, they will have real bodies, as we will, and we will worship and sing and walk and talk and eat and live together! It is a fact. Talking about heaven and the bible's men and women as real people whom we will see makes it all the more real for those with whom we are having the conversation. (And for those listening to us!) 

If we're not embarrassed to spout on and on about the cruise we're going to take in a few months, then what is so embarrassing about talking about what our place in heaven might look like, or the fruits of the trees of life lining the river, or the pillars of the temple shaking as the cherubim sing HOLY HOLY HOLY? Those things are more real than the cruise, which hasn't happened and might not, while God is in heaven on His throne right now! (Revelation 4:1-5)

If we would remember that all the trees of earth are marked for the woodsman's ax, we should not be so ready to build our nests in them.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Pray, read, think, and talk about heaven. You'll find your happier, more content, more able to endure hardship, and your re-oriented perspective will excite the brethren and please Jesus. What's to lose? It's a win-win all around.


3 comments :

  1. Elizabeth, I wish every believer in the entire Church would read this. I get so sick of hearing people obsess about junk in this life that will so soon pass away, and talk about heaven as if it were a pipe dream.

    Or worse, not at all.

    I am reminded of two things that infuriate me:

    (1) Cartoons that depict heaven as a bunch of bored people sitting around on clouds holding harps they don't know how to play.

    (2) Cartoons that depict hell as a place where people who were so inclined during their earthly lives will be able to continue drinking, gambling, fornicating, etc. with their buddies to their hearts content.

    Both are lies from the father lies.

    "For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him." (Isaiah 64:4)

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  2. BTW...I heartily second your statement concerning books about "celestial tourism" of any species whatsoever. I don't care who writes them and I don't care how sincere they are. It only requires about three or four molecules of discernment to know that all such books are minefields of deception.

    They seem to fall into three general categories:

    (1) Frauds out to make money.

    (2) Believers who are sincere, but are being deceived.

    (3) X% of (1) and (100-X)% of (2).

    Bottom line: leave 'em on the shelf with the rest of the poisonous pablum that takes up far too much space in most Christian bookstores.

    And if you ever happen to meet the author of such a book, gently inquire about their take on 2 Corinthians 12:1-6.

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  3. Yes, yes, and yes!!!

    When I was a new believer almost 30 years ago I heard a message on studying the Bible, and the speaker shared this admonition: what are you going to say if you run into Obadiah and he asks you what you think of his book - and you have to admit you've never read it? Not only did that motivate me to read my entire Bible through many times, but it got me to thinking about the folks in God's Word as real people that I will meet some day, and I'm so thankful for that encouragement early on in my Christian life.

    I'm looking forward to meeting you too! :)

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