Waiting for Heaven

This semester is probably the first period of time in my life that I could honestly say I “would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

In the past, I told God that, yes, I wanted Him to come back, but if He could wait, I would be okay with that. If God would just wait until I used my education, accomplished something on the mission field, got married, lived a little bit, and then came back when I was older, that would be great!

And I said that to God?

Yeah, I did. And it really reveals my selfishness. I wanted things to go well in my life, and my mind was not set on heaven. I thought it might have been, but looking back, I see very clearly how my mind was not set on leaving this temporary earth.

This semester of school, God has been teaching me lesson after lesson about His kingdom and His glory. I am so thankful that the Lord would teach me this now, molding my thoughts into His.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes about our heavenly dwelling, and how we are “longing” (5:2) to be clothed “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up in life” (5:4). My heart should desire heaven, looking beyond this here on earth. (Please take a few minutes, click here, and read this handful of verses from Paul.)

In light of this mindset – hoping for heaven – life here on earth has so much more meaning. Suffering has more meaning. Pain has more meaning. And hope has more meaning.

 

{Read here next.}

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My Soul Waits

“Don’t pray for patience!”

Maybe you’ve never heard that phrase, but I’m pretty sure I have heard it joked about since my middle school days. It comes from this idea that God teaches us patience through opportunities and circumstances in which we must be patient. Who wants to ask for something like that? Really? We want it now – the answers, the test results, the food, the stuff, to arrival. Why would we ask God to give us something that, culturally, we don’t want? We don’t want to wait. But there is a very different view of patience and waiting in the Scriptures.

There has been a cry of my heart lately that just echoes the words of the psalmist:

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah

Psalm 62:1-2, 5, 8

What a beautiful thing! When I read this, I have a great picture of my soul waiting, fully dependent on the Lord and trusting in His timing and His plan.

This soul waits, looks to the future, hopes for heaven.

And this soul of mine has been learning this all of my first semester of college, especially. God has been pouring lesson after lesson into my life about looking to heaven, being joyful amidst trials because of the reward of heaven, and praying for the return of the Lord.

So my soul waits.

It waits on the Lord. In that waiting, it is peaceful and comforting, not frustrating or upsetting. This active patience says to the Lord that I trust His plan even when I don’t understand it. My soul is not waiting for something that is temporary, but it is waiting for heaven, taking the temporary in stride, recognizing it for what it is. That is a beautiful kind of patience – the anticipation of what is to come.

{Read here next.}

Where’s the Manger?

The smell of mistletoe candles, hot tea, Red Velvet coffee, leaves in various hues, Christmas music, twinkling lights – these things remind me of the Christmas season.

Christmas is so quickly approaching. But are we losing the real spirit of Christmas?

In a “gimme” generation, where is Jesus? Has He been stuck under the tree alongside all the other gifts from department stores? Is He just a side show to Santa Claus?

I like to think that I make Christmas all about Jesus, but honestly, it is easy to get caught up in the desire for more stuff. But I don’t need anything more. I already have too much now. This Christmas season, I remind myself that there’s so much more to Christmas than the sounds, the sights, and the smells.

The beautiful and amazingly wise Amanda Keeny shared this with me a couple years ago: “You can’t take stuff with you to heaven, but you can take people.”

In 1 Timothy 6:7, Paul reminds Timothy that “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” Material things won’t be any good when we leave the world. So why do we put so much focus on the material? It’s because we can see it. It is difficult to focus on heaven when we can’t see it – but it is more than worth it (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Then in Colossians 3, Paul reminds us to “set [our] minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (3:2). Because of the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we, as believers, have a reason to set our minds on heaven. We have hope. And it is Christmas season when we celebrate the birth of that Hope.

So where is the manger this Christmas? Is it the focus of the season? Or is baby Jesus just shoved under the tree?

Perfection

Perfection.

Everyone strives for it in one way or another, whether they realize it or not. Finding the perfect college, the perfect job, the perfect car, or the perfect house are a few huge desires for perfection. But what about things like making the perfect goal, writing the perfect paper, running the perfect mile? Don’t we look for perfection in various areas?

I can honestly say that it has been so long since I have blogged because I wasn’t sure how to follow up my last blog post (which got a BUNCH of views). I needed a “perfect” follow-up blog post. (Plus, I’ve been pretty busy.) But is the goal of perfection realistic? I don’t think so.

 

Within Christianity, salvation does not mean perfection.

 

When God declared someone righteous, he is JUSTIFIED. An individual’s first act of repentance and confession is the person’s part of justification, but God was the One who made salvation possible through His son.

 

Believers are set apart – or sanctified – by God at salvation. First Peter 2:9 says that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” and we are set part to declare the marvelous light of Christ. God declares believers holy, now brought to Himself because He has washed us white as snow. This sanctification declares the believer’s position in relation to God – we can now enter into His presence.

 

Progressive sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18

The Holy Spirit convicts believers to live a life of increasing holiness, as new creations set apart for the glory of God (Colossians 3:9-10). As spiritual beings, we struggle against the desires of the flesh daily (Galatians 5:16-18). The believer’s desire should be holiness because his Father in heaven is holy (1 Peter 1:14-16). {Click the Bible verses to read the passages on Bible Gateway.}

 

And then, one day, we will see God. His glory will be revealed, and we will be made perfect, never tiring, always praising our Father. We will reach the ultimate goal of perfection. Until then, Paul writes of this goal:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

Philippians 3:12

 

So is it wrong to aim high in our earthly goals? No. Colossians 2:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” But remember, we, as humans, are not perfect. And nothing we do is perfect. But we can “press on,” seeking the God who made us His own.

Save the Date

People like to go to weddings, right?  Maybe?  I don’t know.  The only wedding I can remember attending was one that I went to with my aunt and cousins; I didn’t even know the people getting married.  I just wanted to go to a wedding.

Back in Bible times, weddings were big deals!  They were celebrated for days, with lots of food and merry making.  When you were invited to a wedding, you got a lot of free food!  In the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22, people were not rushing to the feast.  Maybe they did not like the couple getting married.  Or maybe they had already planned to go on their fishing boat trip to the Mediterranean.  I’m not sure, I wasn’t there.

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 22:1-14

Some people ignored the invitation; others killed the king’s servants.  The king had invited them to a wedding feast, and they were “too busy.”  This is a perfect illustration of what Christ did for us and how we responded.

God, the King of Kings, invited us for a wedding feast, in celebration of Christ’s victory over death!  The Jews were the first to be invited.  Many declined or ignored the invitation and some even killed the messengers, the ones who proclaimed Christ. Those first invited declined.  That brought the gospel to the Gentiles, to those in the streets.

Now both Jews and Gentiles who had heard the message of Christ and His Word came to the wedding feast; they were the ones who did not ignore the invitation.  Everyone who has heard the message has been invited to the wedding feast in the king’s palace. 

But there was that one guy.  He didn’t have a wedding garment.  He was out of place.  He had been invited to the feast, but hadn’t dressed accordingly. 

See, our wedding garment comes from being washed in the blood of Christ.  Not literally, but spiritually.

“What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

When we accept Christ, He washes our sin away.  He forgives us and clothes us in righteousness.  We have all been called to the wedding feast, to the kingdom of God. 

Without our wedding garment, we cannot enter into the feast.

Without salvation from Christ, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.