Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why Heaven?

When listening or reading certain treatments of the topic of heaven one could get the impression that heaven's joy is its streets of gold, pearly gates, beautiful angelic music, and reunion with friends and family. But this would be a subtle and tragic mistake. The Bible does paint an awe inspiring picture of heaven but leaves no doubt that the joy of Heaven is God Himself! The throne of God and the Lamb (Jesus) is the centerpiece and focal point of heaven (Rev 22:1-4). The point of heaven is that God will be there in the midst of His people, He is the gift, the reward, the treasure that we are to enjoy for eternity (Rev 21)! All the other benefits of heaven find their significance in that God Himself is in the midst of His people (Rev 22).

So this has tremendous implications for what it means to be a Christian and "heaven bound". The essential element to being a Christian is having been transformed from not loving and treasuring God to loving and treasuring God above all else! This is done through a sovereign work of God's grace to change our hearts from hard and rebellious to soft and submissive toward God (Ezekiel 11:19-20). Christians are ones who have been changed from hating His word and ways to loving His word and ways. Unless our hearts are in concert with the Apostle Paul's in longing for Christ's presence we have no reason to assume we will occupy the heaven in which Christ is the main attraction (2 Timothy 4:8).

Do you claim to be a Christian? Then test your claim by asking yourself this question, "why do I want to go to heaven"? If the answer isn't, "because Jesus is there!" you have reason to be very worried. Fall on your knees and cry out to God. Ask for a new heart of tender affection for Christ. Ask for a love for God and His kingdom, His ways and word. Ask Him to bring you to heaven...so that you can be with the lover of your soul, Jesus Christ!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bored with God

It is no wonder that our children grow to be bored with church. In fact most adults are bored with God in general. This past Sunday morning as I held my grandson during the praise part of worship this sad reality struck me and I pondered it throughout the day.

The reason I think this sad state exists is because we don't practice Deuteronomy 6:1-9 when we take our children to the amusement park! Let me explain what I mean. When we gather together as the Church we do so to worship our great and glorious God through Jesus Christ our Lord by the power of His Spirit. There SHOULD be nothing more glorious and joyful and powerful than that. But all too often too many people (and certainly children are in this group) are bored. Why? Is it because we need to have more contemporary and livelier music? Do we need to have children-centric services that include fun activities for kids and bring the messages down to their level? Do we need to include multi-media into our services to make them more entertaining? While all of these things are not necessarily bad ideas they do not address the real problem. The real problem is that we are not in love with God!

We start early teaching our children to be in love with the gifts that God gives and sadly do not make a point to teach them to be in love with God Himself. We teach them to love and enjoy the gifts but not to love and enjoy the Giver! But if we study and believe scripture we will not let this happen. The scriptures teach us that, "The heavens declare His glory..." (Ps 19) and that all good gifts come from Him (Matthew 7:11) and He has prepared for us an unimaginably glorious inheritance (Ephesians 1:18). God owns all that is and created this world for us to enjoy (Ps 50:8-15, Acts 17:24-31). So what is greater, the gift or the One who made the gift and gives the gift in love? Clearly the giver is greater than the gift!

By nature humans (beginning from childhood) do not see this. From eyes of profound self-centeredness they do not appropriately love and appreciate the giver. Just watch children at Christmas! The gift becomes the object of our love and devotion and especially in God's case we refuse to give Him due credit for His goodness (Romans 1:18-21). When we take our children to the amusement park, or the rodeo, or give them a bicycle, they naturally fall in love with the gift. We're "lucky" if they give US due credit for the gift. But most importantly they should give credit and thanks to the ONE who is ultimately responsible for the gift and that's God. It is the parent's job to teach them this crucial truth and behavior. By following Deuteronomy 6:1-9 we can do our part to connect the dots for our children. When we go to that amusement park, or that birthday party, or grandma and grandpa's for Christmas we must point out to them that God is the gracious and loving giver of all good things. We must explain it, point it out, answer questions and clarify for them the ultimate truth behind the apparent truth. The apparent truth is that Mom and Dad are responsible (or worse Santa!) and to a point Mom and Dad are responsible...but only at a surface level. The deeper truth crucial for them to see and necessary for them to know in order to develop a love and thankfulness toward God, is that God is the ultimate giver! And He deserves the credit so that His beauty and goodness are exalted!

Then, when they gather with the church to express love and adoration to God, they will get it! "Ah, yes...I am praising, thanking and adoring the One who gives me all these good and perfect gifts (James 1:17); I really like and enjoy those gifts but I LOVE the Giver and want to know Him more; I will worship Him for His goodness and gracious love to His people"!

This is how we conquer boredom with God.