Wake-up Alarm

Where are Americans 15 years since the 9/11 tragic wake-up call?  For sure, our world is a different place: heightened airport security, more suspicious examination of strangers, more security planning at events, not to mention middle-east wars on terrorism. Americans are more on guard, but do we feel safer?

In the days and months following 9/11 Americans stirred out of their slumber to question more than just security.  We started to rethink purpose, morality, and spiritual beliefs. Then what happened after the first year or so? Did we reinforce the bolts on the doors and go back to sleep?

Are we a better people since 911? Are we more moral? Is there less crime? Are we less greedy and more concerned for others.  Kinder? More forgiving.  More compassionate? Do we have higher ideals? Are Americans focused on the non-tangilbe ideals instead of materialistic things? Have we stared death in the face and found comfort in the hope of heaven?

If that wake-up call came from Heaven, then we’ve missed it, rolled over and started snoring again. Americans are not more in tune to the Ruler of the universe and the Protector of his people. Maybe I look over my shoulder more and hold on tighter to my wallet. But is my heart is more focused on the security of heaven’s hope than before the tragedy?

In every tragedy there is a call to survivors to watch, to listen, and to change. For we are all headed for a destiny beyond this world, a destiny of our own choosing.

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Practice Makes Perfect

I feel rushed to enjoy my life before it is over.  Is it me or is our society pushing us into that mode? We want the most out of life because we know it can end at any moment and a lifespan of 80 years flies by in a blink. Get everything done and enjoy everything on your list before it’s all over.

Human life seems like an end in itself. It feels that way sometimes, but it is not.  It is only the beginning.  It’s the rehearsal stage for heaven. It’s a practice field until the real game that waits us beyond death.

So instead of pursuing the pleasures of now, we invest in the treasures of heaven.  In love, peace, brotherhood, kindness, humility.  We share because monetary wealth is no part of the game in heaven. We care because others need comfort and compassion in struggling with this dark life until the light of heaven breaks in on us. We love to show the world what heaven is about.

We aren’t perfect. That’s why we practice loving. We practice caring.  We practice humility. It’s a rehearsal for the next life wear we become perfect.

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While I’m Trusting . . .

The future of the American economy is uncertain.  Forecasts range between moderate growth and collapse. While discussing a more dire economic forecast with my father, I felt myself wanting to do something more than lean on the certain things of heaven such as God’s mercy, God’s care and provision, God’s love, God’s sovereignty, etc. That’s comforting. I know I can trust God with the future. But is that all? Should I move investments? Remove all cash form the bank? Buy gold?

God wants us to trust him. He also wants us to act wisely.  Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 11 provide some good advice for difficult times:

  • Diversify because you don’t know what is coming. (vss. 1-2)
  • Be prepared for things you cannot control (vss. 3-4)
  • Work hard at various tasks that will bring fruit. (vs. 6)
  • Enjoy life (vss. 7-8)
  • Remember the difficult days; learn from them; be thankful for good days. (vs. 8 )
  • Enjoy youth and good health while you have it.  (vs. 9)
  • Follow your heart and your vision, but also your conscience, since you will stand in heaven one day. (vs. 9)
  • Banish anxiety from your heart. (vs. 10)

True to his theme in this book, among all these statements, Solomon interjects “Everything to come is meaningless.” Everything on earth is meaningless and brings no hope.  So we use these things to enjoy life while showing trust in God and helping others. We look forward to the hope of heaven where everything is meaningful.

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Better Questions

Our questions about heaven show a lot about our attitude and the condition of our hearts. “Can I still get into heaven if…?” “What if a person lives a bad life and realizes on his deathbed that…?” “What if I’m generally a good person, but there’s one thing that God says is a sin and I …?” All of these questions and more boil down one main question. We are really asking:

“What is the least I can do and still enter heaven?”

A heart in the right condition, one that belongs to heaven, will ask different questions. “What more can I do for the kingdom of heaven?”  “What can I do to show my gratitude to Jesus for the gift of heaven?” “How do I express my love for God and his people?” “How do I convince more people to join me in heaven?”

Heaven is not a place we meet the bare minimum to qualify for entry. It is the place we belong.

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Hoarding Guilt

I thought I was missing something in my life, but as it turns out there’s something I need to let go of. I have the love I need. I have the mercy I need. I have the blessings I need. But I have too much in my hands. Something has to go so I can open up my arms to all the blessings God has prepared for me.

I need to let go of guilt. I’m gripping it so tightly and keeping such a huge portion of guilt folded in my arms against my chest that I don’t have room for the good stuff. I’ve got other stuff stacked around me, stuff I put in my own path, stuff that trips me up, crowds other things out of my space, occupies my time and energy. But mostly, I’m a guilt hoarder.

I hold on to it because I think I should. I’ve done wrong. Jesus forgives me. I get it. But I need to hang on to the guilt to keep me humble, so I never forget what he’s done for me, right? Wrong. I don’t need the guilt. I need gratitude.

So I’m laying down guilt that weighs me down and distracts me, and picking up thankfulness that lifts me up. I’m dropping the whip of self-inflicted punishment and seizing love for a Savior who rescued me and took my beating. I’m letting go of my efforts to be good enough and accepting heaven’s gift of righteousness.

May God help us empty our hands that we may receive heaven’s fullness.

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Kingdom Come

No one did anything to prompt Jesus coming into this world as a baby. No parents conceived a child by their union. No human imagined, planned and executed a divine appearance. No one performed the right ritual or prayed the right prayer.

It was all God’s doing.

The child who saved the world was not born of a man’s will or by a man’s design. It was God’s seed idea, God’s plan, God’s execution of the plan.

I’ve often prayed prayers with the idea, “My kingdom expand . . . .” But Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done . . . .” It’s time for me to pray more about heaven coming to reign on earth than worrying about my own comfort and success. It’s time for me to rely on God’s plan for this world rather than mine. It worked out well for me the first time God stepped into our world with his plan. He brought my salvation, my forgiveness, my peace, my joy. I need to trust him once again.

May God’s kingdom of love flow into your lives and through you to others. May God bless your lives with heaven’s peace during this season of celebrating his great gift!

Mark

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Changing History or Focusing on the Right Events

Every day we make history. Not only when something big is happening. Not only in the major decisions and events. But in every detail. Every day. Every moment. Of course, not all of history is remembered as well as select parts are noted and recited. Still, it’s history. My history that I make every second.

Some of that history I don’t want to remember. And I don’t want anyone recording it or reciting it. How will Heaven handle this dilemma of my history that is better off forgotten? Yes, Jesus has forgiven and forgotten my evil ways, so I won’t be judged for them. But all things will be revealed, so will everyone know about them? Will God post a video of my life? Will he edit the mistakes out of the video? Will he change history?

In heaven, my history won’t matter. What matters is Jesus’ history. Instead of changing my past, God deals with it through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He gives me Christ’s righteousness, not my own. I don’t enter Heaven because of an edited record of my life that shows only the good. I enter Heaven because of Jesus’ unedited life and sacrifice. What I have done in the past no longer matters. All that matters is what Jesus has done.

There is no greater event to know and remember than the first coming of Christ to our world. The rest is just history.

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Heaven’s Justice

Heaven’s resources stand ready to help us and our world.

Recently I was reminded that instead of complaining about injustice I can pray for situations where injustice rules. I forgot about the resources of heaven. So instead of whining about the injustice, I started calling on the resources of heaven.

Heaven has resources for healing broken hearts in my friend’s grieving family. Heaven can bring justice for the persecuted Christians in Iraq. Heaven brings punishment to those who appear to get by with evil and malice among us and to us.

Justice hardly arrives quickly enough for me or in the way I imagine or ask. But it comes. God is just and he rolls heaven forward to measure out his justice in due time.

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Kingdom of Hope

Jesus used “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God” to refer to God’s rule. That kingdom includes both good and evil. God reigns over both: implementing the good and tolerating the evil. When Jesus warns about the kingdom coming, he’s referring to God’s good agenda pushing forward with the destruction of evil. Through Jesus’ the power of evil is diminished, particularly in terms of the imminent final outcome. In our world both evil and good live side-by-side, warring over minds and hearts and lives. God reigns over all.

On that predetermined day the toleration will end. God’s patience will run out. The good side of the kingdom overwhelms evil. God’s reign will be recognized. Every creature will submit and every evil thing will be destroyed.

Think of it as the great leveling –when heaven overflows onto earth. Evil cannot stand in the presence of heaven and is completely crushed and eliminated. Injustice is corrected by true justice. The beaten down, the weak, the unfairly treated, the persecuted, the unloved and unwanted, all will be lifted up.

For those who trust in God’s reign the Kingdom of God is the greatest kingdom of hope.

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Heaven Leaking

One of the great things about heaven is that it leaks.

When a heart shares unselfish love or care, that’s heaven spilling over into life. When your neighbor is a lonely widow and you make time in your hectic life to drive her to the grocery, that’s heaven seeping into your neighborhood. When you share a meal with a hungry person, donate to those in need, share your time to help someone else, that’s heaven’s compassion oozing through the gates and into a needy soul. When you stay up all night with a friend in the hospital, maybe someone you don’t know that well, but you know they have few friends or family, that’s heaven flowing into the lives of others through you. When a man encourages a depressed addict, listens to a struggling soul, or stands with the grieving at a funeral, the gates of heaven swing open so love can pour out.

It’s the simplest of things. Befriending an outcast at work. Speaking words of hope to the despairing. Having coffee with the lonely. Buying a few groceries for a unemployed family. Giving someone a ride, loaning them a tool, spending a few hours on a Saturday to help them move or clean or repair. Listening. Hugging. Caring.
Heaven’s love leaks into us and overflows into the lives of others.

Mark Reed

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