The Longing for Heaven

Has anyone ever longed for heaven? When feeling overwhelmed and overburdened by the things in this world I often find myself wondering what heaven will be like. I often find myself longing to be with my Heavenly Father and savior Jesus. What is the draw towards heaven? I’ve never been to heaven. I cannot say exactly what heaven is or is not. I most likely is different than how the movies portray. But to me I long for heaven because of the promise of eternity with God. The promise of no pain, no suffering, no more tears, no more hardships, trials, struggles, or tribulations. Sin will have been abolished. Disease will have been abolished. The things that cause so much conflict between us humans and interfere with our relationship with God will be abolished.

I do not know what heaven looks like. I do not know exactly what heaven will be. But I do know that God is perfect love, goodness, holiness and without fault. I do know that God has promised us eternity with him through his son Jesus. I do know that God is faithful and never breaks his promises. I do know that his prophecies given to us in the Bible always come to pass in God’s timing. I do know that God’s kingdom will prevail over all other things. God will be victorious.

We as humans are so small, so transient. We are on this earth for only an instant. Our bodies waste away. They age. They wear down. Our bodies are only our temporary house. But we have the opportunity to become a new creation in Christ through baptism in the name of the father, son and Holy Spirit.

So if you find yourself longing for something more in life. Turn your eyes to Jesus. Repent. Be baptized in the name of the father, son and Holy Spirit. Start you journey as God’s child. Be patient as he directs your life and until he calls you to your heavenly home. Live the holy, righteous life abiding in Jesus that he commands us to live as his children. For Jesus is preparing a place in eternity for each of his children. Are you God’s child?

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelations 21:1-5

The Then and The Now

I recently read something. It was a Christian article. I found it rather disturbing. There was some truth to what it was saying but I found it cold and void of love. It was even more disturbing to me because it is an area I have struggled within my faith. The article had to do with suffering. Similar it addressed the issue of how to deal with suffering in others. The fact that even though we may want to alleviate the hardship in others we often cannot. It addressed the important concept that God often brings about his goodness and will though our hardships and suffering. He sacrificed his beloved, cherished, sinless son on the cross. We often find ourselves facing similar hardship and challenges.

I absolutely agree with the article. We often wish we could change the cup someone else is baring. We wish we could give them a different cup. But that is not in our ability. Only God can change the cup someone bares. We can take it to God in prayer. This concept is not what I disagreed with. The concept I disagreed with is that Jesus established a new covenant. He is at work through us his believers through the power of the Holy Spirit. We may not be able to give someone else a different cup. But we should be Christ for others. We should be laying down our lives for others. God commands a husband to do so for their wives. Mothers do this for their children. For the widow and orphan the church should be doing so. For the abused, neglected and exhausted we should be Christ for them. It is not just their cup to bare. It is all of Christ body to bare.

We as Christians should be acting as Christ for others. The load of that burden should fall on all of Christ body. For it is a cup we all bare in unison. When the body of Christ moves and works how God intended the burden of a heavy load is shared among all. The burden of hardship is shared among all. The burden of suffering is shared among all. We are not supposed to be a single person carrying a cross like Jesus did. We are supposed to all in unison be carrying that cross.

I was saddened by the article because I left feeling like a single individual baring the weight of a heavy cross with no hope of my suffering to be alleviated other than my death. This is not what Jesus came to establish. Jesus did do this himself for all humanity but he established the church so that we would all do this together in unison. Our hope of the cup being removed is often found when we meet our father in heaven. But there is also very real hope here and now. That hope is often found in the body of Christ coming and helping each other carry heavy cups and sharing their cup with you.

Why can we not take communion by ourselves? We cannot take the blood of Jesus without someone to provide the cup. We cannot take the bread representing Christ body broken for us without someone to hand us the bread. We as Christians often experiences desperate times, hardships and suffering. We have hope of eternity apart from those things. But we also should find relief, aid, renewal and life in the here now. That relief, aid, renewal and life should be found in Christ body coming together as one and sharing the burdens and hardships. No child of God should be in isolation. No child of God should bare heavy burdens by themselves. For Jesus is alive. He is alive through us his followers. He did not just die on the cross. He resurrected 3 days later. He ascended into heaven. He promised his spirit would dwell among us being poured out on all mankind. He is alive. He is present.For Jesus saidFor where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” We often experience long suffering. It is a part of life. But there are many ways to help alleviate long suffering. There are an infinite amount of ways we can help to bare someone else cross. Instead of turning a blind eye we should take it to God in prayer and ask how we can help alleviate the burden of our fellow brother and sisters in Christ.

Wait a Second, What is Surrender Implying?

My little dog Coco is a Yorkie mix. I think he is a mix between a poodle and a yorkie. He very much has the personality of a yorkie. He is yappy, getting him to be quite is always a challenge. Over time I have come to understand the different meanings between his barks. When he is hungry he has a certain wine. When we sees a squirrel he wants to run after he has this high pitched squeal. When he does not like a stranger approached, he has a deeper bark/growl. His different barks have different meanings. So true is in our language. Different words have different meanings associated with them. Similarly a person’s understanding of the words you are using are dependent on what they associate with those words.

Recently I have noted two words used frequently within the Christian Faith. It is the words surrender and submission. We often hear or read things talking about surrendering to God. Similarly there is a Christian song I very much enjoy that sings about this very concept, surrender. I have historically not used surrender to describe myself. But I often use the word submission. I have realized that in my mind submission and surrender are used interchangeably. I view them as the same. But if you think about the actual definition and connotation of the words surrender and submission they are not the same. There are similar but different in meaning and connotation. It has made me ponder what the meaning of surrender to God verses submission to God means. Or are they the same?

When I think of the word surrender I think of someone on the battlefield waving the white flag. I think of someone who is losing a battle, hopeless, desperate and chooses to surrender in order for their life and others to be spared. I think of someone who is backed into a corner of an opponent and pleading for mercy in order to live another day. So when someone says they are surrendered to God to me it implies you view God as the opposing side on which you are fighting. To me it means you have recognized that you were fighting against the wrong opponent. To me it means you realize that you need to switch teams. This to me is actually the opposite of how I view submission.

If I was to go back to the battlefield analogy, to me submission is going to the general of the army and saying here I am, I trust your wisdom, I trust your decisions, I am here to do whatever you ask of me. I am yours to direct. I am yours to use. I am yours to serve. And I do it willingly because I trust you and love you. To me submission is the opposite of surrender in many ways. Yet somehow they have become interchangeable in some aspects.

I think it likely that many people use the words submission and surrender interchangeably. I recognize what people mean when they say a word may not be the same as how I interpret the word. This problem is something we face often as humans. Just like I have had to learn what my dog Coco means with his different barks, we as human often may need to clarify what someone means by certain words they are using. Otherwise we may be thinking the same thing but misunderstanding each other completely. Communication takes time and work but one way we can better love someone is to work to understand them better.

“And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:35-36

False Teaching and Confusing Words

In medical school one of the biggest challenges is learning new terminology. Everything is medicine has this fancy medical term. Similarly every medication has two names. Why we doctors have to make things so complicated I will never understand. We spend so much time learning this new doctor language that when we actually meet the patient and talk with them they have no clue what we are talking about. The actual patient does not understand medical terminology at all. They need to hear the doctor talk to them in plain old English.

As someone not raised in the Christian church and as a new believer I often came across terms that were confusing. Similarly I often felt dumb and self conscious when talking to other believers. They would use all the terms that I did not understand. I often found myself thinking, these people are weird. Why can’t they talk in English. Now when I attend christian gatherings, bible studies and such I find myself thinking, I have now become like those weird christian people.

There are many terms commonly used in the Christian Faith that are not commonly talked about outside of Christian circles. This is also one reason reading the Bible can be a bit confusing. For there is much language used that can seem foreign. Terms like the sinful flesh. The Holy Spirit. Living by the Spirit. Sanctification. The Trinity. God being 3 persons in one. Satan and demons. Heaven and Hell.

All these concepts are very important to understanding the basics of Christian theology. And they are abstract, difficult concepts to understand. For they are things we cannot see with our human eyes. I think this is one reason why Jesus spoke in parables. For the things of God and God’s kingdom are beyond our little human minds ability to grasp or comprehend in fullness and entirety.

But Christianity is not about understanding every word in the Bible. Christianity is not about having a perfect theology. Christianity is not about using fancy terms that most of the world does not understand. Christianity is about accepting Jesus as your personal savior. It is about repenting for yours sins, being baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and receiving the grace offered to us through Jesus. It is about being obedient to the lord our God by following his commands. You can know all the terms. You can understand all the Christian theology and it will not save you. For it is not knowledge of the truth that saves you, it is faith in Jesus through the act of repentance and obedience.

We are not saved by knowledge. We are saved by faith. But at the same time having a solid gasp of the truth helps protect us from false teachers or being a false teacher ourselves. Just like no one wants to be the person spreading Covid-19 around to everyone, let’s make sure our Christian theology is sound and in-line with scripture so that we are speaking the truth and not false teaching. We each as Christian believers have an opportunity and responsibility to educate ourselves with God’s words. To study God’s words. To be experts in God’s truth. Just like a doctor is responsible for being an expert in medical terminology, we as Christians should work to be experts at knowing God’s words.

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 30:28-30

Pondering the Sabbath

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11

Keep the sabbath day holy. It is one of the 10 commandments. Sounds simple. But what does it really mean practically? I think I have probably lived a lot of my life NOT keeping the sabbath day holy. In the Old Testament the Jews had very strict guidelines about what you could and could not do on the sabbath. But keeping the sabbath day holy became more about religiosity then anything else. Similarly Jesus himself was judged by the religious authorities for doing things on the sabbath that were considered “wrong”. This has made me ponder what it really means to take a sabbath.

“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” Luke 13:10-17

In today’s modern Christianity the sabbath is traditionally considered Sunday’s. It is the day that most Christians do not work, go to church and spend time with family. There are even a couple of companies and store that observe the sabbath by closing on Sundays. This way there employees are able to observe the sabbath. But most stores and restaurants these days are open on Sundays. Sundays may even be the busiest day of the week. Similarly when I was working in the medical field I often worked on Sundays. Patients do not stop being sick because it is Sunday.

What I have come to terms with in my pondering the subject of the sabbath is that the sabbath is really meant to be a gift to humanity from God. God does not need to rest. He is God all the time. He does not grow tired or weary. But we humans absolutely need rest. When we do not rest there are significant consequences to of well-being. Having one day a week to take a break is essential for our wellbeing. God’s commandment to keep the sabbath day holy is meant to be a gift to us for our wellbeing, not a hinderance.

There have been many times in my life, particularly when I was in my medical education where finding a day to rest was challenging. I already did not have enough hours in the day to complete all the tasks needed. To set apart an entire day to rest, not study and not work meant I would have 24 hours less a week to accomplish already to many tasks. Let’s just say setting apart an entire day, once a week to not work, rest with God and observe the sabbath was challenging. It took me being intentional. But I found that God was incredibly faithful when I followed his command to keep the sabbath day holy despite my busyness. By observing the sabbath I was healthier, more productive and more joy filled rather than being over burdened.

What my sabbath day has looked like or what I consider a sabbath day as holy has changed at different seasons in my life. The sabbath day is meant to be a day that is set apart.

A day you stop laboring. A day you spend time with God. When I was working in the medical field my sabbath days were mostly filled with an online sermon, arts and crafts. Now that I working full time as an artist my sabbath days mean taking a step away from arts and crafts. Similarly my sabbath day is not always on Sundays. Many times it is but many times it is not. What does your sabbath look like? What does it mean to you to keep the sabbath day holy?