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Posts Tagged ‘Heaven’

Like probably many of you I have met people who are fascinated, compelled, or drawn to Jesus, but some question or obstacle keeps them away. They may have heard from a Christian, “This is how it is – end of discussion. The Bible says it, so that settles it.”

Or they might have been taught that to follow Jesus, they had to go down a certain road and believe certain things, some of which they found problematic. What interests me is the power of questioning and the experience of solidarity in finding you’re not alone—of always wondering, “But what about that?” and then finding out, “Oh, other people feel the same way.”

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Rob Bell wrote a book back in March 2011 called Love Wins.  You may have heard of it.  The subtitle – A Book about  Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. If you haven’t read or heard of this book – its not a book about hell, fire and brimstone.  It’s a provocative book that upset lots of fundamentalist Christians.  For me, that was a compelling reason to get myself a copy.

The first chapter of Love Wins poses this interesting question:

If a missionary got a flat tire, and missed meeting with a nearby village, would this really mean that the villagers missed the only opportunity to hear about God, and would not be saved? Would a flat tire mean that they are all destined for hell?

This of course raises a couple of far more disturbing questions like:

Is your future in someone else’ s hands?

And then the next question:

Is someone else’s eternity resting in your hands?

Perhaps Rob’s purpose here is that we get loosened up with the questions – that the questions pull out us out of ourselves and wake us up, like a triple shot flat white coffee. It’s okay. There should be no fear in the questioning and no hesitation in the asking. We can go there. The biblical tradition, particularly the Hebrew tradition, is actually filled with questions, all the way to Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Many people are afraid to question their faith, having been taught that this is tantamount to either rejecting or losing one’s faith. The best evidence against this line of thought is the Bible itself, in which both God and all the main characters ask many, many troubling questions.

Asking questions is, in fact, a means God often uses to help us rid ourselves of limited and wrongheaded notions about God, so that we catch a larger and expanded vision of who we worship. The bible is full of questions, and full of people who have many doubts and need answers.

By the way – if you’re still stuck or maybe uncomfortable about the two questions following the flat tyre question above then the answers are “most likely no – God has a Plan B.”

Perhaps questions are actually one of the ways we meet the Divine. Somewhere in here we find our own questions and we learn that we are never alone.
And the quest – behind the question is even more interesting and compelling than the questions.

May you, my brothers and sisters remember this week that the questions of life may be more important than the answers. May you recognize your quest behind the questions and may this take you to a place where you can sit in wonder and awe at what the Divine is doing in your life and how much he loves you.

Grace and Peace.

The Quest Behind the Questions

The questions that we ask
Follow the answers the we seek
They riddle the hours of our lives
As our days become our weeks

As we strive to understand
The complexities of life
We miss the here and now
As our worries lead to strife

As we wonder how the past
It teaching us the way
We miss the burning bush
As we rush past it every day

It is not the ‘why’ the matters
As we seek to know the reason
Don’t we just accept the sun
As it moves through every season?

Perhaps the ‘what’
Is the one compelling question
As it grounds us in the present
With it’s beckoning suggestion

That perhaps these questions comfort us
As we seek what keeps us safe
As our present hope is anchored
On our the object of our faith

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Gladiator is an epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe who portrays the fictional character, loyal Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed when the emperor Marcus Aurelius’s ambitious son, Commodus, murders his father and seizes the throne. Maximus flees and hides his identity by becoming a slave and a gladiator.

Maximus rises through the ranks of the gladiatorial arena to avenge the murder of his family and his emperor. Eventually, Maximus journeys back to Rome to confront his archrival.

Having arrived at the Colosseum, their team is put in a match that is meant to be a reenactment of the Battle of Carthage. Maximus and his teammates are on foot, armed with spears and shields, against a cohesive and well-equipped force of mounted fighters and archers on chariots. By means of Maximus’s leadership, however, the team is able to upset their opponents. Commodus comes down personally to congratulate Maximus on his victory. Maximus prepares to kill Commodus, but at the last moment decides against it.

At this point, Maximus removes his helmet and reveals himself to Commodus. Maximus promises to exact vengeance against Commodus, who is still in shock to learn that Maximus is still alive. While Commodus yearns to kill Maximus on the spot, he cannot; doing so would cause the watching crowd to develop distaste for his leadership, since the crowd loves Maximus.

This is a powerful moment in the movie and like all movies there is a story here that is far too familiar and meaningful. Once Maximus reveals his identity, and who and what defines him, the fear on Commodus’s face is palpable. This is exactly what happens when we know our identity, and when we let God define us – then the accuser has no more arrows, and has to flee. Here’s the moment:

 

We have a gladiator, someone who fights for us, our own Champion of Heaven. It is only when we let God define us and name us that we really find out who we are, why we are here and can begin to dare greatly in the arena. God calls us to this place, the question is though – will we follow?

May you this week come to know more clearly the Champion of Heaven. Ask God your real name, ask Him what he thinks of you and then listen for His voice, not yours, not others – just His. May this moment define you.

Champion of Heaven

I have heard you calling my nameimage
Through the rolling thunder and the rain
For you I live, to the end of my days
Champion of Heaven
You call my name

I have felt you beating my heart
You breathe my life into your art
For you I praise, day after day
Champion of Heaven
You move in me

I have seen you in my dreams
Flowing colours in braided streams
For you I pray, night after day
Champion of Heaven
You build my dreams

I have held your hand in mine
We will never run out of time
For you are here, year after year
Champion of Heaven
You walk with me

I have tasted, I have seen
Of your glory where you’ve been
For you are for me, not against me
Champion of Heaven
You make the way

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Anyone can walk in the miraculous. If you’ve ever wanted to live and walk in the supernatural power of God, you have the power to activate this and begin today. All it takes is to invite the full force and weight of heaven to fall behind your life.

It is truly possible for us to walk in the divine, and Christ came to show us the way. It is by rediscovering our true identity in Him that we can begin to move into the promises of God regarding the miraculous. The supernatural can be imparted in us by changing the way we think, live and act.

If you are not walking in the miraculous, you’re living far below your birthright. It is possible to lay a carefully constructed biblical foundation for walking in the supernatural power of God. When you invite Heaven to invade earth you experience miracles every day, as miracles  happen every day. All we need are eyes to see.

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We all recognise the heaven to earth moments, where we know that something extraordinary has just happened but we have no words to describe it. Kim Walker-Smith from Jesus Culture describes this moment:

So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
when I think about the way
He loves us
Oh how He loves us

The act of Heaven invading earth can be summed up in Isaiah 61:1:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

God has sent Jesus on a mission. He has great news for us. God has sent Him to restore and release something. That something is you. He came to give us back our hearts and set us free.

When we realise this freedom the full and mighty weight of heaven is behind us. Our job is just to do, there is no try.

May you this week call out your future, do what God has given you. As you walk in this freedom, notice what you do with it. Notice what happens when The full weight and power of Heaven is behind you. May you this week carry out the will of God here on earth as it is in Heaven.

Heaven invades earth

Calling out the future
From beyond the shadowy veil
Lifting eyes to heaven
As the ship begins to sail

Speaking out the not yet
In between the past and now
Connecting people with their God
Crafting the where and how

Bringing about focus
As heaven invades our land
Abundant and in excess
Gods favour by His hand

The words I speak are life
Like seeds that fall on ground
If you listen they will grow
And weave light all around

So as these words fall on this page
And life transforms from art
May the full force and weight of heaven
Today invade your heart

Finally, here’s the song that you knew was coming

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Heaven on Earth

William Blake would have to be my favourite poet of all time.  His depth of poetry is without equal.  What I really like about Blake is that he is the master of the poetic form and content. Blake’s poems inspire me. I have many favourites, one of them is Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is a short poem written in 1804  from William Blake’s collection of writings known as the Prophetic Books. Today it is best known as the hymn Jerusalem, with music written by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916. Check out he video clip at the end of this post.

It has been said that the poem Jerusalem was inspired by a legend that a young Jesus, accompanied by his uncle Joseph of Arimathea, a tin merchant, travelled to the area that is now England and visited Glastonbury during Jesus’ lost years. The legend is linked to an idea in the Book of Revelation (3:12 and 21:2) describing a Second Coming, where Jesus establishes a new Jerusalem. The Christian Church in general, and the English Church in particular, used Jerusalem as a metaphor for Heaven, a place of universal love and peace.

In the most common interpretation of the poem, Blake implies that a visit of Jesus would briefly create heaven in England, in contrast to the “dark Satanic Mills” of the British Industrial Revolution. An interesting story.  Could it be possible that like William Blake, we could invite Heaven to Earth?

Because with every action, comment, conversation, we have the choice to invite Heaven or Hell to Earth. ~ Rob Bell

What do you think about this?  Could Heaven really be a place on Earth, not now – but sometime? What’s your view of Heaven?

Jerusalem

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land

~ William Blake

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At the height of my short-lived career as a busker I once made $60 in one hour on the streets of Wellington.  Just me, my bright yellow basket ball boots, my John Lennon reflective sunglasses,  my Grandad’s green hat, and my acoustic guitar.  Believe it or not the combination worked!  That was 20 years ago, while I was a studying at University.

I had a standard set of songs that I’d learnt which included a few well-known numbers by Dire Straits, Don McLean, Tom Petty, Simon & Garfunkel – The Boxer was my favourite, and even the odd Christian song just to mix things up a bit – that makes it evangalism, right? Just as well I’m saved by grace rather than works.

Now it’s 20 years later and I’m 41 – the same age that my Dad was when I was born, unsurprisingly he’s now 81.  Where did those years go? Reminds me of a verse from my favourite busking song:

Now the years are rolling by me
They are rockin’ evenly
I am older than I once was
And younger than I’ll be and that’s not unusual.
~ The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel)

One of my son’s is now 10, he plays the guitar and is fast learning a selection of busking songs.  After regailing him with my many busking stories, he’s keen to go out and earn some money –  he wants me to go with him.  I’m quite excitied about the idea and getting back into the busking groove, and besides, kids are great to take busking because you always get more money – we’ll still have to split it though.  

It’s interesting to pause and reflect on how life moves on, the beginnings, middles and the endings, and how the years just seem to disappear in the busyness we call life.  Sometimes life can feel like a rollercoaster and then other times it can feel a bit like Groundhog Day.

Despite how will feel about life, I believe no experience is wasted and each experience teaches us something new, whether we realise it at the time, later or never.  We may not use all these learnings in our lifetime but it may just help us prepare for the next life.  Perhaps our journey through life is really just preparing us for our new beginning.  Here’s some  of my thoughts on this. I hope it strikes a chord with you.

New Beginning

In the end
every tear is collected
dried and pressed into the book
by the one who cried with us

In the end
we are not forgotten
by the one who remembers
how he made us to love him

In the end
we are saved by grace
even though we use deeds
to work out our faith

In the end
every sacrifice ignored
is noticed by the one
who matters most

In the end
our journey is not in vain
as we step in his footprints
that will lead us home

In the end
we will all find our place
where life completes us
for our new begining

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What will heaven be like?  The Bible mentions heaven quite a bit, but is very short on the detail. Maybe one of the reasons for this is that it is just not possible to understand the full nature of heaven from a human perspective. Since heaven is where God is, it must contain more physical and temporal dimensions than those that exist on earth. We cannot see or even imagine, what these extra dimensions might be like.  Recently String Theorists (a special breed of Physicists) believe that they may have discovered be up to 11 dimensions, some of which we can’t see or even experience. 

Sometimes  I think I’ve caught a glimpses of these dimensions.  How?  I’m not sure, maybe in connections with others, maybe in those experiences that I know just can’t be coincidental.  Those times when I know I can see something, but have not seen it.  I hear something, but can’t quite make it out. Sometimes I  just know that I have had an encounter with God but am unable to explain what it was to someone else.  Sound familiar? 

I believe that God wants us to show us glimpses of himself and heaven to remind us that we are spiritual beings, to remind us that he gives us hope,  to remind us that he made us in his own image, and to remind us that one day will be with him in heaven.

 
Eyes To See 
 
Let me show you something
As I paint my sunset in the sky
Do you have eyes to see
Have you stopped to wonder why

Let me show you something
Through the thunder and rain
Do you have ears to hear it
Have you heard me call your name

Let me show you something
As I shift your world today
Notice how space departs from time
As I create a brand new way

Let me show you something
As I speak light into your soul
Do you feel me beat your heart
Do you want to be made whole

Open the eyes of your heart
Align your soul to me
Let me transform your mind
Then you will have eyes to see

However, as it is written:
What no eye has seen, 
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived 
the things God has prepared for those who love him
~ 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

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What Dreams May Come, directed by Vincent Ward, won an Oscar in 1998 for its expansive and impressive visual vistas depicting heaven.

Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams), a doctor, with his artist wife Annie (Annabella Sciorra) suffered through the loss of their children, who were killed in a car accident. Although Annie’s all-consuming depression nearly destroyed their marriage, the couple rebuilt their relationship and are now living out a comfortable middle age.

Stopping one night to help a motorist in a wreck, Chris is hit by a car and killed. At first confused about where he is, Chris meets Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.), an Angel guide who helps him to realise he’s passed away and that he must move on to Heaven. After trying with  limited success to communicate with the devastated Annie, Chris moves on and discovers Heaven can become whatever he visualises.

Chris’s creates his paradise as the paintings of his wife, and he awaits the day when Annie will eventually join him. Tragedy strikes again when Annie commits suicide and goes to Hell. Although it is rarely done, Chris insists on traveling there, risking his eternal soul to save the woman he loves. Accompanied part of the way by Albert and another guide called The Tracker (Max von Sydow), Chris finally reaches Annie in Hell, and must convince her of the truth in order to release her from her dark prison, before he himself is also trapped with no way out.

This movie is one of my all time favourites.  I like the idea of Heaven being a colourful landscape , that’s my kind of paradise. I also believe that hell is a place without God.  Again the movie is pretty accurate to my idea of hell.  It also reminds me of how we can paint our own heaven or hell on earth.  It’s our choice which world we live in. 

So what about you?  Where are you living? I watched this movie again a few months ago and felt inspired to write about it.

Colour your Heaven

If you asked me to paint my heaven,
I’d choose colours of red, yellow and blue,
And create a vast vivid landscape,
Of a place I somehow knew.

If you asked me to play my heaven,
I’d use the key of G.
With a minor fall, and a major lift,
To sustain life in harmony.

If you asked my to write my heaven,
I’d use words of depth and rhyme,
To draw you in to my Maker’s world,
Where space departs from time.

If you asked me to share my heaven,
I’d speak the greatest story ever told,
Of Jesus who died for me and you,
So we could walk the streets of gold. 

So what colour is your heaven?
What is the best musical key?
To write and paint your heaven,
For those who need to see?

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