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Saturday, 31 October 2015

HEAVEN God’s Dwelling Place and Ours

HEAVEN
God’s Dwelling Place and Ours
“I will dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15

When we think of heaven we often reflect upon a place that is beautiful and where all will live eternally with God. This is a place where hopes will be realized, blessings will be given through God’s gracious hand and encouragement awaits. Heaven in itself brings healing and calms sorrows. But what and where is heaven? How do we understand this eternal resting place?
Different scripture passages describe heaven as: God’s habitation, God’s home, God’s dwelling place, where God’s throne is and is from where God reigns.  God dwells in heaven yet His presence is everywhere. He abides in heaven and yet is present throughout all His creation.
God also hears the prayers of His people from heaven and it is where he accepts the worship of His people on earth. Heaven is also home to the angels who continually go back and forth from earth and heaven and heaven to earth. Heaven is also home to the cherubim and seraphim and other types of angels.
Heaven is also the place where God’s saints dwell forever. Heaven is ‘our eternal home”. When we die our bodies no longer function, but our souls lives on. For those who believe, the soul at death immediately enters forever into the presence of God. And this is where things differ in terms of belief. Some people refer to those who die as being ‘asleep’ and that their souls cease to exist  until some time in the future. This refers to soul sleep which a soul with no existence apart from the body could not be sleeping-. Death involves physical and spiritual separation. Physical death is when the soul is separated from the body. Spiritual death is the eternal separation of the soul from God. The believer in Christ may physically die but he can never die spiritually because he will never experience the separation of his soul from God.
John 5:24-26  Whoever lives and believes in me  shall never die.

Heaven is the habitation of God and is the home of departed saints where they abide forever in the presence of Jesus. The only condition to enter that eternal home is faith in God’s Son Jesus.
REFLECTION:
What is it you think of when you hear the word ‘heaven’? Is it where God and saints live together or where God is alone?  If God is in heaven, how do we experience “His presence on earth”?
PRAYER
Holy God we praise you for your promise to us that we will one day be with you where you dwell in heaven. Help us to understand what this means as we seek to have faith and believe.  Enable us to understand ‘God’s habitation’ and what we might understand heaven to be like. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.


RESOURCE:  Richard DeHaan. Heaven: An Eternal Place of Hope, blessing and encouragement. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers 2014.

HEAVEN Part 2 : The Holy City

HEAVEN
Part 2 :  The Holy City
“I Saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”  Revelation 21:1-2

Heaven is where God dwells but a new heaven is also the place that is promised after the universe will be shattered and a transformation of what we know will take place. From this will emerge a glorious new world. A new heaven and a new Holy City called  New Jerusalem. This holy city will be the capital of this new heaven and earth and is the eternal home of God’s faithful people.
But where is this heaven? Is it in the northern skies as exaltation does not come from east, wet, or south according to Psalm 75:6. But where it is located is unknown.  The heavenly Jerusalem is where the patriarchs or faith looked forward to entering when they died. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not able to enter the Promised Land on earth. Yet God had prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:10-16)
Where will this heavenly city be during the transitional times after the earth is destroyed? It is uncertain but during the tribulation period (before the millennial age) the heavenly Jerusalem will become visible to earth dwellers. It is like a satellite city above the earth as John describes in Rev 21:2. And it is as described in Hebrews 12 is developed in three stages 1) heavenly Jerusalem where the spirits of the dead now live 2) the satellite city from which certain believers commute to earth during the millennial age and 3) the settled city, which will ultimately rest upon “a new earth”.
The holy city as described by John rests upon 12 jeweled foundations and sparkling like diamonds in the sunlight and it is huge square of 12 furlongs each (Rev 21:15-16). This holy city is heaven with plenty of room for all who believe. Those who believe are now citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem and someday they will enter the New Jerusalem!
REFLECTION:
The New Jerusalem is described by John in Revelation as something beyond words, magnificent and glorious and yet it will be a long time in the making after the world as we know it ceases to exist. But what do you think of when you hear about this New Jerusalem? How would you describe this city? Is it where you want to go and be for all of eternity? Why?
PRAYER
Wonderful God of grace we thank you for the promise of the New Jerusalem a city where your believer and children of faith will one day live. We thank you for this promise of where eternity will be spent and shared and we rejoice with those who are already with you. Help us to keep hope in the knowing of your Son Jesus and through your creative plan we praise you for this gift in faith. Speak to our hearts as we wonder, as we pray and as we share our fears and concerns about this New Jerusalem. Enable us to hear this story with love and hope. Amen.


RESOURCE:  Richard DeHaan. Heaven: An Eternal Place of Hope, blessing and encouragement. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers 2014.ch.2

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Worrying About What is To Come

Worrying About What is To Come
“Do not worry about your life…”
Matthew 6:25-34
The days are shorter, the leaves are falling off trees and there
is a chill in the air. How do we understand this in between season of autumn when it is not as pleasant, often raining and even just miserable before winter sets in? It is a time of transition and like the squirrels running about to store food for the winter, we often look to what lies ahead for us- with cold, snow of winter and we worry as we anticipate the storms which will keep us indoors and off roads. We worry about what is to come when in essence we cannot control it, nor can we predict it. All we can do is to live through it and to do so with faith.
With the Thanksgiving turkey now being made into soup or casseroles, and the morning dew mixing with fog, autumn is an in between time of reflecting on the wonderful summer days passed and the need to look for something to celebrate again. Halloween we know is not too far away but as a celebration it is not one for a big meal or gifts nor does everyone understand why children trick or treat or even why the chocolate bars are so small. We are mid way from summer to Chrsitmas and we worry.
We worry because of the changing seasons and the weather, we worry about the safety of people on the roads if they travel, and we worry whether we can do the regular tasks we are called to do or whether we need help, assistance or medication. We worry over what others are doing or thinking and we wonder we really should be doing as we go about our days.
Jesus teaches that worrying will do nothing to aid us in our life and worrying about our future will actually hurt us more than we realize. Yes we have certain needs to be met but when those needs are met are we satisfied? Or do we yearn for more and worry about it? Jesus says that those who do not believe are the ones who worry and those who believe are called to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness and everything we need will be given. We need not worry about tomorrow—just look after each day as it comes—one day at a time. Each day has enough trouble and I would also say blessings on its own. This we know is easy to hear but most difficult to follow. Yet as we know we are also to give thanks under all circumstances because God does bless us. Yet are we really giving God thanks as he so deserves? Maybe if we turn our worries into thanksgiving we will understand this in between time and wait with expectant hearts for God to act.
PRAYER

Holy One, we thank you for the many blessings we receive and we pray and hope that the worrying we do will be put aside in order to focus on these many blessings. Show us your way O God and teach us to know you as we seek to live following your way. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks
Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.
 I Thess. 5:18
In all times and under all circumstances we are called to
offer our thanks and praise to God not just when the calendar tells us that it is the season of harvest, bounty and abundance or that this weekend is the traditional day when we share together a lot of food with family and friends.  We are supposed to offer to God our thanks and praise under all circumstances and in all ways. But do we? Do you pray and offer God thanks even though you may not be thankful about your current circumstances?
Just think about this for a moment. Are you frustrated because you are getting older or that your body is growing weaker in specific areas? Maybe you have had some medical tests and are worried or wondering about what will happen next.  We are to be thankful in all circumstances but it is difficult when what we held as good is changing our life. How does one say thanks? Be grateful that we have doctors who are educated and can diagnose problems. Be thankful that tests are able to be done because of a good health care system and we might find out what is happening to our bodies. Give thanks to God that you have been given life, it may not be the life you wanted to lead as your body changes, but you have life and can continue to love others.
As we prepare to have a special meal with family, let’s not forget to have Jesus with us and reminding us to give thanks to God. Jesus reminded us to give thanks because he himself offered to God the Father/ Creator thanks. Thanks for knowing that he was not alone in his ministry, in his last days and Jesus knew that he would return to heaven. Jesus also taught us how to pray and to remember him. He gave thanks and then broke the bread symbolizing his sacrifice for all who believe and he shared this with his disciples. An in the action of giving thanks, breaking the bread/pouring the cup we have the sacred, holiest moments when God calls us to love, heal and forgive. This is giving thanks in an abundant way.
Paul wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” No matter what your circumstance, be sure to take the time and thank God—not only this weekend, but every day. Amen. For God loves you and wants you to fully live, and to live life abundantly in Him. Rejoice and be glad. God loves you.


 PRAYER:

For all your goodness God, we give you thanks.  For family, friends and those who are not yet known to us. We praise you. For family gatherings where tensions may rise and for gatherings where stories are passed on from one generation to another again and again. We praise you God and ask that you speak to our hearts and enable us to look at the blessings we have from you. Amen.

Peace I Give You

Peace I Give You
John 14: 27
                The small flags were quietly standing in rows. Suddenly
they moved in unison as a gust of wind came by, causing a quiet rustling of flags on their miniature posts. The parade marshall shouted, “March on the Colours” and the colour party carrying bright flags of the country, province and the Royal Canadian Legion along with rifles marched toward the War Memorial in the cemetery.
This colour party marching towards the Memorial marked  the beginning of Legion Week and the veterans, family members and friends from other branches gathered to show their respect their thanksgiving and to pray together. This year is different as this Legion Week begins on the day set aside by the United Nations and known as the International Day of Peace. In 1981, the United Nations declared September 21 as the day when we should pause to pray and to also act in ways to bring about peace in our hearts, our communities and around the world.
The theme of the UN International Day of Peace is “Partnerships for Peace-Dignity for All” and it aims to highlight the important of all segments of society around the world to work together to strive for peace. The UN works with partners that were active in its creation and thousands of people today who are involved in government, civil society, private sector, churches and other non-governmental organizations all with the same goal of establishing and sustaining peace on earth.
But the essential question is from where does peace come? When Jesus was preparing his disciples for what was to happen after he returned to God the Father, he gave them peace. Not as the world understood peace but as He gave it to be essential to serve others in faith and with hope. Peace was essentially to help others as they needed each other to understand what Jesus wanted them to do.  And he did not want them to be afraid for the Spirit would come and be with them.
Peace for us is more than the absence of war and destruction. It is the ability to see one another with hope and in Christ’s love. Peace begins within and this often starts when we pray and ask for forgiveness for what we have done wrong. It also begins when we reach out to others. Let us think of this as we remember those fallen in wartime and all those who have died for the sake of peace in our world.

PRAYER of St. Francis:
Lord make us instruments of Your Peace, Where there is hatred, let us sow love.
Where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master grant that we may not so much seek to be comforted as to comfort, to be understood, as to understand, to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
  

QUESTION: How is the peace of Christ reflected in your life and in the lives of those whom you meet?