From Here to Eternity

I announced  it was time to go and my son and his friend scrambled into clean-up mode and prepared to say their goodbyes.

When I opened the door, my little guy turned to call out one final farewell.  That’s when his friend ran to the door and they both leaned over for a sideways hug.  My son then made what he considers the ultimate, laid-in-cement gesture of friendship.  He yelled, “I’ll invite you to my birthday party!”

It’s August.

My son’s birthday is in October.

In the parking lot, I ask him how he enjoyed his time with his “best bud,” and he quickly corrects me.  He likes to call him, “my favorite friend.”

I’ve been thinking  as I watch all my kids, in their various stages of friendship and maturity, about what it really means to connect and belong, to love, to show grace, to stand strong and maybe even stand alone, and how God can bind us together with others in community.

After all, my son doesn’t just  think about his friend now, or about inviting his friend to a party in October.  He thinks about when they’re in middle school  together and then about high school.  He’s got long-term plans for friendship. This is sweet and cute and so “5-years-old,” but what if this is also for me as an adult, too?

In his book, Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson says this about  the Church,

The Holy Spirit formed it (the church) to be a colony of  heaven in a country of  death.

This image captivates me.  “A colony of  heaven.”  We can’t be heaven, of course.  We live in sin-brokenness and we are so clearly imperfect.  After all, that’s why we’re part of the Church—because we need a Savior!  Because we’re sinners!  We step on each other’s toes and we invade each other’s spaces at times.  We all battle Death;  it surrounds us in this death-bound world.  The church is constantly battered from without and beaten within by the impact of that brokenness.

Still, we have life.  We who follow Jesus already possess eternal life.  This is what ties us together as believers.  We’re not just in this together for the temporary, or even for a decade.  We’re in this together for eternity, and the great news is that our eternity has already begun.

It’s not “once upon a time.”  Our Kingdom life, our heavenly journey, begins the moment we follow Christ.

How can that change my perspective on loving others?

I feel less pressured, for one thing.  I remember that God has an eternal work in mind.  He brings people into my life and then He moves them on in a new season, and I can let Him direct my steps.  When to cling?  When to let go?  He knows, and  I can trust Him.

When God was preparing to  take Elijah up to heaven, his sidekick, right-hand man, and apprentice (Elisha) knew Elijah was about to leave.

In 2 Kings 2, Elijah told Elisha three different times, “You stay here.  God wants me to go to  another place—Bethel, Jericho, the Jordan.”  He tried to get Elisha to stay behind.

But every time Elisha said, “As Adonai lives and as you live, I will  not leave you” (2 Kings 2:6).  Elisha remained steadfastly by Elijah’s side and ultimately received a double-portion of the Lord’s anointing when he sees Elijah taken up to heaven.

Then Elijah was gone.   God removed Elijah and led Elisha into a new season of ministry without his mentor there any longer.

I remember this also: that eternity has begun for us, but none of us are perfect in the here and now.  I need the perspective of grace and of growth for me and for others: that we’re transforming—we haven’t already transformed.

Paul writes:

And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness (Ephesians 4:11-13 CSB).

We’re in that place now of building  and equipping one another, and we’re in this together UNTILUntil Christ comes.  Until we’ve achieved 100% unity in faith and knowing Jesus.  Until we’ve fully matured into Christ-likeness.

We’re not there yet.  In the meantime, we equip each other.  We build each other up.  We help each other become more like Jesus.  We serve and we minister as He’s called and equipped us for the benefit of the whole Church because we’re in this together for now and for eternity.

 

Storing Up Treasure that Lasts

My son lined up his pirate loot after spending time at “Pirates Day” down along the river’s beach.

It was a good haul: Seaglass, plastic gold coins, colorful rocks, and a black eyepatch with the skull and crossbones.  He surveyed it with a bit of pride and then tucked every treasure away in his tiny black bag of “jewels.”

We followed a treasure map in order to gather all these rewards, and it is impressive in its array, colorful and plentiful, just about filling his pirate treasure pouch, which makes him feel vastly wealthy.

We know, of course, that it’s pretend treasure. It’s temporary at best and plenty valuable enough to  a four-year-old, but not something you can plop down in exchange for  anything more long-term.

Still, he’s satisfied.

Am I satisfied?  And if I am, should I be?

Are there places where I’ve mis-placed value, missing out on what has eternal  significance because I’m caught up  in what is temporary and here-and-now just because it looks worth having?

Are there places where I’m letting myself fret and freak out because it just seems oh-so-important  to solve this crisis, when it’s really better to relax and let go and trust and be at peace?

I think we all have this longing for the eternal and that means in the moments when we find the joy, or the comfort, or the peace, we want to hang on tightly for dear life and not ever, ever let go.

And then life tumbles us and shifts and the ground feels terribly shaky all over again.

In our family devotions, we read these verses from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount:

“Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 CSB). 

My kids mostly get it.  They tell me that we shouldn’t love money or  be too greedy, and that’s the truth.

But what about these other treasures on the earth, not money perhaps, but still temporary jewels that might fill a pouch, but can’t be carried into heaven?  Like accolades from others.  The encouragement of a kind word.  Being noticed.  Measurable impact. Likes and followers.

Or what about report cards and test scores? Or titles and positions and power?  The house, the car, the clothes…Feeling comfortable.  Feeling safe.

These are good things that we can turn into “ultimate things,” which makes us miss out on eternal things.

Jesus said our heart is where our treasure is.  We know He wants our heart, so what should I be treasuring?

What lasts absolutely forever, not for just a day or a year or a season?

His Word ENDURES.

Peter wrote:

but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this word is the gospel that was proclaimed to you (1 Peter 1:25 CSB).

The Word of the Lord lasts.  It endures.  Every single bit of time and effort we put into knowing His Word  makes a difference for eternity—and I don’t  mean head knowledge or doctrinal debates or memorizing facts and figures.  I mean the way His Word can till  the soil of our hearts, plant seeds,  and produce fruitfulness; the way His Word changes us.

It’s because the Bible is so much more than just words on the pages; it’s given to us by the Lord Himself and:

THE LORD REMAINS CONSTANT also.

That’s what it means when we’re told He never changes, He’s the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  The Psalmist writes:

But you are the same,  and your years will never end.  Psalm 102:27 CSB

He is our treasure, our eternal reward of the highest value.

So, every single day, if I want to store up the treasure that will last, I seek His Word, I seek the Lord, and one more thing.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says:

 Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart (CSB).

PEOPLE LAST, TOO.

This is the treasure with eternal value:  Loving Jesus.  Loving His Word.  Loving others like Jesus does.

That sets life topsy-turvy sometimes, because sometimes busyness appears so valuable and can make us feel so  important, but what really has value and what endures might be:

family dinner
a milkshake and some conversation after a hard day at school
reading the Bible at night with your kids
rocking a baby at midnight because he can’t sleep
coffee with a friend
devotions on the backporch in the early morning hours
a walk with the Lord on a sunny spring day.

That’s the treasure that endures.

 

The holy longing for something more than right now

ecclesiastes3-11

“I’ll do that when I’m seven.”

“Or maybe when I’m ten.”

That’s the standard reply my five-year-old gives me.

Would you like to take ballet again in the fall?  

Do you think you would want to try this?

It’s never “yes” or “now” or even “soon.”

She has this timeline of plans, this plotted course, and she’s not really in a  hurry to jam-pack activity into this very moment right here.  Seven is soon enough. Ten is fine.  Why try to do everything when you’re five?

Part of me marvels at the wisdom.

What is it about me that tries to cram what feels like a life-time of living into every single day?

Something about me that cannot…..can….not…..leave the dirty dishes in the sink for the next morning.

I’m the anti-Scarlett O’Hara.  None of this, “I’ll think about that tomorrow” nonsense.  Today.  Today.  It has to be today.

I have to slip into bed every night, to-do list cleared out, dishes clean, laundry put away, nothing holding over for the next morning.

But my tiny girl lives out today and is content to let some things linger until tomorrow, or next year, or five years from now.

Today, she’ll do this.  And then one day she’ll do that.  Simple as that.

Part of me, though, worries:  What if I leave that for another day and that other day never comes?  Our lives are short.  Our future uncertain.  Our tomorrow is never guaranteed.

And if you leave too much left undone today, it just spills over on top of tomorrow and then the next day until it’s a 10-car pile-up of trauma and disaster.

I need to handle this and do this now, now, now!

In Lazarus Awakening, Joanna Weaver writes:

“Someone once asked, ‘Why do we tend to live like eternity lasts eighty years, but this life lasts forever?”

We are a mixed-up bunch: Our priorities, our timetables, all jumbled and topsy-turvy.

We think what we’re doing right now, this moment, this day, this season, this year, this project, this commitment, this ministry…is the end-all be-all.

It’s what keeps us up at night and what forces us out of bed in the mornings.

And yet, as Christians, the moment we choose for Christ to be our personal Savior, eternity with God begins.

It doesn’t start the day we die here and walk through heaven’s gates.

It begins that moment we bow our heads and our lives to His Lordship.

This very issue that leaves me sleepless and fretting or over-stuffing each day is a tiny speck in the grand timeline of eternity with Jesus.

And all those five-year-plans and ten-year-plans and budgets and agendas, hardly matter in the big picture of forever.

Our hearts long for this.  Truly.

God has created us for an eternal longing, a hope for something more:

He has also set eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11 b NIV).

We struggle to keep it all in balance and yet God breathes that refreshing breath into us, the reminder that THIS is not all there is.

The way the days sometimes stretch out in endless frustration or rushing or stress…that’s not forever.  That’s nothing more than a blip on the radar screen of the eternal.

Or the way one trial, a season of loss or pain or want, overtakes our life, and yet it’s here for this moment, and then it will be gone.

I read the reminder in Experiencing God:

God did not create you for time; He created you for eternity. Time- your lifetime on earth- provides the opportunity for you to become acquainted with Him. It provides occasions for Him to develop your character into His likeness. Then eternity will hold its fullest dimensions for you.

Every moment feels a little more sacred.

Not more rushed.

Not more stressed.

Not more important even.

But holy.

Because the life we’re living in the here and now is just part of that eternity with Jesus.  We can love Him, know Him and worship Him, spend each day in His presence, and that forever-life shifts our perspective.

This situation.  The to-do list.  The appointments.  The schedule.  The annoyance.  The personal hurt.  The betrayal.

Those are so temporary.

What matters most is yielding to Him.  It is listening to His Spirit.  It’s sharing a laugh with God or marveling over the beauty of His creation. It’s rejoicing over the salvation of another.  It is dumping the sin out of the trash-bin in my heart.  It is allowing God to construct peace or patience or joy in my life.

What matters?  What doesn’t?  It’s all a little clearer in the light of heaven.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

He’s Unashamed of the Gospel

I wished him a happy birthday.

I’d seen the pictures that week of family and friends celebrating his 94th birthday at the Chick-fil-A in our tiny town.  So, of course I wanted to join my “happy birthday” with theirs.

He accepted my birthday wishes with a friendly grin and then opened up his wallet to show me a treasure, not cash or check or credit card, of course.

No, he had packed his wallet full of small Gospel cards that he’d designed and had printed up himself–200 of them.  He fingers the Bible verses as he tells me all about them, about how they tell of Jesus loving us, dying for us, forgiving us….and how we can spend eternity with Him if we accept Him as our Savior.

Then he touches his hand to the cross he wears, two nails formed together, and he tells me how he’s given away oh 14 dozen or so because Jesus took the nails for him and me and for all of us.romans1

I gave him a birthday greeting.

He gave me the Gospel.

I received the greater gift.

He knows who I am, knows I’m a Christian, worships with me every week at our church.  Still he shares.

I smile as he talks, smile at his enthusiasm and his boldness, and smile to think that Jesus must be his very favorite thing to talk about.  How many hundreds of times has he shared this very same message with others?  That’s what I wonder…that’s why I marvel.

And that’s why, later that night, I still ponder a 94-year-old man who used his birthday to share the Gospel with a church-girl like me.

I feel the Holy Spirit nudge, the conviction deep.

He, after all, overflows with the gospel.  He tells me about Jesus not because I need to know or because I look like a lost soul, but because talking about Jesus is what He does everywhere, to everybody, without fear or shame or concern for public opinion.  There’s no keeping it hidden, no compartmentalizing his conversation into Jesus-talk for church folks but small talk about the weather for anyone else.

Indeed, he could say:

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes–the Jew first and also the Gentile (Romans 1:16 NLT).

Could I say this about myself?

It’s easy, of course, for God, Jesus, the Bible, grace, sin and forgiveness to be my sometimes conversation in safe places with safe people at safe times.

But I’m a people-pleaser, anxious not to offend, worried about the awkwardness of a difficult conversation, the tension of loving confrontation with the truth, or what might happen if someone doesn’t like the salvation message on my Christmas card.

Faced with this man, though, who is clearly not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I long for unashamed boldness and passion.

In The Christian Atheist, Craig Groeschel writes:

….I believe one of the main reasons people don’t share their faith in Christ is that they don’t really believe in hell.  Many of us are out of touch with the genuine urgency.

He hits the truth and I wince with this pain:  I don’t feel the urgency to share the news of Christ.

I believe the Scripture and that our choice here isn’t heaven or nothingness….heaven or a lesser heaven…..heaven or a mildly uncomfortable but ultimately more fun destination.

It’s heaven or hell.  Either/or.  Black or white.  Here or there.  No in between or sugar-coating or gray.

Yet, I’m sometimes more worried about the here-and-now consequences of a difficult conversation than I’m concerned about the ever-after results of others not knowing Jesus.

Street preaching or door-to-door Gospel-selling isn’t the mandate here.

But being prepared.

Being yielded.

Being ready.

Being willing.

Being articulate, clear, simple, passionate.

Being purposeful.

Being loving.

That’s the example he sets for me, a 94-year-old man with a wallet full of Gospel cards and a pocket heavy with nail crosses.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

I Want More

I wanted to walk.

I needed to do other things.

In the 40 minutes between the “Amen” at the end of prayer group and the moment I had to pick up my little one from preschool, I should have been reading, prepping, writing, practicing, answering and completing.

I did, after all, have a to-do list to follow!  Things to check off!  Tasks to accomplish!

Still, I wanted to walk.

It was a warm day, the kind of slightly humid warm of a morning before an afternoon storm.  The clouds hadn’t yet blocked the sun and the cooling wind cut through the sticky heat, carrying scents of fall.

It was lovely.

So, down the Main Street of our town I strolled, wearing ballet flats instead of walking shoes—a reminder of the whimsicality of the moment.

I passed houses with mums dotting the gardens and azaleas in final bloom along the path and business with window displays of colored leaves and pumpkins.

At first, I thought about that dreaded list, the tasks I was leaving undone.  I was problem-solving and planning and mentally re-arranging my day.

But then I noticed the sound of the breeze, how the wind tossing about the leaves in the trees sang a constant hum.

And I saw the acorns scattered along the path and piled into the grass, the wind’s gift to squirrels looking for easy pickings.

And I watched as the clouds didn’t just mosey almost imperceptibly across the sky.  No, they were running and dancing past my eyes, pushed along by the breeze.

My walk was about finding more.

But those times never last forever.  I too quickly returned to the schedule and the to-do list, still wishing for more of something undefinable, indescribable, and impossible to cram into a word from a dictionary.

We talk a lot about what it means to desire more in life.

We say we’ve all been designed with a God-shaped hole.  While we try to fill that void with stuff and with sin, relationships and success, it’s only God who can ever satisfy.  Everything else results in a bottomless pit of emptiness.

That’s true.

And we talk about what it means as Christians to long for more.

How we need to put aside the busyness of religion and pursue relationship with Jesus.  How we must shun the sin that prevents intimacy with God.  And until He’s fully Lord of our lives and we’re walking with Him closely, not just day by day, but moment by moment, we’ll always feel poured out and never filled.

That’s true, too.

We sang it in worship this Sunday morning, “All of You is more than enough for all of me, for every thirst and every need.  You satisfy me with Your love.”

So, what’s wrong with me?  Why, after all of that, can I still feel the longing?

Not for more money or possessions, fame or success, love or attention.

For more Jesus.

So often our typical lessons on this issue follow the same trite pattern.

You want more.
You get rid of sin.
You draw closer to God.
You feel better.
Amen.

Like that’s as far as it goes.

Is God enough for us, enough to fully satisfy the deepest, most cavernous longing of our heart and souls?

Yes, He absolutely is.

Do sin and busyness choke us and keep us from being satisfied in Christ?

Yes, they absolutely do.

But even then, don’t you feel it–the insatiable groaning in your soul for something more than we can ever find in the here and now of life on earth?

C.S. Lewis wrote:

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world” (Mere Christianity)

This incessant longing, even in the moments of greatest intimacy with Christ, even on quiet walks with Jesus on lovely fall days, doesn’t mean God isn’t enough.

It just means that we were:

“made for eternity, for glory, and as long as your feet are here on this earth, you will experience a glory ache that only heaven can fully satisfy”  (Sharon Jaynes, A Sudden Glory: God’s Lavish Response to Your Ache for Something More, p. 192).

God designed us not for this life, but for the ever after life with Him.  Ecclesiastes tells us: “He has also set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

When we see Jesus face to face and the physical realities of this world, the death and sin about us, the crushing grind of the daily, when all that is gone and it’s just our Savior and us and it’s forever . . . then we will be satisfied, fully drenched and totally filled.

Until then, we bring our longing for more to Jesus and let Him whisper to us about heaven and of what awaits us there.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King