moody quote

Are you Homesick?

Heaven is a wonderful place

Filled with glory and grace

I want to see my Savior’s face

Heaven is a wonderful place

 

I was never a child who got homesick easily. While other kids at camp cried over missing their parents, I was content to enjoy my vacation away from my chaotic family. To this day I don’t feel the need to call my family members as often as my friends.

My first real experience with homesickness was near the end of my first semester of college. I had moved halfway across the country from my home in Nebraska to a school in northern California. Too far to go home for weekends or Thanksgiving, and as Christmas and finals approached I longed for the familiar sights and people of home. No riches could compare to what I felt when I finally saw my family for the first time in month. Homesickness is what makes the homecoming so much sweeter.

Shortly after the death of my 3-year-old niece I had a conversation with a friend about death and Heaven and our deceased loved ones. I clearly remember her telling me she had to come to peace with the idea that she may not know or recognize her loved ones in heaven. This was unfathomable to me. In my almost unbearable grief, the one thread of hope I held was the knowledge that my niece was in heaven. And with that knowledge the hope of seeing her again someday. Was I wrong? Was it possible that I would never see her again?

Some Christians will give you this idea. We’ve over-spiritualized Heaven to the point where it sounds boring, or worse undesirable. We make it sound like it’s ungodly to want the comforts of this present life.

Or we’ve been told that Heaven is beyond our understanding and it’s wrong to try to imagine it. They’ll quote 1 Corinthians 2:9 “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.” We can’t imagine what Heaven will be like, so you may as well not even try. They miss the very next verse: “these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.” Heaven is not so distant that we can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like.

We are given glimpses of what we can see and know. Heaven is described in real terms. It is a city. It is the dwelling place of God. It is a place with a river and a tree of life. It’s not an ethereal place where we float around as spirits playing harps or sitting through the longest church service imaginable. It is everything we love about this Earth without the curse of sin. What we cannot see we have faith and the love of our father to cling to. For “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

I can still remember the first time I was truly homesick for Heaven. It was in my first year of college. In a moment I saw, I mean I really saw eternity in the presence of God stretching out before me. Heaven was no longer a distant thing—the way a child feels about Christmas in the middle of June. No, it was right there, like Christmas Eve. I truly felt the longing to be there.

That moment was fleeting like trying to hold unto fog. No one can live in a continual state of that kind of deep longing. But I still go back to that moment. I taste the longing once again feel the bitter sweet ache. Each time I feel it, it’s stronger, more real. Maybe that is what people on their deathbeds can see as they prepare to pass into that eternity.

About a year ago, I watched as a woman dying of cancer slowly slipped away. In visits to the hospital during her final days I wondered why she held on for so long if she knew she was heading to an eternity with God, free from the pain and sorrow of this world. It was like lingering in a dark room saying goodbyes delaying for just a moment longer before leaving on an incredible journey

Laura Ingalls Wilder experienced this the night before leaving for a new life and a new home in Missouri with her husband and infant daughter. They sat in her parents’ home in South Dakota, late into the night, singing, talking, and stretching the moments before her departure. Laura knew the moment she left would likely be the last time she saw her parents, the last time they would be together as a family. She had hope for her new life with her family in Missouri, but the goodbye was still difficult.

There’s something about the word HOME that brings up a powerful longing in each of us. Some long for the comfort of home, some long for the people of home, some long for the innocence of childhood and the blissful absence of responsibilities. And some of us long for what home should have been—a place of love and belonging.

So it is ok to be homesick for Heaven. It is natural. We are not supposed to be comfortable on this sin-cursed world. But how do you stay effective for the Kingdom?

My work here is not complete I will press on I will finish the race. My longing for Heaven is what makes me effective for the Kingdom here and now.

How do you use your homesickness for Heaven positively? How do you keep it from making you ineffective in this life?

shirleyskid

Shirley’s Kid

Guest blog by: Cindy

The camp chapel was mostly dark, with the exception of one lamp that stood next to a table of people who held my fate. It looked and felt like the set of an interrogation room in a late 1990′s cop procedural drama. Seated at the head of the table was the regional head of my denomination, and down either side sat the rest of the leadership team that would decide if I was going to have their blessing to be sent to seminary. Pastors who were not on the committee sat in the dark rows of chairs about ten feet away. I took my seat and the foot of the table and took a deep breath as quietly as I could, hoping that they would not see my knees shaking under the table. I do not remember the first question that I was asked, but I remember the second.

“You know that if you’re not married by the time you’re done with seminary, you’ll be alone for the rest of your life, right?” The woman who had asked that bitter question was, in fact, a single minister who was not far from retirement.

I blinked. I was 27 years old, and there I sat, presented with a bleak future in a room that smelled like dust and canvas. Seminary was about a year away, and would last two years. I would be 30 years and 5 days old on ordination day. My expiration date was set.

“I don’t think that my effectiveness as a minister is dictated by the presence of a ring on my finger,” I responded. Crap. Not exactly the most tactful response, particularly to a panel of people who, at the time, stood between me and my calling. I rallied. “I have had a lot of examples of single women ministers who didn’t seem held back by their status. Could I ask for a better role model than Shirley?”

Thankfully, this seemed to smooth things over, and they moved onto other questions. I knew that Shirley would be my ringer. Everyone at that table would have at least heard of Shirley.

By the time I knew her, she was very near retirement. A short, stocky woman with gray hair and glasses like my grandma wore, Shirley had the towering task of being the teen Bible Study teacher for 12 – 15 of us, and while we were relatively good kids, she had her work cut out for her.

When I was a kid, school was a nightmare, an endless stream of bullies who never seemed to run out of reasons to be cruel to me. By the time I hit eighth grade, the stress was so bad that I got physically sick and ended up in the hospital for dehydration and “a virus” that they never pinpointed. Half-way through eighth grade, a little bit of hope glimmered: a new church. A place where no one knew how bad things were at school. A small church that was just starting but that had a bunch of kids near my age.

That hope was short-lived. It didn’t take long until my new church became as lonely and miserable as school. Watching Mean Girls feels more like reminiscing than it should. Halfway through high school, a rumor about me got started at summer camp, and that rumor made its way back to the church. Not only did I feel rejected by my peers, but now, many of the adults seemed to treat me differently, to eye me with skepticism and keep me at arms’ length.

Except for Shirley. Shirley didn’t seem to know what it meant to treat a kid with anything other than love. If she’d heard the rumor, she never seemed to show it. She still smiled at me and told me jokes. She listened and took me seriously. Shirley loved to laugh but she knew how to be honest with us. Despite all of the education that I’d gotten throughout my lifetime in the church, the most powerful lesson on what it meant to be a Christ-follower came from Shirley. She was the embodiment of 1 John 4:7 and 11: Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God… Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another (Holman Christian Standard Bible).

In the years after high school, every time I came home from college or went to a regional church event, I looked for Shirley. I wanted to hug her and tell her about the good things that I’d done or seen, because when Shirley talked to me, I knew she loved me. I had her attention and she was always happy for me. She was proud when I graduated from college and when I went to seminary.

While I was busy with growing up, Shirley was busy with doctors’ appointments. Her early life of troublemaking had taken its toll on her, and physically speaking, she was in ever-worsening shape, and yet her joy was unceasing. She was never grumpy. She never complained. She had a gladness that came from knowing Jesus, a gladness that I so rarely see. Over the years, as I would see her name in the bulletin for prayer, I sent cards, hoping that she would somehow know that though I was far away, I still loved and prayed for her.

Shirley was Promoted to Glory a few months ago, which is the term that my denomination uses for the death of a person whom we believe is saved. When I heard that she had passed away, there was such a mix of emotions: sadness over losing a friend, relief knowing that she wasn’t in pain anymore, a general achey-ness at the loss of a role model.

Shirley’s funeral was on a Monday, and when I arrived, I was glad to be reunited with some of Shirley’s other “kids.” In the time that has passed, we’ve gotten beyond the hardness of those earlier years and have become friends. Without discussing it ahead of time, we all sat together. We whispered, giggled, fixed each other’s crooked collars and kicked the Kleenex box back and forth. We sang the songs Shirley had loved and we sniffled as we tried to avoid the dreaded “ugly cry.” After the service, when we gathered for coffee and sweets, we sat around tables and laughed. Shirley would have been glad to know there was so much laughter.

Will I end up “alone forever,” as the panelist implied in my pre-seminary interview? I don’t know. What I know is that I am going to try to make sure that as I continue to minister, I am going to do what I can to make sure that the people I encounter won’t feel that way. I am going to try to love beyond rumors, beyond unpopularity, beyond the lost-cause status that someone may seem to have. I know it can be done because I watched Shirley do it for 18 years. I know I can do it because I am one of Shirley’s Kids, and because of her, I have seen what holiness looks like.

You can read more of Cindy’s excellent thoughts/writing on her blog: www.threestandarddeviations.wordpress.com  Go check it out! :-)

 

Taken at the Chora Church Museum in Istanbul, Turkey

“Therefore……let us”

author: Rhegan 

We find in the book of Hebrews numerous times when the author uses the statement “Therefore, let us.” The therefore is always referring to something that the author has been discussing and has finished making his point. The “let us” is what we need to do because of the point that the author has made. In Chapter 4 of Hebrews we find a very significant and encouraging “therefore, let us.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 states, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (NIV).

The verses that are preceding the “therefore” say that nothing that we do is hidden from God, and we must give an account to him. The “Word” judges the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. If this were the end of the book, we may feel a bit discouraged and afraid that all our sins are being judged and there is no hope. But it’s not the end!

It goes on to tell us that Jesus is our High Priest. There are a few important aspects to this. In the old sacrificial system there were certain requirements for a high priest. They had to be a human, God-appointed, represent the people to God, and offer sacrifice for sin. Jesus Christ fulfilled all of these things. This is an important Scripture showing both Jesus’ divinity and humanity. He was human in the fact that he can sympathize with our weaknesses, who has been tempted just like us. The big difference, which also proves his divinity, is the fact that he did not sin. Because of this He is able to be our High Priest and was able to offer himself as a sacrifice once for all time. Knowing that Jesus Christ can sympathize with us and is our representative before God brings us to the “let us” in this passage.

 

Taken at the Chora Church Museum in Istanbul, Turkey

Taken at the Chora Church Museum in Istanbul, Turkey

The first “let us” is to hold firmly to the faith we profess. We know without a doubt that Jesus sacrificed himself for us, and we can hold firmly to the faith we profess in Him. We can have faith that He died, rose again and is now advocating for us. And because Jesus has been tempted like us, but did not sin and has become our atonement, we can approach God with confidence.

Jesus Christ is our confidence.

With Him by our side, we know that all that has been laid bare before Him has been forgiven. There is no need to tremble and fear, for He sympathizes with us. And we must approach the throne so that we may receive mercy and grace in our time of need. If we are unable to approach our heavenly father, we will not find the full grace and mercy that He offers.

Thanks be to Christ who became like us, that he may save us from sin and give us the wonderful confidence that allows us to come into the presence of a most holy God. In the Old Testament, High Priests were the only ones allowed to go into the Holy of Holies where God dwelled. And there was much fear. So much so, that they would tie bells and a rope around their ankles so if they stopped jingling because they were dead, the others could pull him out. But because Jesus has made a sacrifice for us we don’t have to be afraid. We can enter the presence of God with confidence and receive the mercy and grace that we are far from deserving.

 

What obstacles keep you from approaching God with confidence??

 

 

Rhegan is a woman on a journey seeking the truth in all things. Check out her personal blog here  where she shares her photography, her life as an adoptee, and what she likes to call “God Talk.”

murray

Wreck This List Journal

murrayI don’t recall ever celebrating Lent while growing up so there’s still a lot about this time of year that I don’t understand. However, a few years ago, I had a life changing experience during Lent that has caused me to celebrate different than most others… I think…

Being a reader, I decided for Lent that year, I was going to spend some time reading theological material. I found myself meandering around a bookstore, which is far from rare for me, and one particular small book entitled, “Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness” by Andrew Murray caught my eye. So I purchased the book, headed home and started reading.

First and foremost, let’s start at the beginning of the concept of humility. Murray gives it this definition …the place of entire dependence upon God, is from the very nature of things the first duty and the highest virtue of His creatures. And so pride—the loss of humility—is the very root of every sin and evil.
Murray made some really exceptional thoughts, but it wasn’t until I hit chapter six that I was left speechless and shocked. Murray says, It is easy to think that we humble ourselves before God, but our humility toward others is the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real. To be genuine, humility must abide in us and become our very nature. True humility is be made of no reputation—as did Christ. In God’s presence, humility is not a posture we assume for a time—when we think of Him or pray to Him—but the very spirit of our life. It will manifest itself in all our bearing toward others. A lesson of deepest importance is that the only humility that is really ours is not the kind we try to show before God in prayer, but the kind we carry with us, and carry out, in our ordinary conduct. The seemingly insignificant acts of daily life are the tests of eternity, because they prove what spirit possesses us. It is in our most unguarded moments that we truly show who we are and what we are made of. To know a truly humble person, you must follow that one in the common course of daily life…Humility before God is nothing if it is not proven in humility before others.
BAM!!! Immediately, pride became easy to spot. Road rage is pride. Being able to do something, and thinking others should be able to do it too because I can, is pride. Violence is pride. Hatred is pride. Gossiping is pride. Complaining is pride. Believing I can only learn from those who agree with me is pride. Thinking I am always right and the other guy is always wrong is pride. Keeping lists of a hierarchy of sins is pride. Keeping track of faults of others is pride. Keeping track of sins I have and haven’t committed is pride. Refusing to fight the oppressor and be the voice of the oppressed is pride. The divisions in The Church instead of working through issues, is pride. Someone not being treated equal to others is pride. I went from thinking pride was invisible to being convinced that pride is as common as a breath of oxygen. We are contaminated with pride! Seeing how common it is helped me form morals and values rooted in conviction, unlike previously, when I held many beliefs simply because someone said so or because of what a random verse in The Bible said.
Now, pride made complete sense to me. Now, I understood why it is dangerous. Now, I could identify pride as the root to all sin.

This revelation changed my thinking and view of life. Suddenly, the two greatest commandments, as recorded in Matthew 22:34-40, fell into place for the first time in my life. Other things about The Bible started to click in a greater depth than before, for example, where Jesus said the greatest in His Kingdom was the one who served (Matthew 20:26). I suddenly saw how the Beatitudes were so outrageously ‘in your face’ for the first time (Matthew 5:1-12). Jesus coming for the sick became extremely significantly profound (Mark 2:13-17). And as lame as this sounds, the song I grew up listening to, “Secret Ambition” (Michael W. Smith) had such a challenge to me, as a listener. I realized that Jesus was really radical in His teachings, and I can see why the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law were angry and wanted Him dead. This revelation was the moment everything made sense. It was as if I had puzzle pieces all my life, but this was the first time they all came together to make a picture, which spelt out the mission of Christ.
One of the amazing things about humility is that it awakens the soul. Murray says in his book, As the soul in the pursuit and practice of humility follows in the steps of Jesus, its consciousness of the need of something more is awakened, its desire and hope is quickened, its faith strengthened, and it learns to look up and claim that true fullness of the Spirit of Jesus that can daily maintain His death to self and sin in its full power to make humility the all-pervading spirit of our life. I have preached many sermons in my near 9 years as a pastor. I have taught many Bible Studies and taught children’s programs. If there is anything I have noticed it’s that a sermon or Bible lesson on humility will grab a listener’s heart every time. This has absolutely nothing to do with how excellent my illustrations are, how great of a preacher I am or the length at which I preach. It has nothing to do with what media I use or if I get the congregation creatively involved. It doesn’t matter how I end the sermon or what song I use for closing. Humility will always stir a human heart because that is its very nature. If a sermon or a teaching on holiness and humility doesn’t cause a soul to be stirred then there is a chance that it wasn’t preached at all.

 

Those moments in worship when you feel the Spirit, it is because you realized how little you are in comparison of God’s powerfulness. Those moments when you help someone and it sends your Spirit flying, it’s because you put someone before yourself. In those moments when conviction comes to the forefront of your mind, not because of guilt but because of genuine care, is because you realize you still need Christ. And that’s humility surfacing itself to come alive.

 

Pride is something we need to sacrifice to God regularly, on a daily basis, multiple times a day.
Coming to terms with humility started my life as a Christian, living as a Christian.
As I continued to read Murray, I found myself lamenting with him, Jesus wrought our salvation by which He saves us, is the humility that makes us the servant to all. How little this is preached. How seldom it is practiced. How faintly the lack of it is felt or confessed. I couldn’t help but say, so many times, I have felt holiness and humility were presented like a list of rules. This realization to what humility truly is had no rules. In fact, it gave me permission to wreck my metaphorical list journal that was obsessed with sins and my constant need to stop committing them. It took me from a place of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ to a place where I could live in grace and compassion. I was no longer living a life of legalism; I was living a life of freedom and of peace.

 

Yesterday started Lent, and again this year, I will be doing some soul searching and seeking into a better understanding of what it means to live a life of humility. The most interesting part of humility is that it is never mastered. No one has it down. It’s something I will and you will struggle with for the rest of our human lives. It will always need improvement. And, it will always be worth it, because it is the very essence of what keeps us connected to God and His Spirit.

 
What are your thoughts?
How do you think humility is shown in everyday life?
What can you teach me about humility?