Periodically, current world events stir up discussion about the endtimes. While I believe in the importance of being ready for Christ’s return, I don’t put much stock in date setters who think they have the timing all figured out. After all, it has been over 20 years since the book, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988 was published! In America, the book took Christians by storm, and, as the president of Moody Bible Institute at that time, I received dozens of copies from well-meaning saints who wanted us to spread the word through Moody Radio that Jesus was coming back on September 18. Since Jesus said that no one knew the time of His return, I dismissed the book as another Bible crackpot publication.
But to this day I’ll never forget getting up on the morning of September 18th. As skeptical as I was, I couldn’t help but wonder,What if the guy who wrote this book is right? What if this is my last day on earth? Our family talked about it at the breakfast table. And as my daughter walked down the driveway on her way to school, she turned around and said with a smile, “Hey, Dad—see ya in heaven.”
I couldn’t help but think how right that sounded. I found myself thinking that I should live every day as though this were my last day here—the day that He returns to take me home; the day that I will at last see Him face-to-face! I thought about how differently I would treat people, how interested I would be to share the gospel with friends and colleagues, how I would want to clear up past offenses and live to be really pure and ready. As Jesus said in Luke 12, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home . . . . Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (Luke 12:35-37).
So here are four habits of hearts that are fixed on heaven:
- Be confidently riveted on His sudden return. Remember, He will come “like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
- Be pure. Throughout the New Testament, the strongest motivation for purity was always connected to the return of Jesus (1 John 3:3).
- Refuse to get stuck here. After all, as people of faith, we are “strangers and exiles” here (Hebrews 11:13).
- Invest in eternity. Commit your time and resources to kingdom gain and values (Luke 12:33).
God wants heaven to be the fire in your heart. As a friend of mine says, our lives here should be a sneak preview of the really big show to come!
See ya in heaven!
From: Through the Bible
1 Samuel 18:3-4 (NIV) 3And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 4Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.
One of the ancient covenants that remained from tribal days was this one that Jonathan entered into with David. Jonathan had the same heart of faith in God and His ability to defeat the enemies in life. When he heard David speak, his soul resonated with the same tone of faith and courage in God. He loved him as himself. He saw his own heart toward God in David. You may have felt something like this when you heard a brother or sister share their testimony.
This covenant took the form of the exchange of clothing and weapons. It was, in symbolic style, saying that my possessions are yours and your enemies are mine. It is not recorded that David gave his clothes and weapons to Jonathan, but as a person of lower class and wealth, he had already committed himself to the royal family. They had entered into a covenant to defend and provide for one another.
It is a wonderful gift of God when you find someone that shares your heart for ministry. They come along side you with understanding and encouragement, and you do the same for them. This is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, who became a man, the last Adam, in order to come along side us. He took off his robe of glory and weapons of power to be with us. We give Him our weak and meager allegiance and He gives us His clothing of glory and weapons of light. We have entered into a friendship covenant, promising to fight side by side against our common enemy.
Prayer: Lord, help me be as faithful to You as David was to Jonathan! Thank you for those who share my heart for You.
Luke 17:20-21 (NIV) 20Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation,21nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
The Jews believed the Messiah would lead them to victory over all their enemies and set up a Jewish nation like that of David’s. If Jesus was this Messiah, their natural question would be when He would begin this kingdom. Jesus’ answer shows that His perspective of the Kingdom of God is very different from theirs. As usual, they are thinking on very physical and temporal terms, whereas Jesus is speaking about spiritual realities that are eternal.
Jesus told them that we would not be able to carefully watch as things changed step by step. It is not an outward event. You won’t be able to point to a specific battle or political maneuver. The Kingdom is something that takes place within a person. The Kingdom of God is established in a heart when the King of kings reigns in that heart. Then that person is a subject of the King and has entered into the Kingdom.
You can see the transformation in the life of the person because he serves a new master. Jesus began His ministry preaching the same message as John. “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Since the resurrection of Jesus, the Kingdom is preached. We often hear a compromising form of the Gospel that implies you get a free ticket to heaven and go on being your own king. Is that really entering the Kingdom? The Kingdom has come to every heart in which the King reigns.
Consider: Is He reigning in you?
Twice Over Blessings
The four-year-old boy who dropped his ice cream is now an established physician. The teen-aged aunt who helped him get a replacement cone has now retired to Florida. The years sail by, do they not? And in their wake—if we look carefully—we can see the generosity of God, washing over our losses and replenishing us with more than we dared to hope.
For example: When I got cancer more than two decades ago, I thought life would be permanently diminished. I assumed I would live in a smaller world, confined by fears of recurrence and hedged in by innumerable doctor visits. I thought I would always live with a sense of loss.
Over the years I’ve realized that rather than diminishing me, the cancer experience has broadened my world. By God’s grace, my spirit is bolder and brighter. My heart is more empathetic. I write and speak more freely. I laugh more and worry less.
I have received the Lord’s generous promise to his children:
“Now I tell you that I will repay you twice over with blessing for all you have suffered.”
(Zechariah 9:12 TEV)
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.”
(Joel 2:25 NIV)
Having been a beneficiary of these hope-filled words, I now pray them for others who are in hard places of grief and loss. The Lord is able to restore lost hopes and lost years.
I would love to read your stories of “twice over” gifts from our generous God!
The Escape Plan
I grew up in a small Rhode Island town, and I felt odd. I was chubby, studious, and in love with Jesus. All I thought about was getting out of my small town to see the world. Since I loved Jesus, I figured God was the perfect escape plan. I raised my hand every time a visiting missionary asked if anyone was willing to travel to foreign lands for Jesus. I attended every church mission event for a hundred miles, hoping God would call me to serve anywhere but where I lived.
In college, I volunteered for a summer missionary trip teaching English as a second language in Japan. It was an amazing experience where God taught me many lessons, including the fact that I was not designed for foreign missions. I returned to Rhode Island, disappointed, but with a deeper confidence that I could trust God with my future. That was 34 years ago. I’ve been in Rhode Island ever since.
Three years ago, the same year my husband and I moved into a house directly across the street from where I grew up, I learned that the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention had declared Rhode Island an unreached people group. I laughed when I realized that while I was trying to get out of Rhode Island to serve God, a mission field was literally growing up around me! All those times I volunteered to go wherever God would send me, I didn’t know God would be sending me home!
Though my life and my physical work are in Rhode Island, God also made me a writer. My words travel around the world. Through articles, devotions, my blog, and in December, a book, I have, via my words, served the Lord in foreign lands as well.
Maybe you’re like me. You don’t fit in where you are. You love the Lord and dream about going to a place where God can use you, a place you’ll feel you belong. What I know now, that I didn’t realize as a young girl is that there is a place like that but we won’t arrive there until we’re home with the Lord. Until then, every place is just an outpost, and in every outpost, there are opportunities for adventure awaiting everyone who trusts their days to God.
Yes, I’ve lived an incredible adventure without ever moving out of Rhode Island. I’ve seen God move, work, and change lives. Life with Jesus is rich, full, and satisfying even now that I’ve returned to the small town I tried so hard to escape. And I can finally appreciate that God chose to place me, right from the start, in a little place aptly named, Hope Valley.
Seek God right where you are. Some are called travel far in the name of Jesus but many are called to build God’s kingdom without ever leaving home. God determines our geography, so rest in that. The greatest adventure for any one of us is that of knowing the deep heart of God.
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” Acts 17:26-28 (ESV)