Eye on the Prize

Way back in 1976, Sylvester Stallone starred in what many regard as one of the greatest sports stories of all time.  Rocky was so successful that it led to Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky Balboa, and most recently, Creed.  The main idea in each of them was that anyone can achieve greatness if they can keep their eye on the prize–in this case, a boxing championship.

eye on the prize

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It’s a Dog’s Life

The origin of the phrase used in the title, began as a reference to the hard life of the working dog: sleeping in a damp barn, chasing rats and other intruders, living on scraps, etc. Today, however, it has in some circles acquired the completely opposite connotation.  The phrase has been trace to century when dogs would guard homes and small communities, were fed scraps, slept outside and had short lives. so it meant life wasn’t good.  That dogs are well fed, groomed, pampered, sleep inside and live longer, so it now means a good life

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The latest copy of The Word for You Today contains something written by an anonymous poet.

If you can start the day without caffeine; if you can get going without pep pills; if you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains; if you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles; if you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it; if you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time; if you can forgive a friend’s lack of consideration; if you can overlook it when those you love take it out on you, when through no fault of your own something goes wrong; if you can take criticism and blame without resentment; if you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him; if you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend; if you can face the world without lies and deceit; if you can conquer tension without medical help; if you can relax without liquor; if you can sleep without the aid of drugs; if you honestly say that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against any creed or color, religion or politics; then, my friend, you’re almost as good as your dog.  Almost, but not quite.

Recently, Pope Francis was misquoted as telling a little boy that all animals go to heaven, but popes throughout the ages and great Protestant leaders such as Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Calvin, and C.S. Lewis, all weighed in on both sides of whether animals go to heaven.

As Jesuit priest and author Jim Martin wrote in an email, To speak about heaven is to speculate.  The only person who can speak about heaven with direct experience would be Jesus and he didn’t say anything about animals.  So this falls under the general theological category of ‘Who knows?’

Aren’t you glad that the same question is already resolved for us today?

As Jesuit priest and author Jim Martin once said in an email, To speak about heaven is to speculate. The only person who can speak about heaven with direct experience would be Jesus, and he didn’t say anything about animals.  So this falls under the general theological category of ‘Who knows?’  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3).  Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter (Matthew 7:21).

So be thankful that you can know that you can make it to Heaven.  You just have to live life with the same joy of living and the same trust in your Master that a dog has.

If I had my druthers….

According to Dictionary.com, the slang word, druthers, is a noun  that means wishes; desires; preferred alternatives.  So I put together some of my druthers.

If I had my druthers, there would be no sickness.

If I had my druthers, there would be no hunger.

If I had my druthers, there would be no sorrow.

If I had my druthers, there would be no poverty.

If I had my druthers, there would be no stealing.

If I had my druthers, there would be no night.

If I had my druthers, there would be no adultery.

If I had my druthers, we all would honor our parents.

If I had my druthers, there would be no killing.

If I had my druthers, our leaders would all be honest and trustworthy.

If I had my druthers, there would be no jealousy or envy.

If I had my druthers, there would be no abortions.

If I had my druthers, we would all keep the sabbath holy.

If I had my druthers, there would be no hate.

If I had my druthers, there would be no addictions.

If I had my druthers, there would no swearing or profanity.

Any one of us could probably on and on with bad things that go on in this life on this world.  And while none of us has experienced all of the negative things that occur during our lives, we all have experienced many of them.  And we have probable been guilty of some of them ourselves.  Since man got kicked out of the Garden of Eden, we’ve never experienced–or even been able to imagine–the perfection that God had given Adam and Eve.

Wouldn’t it be absolutely wonderful to be able to experience that again?  To have no sin, suffering, sorrow or pain. No persecution, division, disunity, or hate.  Think of a life with no quarrels, arguments , disappointments or sadness.  Can you even begin to imagine a life filled with perfect love, perfect knowledge, perfect pleasure and perfect comfort?  All in all, it would be a life of perfect joy.

Too bad we don’t have a place like that.  Oh, wait… we do!  It’s called Heaven.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. (I Corinthians 2:9).

Make sure you’re ready to eventually arrive there.  Because anywhere else will be all the negative parts of my “druthers”.

 

Beyond Words

;Did you ever stop to think what heaven must be like?  I think all of us have at one time or another.  But it’s kind of like Winston’s Churchill’s comment about post World War II, it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.  None of us know what it really is like.  Nor will we in this life.

 Probably the best Biblical description of heaven comes from John the Revelator.  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.  It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.  It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west.  The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls.  The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long.  The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick.  The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.  The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald,  the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass (Revelation 21:10-21).

He describes much more, and in great detail.  But we need to remember one thing.  God and whatever He creates is more than what we can perceive.  The sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and tactile sensations will be perfect.  John was just putting into his inadequate words what God was showing him through his vision.  And who knows, there may be other senses that our perfect bodies may have.  And these are just the type of things that my limited imagination can come up with.  What will God with His infinite power, authority and imagination come up with?  Talk about mind-boggling!

I don’t know about you, but, when I take the time to think about it, I want to be able to go there more than anything.  That means more than having money to spare, more that a specially planned vacation, more than the ideal sports car, more than my favorite team winning a national championship, more that having success at my choses profession, more than having friends,…more than anything!  But I have to take the time to think about it, because all those others things are attractive and, in the moment, compelling.  And it’s not that there is anything wrong with trying to add those things to your life.  It’s just that there is so much more to life–on this earth and the one to come.

So how do I get to the point where my priorities are where they should be?  Paul’s’ letter to the Thessalonians (5:16-18) tells us to always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus .  But, you say, how can I do that with all the things I need to get done and the distractions my mind has to contemplate?  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9).

Oswald Chambers said it best.  We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.  Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don’t want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of ‘good time’ is seldom in sync with ours.

Work at getting your spiritual priorities in order as if your life depended on it because it does.


The Right Side of Heaven

Billy Graham tells the story of a young girl who was taking a walk with her father one evening.  Looking up at the stars, she exclaimed, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be! 

Many years ago, I heard Pat Boone share his early childhood definition of heaven. It suddenly occurred to him while he was sitting (or was it squirming?) in church, agonizing through one of the pastor’s typically long and boring sermons. Heaven, Pat reasoned, was going to be just like church—one thousand years—ten thousand years—forever. It was almost too much to handle. To Pat, such a state of affairs seemed more like purgatory than perfection.

But the little girl was right.  No matter how beautiful or wonderful things may appear on earth, Heaven will be more beautiful and more wonderful.  Think of all the wonderful and beautiful things we have in this world. The moon and stars reflected across the still water of a lake,…the intricacies of a butterfly,…a field of wild flowers moving gently in the wind, a baby’s fascination with the movement of, well,… anything.  I’m not very poetic, but the beauty and majesty that God has placed us in lends itself to waxing poetic.

How do I know?  Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).  So what we will hear and see is now beyond our current ability to speak of or even imagine.

In John 14:1-3, our Lord spoke of returning to His Father, where He would “prepare a place” for us (cf. also 16:5-7). We naturally tend to think that “going to heaven” (as we often express it) means our going far away to that place which our Lord is preparing; but it is more accurate to think of heaven as coming to us, for the New Jerusalem will come to the (new) earth, according to the scriptures.  So heaven is really closer than we think.

Before we get too wrapped up in making an impossible attempt to physically describe heaven, we need to realize that the most important aspect of heaven is being in the presence of God the Father.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, … (Revelation 21:3).  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

So in a very real sense, we experience a touch of heaven on earth when we get saved and are filled with the Holy Spirit.  That sense of God’s presence can be experienced as long as we maintain that spiritual connection to God.  So, how important is it to try to picture what heaven will be like?  Let me give you an example.  Suppose that you were the wife of a prisoner of war, held captive for many years. You knew your husband was alive and hoped to see him soon. Finally, after many false hopes and setbacks, an agreement was negotiated with the enemy and the release of your husband was at hand. The United States government had made arrangements for you to meet your beloved in Hawaii, where you would be with him for two weeks before returning to this country. Now Hawaii is a very beautiful place, I know, and I am sure that most of us would love to go there. But, for you, the place is very secondary to the person. If you were to meet your husband in the Sahara desert it would be no disappointment. While the right side of heaven is beautiful beyond description, the Person will be our greatest joy.

He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20).

 

Guess What? You Can Take It With You!

Despite what most people say and think, you really can take it with you when you die.  It all depends, of course, on your definition of it.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

The ancient Egyptian pharaohs literally tried to bring it all with them as they built huge tombs like the pyramids to house not only their material wealth, but their loved ones and even their pets.  Ouch, if you happened to still be alive and a loved one when the pharaoh died.  History shows us how unsuccessful their attempts to take it with them were as the tombs were found and plundered–often within a generation of the particular pharaoh’s death.

In the New Testament, Jesus tells a parable saying, the land of a rich man was very productive.  And he began reasoning to himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’” Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”  (Luke 12:16-21)

So if putting stuff away for when we die doesn’t work and constantly trying to add to what we now have doesn’t work, how can we take it with us?

Billy Graham tells the story of an old man, a great man of God as he lay on his deathbed.  He called for his grandson to come to his side.  Calling the boy’s name, he said, “I don’t know what type of work I will be doing in heaven, but if it’s allowed, I’m going to ask the Lord Jesus to let me help build your mansion.  You be sure to send up plenty of the right materials.”

We can’t take our money, our houses, our cars, our insurance policies–because we won’t need any of them there anyway.  It really consists of living a holy life, leading others to Christ as we share our faith, doing good works in Christ’s name–all these things can be sent on ahead and can never be touched by the fluctuations in the earthly economy, by natural disaster, or by thievery.

So what kind of materials are you sending up to heaven?  And in what kind of mansion will you live when the building process in completed?