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Posts Tagged ‘Heaven’

 

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Confession time: During my growing up years I was a bit worried that life in heaven would involve a lot of cloud-sitting and harp-playing. To be honest, it sounded a bit boring to worship through all eternity. Just how many songs could we play and sing?

However, it sure beat the alternative, so I resigned myself to a bit of boredom and told myself, Once we get there, we won’t know any better, and we’ll be perfectly content singing and strumming.

That shows you how little I understood about heavenly worship (or earthly worship either, for that matter). It will not be a passive occupation of dreary repetition!

I expect our celestial worship will be something like a Christian concert by a favorite artist when…

 

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…our hearts pump excitedly to experience the music of an admired vocalist. We thoroughly enjoy the performance of all the old, familiar songs we’ve grown to love. We are not bored, even though we know well the lyrics and melodies. We sing along, happily remembering the good old days when the song was first introduced.

But we also delight in a new melody—something fresh and different that thrills our spirits. And the whole time, through old and new, we revel in the companionship of others who share the memories and take great pleasure in the music with us. (Joy is augmented when shared with kindred spirits.) Each song concludes with much clapping and shouting among the concert-goers.

Of course, when we get to heaven, our favorite Artist will be the King of glory himself, who will rejoice over us with his singing (Zechariah 3:17).  Can you imagine it?!

 

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It’s also likely we’ll enjoy familiar old songs we’ve heard before and grown to love. John the Revelator gives us indication.

When he was invited up to heaven, John heard the saints singing a song of Moses. Even in the first century A.D., that was an old song, celebrating the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt (Revelation 15:3-4; Psalm 111:2-4).

More than likely, we, too, will remember and sing of the great and marvelous deeds the Lord God Almighty has performed (Psalm 86:10). We’ll celebrate his glorious attributes, and revel in the blessed companionship of other believers who also love the supreme Artist, and take great joy in joining the song.

Our praise will be further enhanced with musical instruments (1).   Each section of the orchestra provides symbolism of our King’s magnificence:

  • Horns – his splendor and majesty (just as trumpeters on earth have heralded royalty through the centuries.)
  • Strings – his peace and serenity
  • Percussion – his power and strength
  • Woodwinds – his love and gentle compassion

We will sing and play and perhaps even dance in a great crescendo of worship (2), celebrating God’s mighty acts of power and surpassing greatness (Psalm 150:2, 4). It will be a good and glorious time (147:1)!

 

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Shame on me for ever thinking that worship for eternity might become boring. It’s going to be the most heart-pumping, soul-stirring, exciting concert yet (3).

However!  The crescendo has already begun here on earth. Just as David urged, we can praise God every day and continue from now to eternity (Psalm 145:2).

The glorious crescendo of worship and celebration, praise and thanksgiving, joy and wonder will never end!

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Notes:

(1) Instruments are played in heaven. Revelation 5:8 and 8:6-12 give indication of harps and trumpets. Perhaps there are more which John did not see!

(2) That phrase, crescendo of worship, comes from Bible teacher and author, Warren Wiersbe, in his book, Be Exultant, p. 25

(3) In addition to glorious worship, we will be occupied by fulfilling, satisfying work, just as Adam and Eve were given responsibilities in the perfect Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15).

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.clipart.me; http://www.rockingodhouse.com; http://www.defininggrace.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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Picture great cloudbanks gathered to the west, blocking the late afternoon sun except for several small openings. Through those fissures, glowing beams of ethereal light stretch earthward.

Have the windows of heaven actually opened so God’s celestial Light could burst forth?

So it seems.

Other glimpses of heaven present themselves, too.

 

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Think of a perfect morning with a cloudless azure canopy overhead, soft, silken breezes brushing against your skin, and birds in every tree praising God with their songs. Heavenly, you might sigh. And no one would argue otherwise.

Consider standing atop a mountain for a long-distance view of God’s majestic creation—ridge upon ridge, as far as the eye can see, covered with countless trees, and teeming with wildlife.

Consider cradling a newborn infant for the first time—peering into a pixie face with Daddy’s eyes and Mommy’s chin, coaxing tiny fingers to grasp one of your own.

Consider embracing that long absent loved one, finally returned home safely, and seeing happy tears in his eyes through tears of your own.

 

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Such euphoric moments surely provide us glimpses of heaven, a preview of the splendor to come that God has so lovingly prepared.

Yet there are more hints, when:

  • We sense God’s presence in the midst of a prayer, the melody of a song or the message of a timely scripture. “Heaven and earth are filled with his glory” (Isaiah 6:3; Psalm 8:1). Surely one hint of heaven is God with us now—everywhere and at all times.
  • We experience bona-fide God-enhanced moments, and holy God-bumps rise up on our skin. Perhaps you receive a phone call from someone you were just thinking about and praying for, or a thoughtful gift turns up on your doorstep the same day you received disheartening news. These are more than coincidences; they’re God-incidents.
  • We enter a peaceful, uplifting sanctuary with other folks who genuinely care about God’s ways and each other. Just entering the door lifts our spirits and warms our hearts. (The Church ought to offer the most brilliant glimpse of heaven.)
  • We revel in the sheer pleasure of worship, focused on celebrating our gracious God—a hint of the euphoric adoration of our King that we’ll enjoy in heaven.
  • We sing with focused passion and the angels seem to join us. The classic, “Total Praise” by Carolyn Cymbala, inspires just that kind of singing. Do you know it?

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  • We witness a healing. Who has not been moved to joyful tears when the illness abates, the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear?

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  • We join with the Holy Spirit to introduce someone to Jesus, and the person accepts him into his/her life. There. Is. No. Greater. Joy.

These twelve circumstances, some repeated frequently throughout our earthly lives, prove* that “heaven-on-earth” experiences are not rare.

As Psalm 16:11 makes clear:

 

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In God’s presence (here and now) is fullness of joy. In his right hand, (held out to us daily) are pleasures forevermore.

But, these wondrous events we enjoy in the present are just hints of what God has prepared for us in the future, for those who love him (2 Corinthians 2:9).

Just think:

 

What is to come will be 

more breath-taking, 

more joyous, 

more miraculous, 

more exciting

YET!

 

*In my humble opinion!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.outdoor-photos.com; http://www.freebigpictures.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

 

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Does this photo from a September post look familiar?  The light was just right that morning, the foliage in our back yard at the peak of luxuriance.

 

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My, the difference two months makes:

 

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Shorter days, cooler temperatures, wind and rain have taken their toll, stripping aged, brown leaves from their stems.

 

The houses that were hidden from view all summer are now exposed.

 

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In a few weeks when all the leaves are gone, we’ll be able to see the faraway turrets of “the castle” above the trees. Visions of fairy tale kingdoms dance in my head.

 

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(Believe it or not, that’s actually a water tower.)

 

Some vegetation is still in full fall display,

 

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While other foliage looks pitifully bedraggled.

 

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A continual leaf-shower creates a crunchy carpet for the deck…

 

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(Steve just swept two days ago.)

 

…and clutters the planters.

 

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This is the price we pay for those glorious weeks of riotous color in October.

 

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Now comes the season of quiet dormancy.

After such glory, the crumbling decay of leaf and flower seems tragically sad until we remember…

…the world will come to life again with ethereal beauty,

and we’ll revel in the euphoria of spring.

 

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As winter strips the leaves from around us

So that we may see the distant regions

They merely concealed,

So old age takes away our enjoyments

Only to enlarge the prospect

Of the coming of eternity.

–Jean Paul, author (1763-1825)

 

The first four lines sound tragically sad, don’t they, until we remember the euphoria of what is to come, and the prospect of ethereal Beauty in the kingdom of eternity.

“Your eyes will see the King in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar” (Isaiah 33:17).

Even when times are dismal, cold, and gray…

…glorious HOPE is ours!

 

(Photo credits–Fall foliage and Mount Airy Water Tower:  www.pinterest.com.  Red bud in spring:  www.etsy.com.  All others photos:  Nancy Ruegg.

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Home-is-the-nicest

(“Home is the nicest word there is.” –Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Five years ago, as Steve and I looked ahead toward retirement, the question of where we should spend those years had no easy answer. We’d lived in Florida, in six different locations over forty years.  We were ready for something different. Tennessee or even Kentucky appealed to us, where we could enjoy new vistas, the change of seasons (although not too severe), and best of all, be within a four-hour drive of our sons.

Lots can happen in five years. Our older son, Eric, and his wife, Hilja (Hill-ya) became a family of three.   During one visit they asked, “Where do you think you’ll retire?” We shared our tentative plans. “Well, if you’re going to move that close, why not just move here?”—here being Cincinnati, Ohio.

We hadn’t even considered moving so close, not wanting to impose ourselves on either of our boys. Nor had we thought of making our home so far north, back in the Midwest where we had grown up. But family (and especially that new grandbaby) was a strong magnet.

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So, Steve and I now hail from Cincinnati. And it’s a glorious privilege to watch little Elena grow, and spend much quality time with our sons and their wives. (As I’ve said before on this blog: If only our daughter and her family would move here from Washington State, life would be perfect!)

But moving back to the Midwest has been a coming home in other ways. We’ve reveled in familiar experiences from long ago:

  • The miracles of transition from one season to the next
  • The grand oaks, maples, and elm trees spreading wide through our neighborhood, over some of the streets, and in the numerous parks
  • The dance of the fireflies on a summer evening (Hundreds of them blink in the trees behind our house, resembling a Christmas display.)
  • The explosion of color on the hillsides as summer gives way to autumn
  • The silent beauty of a snow fall, especially as the accumulation creates frosty lace among the trees
  • The heavenly fragrance of lilacs in the spring
  • The clean scent of freshly cut grass (Florida grass produces no scent at all!)

Even the common robin causes delight as he hops across the lawn, pauses, and cocks his head to listen.

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There is something heartwarming about home—the way we respond to the familiar and to the memories that surface.

Memories are the crucial element, aren’t they. Surely if Steve or I had experienced great difficulty growing up, our reaction to this Midwest relocation would be much different.

But both of us grew up in strong Christian homes—such a wondrous privilege. And most of our recollections are positive ones. We associate the word home with peace, security, acceptance, and love.

I wonder…

…when we enter the gates of heaven, will we experience a similar warming of the heart? Will we almost burst with elation to realize that we’ve finally arrived in our true forever home?

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At last we will be in a place of:

  • Perfect peace, with no strife or harsh words (Revelation 21:4)
  • Total security, because we’ve reached our eternal destiny (John 6:37)
  • Complete acceptance by our Heavenly Father (Romans 8:1)
  • Absolute love, to be expressed over and over in countless ways, forever and ever (Romans 8:38-39)

As I enjoy all the beauty of God’s creation in this corner of the world, and glory in the companionship of family, I want to remember: these are just glimpses of the wonders that await!

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What glimpses of the wonders-that-await do you enjoy? Tell us about them in the Comments section below!

(Photo & art credits:  www.quoteswave.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.greenwoodwildlife.org; http://www.youtube.com.)

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SunsRays

The exhibition of God’s glory

and the deepest joy of human souls

are one thing.

–Jonathan Edwards

(1703-1758, preacher, theologian, author)

 

Wooh—that’s a mouthful! I have to break that down into smaller bites.

God’s glory includes his splendor and majesty, infinite power and wisdom, creative genius and perfect engineering, absolute holiness and righteousness, and much more. God’s glory is, in part, the sum of his glorious attributes.

The exhibition of God’s glory is all around us in creation, and visible to all people (Isaiah 6:3, Psalm 97:6).

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But more profound:  God’s glory is made known to us in our hearts—to those who have asked Jesus to save us from the ultimate consequence of our sin, and to become Master of our destinies (2 Corinthians 4:6).

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How incredible that we can experience God’s glory here and now, although in a limited way. And how wonderful that the deepest joy of humans souls is a result of knowing him now—not just when we get to heaven.

Someday, though, we will witness the full revelation of his splendor, and that of his Son, Jesus. It’s beyond our wildest imaginings (1 Corinthians 2:9).

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Scripture does include a few glimpses, however. We see his:

  • Golden splendor and awesome majesty (Job 37:22)
  • Garment of light, wrapped around himself (Psalm 104:2a)
  • Clouds surrounding the throne (Daniel 7:13)
  • Belt of gold and gleaming, flaming eyes (Daniel 10:5-6)
  • Long robe with a golden sash across his chest, white hair, and blazing eyes (Revelation 1:13-16)

Charles Spurgeon eloquently expressed the glory of Jesus in a sermon, over 150 years ago. He proclaimed Christ…

 “…Radiant with splendor,

effulgent with light,

clothed with rainbows,

girded with clouds,

wrapped in lightning,

crowned with stars,

the sun beneath his feet.”

 

Doesn’t that give you holy goosebumps?

Yet there is more.

When he appears, we shall be like him (2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 John 3:2).

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Can you imagine? We will share in the radiant splendor of our Savior. As if that wasn’t enough, we’ll finally be transformed into the holy and perfect beings we have always wanted to be.

And as we share in the glory of Jesus, we will enjoy incredible blessings that God has prepared. The following scriptures offer us tantalizing samples—to whet our appetites for what is to come:

  • There will be no need for sunlight; God will be our everlasting light. There will also be no more sorrow (Isaiah 60:19-20).
  • We will see Jesus face to face and finally have full understanding of all things (1 Corinthians 13:12-13).
  • We will bear the likeness of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:49).
  • We will reign with Jesus forever (Revelation 3:21; 22:5).
  • There will be no night and no impurity (Revelation 21:23-27).

Now, there are those who worry that heaven will involve a lot of cloud-sitting and harp-playing. Well, yes, there are clouds and harps.  (I, for one, am very glad for the harps–it’s my favorite instrument. And, I have to admit, there are some days when a bit of cloud-sitting and harp-playing sounds rather appealing!)

However, I agree with theologian, Albert Barnes. “To reign with Jesus” means we will share in Christ’s dominion of the universe, administering the affairs of all the worlds.” That sounds exciting and fulfilling (but mind-boggling) to me!

Such glimpses of our glorious future really are too much for my mind to absorb. But, oh how thankful I am that God has tucked them into his Word, to fill our hearts with expectation and hope.

Also worth contemplating is the eternal expanse of time we’ll enjoy God’s majesty and splendor. According to John Piper, heaven’s joys will actually increase as we discover more and more of God’s glory. “The end of increased pleasure in God will never come” (God’s Passion for His Glory, p. 37).

Then “the exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls” will indeed be one perfect, sublime, eternal thing.

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Lord God of heaven and earth, my heart shouts praise in honor of your glory! I praise you for being a holy God, completely separate from all else in the universe. No one is your equal in power, wisdom, creativity, splendor, or love. No one else is perfect in all he does. Thank you for your Word, where we can glimpse your glory and your plans–for our glorious and joyous future with you.

(Photo & art credits:  www.beforethebeginning.net; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.honestytalk.wordpress.com; http://www.verseaday.com.)

 

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