9 ways to focus our prayers

“Our Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:9

This young woman is earnestly praying, seeking an answer or a blessing. She is focused as tourists walk around her. She is humble, bowed, seated, and barefoot. Yet, her prayers are going nowhere. She is praying before a Buddha.

Those who follow Jesus can pray to the Living God who hears and works all things for good for those who love Him and are called by His name.

He is our Father in heaven. “Heaven” is mentioned 582 times in the King James Version of the Bible.

Continue reading 9 ways to focus our prayers

Gifts from Heaven … 40 stories of answered prayer

 

 

 

Prayer. Christians pray, and they wait. They pray more earnestly, and they wait in expectation. It’s the last minute. Is God going to intervene?

Thirty-nine authors, 40 true stories.  Forty answered prayers. Just in time.

Continue reading Gifts from Heaven … 40 stories of answered prayer

From heart to God’s promises

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“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12

Jesus saw the multitudes and retreated up to a mountain, and when His disciples came to Him, He taught them the upside down principles of His kingdom. The Beatitudes describe the mature heart of a follower of Jesus and the progression of promises that flow from that heart’s journey towards the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of heaven enfolds the Beatitudes, as the first “blessedness,” “poor in spirit,” and the last “blessedness,” “persecution,” end with the promise that the kingdom of heaven is that follower’s future.

Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

State of the heart

It’s an upside down kingdom, a kingdom that values a person who recognizes that he is nothing on his own, that he is poor in spirit. He mourns over that broken state, and that creates a meekness or gentleness. When a follower in the kingdom of heaven realizes that he needs what Jesus has, he hungers and thirsts for righteousness. Because of this longing, he realizes that others can do nothing apart from Jesus, and he has mercy on them. His heart is focused upon one thing, purely the will of Jesus. This kingdom citizen experiences peace with God and strives to bring others into this peace and peace with each other. Persecution follows, as the world does not understand the follower of this upside down kingdom.

What if we understood the state of our heart in light of the heart of Jesus?

Seven promises

Seven is the number of perfection. The blessed ones possess these great and precious promises.

  1. Kingdom of heaven
  2. Comfort
  3. Inherit the earth
  4. Satisfaction
  5. Mercy
  6. See God
  7. Called the sons of God

The drawing below illustrates the traits of the heart’s desire and the promises that follow.

The persecuted are promised the kingdom of heaven as are the poor in spirit. Jesus adds that their reward is great.

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What if we set our hearts’ desires upon possessing these promises?

My prayer

Jesus, thank You for the Beatitudes. Cause them to sink deep into our hearts and minds. Teach us their truth, their fullness, and their richness. Oh, Lord, we love You and long for the kingdom of heaven, for your comfort, to inherit the earth, for the satisfaction that comes from Your righteousness, for Your gracious mercy. We want to see You as You are, and we desire to be called the sons of God. Bless us and pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us to overflowing. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.

Please share your thoughts about the Beatitudes and the promises they hold.

Heaven … It’s a Promise!

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A new year brings a new way to talk about an old subject, heaven. Men, women, and children have shared their stories and imaginations about what heaven is like. Many have claimed that they have been to heaven and back. The Bible gives us much information about heaven. Yet, we still wonder what heaven will be like. Some wonder if heaven really exists.

Scot McKnight has taken a fresh approach to heaven and uses the Bible as his authority. He writes that Heaven is God’s promise. I had never thought of Heaven as a promise, but, rather, a fact.

Herein lies the difference, McKnight writes that the first heaven (lowercase) “is the undisclosed, hidden reality of the presence of God” and the final Heaven (uppercase) “is the disclosed, visible reality of the presence of God on earth.” (p. 45) In other words, when a Christian dies, McKnight writes that the Christian goes to the first heaven, which can be compared to moving into a dormitory, and when the Christian moves to the final Heaven (the new Heaven), it’s like moving home.

I’m thinking about that. If God created the heavens and the earth, if God is perfect, if God is holy, then His dwelling place is perfect and holy … magnificent beyond our imaginations. Indeed, God will create a new heaven and new earth, and it will be splendid and different. Jesus promised His disciples that He was going to prepare a dwelling place for them and He would return to get them.

I’m struggling with the idea that God presently dwells in a lesser heaven than He will in the future. Presently, I think that it is just as splendid, just different.

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” Revelation 21:1

The new Heaven is McKnight’s Heaven Promise, and the resurrection of Jesus is the “heart of the Heaven Promise.” (p. 15) Jesus is the focus for Christians, isn’t He? His work, His sacrifice, His death, His resurrection, His coming again.

“There is a way to die that I call ‘standing in the empty tomb’ upon the promise of the resurrection and looking forward into the great beyond with hope.” (p. 52)

This sentence was precious to me. In 2014, I watched my Mama stand in the empty tomb, focused and peacefully waiting to step from the tomb into the Light. In that empty tomb, she waited in great expectation, sometimes smiling.

McKnight explores six promises about heaven:

  1. God will be God
  2. Jesus will be Jesus
  3. Heaven will be the Utopia of Pleasures
  4. Heaven will be Eternal Life
  5. Heaven will be an Eternal Global Fellowship
  6. Heaven will be an Eternal Beloved Community

Although we have little information about the Holy Spirit in heaven, I would have liked to have read about an additional promise about heaven: “The Holy Spirit will be the Holy Spirit.”

“Clearly, since the Holy Spirit is a member of the triune God, he will be present for all eternity, no doubt taking an active role in the creation and among God’s people. However, the Bible doesn’t specifically answer the question of exactly what His role will be.” (Randy Alcorn)

McKnight answers questions that are commonly asked about heaven, questions like the validity of near-death experiences, pets in heaven, and children who die.

Traditional expectations are challenged in The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible’s Truth About Life to Come, and McKnight identifies Christians as Heaven people. He asks how Heaven people should live in today’s world.

This book caused me to rethink some of my ideas about heaven.Thank you, Mr. McKnight.

I received The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible’s Truth About Life to Come from Blogging for Books for this review.

My prayer

Thank You, Father, for Scot McKnight and his scholarly approach. Bless him with Your perfect wisdom. Pour out Your grace and peace upon Your followers as we embark upon a new year. As Heaven people, guide us in Your ways and in Your will. Empower us to walk towards Your Heaven promise in boldness and in Your authority. Thank You for Your promises steeped in love.

Is Heaven God’s promise to you?

 

Life with a capital L: a small group resource & my blessing

God has been at work in my life. For a second time, God sent me Matt Heard’s message to live life with a capital L.

Twelve days after my Mama stepped into heaven, I reviewed life with a capital L. This book helped me glean the richness of the journey Mama was taking as she lifted one foot toward heaven and eventually, the other, reaching her destiny and true Life with a capital L.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Mama’s Life in heaven.

I am so glad that Heard created a small group participants’ guide and DVD. The guide can be used in 4, 6, or 12-week sessions with the DVD and the book.

Heard uses every-day examples to illustrate Biblical concepts. For example, he describes the difference between a bucket and a pipe: if you pour water into a bucket, the water stays in the bucket and will eventually become stagnant; however, if you pour water into a pipe, the water flows through the pipe, much like when a Christian serves as a conduit for God’s love, showering it on others, and as a result, God pours more love into that Christian to give the love away.

What’s in the guide

In the participant’s guide, Heard provides the facilitator with tips on how to lead the group. The participant’s guide includes:

  1. Warm-up questions (before the video).
  2. Video reaction prompts.
  3. Word studies (to go deeper in the Bible).
  4. Group discussion questions.
  5. Closing prayer prompts.
  6. After session reflections.
  7. Resolutions (prompts for prayer, reflection and action throughout the week).

Personal reflection

Daddy’s journey to heaven was 15 years before Mama’s. She missed him so much. Often, she would ask me why she was still living. I told her that God wasn’t finished with her, yet, that God had something else for her to do.

I wondered why she had to go through the last few weeks of her life. I know now. In those last few weeks of pain, there were glimpses of heaven. She served as a conduit for God’s grace and love to spill out onto her caregivers and onto her children. She didn’t know the reason for those weeks, nor did I. I’m sure she knows now. I know now.

One caregiver said that she had not seen such peace in a hospice patient. Her conclusion: “She must have her spiritual house in order.”

Without a word, in dying, Mama pointed people to Jesus; Mama lived life with a capital L in her dying.

Final resolution

Matt Heard’s final resolution sums up Life:

I will keep in mind that my ultimate redemption is graciously secured and that Christ will get me home.

I will pay attention to today’s heaven moments – whether physical aches, unfulfilled longings, encounters with beauty, broken experiences, or opportunities to obey – and will hope for the day when Life with a capital L will no longer be diluted by a fallen body and fallen world.

I miss our morning calls, Mama. They were Life.
I miss you, Mama.

My tears are filled with your Life, glimpses of heaven.
I’ll see you in heaven, Mama.

Matt Heard’s message is important. Please share this message.

Make it Yours!

Above all, make it your resolution this week to ask God to show you the
path to living Life with a capital L.
My prayer:

Father in heaven, thank You, again, for Matt Heard and the message You have given him. Bless him as he seeks Your face, Your guidance, and Your future messages. Guide us towards a deeper Life with You. We want to be used by You. We love you, Lord.

More Information

Author Bio

I unexpectedly received a copy of the Participant’s Guide and DVD of life with a capital L: Embracing your God-given humanity from Multnomah Books.

8 steps for our move into eternity

   

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him [Jesus], for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Revelation 19:7-8

A Jewish young bride-to-be prepared her body, her clothes and possessions, and her mind to be pleasing to her groom for the time when her groom would come to take her as his bride, a time unknown to the bride or the groom, a time when the groom’s father decided the groom had prepared a suitable space for the bride. The groom also prepared himself and their new dwelling place, usually an addition to the father’s home.

Usually in the night a year or so after betrothal, the trumpet blew, the rejoicing began, and the grooms and friends paraded to the bride’s home to take her to his father’s home where the marriage was celebrated.

A year’s anticipation and preparation.

Trip from home

For Keith and me, a two-week trip abroad takes months of planning, preparation, and enthusiastic anticipation. Our preparation includes:

  1. Intensify our workouts to prepare our bodies for the cobblestones, stairs, and climbs that we will encounter.
  2. Learn about the food and precautions that I need to take as a celiac (gluten-free) to keep me healthy.
  3. Research the countries and learn the customs and a few words of the languages of the countries we’ll be visiting.
  4. Plan our itineraries down to the timeframes and places.
  5. Understand the weather.
  6. Pack our bags.
  7. Discuss past experiences.
  8. Anticipate the day of departure.

Move from earth

As Christians, we have a much more significant trip ahead of us, a permanent move, a move from earth into a new heaven and a new earth, a move escorted by none other than the Creator of the Universe, our Messiah, Savior, Jesus.

What if we prepared for this move as intensely as we prepare for a short trip? It might look like:

  1. Intensify the care we give our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Consume the Word of God as we learn about God’s nature.
  3. Research the customs and understandings of Biblical times.
  4. Pray for wisdom in preparation.
  5. Understand the path we are to take on earth.
  6. Pack our bags with what matters for eternity.
  7. Discuss God’s work in our lives and the lives of others.
  8. Anticipate that glorious day when Jesus will come for His bride, the church.

Are you ready?

My prayer

Jesus, our Bridegroom, teach us how to prepare for Your coming for Your bride. Fill us with wisdom as we eagerly anticipate Your return. Lord Jesus, come quickly.