Christian Devotionals

"Our Future’s So Bright, We Gotta Wear Shades"

Over the centuries, believers have lost sight of our true and ultimate destination: heaven. In a great book by Joseph Stowell entitled "Eternity," he calls this long-term trend the "dimming of heaven." This is nothing new, it's been going on since the Age of Enlightenment when philosophers, artists, scientists and intellectuals set out to understand man's place in this world through non-religious reasoning. In fact this period during the 17th and 18th centuries is called the Age of Reason. Intellectuals with inquiring minds wanted to know and understand the natural world through reasoning based on factual evidence, not on biblical truth or religious beliefs.

Fast forward to today when we find ourselves in the post-modern era where logic, reasoning and even historical fact are no longer considered reliable sources for understanding the world around us. In its place, our culture has shifted to free thinking where we believe whatever we wish to believe. Beliefs are based on emotions, desires and personal preferences. Yes there has been a resurgence in curiosity about the afterlife, unfortunately, this interest has led people to adopt a mishmash of beliefs from eastern religions - such as reincarnation - to other false philosophies. None of these New Age beliefs, however, include the real God of the universe who will one day judge the living and the dead. When it comes to "free thinkers," the issue of sin is quickly dismissed and the Gospel's claim for our need of a Savior is met with hostile protest. As Paul tells us in Romans 1:25 - "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie." It's heartbreaking to think of the tragic reality that awaits these people who do not have Christ. This should inspire believing Christians everywhere to get out of our comfort zones and share the Word of life with our colleagues, neighbors, classmates, friends and relatives. Do you hear the urgency in these words from Proverbs 24:11?
11Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

For those of you who have made Christ your Savior, eternal life in heaven has been guaranteed. We all know this, but how do you view heaven? According to Joesph Stowell's book, we also have a very dimmed view of heaven. While we believe that there is a place called heaven awaiting us, it doesn't seem to inspire Christians as it once did. Perhaps our vision of heaven is ho-hum (clouds, halos, hymnbooks and endless church). It's hard to get excited about our distorted or false impressions of heaven when there is so much good stuff right here on earth. We can become so enamored with earthly treasures that the glory of heaven fades in comparison. And I'm not just talking about the love of money either, although that can be a big obstruction to a healthy appreciation of heaven. No, I'm referring to what Stowell calls "the intrigues of our lives." This includes careers, families and friendships - anything that competes with our focus on heaven. Stowell writes:

"Clearly God intended that these interests occupy our minds and hearts so that we would responsibly fulfill our duties to them. But He never intended that they would supplant heaven in our hearts. He intended rather that our careers would be a springboard to eternal gain; that our families would be drawn to heaven by our examples as parents and spouses; that our friends would see in our lives the glory of Christ and the reality of a Father who is in heaven; .God has not called us to be so consumed with heaven that we cocoon ourselves in anxious anticipation of getting there. But He has planned that all our temporal targets be viewed in line with the transcending reality of the world to come.

"We need to learn to keep these "intrigues of our lives" in proper perspective to the eternal realities that await us. I'll close with a very encouraging passage written by the apostle Paul to help brighten up your view of the real heaven:

9However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him."
1Corinthians 2:9 (New International Version)

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 (New International Version)

Last week we talked about how Christians today have such a dimmed view of heaven. This is a trend that has been in full swing since the Age of Enlightenment. And now more than ever, we are so caught up in our daily routines and temporal treasures, that thoughts of heaven have been pushed aside. People aren’t really thinking about this spectacular place that awaits those who have Jesus Christ. Even people who aren’t considered materialistic by today’s standards, have more of an earthly focus than a heavenly one. But as the apostle Paul exhorts us in the passage above, Jesus wants us to set our hearts and minds on things above – not on earthly things. All of this earthly stuff is just so temporary, and more importantly, it distracts us from setting our hearts on what truly matters: loving and serving Jesus and our future life in heaven.

There are exceptions to every trend and thank God for people in this age who live their lives with a heavenly focus. Two people come to mind. The first one is Joni Erickson Tada, a quadriplegic confined to a wheel chair since a horrible diving accident in 1967. During those first excruciating years, this once active teenage girl had to cope with the reality that she would never walk again or even use her hands for that matter. It was then that Jesus spoke to her and let her know that He could relate to her pain and paralysis. While He was on the cross, those agonizing nails through His hands and feet kept Him paralyzed. From that day forward, she developed a special relationship with her Lord. Joni learned to paint beautiful pictures with a paintbrush held in her mouth. She also became a gifted speaker and writer. I was especially touched by her book “Heaven – Your Real Home.” The Lord had given her revelations of heaven through various means including special passages of scripture. These visions kept her going during her darkest days. Do you see how God reaches out and touches us during our darkest hour and meets us in our deepest need?

The second heavenly focused person is a twelve year old girl who also has a special relationship with her Lord. I saw her on a CNN film clip that was forwarded to me by a dear friend. This twelve year old began having visions of God and heaven at age four. She too is a painter and finished her first work by age six. These paintings are based on heavenly visions that God has given her. Some of her work was featured in this CNN clip and they were out of this world! Her paintings of Jesus were big, bold and so alive. She said that He is big, pure and very masculine (unlike the effeminate depictions of Christ that we so often see in religious paintings). She also marveled at the bold light that emanated from Him and was especially moved by His beautiful eyes.  Her paintings of heaven were absolutely awe inspiring. It wasn’t a place of clouds and harp players, it was a beautiful and colorful paradise. Heaven was awash in brilliant light with lush green grass and all kinds of colorful flowers, shrubs and trees. Our young painter was awed by the brilliance of the colors – millions of crystal clear colors that we do not have on earth. Yet she captured it all on canvas and as my eyes took in her work, I longed to be there in that paradise. I can picture myself running through those colorful fields on my way to see my Lord. My body  is radiating with light and I am cancer free. It’s a paradise that the apostle Paul also saw in a vision that is documented in 2 Corinthians 12 – a place where he heard and saw inexpressible things that he was not permitted to tell.

Needless to say, I’ve saved that short CNN video and replay it often – especially when the world has gotten me down. Lately my appreciation for heaven has grown and the allure of this world has diminished. I don’t have such a dimmed view of heaven any longer. It’s a place that is very real and it awaits all of you who have asked Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior. I pray that I will see you all up there one day.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation 21:3-4 (New International Version)

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