Heavens above

February 27, 2009

On November 24th 2008 The Streets released the first single from their eagerly awaited album, ‘Everything is borrowed’. The single was called “Heaven for the weather”, and the chorus went like this;

“I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell for the company
I want to go to heaven for the weather
But hell seems like fun to me”

It was a big hit and is still getting a lot of airplay several months on. It’s an upbeat, feel-good track, with a catchy tune designed to get you singing along. But I wonder how many people agree with Mike Skinner as they sing along with him?

When I was in school I studied Dr Faustus. At the beginning of the term, my teacher asked us to share our opinions on heaven and hell, angels, demons and damnation. I was surprised at the things my classmates believed. Many of them were surprised by my own opinions, the difference being that mine were drawn from the Bible and theirs were more influenced by the Simpsons.

No-one can say what happens after death doesn’t apply to them, yet so many people go through life with no idea of what lies beyond the grave.  What’s more many Christians wouldn’t know where to start to put people right. So here are 3 common myths about heaven that we should set straight:

Myth #1 : Heaven is where good people go when they die.

If you asked a stranger on the street, ‘Who gets to go to Heaven?’ they might tell you that they think everyone does. But very few people really believe that. After all, nobody would expect to see Stalin or Hitler in Heaven. Whether they realise it or not, most non-Christians believe there is a standard to be met to get into heaven. The mistake is they set the bar far too low, and rate themselves too highly.  They think that being good, in their own terms, is enough.

 

What does the Bible say?

“There is no-one righteous, not even one”                                         

                                                                                  Romans 3:9-11

“all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”          

                                                                                        Isaiah 64:6

“Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect”                                                                

                                                                                         Matthew 5:48

 

The standard for heaven is perfection. Nothing less will do.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to spend eternity in a place that wasn’t perfect, that had all the failings of this world.  The problem is that none of us can achieve perfection, no amount of good deeds or church attendance can make us good enough. The only way sinners like us can gain entry is to see ourselves as we really are, have Jesus deal with our sin and to swap our ‘filthy rags’ for his spotless life. Jesus himself summed it up perfectly when he said “…no-one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). 

 

Myth #2: When people die and go to heaven, they become angels

When most people think of heaven, they think of a scene not unlike a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Bugs Bunny gets crushed by a falling anvil; his soul (a partially see-through version of Bugs) comes out of his body and floats up to a cloud where he sits in a white robe with wings and a halo playing a harp. Many like to think of their deceased relatives as being their ‘guardian angels’ watching over them and keeping them safe.

 

What does the Bible say?

What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings (angels) and crowned him with glory and honour.                                         

                                                                                               Psalm 8:4-5

   

The Bible tells us that angels and humans are not the same. God created the angels before he created the earth, they are a different creature altogether. Angels are God’s messengers; they appear regularly in the Bible to make a public announcement (like the Birth of Jesus) or to pass on a message to a particular individual (like Gideon). Angels live in heaven with God where their job is to serve him, not us.

A major difference between angels and us is that, although the angels worship God as we should, they know him only as their Creator, not as their Father as we do. God didn’t send his own Son to die for the angels. Because He sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins, we know that he loves us more than words can express, and therefore our worship is all the more pleasing to him.   

 

Myth #3: Heaven is boring

To so many, heaven seems like a rather dull way to spend eternity. If Heaven really is about wearing white and playing a harp, then I’m sure we’d all get bored eventually. We crave excitement and entertainment, but there’s no place for thrill-seekers in the heaven of our imaginations. Perhaps the reason why so many people live by the rule ‘eat, drink and be merry’ is because once they reach the ‘for tomorrow we die’ part, it means the party’s over. No more fun, no more freedom, no more doing whatever you want.

 

What does the Bible say?

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.                                                                               Revelation21:4

 

And they were calling to one another: 
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”                                                                               Isaiah 6:3

 

There are two things we need to understand about heaven. First, we need to have the right picture in our minds. In Revelation 21 John describes what he saw when God gave him a vision of heaven, and it is breath-takingly magnificent. But not only is heaven beautiful, it is a place where sin does not exist. No-one can hurt us there, nothing will go wrong, everything is perfect, and we will be too.   

Second, we need to understand what the point of being there is. The thing that makes heaven amazing, far beyond all the things we’ve already mentioned, is that God is there. Imagining heaven without God’s glory is like a football match with no ball. You could run around the pitch and put all you energy into it, get all the exercise benefits, but without a ball there’s really no point. Heaven is a wonderful place, but without God there would be no purpose to our being there.  The continuing thrill, the never ending excitement of heaven is found in experiencing the glory of God that brings uninterrupted delight.  There’s nothing boring about heaven!

 

  So now that we know what heaven is really like, wouldn’t it be selfish of us to keep that to ourselves and let our friends go on thinking that hell would be more fun? Why don’t you pray for an opportunity to tell them about how amazing heaven really is, and you never know, they might be interested in finding out how they can experience it for themselves. 


Why Worry?

February 10, 2009

Lost and Confused SignpostStress. Anxiety. Worry.  These words are being used more and more, and are the cause of many sick days and doctors appointments. But stress isn’t a new invention. In fact, Jesus himself preached a sermon on stress in Matthew 6.

Why do we worry?

A university in America conducted a scientific study and discovered that worrying is, to some extent, genetic. They discovered that we’re either born with a tendency to be anxious, or we’re naturally laid back. So, if you’re a worrier, it’s not your fault so you needn’t worry, but since you’re a born worrier you can’t help it, and if you’re naturally laid-back, you’ve got nothing to worry about because you’ll always take everything in your stride, not that you would worry anyway!

But, as we all know, there are some things that everyone worries about. 

Why shouldn’t we worry?

R.H. Mounce said that “Worry is practical Atheism and an affront to God”. When we worry, we are effectively saying to God “I don’t trust you to handle this”. It’s a way of trying to retain some control of our lives. We think that God doesn’t understand, and that we can do a better job of running our lives ourselves. We might not mean to say those things, but that’s what worry shows about us.

Besides being offensive to God, worrying is a complete waste of time!

§  Worry is UNNECCESSARY – no-one can gain anything from worrying. Nobody works harder than a bird, they find their own food, build their own nests, they protect themselves from their prey. They have no need to worry, because God looks after them.  The same with flowers, they don’t worry about how they look, they are beautiful because God made them that way.

 

§  Worry is USELESS – Being anxious about something doesn’t change it or make it go away. It can’t add a single hour to our lives, in fact it can shorten your life. Spending sleepless nights running over the things that cause us anxiety doesn’t mean that problem will magically disappear by morning. Whether we worry or not, we still face all the same things.

 

§  Worry is BLIND – It’s no coincidence that Jesus uses examples from nature in his sermon on the mount. If we only open our eyes and look at the world around us we see plenty of examples of God’s care for the World he created and his love for his people. When we worry, it’s like we put on a pair of blinkers that stop us seeing all that evidence.

 

§  Worry is FORGETFUL – We ignore all the times in the past when God has worked everything for our good as he promises. We can all look at occasions in our lives when things were hard, when we were struggling with a particular issue, when we couldn’t sleep or eat, when there seemed to be no way out…..and what happened? God saw us through didn’t he? And he promises to do that again and again and again.

 

Why worry when you could be seeking God’s Kingdom?

That doesn’t mean that if you don’t study for an exam, but spend all your time praying, that God will miraculously give you the answers and you’ll pass with flying colours. It means that when we put God above everything, and do everything else to honour him, he’ll be there when things are hard. God’s plan isn’t always the way we would choose, but it’s always the best way.  We need to look at God’s Big picture for our lives. Often when we’re worried about something it becomes our focus, and we can’t see the wood for the trees. But if we really believe that God has a plan to prosper us and that he can use everything that happens to us for our own good, then we should greet every pang of anxiety with a different attitude.

 

Why are you telling me this now…I’m already worried!

I’m sure that some of you are thinking ‘this is all very well and good, but I’m already worried!”. The last thing you want is someone telling you to “stop being so sinful and trust God more!” and God knows that too.

We can take comfort from knowing that we have a heavenly Father who understands our struggles and the emotions they provoke. Jesus lived a real life on earth, dealing with all the same feelings that we do. God gets it so well that he’s told us exactly what we can do when anxiety takes hold of us. You can find the answer in Phillipians 4 v 6+7. It’s very simple. When you’re worried, tell him about it. Get alone with God, pour it all out, give up every detail, don’t hold anything back, and then, just leave it with Him. God does this great trade with us, he takes our problems and worries and stresses and gives us his peace in return.  It’s a great offer, and you’d be mad to refuse him.  


Purpose-driven blogging

February 10, 2009

This blog will contain an assortment of  articles on Christian themes. Most are aimed at young people, but hopefully there will be something for everyone here.

The purpose of this blog is to get some feedback, which would be much appreciated, and to see what issues and topics need to be written about. If you have any suggestions of articles you would like to read, let me know.