heaven

Theology

Earthly Use


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They talk about being “so heavenly minded to be of no earthly use”. I’d like to smash this myth…

…the inference of this statement is that thinking outside the supernatural order and realm of things has a limited shelf life (a little is OK but a lot isn’t) but this isn’t quite the point:

Even if one person thought about heaven (say) for 1% of their life, another thought about it for 10% and another 100%, the only real issue of concern is how that person lives as a result of their heavenly-mindedness, not the heavenly-mindedness per se.

Applying heavenly-mindedness is the real challenge not thinking of heaven less. We must close the gap between what we say we believe and how we live.

The Apostle Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”. (Philippians 1:21). His heavenly-mindedness was so pervasive that he actually would have preferred to die (and be Christ) than remain in the body (without Him). But his extreme heavenly-mindedness also included the mentality of how to best apply this preference…ie in this case to remain with the Philippian church for their “progress in the faith” (Philippians 1:25).

I don’t know about you but, by the grace of God, I will be more heavenly minded into 2019 than I have ever been…

“Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God”

~ Jim Elliot

… #JesusCome

CS Lewis, heaven, Theology

Aslan is Nearer


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THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE

~ Excerpt from Chapter 11: “Aslan is Nearer”

“Now they were steadily racing on again. And soon Edmund noticed that the snow which splashed against them as they rushed through it was much wetter than it had been all last night. At the same time he noticed that he was feeling much less cold. It was also becoming foggy. In fact every minute it grew foggier and warmer. And the sledge was not running nearly as well as it had been running up till now. At first he thought this was because the reindeer were tired, but soon he saw that that couldn’t be the real reason. The sledge jerked, and skidded and kept on jolting as if it had struck against stones. And however the dwarf whipped the poor reindeer the sledge went slower and slower. There also seemed to be a curious noise all round them, but the noise of their driving and jolting and the dwarf’s shouting at the reindeer prevented Edmund from hearing what it was, until suddenly the sledge stuck so fast that it wouldn’t go on at all. When that happened there was a moment’s silence. And in that silence Edmund could at last listen to the other noise properly. A strange, sweet, rustling, chattering noise – and yet not so strange, for he’d heard it before – if only he could remember where! Then all at once he did remember. It was the noise of running water. All round them though out of sight, there were streams, chattering, murmuring, bubbling, splashing and even (in the distance) roaring. And his heart gave a great leap (though he hardly knew why) when he realised that the frost was over. And much nearer there was a drip-drip-drip from the branches of all the trees. And then, as he looked at one tree he saw a great load of snow slide off it and for the first time since he had entered Narnia he saw the dark green of a fir tree.”

heaven, Theology

Paradise: Why Remona Aly’s Heaven is Nowhere Near Good Enough 


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Before reading, CLICK HERE & listen to Remona’s 2 minute feature on Chris Evan’s Radio 2 Pause for Thought from earlier this week. Start at 2:50 hours. 

This week’s blog is indebted to a good friend who wrote to me requesting that I have a listen to Remona’s view of spirituality in the radio show, above. My friend had seen my post a few weeks ago about an encounter I had with a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Glasgow and wanted to know what I thought…
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heaven

The Places We Call Home


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Space

When you’re relaxed and at peace, when things are sweet between you and God, (currently not just fundamentally), you tend to notice things. This is because the spaces that you need in order to hear, and the discipline that you need in order to listen, are too-often rammed with the traffic fumes of anxiety and fear, idleness and unbelief.

I was with Mairi walking through a small Scottish village on the Eastern coast of the UK a few hours before Christmas last year, passing through plumes of our own breath and treading the seasonal crispness under foot. It had been a stressful end to a stressful year and we were easing in to a couple of weeks away from the front line.

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Bible

Earthly Use


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I’d like to debunk a myth that says, and even warns, that it’s possible to be ‘so heavenly minded to be of no earthly use’.

In Philippians 3:14 Paul smashes that notion by saying,

“I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus”

Called. Heavenwards.

The ineffective and unsatisfying way of ‘doing’ church/life/ministry is with an attempt of delicately balancing earth and heaven like a some kind of home-improvement project (a little bit of heaven, here; a little bit of earth, there), as though the ‘reasonable  balance’ was something we map out for increasing our effectiveness or that’s simply left to our own personal preferences; or that perhaps too much thought of heaven, of Jesus, is going to render us imbalanced, irrelevant and bunkered away out of touch with a hurting world.

I don’t see that in Paul’s writings and I don’t think being ‘too heavenly minded’ is possible because a fixed gaze on heaven primes our faith in its King. (See Colossians 3:2 ).

What I do see is Paul longing for his prize, his goal, his home and his Saviour. The utter marvel and mystery of ‘following Christ’ at all, with any fruitfulness, with any closeness of proximity, is possible only because of the call towards heaven from God, not of a learned skill of balancing the two realities of heaven and earth towards approved ‘usefulness’.

Paul wrestled with where he wanted to be such was his love for God, (See Philippians 1: 22-24) but he wasn’t trying to decide where his mind lived like a schitzophrenic symptom with one foot in the grave. Above all he cherished his heavenly citizenship, yet he was extremely effective and ‘useful’ while he remained.

*This is not a call to monastic passivity or chilled bean-bag worship vibes…it’s a reorientation towards a mentality that fuels our missional effectiveness.*

Paul was ‘all in’,  really ‘all in’ in a way that I’m certainly not familiar with either personally or corporately.

He had a goal and he had a Goal.

He loved people to the point of often writing and speaking through tears but, without question, he knew he was called to be with Jesus.

I think this is the personal/corporate key:

*The extent of Paul’s tears for people and the degree of his longing to fully be with God are directly linked – they correspond perfectly.*

As he pressed on to ‘win the prize’ he was focused in this one direction which only made him increasingly fruitful while he remained on earth.

Like Paul, let’s give ourselves to going fully hard after God, fully hard after the kingdom, fully hard after the King.

And then see how much earthly use we’ll be!

Theology

Capture


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For those of you who haven’t come across any of C.S.Lewis’ short essays, may I introduce you to arguably his best – The Weight of Glory

The essay contains some delicious thinking and expression about ‘glory’ and heaven and touches the beginnings of articulation around those things in us that words can not express. (Romans 8:26).

Having read the essay a few times over the last few years, there is one recurring thought from it that often crops up for me when I feel these deep places in my soul stirred by nature, my wife, family and friends, or by the presence of Christ.

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Theology

Ancient Skies


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The Greek word for ‘creation’ is ‘poema’, the root word for poem.

If you look at the sky on a crisp, clear night and begin counting the countless twinkling stars; or if you feel the fading warmth of a day’s heat on your face as you watch the sun dip under the dusty horizon of the grand canyon; or if you stare in disbelief during a solar eclipse  –  the sky is an amazing part of God’s poetic creation.

I’ve never thought about creation as a poem before.

Poems need rhyme, meter, rhythm, lyrical hooks, themes and originality. Some poems are obscure and difficult to ‘get’. Others seem child-like and too superficial to have any impact. But other poems can touch you deeply.

Creation should touch us deeply.

The sea touches me deeply as do songs and melodies and peoples’ words and BBC classics like The Frozen Planet. But it was the sky that touched me this Christmas.

Image
DARTMOOR SKY - DECEMBER 2011

It is like a canvas onto which God projects all manner of colour and shade and cumulus form. And clouds concealed Jesus when He left planet earth and it will be the clouds that are his foot-stool when He returns.

To me, the sky represents heaven touching earth. If there was going to be a portal to touch and walk through to enter the other heavenly reality, it would be the sky. It seems so ultimate and ethereal in that it can’t be touched, too high and lofty to fully appreciate. But one day Jesus will split the sky.

Finally, it is virtually impossible to think about the sky without thinking about clouds,  in the same way it is impossible for a Christian to think about God and not think about grace and love. Skies contain clouds and clouds represent the presence of the Almighty.

I hope when you next look at the sky or a cloud, or the waters of the sea, or even a flower bed on a busy roundabout, that you remember that ‘creation’ all around is a ‘poem’ to be read.

What is the poem of the world around you saying, today?

heaven, Uncategorized, writing

“The Heavenlies” – A Peretti Pastiche (Part 1 of 2)


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One

There was an unusual air of excitement in the city of Exeter that hot summer’s evening as the University students began to flood into the local pubs, bars, and Off Licences. In fact, it wasn’t quite evening, still late afternoon, and already the streets were seething with young revellers following the recent culmination of the academic year. The sweet smells of beers and wines fused together and seemed to linger everywhere with the still impressive heat of day. But in and around all of the celebrations, overhanging them all, was a more sober sense of an impending threat.

Paul stood patiently at the bar, waiting. Despite his athletically tall build it always seemed to take an age for him to get served. He was easily over six feet, and, with his striking blonde hair and sharp features, was popular with the girls. For the moment, though, Paul was with his mates. He definitely felt more comfortable when his Christian friends were there. He wasn’t sure why, just that he often felt overwhelmed with the whole drinking thing. He told himself, and the lads, that he wasn’t very good at it; but he knew that he could probably keep up with the likes of Adie and Pete, especially with the amount of practice they had. Paul knew more intuitively than he cared to admit that the sense of being awkward came from somewhere else.

Two other strikingly tall figures stood near to the bar where the group of friends were now gathered. They stood perfectly still and silent, intently watching the group as they laughed and talked together. Paul remained oblivious to their presence as the evening set in and even later when they were standing in the group, towering above and either side of him. Although they showed no intention of using them, both characters were concealing huge, monolithic swords and they were dressed in beautifully plain clothes with no recognisable style or pattern. They stood with perfect poise and posture, impressive in every conceivable way.

It was now dark outside and Paul’s friends were agitating to move on into the City to find more pubs and more fun. A lot of people were out and it seemed as though everyone he knew was either in the pub or roaming the streets. He could see that it was getting raucous.

As the group finished their drinks and moved towards the door, the two strangers moved aside like a vast automatic door, allowing Paul to return his glass to the bar. The barmaid caught Paul’s eye and thanked him, smiling attractively. He responded with a cheeky wink – he was feeling more comfortable now – almost relaxed.

Two

Apathy, Desire and Deceit were perched awkwardly on the corner of the pub’s roof, watching Paul leave from their evil vantage point. An argument had broken out among the three demons as they waited impatiently for a commanding signal to follow Paul.  To avoid any skirmishes with the Lord’s host, Kaalk’s instructions had been for them to remain unseen until his senior command.

Desire was complaining again. Their ambush seemed trivial and insignificant as he fantasised about diving down into the pub with the hoards of other spirits. He prided himself in creating havoc and calamity in the adolescents’ lives – it was his singularly insidious intent. Apathy sat breathing slowly and discontentedly, saying and thinking nothing while Deceit made vain attempts to persuade Desire that it would be better not to wait but to seize the moment right now.

Fortunately for Desire, an eerie cry suddenly resounded throughout the immediate spiritual realm as Kaalk thundered past, wielding a burning sword and screaming obscenities. The other three demons leapt into action, unfolding their leathery wings and brandishing their own swords. They were now in hot pursuit of Paul who was already drinking in the next pub.

As he started another drink, Paul had turned his attention for a moment to a crowd of second-year lads outside the pub. A fight had started. One of them was being badly beaten by another two as several others stared, watched and did nothing. Within moments the crowd vanished as police sirens were heard approaching. Something in Paul’s heart winced as he looked at the boy left lying prostrate on the curb, now unconscious in a pool of his own blood. He wondered how people could be so cruel and his failure to act bothered him.

The two other glorious figures had followed Paul closely into the pub and were now more animated with their hands gently touching his head and chest. They were completely surrounding him. A piercing white light filled the room that emanated from where the two angels stood, shining intensely with palatial majesty as they ministered to him. Aramouth and Guldin knew what approached as they looked at each other in agreement; and they understood why the Lord wanted Paul to stray from their protection.

Between slurps of his pint, Paul continued to stare out of the window, watching the paramedics arrive and the police question others too drunk to talk properly. Adie and Pete were both drunk now and Paul realised that he too was feeling under the influence. He began to think that he should leave when Pete threw a reassuring arm around him. He shouted something in his ear to do with a girl at the bar and handed him another drink, slapping his back as he always did when he was drunk.

Kaalk smashed into the pub as Paul looked at his fresh drink. Aramouth and Guldin rose instantly in billows of air as their wings flexed like a ship’s sail in a storm. They reached for their swords that now shone with heavenly brilliance, bracing themselves for a fight they knew they were not to win. But Aramouth couldn’t resist and defiantly swung his sword in a powerful arch that sent Kaalk flailing to the floor. The other demons had arrived and quickly found Paul still illuminated by the glow of Guldin’s glory. Apathy was first to sink his sharp talons deep into Paul’s mind despite the angelic efforts to prolong his protection. Suddenly, Guldin roared in pain as Deceit bit and clawed into his back. Desire began slashing into Guldin’s wings with his jagged sword, leaving the heavenly warrior crumpled on the floor like an aged cheek. Startled by his friend’s cry, Aramouth instantly spun from his own advance on Kaalk and lifted his companion to safety with his vice-like arm.

Both angels were overwhelmed with grief as they passed through concrete and rafters and steel and rested out of sight, some distance from the city that now echoed with evil laughter. They knew that they had done more than was asked of them and yet every part of them cringed at the thought of their encounter with the kingdom of darkness. All they could do now was wait.

© Nick Franks, 2002

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