As we close out this week’s LivingItOut study and head into our first weekend of 21 Days of Prayer, here are some encouraging words from Lauren Snyder!
Today’s LivingItOut Study:
Love Over Loss
Heaven. For many of us, the very word evokes a menagerie of thoughts, feelings, and images. While our conceptual understanding of heaven is both veiled and varied, the term is universally associated with mankind’s most meaningful aspirations, such as purity, peace, joy, and love.
The expansive nature of the term “heaven” is evidenced by the fact that it is commonly used to describe both a location (the dwelling place of God and the blessed departed) and a state of being (a condition of unbridled joy).
To me, heaven is majestic and ethereal; it is at once both glorious and mysterious. And though none of us can say with certainty what heaven will actually be like, most believers would agree that it is our desired destination when our time on this earth has passed.
Getting to heaven requires two things:
First is belief. Admittance to heaven is not a matter of demonstrating our worth nor hoping that our ledger of good deeds outweighs that of our shortcomings and sins. Heaven, we know, is promised to us when we give our life to Christ.
But getting to heaven also inherently requires that we depart this earthly life. And few among us are eager to leave this world and the loved ones with whom we are sharing this journey. So, even as we look forward to the wonders of heaven, we are confronted with the loss and uncertainty that will accompany our ascension.
Love Over Loss
One of the few certainties in this life is that it is temporary. We all will die. (Sorry for the downer, but this is not exactly breaking news!) This fact naturally invites trepidation over where we are going and what we are leaving behind – our life as we know it, our loved ones, and so on. Fortunately, the Bible reassures us that our earthly loss will be overshadowed by a promise and a love – the beauty of God’s love in heaven – that is greater than anything we can imagine.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.
1 John 4:9
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
As lead pastor Ben Snyder noted during the first week of the Imagine Heaven series, heaven is a place where we will come to know God on a more personal level, experience freedom like never before, and find redemption in our story.
In considering the glories of heaven, theologian Martin Luther wrote, “I would not give one moment of heaven for all the joy and riches of the world, even if it lasted for thousands and thousands of years.”
Novelist and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis put it more succinctly: “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”
Though we do not know precisely what heaven will be like, we can take comfort in the beautiful promise of what awaits us after our earthly lives have run their course. Consider, for a moment, the enormity of this gift. If we accept that God and heaven are real – if we genuinely believe in the promise of God’s eternal love and our place by his side in heaven – we know that our destiny is wonderfully secure. We are assured an eternity with our loving creator and fellow believers. We will be reunited with many of those we have known, loved, and lost. This knowledge can empower us to rise above the disappointments and failures of our past, and the issues that can appear so overwhelming today. Even the joys of this life will be surpassed when we ascend to the next stage of our journey.
In his book Crazy Love, author Francis Chan offers further reassurance of the existence and glories of heaven. “We are not alone,” Chan writes. “Even now there are thousands of beings in heaven watching what is going on down here – a ‘great cloud of witnesses,’ the Scripture says. It reminds me that there is so much more to our existence than what we can see. What we do reverberates through the heavens and into eternity.”
Chan’s words emphasize both the reality of heaven and the significance of what we do with our time on earth. But still, many of us struggle to imagine what exactly awaits us.
Following the death of his father, Bart Millard, lead singer of the Christian band MercyMe, was moved to ponder the topic of what we will experience when we stand before God in heaven. What ensued was the best-selling Christian song of all time, I Can Only Imagine.
“Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine.”
While we can indeed “only imagine” the details of what we will experience in heaven, we can take comfort in knowing that it will be beautiful and everlasting.
This week, LivingItOut has explored many aspects of our journey to understanding what heaven will be like. These topics have ranged from our very belief in heaven to contemplating who will be there and how the foretelling of the personal relationship we will experience with God in heaven can enhance our lives today.
As we close this first week of the Imagine Heaven series, we pose the question: Will you receive God’s love in heaven? In essence, will you give your life to Christ and embrace God’s promise of eternity in heaven?
9If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.
God’s love is too great to fully understand, and it completes us. Have you received it? If not, will you receive it?
Does the temporary nature of this life and/or uncertainty of what awaits you in heaven give you pause?
If so, consider the scriptural references above and take heart that God has a plan for you which only begins on this earth. How can studying the Bible help you to reconcile the inevitable loss of this life with the glories that await you?
If you have not already done so, will you give your life to Christ and accept God’s promise of eternity in heaven?
Set aside time in the coming days to explore the topic of “love over loss.” While it’s natural to be apprehensive about what follows this life, consider the enormity of God’s gifts – in this life and in heaven. As you gain an appreciation for how the love of God in heaven will far outshine the loss we will endure, seek to help others understand and believe in the promise of heaven.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for this life you have granted me and for the spiritual gifts with which you have blessed me. Though I know this earthly life is only temporary, I ask that you grant me the wisdom and mindfulness to make the most of my time and my gifts to serve your kingdom. Help me to always keep you present and to praise you for your love and your promise of an eternal relationship with you in heaven. Amen.
21 Days of Prayer – Day 5
This Week’s Prayer Focus:
Personally, pray for God to help you to know him more. Ask him to reveal the things in your life that keep you from knowing him more and to identify the things that you need to add to your life. Ask, what step you need to take this year to know God more. Collectively, pray that CedarCreek will be a place where thousands of people who don’t know God, come to know him this year.
Today’s Prayer Focus:
Our World – international missions (leadership training and church planting).
21 Day of Prayer – Day 6
Saturday’s Collective Prayer Focus: Day 6 – The weekend church service as we enter week 2 of Imagine Heaven!
21 Days of Prayer -Day 7
Sunday’s Collective Prayer Focus: Day 7 – Prayers of Praise and Worship. Check out CedarCreek’s Spotify Playlist.
This post was written by Todd Romain. Todd enjoys sharing life with his wife Jessica and their family and serving at CedarCreek. He is a communications director at Owens Corning and an avid supporter of his alma mater, The Ohio State University, and all teams who play Michigan.
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