It is hard to believe that our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting is almost over. Our prayer for you throughout this journey has been for you to connect with God in a powerful way and to know him more. As we enter this final weekend, our Senior Director of NextSteps, Marna Ward has an invitation to join us Sunday night as we break the fast online together.
Today’s LivingItOut Study:
Keeping an Eye on Heaven
Paul the apostle first appears in the New Testament as the Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus. You may have heard of Paul. He is a major figure in the New Testament church and actually wrote about two-thirds of the letters in the New Testament. But before that, while he was still Saul, he tormented the early church. His actions were approved by the ruling hierarchy of the Jewish Temple. He persecuted those who followed Jesus and used his knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures to support his actions. One day, on his way to capture followers of ‘The Way’ in Damascus, Saul encountered the risen Christ, and his life, and his name, were changed forever.
Do you ever wish God would give you another name? (Well, actually he has if you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, but that’s for another day.) I know that by the time I invited Jesus to lead my life, I would have liked to change my name, my circumstances, my social group, my work colleagues, my hemisphere… really, everything that I had allowed my life to become. Little did I know that I, like Paul, would be able to use the experiences of my life before Christ, as well as after, to allow me to speak into the lives of others in a helpful way.
Because of Paul’s life-long training in the Jewish Scriptures, he had authority and knowledge that he used to illustrate how God had always intended his grace and mercy to be for all nations, not just the Jewish people. Because of Paul’s dedication to the cause of Christ and the commission given to Christ followers to make disciples everywhere, he traveled far and wide and encountered many, many challenges. Through them all, Paul trusted in God’s plan for his life. In fact, in a letter he wrote to a church he had started in the city of Philippi, he wrote:
21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
In Monday’s LivingItOut, Todd shared that in the book Mere Christianity, author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.”
Paul is a great example of someone who knew that what he did here on Earth had an eternal impact in heaven. He knew that God had a purpose for his life, and that his actions here mattered. Paul’s experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 further shaped his perspective on his purpose and helped him stay focused on heaven. He was stoned and left for dead outside of the city of Lystra (Acts 14:19-20) and was given a glimpse of heaven.
2 Corinthians 12:1-4
1 This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. 3 Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know 4 that I was caught up[b] to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.
Paul was eager to return to the heaven he had experienced, but he was confident that God would leave him to do the work he had planned for him. Paul knew he would not go ‘home’ until it was all accomplished. We all get our “It is finished!” moment when God says we’re finished, and not one second before.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
I’ve never had a near death experience. I’m not sure I know anyone who has, but I know that God has used me and the experiences of my life to point people toward eternal life with him. I made many poor choices that demonstrated my inability to figure things out on my own. Somehow, through God’s mercy, even though I had no time for him then, I survived. I learned how much I needed him to direct my life, to give it purpose and meaning. Once I submitted my life to him, he began to bring people to me who could benefit from hearing about the mistakes I’d made, so they too could make different choices. My list is not nearly as lengthy as Paul’s in 2 Corinthians 11:25, but I was pregnant and unmarried at 19, sexually assaulted, and later married to an alcoholic. I had a child with Downs Syndrome, got divorced, remarried a Vietnam veteran with undiagnosed PTSD, and got divorced again. Then, there were abusive relationships, a house fire, the death of a child, a prodigal child … well, that’s enough. Needless to say, I have some experience with tough times. God redeemed all of them by letting me help others to see that he has a better plan for them, and it starts now, the moment we submit our lives to him!
To my joy and amazement, my ministry continues because as of today, my life on earth continues. God isn’t done with me yet. If you’re still breathing, he isn’t done with you either. I have no doubt that the life to come will be better than my mind can imagine right now. I have no doubt that I will spend eternity with Jesus and that I’ll get to know my new name (Rev 2:17, 3:12) because I have trusted him to wipe my sins away. I know from the letters of Paul that he felt the same way—used by God for the purpose for which we were created, for God’s ultimate glory and for our enjoyment.
How do you think God can use your past mistakes or negative experiences to encourage others?
To whom could you offer help or consolation today? Will you?
How can you share the good news of eternity with Jesus in heaven with people in your life who may be far from him? (Hint: Begin with prayer!)
Take some time to think about how your life has been impacted by a brother or sister in Christ who has encouraged you along the way. This week, write them a note thanking them for their kindness to you.
Find someone you can encourage to take a next step towards full devotion to Jesus.
Join a Group or consider leading a Group where you can do life with others and help each other on your spiritual journey. Browse the Group directory at www.cedarcreek.tv/groups and connect with a Group today.
My Sweet Jesus, how grateful I am for your promise of eternal life with you. The thought of spending eternity with you and my loved ones fills me with joy. It also causes me to beg your help in finding new ways to talk about you to those friends and family who may not have gotten the message of your love and mercy. Lord, I know you love them more than I do, and that you desire none to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Use me Lord! I am your servant. Amen.
21 Days of Prayer – Day 19
This Week’s Prayer Focus:
Personally ask God to help you identify where you can take steps in living out your purpose today. Ask God to help you grow in your understanding of your purpose and how your past, your personality and your placement have potential with God. Collectively, let us pray that CedarCreek will be a place where people will know they matter to God and that he has a purpose and clear vision for their life.
Today’s Prayer Focus:
Day 19 – Our specific needs (finances, health, family members to be saved, and other personal needs.) Pray for the sick.
Saturday’s Prayer Focus:
Day 20 – The weekend church service
Sunday’s Prayer Focus:
Day 21 – Communion, worship, & celebration – Join us Sunday at 8pm on Facebook Live – http://Facebook.com/cedarcreek
This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people who God used to start CedarCreek 21 years ago, and was on staff until 2013. She and her husband Mike love to travel the country in their motor home with their kitties Jane & Mary. Lauri is passionate about prayer, and about helping women discover who they are in Christ. She doesn’t tweet but you can follow her and Mike’s adventures on Facebook.
Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?
We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!