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A Heavenly Homeland on Planet Earth

        

         Many of us are aware of a world beyond the senses.

         In the moments we allow ourselves the time to reflect on life instead of merely living it out day by day, we often perceive something beyond mere nature—an unanswered depth—a fleeting reality that is both difficult to grasp and easy as a dream. There is something there, beyond us, and certainly beyond a cheap existence characterized by routine and the mindless pursuit of material needs.

         Yes, we must possess the material if we are to live—we must have a living—but for what purpose? I learned very early in life that working to earn a living meant survival for most people. It meant something to do to pay the bills. It rarely was something enjoyed or chosen for its own benefit. For the few who enjoy their work at earning money, as if it is not about earning money, there is a happiness and lack of anxiety that does not exist in the lives of seemingly everyone else.

         For those who make peace with their profession—not because they enjoy it as a first choice or would choose it if earning money was not the primary option—they have accepted the sacrifice of themselves for the greater good and being comfortable as a solid member of society. They have eliminated any possible criticism of failing to carry their own weight, have their financial bases more or less covered, and the resultant peace is worth the price.

         But there is another peace that cannot be found in living for this world. This is the peace many search for but often never find or have a very difficult time finding. It is a peace that arrives from without, again, in those rare moments of reflection we allow ourselves. It is the same peace a child knows in his time of innocence when he doesn’t know any better. He never considers that he will not be taken care of or protected or fed. The child simply considers it a given.

         Most people want that kind of peace. It is never really about whether or not we will work and achieve and stay busy and accomplish things and be productive. It is instead about doing something and achieving something that goes beyond this mere mortal world in which people live for a short time and then go away forever.

         When we allow ourselves such a time of thinking about bigger concepts and deeper perceptions, we are actually attempting to look into eternity.

         We are attempting to secure our place there.

         We are trying to find our way home.

         Jesus came to us and met us on our level. There is no possible way for God to meet us otherwise. We can certainly never get where He is through our own means, even though we may try through various pursuits. Real Christianity is thus characterized by God reaching out for us, whereas religion breaks down into a fruitless search for God.

         The irony of searching for truth is that one will never find it.

         But the hungry in heart are those who God sees and appreciates, and at some point He begins guiding the searcher to Himself. The one who refuses to cease from the search is the one who can be led and eventually lands at his or her destination.

         Contrary to this, most people, including most “Christians,” accept substitutes for truth or watered-down versions of the Lord’s message. It is sad when people allow their strong wills and discipline to chain them to a religious life they see as a better life than the mere mundane—a spiritual life of sorts—but one falling far short of the spiritual reality the Lord wants for us. It is sad because these people cut themselves off from the very thing they are ostensibly searching for.

         It is as if one desires a college education and a Masters Degree, but becomes so enthralled with graduating from third grade he desires to travel no further. As a seasoned nine-year-old, he compares his new life of enlightenment to his old life when he was an ignorant child of five and could not read, could not understand arithmetic, and had next to no knowledge beyond his tiny existence. He ponders the facts: A third-grader can read. A third-grader can add and subtract and multiply and divide. A third-grader is a quantum leap above the child he was a mere three or four years before.

         This is how most Christians are. They become satisfied with eating manna because it’s better than starving. They have no desire for moving on and fighting for an elusive future. They have next to no faith to allow God to take them into a Promised Land of milk and honey. They exist in a quotidian circular pattern of routine and redundancy that takes them nowhere but where they were yesterday and last year and last decade.

         They are not following God. Maybe they did. But they stopped at some point and became comfortable with a Sinai wilderness light years from the birthright and the place God tries to take them.

         You see, God is a romantic at heart. He is a traveler. He is an explorer. He loves doing new things. But when you know everything it’s no fun unless you can take others on the journey with you. It is the same as when you read a book that has a giant impact on your life. You want others to read it and enjoy it as well. You may not want to see your favorite movie again at a particular time, but would love to watch it with someone else who shows an interest. It becomes a new experience due to the possibility of someone else enjoying it as you do.

         God is like that. He loves to turn us on to stuff and take us to places we’ve never been. He loves it when we have eyes filled with wonder, when we trust Him as an innocent child, and when we expect something really cool to come our way because He loves us.

         But there is a problem. There is a guy named Snidely Whiplash whose entire goal in life is to tie us and our dreams of eternal things to railroad tracks. He strives to destroy us by first destroying our dreams and innocence. He attempts to tempt us into the bondage of sin and bad habits and hate and fear. He tries to develop within us a cynical and bitter attitude. More than anything else, he tries with all his might to distance us from God and keep us from God and stymie every effort we make toward God.

         In the end, he will make many, many more converts than the Lord Jesus ever will. He will be more successful than God in this sense. Of course, he is not so much making converts as he is enforcing the default destination of the unrepentant soul without God.

         But God doesn’t keep score by numbers. He never has. And He has made a Way toward Life for all to discover. That the majority of humanity will miss the boat is not His problem. Eternity is not for timid souls with third-grade educations. It is for those with an explorer’s heart who love adventure and risk. It is for those who are forever getting up after being cast down. It is for those who never say die.

         It God’s book, this is the definition of winning. With Him, despite pain and suffering and setbacks and reviling persecution, the one deserving of eternity is the one who never quits. Spiritual success is the mere process of rising again, and again and again and again. It is the defeat of the devil by outlasting him. It is the defeat of this world by getting the hell out of it and into the kingdom of God. It is about disciplining oneself not to stay a third-grader forever but continuing on to greater spiritual heights and adventures. It is about seeing the mountain top and vowing to get there regardless of any obstacles no matter how hellish. It is not about giving up and constructing a proxy golden calf, which is what most churches and Christian expressions have become, but continuing on, even though we may leave, like Abraham, almost everything we know on the other side of the needle.

         The search for truth is the search for eternity. Nothing can replace it. Nothing else will be accepted by the real Christian.

         “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” [Matthew 6:33] 

         The secret is following the Lord. The next time you pause to reflect, don’t just gaze at eternity for a few seconds the way you often do, but get up and walk toward it. Take the Lord by the hand and let Him take you ever closer to the Promised Land. The kingdom of God is here, now. It is the city Abraham searched for his entire life. It is the place where faith activates all things possible according to the will of God. It is the place where dreams come true.

         And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

         By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

         By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

         By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

         By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE.

         All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. [Hebrews 11:6-16]

         Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” [Luke 17:20-21] [1]   

         © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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Keep Your Lamp Filled With Oil

           There is a constant theme in the teachings of our Lord Jesus. He is forever telling us to stay alert, stay awake, and fight against deception. He tells us to stay prayed up, fasted up, filled up, read up, and lit up. Not only must we stay in His written Word, we must always stay close to Him, the Living Word. Living for God is impossible otherwise.

         Any real believer can be deceived at any time. Our enemy is no slouch. He is a very powerful deceiver, and Christians who downplay this or do not take the Lord seriously will have no chance. The more one turns his or her Christianity into a kindergarten Sunday school class, the more likely he or she will never grow up.

         “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps.

         Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’

         And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” [Matthew 25:1-13]

         There are false doctrines within overall Christianity that make a mockery of such teachings. The idea that one can never be lost once being saved plays right into the devil’s hands. Why in the world is the Lord ever telling us to stay alert? Sleepy time Christianity has institutionalized spiritual laziness and the rejection of sound teaching regarding one’s fight against deception. One of the worst things a believer can do is act as if the enemy has no chance against us or that one’s sin is somehow always being removed as if by magic though there be no real repentance or aggressive attention to spiritual details.

         Most Christians trust their guy in the pulpit, and though there are many solid ministers, there are also many solid quacks and spiritual pansies who side with the devil more times than otherwise. Letting some hand-picked man or woman or whoever might come your way be the central arbiter of your spiritual life is not Biblical. Remaining a dunderhead while trusting a Christian guru without staying close to God is very foolish, but this is often the norm in Christian circles. Good shepherds are relatively rare and should be respected, but appeals to authority other than the Lord will not be allowed at the judgment: “But look at all I did, Lord! My pastor/priest/reverend told me to do it that way! All my friends said I was right!”

         When believers let their lamp go out it is because they are living today on yesterday’s oil. The Lord alluded to new wine skins being necessary on given occasions of new growth and new spiritual output. Doing things the way we did it yesterday does not necessarily work in the here and now. It never works in the future. God changes course a lot and does new and different things all the time. Without following Him and paying attention one can never keep up. It is always sad to see so many Christians living in the past and refusing to allow themselves the refreshing renewing and change for the better that comes with truly following God.

         Do the journeys of the Israelites mean anything at all? God was always doing different things. He wanted no one to come up with a formula or plan or doctrine or belief system that would somehow give all the answers and make Him predictable. As another example, when the Lord Jesus healed the blind He always did it differently.

         From these simple truths we should know we can NEVER figure out God, but the reason why is not what you may think. A real living relationship with the Lord demands an ongoing newness and freshness, and such cannot be achieved or lived out by doing the same thing we did last year or last decade. Some Christians are so stuck in the mud they are still living in the wineskin of fifty years ago. As a result, they have little life. Their oil has long since run out. Their lamps serve no purpose. They give off no light. They missed the bridegroom long ago but act as if they are still waiting for Him.

         It will be a long wait.

         That’s why the answer is the non-answer. Living for God successfully means staying close to Him so one can hear His voice and thereby obey Him and do His will, whatever it may be. Therefore the answer is remaining in a state of real repentance, living by faith, praying always, fasting enough to get the job done, giving, and studying the Word. These are not answers so much as they are the means to the answer. These things help us to keep our lamps and oil flasks filled. We were made to be filled with the Spirit of God. We must always keep our oil supply fresh and our tanks topped off.

         And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. [Acts 13:52][1] 

         © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.