Posts Tagged ‘heaven’

Posted: May 2, 2012 by Nathan in What If...
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A couple of summers ago we travelled back from our much needed and fantastic family holiday. We had not travelled far, about an hour, when we came to a stop at the end of a traffic jam. It became clear that there had been an accident and the traffic jam soon turned into a linear car park.  People got out of their cars and craned their necks to try and see what was going on. First police, then ambulances, fire engines, more police, an air ambulance, yet more plain police cars and finally the ominous sign of the darkened windowed cars of the undertakers filed passed our windows. We were only about 30 cars back and could see the aftermath of the accident.  It was far too close for comfort, especially with two small children in the back.

Three hours is a long time to sit in a car waiting. As I sat and prayed for those involved and for all those who were helping I couldn’t help but wonder “What if…?”  What if my wife had not taken that wrong turn?  What if my kids had not slept in so late? What if we’d been more organised the night before and packed the car then? All these questions leading to the inevitable “What if we’d have been 2 minutes earlier and it had been us involved in the accident and not them?” What if instead of sitting here in relative comfort for three hours we were sitting in agony as fire crew cut us from our car? In fact, what if it was us that the undertakers were packing into those black bags and transporting sedately away in front of the silenced onlookers?

In some ways it doesn’t bear thinking about. Yet thousands of people die unexpectedly every day of the week, every week of the year. Those six people involved in Sunday’s accident had no idea what their day was to bring. Never would it have entered their minds that this day would bring so much pain, anguish, tragedy and even death. However, it happens to people all over the world day in and day out and yet we never expect it to happen to us and never really prepare for it. When it comes to dying most peoples preparation goes as far as ensuring they have clean underwear on in case they land up in hospital.  Some people go as far as having funeral plans, life insurance and making a will.  But what about the really important thing?  Have we really thought through what would happen to us if we did die unexpectedly today? Is this life really all there is? Many people have a vague belief in God, but are we really ready to meet Him?

The Apostle Paul, in the Bible, says that to live and do God’s work on earth was great but to die was even better.  Not many of us can say that!!  I once knew an incredible lady who was so ready to die, she was an inspiration. Every birthday that came around she would say that we could wish her “Happy Birthday” but weren’t allowed to wish her many “happy returns” (a way of saying “and many more birthdays to come as well“).  She had been a missionary, she was still doing the work of God but what she really wanted to do now was to meet Him face to face, to go to heaven and start the party!!  She didn’t want to die in a sort of depressed, suicidal way she just wanted to move on to bigger and much better things. She knew she was living in a second class Kingdom and that God had so much better for her in store. She had thought through carefully the Christian faith, she had made her decision and lived it out for many years.  She was now ready to go home. Had she not spent the time and energy to explore the Christian faith she would not have been ready, she would not have had that certainty that a life trusting God can give you.

You may have made a will, got life insurance, have your family catered for and all your affairs in order but have you taken care of your spiritual welfare? You may have left details of what is to be done with your possessions and even your body when you die.  Your nearest and dearest may know if you want to be buried, cremated or even cryogenically frozen but what preparations have you made for your eternal future.  What if there is even the smallest possibility that part of you, that part that makes you you, continues in some form or other.  Some people call it your soul, some your spirit, but whatever it may be called isn’t it worth thinking through the possibilities.  No-one likes to miss out on good things.  As a Christian I believe that the best is yet to come. I believe it took God six days to create this earth.  I also believe that is has taken Him 2000 years and counting to create an eternal place for us to dwell.  That gives the magnitude of how great I believe heaven will be.

Now that is going to be some party!!  Are you ready to join in?

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The disciples of Jesus asked Him how they should pray, in His reply He teaches them what we now know as the Lords Prayer. So, what is this teaching all about? These disciples ask Jesus how to pray and what they get in return is one prayer? Or do they get a template on how to pray? So what do we have? He had been in close communion with His Father and he knew the right way to approach and communicate with Him. The Lord’s prayer is a template on how to commune with the Father. So, let’s have a look…

Our Father

Approach Him with respect recognising the right relationship between God and us.

In heaven

Let’s make no mistake who we’re talking to here, we are approaching the creator God of Heaven who made all that exists. Heaven is out of sight, and a world of spirits, therefore our conversation with God in prayer must be spiritual; it is on high, therefore in prayer we must rise above the world, and lift up our hearts.

Hallowed be your name

Hallowed – to make holy. Holy be your name, Holy is your name. A statement of Worship and statement of Praise. Psalm 100 tells us that we

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. “

Basically worship, praise, thanksgiving draws us into the presence of God. If we want to get God’s attention there is no better way than to praise Him.

Let Your Kingdom come

Let your rule, your reign, commence. Have your way with me. I am your servant. I am willing to be submissive to all you want to do in and through me. I acknowledge you are the King and ruler of my life.

Let your will be done

Not my will Lord, not my agenda, but yours. I want to know your will. I want to pray that Your will in all situations, whether I like it or not, be done. Now, I think this is a massively important point and one we continually pass over. We are so busy telling God what we want Him to do for us and those we know we miss what He might be wanting to do. We come with our shopping lists asking God to heal this person and help that person and give this person money and that person a job etc. etc. and we don’t stop to ask God what he would like to do in any given situation. We need to step back, say God this is the situation, what do YOU want to do in it? Seek God for His will and then ask Him to do it. When we find God’s will and then pray that into a situation we suddenly find God answers. Funny that!!

On Earth as it is in Heaven

We long for Christ to return and for God’s perfect rule to begin. Until then we are told that the Kingdom of God is at hand and we want to experience as much of that reality as possible. We are in the world but not of the world. We live here but are not under its rule. We want to usher in the Kingdom of God, we believe it starts in the here and now and we want that Kingdom on earth to expand.

Give us today our daily bread

So much can be taken from this one little line, in fact you can take it word by word.

Give

We are asking for the kindness of God. We’re not asking for a loan or for something we deserve or have earned we are asking for an unmerited gift from God.

Us

It is a term of inclusion. We’re not just asking for ourselves but for those around us. For those we love and care for.

Today

Here is our sense of urgency. As a new day is upon us we recognise the need for God’s provision. We need God’s provision for each day of our lives whether we recognise it or not.

Our

Here we recognise that we want God’s provision for us – we do not want the bread coming from others or due for others. We acknowledge that there is enough to go round and we don‘t want more than our share. We’re asking God to help us not to be selfish or greedy but to want what God wants to give us.

Daily

Thinking not of tomorrow, but trusting God for that, we ask for what is needed for today. We are aligning ourselves with our parts of the Bible that urge us not to worry about tomorrow but to stay focused on the here and now.

Bread

Here we are asking God for what is needed. Nothing fancy, simply bread. Yes, food to sustain us but also other everyday needs. God knows what we need and He is more than willing to provide that – we don’t need to spell out all our needs we simply need to acknowledge our need of God’s provision.

Forgive us our debts

An acknowledgement of our fallen, sinful nature; that we can be forgiven, redeemed and that God is the one who can forgive us. Taken in conjunction with the previous section the implication being that this is a daily request to continuously and constantly be forgiven. When this is prayed our slate is wiped clean once again.

As we also have forgiven our debtors

A call to duty. What good is it for us if we are forgiven but cannot forgive those who have wronged us? It is a great call to hope that if we can find it in our hearts to forgive those that have done wrong to us – how much more will God, whose forgiveness is perfect, readily forgive us.

And lead us not into temptation

We’ve admitted our sin, asked and received forgiveness and so it is natural that having a clean slate we ask for God’s help to keep it clean and not to err again. We are not saying that we believe God leads us into temptation but acknowledging the guiding hand and power of the spirit to lead us away from situations that may cause us to sin.

But deliver us from evil

We’ve asked for God to guide us away from situations that may cause us to sin. Now we are asking Him for His protection from the one who hounds us, the devil and all his agents. We are also asking for his deliverance from sin itself.

For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever Amen

And so we return to praise and adoration. Telling God what He has already told us. Affirming our hope that God can do all that we have asked of Him and so much more besides.

So Jesus was asked by His disciples how to pray and he gave them the Lord’s prayer. Now I don’t for one minute think that this was something that he came up with on the spare of the moment. We’re not told but my guess is that Jesus had been perfecting this prayer for years. Moulding it, perfecting it and using it as His own.

If you look at each petition they are all petitions that will receive a YES from God. Does God want to give us what we need – YES. Does God want to forgive us – YES. Does God want to deliver us for the devil – YES. God will always answer our prayers. However He will not always answer them in the way we would want. God will usually answer with a yes, a no or a wait! The Bible teaches us that God will give us what we need and whatever we ask, according to His will He will give us. Now, many people translate this as God will give us whatever we ask. So when they pray for a Ferrari and don’t get one they become disappointed and disillusioned. Their translation misses out the important part “according to His will”. The Lord’s prayer gives us a template to use in prayer helping us to pray according to the will of God. When we sincerely pray the Lord’s Prayer God will answer us in the affirmative. God is a God who provides for our needs but not necessarily for our desires. So when we pray we need to bear in mind our needs, not our wants and also have in mind what God may will for a situation.

In any situation that we face, in any situation that we pray about it is always worth praying first to try and discover God’s will for that situation. It is all too easy for us to try to force our will on God when His will is what really matters. If we can discover God’s will for a situation we can then go on to pray with confidence and certainty that He will answer us in the affirmative. Next week we’ll look at this in a little more depth but I just want to leave you with an example to help illustrate what I’m talking about…

 Your best friend gets very ill. Now, it’s our natural reaction to pray for healing. However, God knows the end from the beginning. He knows what is going to happen and what He wants to do in this situation. If it is not God’s will to heal your friend no amount of prayer for healing is going to change his mind. Therefore, it is better to seek God’s will for your friend and pray accordingly. It might be that God will is for your friend to learn something through this experience before God heals Him. Our prayers can help our friend learn that thing quicker and then God can bring about his healing. It may be for some reason or other that healing won’t take place immediately and what your friend really needs are prayers for patience, energy, peace etc. and not prayers for healing. It may be that God, in His wisdom, knows that your friend will not be healed and will in fact die (let’s face it we all die sometime). God’s will may be for you to pray for a strengthening of their faith or for a peace of mind or for their family in this difficult time. There is no point in us continuing to pray for healing when it is not God’s intention to heal. We are just banging our head against a wall which will never move. All it will serve to do is make us disappointed and disillusioned with God. However, if we can discover His will and pray accordingly we will see wonderful results and be encouraged and strengthened in our faith.

I don’t know about you but life seems to be flying by! You spend your childhood wanting to be a teenager and your teenage years wanting to be an adult. When you reach adulthood you long to be a teenager again and soon after that you’re on the home stretch. Life really isn’t that long. Before we know it it will have passed us by and we’ll be left wondering where it all went to.

 

Some of you will have started this New Year with some resolutions. A few of you will have broken them already!! I watched a Facebook thread unfold yesterday about New Year resolutions. People were going to lose weight, sort out their finances, be happier, spend more time with family, get fitter and work less. These are all admirable things and I could probably benefit from perusing all of them. However it got me thinking about all the things we really should do but put off year in and year out. I’m not talking here about the back bedroom that really could do with a lick of paint but no-one really sees it or the book that Auntie Maud gave you that you ought to read but “Using Quantum Physics in Everyday Cooking” doesn’t really strike you as that interesting a read! I’m talking here about things we put off without necessarily knowing it.

 

Most of us are really good at putting things off. We put off getting life insurance until we get really sick. We put off visiting old relative until their funeral. We put off buying a new car until we’re broken down miles from anywhere with the tow truck on its way. However there are some things we really should not put off any longer, because who knows when it may be suddenly too late. I have a friend whose philosophy is “do it now for tomorrow you may be hit by a bus”. It sounds a bit grim but it means she lives for the moment and never regrets not doing things because she’s already done them. Another grim but true story that I love is that of a gunman who goes into a church during a service. He marches to the front and puts the gun to the Pastor’s head and tells the Pastor that he is going to kill him. The Pastor replies “By all means pull the trigger for I know exactly where I’m going, Do you?” The gunman had never thought about it but the Pastor, as he stared death in the face, had thought through the greatest issues of life (and indeed death) and had come to strong hope filled conclusions.

 

My New Year challenge to you it not to put off the bigger things in life any more!! And our commitment to you this year is to help you think through some of those bigger things. This year at What If…? we will be tackling some of those big things that we tend to put off thinking about. Such issues as…

 

  • What happens when we die?

  • Is there more to life than what we can see?

  • Is there a heaven and a hell?

  • Do all religions lead to God?

  • If there is a God why does he let people suffer?

  • Can a God of Love send people to hell?

  • Am I too bad to be saved?

  • Is it really worth looking into the claims of Christianity?

  • Is there truth in the Bible?

  • Does science hold all the answers?

  • Was Jesus who he said he was?

  • Isn’t Christianity past its sell-by-date?

We’d love for you to explore with us these and many other questions of life and faith. We want to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree with us we’d love to dialogue with you. We hope and pray that you have a wonderful new Year and that you grapple with some of life’s biggest questions with us and not put them off!

 

What If… I die tomorrow?

Posted: September 1, 2010 by Nathan in What If...
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Last Sunday we travelled back from our much needed and fantastic family holiday. We had not travelled far, about an hour, when we came to a stop at the end of a traffic jam. It became clear that there had been an accident and the traffic jam soon turned into a linear car park.  People got out of their cars and craned their necks to try and see what was going on. First police, then ambulances, fire engines, more police, an air ambulance, yet more plain police cars and finally the ominous sign of the darkened windowed cars of the undertakers filed passed our windows. We were only about 30 cars back and could see the aftermath of the accident.  It was far too close for comfort, especially with two small children in the back.

Three hours is a long time to sit in a car waiting. As I sat and prayed for those involved and for all those who were helping I couldn’t help but wonder “What if…?”  What if my wife had not taken that wrong turn?  What if my kids had not slept in so late? What if we’d been more organised the night before and packed the car then? All these questions leading to the inevitable “What if we’d have been 2 minutes earlier and it had been us involved in the accident and not them?” What if instead of sitting here in relative comfort for three hours we were sitting in agony as fire crew cut us from our car? In fact, what if it was us that the undertakers were packing into those black bags and transporting sedately away in front of the silenced onlookers?

In some ways it doesn’t bear thinking about. Yet thousands of people die unexpectedly every day of the week, every week of the year. Those six people involved in Sunday’s accident had no idea what their day was to bring. Never would it have entered their minds that this day would bring so much pain, anguish, tragedy and even death. However, it happens to people all over the world day in and day out and yet we never expect it to happen to us and never really prepare for it. When it comes to dying most peoples preparation goes as far as ensuring they have clean underwear on in case they land up in hospital.  Some people go as far as having funeral plans, life insurance and making a will.  But what about the really important thing?  Have we really thought through what would happen to us if we did die unexpectedly today? Is this life really all there is? Many people have a vague belief in God, but are we really ready to meet Him?

The Apostle Paul, in the Bible, says that to live and do God’s work on earth was great but to die was even better.  Not many of us can say that!!  I once knew an incredible lady who was so ready to die, she was an inspiration. Every birthday that came around she would say that we could wish her “Happy Birthday” but weren’t allowed to wish her many “happy returns” (a way of saying “and many more birthdays to come as well“).  She had been a missionary, she was still doing the work of God but what she really wanted to do now was to meet Him face to face, to go to heaven and start the party!!  She didn’t want to die in a sort of depressed, suicidal way she just wanted to move on to bigger and much better things. She knew she was living in a second class Kingdom and that God had so much better for her in store. She had thought through carefully the Christian faith, she had made her decision and lived it out for many years.  She was now ready to go home. Had she not spent the time and energy to explore the Christian faith she would not have been ready, she would not have had that certainty that a life trusting God can give you.

You may have made a will, got life insurance, have your family catered for and all your affairs in order but have you taken care of your spiritual welfare? You may have left details of what is to be done with your possessions and even your body when you die.  Your nearest and dearest may know if you want to be buried, cremated or even cryogenically frozen but what preparations have you made for your eternal future.  What if there is even the smallest possibility that part of you, that part that makes you you, continues in some form or other.  Some people call it your soul, some your spirit, but whatever it may be called isn’t it worth thinking through the possibilities.  No-one likes to miss out on good things.  As a Christian I believe that the best is yet to come. I believe it took God six days to create this earth.  I also believe that is has taken Him 2000 years and counting to create an eternal place for us to dwell.  That gives the magnitude of how great I believe heaven will be.

Now that is going to be some party!!  Are you ready to join in?

Why bother to even look into the claims of the Bible?

So you’re sat at the breakfast table when you hear the familiar plop of the morning post arriving on your door mat.  You get up and stagger, in your still half asleep state, to pick up the post which you reckon will be mostly bills. You sort through them and find one that jumps out at you.  It has the familiar embossing of your family solicitors in the corner.  It worries you at first but you open it and there inside is a letter stating that you’ve come into some money. However it’s not just a few hundred dollars it’s is $2 million.  You rub your eyes!!  You read on and discover that someone has left it to you in their will.  You read the newly deceased lady’s name several times. No, you are quite sure you’ve never heard of her before in your life.  There must be some mistake!  Strangers don’t die and leave people millions of dollars.  Especially not to you!!!  The letter states that you need to come into the local office to verify who you are and to receive the check.  But you know it must be a mistake!! You don’t know the lady!! Never heard of her!!  The claim of the letter just simply can’t be true!  So you put the letter in the bin and think nothing more of it?  The claim just can’t be true can it?  Things like this don’t happen to people like you, do they?  Wouldn’t you be just a little curious?  Wouldn’t it be worth making a quick phone call just to put the mistake right? Wouldn’t it be worth popping in to the solicitors just in case there is the smallest possibility that in might be true?  But perhaps you don’t need $2 million?  Perhaps you don’t want a bit of security for the future?  Let’s face it we live in a world where we could all do with a bit of good news.  If the claim is good enough, and let’s face it most of us would check it out for a lot less than $2 million , it’s worth checking out!!

The Bible makes some outrageous claims!!  It claims the answers to many of the things that people are seeking today.  If advertising is anything to go by we are all looking to live longer, feel better, be at peace, be more content, find the perfect person and get richer.  The Bible, believe it or not, claims to have the answer all of these things!  For centuries people have searched for the Holy Grail, the key to everlasting life.  Books have been written about it, legends built on it, films made about it and lives lost seeking it. Yet the Bible claims to hold the keys to Eternal life and not only any old eternal life, eternal life lived in perfection.  I don’t know about you but eternal life in this world may sound good but to me 100 years is looking like a very very long time!!!  The Bible claims that the eternal life it offers comes without pain or suffering or tears or sadness or hatred or loss.  Now that is some claim!!  Is that not worth checking out?

Many of us spend time in the gym to keep ourselves fit and help us to live longer.  Isn’t is worth spending a few hours investigating the claim of eternal life and so much more besides.  The Bible not only claims to offer “pie in the sky when you die“, it almost claims to offer “Steak on your plate while you wait!!”  if the claim is great enough it is surely worth checking out. Next time (in two Wednesdays time) we’ll look more at what theses claims are and why they’re worth checking out!