Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Heaven Is For Real

Heaven is for Real
I just finished reading Todd Burpo's book, "Heaven is for Real". It is a book I have been wanting to read for a while and HIGHLY recommend it. The book is a true story about Todd's son Colton's trip to heaven and back during an emergency appendectomy. Colton was not yet four years old. So many things about this book intrigued and inspired me. Who doesn't want to know what heaven is like? I won't spoil the book for you by telling you things that Colton saw, such as who sits on the left side of God's throne while Jesus sits on the right or how old people are in heaven. Instead I will share the things that inspired or encouraged me.
First of all Colton saw people from his family who had passed away and that he had never met. One, a sister, who died as a result of a miscarriage. A miscarriage Colton had never known about. For how would you explain that to your 3 year old son in the first place? One night Colton was crying because he missed this sister (who was the age of a little girl) that was in heaven. This made me think about people from my family, or even friends, that are in heaven and that I will see again or meet for the first time. Maybe my grandfathers, who I have never met, will be there to welcome me. However, the ones that I think I am most curious to meet are my siblings - 5 of them. See my mom had 4 miscarriages (one was a set of twins) before she had me and then my sister. So many questions - are they girls or boys?; how old are they in heaven?; do they look like me?; what are their personalities like?
The second thing from the book that struck me was in chapter 19. Colton would reveal little tidbits of information of what he saw during the regular flow of life - meals, errands, etc. However he had one constant theme: he talked constantly about how much Jesus loves the children - constantly. He would wake up in the morning and say to his dad, "Hey Dad, Jesus told me to tell you, He really loves the children." He would say this over dinner, while brushing his teeth, at the end of a bible story. He had a non-stop message about Jesus' love for kids and in the end it transformed the way they did children's ministry in their church.
I have always known that Jesus had a special love for children. Maybe that is why when unborn babies die he adopts them and gives them school-aged bodies. But what hit me the hardest is that Jesus has given me the job of ministering to the children of FBC. Children that he loves so very much. Do I see in them what Jesus does? Do I treat them, teach them, love them like He wants me to? Do I believe that God uses children in amazing ways? How as a congregation do we see and treat them?
Then there are my own children. What am I doing as their parent to teach them, encourage them and point out their gifts and abilities. How do I discipline them?
In the end I am asking God to help me see and love children the way He does. Then maybe I will not only be a better parent or children's pastor but learn more about the faith I should have - faith like a child.
Who are the children in your life? Do you really love them like Jesus does?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Hospitality of God

There is a word that has been rumbling around in me for the last few months. It is a word that really embodies some of the thoughts and practices that have been surfacing in my life for many years. It is the word “hospitality.”

It is not that this is a new word for me, I had just not paid any attention to it. But right now, it is all I see as I read the Bible.

One of the more significant encounters I have had recently was in the Psalms. There is a part in Psalm 23 that reads:
“You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies.”

This passage has really caught me off guard. The Almighty, Prince of Peace, Alpha and Omega, God of the Universe has set a table and invited me to sit at it with Him. God as Host. The picture of this scene that I have in mind is that I have been fighting with my enemies on this epic, medieval battlefield, and we have been at each other ferociously. I am scraped and bruised and bloodied, and my opponents are once again rallying to overcome me. All of a sudden, God has arrived. His presence alone has stunned us, the battlers. He does not engage the battle, He hasn’t even noticed that it was happening as far as I can tell. He speaks a table with terrific food and drink into that place, and in a whimsical almost oblivious fashion invites me to sit and dine.

The reason He has not been alarmed by my enemies presence is that to Him they are of no concern. In His presence they hold no intimidation or power, in fact, in the glorious light of His presence they are but wisps of smoke. I can be completely at ease because of His hospitality.

God as Host has brought His table to my situation. Wherever He is, He is Host.  

A similar instance of hospitality plays out in the Gospel of Luke. On the road to Emmaus, two travelers have an encounter with the risen Jesus. They find themselves being comforted by this stranger as they travel and once they arrive at their destination for the evening, they persuade their traveling companion to stay and eat with them. Gathered around the table, Jesus takes the bread, an action of host, and breaks it and shares with them. The two are instantly aware of who’s presence they have been in and hurry back to Jerusalem, encouraged and in wonder.

Their enemies (confusion, doubt, disillusionment) are vanquished in an instance as they find rest for their souls at the table of the Lord.

Are there situations that are causing us to fear, or be anxious? Feelings that are warring inside of us? Sit with this picture of God as Host. Accept His invitation to be a guest at His table.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Pastor Kevin On "Wonder"

Almost from the time we are born we are pushed and prodded to “grow-up”.  Parents wonder when we will say our first words, take our first steps, put on our shoes for ourselves, get our own breakfast . . . and on and on and on.  It even gets to the point where we may be scolded “When are you going to grow up!”  The world around us seems bent on pressuring us to mature and become a contributing citizen of our society.  But along the way if we are not careful all this pressure can lead us to a place where we have lost the ability to imagine, dream, wonder and explore.  Essentially it leads us to a place where God has become a word in our Bible rather than the all creative presence at work in our life and unfolding “wonder” in our world.  I like the way William Wordsworth says it:

There was a time when meadow grove and stream,
The earth and every common sight
To me did seem
Appareled in celestial light.
The glory and freshness of a dream.
It is now as it hath been of yore.
Turn whereso’ere I may,
By night or day,
The light which I have seen
I now can see no more.

When we cannot see His wonder anymore we are apt to live accordingly.  Which means we are apt to live more in line with what culture and society tell us, rather than to dream of a world where God is breaking through, transforming, bringing to light, loving to greatness and at the center of who we are.  Jesus came not simply to die on a Cross, He came to die and let His resurrection from the dead change the world and burst forth each day in our lives and in our world.  This means that we can actually make decisions and trust beyond what the cold hard facts of the world tell us. 
Italian artist Caravaggio from the year 1603 titled "Doubting Thomas":

So in what way today will you step out, reach out and touch resurrection, life that you never thought possible.  Jesus isn’t telling us to “Grow up!”, He is telling us to “Grow into” Him.  “Come, touch, believe!”