A “Near-Life” Experience

12 05 2014

This is a season of  being transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). The Lord has been challenging much of what I used to believe, and correcting my somewhat faulty paradigm. It will be a while before I can share how he’s been doing this, so if my stories seem a little vague, now you know why!

However, the latest one – about eternity – involves no one else. I can tell all!

This paradigm shift thing is kind of funny, for some of the changes (like unconditional love) make my mind feel like it’s being twisted into a huge knot. In truth, though, it is being untwisted and set straight.

That God is doing so is comical, for my most frequent prayer concerning other issues is that the Lord would make the crooked places straight, rough places smooth, and for truth to be revealed…and this prayer hasn’t been for me personally, but for others! While typing out this post, I just made this connection. He’s been doing this in me, too. Very cool!

Let’s get back to eternity.

It does not begin the day I die, as I previously believed. Jesus said it this way:

This is eternal life, that they know You, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (Jn. 17:3)

In other words, with Jesus as my Lord, and in relationship with Him and the Father (and the Spirit, of course, who lives within me), this is eternal life. I’m living it!

Sure, for now it’s on a broken planet that’s still under the rule of the enemy, but my eternal life is well underway!

Further, Jesus said He came to give life – and that abundantly.

He meant here and now, not in the sweet by and by.

Sadly, I’ve spent almost a half a century gutting it out, hoping to endure to the end – to drag myself across the finish line of life so I could get to the “good stuff”

…and discovered that “life piled on life” is ours to enjoy right now – today!

Somehow, we’ve accepted the idea that we will live in heaven forever. A careful look at Scripture will reveal that our goal is not to “get up to heaven;” it is for us to live in such a way that we get heaven happening down here. Don’t we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?”

Further, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and God will dwell with us here – not in heaven, as I previously believed.

I mean, I’ve been trying to get through this life, hoping it would end soon so I could “get up” to heaven.

If God intended for us to live in heaven, He would have placed us in heaven and skipped the whole “earth” thing, wouldn’t He? I do not believe that earth was created as a waiting room – a proving ground of sorts – to see who could qualify for a heavenly home.

If this were the case, it certainly wouldn’t be fair. Since those who are under the age of accountability go directly to be with the Lord upon their death, it seems that heaven’s inhabitants are largely aborted babies. They didn’t have to prove anything to gain entrance to heaven!

The Tower of Babel was an example of man trying to “get up” to heaven. It ended in division – language was confused, and distrust set in.

This still happens today. Why are we upset when people around us speak in a foreign language? At its core, we feel threatened because we don’t know what they are saying. “Are they talking about me?”

When heaven came down to earth at Pentecost by way of the Spirit, however, the result was unity!

One God, one Spirit, one Lord. We have a common language. Some refer to it as “Christianese” or “Biblespeak.” Our vocabulary changed when we became disciples. I experience this when I travel and join other believers for worship – whether here in the states or in another country. It’s a wonderful thing!

Heaven came to earth in Jesus Christ. He’s seated on His throne right now, but we, His body, are here to represent Him. Through us, heaven can still impact this world if we abide in Him. We are to be bearers of the Good News that reconciliation with God is possible now.

If the Kingdom of God is within us, and we are God’s tabernacle (the original of which is in heaven), then we can indeed experience heaven here on earth. Between this life and the new heaven and earth, we will be with the Lord in heaven, but it’s not our permanent dwelling place.

The abundant life of which Jesus spoke is available to us here and now, not after we die.

Hope is a “now” word – not just a “on that great day” word.

Fellowship with Him is meant to be now, as well. Although we only see through a glass darkly, we see His effects around us, in the same way as we see the effects of the wind, but cannot see the wind itself.

At this point, I realize that I don’t need a “near-death” experience to give me hope.

What I desperately need is a “near-life” experience!

***

Thanks for listening while I try to work this all out on “paper.” 🙂 It’s in its infancy yet, so kind comments are appreciated.

For more discussion on this topic, visit:

Wow! Just Wow!





Bedazzled!

14 04 2014

The Good News is good news indeed! This last year I discovered something that seemed so amazing that I found it hard to believe. It is this:

The purpose of the death and resurrection of Christ was to restore to you and me the same relationship Adam and Eve enjoyed with God before the fall.

When I first understood this, I thought it had to be heresy. After all, I know myself. I am not a perfect sinless being.

Ah, but that is from a human standpoint. Jesus has a very different view.

Don’t miss these verses from Colossians 1:21-22:

“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and beyond reproach in His sight – if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel…”

(Read just the bold print above…do you see it??)

How is this possible? Can it be true? Let’s go to Hebrews 10:

“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His fleshand having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful ” (vs. 19-23).

God said it, but I find it hard to believe. As I stated earlier, I know myself. 1 John 3:20 addresses this issue though:

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.”

Somewhere along the way, I picked up the idea that a relationship like this (with God), begins once I die. “Eternal life” begins then, doesn’t it?

Not according to Jesus:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)

Whooee! It doesn’t get any better than this.

If I am “in Christ,” then eternal life is not something yet to come… I’m living it now!

When there is distance between the Lord and I, it’s because, like Adam, I’ve gone into hiding and attempted to cover myself with sewn-together fig leaves (very itchy, by the way!). No doubt the angels scratch their heads in wonder whenever I do this. “What’s she thinking?” I can hear them ask one another.

The distance is spanned in an instant when I acknowledge my sin and turn back to the Father. (Did you know that the Greek word used when the father ran to welcome his prodigal indicates that he sprinted? “Ran – of those who run in a race course; denoting to incur extreme peril, which it requires the exertion of all one’s effort to overcome.” [From Strongs Lexicon])

You…me…welcome to spend time with our Lord whenever and wherever we want. No shame, no condemnation, we’ve been reconciled, restored, we’re invited to come boldly to the throne of grace…He calls us “friend.”

Wow! From our human vantage point, this is the Crown Jewel…and I am humbled by His generosity.

This beautiful truth has, indeed, left me bedazzled!





Plastic Hearts

4 12 2013

Plastic is a useful material. Open the fridge or the cupboard; in fact, look around you and notice the many ways in which it is employed.

This material is waterproof, break-proof, spill-proof (if you remembered to put the cap on!), and impermeable.

Let’s stop on “impermeable.” In a nutshell, it means nothing gets in…and nothing gets out unless the container is opened.

This is very much like our hearts. We can “plastic coat” ours, and sometimes do so after we’ve experienced emotional pain.

One problem with this layer of protection is that, like an unopened container, it is sealed:

Nothing gets in (like love),

and nothing gets out (like love).

The first forty years of my life were very painful ones. In the beginning, some very hurtful things were done to me, but by my 20’s I was also doing things that caused me pain as well.

I made some observations during that time, and decided that the problem was people. If I kept them at arm’s length, they would no longer be able to hurt me. I coated my heart with so much “plastic” that it was more like a transport tank for liquids than a flesh-and-blood organ.

(Of course I speak in metaphors, but you know what I mean!)

Over time, though, its contents began to roil and stew. The gasses of all that junk inside began to expand until it finally blew.

I made an important discovery that day:

Blessed are those that mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

You see, there can be no comfort for the one who chooses to bury their pain, rather than grieve.

This serves to keep the Holy Spirit

– our Comforter –

from effectively ministering to us.

In keeping with the current theme, you can see why this could be a very big obstacle to an intimate relationship with God.

There are a couple of things we must accept about the reality of loss and life.

The first fact is that we are alive. (Can I get a ‘duh?’ 😉 ) However, because of this reality, we will feel pain and we will experience loss.

Only the dead feel no pain

Another truth is that you and I live in a fallen world where sin is present.

In a fallen, sin-filled world 

pain and loss cannot be avoided

Some losses are inevitable. For instance, every one of us will experience the death of someone we love. No one lives forever on Planet Earth. Methuselah thought he had a fighting chance – he lived over 950 years! However, he died…as we all must.

A few more losses that we are likely to experience are these:

The loss of love through abandonment, rejection, or betrayal

The loss of a job

The loss of our health

The loss of friends due to relocation (we moved from Wisconsin to California, then to Oklahoma, and back to California. Long distance relationships are hard to maintain! All our friends had to be told “good-bye.”)

We may have to let go of a dream

The loss of trust for another

These are just a few of the ways we experience loss. No doubt you could add to the list.

The point is this:

Loss is inevitable

How we handle it will either keep us fully engaged in life…

Or make us like the walking dead

After all, how will we comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received (from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4)…

…if we bury it, put on a happy face, and go on as if nothing ever happened?

*****

Next time we will explore why ungrieved losses are a problem, not only in our relationship with others, but also with God.

You’ve dropped in on the series Intimacy with God. It begins here: C’mon In…

This section is about loss and grief as obstacles to intimacy.





Astonished!

12 11 2013

In September I went to the coast for a mini-retreat. I had one word that I needed to discuss with the Lord. It was this:

“Robbed”

That’s how I felt concerning my mom. She and I had plans to spend every day together without distraction during the recovery period following her heart surgery.

Instead, there were complications – one after the other – and her last month on earth was spent moving from ICU to the med ward and back to ICU.

That month was a nightmare and I was torn between being home with my youngest sons – and at the hospital where her medical attendants seemed to be the most inept people on the planet. They could either keep her hydrated, or her pain managed…but not both at the same time.

Due to a blood infection she contracted in the hospital, her body began to fill up with clots. They put her on medication to dissolve them. When new clots began to develop, I contacted some family members to let them know that she was not going to make it.

She told her doctor and us that she wanted to be taken off the drug on Saturday if it wasn’t working. Yes, she knew that meant she could die. Yes, she was ready to go.

The next day, I read to her from the Bible, bade her good-bye, and went home. When I returned at 6 p.m., she was comatose…having suffered a massive stroke.

On Saturday, she moved to Heaven.

Eight years later, I still held a grudge against God. Things weren’t supposed to end that way. She and I were supposed to have six weeks to spend together…a rare thing because she was a very busy woman, and was raising her great-granddaughter as well.

I felt robbed – more so because I was helping my friend care for her elderly mother at home…like I should have been allowed to do for mine.

(This despite the fact that He was closer to me during that nightmare than I’d ever experienced before. He showed Himself in many, many ways and put little “touches” on each day to give comfort and strength. I treasure the memory of each one.)

Because of my experience with my mom, however, I was well-equipped to travel through the Valley of the Shadow with my friend and her mom. I knew where some of the pitfalls were, and how to navigate around them.

Because my emotional investment was not as intense, I was able to see issues more clearly. Problems that I’d missed in the earlier episode – either due to a lack of knowledge, or mostly because I didn’t want to see what was taking place – were quickly identified and handled well.

God taught me patience, kindness, and gentleness through my mom’s passing that I was able to employ with my friend and her mom.

The days I spent with my little lady are ones that I will hold dear, for they were exactly what I had hoped to have with my mom. It simply could not have gone the way I wanted because of relationship issues and her circumstances. It was a dream, but impossible in reality.

The Lord, who loves us more than we can imagine, honored me with an invitation to walk with this gentle saint through her last days. In a way, I did for her what I would have done for my own dear mother.

Last week I thanked the Lord for this assignment. To my astonishment, I heard Him whisper,

“So, am I forgiven?”

His tenderness and humility in asking such a thing cut my heart to the quick. He’d known all along that this stood between us – and this mattered to Him!

He understood what I was saying when I shelved my Bible and refused to open it for many months after Mom went Home. He heard the hurt and bitterness every time I spoke of this season of my life. He knew my “word” long before I was aware of it.

He loved me enough to minister to my wound…and heal it.

He had done nothing wrong. People live and die. It’s part of living in a fallen world. No one lives forever on earth. Death eventually separates everyone…for a while.

Yet, His relationship with me matters to Him – enough that He would humbly ask if I could finally forgive Him.

One thing I’ve learned in these last few years is that when we study the Bible in order to “learn the rules”, we are missing the point.

There is not one command given that does not reflect His nature and character.

Not one.

Love your neighbor…God is love.

Do not steal, do not envy, do not covet…every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights.

Do not commit adultery…God is faithful.

Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord…

…this is my latest lesson…

…because God is humble.

He loves us with an everlasting love; therefore He has drawn us with lovingkindness.

I am astonished by His great love for us!





Baked – To the Glory of God

24 10 2013

No one in their right mind would go to a restaurant and ask for a bowl of flour, sugar, salt, vinegar, shortening, cocoa, eggs, milk, bicarbonate of soda, and vanilla…with a side of powdered sugar, more cocoa, butter and milk!

Who on earth raided the kitchen pantry and decided to mix this stuff in the first place? “Ooh! What a gooey mess I have; whatever will I do with this mess? I know, I’ll bake it!”

I’m not sure I want to explore their thought processes!

On the other hand, I’m glad they did. by itself, none of these ingredients is very appealing, but combined and baked, we have a sumptuous frosted chocolate cake!

Life is like that. There are many components to our lives that are unappetizing when viewed separate from the rest…and before the timer goes off on our lives.

The finished product?

A sweet savor unto the Lord, and the aroma of Christ to others!

Current circumstances for me are like the vinegar and sugar bit of the concoction that make up my life.

The vinegar part is the grief of death. It stinks. It’s bitter.

This assignment from the Lord opened wounds not yet healed from my mom’s passing…the vacant look in her eyes most of the time; the difficulty in moving her from place to place, feeding and caring for her personal needs because she was no longer able to do that for herself.

…and now, her absence.

At the same time, there was also some sugar. Sweet moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

My friend was (and still is, by the way!) a sweet, patient, gracious, and peaceful woman of God. In many ways, the last couple of months have been like caring for my own mom – who has been in heaven these last eight years. They were much the same in appearance and demeanor, and close to the same age.

She and I talked about heaven, about everyone she would see again, and what it might be like.

I probably spoiled the surprise, but I wondered if her husband – part of a quartet at their church and now in heaven – would call together two of the other members with him there to sing her a “Welcome Home” song. Of course, Jesus would fill in for the tenor who’s still here on earth! I wouldn’t be surprised!

It was a joy to care for my friend, and do the things that I’d been unable to do for my own mom. What a gift the Lord gave me in this opportunity.

Bitter. Sweet.

Now that these ingredients have been added to my life, the finished confection will have a flavor that differs from what it would have been just a couple of months ago.

One blessing I received from this assignment is a new perspective on how I view my life.

It is one I want to share with you.

No longer do I want to look at the individual “ingredients” that are part of my makeup – separate events in my life – but rather to keep my eyes on the Baker, and trust that He knows what He is doing.

Much like a cake, our individual components will all be “worked together for good to those that love God”! Leave anything out, and the finished result would be very different.

The “flour” bit – when I felt like I was being ground into powder…very necessary!

The “sugar” bits offer the hope of a “sweet” outcome.

Vinegar? Who puts vinegar into a cake – or a life, for that matter? Yet this, along with the soda, cause me to rise above my enemies.

There have been some greasy, shortening bits as well, and added texture to my otherwise flat existence.

You get the idea. As I said earlier, there’s nothing appealing in the individual ingredients…

…but when I am presented before the Lord, I will be a glorious masterpiece of His creation!

So will you!

May the Lord bless you, keep you, make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace. 🙂

Love in Christ –

Tami

\o/

Praising Jesus for His good plan for us!