Monthly Archives: August 2012

The burden of Eternity

This is part four (point one) of a four part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 2nd September. These four blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “What comes next?: Exploring Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

This particular blog is courtesy of Shore Vineyard Churches pastor Vic Francis

For me, eternity was settled 30-odd years ago in the newsroom of the Auckland Star newspaper when I first encountered saving faith in Jesus. As I did so, I felt a great burden lift almost literally off my shoulders.

Whatever heaven looked like, I knew I was going there – and I’ve committed my life to living that way ever since. I remember skipping down the front steps of my workplace, thinking, ”It doesn’t matter if I get run over by a bus!”

What I think about heaven has changed quite a lot since then. I no longer think it’s in some far-away physical location “up there” somewhere. I no longer think it’s like a long holiday where I don’t have to work and can eat sausage rolls all day without getting fat. I no longer think I have to sing “Holy, holy, holy” for hour after interminable hour. I no longer think it’s going to be like church every day.

In fact, there is much that I no longer think, and just as much that I plain just don’t know.

But one thing hasn’t changed. Ever since that day I met Jesus way back in 1981, I have known I could trust him for everything – in this life and the next one.

What will heaven be like? I don’t know; I’m not sure I’m meant to know. But I know I’m going there, and with that I am at rest.

Is your eternity secure? If so, you’ll share my confidence and certainty. If not, though, I’d love to help you meet this Jesus that I’m trusting for everything.

Treasure.

This is part three of a four part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 2nd September. These four blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “What comes next?: Exploring Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

What awaits you in heaven?

Popular ideas might tell of a great inheritance. A golden room with a giant television. Maybe you will have golden threaded robes and silk shoelaces. Oh and top it off you will get a crown with, like, a bajillion awesome jewels! The streets are also made of gold and there are piles of money everywhere. TREASURE! Yes!

I have even heard people who have supposedly had prophetic visions of heaven, and they describe this exact place – a place where everything is made of Gold and platinum and silver and it is all wonderful and shiny.

My problem is that when I hear these things, I have a few random thoughts. Here are a few:

1. Heaven is probably the best place in the universe to play indoor sports because with all that metal, nothing is going to break.

2. No interior designer goes to Heaven. Not because God doesn’t love them but because they refuse to be in rooms that only have one colour and texture scheme.

3. Heaven is a place where we all get to live like Kanye West (who legitimately insists on eating with golden cutlery).

My odd thoughts don’t really line up with what I look at in some scripture.

In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus tells us not to store up treasures on Earth, but rather store up treasures in Heaven.

And it seems to me that rather than seek Jesus’ version of what treasure is, we are simply just storing up EARTHLY treasures IN Heaven (which I think is contrary to Jesus’ point). It almost seems like we can relax our pursuit of earthly desires right now, because we trust that one day we get to be Uncle Scrooge and swim through a gold coin safe when we die.

Are we really that selfish about even our eternal life? Are we really that taken by the earthly elements of our world?

What if Jesus was proposing that treasure, in God’s realm and on God’s terms, is far bigger than the petty things we ascribe the definition “treasure” to? What if the imagery and symbolism in the Bible of crowns and castles and jewels and robes was actually just a tiny attempt to capture and represent the magnitude, majesty and sheer awe of God, His kingdom, and His glory?

It’s just another “what if?” question, but once again it calls us to confront some questions about ourselves and the life that we lead.

How might Jesus define treasure? How would He ask you to define it?

God bless you as you explore and are challenged by this question.

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Heaven, Hitler, and a whole lot of “what if’s?”

This is part two of a four part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 2nd September. These four blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “What comes next?: Exploring Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

This blog might be less of a thought, and more of a question. It isn’t there to present something wild and different, and it isn’t about Christians and non-Christians/in and out /us and them.

This is about you, and God’s grace.

So, let me ask you.

What if Hitler is in Heaven?

It is a question that arose for me last year, and I found myself journeying through some interesting thoughts and emotions as I grappled with it.

What would my response be? Would I get angry? Would I be furious that this man (if he deserves the title of “human”) who committed mass genocide is now spending an eternity in the loving embrace of our Lord and Saviour?

Perhaps I may even find myself angry at God for affording Hitler the same graces that are extended to me. Because, if I am honest, I consider myself a better person than Hitler – and, unlike Hitler, I know for sure I said my little salvation prayer!

Or would I be tempted to worship God even more than I ordinarily would, in awe of his amazing grace?

As I wrestled with some of these things, I found myself faced with a much, much bigger question.

What do my thoughts and feelings on this subject reveal about my own sense of entitlement to God’s grace?

We can have ideas, inklings, hunches and theologies about what happens when we die – we can even be fully convinced that what we believe is true – but that will never change the fact that God’s grace is His alone. We cannot earn it, we are not entitled to it. It is the Lord’s gift to freely extend in love and mercy as He sees fit.

Far be it from me to publicly define the parameters of grace extended by the all loving, all powerful, all knowing God that is our Creator, King, Friend and Saviour.

And with that, I would like to leave this blog in the most open-ended way possible.

Heaven: a future worth putting your faith in, now.

This is part one of a four part series leading up to the next “INTERSECTION” service on 2nd September. These four blogs will be related to this month’s topic which is called “What comes next?: Exploring Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

This week I am privileged enough to have Dan Sheed, Assistant Pastor at Shore Vineyard Churches, as a guest blogger. You can and should visit his website after reading this.

Firstly: Let’s talk about faith.

Faith, it’s like this: Some believe that faith is a thing of the mind, and others believe its a thing of the heart. What a tragic dualism. Does it really have to be one or the other? Can these two not exist together?

Faith, as Hebrews 11 can prove, is a combination of both of these wonderful positions – we believe in God with reason because we have thought well, and come to a conclusion that He exists, and then we also have this heart-moment – a conviction that He is an incredible God, mysterious and awesome.

Both of these two positions mysteriously merge, like black and white together making green, and we arrive at a new position – commitment. Commitment is the combination of having thought well of God and arrived at a reason of some sort, that combined with a conviction of His activity today, we now have this amazing movement of our lives being lived for Him.

This is what it looks like to have faith – to sign your life up to following Jesus: It’s not a sinners prayer prayed in a hype-induced moment but instead it’s to arrive at a position of reason, and conviction and decide: I’m in, and I choose to live here, in this place of faith right now.

We have a saying in the Vineyard, that “Faith is spelt R-I-S-K” and it is – but only on the one side of conviction. Deep down, we know that we need to step out in some sort of blind trust or obedience to see His hand move – but isn’t it also completely opposite?

Isn’t faith also spelt “I K-N-O-W”? Because we have engaged, thought, wrestled and arrived at a place of not having to risk at all; we know who this God of ours is.

Second. Let’s talk about hope.

In his book Mans Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychotherapist who survived spending the war in a German concentration camp, notes that the ones who survived were ones who had something to go home to. When someone found out their wife was dead, or their son was killed, or their life’s work would never be able to be complete, they gave up. They signed up for being with the dead. Frankl’s observation was that these men did not just simply give up – they lost faith in the future.

Lost faith in the future?

Can we have faith in the future? I thought our faith was in God.

We are hopeful creatures, and God is a God of fulfilling that hope-fullness. Hence why He says these wonderful words in John’s revelation: “Behold. I am making all things new.”

That is our Christian hope – our faith in the future; that is what we can put our faith in – that our God is in the restoration business. That his mission is still to redeem His world, not throw it out. That His mission includes us: we are the ones being made new and restored, and we have a role to play in continuing that job.

This faith in the future, changes the way we live right now. It has incredibly large effect.

Third, love.

A wise friend of mine once said that God’s kingdom – his heavens – is like a thunderstorm brooding over this age of this earth, and every now and then a bolt of lightning strikes down to it. Our job, he said, is to go out with golf clubs and try conduct lightning bolts.

Go out in storms and conduct lightning bolts? Really? We can conduct things of God’s future now?

What was it Jesus said the greatest commandment was again?

Love God, and equally love others.

So: love this awesome Creator who loves His creation, this God who loves it so much He is set in the mission of redeeming the brokenness and hurt in this world…

…and join him in doing it. We get to love others with this same heavenly restorative agenda. This changes the way we treat one another.

Jesus came with a message of God’s Kingdom breaking into this present world – and His Kingdom is one of restoration – it fixes things. This changes the way we pray. (Remember Jesus’ instructions on prayer was to pray heaven to earth.)

Jesus came and told us to get busy putting our actions where our faith was cashed in – to love the poor, to spend ourselves on those less fortunate. This changes the way we do mission.

Jesus came and told us that to see this Kingdom we would have to sell up everything for it and instead live this selfless life in service of this God who is making all things new. This changes the way we hoard our lives.

The common theme?

Love. God’s currency of doing all of this is love, and Jesus invites us to live it out too. To become people marked by love, defined quickly as the ones who love. Remember those words of Paul. He says that we can do all the amazing things of faith and hope, but without love we are useless.

We are useless why?

Maybe it’s because we have stopped living in the direction God is living – one of love for a world that so desperately needs it, so that it may be restored. So that it may be made new. So that it may be as it was always meant to be; perfect.

Could this position of living God’s future now be why John wrote such things as “Let’s not merely say we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”

Could this position of living God’s future now be why James wrote such things as “Faith or deeds? It’s both!”

Could this position of living God’s future now be why Paul wrote such things as “Love from the center of who you are – don’t fake it.”

Bold words: but from people who had firm faith in their God’s future plan.

A God who’s future plan is one of completing His restoration of sin, brokenness and pain. Now that is a God and a hope worth getting out of bed in the morning for, and future worth putting your faith in, right now.

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Why I am banking on Jesus for eternity

This is part four of a four part series leading up to the launch of Shore Vineyard Churches, new church plant “INTERSECTION”. These four weeks will be related to the first service which is called “Who is Jesus: Facts, stories and questions about the most influential man in history.” For more information on Intersection, visit the Shore Vineyards website here

In my first blog I mentioned the night I gave my life to Jesus.

A month or so after that I was sitting in a math class at high school having a conversation about religion with an Islamic friend (I should mention that my attention at school was rarely given to the actual subject at hand). I had so little insight to offer as a new believer compared with this educated young man, yet deep in my heart I had, despite the things he told me, a great peace that this Jesus I had encountered and begun learning about was indeed the way, truth and life. The conversation was positive, encouraging and stimulating – yet I left with a sense not really fully understanding why I felt so comfortable believing what I believed.

Fast forward a few years that consisted of bible reading plans, pastoral short courses, daily devotionals, and then some poor personal decision making, I found myself in a very different place. I had turned my back on family, friends, and even Jesus, yet I had this profound sense that He had not turned his back on me.

Sitting on the side of a lake on the other side of the world, I heard a whisper.

“Calvin, I love you”

If whispers were fists, I would have had two black eyes, a broken nose and a swollen lip. Never have I experienced four words that impacted me so deeply.

There is no question it was Jesus.

Two weeks later I found myself on my knees in a church service, and then I had what I can only describe as the most major experience of my life. I felt someone hug me. I could feel their clothing, their warmth, their breathing. It was a tight, loving, comforting embrace. I opened my eyes. No one there. Yet the embrace continued.

There is NO question or doubt in my mind that it was Jesus.

For all the theology, learning, historical facts, wrestling with doctrine and mental torture we put ourselves through over trying to prove God, we so rarely allow our hearts to offer an answer. And yet here, in the story and invitation of Jesus, we see a God who craves relationship and intimacy, who longs for us to find comfort and security in Him. We are called to respond to Jesus from the depths of our soul rather than the scope of our education and discipline.

Why am I banking on Jesus for eternity? Because when I read the invitation of Jesus to His disciples I get excited. I love the things Jesus did and want so desperately to be a part of them. I love the idea of blessing the poor, healing the sick and loving the broken.

And when I participate in those things, I FEEL the love and grace of Jesus with me and around me.

When I live a life seeking first the kingdom of God, it feels like I am living eternity right now.

And it means everything to me.

 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.I have made youknown to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

-Jesus (John 17:24-26)

 

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