Heaven Week: Driving the Mental Herd

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

It’s heaven week on the daily devo. This week, we’re going to ask, “What’s so great about heaven, anyway?” We start in Colossians with a couple of the most overlooked commands in the New Testament. These are powerful commands because they tell us huge things about God and about ourselves.

stones_350First, we learn that God does not just care what we do; he cares what we feel and think about. Second, we learn that we have the power to “set” our emotions and thoughts on whatever we choose. You can control your feelings instead of being run over by them. You can choose where your mind lingers.

Think of yourself as a cowboy and your thoughts and emotions as hundreds of cattle. Where should you be driving those little doggies? Toward “things above,” the verse says. Think about – feel about – what goes on above your daily life on earth. Round up all those stray thoughts and surging emotions and drive them in the direction of “heaven stuff.”

Why? Tune in tomorrow.

Think: Estimate about what percentage of your waking hours you spend with your heart and mind set on “things above.”

Pray: Ask God to make you hungrier for heaven this week.

Do: Make a little list of the top 5 “earthly things” you tend to think and feel about most.

Heaven Week: Hidden Life

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:3-4)

Too many of us Christians carry around a silly and shallow idea of who we are on any given day. If forced to check a box, we put an “x” by “Christian” or “Evangelical” or something. We see ourselves as part of a demographic. Those people are Muslims. That group is Jewish. I’m a Christian, because that’s the group I signed up with.

stones_350God sees those who are “in Christ” as far more than just the people in the “right” churches on Sunday morning. At the moment you stepped into relationship with God through faith in Jesus, Paul reminds us here, your life – your journey to save yourself, your identity as your own person – died. It ended. It’s over. You are his. You are a Christ-one.

Your real life – the eternal, meaningful, unimaginable one beyond anything you could know to hope for – waits with Jesus to burst into the glorious technicolor now when Christ appears. Then you’ll find yourself in utter joy and with zero regrets standing right next to him. All will be exactly as it should be. What will that be like?

Think: What will that be like?

Pray: Ask God to make you hungrier for heaven.

Do: Write a short list of things you’re looking forward to about heaven – things the Bible tells you to expect there.

Heaven Week: Imagine There’s a Heaven

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Revelation 21:1-2)

John Lennon famously sang, “Imagine there’s no heaven.” Two days ago, we listened to Paul (the apostle, not Lennon’s Beatles buddy) sing just the opposite, “Set your minds on things above.” As little as some Christians talk about heaven, you’d think it almost doesn’t matter to us. So let’s imagine there is a heaven for the next few days – and let’s trust God to tell us a little about it through his Word.

stones_350Spoiler alert! This comes at the very end of the Bible. So if you’ve been reading through, this will give away some major plot detail. John (the apostle, not Lennon) has been given an all-access pass to the future, to the end, to heaven. He finally sees the scene described here.

Plug this into your imagination: Our “heaven” (the sky, the sun, the moon) has been destroyed, right along with our earth. New ones have taken their place. There’s a lot of land, because the new earth doesn’t have an ocean. Looking up, we see a city coming down from the sky toward the earth. She’s the New Jerusalem – God’s Holy City – and somehow she looks like it’s her wedding day.

Think: Do you think Christians think too much or too little about heaven? What’s the point of imagining our eternal future?

Pray: Ask God to help you think about heaven in the healthiest possible way.

Do: Give yourself a half-hour sometime this week to do nothing but stoke your imagination about heaven and your future with God.

Heaven Week: God With Us

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ ” (Revelation 21:3-4)

Here is the heart of heaven. Here is the end of the story. Here is the best and final moment in all of history. Here is what we are created for – and until this moment comes none of us will ever be fully complete, fully satisfied, fully who we were intended to be.

stones_350At this moment, the divider between God and humanity will be finally and fully removed forever. To be with God is what every human heart longs for, and here it is. He will live with us. And not just as a warm feeling or a “sense of his presence.” He will live with us physically, in person, face to face.

To define it negatively, we can understand heaven by what isn’t there: tears, sadness, crying; pain, loss, mourning, funerals; promises that “someday everything will be okay.” This verse is our someday. And it’s an endless moment worth waiting a lifetime for.

Think: Do you ever sense in yourself a longing to be with God? If so – or not – why do you think that is?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be aware of your longing to be with him in person forever.

Do: Make a quick list of ten things you’re looking forward to not having in heaven.

Heaven Week: Write This Down

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ ” (Revelation 21:5)

I love the Internet. I cannot imagine how we ever lived without it. At any moment, you can access any tidbit of knowledge from the known universe with just a few keywords and an enter button. Sites like Wikipedia spew out priceless knowledge on every subject anyone with a keyboard cares about.

stones_350Of course, with all the information available online, you’re always wondering, “Is this really true?” How do you know what is trustworthy and what isn’t? Wikipedia’s facts are provided by users – and they can say almost anything. As it ever was, our information is only as reliable as where (or who) it comes from.

God wants us to believe what he has to say about our eternal home with him in heaven forever. In the middle of declaring “everything new!” He stopped and reminded John to write the words down. They are trustworthy. God does not lie. For those in Christ, heaven is our home no matter what Wikipedia says tomorrow. We can dare to believe it, because we can take him at his Word.

Think: Do you ever question the reality of heaven and living with God in perfect peace forever? Why or why not?

Pray: Ask God to help you to trust his teaching about heaven absolutely.

Do: Notice today all the sources you get your information from. Do you trust them all to tell you truth? Why or why not?

Heaven Week: Unthirsty

“He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.’ ” (Revelation 21:6-7)

God’s story is history. God’s story is the whole story, the story of everything. He is both the original “Once upon a time” and the final “The End.” There is no story, no history, no saga, no great adventure or devastating tragedy or thrilling success that happens outside of God’s story. We are the characters in a cast of billions and our lives flip by in a few pages in the epic of his eternal existence.

stones_350So who – how – could anyone live “happily ever after” with him? That’s what makes his story so mind-altering.

In speaking of thirst here, God echoes the words of Jesus to the woman at the well in John 4: “. . . whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

And what is the reward to those who drink that water, who overcome by trusting the Author of it all through his Son Jesus? Walking into the timeless sunrise as God and child, inheriting everything we’ll ever need to be happy, content, joyful, and satisfied in his endless final chapter.

Think: What does it cost to drink from the spring of the water of life? (Read the verse again.) Why do think God mentions that we can’t pay our way into his family?

Pray: Thank God for including you in his story. Thank him for being in control of how it will all wrap up.

Do: Read Romans 11:33-36 out loud a few times to yourself or a friend.

Heaven Week: Golf or Bowling?

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:13)

If you ever played golf with me, you might think I was confused about the point of the game. “Does Chris think that the player with the most points wins? Because he sure doesn’t seem to be hitting towards the hole!” Turns out I’m just bad at golf, but many of us live as if we don’t understand the point of life.

stones_350We might say we believe we’ll spend forever in heaven as God’s child in perfect peace, contentment, and happiness. But then we live on earth as if we’re trying to build heaven here. We chase money, sex, sports, pleasure, music, relationships, power – even religion – with a desperation that suggests we think we might find the right scenario to make this life fully satisfying.

If heaven is real, that’s the wrong game. The angels must watch us and think, “Do they just not get it? Why do they keep running in the wrong direction?” In today’s verse, Peter explains how to live as if heaven actually exists: Put all your hope in that life. Until then, accept that this life will always be difficult and chase God with everything you’ve got. It’s the only game plan that makes sense.

Think: Are you running from God in any area of your life in the hope that you’ll find heavenly happiness before you get there?

Pray: Ask God to help you put all of your hope on the forever grace that will come with seeing Jesus.

Do: Read 1 Peter 1:13-25.