Dreaming of Paradise

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Last night ’round 9:30, I sat alone, prayerfully thinking about the chaos in which I am presently living. As I prayed, God was near.  Please understand that I am not complaining!  I enjoy rich blessings – the love of God, many friendships, a comfortable home, great kids. Yet … there are struggles with which I wrestle, even with my good life. And thus, I rightly long for that promised place where sin cannot enter, where suffering is unknown, and where intimacy with God is unbroken. In my weariness, I dreamt of Paradise.

The Psalmist expresses my desire:  “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, NIV)

Heaven is written into our beings by our Creator.   He made us to love and serve Him and, as we invite His Spirit to be at work in us, we will more intensely desire His Presence, which will be perfectly known when we reach Paradise! This morning, my meditation returned again to the words of Peter who tells us to be wary of getting too cozy in this present world. “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:11-12, NIV)

Without a firm grasp on the promise of Paradise, we will almost certainly become disillusioned, even embittered, with the passing of time. “I meet many faithful Christians who, in spite of their faith, are deeply disappointed in how their lives have turned out. Sometimes it is a matter of how they experience aging, which they take to mean they no longer have a future. But often, due to circumstances or wrongful decisions and actions by others, what they had hoped to accomplish in life they did not …. Much of the distress of these people comes from a failure to realize that their life lies before them… the life that lies endlessly before us in the kingdom of God.”   (The Divine Conspiracy, Dr. Dallas Willard)

Christians who loses sight of Paradise Promised will revert to the same responses to life that those without God experience. They will fight for their own interests and fiercely protect what they believe is important to their own happiness. They will fear what they cannot understand or control, but when eternity is in view on time’s horizon, faith settles, trust grows, and peace comes.  My friend, do not make the mistake of believing that eternal life only begins when we die, that the joy of Heaven is only available to us after our bodies are in the grave!  We are citizens of Heaven even now by the grace of Jesus Christ. We enjoy intimate communion with the Lord of Glory now.

Indeed, our high calling is to bring the kingdom reign of God to earth now.  Jesus taught us to pray, “may Your Kingdom come and Your will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven.”  That is for now, but we cannot do the work of the Kingdom if we have little hope for it in our hearts.

Abraham is a model for us.  He heard God’s call, grasped the reality of Paradise, and lived the rest of days here on earth on pilgrimage.   Was he perfect?  No!    He took some detours from the straight and narrow path, but he never lost sight of where he was going.  The Word says  “By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations-the City designed and built by God.”  (Hebrews 11:8-10, The Message)

Perhaps one reason we do not anticipate Paradise with greater desire is because we have adopted a flawed vision of it. The images of the misty fog enveloping transparent spirits floating in a ghostly realm, of little cherubs strumming harps as their feet dangle over the edge of clouds, are nonsensical!  Paradise is a real substantial place, of unimaginable beauty, where we know unbroken communion with God and perfect love of one another. Beyond that, let’s remember that Heaven was created by the God that thought up the refraction of sunlight by water moisture which produces the beauty of a rainbow.  If He would do that for beauty that lasts for a few moments what must He do for a place that is eternal?   We gave on the beauty of majestic mountains, enjoy the babble of tumbling streams, and are moved to tears by the cooing of a baby.  Now think;  if He would make a temporary world of such splendor, what must our eternal home look like?

So, by faith, reach out and hold onto Paradise.  When life is overwhelming, when sin threatens to engulf you,  when all seems futile,  when disappointment breaks your heart – look up and thank God that He has written Heaven into your heart. I did, and it brought rest, put me on the right path again.  It is precisely that God-instilled longing for Paradise that makes us unwilling to settle down and desire our best life now.   We are headed home!

Here is a word from the Word. My prayer is that the Spirit will write in large letters in our minds and hearts. “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”   (Hebrews 11:13-16, NIV)
_________

Build My Life
(a beautiful prayer of worship and hope)

Worthy of ev’ry song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You

 Jesus the name above ev’ry other name
Jesus the only one who could ever save
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You We live for You

 Holy there is no one like You
There is none besides You
Open up my eyes in wonder and show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me

 I will build my life upon Your love
It is a firm foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
And I will not be shaken

Brett Younker | Karl Martin | Kirby Elizabeth Kaple | Matt Redman | Pat Barrett
© 2016 Martin, Karl Andrew (Admin. by Arkyard Music Services Limited)
Bethel Music Publishing CCLI License # 810055

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