Heaven and Hell

Heaven_and_Hell_by_RedXen

 

If a man is united with God how could he not live forever? If a man is separated from God, how could he not wither and die? —C. S. Lewis

No argument that is founded on logic can answer those questions. Our relationship with God is our eternity.

Heaven, simply put, is a oneness with God. There is no doubting yourself, there is no questioning him. Everything is set so you can be the person you were meant to be. You also get a relationship with the maker of the universe, so, there’s that, too.

Hell is the opposite. Hell is life with no God. For real. You aren’t pretending there’s no God, God just is not there. It is chaos, it is disorder, it is pain, it is suffering. It’s everything we were not meant to be. All with no hope.

Heaven isn’t a place we earn. Heaven is a place we “inherit” because of a relationship with God. It follows our bond with him. It is the natural course. If you love him, you are bound through eternity to the one who created eternity and you. We don’t inherit it by friending God as if he were on facebook, keeping him in your contacts in case you need him. You need a real relationship founded on trust, and love. It’s not required by rule, but by law. The law of this world. If you’re not united with God, what is keeping you from withering and dying?

Hell is not a place that God sends us. It is a place we send ourselves. When God created us, he gave us the freedom of choice, because otherwise it wouldn’t be an honest relationship if he created us to naturally love him.

Neither Heaven, nor Hell, can be used as a coercive bludgeon in an honest relationship. God doesn’t hold anything over our heads, he simply presents information and allows us to make an informed decision.

We play games with ourselves, though. Our fears of hell drive us to falsify a relationship with God, and our desire for Heaven, without a loving relationship with God, does the same.

Leave it to us to screw up the relationship, right?

Thank God for Jesus, because he’s so much wider than our narrow-mindedness. He’s so much longer than our short-sighted views. So much taller than our shortcomings.

He’s so much more than our less.

Chaos is in the Eye of the Beholder

I realized something: I’m sorta afraid of death.

It made me wonder why. Death is the doorway to heaven. It’s the end of pain, and hardships, the end of imperfections. For those who know they need God (and earnestly seek him) it’s a one-way ticket to eternal happiness.

On the other side of the coin, it’s the end. It’s the dark sucking hole that is impossibly empty. For those who don’t believe, it’s just the end of existence. That doesn’t seem so very bad. You do what you can while you’re here, and when you die, you don’t care, you’re dead.

(Plus there’s Hell, that’s scary, but that’s another article.)

But I realized why it’s scary to us people. Here’s what I think:

I’ve been reading about people and God, more specifically the intimate relationships between individual people and God. In his book The Normal Christian Life, Watchman Nee talks about how living for God is absolute. You don’t act upon your own ambitions any more. You either do, or you don’t.

In a world where your career, or what you’re going to do when you grow up, or how you’re going to support yourself (let alone a family!), are questions weighing down most jobless people, it’s very hard for us to trust in God. Especially because God’s rewards aren’t often physical rewards. His rewards come in spiritual formatting, more regularly. And that software doesn’t compute with our hardware: the physical.

All that to say, people have a hard time surrendering themselves to God, more so when they’re pressured by whatever problem is directly in front of them. They can be forced into having tunnel vision, where they can’t see God and the spiritual aspects of life, because what’s happening in front of their physical being is seemingly more pressing.

When this happens, it becomes even more difficult to let go.

Imagine you’re holding your infant child, and you are going to hand it to your most-trusted friend. You can judge the distance with your eyes. With your arms and hands you can feel their arms wrapping around your child. You reach out slowly, transferring the child into your most-trusted friend’s arms. Piece of cake.

Now imagine your most-trusted friend is invisible. Not only that, you can’t feel him. You cannot sense him. Would you trust yourself to hand over that newborn baby?

I know I wouldn’t. Because, when I let go, I can’t control what happens.

Control is something that we people think we can have. We can’t. Even if you don’t believe in God, you know that each individual has their own choices. They’re all going to choose something. You may be able coordinate large groups of people, maybe even whole countries, but you’ll never be able to control each individual.

When planning a summer BBQ, Sharon can’t make sure Lisa brings the potato salad, that’s up to Lisa, to put in the car and drive the car to Sharon’s. And that’s not to say that it’s up to Lisa entirely, her husband Frank may decide he doesn’t want to share the deliciousness his wife made, or their dog Dennis may not be able to resist the aroma. As you can (hopefully) see, control is impossible. But we like to think it’s not.

This element of chaos, the fact that we don’t have any control, is obvious in trusting God, because he may lead you one way, and then slam the door in your face, in order for you to find the other doorway. His methods aren’t chaotic, they just appear that way to those who are only capable of seeing one side of the story.

For me, personally, it is very hard to trust God. Whether he is asking me to respect my siblings or my parents, or he’s showing me something I’m not sure I want to happen, or even trusting him in the things I do want to happen, that he allows to happen. All these things are difficult, because if they’re out of my hands, I am not sure I’ll get the result that I want.

His will, not ours. That is the hardest part, I believe. What he wants, not what I want.

I think that when you allow the Holy Spirit to be with your spirit, you can be in concordance with God. It is then, and only then. We all act outside of the Spirit, it’s nearly impossible not to, but if we could get to the point where we trust God enough to do all that he says, then we’ll be at a point where the consequences are always for the best, regardless of the immediate affect.

When we can trust God that deeply, death isn’t something to worry about. It’s not something to even think about, because we can’t control it (or anything), and we trust God to know that when he chooses to take us will be for the best.

It’s easy for our spirit to reach this level of trust, but difficult for our soul, our body, to reach this level. And that comes back to my point about the physical being more obvious to us, thus hindering our perception of, and willingness to trust, God.

I don’t think I’m scared anymore. Now, I’m anxious to reach that level of intimacy.

Trusting God

A long time ago we decided to live life differently.  The definition of “differently” continually changes, but along the way has included raising support from friends and family who helped financially free us to work in campus ministry here in New York, and accepting any invitation to come and sing and never ask for money from any of those engagements.

The current version looks a bit different, as I do certainly charge (a specific amount) for what I do, but I am still quite flexible and generous with my time. (Which is perhaps a very different thing?)

Bottom line is, we are happy to trust God to provide for us, instead of trying to do that for ourselves.

Many things have come together recently, however, to help us realize that we are not truly living a life of trusting God to provide for us.

True, we do trust him.  Implicitly.  We credit him for all provisions we receive.  And even when we do not receive what we wish we would have received, we know that He loves us, and that He sees more than we see.  And so we trust Him.

But what Jen and I have both seen—and Jen wisely alerted me to—is that we have been living with a foot in both worlds for some time now.

We have been on the one hand, trusting God to provide whatever he sees fit to provide, but on the other hand – while exercising frugal spending – going ahead of God and his provision, mostly in the form of paying for things we needed (or maybe didn’t?) with credit cards and other loans.

And now, the weight of that burden has caught up with us.

We are at least a month behind on most every monthly bill.  We were warned by our mortgage holder that we were in danger of losing our house (though that has been corrected) and there really is a great, heavy financial burden on both of us at the moment.  Seemingly more than we can work out from under.

We are taking steps to remedy this – including me working extra hours, Jen doing a little work for my dad, I applied for another job, etc – but I think perhaps the biggest step is really choosing what we believe.  And how we want to live.

And that “way” is trusting God to provide for everything we need.  Everything.

So we have decided from here forward to not use credit cards (barring perhaps a life-threatening emergency?) and see where that takes us.  So far, so good.  We have seen God provide tiny bits of cash when we need it, and we are much happier (when we are not thinking about the looming debt that is close behind us) spending the money that we actually have, rather than continuing to go ahead of God and pay bills or buy food or whatever we thought we needed on a credit card.

“What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these [what they will eat, what they will wear], but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

That’s from the end of Matthew 6.  That’s a section of scripture that has always been very close to me, and I think maybe because that’s how God has always wanted me to live.  And the amazing this is, that’s what he wants from Jen, and what we want together.

So, we are embarking on a journey that I know will take us deeper… and actually, other than that we have no idea where it will take us.  Yes, it is frightening in a way… but, not when we remember whom we are trusting, and remember how He loves us, and has taken care of us so far… we know that he always will.

[PS… I do not write any of this to elicit some sort of financial response from anyone who might read this – which includes almost exclusively family and close friends.  Only wanting to share this decision/shift in thinking that seems very important – milestone-ish – in our lives right now.]

Tuna

Tonight we had to eat tuna sandwiches. We have sworn off credit cards here in the Campbell house and are really trusting that God will give us what we need. If we don’t have it… we don’t need it.

So, we have tuna. That makes it tonight’s dinner.

The kids are all cooperating differently. Ian ate it. Kirstie ate it and talked about how she didn’t like it, but she was going to eat it anyway (with a smile!) Julia ate it with mom’s help. Alex is not. (Par for the course with him.)

Should be interesting learning to live on what God gives us. Tuna is only one manifestation of that choice.

So far, so good 🙂