April 5, 2010

Looking Toward Heaven

Today is another beautiful day in Phoenix. It is supposed to be very warm (near 90, I think) all week, and I am just not ready to give up my jeans in favor of shorts. I know you are thinking, "What are you crazy?" Well, truthfully, I get to wear my jeans for just a couple months each year, and I rather like them. I would prefer to wear jeans and tees simply because they are comfortable. I don't really like how I look in shorts, but when the weather gets to be 100 plus, you don't have much choice in the matter. It is shorts or else suffer heat stroke! UGH! I have so enjoyed spring (minus the allergies, of course) and really am not looking forward to a long, hot summer.

As I sit here and contemplate my day, what to do, what must be done, etc., I am thinking about Heaven. Our Pastor gave a great Easter message yesterday (at Paradise Valley Community Church). Easter messages are always difficult because you have such a strange dynamic in the congregation. You have church members, regular attenders and the like, along with people who come once a year or happen to make Easter a first time event. You don't know if they know the Easter story or not, so you gotta cover it. You either indulge the newbies and bore the oldbies or you try and do a little bit of everything (which is what our Pastor did). Actually, he gave a message with two parts and I think he did great. He made sure to let the newbies in on the Grand Story while tying it in nicely to what we are studying as a church (Community and the next 25 years of the "Church").

He made a comment yesterday that got me thinking (he always does that). He was very funny (he always is) and he made lots of fun regarding the media's view of heaven (clouds, babies in diapers, etc.) But, he said something that clicked with me, and I have been thinking about it. As Christians, if you have spent time in the Word, you will have read several different descriptions about Heaven. In all of these passages, you don't really see what our world THINKS heaven is like, instead you see a Glorious picture of what God SAYS it will be like. The key thing for me is that Heaven is not just our eternal destination, but rather it is a real place. And, in that real place, there will be real people (you and me) as well as real things (houses, streets, food, and work). Yes, we will not all sit around and do nothing -- we will actually do real work.

Our lives, whether earth-bound or heaven-bound include work, practical and physical work. We were created for work. We were given backs and limbs and minds and strength to do practical physical work. Adam and Eve tilled the Garden of the Lord; Cain raised crops, and Abel raised livestock. They did practical physical work in the Garden and out of the Garden. I think this is a perfect illustration of how it is to be in Heaven. Heaven is the pure Garden of the Lord, the place where there is no sin, no hardship, no suffering, no pain. Heaven is where we will do work, practical work for the Lord, just like we do now here on the Earth. We are out of the Garden, so to speak, but there is much work to be done.

I know a lot of people think that when they get to Heaven, they will simply spend all eternity at rest. To them, rest means a cessation from work. They THINK they will do no work, that they will lolly-gag around, sitting idly by, and doing nothing. They think this because this is what they have been told, erroneously by generations before who believed that Heaven was for rest. Yes, it is truth, we will be at rest, but it is a rest from enmity with God and the prince of this world (Satan). We will be spiritually and physically at rest, no longer battling the forces of darkness and evil. But, we will not sit idly by and do nothing. God has work for us to do when we get there, things that we are to do to keep His Home as He wants it to be.

While we are here in this Earth, we are working for several reasons. We are working to care for ourselves and our families. We are also doing Kingdom-building work. We are reaching the lost with the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are living and breathing and functioning as the Body of Christ. Once we are finished with this work, we will go on to do other work. We were not created for rest, except the blessed rest that comes through Peace with God.

As I thought through this message, I started to question my own views of work. I started to look at how I often put down certain types of work in favor of others. I also started to look at my attitude about work in general. I typically am a "rest" kind of person. I like vacations. I like sleeping in and doing nothing. I like to be lazy. I do work, and can do hard work (both physical labor and mental tasks), but generally I prefer easy stuff. I do "sweat the small stuff" so I tend to avoid the "big things." I tend to favor low-key, light end type jobs. I like the kind of work that doesn't wear you out right away. I like to soft things, the easy things, the things that can be done without a whole lot of brain power (like doing dishes or vacuuming - mindless tasks that let you do them without thinking).

However, in God's economy, I think He prefers workers who are diligent at their work. I think He is looking for workers in the vineyard who will actually do the manual labor. His Word is filled with examples of lazy workers and lazy bosses. He consistently chastises those who try and get their pay without having first worked for it. Paul, the Apostle, says basically the same thing in his epistles: "If you don't work, you don't eat." Back then, the first church held all things in common, so they lived together and ate together. Apparently, there were believers who were doing no practical work, yet were coming to dinner and expecting to be fed off the work of others. This was a no-no, and Paul boldly condemned the behavior.

These examples make me re-evaluate my attitude on working. I have been self-employed for a number of years. Prior to that, I have worked in church and in corporate type positions. Both paid me a salary, so I was assured of getting a pay check. Working for yourself is fraught with uncertainty. You may get paid or you may not -- it greatly depends on your ability to do the work and then your ability to pick up a check. If the client or customer doesn't want to pay you, well, sorry -- you are out of luck until they change their mind. This has been the mark of my work experience for the past 10 years (nearly 20 considering my DH was also self-employed). It is difficult to raise a family and be responsible when you are totally reliant upon other people to pay you your earned wage. There is no certainty, no assurance that a check will arrive on time.

I have lived this way for so long, and can now say for certainty that I don't care for it. Self employed people must be successful to really enjoy the benefits of this type of business. If your business is not successful, then all you are really doing is living life in an awkward and difficult way -- hoping things will get better, but never seeing that happen. I know now that I cannot continue to live this way, never knowing if a check is here, never knowing I can pay a bill on time. No, I have decided that whatever type of work the Lord has for me, I really would like it to come with some security, some assurance that there will be money paid when it is supposed to be paid.

Perhaps I am naive? I don't think so. I know that even in this bad economy, there are jobs out there. They may not be the best suited to my skills, but there are jobs out there and they will pay a guaranteed salary. Yes, this is what I want at this point in my life.

With that said, I now must focus my attention on getting a good job, a job that will pay well, regardless of how well-suited to it I am. My prayer is that it will be well-suited to my strengths and that it will be good work, work that I can take satisfaction in. I am not so naive to think that the "perfect job" is out there, I am just looking for a "good fit," that is all. The job doesn't have to be perfect, it just needs to provide for my family. It doesn't have to be the job of a lifetime either. I would pray that it is a good job, one that allows me to stick to my principals without always have to fight for them. I hope I can serve others in some way, and do all things for the Lord. I am trusting the He has a good job already purposed and set aside with my name on it. I believe that this is the case, and I am willing and agreeable to do whatever job He brings to me.

I am so dependent upon Him now, and I cannot think of anyone better suited to the task than my God. I love Him, and I know that He knows me so well. He has everything in order, everything ready to go...and He has been waiting so patiently for me to arrive, to show up for work. My mind, my attitude, and my heart have been in various places these past many months. He has waited for me to get my entire self ready for the "show." You know, if you are going to work for the Lord, then you have to be ready -- show up to do the Lord proud. You don't go about it half-cocked, half-way committed. What sort of testimony would that give to others who may be looking at us and sincerely considering the "Christian way?" Oh no, we could greatly offend and turn someone off who is seeking Him -- we must be fully committed, not just to Christ, but to doing His Work at all times, and through whatever method or manner or mode He chooses.

I get it now. I see why all this time has passed with very little movement forward. He was waiting for me to make up my mind, to accept what needed to be accepted and then to step up and say to Him, "I am ready, Lord." He has known this for some time, and I have said to Him that I was ready. He has always told me that He has known this -- but still nothing happened. Why? Because while I thought I was ready, there was still one small little issue outstanding, and until it was acknowledged, I really wasn't completely ready. I needed to accept His calling on my life and make "heads and tails" of it. In short, I needed to understand my identity, and how it will function within the work He has for me to do. I needed to know that who I am will not change. I will be this way for the rest of my days. I am no longer seeking my purpose in life, so therefore, I am able now to do whatever work comes my way. The work, you see, is neither here nor there. It is simply a means to an end, a provision of the Lord's hand. My work, my real work, is all about my heart and where it lays, and how it is to be used to bring Him Glory.

As Paul says in Colossians 3:23:

"Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." NLT

Yes, this is to be our attitude and commitment to the Lord. We are to do our work willingly and without reservation as though we were working for the Lord. We are not to be about pleasing men, though we should be good workers who attempt to do honorable work for their employers. Our BOSS is the Lord Jesus Christ, so whatever we do, we do it to please Him.

This has been the cry of my heart for a long time, but I wasn't willing to really accept this call. I am called to be servant of the Lord, therefore I serve Him in whatever capacity He needs. That is my call, that is the call I have received, and that is the call I am do live and work for and towards -- always.

I am so glad that I finally got this all straight in my head. It has not been easy for me. I had to let go of a lot of misconceptions and stubborn refusal on what I would and wouldn't do. I had to trust Him, and know that whatever He calls me to do, He will equip and anoint me for that work. It has all come down to TRUSTING THE LORD. You either do or your don't. There is no half-way mark. You must fully trust that He will provide or you will continue to rely on your own hand, your own strength and your own abilities.

My trust is in Him alone. I know that He has a very good plan for my life. I am giving Him all Praise and Authority to rule and guide and direct my steps:

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. ~Proverbs 16:3

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