Monday, January 20, 2020

When It Pleases God

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mothers womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the gentiles.
Galatians 1: 15 - 16 NKJV

I'm asked on occasion how it is that I came to know the truth of Christ Jesus in me.  Honestly, I'm really not sure that I can place a date or time to narrow down just when I came to this realization.  One thing I can do, however, is provide bookends to my own realization by telling of my life before and after my experience.  Before I came to know Jesus in me, my Christian life was just that, a Christian life.  Each day was a duty, behave well and do good to please God lest He become upset and somehow "test" me with His power.  I would all too often hear that phrase in church on a Sunday morning as I talked to friends about some situation life was throwing my way.  Inevitably, someone would shake their finger at me and proclaim, "God's testing you, what did you do?"  Immediately I was somehow guilty of upsetting God in some way.  What happens when you make God mad?  Well, from my experience, He sends trials and turmoil your way until you straighten up and do things His way.  This is the image of God I've carried with me a good part of my life.  In fact, I would guess that many a Christian carries this image of God in some way.  Why?  Is this how God wants to be known by His children?  No, but this is exactly how the mainstream church will tell us that God is.  See, God is there in heaven watching over us, waiting to deal out His judgement upon us when we screw up.  Why wouldn't we feel this way?  Wasn't it God who became angry with the Israelites, His chosen people?  Wasn't it God who sent the flood to wipe out all who would not follow Him?  Of course, we're talking about the old testament there.  As you might guess, times were different back then.  So, this is the teaching of God that we've grown up with.  We've spent many a Sunday school class singing songs of how we should see Him.  We do, in fact, see God as being separate from our own lives.  Is this how God wants to be known?  If you were God, would you want to be known as one who was separated from the children you loved?  I know I wouldn't.  Yet this is what we're taught time and again.  Can you see where it is we get this version of how God is?  I'll often tell my pastor friend that we're fighting thousands of years of church teachings in our efforts to tell of the truth of Christ Jesus in us.  Is it any wonder why it is so difficult for others to understand this concept?

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Galatians 2: 20 NKJV

Now that I've told how it was before I heard of the truth of Christ in me, I can relate how it is now that I've had my own revelation.  Of course, this revelation is not one that turns on like a light switch.  One might find himself wondering over and over as to the validity of this truth.  I'm sure that the apostle Paul had some of the very same questions over this that I myself have asked.  One thing that we're not told about Paul's conversion on that Damascus road is what occurred afterward.  How is it that he came to the realization that Christ was in fact in him as he tells us in Galatians?  Well, we know that after his Damascus road experience that Paul spent a good amount of time off in the desert.  I have no doubt that it was here that he not only received more revelations from God, but more teaching as well.  I just wish that the scriptures told us more about Paul's journey.  Nevertheless, we're left with his description of the living presence of God.  Of course, this fly's in the face of much of the church teaching about who Jesus is.  To me, Jesus is more than a dead guy with a good legacy.  To me, Jesus is my life.  To me, Jesus is my being.  He is all that I am.  It is Jesus who is all in all {Colossians 3:11}.  If there is one word that I can use to describe my new life in Christ Jesus, it would be freedom.  Free from the rituals and traditions which the mainstream church has adopted over the years.  Free of that narrative that proclaims Jesus as a disciplinarian rather than a loving God.  Above all, freedom from striving to do good that I "might" find favor with God.  The truth is, we've already found favor with Him long ago.  It is His love for us that led Him to not only save us but to provide for His children to live in unity with Him {John 17:21}.  I'm still waiting to hear that message from any church pulpit.

Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all in all.
Colossians 3: 11 NKJV


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Space For Rent

And besides that they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.
1 Peter 5: 13 NKJV

There was a coworker of mine some years ago who once shared some sage advise to me regarding those we happened to work with.  As we talked one night she told me, "I don't let these people rent space in my head."  How prophetic those words were not only at the time in my life, but today as well.  For if there is one thing as Christians, and non Christians alike, that we share in common is that we all are at one time or another subjected to the thoughts and opinions of those around us.  It is how we use this input from others that may in the end save us many a hurt feeling.  If we accept the opinions from others for what they are, opinions, we can save ourselves a lot of grief.  However, if we take these opinions of those around us as a basis of how it is we see ourselves, then we're headed down the wrong road.  For the longest time, I was one of the poor souls who took the opinions of others as confirmation of the man that I was.  If someone claimed that I was lazy, this is how I saw myself.  If I was told that I was too big, that's how I saw things.  Therefore, I've spent most of my life fighting a self image which was often based on what others thought.  How sad.  Not only sad that I thought so lowly of myself, but sad also that I gave others around me that much power over how I felt.  Of course, I wasn't alone in my situation, for there are all too many people out there who suffer from the same thing I did.  I will say, that as Christians we have a advantage in this arena of self identity.  For while the world toils in thoughts of how they can make the world accept them, we who follow Jesus already have that confirmation of who we truly are.  We are children of God {1 John 3:1}.  We share in the inheritance of Christ {1 Peter 1:4}.  We are created in the image of God {Genesis 1:26}.  To quote from that old phrase, God doesn't make garbage.  Seriously, these days whenever I shun the negative opinions of others they are truly flabbergasted.  I've even had a few people say to me, "what do you have, you think you're better than me?"  No, bro, not better, just more enlightened.  I've found that once I realized my own value in Christ that those words of others actually began to take on less meaning.  See, I already know the man I am, so I don't need to depend on others to remind me.

You are of God, little children, and you have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
1 John 4: 4 NKJV

One of the most important verses we can use to see our own true identity is found in 1 John 4: 13.  It's here where the apostle John tells us the truth that "He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world."  Indeed, Christ who is now in us is greater than anyone who is in the worlds way of things.  The apostle Paul tells us of this truth of Christ in us in Galatians 4:20.  So, if Jesus is indeed in us, how much weight do those negative comments of those around us really matter?  If you know that Christ is in you, are you suddenly going to see yourself as worthless?  Let me put it another way, will you let someone else convince you that you're not part of your own family?  Of course not!  My goal here is not to disparage those who sling hurtful and negative comments, but that everyone would see who it is that we really are.  Yes, even though we might not want to see it that way all the time, God never discriminates when it comes to who He saves {John 3:17}.  A friend of mine who to this day continues to remain nameless despite my attempts to out him is fond of saying that all of Gods children carry that Spirit of Jesus within them.  Yes, that bothersome bully you battle with has Christ in them as well, they just have not yet realized it...yet.  I say yet, because, like yourself, God will choose that time where He will reveal Himself in all of us.  Remember, that it is His desire that ALL would be saved.  Of course, we know that won't happen, but that never means that God will give up on those who do not know Him.  I look to the man Saul for confirmation of the Fathers heart to save.  For Saul was indeed the chief persecutor of the early followers of Jesus.  Yet God revealed to him who he really was {Galatians 1:16}.  I'm guessing that we can see this as those who have the revelation and those who don't.  So, what is my role in all of this?  Well, what do you think one of Gods deepest desires is?  If you were God, wouldn't you like to be seen and known by your children?  How is it that those around us will see the invisible God?  Through we who follow Jesus.  Indeed, those around us will surely see He who lives in us through all we do.  Then even they will know that the space is no longer for rent.

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mothers womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the gentiles,
Galatians 1: 16 NKJV


Saturday, January 18, 2020

A Flock Of Sparrows

"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?  And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your fathers will.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10: 29 - 31 NKJV

One of the key realizations in my recovery from my addiction was when I realized my own self worth.  Not only that, but how it is that my Father sees me.  In Matthew, Jesus uses the example of two sparrows to illustrate just how important we are to Father God.  The people to whom Jesus was speaking I'm sure knew full well the value of those two sparrows.  For two birds who are sold for two coins, our Father pays much attention to their fates as well as our own.  In fact, He pays more close attention to us, His prized creation.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who realizes that one of the most lucrative niches on the book market these days are those novels on self help.  It seems that everyone has a take on how it is that we should present ourselves, see ourselves and treat ourselves.  However, when was the last time that you sought out just how God sees you?  How do you think God sees you?  For the longest time my own view of God was tied to a negative view of myself.  I couldn't refer to God as "Daddy" simply because of the painful memories of my own father.  I didn't see myself as loved or valuable to God because I didn't see it in myself.  sure, I knew who God was and that He loved me, but it was my own view of God where I fell short.  I saw God not as a loving Father, but as one who was quick to jump in to correct me when I messed up.  As my own father had done, I saw God as one who would abandon me when I screwed up too many times.  The mainstream church keeps us pretty close to this narrative with their teachings on God.  We're taught to see God as separate from ourselves, apart from His creation.  We're told that God and Jesus are sitting in heaven, while we the sinners toil away on earth.  Our lives are but races to see if we can achieve enough "good" points to allow God to grant us access into eternity with Him.  Trust me, I've all too often felt as if I was losing that race.  I've talked to far too many Christians whose own view of God is that of a disciplinarian.  Far too few Christians know the true nature of God which we're told in 1 John.  It is here where it is revealed to us that Love {1 John 4:8}.  Far from being the strict upholder of his commandments, the God we hear of here is one of tenderness, mercy and compassion.  I won't lie, I haven't heard that message from the pulpits all too often.  As it did for me, this view of God might just lead to some bad feelings about ourselves.  How could God ever be in the presence of such a sinner?  Yeah, that's a big one.  Too many Christians feel removed from God because of the sin issue.  The sin issue which has already been dealt with by Christ {Romans 6:6-11}.  That's right, the apostle Paul tells us that we should now see ourselves as "dead to sin."  So, if you're dead to sin, what barrier remains between you and God?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4: 7 - 8 NKJV

When I walked in the throes of my addiction, I saw a lot of barriers between myself and God.  All of the negative things I saw in myself I was sure that God Himself saw those very same things and He wasn't happy with the person He saw!  This is the life I lived.  So, you might ask, how is it that I finally broke through and began to see how God really saw me?  More on that in a minute.  My deeper issue was the sin issue, that inner voice that screamed that I was not worthy of Gods time because of all that I had done.  Then, one night while listening to a radio preacher I heard what I can only describe as Gods revelation to me.  As J Vernon McGee spoke to his sermon on the parable of the prodigal son, something clicked.  God wasn't the overseer who me waiting for me to screw up.  As I listened, in my heart I imagined God waiting at the end of that road...for me.  Yes, that son who had taken all that was due to him and struck out on his own to do his own thing apart from his home and Father.  That was me.  Yet, through all of my wanderings, where was it that God remained?  The same place He was as I indulged in my pleasures.  There He was, waiting for me to return.  It turns out that God wasn't upset over my life choices.  It was never His discipline He wanted me to experience, but His love for me.  I believe that this was the turning point for me in how I saw God.  For now I saw Him as He is.  Something else began to change as well, how it is that I saw myself.  If God didn't see me as the guy who keeps messing up, then just maybe that really wasn't who I was after all.  Who I Christ.  Paul tells us in Galatians that it is Christ Jesus who now lives in us {Galatians 2:20}.  When I look in that mirror, the man I see there is Jesus.  THAT is our real true identity.  Whatever it is that the world may want to tell us about who we are, God has the perfect answer.  "You are my child,,,and I am in you"{1 John 3:1}.
It happened one night as I was driving the streets of Portland that I came upon a strip club I hadn't been to in awhile.  True to my addiction, I stopped for a look.  As I started to open the door I felt it immediately..."This isn't who you are."  He was right, that guy wasn't who I was anymore.  I didn't need to sell two sparrows to see that.

"And he arose and came to his father.  But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.  And the son said to him, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.  But the father said to his servants, 'bring the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  'And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'
Luke 15: 20 - 24 NKJV


Sunday, January 12, 2020

Microwaves And Beer

But I want you to be without care.  He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord - how he may please the Lord.  But he who is married cares about the things of the world - how he may please his wife.  There is a difference between a wife and a virgin.  The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy in both body and spirit.  But she who is married cares about the things of the world - how she may please her husband.  And this I say for your own profit.  not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
1 Corinthians 7: 32 - 35 NKJV

My life is pretty damn simple.  I wake up at 5 am every morning, get ready for work then go and give my eight hours.  When it's all said and done at the end of the day, you'll probably find me at my local gym putting more work in.  Not too terribly hectic of a life.  Is mine the life of the typical Christian bachelor?  Probably not, but I'd venture to guess that it's pretty close nonetheless.  Do I care about the things of the Lord?  Indeed I do, it's a big part of my life.  Do I care about the things of the world?  Absolutely!  I'd say that Paul's words describing the married and the unmarried in 1 Corinthians are pretty spot on, to a point.  Like I said, I still find myself worrying about the things of the world.  I also have friends who are married who's lives don't seem to adhere to Paul's writings.  Go figure.  For the most part, I will write of only my own experiences.  In my opinion, I have no idea where Paul came up with his definition of the married and unmarried.  Each of us, in our own way, is going to be burdened by those things we fret over.  That's just a part of life.  We're told that Jesus counseled Martha when she was all too worried about those preparations {Luke 10:40}.  In His sermon on the mount, Jesus again tells us of the dangers of worry {Matthew 6:25-34}.  So, we're in good company in that department.  Despite my own worries of day to day living, it seems that I'm able to keep my thoughts on the Lord as well.  I really don't think that God differentiates that much between married and single people.  However, I have my own opinions on that.  A few words that you will NEVER hear a single man utter are "yes dear, you're right, dear" or "I'm wrong."  I catch my share of joking from my married friends about how uneventful my life is, and perhaps they're right.  While they're running from place to place handling the responsibilities of two people, I'm sitting in front of the tv drinking a beer.  Well, not really, but you get the point.  I will say that they have their things to worry over, and I have mine.  Not that one is greater than the other, it's just that the decisions I make aren't made for two people.  That, in a nutshell, is the difference on being married and being single.  Would I ever trade in my single mans card for a marriage license?  Perhaps, but only with careful consideration of the consequences.

And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him."
Genesis 2: 18 NKJV

Honestly, that decision of remaining single is not in my hands but in Gods.  Indeed, there is a helper out there who is comparable to me...and that's what scares me sometimes.  Look at it from my perspective, I've been single for so long now it's almost like a lifestyle.  Can you imagine what my married friends would say if I suddenly had to give up my care free lifestyle?  No more tv!  No more beer!  All of a sudden I'd be turned from a independent, care free man to one whose thoughts all of a sudden were upon someone else's needs and not my own.  It all seems like a pretty drastic transition to me.  How would I act?  Would I be able to endure the "I told you so's" of my married friends?  Indeed, life as I now know it would definitely change.  However, I honestly feel that were I to suddenly join the ranks of relationship bound men, I would somehow endure.  I'm resilient, I can improvise, overcome and adapt with the best of them.  Besides, how much different can married life be to what I'm living now?  Yeah, I know, the famous last words of the condemned.  Yet, as the scripture says, it's not good that I should be alone.  But, alone is all I've known until now.  I'm not one to question my Lords judgement, so I will ride this wave as far as it goes.  So far I'm enjoying the carefree life of microwaves and beer.  Despite what my married friends say, I see nothing wrong with being accountable but to myself.  Honestly, at times I feel as if they too long for those days again.  Although I know that they wouldn't change a thing, I'm sure they still think about it at times.  For the time being, I'll be that example of how a single Christian man lives.


Saturday, January 11, 2020

When It's Not About Me

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
2 Corinthians 12: 7 NKJV

There is nothing in the world that will drag us out of our feelings of self importance like adversity.  I can't imagine the apostle Paul being proud or haughty per se, yet there was that thorn in his flesh which, by his own admission, was sent remind him that it wasn't all about him.  I know that feeling all too well,  This past week I was feeling pretty good about myself.  My gym workouts were going well and it seemed like things were going smoothly.  Then it happened.  While probably not as great a thorn in the flesh as Paul dealt with, a case of bronchitis sidelined me for more than a few days.  Now, was this a "messenger of satan" as Paul observed in his case?  Maybe not, but what I do know is that it took me from the pride of my recent accomplishments to a place of realizing who I really am pretty quick.  Now, I'll never say that we shouldn't take pride in our own achievements, just not too the extent that we're the star of the movie when there's another who deserves that recognition more.  I've found that living as Christ Jesus is a lot like that.  Through our daily lives we will certainly come across many opportunities to toot our own horns to celebrate all we've done.  I don't have a issue with that.  What I do have a issue with is removing Jesus from His position of prominence in our lives.  I say this because I've been there more than a few times.  It usually starts out innocent enough, with something we might take pride in accomplishing.  For me it was a two hundred pound bench press goal I'd set for myself.  Once I reached it, I exalted in my strength!  This in itself isn't a big issue, as long as we see the big picture.  I go back to the words of Paul in Philippians, "I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me {Philippians 4:13}.  How can I read this verse and think that it is due to my efforts alone that bring me to my victories?  Not only can I do all things through Him...but Christ Jesus IS my strength.  He is the push.  He is the motivation.  Jesus has a wonderful way of reminding us that it's not always about ourselves.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4: 13 NKJV

I'll be the first one to admit that feeling proud is a fundamental part of our being human.  Again, being proud of our accomplishments is never a bad thing.  However, believing that we alone are responsible for our victories, that's a bad thing.  Remember, we can do all things through CHRIST who is in us.  He is our strength.  I recently had the opportunity to share with a friend of mine my journey to recovery from addiction.  I didn't use a twelve step program, seminar or lecture series in my recovery.  What I did do, ultimately, is realize the man I really was inside.  I think that once I related my story to me friend, that he somehow thought that he had discovered a cure all for his own addictions.  However, I was the first to tell him that not everyone could follow the path I had.  In my case, Christ used something unique to my situation to remind me that it wasn't all about me.  One thing I reminded my friend of was that, as He had done with me, that Jesus would eventually speak to him of how valuable he is to his heavenly Father.  We spend a lot of time in discussions on the independent self.  That belief we all have that it is we ourselves who are in control of our lives.  This is simply another lie spoken from the accuser.  How can we be independent of our Lord who created us?  In my opinion, this is a absurd belief.  Not only did God create me in His own image {Genesis 1:26}, but He breathed into me the breath of life {Genesis 2:7}.  I have my Father in me {Galatians 2:20}.  This, more than anything, is enough to remind me that's not all about me.  I'm not proud of the things I've done, but I am proud of the man I've become in Christ.


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Prayers Reach

So Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and cast into the sea,' it will be done.  "And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."
Matthew 21: 21 - 22 NKJV

I found myself asking a few friends this week to pray for me over a recent string of viruses.  Now, usually when I pray it's simply a one on one conversation with Christ.  After all, there is a good chance that He already knows what it is that I'm coming to talk with Him about.  I don't base this solely on the fact that Jesus is all knowing, but that it is He who lives in me {Galatians 2:20}.  In fact, all that I experience in this life, I experience through Him.  Indeed, if I'm sick, it is Jesus who knows all too well what I'm feeling.  If I'm worried, it is Christ in me who knows the extent and stress of those worries.  Most people regard prayer simply as a name it and claim it reward system from God.  Indeed, Jesus does tell us in a few places in scripture that we can have whatever we ask for in prayer {Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24, John 15:7}.  So, does that mean that I can then have that new sports car I've been dreaming of?  Well, we can certainly pray for those things which we desire in life.  However, more often than not, when our requests go unanswered, we tend to think that there is an issue somewhere.  There is, and it lies with us.  When was the last time you approached God in prayer and asked simply, "God...what is it that you want for me?"  You might just be surprised with the answer that you receive.  For when we approach God this way we are removing our own desires and motives from the conversation and relying on He who knows us best to tell us what we truly need.  Do we really desire to hear answers such as, "You really should be nicer to your wife" or "Do you really need that drink?"  No, we'd rather have God shower us with gifts which we can therefore use for our own pleasures.  I ask you again, is this what God really desires for us?  Is it Gods desire that I should drive through town in a new car while making others envious?  Is it Gods desire that I should have a job where I make more money than my neighbor that I might hold that over him?  These might be my own desires...but I can assure you that they're not Gods.  Now, does that mean that we're to live humbly with our meager possessions?  If that's His desire for you, then yes.  I am not of the belief that God frowns on our financial success.  I believe that He enjoys blessing us, that we might impact those around us.  As I've said before, the world might not ever know God...but for us.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4: 6 - 7 NKJV

I don't know about you, but there are A LOT of things I could pray to God for that would indeed make my life easier.  That new car, house and boat would certainly come in handy for sure!  But wait, how would my new found toys help someone around me see Jesus?  Sadly, it wouldn't.  I've known many a Christian who claim themselves "blessed" with material goods yet when a brother is in need their house suddenly looks like a rummage sale! To me, these people have seen their reward in full.  So, how is it that we are to pray?  Well, like I said, I believe that we should approach prayer from the Fathers viewpoint and not our own.  Indeed, He obviously knows our requests even before we approach Him.  So, our prayer should be somewhere along the lines of "Lord, what is your desire for this situation?"  After I requested my brothers to pray over my sickness this week, I also spent some time in prayer asking the Father what He desired to see.  I'm not too proud to say that this life I live is less about my daily efforts and more about what He desires for my life.  After all, it is the Father who walks with me each day.  Ultimately, I believe that His desire is for those around me to see Him working through me.  There are no fancy cars, boats or houses that can exemplify that.  One last thing which I need to mention from my conversation with my brothers this week is faith.  Indeed, I can ask anyone to pray for me, but if I don't trust that it will come to pass then who is it I am asking?  As the scripture claims, we can ask for anything, and if we believe it will come to pass {Matthew 21:22}.  I believe.  I believe that He hears me when I call.  I also believe that He has my best interests in mind even when I don't get that sports car.


Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Case For Gods Heaven

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
Revelation 21: 4 NKJV

Someone must have torn down those pearly gates without my knowing it.  Indeed, from a young age I was told that living my life with the Lord would provide for me the reward of living with him forever in heaven.  However, this week that assumption took a turn for the bizarre in a conversation filled with certain blasphemy.  Traditionally, we have seen heaven as that wonderous kingdom far above us where our heavenly Father and Christ Jesus now make their home.  Well, the first bombshell to this teaching was the revelation of Christ in me.  Granted, I am of the belief that Jesus can certainly be two places at once, but if He is seated at the Fathers side in heaven, how is it that He can abide in me as well {Galatians 2:20}?  The idea of Jesus and I crossing paths in heaven before my time has crossed my mind, yet I brushed it off as just heresy or the false teaching of some crackpot pulpit pounder.  It turns out that I was only half right.  See, there are some aspects of Christianity that you simply don't f#ck with, and changing our entire view of a heavenly paradise is one of those out of bounds teachings better left alone.  Leave it be, let us have that place in our hearts where we know we will be when this life we've lived is finally over.  Indeed, that's the traditional way of thought, that if we are good little Christians, that we will secure for ourselves a place in Gods mansion.  That's right, we've certainly earned our right to walk through those pearly gates and down those streets of gold.  This is paradise, the place where Gods children end up.  So we've been told at least.  At the risk of speaking heresy, what if our traditional view of heaven has been...skewed?  What if heaven is here surrounding us now?  Well, if your own view of our Lords heaven is gang shootings, drugs and war then you might just be on to something.  However, if you see heaven as that paradise promised to us in scriptures, then you, sir, a traditionalist.  You see things in the way they're supposed to be, as we've always been taught.  To you, heaven is indeed a paradise that we see as our one and only goal in this life.  It is the end of our journey of a life of following Jesus.  This is where our devotion and good deeds will finally be rewarded.  Heavenly rewards?  Yeah, that's another thing we've been taught.  It seems that a few well behaved Christians will indeed at last see the fruits of their diligence.  So, depending upon how I've lived my life here on earth, will I be living in Gods mansion or in a homeless shelter?  Will I be driving a Porsche...or a Yugo?  Well, like many scriptures, when it comes to heavenly rewards I'm afraid we've been misled.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2: 8 - 9 NKJV

So, what of those heavenly rewards?  Are we now to boast in our own righteousness because we are destined to receive a much better reward than others?  I'm afraid that's not how it works.  In fact, the apostle Paul reminds us that our salvation is but a gift of God, and not of our own accomplishments {Ephesians 2:8-9}.  Indeed, what God has created is for the benefit of all and not just the well behaved few.  Remember that there is indeed no partiality with our Lord{Romans 2:11}.  Knowing this, it's my belief that we've been fed a false narrative when it comes to heaven.  Indeed, the argument can be made that we are experiencing heaven now.  Far from being the blasphemy of a old preacher, maybe what we are living now is the heavenly experience we've been told about for so long.  Just maybe.  But what about the violence and bad things we see every day?  Well, there's the rub.  Can we trust in our heavenly Father that He can provide us a heavenly experience in the midst of all the pain we see each day?  Absolutely.  If you recall, nothing is impossible for God {Matthew 19:26}.  If it is His desire that He reveal heaven to us then that is what He will do.  Who am I to argue with the creator of all we see?  So, what should our focus be?  Should we focus all of our energy on that shining heavenly city at the end of the rainbow?  Or, should our focus be on Christ Jesus and our relationship with Him?  I would suggest that our relationship with Christ should be our primary focus.  In the end, if we devote our attentions to our entrance into those pearly gates, we might just miss our relationship with He for whom heaven was created.