Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Where is God?

As I pray The Lord's Prayer, I get stuck on the first phrase.  "Our Father who art in heaven..."  It's like we are about to have this quiet, personal, loving conversation with our father, but he is away on a trip.  When Jesus left here he said he was going (somewhere) to prepare a place for us.  In fact he said he was going to wherever God hangs out.  That's heaven.   Right?

So where is this place?  Is it in our galaxy or way off in some other.  It is further confounding that we are told that we are the temple of God.  That means he has to be where we are.  Right?  Yet he is in heaven.  Could that mean that we are, in some sense, also in heaven, or is God just in more than one place at once?  He is said to be "omnipresent."  That means he is everywhere.  But I like the notion that we are in heaven too.  I do know that we are already living in "eternity."  That means our forever life with God is already happening.

The description of the New Jerusalem at the end of Revelation is frequently thought to be a description of Heaven - a place with no tears etc.  Yet the New Jerusalem is also coming down out of (dare I say it?) heaven.  Some take the New Jerusalem to be the church.  That description is a stretch for the church we know, but what about the one Jesus designed and built?

Here is how I have figured it out.  And just to add a little credibility I just now checked Randy Alcorn's definitive book, "Heaven" and it seems to me that he agrees.  Heaven is here with us.  It is the spiritual dimension to our lives.  It is invisible to us now, but will become visible when we give up our physical bodies.  God is in both places because both are the same place.  Our "place," our physical reality, is a subset within the spiritual realm.  As we become more aware of the spiritual dimension, it becomes more real to us, and in a sense, we are closer to heaven and closer to God.

So when we pray to God in heaven, we are actually talking with him right here.  And in a sense we are bridging the gap between heaven and earth.  Wow!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Discipleship v Decisions

I am struck this morning by one particular Bible story.  As the Ethiopian and Phillip rode along in the chariot, Philip was preaching the good news about Jesus, not "the plan of salvation."  And the Ethiopian man's response was "Here is water, why can't I be baptized?"

We don't know exactly what was said in that chariot, but Luke characterized it as good news.  What I take from this is what Scot McKnight says in the opening to his book "The King Jesus Gospel."  Getting people to make a decision for Jesus is both easier and shorter lived than engaging them as a disciple (student).  The Ethiopian was, of course, already a student, and Phillip taught him further. As he learned, he apparently came to the conclusion he should be baptized.

The distinction may be subtle, but is important.  If you teach a person to be a student, a learner, he or she will continue to study, to learn, and to grow.  And at some point in the process she will reach a decision.  If, on the other hand you focus on getting a decision, getting them baptized, then the process is likely to end there.