Ethics

Art: HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I PAINTED THIS Oil in the summer of 2019 from a captivating photo reference.  Moonlight shadows falling across deep snow, crowned with innumerable brilliant stars was irresistible.  That season will soon be upon Minnesotans!  A season of nature’s quietness. 

I chose this as the Art piece for this week’s Thought—Ethics—for a couple reasons:  First, to me Ethics, like this country road, is a way in the process of choosing a reliable path toward the end or destination you may have in mind.  It’s pretty clear in this painting. There are no off-ramps to distract or confuse the path toward your desired destination.   Secondly, after 100+ weeks of blogs and accompanying art, I’m running low on my art I’ve photographed!

Thought:  

ETHICAL OR UNETHICAL, which is it?  What should I do?  That’s a dilemma everyone faces daily in more decisions than most realize. What exactly is implied in the question itself?  This pleads for a definition. However, defining ‘ethics’ may not be as easy as checking an English dictionary or Google search.  You may discover various, and seemingly complicated, efforts at a definition.  As I see it, defining the word brings bewilderment over whether ‘ethics’ is an end in itself, or the means to an end: i.e., “good” over “bad” or “right” vs “wrong”. 

One Definition

“ALTHOUGH ETHICS has always been viewed as a branch of philosophy, its all-embracing practical nature links it with many other areas of study, including anthropology, biology, economics, history, politics, sociology, and theology. Yet, ethics remains distinct from such disciplines because it is not a matter of factual knowledge in the way that the sciences and other branches of inquiry are. Rather, it has to do with determining the nature of normative theories and applying these sets of principles to practical moral problems.” — Britannica

Artist Metaphor

I SEE ‘ETHICS’, not as an end in and of itself, but rather as a means to that end.  To use an artistic metaphor, ‘ethics’ is not synonymous with the artist’s finished painting.  I see ‘ethics’ as a word to describe the process an artist follows in combining the best mental image of what the final painting should be, with use of objective tools (paints, brushes, canvas etc.) in combination with the application of the artist’s learned skills.  One might declare the painting “ethical” or “unethical” based on how well the artist has been able to combine: the mental image, objective tools and learned skills to create the original best mental image.  It is declared “good” or “bad” relative to how well the artist (or art critic) judges, based on the outcome and this process.  

Work Environment

HOW DOES THIS look in a work environment?   You have been hired to a position with a ’Job Description’ including certain expected performance results.  You have been trained. You have been provided the necessary tools and protocol for obtaining the required results in your position.  Combining these toward producing the required result is what I see as ‘ethics’.  How well you utilize these elements: Job Description, training, tools and protocol will, more often than not, be categorized as ‘ethical’ or ‘unethical’ depending on how the process was followed and the result is evaluated—’good job’ or ‘less than good job’.  There are consequences based on results following every ‘ethical’ process.

Love Ethic

FOLLOWERS OF JESUS have an extra ingredient as simultaneously ‘ethical’ citizens of two ‘kingdoms’.  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… [Colossians 3:23].  Follow the process required in every job or task unless it requires you to disobey what God has given you.  Accept consequences by faith. God is your master. The words all your heart is further clarified by Jesus in Mark 12:30,31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”—Mark 12:30, 31

“Embracing a love ethic means that we utilize all the dimensions of love—“care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect, and knowledge”—in our everyday lives. We can successfully do this only by cultivating awareness. Being aware enables us to critically examine our actions to see what is needed so that we can give care, be responsible, show respect, and indicate a willingness to learn. . . .”– Richard Rohr blog September 11, 2020

Ethical “Bottom Line”

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 Include love in your ethical means!

   

Orderliness

Art:

IN 2007 I DID a series of Michigan lighthouses in Ink with Pen and Brush.  I’ve always enjoyed nautical themes. I decorated my Andover studio/study accordingly. On vacations to Mackinaw, Michigan, I often added mementos to the theme. Some are displayed in my current (smaller) studio/study in Rosemount.  

Nautical technology changed drastically since these lighthouses were constructed.  Some now are more museums and tourist attractions than essentials for safe Great Lakes navigation.  In their day, they kept a kind of order on the lakes that protected lives and cargo.  That’s why I chose this Ink as the Art piece for today’s Thought: Orderliness

Thought:                                             

Orderliness vs Disorderliness Example

IF YOU HAVE, or have had, children living in your home with their own bedroom, you have a pretty good idea of what ‘orderliness’ is and is not.  Children addicted to bedroom orderliness are rare!  Mostly, its disorderliness!  Why is that?  Ask them: “Why don’t you keep your room ‘straightened up’—orderly?  Answer: “Why? Its just going to get messed up again. What’s the point?”  There you have it.  They don’t have a point or purpose for orderliness in their bedroom.  Mom and Dad can think of a dozen purposes ranging from ‘health’ to ‘hazard’ issues.  I speak with the voice of a father of three sons and one who has had additional boys and girls live in our home with us over the years.  Let’s take a closer look at Orderliness.

What is the meaning of orderliness?

  • Orderliness is to be arranged or organized in a neat manner or in a regular sequence: i.e. an orderly desk.
  • Orderliness is to be governed by a system or method, as persons or the mind: being observant of law, rule, or discipline; being well-behaved; law-abiding.
  • Orderliness is a condition in the society where things follow a laid down procedure. It is the skill or ability of doing things in a peaceful orderly fashion.

Inspired Examples

I BELIEVE NEARLY anything worth doing can be done better if it is organized…done in an orderly manner. Even for those naturally drawn to being organized, it’s often easier said than done.  In Genesis, creation is described for us in an orderly sequence. From chapter one and verse one, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth we see the beginning of orderliness in six periods of creation.   In the first two chapters it becomes clear God had a necessary, orderly sequence in the description of creation. Each was a necessary precursor to what was to come.  God had a purpose.

WHEN JESUS FED the 5,000, in Mark 6:39,40, he did it with order: Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So, they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.  Jesus had a purpose.

Contemporary Examples

SOMETIMES FOLLOWERS of Jesus forget they live simultaneously in two ‘kingdoms’— ‘earthly’ and ‘heavenly’.   They often experience unnecessary daily life challenges when attempting to meet needs, then Jesus reminds his followers that wisdom for receiving “all these things” needed in the ‘earthly’ kingdom begins with giving first priority to “His kingdom”. Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Jesus has a purpose.

Means to an End

IT SEEMS TO ME ‘order’ and ‘orderliness’ are actually the means to an end. If there is no desirable end in mind, or if one has become distorted, there is little or no incentive for order.  If the child sees no personally desirable end or reason in view that provides the necessity for an orderly bedroom (a weekly allowance for example) it probably won’t happen.   The same idea may carry over into adult life.  Without a desirable end (purpose) in mind, the adult mind is disorganized and spends time, energy and even money in non-productive ways, leading to any number of otherwise avoidable personal problems.  What is your purpose?

Avoid “Out Of Order”

IN MY MIND this gets back to the blog on “Unity”.  Peace and Unity in nearly every imaginable human relationship begins with arriving on a purpose nearly everyone can agree upon.  From that shared purpose (i.e. safety, health, justice, jobs, respect for differences, respect for the planet) comes the need for and the possibility for real orderliness in our homes, communities, organizations…world.  Without a worthy agreed upon purpose, I believe orderliness will be out of reach.  No purpose.  Out Of Order.  

When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.  Proverbs 28:2

But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.  1 Corinthians 14:40

Learning

Art:

A FEW YEARS AGO our oldest son and part of his family spent two years in China at a Christian School, first as Chaplin and later Director.  It was located within a more modern building in Hunan Province, shared with a Chinese Government school.  When they returned to the States, I presented them this Oil I painted from a photograph reference of a more primitive building to house a school in China.

I chose this Oil to represent our weekly Thought:  Learning

NOTE: This is my 100th weekly blog.  I accidentally posted #99 on Monday, November 2nd before final editing.  I reposted the corrected copy on Thursday, November 5. 

Thought:                                            Why Learning?

WHY ‘LEARNING’ for this week’s blog?  I was prompted in three ways:

First: A few weeks ago, I began receiving a daily email from ‘word genius.com’ featuring a new word for each day, along with its definition, background, and example of its use in a sentence.  One day last week the word was ‘andragogy’.   (I’ll explain later)

Second: I began rereading the classic Practicing His Presence in which Gene Edwards taps into the writing and lives of two great examples of how to live in the presence of God on a daily, hourly and minute by minute basis: Nicholas Herman, best known as Brother Lawrence (16ll – 1691) and Frank Laubach (1884 – 1970).

Third: The lack of peace and confidence I sense in our world today with the COVID19 pandemic, economic uncertainties, civil unrest, family disruptions and general lack of unity in how to deal with all of it.  

Andragogy

ANDRAGOGY APPEARED in my daily email from ‘word genius.com’. “Andragogy refers to methods and principles used in adult education. The word comes from the Greek ἀνδρ-, meaning “man”, and ἀγωγός, meaning “leader of”. Therefore, andragogy literally means “leading man” (leading into learning.), whereas “pedagogy” literally means “leading children’”. 

While seeing information and then writing it down (note taking) is important, actually putting new knowledge and skills into practice can be one of the best ways to improve learning. … If you are learning a new language, practice speaking with another person and surround yourself with language-immersion experiences.

The Connection

SO, HOW DOES ‘andragogy’ and rereading Practicing His Presence connect in producing our blog title— ‘learning’?  I like Frank Laubach’s words at the beginning of the chapter titled ‘Practical Help’.  “We shall not become like Christ until we give Him more time.  A teacher’s college requires students to attend classes for twenty-five hours a week for three years.  Could it prepare competent teachers, or a law school prepare competent lawyers if they studied only ten minutes a week?  Neither can Christ, and He never presented that he could.  To His disciples He said: ‘Come with me, walk with me, eat and sleep with me, twenty-four hours a day for three years.’  That was their college course.”  What about us?

To gain victory over the lack of peace and confidence I sense in our world today, I believe, requires learning how to follow what Jesus said in Matthew 11:29.  Take my yoke upon you [24/7] and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

The Practice

HOW CAN I FIND rest and peace in my world?  It will be a learning process. As with Jesus’ disciples, this will take place as I acknowledge the fact that, as a follower of Jesus, he is constantly with me.  Too often I only consciously acknowledge this truth a few times a day or week when I practice certain spiritual disciplines.  Disciplines can be helpful, but what about the rest of the minutes in my day.   

Practice acknowledging in your mind as often as possible that the Spirit of Jesus is constantly with you every minute of every 24-hour day. Talk with Him about all that you are doing, no matter how mundane it may seem. He is a great listener. Listen to Him! The natural result, or ‘fruit of the Spirit’, includes “peace” that will bring rest in these turbulent times.  You can rely on Him to guide you.   Try to memorize Psalm 23!

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:9

It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.   John 6:45

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.  2 Timothy 3:14

Unity

Art:

I completed this Ink with Pen and Brush of ‘Rothenburg ob der Tauber’ last week.  I was drawn to this medieval town’s cobbled streets lined with impeccably preserved timbered houses and towered walls. From the 16th century tower gate one can see over the city walls down to the Tauber River.  I enjoy the detail and history associated with this German gem.

I imagine dozens of families (perhaps representing many ethnic backgrounds in addition to German) along with their small businesses, unified within the scope of this scene. I chose it for this week’s Thought—Unity.

Thought:                                              What is ‘Unity’?                               

TO OBSERVE OUR recent national landscape, it seems we may have lost the meaning and power of ‘unity’. What is ‘unity’? A good one-word definition: ‘harmony’. Harmony is produced with a quartet when four individuals sing or play together.  The four may be very different in many ways. They have different vocal or instrumental abilities.  So, ‘unity’ or harmony does not mean being the same. So, where is the ‘unity’? The ‘unity’ is in their purpose. The quartet’s purpose is a harmonic performance for the benefit of an audience. Each performer is of equal value in attaining ‘unity’ for that purpose.

National Example

E Pluribus Unum” is Latin for “out of manyone,” (first proposed by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson in 1776) was adopted by the Founding Fathers in 1782 as part of the Great Seal of the United States, intended to represent the federal nature of the nation—out of many states, one country. In many ways, states remain independent. In many other ways there is also ‘unity’ of purpose: i.e. National security.  Many early leaders saw another essential dimension to our “unity” as a nation on the world stage.

George Washington said: “It is impossible rightly to govern the world without God and the Bible”. Daniel Webster stated: “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper, but if we or our posterity neglect it’s instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.”   

THINK CAREFULLY on their words. How are we doing?  How can we change?

Catalyst for Change

THESE MEN REALIZED, from personal observation, that at every level it was the influence of Jesus followers in society that was providing the catalyst of ‘salt’ and ‘light’ that kept “unity” of purpose possible in this nation. 

According to Wikipedia: “In 2019, Christians represent 65% of the total adult population, 43% identifying as Protestants, 20% as Catholics, and 2% as Mormons …”  Understandably, not all who claim Christianity actively seek to follow Jesus in practice.  Therefore, those who do seek to actually be followers of Jesus are the catalyst of his love that enables “unity” of purpose. 

It is the evident ‘fruit’ of the Spirit of God, working through Jesus followers, that becomes the catalyst for true “unity”.  But the fruit of the Spirit is lovejoy, peacepatience, kindness, goodness, faithfulnessgentleness and self-control Galatians 5:22 (NIV)

These nine characteristic qualities are produced wherever the Spirit of God is operative.   In Jesus’ high priestly prayer he said: I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  John 17:23  

The Essence

IN ESSENCE, I believe Washington and Webster were saying—whether realizing the magnitude of their words or not—that only God’s power of love working by means of His Spirit through followers of Jesus produces a climate for the kind of “unity” this nation needs in order to continue.  First, it begins with the power of God’s love working “unity” within the follower of Jesus.  Jesus said:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34, 35

The ’Bottom Line’

IT IS MY BELIEF that “unifying” this nation begins with the common purpose to accept the gift of God’s love and allow it to be overtly manifest in practical ways to everyone.  That begins with Jesus followers in their homes, their Churches, their neighborhoods, nation and the world.

How good and pleasant it is    when God’s people live together in unity.  Psalm 133:1

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  Ephesians 4:3

Home

Art:

I DON’T RECALL when I completed this Oil painting. My inspiration was a Christmas card. I took this photo of the painting eight years ago. The red barn and nearby farmhouse lures my attention and sets my imagination visualizing what might be happening within those cozy walls nestled in deep snow.

Minnesota has experienced a record-breaking October total snowfall. It brings to mind the 1991 Halloween blizzard as a powerful storm that set off a period of heavy snowfall and ice accumulation blanketing the Upper Midwest from October 31 to November 3. It was cold!

This painting of a warm farmhouse set in a heavy snowfall seemed a good painting for today’s Thought—Home.

Thought:                                            Home.  What is It?

HOME.  WHAT IS IT?  If you have access to a thesaurus, look up ‘home’.  The word list is long.  It begs the question: What comes to mind when you think ‘home’?  The more thought I’ve given, the more I realize defining ‘home’ is a pretty subjective task.   It may include different things for different folks.

One resource said: The English word “home” is from the Old English word hām (not the pig) which actually refers to a village or estate where many “souls” are gathered. It implies there’s a physical dwelling involved, but the main idea is that it’s a gathering of people. Another resource said home is “the abiding place of the affections.” To me, that sums it up like nothing else. It’s not just a building or a room, but a place where your love dwells.

Where is Home?

IS ‘HOME’ a location?  Is it a building? Is it family? Is it memories?  Is it a feeling?  My guess is you may say (like me): “All of the above…and perhaps more!”  We’ve probably all heard someone say they would like to visit the ‘old home-place’ one more time.  But, to make that journey is more than a road trip to a specific location and building…it’s a mind trip of emotions and memories of times, people and celebrations now past, but forever having contributed to making you the person you are becoming. 

A realtor friend gives a unique gift to her seller clients at closing.  She saw examples of my Ink with Pen and Brush exhibited at a church art show last year.  I did one for her new home. She asked if she could commission me to do work to present her clients at closing. I agreed.  She provides photographs and I provide a matted and framed original Ink of the seller’s home.  I’ve completed many over the months.  Often her clients have lived in the home they are selling for decades. It represents lots of treasured memories. She shared that her gift to them has produced ‘good tears’.

“Where the Heart Lives”

NATHAN IS A 5th GRADE student in Victoria, British Columbia. I love this poem he wrote: “Where the Heart Lives”

“I watch my home being built

Its frame, the skeleton
Its siding, the skin
Its electricity, the brain
Its ventilation, the lungs
Its plumbing, the blood

But where is its heart?

My home is not alive
Until the day my family moves in
We are my home’s heart
Beating life and love into our new home

Beating fast with excitement
Racing up the stairs
Down the halls
To see our new rooms

Beating slow as we eat our first meal together
Feeling so fortunate that we have
These walls around us
This roof over our heads

Home truly is where the heart lives”

A Season for Home

ENTERNING THANKSGIVING and Christmas season brings to mind ‘home’ memories from years past.  I lived in ten locations before Marj and I were married. Together we’ve added fourteen more.  From these twenty-four, one most represents ‘home’ for me—Altadena Street, Royal Oak, Michigan.  You probably have a favorite ‘home’ memory as well.  Think about why that is true for you.

The Best is Yet to Come!

FOR FOLLOWERS of Jesus, our best ‘home’ is yet to come! 

Jesus said: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”   John 14:2 

The Apostle Paul said: “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”    2 Corinthians. 5:8

And, It Has Already Begun!

Jesus replied, ‘“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”’   John 14:23

Work

Art:

This Ink with Pen and Brush is from a photo taken on our trip to Historic Williamsburg, VA in October 2006.  It’s one of dozens I took of various structures in the village.  Many, like this one, represent ‘cottage industries’ typical of early American culture.

I chose it because it represented a ‘cottage industry’. I don’t recall what ‘industry’ was involved.  It required a separate large structure in which a fire was kept at a high temperature.   I chose it to represent our Thought—Work.   

Thought:

A FRIEND OF MINE, in business for himself and with several employees, once asked me: “Jim, when does a person stop looking for work?”  Before I could answer he responded. “When he gets a job!” You may have to think about that for a moment.  I’ll give you this hint…lazy.

EVER WONDER where this whole idea of ‘work’ started in the first place?  Some think ‘work’ is some kind of curse that came as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God. Not so.  Work actually predates their ‘fall’ and has a wonderful eternal purpose for our lives.  It begins now and continues into Eternal Heaven.

Work in Heaven?

[1]“THE IDEA OF WORKING in Heaven is foreign to many people.  Yet Scripture clearly teaches it.  When God created Adam, he “took the man and put him [first couple] in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).  Work was part of the original Eden.  It was part of a perfect human life on Earth. Work wasn’t part of the Curse.  The Curse, rather, made work menial, tedious and frustrating: “Cursed is the ground because of you, through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:17-19).

“HOWEVER, ON THE New Earth [Eternal Heaven], work will be redeemed and transferred into what God intended: No longer will there be any curse.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him” (Revelation 22:3).  Serve is a verb.  Servants are people who are active and occupied, carrying out tasks.

GOD HIMSELF is a Worker

He didn’t create the world and then retire.  Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17).  Jesus found great satisfaction in his work.  “My food, Jesus said, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34). We’ll all have work to do, satisfying and enriching work that we can’t wait to get back to, work that’ll never be drudgery.  God is the primary worker, and as his image-bearers, we’re made to work.  We create, accomplish, set goals and fulfill them -to God’s glory. Consider Christ’s activities: working in a carpenter shop, walking the countryside, healing, fishing, sailing, meeting people, talking, teaching, eating—doing his life’s work.  Even after his resurrection he moved from place to place, connecting with his disciples and continuing his work. (A preview of life after our resurrection).”

[2]“ON THE NEW EARTH, God will give us renewed minds and marvelously constructed bodies.  We’ll be whole people full of energy and vision.  James C. Campbell says, “the work on the other side, whatever be its character, will be adapted to one’s special aptitude and powers.  It will be the work he [or she] can do best; the work that will give the fullest play to all that is within him [or her].

“EVEN UNDER THE Curse, we catch glimpses of how work can be enriching, how it can build relationships, and how it can help us to improve. Work stretches us in ways that make us smarter, wiser, and more fulfilled.  The God who created us to do good works (For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10) will not cancel this purpose when he resurrects us to inhabit the new universe.  The Bible’s picture of resurrected people at work in a vibrant society on a resurrected Earth couldn’t be more compelling.  We’re told that we will serve God in Heaven (Revelation 7:15; 22:3).”

WHATEVER you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.                                        Colossians 3:23, 24


[1] HEAVEN, by Randy Alcorn, 2004, page 319

[2] HEAVEN, by Randy Alcorn, 2006,  395-396

Heaven 3

Art:

I COMPLETED THIS Ink with Pen and Brush in August of 2020.  I like architecture. The Stone Arch Bridge is a local feature I’ve wanted to render in some medium for a long time. Ink became my choice. The Stone Arch Bridge of the Twin Cities, commissioned by James J. Hill and designed by Charles C. Smith, was built between 1882 and 1883. After 130 years of existence, in 1994, the bridge was converted to a pedestrian walkway.

I chose it as the Art for our third and final week on the Thought—Heaven 3.  I see it as a symbol of the words spoken by Jesus in John 14:6 “I am the way [bridge or road]…to the Father [heaven]…’

Thought:

TODAY I COME to the final blog on Heaven.  Yes, I could go on for weeks but instead, I want to give a succinct summary of my current Thoughts and introduce you to two resources you may consider for a more thorough investigation.  As I’ve previously stated, it is a great subject of enormous consequence and benefit for all Jesus followers.  My primary resource is the Jude/Christian Scriptures.

THE SIMPLEST WAY to conclude my thought on this subject is to state the obvious:  Physically, we will die. ‘We’ (as physically animated persons) live for a period of time, before that physical part of us dies. I believe ‘we’ (the inanimate part of our true identity/being) do not die.  At this point of physical separation, I believe Scripture teaches that followers of Jesus enter Heaven. What does that mean?  That’s a question theologians and philosophers have considered for perhaps millennia and more recently, even scientists have joined in.

I see ‘Heaven’ described in two ways:

FIRST, ‘INTERMEDIATE HEAVEN’ (sometimes referred to as ‘Paradise’) and ‘Eternal Heaven’.  What do I mean?  When that person physically dies, he or she is instantly alive in ‘Intermediate Heaven’.  One passage I believe supports this is Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”  We are instantly separated from our physical bodies and into the presence of the Trinity: Father God, Son Jesus, and Holy Spirit.  This active presence continues until the resurrection and renewal of all creation described in Revelation chapters 21, 22—New Heaven and New Earth (and our New bodies in 2 Corinthians 5). That leads to…

SECONDLY, ETERNAL HEAVEN (eternal home). Jesus spoke of this in John 14:1-2 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  Between the ‘Intermediate Heaven’ and ‘Eternal Heaven’ described above is when the last part of Jesus’ words in John 14 takes place.   And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (Eternal Heaven)

I believe there to be strong evidence that God will continue with creation throughout the cosmos that He began in Genesis 1 and 2. I believe we will be serving with God in this eternal expansion similar to that given to Adam and Eve in the Genesis account, Genesis 1:21-34. All of our redeemed gifts, talents, and experience will come into play with our New bodies. 

My Secondary Resources

Heaven, by Randy Alcorn, published 2004, (516 pages).  Randy has written more than fifty books, including Heaven.  He has studied the subject more than twenty years and has a library of 150 volumes on heaven. I read this volume several times since 2007.

Destined For The Throne, by Paul E. Billheimer, published 1988, (134 pages). Forward by Billy Graham.  I was given a copy by a friend who had just returned from California in 1995.

Hope for Now and Eternity

1 Thessalonians 4: 13, Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death (now in ‘Intermediate Heaven’), so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him (into ‘Eternal Heaven’).

Heaven 2

Art:

I COMPLETED THIS Oil painting in my garage the Summer of 2019.  I completed three paintings with eagles.  I’ve shared the others in previous blogs. This is a simple composition—lone eagle…expansive sky…open landscape…a hint of verdant woods.  The eagle is doing what eagles were created to do.

I CHOSE THIS Oil to represent today’s key Thought—Heaven 2.  Why?   To me it represents the many ways we see, or imagine, the world in which we live.  We imagine what it might be like to silently glide though the atmosphere like the eagle.  Is there some sense in which this may make us think of heaven: Tranquility of the flight? Endless expanse above? Delightful landscape below?  All of these and much, much more?  Let’s think about that.

Thought:

My Primary Resource

LAST WEEK I stated my plan to take a few weeks in these Thursday blogs to address my personal understanding of ‘heaven’ by answering a few typically asked questions. Before launching into questions, I’m obliged to state this qualification: I’m aware that mythology, Hollywood, religions, scientists and philosophers have offered many ideas about ‘heaven’. Nevertheless, my ‘primary’ resource (and the primary resource of my ‘secondary’ sources) is the Old and New Testament of the Judeo/Christian Scriptures. While I do believe that all truth is God’s truth, any resemblance in what I share to what other than biblical sources may claim is purely coincidental.  

I am aware that my current understanding of heaven will not agree with everyone.  I’m OK with that.  I don’t claim to have all the answers.  Full understanding comes when we’re actually there! I’m excited about what I do believe I’ve been allowed to see about heaven.

What is Heaven? 

THE WORD ‘heaven’ appears 422 times in the English, New International Version (NIV) of the Old and New Testament.  Yet, not much attention is given in contemporary writing.  One volume titled Systematic Theology, contains 738 pages.  The author dedicates only one page to ‘heaven’.  Another text, Christian Theology, contains 1,302 pages. ‘Heaven is covered specifically in 10 pages. I don’t mean to be critical of these authors.  They do wonderful work on many important topics.  It does surprise me that so little has been discussed when ‘heaven’ appears 422 times in our English Bibles. [1]  It feels a little like knowing you are going to visit a foreign country. But, no one will allow you to read the many well documented brochures containing significant tips on how to plan now for the journey or what you may expect when you actually arrive. How sad is that!  Much of the joy in any trip is the knowing, planning and anticipating what’s ahead!

Heaven Defined Three Ways:

FIRST is Cosmological—to designate the entire universe or cosmos.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.   Genesis. 1:1;    Also see: Matthew 5:18

SECOND is a virtual synonym for God.  To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.  John 3:27; See footnote  [2]

THIRD & most common use is the ‘abode or dwelling place’ of God.  Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.”  Matthew. 6:9; John 14:2

In these blogs we’ll center on the THIRD use…a ‘dwelling place of God’.

The Destination–Heaven!

Jesus said:  My Father’s ‘house’ has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  John 14:2

The Apostle Paul said: “But our citizenship is in ‘heaven’.’  Philippians 3:20a

Paul also said:  “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in ‘heaven’,” 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

“This World Is Not My Home”

This song was written in 1946 by Jim Reeves

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Oh lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain…I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far: but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the

Philippians 1:21, 23


[1] ‘Heaven’ in the Old Testament Hebrew is [shamayim]. In the New Testament Greek, it is [ouravos].

[2] Matthew, in writing to a Jewish audience, who would not pronounce the name Yahweh, repeatedly used of the term “kingdom of heaven” where Luke in parallel passages has “kingdom of God.”  Mathew used “heaven” as a synonym for God.

Heaven

Art:

I painted this Acrylic two weeks ago from the photograph of an area we visited on a family trip years ago.  I like the bright colors and contrasts of sky, landscape and lake. To me it speaks of ‘shalom’ or ‘peace’ with beauty.  

It’s a tangible reminder of what was originally intended in the first two chapters of Genesis and its account of original creation, coupled with the last two chapters of Revelation speaking of the renewed creation.  It seemed to fit well with our Thought for this week—Heaven.

Thought:

The Question

One Sunday morning a California Pastor stood before his congregation and presented three inquiries: (1.)  If you believe in Heaven, raise your hand.  Every hand shot up !  (2.)  If you believe you will be in heaven when you die, raise your hand.  Every hand he saw was raised.  (3.)  If I had a bus outside waiting to take you to Heaven this morning, and you would like to get on board now, raise your hand.  Guess how many hands went up?  None!  Does that little story have a point?  I think so. It possibly begs a number of questions. One centers around what we know about Heaven. 

Mark Twain’s Answer

I think it was Mark Twain who, when asked by his Sunday School teacher if he wanted to go to Heaven when he died, responded immediately…and with force “No!”  Why? He was asked. “I don’t want to float around on clouds all day singing songs in a church service that never ends!”  To Mark Twain his life right now wasn’t perfect, but it was a whole lot more fun that anything he had ever heard about Heaven. “I’ll just keep what I’ve got. Thank you very much!” Mark Twain’s knowledge about Heaven was near zero.

Mary Smith’s Answer

By contrast, Mary Smith, in her mid 90s, lost her husband last week following their 70th Wedding anniversary, is now depressed, bedridden, nearly in constant pain and resides in an assisted living facility with no family to visit.  When asked by the Chaplain if she would like to go to Heaven when she passed away, her immediate response was, “Yes, today would be good! I don’t know much about Heaven, but I know the Bible says there will be no more “sorrow, tears or pain” that’s good enough for me!”  Unlike Mark Twain, Mary was quite willing to trade her present life experience for Heaven, even based on the little knowledge she possessed.

Our Answer?

Most of us fall somewhere between Mark Twain and Mary in age and knowledge about Heaven. Age comes automatically.  Knowledge about Heaven comes intentionally.  We either make the choice to place ourselves where we may gain such instruction, or we don’t.  Since life’s urgent daily challenges keep us busy seeking other answers, questions about Heaven get pushed to the back burner.  And, if we are in the habit of Church attendance (prior to COVID19) and perhaps a Small Group Bible Study, even that may be of little help.  The Sermon topic of Heaven seldom appears in the Worship Folder of churches or on Small Group topic lists, except for Funeral or Memorial Services.

My Confession

Since my Ordination November 8, 1967, I’ve preached hundreds of Sermons, taught Bible Classes, facilitated Small Groups and written papers and articles. Few of them were specifically on Heaven.  Heaven was often mentioned but was not the subject itself.  I’ve had many Pastor friends during these fifty plus years, who would make the same confession.  Why haven’t we been more helpful with this instruction?  Not sure I have a definitive answer.

Now What?

Now what? In my formal theological studies, the subject of Heaven was always part of Systematic Theology…I’ve read on the subject in dozens of Bible Commentaries and…listened to many recordings. Through the years, I’ve discovered two resources that have been of greatest value to me. My plan is to take a few weeks in these Thursday morning Blogs to address my understanding in answer to typical questions on the subject of Heaven.  My prayer is that it will be helpful to you.  You may want to reread Genesis 1 & 2  as well as Revelation 21 & 22.  Isaiah 65:17-25 will also be helpful.

COVID19 deaths are rising daily in this country and around the world. What’s ahead for followers of Jesus?

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

Revelation 4:1

Motive

Art:

This Ink with Pen and Brush is a view of neighbors across the pond from our dining window that I drew last winter from my photos. Our Minnesota ‘Winter Wonderland’ is on the way!

What might you guess is my motive in using this particular Art for our Thought–Motive?  If your answer is something akin to “I don’t know” then, you’re close to my answer as well.  One of mine is to reflect on the relative ‘peacefulness’ of how things were in our world the first day of Fall in 2019 (aka the ‘Old Normal’)!  

Thought:

What Is A Motive?

MOTIVE IS A REASON for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious. Motive is something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing, etc. Three other words come to mind: purpose, intent and goal.

“Fact Checking”

WE HEAR LOTS this pre-election season about ‘fact checking’: Is the alleged factual content of political ads, speeches and news coverage accurate?  I sometimes come away with a feeling that the ‘fact checking’ needs ‘checking’.   Why?  One reason has to do with our word motive.  I understand that each candidate’s motive is to win the election.   If that was not the case, why even bother?

Can Motives Be ‘Checked’?

HOW CAN ANYONE check a motive behind action or words? Is that possible?  It’s been suggested that if you wish to understand why (motive) someone is doing or saying something:  Look at the consequences of their words and actions.  If doing something that is making everyone around them suspicious, unsettled, miserable (and maybe even themselves):  One hypothesis is they are actually trying to make everyone around them suspicious, unsettled, miserable, etc. It’s hard for most to understand why people will do things like that.  But, it may actually be their goal. 

Where are Motives Born?

WHERE DO MOTIVES originate?  One’s motive may be influenced by environment—by other people or events.  A well-known comedian, when confronted with wrongdoing would say: “The Devil made me do it!” Not true! The ‘Devil’ may influence your motive but not make you say or do anything. That motive comes from a deeper place. Our motives, our intents, and our desires originate from our heart. …He [the Lord] will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart…1 Corinthians 4:5.    All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Proverbs 16:2. Motives originate from the heart. 

What’s In My Heart?

WHAT RESOURCES ARE available in my heart? They will frame my motive and effect my use of words and actions. That’s what will be heard and seen by those around me. For the follower of Jesus, It begins with God.   When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, Ephesians 1:13. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our heart….”  Galatians 4:6.

The Holy Spirit in your heart produces… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22, 23a.  The key characteristic is love. Thomas Aquinas said, “…Love is born of earnest consideration of the object loved. It tends to generate that same love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in those who are observing and hearing your example. 

What Are We Modeling For The Future?

ARE WE GIVING the next generation a worthy reputation to live up to?  Are we modeling not only factually accurate information and respectfulness toward opponents?  It seems to me the contest in an election should be about what each candidate has in mind (motive) for the good of all citizens equally.   Sometimes it feels candidates are bent on seeing who can best destroy the character of their opponent with abusive, insulting, degrading language.  Is that a worthy model?

My hope is that better motives will change the rhetoric to a model any American can honorably point to as leadership examples everyone may look up to. 

Prayer

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior,  

1 Timothy 2:1-4