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In Light of Eternity

DSC_3703_2Dear Comfort Cafe Friends,

In this short Bible Study series we are looking at what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. The lessons are running monthly through July 2014 and focus on “Looking Inward,” (relating to and loving God), and “Looking Outward,” (relating to and loving our neighbor). In this series, the entire lesson each month is presented here on the front page. We hope you will join us in applying knowledge of God’s character to deeper levels of life. Previous lessons from 2014 remain available under the Table of Contents and Archive page.

©2013 Kay Smith and Ruth Wood. All rights reserved. Used by permission. User Permission Notice: This study may not be sold or used for profit. However, copies may be made for personal use. Questions? Contact: ruthywood@gmail.com.

heaven

Looking Inward

By Ruth Wood

“…No one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11b).

One way to visualize that God had no beginning and has no end is by using the “real number line,” where the infinity symbol ↔ beautifully illustrates this truth about Him. When He made us in His image, He shared something of His eternal nature with us. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “…He has . . . set eternity in the human heart…” Therefore, our lives can be drawn with the symbol →, which has a point of beginning but no end. However, even though the entire human race carries the “eternity gene,” only those who are born again by the Spirit receive eternal life.

In Light of Eternity, Randy Alcorn says that we were created for a person and a place. Consider Jesus’ promise:

“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? 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” (John 14:2-3).

Randy comments on this scripture:

These are words of love and romance. How would any bride who loves her husband-to-be respond to them? She’d be thrilled. Not a single day would go by, not a single hour, in which the bride wouldn’t anticipate joining her beloved in that place he prepared for her to live with him forever.

Randy wonders how our bridegroom must be hurt by the way we cling to the world, “dreading the thought of leaving it, when he has hand-built a magnificent estate for us.” If we’re not carnal, we can be so ministry-minded that we lose sight of the joy. We’ve lost our first love. It’s godly to dream a little! And the dream of being with Jesus forever is one that will never disappoint!

Understanding our eternal connection to our bridegroom and His home is an important part of our identity. The hope of Jesus and heaven should strengthen our sense of security and give us confidence to live wisely in the moment.

***

Diving In

  1. What difference does it make to know that you were created for a person and a place? How often do you think about heaven and about being with Jesus forever?
  2. “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3:13). Amen and amen! Read Revelations 21 and 22. These two chapters describe our ultimate future in much detail! Jot down some of the things you look forward to most.
  3. II Corinthians 4:17 says that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Paul, perhaps more than any other apostle, faced persecutions which involved intense, painful, and often prolonged suffering. Why was Paul able to call his experiences “light and momentary troubles”?
  4. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” As you think about your mortality, what kinds of things stand out as most important to you? How might you live more intentionally towards your priorities?
  5. In light of eternity, we want to live to the fullest, yet so often we dwell on the past or leap to the future, thereby missing the present. In order to wisely redeem the time, we may need to buck the cultural norm and slow down. We Americans have a habit of over scheduling our children and ourselves, all the while staying current with the latest technological gadget or social media phenomenon.

A 2013 study by the American Psychological Association found that 77% of people experience physical symptoms of stress while 73% experience psychological symptoms. (See http://www.statisticbrain.com/stress-statistics/)

Top Causes of Stress in the U.S.
Cause Factors

1

Job Pressure Co-Worker Tension, Bosses, Work Overload

2

Money Loss of Job, Reduced Retirement, Medical Expenses

3

Health Health Crisis, Terminal or Chronic Illness

4

Relationships Divorce, Death of Spouse, Arguments with Friends, Loneliness

5

Poor Nutrition Inadequate Nutrition, Caffeine, Processed Foods, Refined Sugars

6

Media Overload Television, Radio, Internet, E-Mail, Social Networking

7

Sleep Deprivation Inability to release adrenaline and other stress hormones

Perhaps the stress of our times is why “mindfulness” is the trend of today. Secular meditation and progressive muscle relaxation techniques are taught in the classroom, the boardroom, and the counseling office. Research shows the effectiveness of such methods in reducing stress and anxiety. However, the common sense practice of slowing down, fully appreciating the present, and nonjudgmental attention is something we can hardly relate to culturally.

It’s a strange paradox that the more we hope to live for eternity, the more we must be mindful of the present. Nothing eats up precious minutes and hours more than needless ruminating and worry.

When Jesus said to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33), He did not mean yesterday or tomorrow or sometime in general as much as He meant “right now” or “all the time.” Presently you’re working on this Bible Study so you might be feeling pretty good about seeking the kingdom. However, what if you were doing dishes, or talking to a friend, or sitting on the couch staring out the window? How might you seek God first then?

6. God is with us whether we consciously commune with Him in the moment or not. However, because we love Him, we desire quality conscious time with Him. Princeton graduate and missionary to the Philippines, Dr. Frank Laubach (1884-1970), challenged himself to cultivate the habit of practicing the presence of God at least once every minute. This practice changed his life. Here’s how he describes his “Game with Minutes” in which he actually kept a score card for how often he thought of God in each hour:

HOW TO BEGIN

Select a favorable hour; try how many minutes of the hour you can remember God at least ONCE each minute; that is today, bring God to mind at least one second out of every sixty. It is not necessary to remember God every second, for the mind runs along like a rapid stream from one idea to another. Your score will be low at first, but keep trying, for it constantly becomes easier, and after a while is almost automatic.

THE GAME OF MINUTES IN SPECIFIC SITUATIONS

  • While in a crowd, whisper prayers to God about the people you see.
  • While in conversation, silently pray for those you’re with. Have an empty chair beside you to imagine the Master sitting in it. Keep praying, “Lord, put Thy thoughts in my mind. Tell me what to say.”
  • When reading a newspaper or magazine or book, read it to Him and continue a running conversation with Him about what you’re reading.
  • When thinking, instead of talking to yourself, form the habit of talking to Christ.
  • When walking outdoors alone, remember that ‘beauty is the voice of God.’ Every flower and tree, river and lake, mountain and sunset, is God speaking. If you have wandered to a place where you can talk aloud without being overheard, you may speak to the Invisible Companion inside you or beside you. Ask Him what is most on His heart and then answer back aloud with your voice what you believe God would reply to you. Of course we are not always sure whether we have guessed God’s answer right, but it is surprising how much of the time we are very certain. It really is not necessary to be sure that our answer is right, for the answer is not the great thing—He is! God is infinitely more important than His advice or His gifts; indeed, He, himself, is the great gift.
(Quotes, paraphrases, and summaries from http://hockleys.org/wp-content/uploads/Game_with_Minutes.pdfIf you want more inspiration on “practicing the presence of God,” read Dr. Laubach’s writings or Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of God.”)

Frank Laubach devised a way that would help him remember God more frequently. He lived out Ephesians 6:18a which says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Of course we are all unique, and God does not expect us to be copycats. However, as you think of mindfully practicing God’s presence, what habits are you inspired to incorporate?

7. Scriptures tell us to meditate on the Lord. In the verses below, highlight what we are admonished to meditate on:

  • Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love. (Psalm 48:9)
  • Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 119:27)
  • I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees. (Psalm 119:48)
  • My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
  • I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. (Psalm 143:5)8.

8. In Psalm 1:1-4 below, what is the benefit of meditating on God’s word?

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

9. Secular mindfulness gurus like Jon Kabat Zinn recommend people spend 40 minutes meditating each day, noting that it takes about six weeks of practice to gain a calmer state of mind. Then, of course to maintain gains, this discipline needs to be continued. The investment people make in their secular practice should challenge us as Christians. Are we passionate enough about loving God, that we commit to a substantial time investment regularly? If you struggle in this area, problem solve and pray about how you might make changes to your schedule.

JOURNAL. Record new insights, praise, thanksgiving, or goals for change. Or write about how meditating on God’s Word, prayer, and daily mindfulness of God will help you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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