Heaven, Socialism, And The Shire

Socialism, The Shire And Heaven

Ok. Three topics that seem very disconnected, but I want to connect the dots: Heaven (dot), Socialism (dot), and The Shire (Dot).

Socialism (Politics)

Socialism is a form of political party. Arguably, I watched a video with Dinesh D’souza on YouTube whereas he said Communism and Socialism are cousins: Socialism is the economic side of a communist political party. But I digress.

A lot of people think that Jesus Christ was a socialist considering his views on taking care of the poor, the widow and the orphan. However, Jesus said that we should take care of the poor, widow and orphan despite the political party that is currently in office. If you are “taking care of the poor” because the government taxed you and used it, that’s not you taking care of anyone, that’s you paying your taxes. Again, I digress.

It’s good to have a socialist attitude. In theory. As a child, where you don’t think about the work and cost of living, etc, it’s good to look at those in need and say, “This person deserves a warm shower, meal and bed tonight.” Jesus would agree with that.

The difference between socialism and free market capitalism is one says, “The government should take responsibility of this person.” And people are highly taxed to take care of that person. The free market person says, “I should take care of this person.” Again, I’m not trying to get in a political argument over which is right, I’m addressing my three dots.

The Shire

To be honest… I really like the book ‘The Hobbit’ and movie ‘The Lord Of The Rings’. The Hobbit was a good read (but I didn’t like the movie) and The Lord Of The Rings was a long book (good, but long) and I really enjoyed the movie.

I have recently stopped watching Lord Of The Rings movies and books as I saw it mimicked in church as a form of spiritualism and I don’t want to associate with it. But, I used to be on a Facebook group that would discuss all things Tolkien (the author of The Hobbit, Lord Of The Rings, and a number of other books). And as it’s an election year, the group turned political and someone said, “The Shire Is Socialist.”

I replied, “No, it isn’t. If it were, Bilbo would have been taxed of all of his gold.”

Now, in The Hobbit (and Lord Of The Rings) the key character is Bilbo Baggins. He lived in a nice hole in the ground, as was the hobbit way. And his extended family, the Sacville-Baggins, were jealous. In The Hobbit, he is chosen by Gandalf the Wizard to go on an adventure with dwarves to reclaim their mountain of gold. Upon returning from his quest, he was given a chest full of gold for his troubles helping the dwarves.

If The Shire were socialist, he would be taxed on his income of gold and jewels. Because socialism is this idea that everyone should have the same amount of everything (money, potatoes, toilet paper, etc).

So, I told them, “The Shire isn’t socialist. It’s minimalist. They aren’t overly divided by the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, because everyone naturally desires a peaceful and quiet life.” No sports cars, pent house apartments, etc)

Heaven

Now, I know that you’re asking yourself, “How or why is Michael connecting these three things together?” Well, I’ll tell you.

Work… is not evil. Work… is not bad. In Genesis 1, God worked: He created. On the seventh day, “he rested from all the work” (Gen. 2:2). God blessed that seventh day and made it holy: “because on it he rested from all his work.” And before sin had entered the world, God “put man in the Garden of Eden to work.”

“Why do I bring this up,” you ask?

I bring this up to say that work is not the enemy of a godly life. And less work is not the evidence of a godly life. How often do you hear in church that if you turn to God, you will earn more, work less, and prosper?

I was having coffee with a friend. It feels like it was years ago, considering the COVID isolation, but it was probably back in February. We were having coffee at a small diner, and while we were talking about Sylvester Stallone and the hopes of a new Rocky movie, a woman came by and said, “Top it up?” And she proceeded to fill my half empty (or half full- optimist) cup with coffee.

How bazaar! What would cause someone to do that? Because, unlike my friend and I, she was there to work.

And I though of how blessed I was to have this cup of coffee with my friend. I prayed that in heaven, we would have times like this, to sit and drink coffee and discuss various topics. But, who would fill my cup of coffee?

This probably makes me sound horrible, doesn’t it?

The only point I’m trying to make is that work is not the enemy. Work is not the result of sin entering the world. God worked.

In the new heavens and the new earth, I believe that we will work.

Years ago, I asked my pastor if there were people in the church who needed work done. I didn’t care to be paid, I just wanted to work. My pastor said that I’m quite the man and proceeded to call me co-dependent.

What a bazaar thought that someone simply wants to work.

My grandfather lied about his age for 2-3 years so that he didn’t have to retire. Upon retiring, he got a job (under the table) working at a tobacco farm. Now-a-days, people want to make quick money so that they can retire as young as possible.

What’s My Point Again?

Sorry, seniors moment. I forget my topic.

Scripture tells us that God is working to this day.

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:16-17)

Evidence of a godly life is not how much or how little we have. There are those who “think that godliness is a means to financial gain”, but Paul told Timothy “godliness with contentment is of great gain.” (1 Tim. 6:5-6)

If God is still working, and we and this universe is bound by time and space, what will we do in the new creation that isn’t bound by time and space?

My point is that we should pray for contentment. Look, if you cut grass, do it for the glory of God. If you are a waitress at a diner, do it for the glory of God. If you’re a scientist shooting rockets into space, do it for the glory of God.

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Things To Do In Heaven

For those who are checking out this blog for the first time, this is a sequel post to Scared of Eternity? In the previous post, I discussed a fear of Heaven I had as a teenager due to the measurements given in Revelation 21. I also shared hope that was given through the water of life recorded in Revelation 22 among other quoted verses regarding God’s creation.

Today’s blog post will share other details that I believe can cause quite a concern for those suffering with anxiety like me. I encourage you to read the Scared of Eternity? post highlighted above.

Work?

I don’t know why the idea of “work” is such a distasteful word these days. Everyone seems to want to make as much money with doing the least amount of work possible. I had a pastor call me co-dependent because I was offering to work for no money. But, I didn’t want to work because I’m co-dependent, I wanted to work because I enjoy it.

Now, on topic, in the New Heavens and New Earth, we will work. In the original design, God made man work.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it
and take care of it. (Gen. 2:15)

Now, God’s original design, after He created all things, was for man and woman (Gen. 2:18) to work. As we know, the man and woman start talking to a snake, eat a fruit, and are guilty of sin. Let’s relook at this ‘work’:

To Adam [God] said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from 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…” (Gen: 3:17-19a)

This is the first thing that I want to illustrate is that “Work” is not a necessary evil. We are designed with capabilities to think, create and work. So for those who think of Heaven as sitting on a cloud, playing a harp, eating Philadelphia Crème Cheese, think again.

This brings up step two.

Worship?

This topic needs to be discussed, not just about Heavenly worship, but also on earth. But for now, I’ll focus on the New Heavenly worship. While there are various texts to point to an inactive worship, I’ll share one:

Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.” (Rev. 4:8b& 10b-11)

Now, the hard part with interpreting prophecies, I believe, is that they can be in allegory. Whereas Jeremiah 29:10, for example, gives a specific time of 70 years of captivity, others are left with more of an interpretation. So, I think, it’s best to interpret godly worship.

In the previous blog post, I share how God is bigger than the highest Heavens. King Solomon says this when he is dedicating the temple to God. So we must talk about godly worship.

New Covenant of Worship

First verse is when Jesus is talking to a Samaritan woman. Culturally, Samaritans and Jews were not allowed to associate with each other. This is part of the conversation:

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:19-24)

This woman believes that the only place to worship is in Jerusalem, the temple Solomon built. Arguably rebuilt since the siege of the Babylonians. But Jesus said that a time has come where it won’t be about the place. “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth.”

Our second verse comes from Apostle Paul. Like Jesus, Paul is sharing the message with non-Jewish people. He tells them:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

The Image Of God?

I had a professor in college who believed that in the New Heavens and New Earth we will create like God. We will speak planets into creation as God did in Genesis 1. I’m sorry, but I strongly disagree. If our only understanding of God is his ability to create, we are greatly lacking in understanding God’s holiness. Allow me to share some verses:

And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man,
so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. (1 Cor. 15:49)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:5-7)

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Phil. 3:20-21)

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

Creativity?

God created us as an eternal being and calls on us to be holy. And, I believe, in the New Heavens and New Earth we will design and create. Proverbs 9:16 says,

In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.

I believe that we will create and design, space ships and submarines, to seek more of the creation that God has done. We will land on distant planets and examine things we have never seen.

This Day

This day, I encourage you to seek after God. God’s love for you so much that he paid to cover your sins. In the Garden of Eden, God sacrifices an animal to hide the shame of Adam and Eve’s sin (Gen. 3:21). Now, God has sacrificed his Son, Jesus Christ, to cover our sins.

Let us seek holiness above all things. And when you find yourself unholy, that God for Jesus Christ who cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

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How To Worship “Online” During The Virus Crisis by Lewis Erickson

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I’ve felt it and I’m sure you have too.  It’s hard to worship the Lord when watching my church service online from home. It’s not like being at church and worshipping in the midst of a lot of people. Much like when we watch a sporting event or the evening news, we can become a spectator to an online worship service rather than a worshipper of the Lord God Almighty.

What if this “virus crisis” isn’t over soon?  How can we change from being a spectator to an “online worshipper”?  The answer may depend on what we consider being an “online worshipper”.

For example, how did Paul and Silas become worshippers of God while in a Philippian jail cell with their feet locked in the stocks? This was right after they had been beaten with rods. The Bible says they were praying and singing hymns at midnight and the other prisoners were listening to them. How could they worship in those awful circumstances?  There was no worship band, no hymnals, no worship leaders. They weren’t even comfortable at home in front of their TV, but in a hostile environment instead.

I believe it’s because they had learned to be “online worshippers”. They had learned to tune in to the worship service that goes on in heaven and never stops.  See Revelations 4 for more about that worship service. Regardless of their circumstances and where they were, they were able to pull away from their environment and focus on their audience of One. Rather than seeing just themselves, they were able to see the rest of heaven that they were joining in worship.  They were going online in a spiritual sense.

This is what our Christian family must do in countries that are hostile to the gospel. If they are caught, they will be beaten, fined and jailed. So, they must worship quietly, sometimes in strict silence, but going “online” in their hearts and minds to join the heavenly worship service that never ends.

How can we learn to worship earnestly, a/k/a “online” like Paul and Silas and our spiritual family in hostile countries? Primarily, we have to learn that worship is a matter of our heart.  Jesus has to be someone more than we just know about. He has to be someone we love and that we long for. If He isn’t that for you, pray right now and ask Him to become that for you. Then make it your goal to live like He is your “first love”. If you want me to explain more about that, let me know at godthefatherrevealed@gmail.com.

Beyond our heart, here are some other practical suggestions:

  • Put away your phone, tablet and anything else that may distract you. You wouldn’t be messing with them while trying to worship God at church. Don’t do it while worshipping at home either.
  • If you stand up and worship at church, stand up at home.
  • Sing when its time to sing. Don’t just watch others sing. Your audience of One is watching you. He’s not listening to how good you sing. He’s listening to your heart and mind.
  • Prepare for online church. Just like you would go to bed on time and get up in time to shower, shave, eat and then drive to church, don’t stay up late the night before binge watching Netflix.  Get to bed and get up on time so you have time to prepare to be ready to participate in online church without distractions of a hungry stomach, morning breath or bed head.
  • If you have kids, help them to prepare too. Talk about how you are looking forward to worshipping Jesus during online church. Share that all of you are going to act like the people on TV are actually in your house visiting you. If your kids are really young and must have attention, give them your attention. Hold them and worship like you would if they were sitting with you at your normal church service.

The Lord willing, the virus crisis will end soon, and we will resume going to our churches to worship.  Perhaps this time of “online worshipping” will help us learn to push out distractions that we can avoid. Perhaps we will learn to focus on worshipping the Lord despite distractions that we can’t avoid.  Finally, perhaps we will learn to go online no matter our circumstances or wherever we are to join the worship service that never ends.

Click Here To Read More By Lewis Erickson

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