The Gate of Heaven

In Genesis 28, Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

The house of God is the gate of heaven.

Hebrews 3:6 says  “And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” Paul was even more direct in 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”

So I am [or we are, as a community, depending on how you read the pronouns] the gate of heaven.

Certainly, that applies in the evangelistic sense: it’s hard to become a child of God without having encountered the people of God first. (Possible, but hard.)

But that is clearly not the way that Jacob meant it in Genesis 28. This is his description of “the gate of heaven”:

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

I believe that it is not unreasonable that we, the people of God, the heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, should expect to be a “gate of heaven,” with these effects:

  • We are a point where heaven and earth connect.
  • We are a place where angels connect with earth.
  • We are a place where God reveals himself as who He really is.
  • We are inheritors of the promises of God: this is OUR land, and all peoples on this entire planet will be blessed through us, and through our offspring.
  • Wherever we go, God goes with us, in us, through us!
  • Wherever we go, God fulfils promises made to us, that infect all the residents of that place.

This is who we are. This is what we need to expect from our life in God. Our goal is not faithful attendance at a Sunday service for 30 years. Our goal is that wherever we go, heaven leaks out of our footprints, and grows into the manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven every place we go, and in every person we meet.

Our goal is nothing less than heaven on Earth. Through us. 

Run to Win!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  ~1 Corinthians 9.24.

I was reflecting on this today, and Father drew my attention to the fact that this is a race. Once we’ve entered the narrow gate of the Kingdom, it’s easy to be entranced with the beauty and the riches and the glory of the route we’re on. It’s easy to look at our life as a saunter in an amazing park on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

But it’s in exactly that context that the apostle writes: “Guys, don’t forget! This is a race! If you’re not pressing yourself beyond what you’re comfortable with, you’re not even in the race! Run in such a way as to get the prize! Run to win!”

I don’t know if we get to saunter in the park later or not; the evidence isn’t clear, but it suggests that we’ll be “ruling and reigning,” and that sounds like work.

If it wasn’t clear enough, he goes on:

“25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

This does NOT say, “Never rest,” nor does it say, “Do this in your own strength,” which are the two ways the American church has generally interpreted it, and why the American church has ignored the command altogether.

If we’re not pressing forward, if we’re not stretching ourselves, if we’re not more deeply invested than we think we can handle, we may not be even in the race.

Run to win.

Decision-Making and Discipleship

I believe that every time we make a decision for someone else that they could make themselves, we hinder their growth. When I make decisions for my life I grow from them. When someone makes the decisions for me, they rob me of that opportunity for growth.

Even when we make the decision poorly, even when we make a mistake, we learn more than when someone “older and wiser” makes our decision for us. In fact, I suspect that we learn the most when we make those mistakes.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to children, and others who don’t have the capacity to make decisions on their own.

The Apostle Paul knew this lesson; in fact, this may be the primary lesson of his letter to Philemon: “Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you --being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ…”

Paul was clear: he could make the decision, he knew the right decision to make, and he had the authority to make the decision, but he deferred to Philemon to make the decision [about what to do with his runaway slave Onesimus]. Paul deferred to Philemon’s decision on the topic. And Paul gives every indication that he will support Philemon’s decision, even though the life of his “son” Onesimus hung in the balance.

Pastors make this mistake often, and congregants very often encourage the mistake. So many decisions are held for the pastor to make, decisions about what doctrines we believe, about how to handle certain difficult individuals, what we’re going to do in our worship of God when we get together.

We could go on and discuss how others make this mistake: either we make decisions for others (wives, kids, parishioners, employees) or we defer decisions that we can (and should) make to others (wives, parents, pastors, bosses, mentors, board of elders).

If we’re going to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head, even Christ…,” then we need to make the decisions as for DOWN the chain of authority as they can be made, even if mistakes are made. And we need to be committed to the individuals making the decisions, supporting them before, during and after the decisions.

Frankly, it’s nearly always more important that believers learn to stand on their own two feet in making decisions, than it is that we make the right decisions every time. If we’re afraid to make mistakes, nobody can grow.