“Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:3
Let’s talk about heaven. If you’re like me, it’s hard to get your head around it and harder still to let it grip your heart. While most of us believe that heaven exists, we go on with life as though this is the only world that matters.
Nearly every spiritual dysfunction in our lives can be traced back to the fact that heaven does not really have a hold on us. C. S. Lewis had it right when he said: “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”
So, how do we “aim at heaven”? First, we recognize that this physical body is not all there is—“what we will be has not yet appeared” (1 John 3:2). In fact, earth is simply a dress rehearsal for the great world to come. All the pain and toil here is temporary. Poverty isn’t permanent. Illness is transient. For followers of Jesus, death is but a door to all that is far better. As we read in Revelation, there shall be no sorrow, no more crying, no more death, and he shall wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4).
Aiming at heaven also involves keeping Jesus in our sights. Looking forward to the day when “we shall see Him as He is” fills us with hope—not a worldly, wish-list kind of hope, but a hope that reflects the certainty of what is to come. It’s the kind of hope that keeps us from distractions and rivets our attention on what really matters in the long run; the kind of hope that purifies us.
Maybe you’ve never thought of it like this before, but one of the strongest motivations for purity is connected to the return of Jesus. Because, let’s face it, there are some places we just wouldn’t want to be when He comes back. We might hope He doesn’t examine the places the Internet has taken us, or that He doesn’t see our attitudes toward others. If we really believed that today might be our last, we might finally be ready to forgive, to ask for forgiveness, or maybe even to share the love of Jesus with someone.
So, how about it? Let’s stop aiming at earth and turn our hearts toward heaven!
- What did C. S. Lewis mean when he said, “you get earth thrown in” if you’re aiming for heaven? Could it be what Jesus meant in Matthew 6:33? What are you aiming for—earth or heaven? Do your thoughts, attitudes, and actions support your answer?
- Think of some practical, tangible ways that you can be more heavenly minded. (And don’t worry, it won’t make you of “no earthly good”!)
- How would focusing on heaven stir your heart to purity?
Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? —Acts 26:14
Is the Word of God tremendously penetrating and sharp in me as I hand it on to you, or does my life betray the things I profess to teach? I may teach sanctification and yet exhibit the spirit of Satan, the very spirit that persecutes Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Jesus is conscious of only one thing— a perfect oneness with the Father. And He tells us, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). All I do should be based on a perfect oneness with Him, not on a self-willed determination to be godly. This will mean that others may use me, go around me, or completely ignore me, but if I will submit to it for His sake, I will prevent Jesus Christ from being persecuted.
This week’s Torah portion is named for Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, in Hebrew, Yitro. Jethro was a priest of Midian who had heard all about God’s miracles and decided to leave idolatry behind and join the children of Israel. But as wonderful as Jethro was, the Sages wonder why the entire Torah portion is named after him. The main event of this selection is the giving of the Ten Commandments and the Torah through Moses. If this portion was to be named after any one person, surely Moses would have been the better choice?
Let’s take a closer look at Jethro.
The Sages give us background information that is not included in the Bible. Jewish tradition teaches that Pharaoh of Egypt had three close advisers: Bilaam, Job, and Jethro. When Pharaoh was considering a law requiring every Israelite baby boy to be thrown into the sea, he consulted with his trusted three. Bilaam was excited about the idea. Job disapproved, but was silent knowing that Pharaoh only wanted confirmation and validation. Jethro disapproved and voiced his opinion, which resulted in an angry Pharaoh, and Jethro had to run for his life. That’s how he ended up in Midian.
In Midian, Jethro remained an important leader in society. He was a high priest who was proficient in all kinds of idolatry. He was wealthy, well-respected, and powerful. Yet, when he heard about the events in Egypt, he understood that the God of Israel was the only true God. He was intellectually honest and spiritually sincere, so he left everything behind for a life in the harsh desert with God’s people.
Jethro was the quintessential spiritual seeker. His name means ‘extra,’ and indeed, Jethro was always looking for something extra. He knew there was more to life than what he had found. He was also a man of action. When he discovered that something extra, he wasn’t afraid to pursue it wholeheartedly. In short, Jethro was the ideal student of life. He asked questions, found answers, and integrated the lessons into his life.
The Torah portion wasn’t named for the teacher of the Bible – Moses. It was named for the students, represented by Jethro. God gave the Torah to humanity for the benefit of people like Jethro – people of honor and integrity, people who seek out God and who aren’t afraid to follow Him. The Torah portion was named after Jethro, and for you and me, and anyone else who seeks the truth. Because more important than giving the Bible, is receiving it.
This week, follow the lead of Jethro. Ask meaningful questions, and look for answers. Most importantly, be willing to apply the lessons that you have learned to your life.
One day Elisha went over to Shunem where a rich woman lived, and she asked him to be her guest. Afterward, whenever he passed by, he stopped there to eat. So she said to her husband, “Now I see that this is a holy man of God who is constantly passing by our door. Let us make a little chamber on the roof, and put there for him a bed, a table, a seat, and a candlestick, so that whenever he comes to us, he can stay there.”
One day when he came, he went into the upper room and lay down there. Then he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunamite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. Elisha said to Gehazi, “Say now to her, ‘See, you have been so anxious to care for us; what can be done for you? May I ask the ruler or the commander of the army to do a favor for you?'” She answered, “I am living among my own people.” Elisha said, “What then can be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Verily, she has no son, and her husband is old.” Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood at the door. Then Elisha said, “At this time a year from now you shall hold a son in your arms!” But she said, “No, my lord, O man of God, do not deceive your servant!” But the next year the woman had a son at the very time Elisha had promised her.
When the child had grown up he went out one day to his father to the reapers. And he called to his father, “My head, my head!” So his father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” When he had been taken to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon and then died. His mother went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door as she went out.
Then she called her husband and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the asses, that I may go quickly to the man of God and return.” He said, “Why do you go to him to-day, for it is neither the feast of the new moon nor the sabbath?” She said, “I have good reason.”
Then she saddled an ass and said to her servant, “Drive on fast, do not stop until I tell you.” So she went to the man of God on Mount Carmel. But when Elisha saw her at a distance, he said to Gehazi, his servant, “See, there is the Shunamite! Run down to meet her and say to her, ‘Is all well with you? Is your husband well? Is the child well?'” And she answered, “All is well.” But when she came to the man of God on the mountain, she caught hold of his feet. When Gehazi tried to push her away, Elisha said, “Let her alone, for she is deeply troubled and Jehovah has not told me the reason.” Then she said, “Did I ask a son of my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?'”
Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tighten your belt, take my staff in your hand and go! If you meet any one, do not speak to him, and if any one speaks to you do not answer him, and lay my staff on the face of the child.” But the mother of the child said, “As surely as Jehovah lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he rose and went with her. And Gehazi had gone on before them and had laid the staff upon the face of the child, but there was neither sound nor sign of life in the boy. So he went back to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.”
When Elisha came into the house, there was the child lying dead on his bed. So he went in and shut the door after them and prayed to Jehovah. He also went up and lay upon the child and put his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands. As he lay upon him, the flesh of the child became warm. Then he turned and walked backward and forward in the house, and again went up and lay upon him, and the child sneezed seven times, and then opened his eyes. Calling Gehazi, he said, “Call this Shunamite woman.” So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, “Take up your son.” Then she went nearer, fell at his feet, and bowed to the ground; after that she took up her son and went out.
“Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel; but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul” (Ps. 106:12-15).
We read of Moses, that “he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” Exactly the opposite was true of the children of Israel in this record. They endured only when the circumstances were favorable; they were largely governed by the things that appealed to their senses, in place of resting in the invisible and eternal God.
In the present day there are those who live intermittent Christian lives because they have become occupied with the outward, and center in circumstances, in place of centering in God. God wants us more and more to see Him in everything, and to call nothing small if it bears us His message.
Here we read of the children of Israel, “Then they believed his words.” They did not believe till after they saw–when they saw Him work, then they believed. They really doubted God when they came to the Red Sea; but when God opened the way and led them across and they saw Pharaoh and his host drowned–“then they believed.”
They led an up and down life because of this kind of faith; it was a faith that depended upon circumstances. This is not the kind of faith God wants us to have.
Do you believe God only when the circumstances are favorable, or do you believe no matter what the circumstances may be? C. H. P.
Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe. —St. Augustine