Sunday, March 5, 2017

Two Houses

This year, let’s shine like pumpkins on dimly lit streets. Let’s point others to the light.
I spent a lot of years going to trunk-or-treats, church festivals and participating in innocent neighborhood trick-or-treating, but I remember one specific Halloween week in particular. I remember it because I had a really special job—to be an Angel. My parents still have the picture in a little round frame. I am wearing a white gown, wings and a halo atop my golden blonde curls. I was about five or six and I didn't have much concept about angels except that they were in Heaven and they were the good guys.
Our church offered a local Judgment House that year and invited people to come take a journey through it. It started in the parking lot at a pretend scene where some teens had a car accident. The guides then took the people through the “Judgment House” offering a glimpse of Heaven and Hell and what will happen in eternity.
I was too young to actually go through the House but I landed a pretty sweet spot playing one of the Angels in Heaven. I remember it was very blue where we were and there were lots of clouds. We were all positioned in a certain spot and every few minutes a group would come through and listen to a speech. Everyone seemed happy at our stop. It seemed to be a place of hope along the tour. Sometimes we would get breaks and get to go eat cookies and lots of other snacks in a little room off to the side. I thought it was the coolest. I thought if Heaven was like that; count me in.
Meanwhile, my mom was floors below playing someone trapped in Hell with my dad’s youth group. Her job was to call out to people and ask why they didn't tell her it was going to be like this; why they didn't show her the way. The windows were blacked out and it was very dark during their scenes. The heat was turned way up and it was pretty much the opposite of the scene I was experiencing upstairs. I’m sure no one wanted to stick around there very long.
Like I said, I remember thinking it was so neat to be a part of it and to play the tiny role I did, but I did not realize then the significance of what was actually going on. Two principles stick out to me now. One is an emphasis to live with an eternal focus. We live so much of our lives for the here and now. We get caught up in today and we forget that there are much more eternal things going on. I think maybe if we started seeing troubles and trials, the people around us, our possessions and our jobs as well as our relationships in an eternal light, we would treat them a lot differently.
If we knew what that person sitting next to us was really going through, would we be a little more patient? If we knew a family member would be diagnosed with something, would we hang on to time a little more? If we remembered we can’t take it with us to the grave, would we invest in different things? If we knew the pain we were experiencing now was nothing to the joy that’s coming, would we live our lives a little freer? One day we will all stand in account for our lives—will we have done them well?
The second principle is that we always have a choice. The two choices at the Judgment House are pretty obvious, but everyday choices aren't always as easy. I think that a lot of Christians believe that following Christ is going to be like wearing snazzy angel wings and eating cookies. It is easy to be frustrated when God doesn't answer things the way we want, but life is never promised to be easier when following Jesus. Just better. God’s way works, even in the tough times.
On the other hand, when we go outside God’s will, we will eventually meet trouble. We tend to sweep the idea of Hell under the rug, but as Christians we should proclaim what the Bible says about the options that eternity offers. If we don’t acknowledge Satan’s presence he can easily deceive us. To be successful, we have to actively engage against Him. I once heard an atheist pose the question, “If Christians fully believe in Jesus and that there is a Heaven and Hell, how much do they have to hate someone not to tell them about it?”
There are always two ways, two paths, two houses. There is a choice. This year, let’s shine like pumpkins on dimly lit streets. Let’s point others to the light. And let’s not lose sight of each day we are given. We are making deposits in the eternal with every choice we make. When that day comes where we walk through the Judgment House may we hear “well done, good and faithful servant.”
-Only Hope

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