It is my belief that the distance between heaven and earth is quite short. I’ve come to this as I’ve read the story about Jesus and how he takes his disciples Peter, John and James with him up on a high mountain. His purpose – if we read the text from Luke (9:28) – his purpose is to simply pray. There is nothing big going on, it is no special day, they are just planning to pray. But what happens? While he is praying, he starts to change in front of them. It is obvious that God is there. Jesus’ face and clothes are changing. It is as if heaven is literally opening and everything that heaven is like – the purity, the beauty, the atmosphere – all of that takes over. It is as if heaven breaks through and all can see it.
And yes, that is how close heaven is. Sometimes I think we misunderstand this. We think that the distance between heaven and earth is so long. But it can not be. In Jesus heaven has come close to us. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews says: ”Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” We are surrounded, all the time, by those who have left this earth before us and we can also say that wherever Jesus is heaven is. This does of course not take away our grief and our pain when someone dies, but it can help is understand that nothing, nothing can separate us.
I love this text! It helps me prepare to that which is ahead of me. The fact is, we are all going to die, not just a few of us. And I think it is important to practise thinking about heaven. Heaven has to become so real for us that we can easily let go of all earthly things without any problem. I wish I could prepare so well that I could express myself like John puts it: “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.” (4:1).
The door is open. I want to see that already now!
In August, almost one year ago, Jori, my friend who also is a pastor, travels to a national park in central Finand to have four days of loneliness and silence before the work starts again, after the vacation. The same evening this happens: On the beach he meets an older man from the area. The man is waiting for a friend, another old man, that has gone to get a boat from the northern part of the national park, around 10 kilometers away.
The hours pass and late that night they realize: The man is still somewhere and they don’t know where. Something must have happened. They involve the police that start to look for the man, without success that night. The project continues the next day. One challenge is that the man who is lost both has diabetes and a memory problem.
Six or seven police patrols are doing their best. The Red Cross and the border guards are there. A helicopter is in the air and the man is also looked for by a thermal imager. A big amount of regular people have involved in the project as well. Late that night the message comes: The man is found after 36 hours of searching! He is alive and in quite good shape.
Why do I tell this? In Luke 15 Jesus shares a story about a shepherd that leaves his 99 sheep in the desert and does his everything to find the one that is lost. The story can teach us a lot about how Jesus puts his priorities, his heart for each and every individual and the inviolable worth of every human being. The man that was looked for in the park was in one way a nobody, a person that those who were seeking did not know. However, they still put a lot of energy, money and time in the project. And the leading police officer cried when the man was found.
I am deeply touched by the story. What if we in our churches had the same heart for those that are not yet there.
In the beginning of this new year I have read one of the more remarkable books in the Bible: The Song of Songs. Eight chapters on pure love. The book is written by King Solomon, whose name means “peaceful”. He is also called “Jedidja”, a name that means “The beloved of the Lord”. In the New Testament Jesus mentions Solomon for example in the sermon on the mount when he describes the lilies of the fields and says: “…not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these” (Matth. 6:29). Solomon was king David’s son and when the queen of Sheba, a woman from present-day Yemen, came to see Solomon, she was totally fascinated with his wisdom. And this wise man is at the same time full of love. What a combo!
In Song of Songs Solomon describes what the bridegroom, the bride and the friends say. The bridegroom is a picture of God and the bride a picture of Israel or the church. What fascinates me is that the bride, the church, in the text is so sure about being completely and perfectly loved. “I am very dark, but lovely”, she says about herself. “Draw me after you”, she asks. She is loved but she wants more. She is completely rooted in love but still not satisfied. This is my prayer for the new year: To become 100% convinced about being loved all the way through by God and still dare to ask for more.
And the bridegroom, God, in the text is not slow to answer: “You are most beautiful…”. That is the thought we receive today. Loved and blessed, that is our name.
Advent is an important season. But there is indeed a risk that our enormous focus on Christmas will make us forget the meaning of Advent. We hurry to get to the ham, the stockfish and the gifts and we miss what could have happened during the weeks before Christmas.
The first Advent we read about Jesus entering Jerusalem while the people sing Hosannah. This year I noticed two things in the story: Jesus rides on a donkey and it looks like He is crying?
A donkey is a small animal. If you try to ride on a donkey you will notice that your feet almost touch the ground. It is a big difference to ride on a horse, the way many kings in history have entered the cities. “See, your king comes to you… lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey, Zechariach prophesies 520 years before Christ (9:9). Jesus did not come as a king on a horse. He came humbly on a donkey to show that He “…lives in a high and holy place but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit” (Is. 57:15). This continues to be His attitude. He sees the pain, He sees the need and He comes down to our level to carry our pain.
In Luke’s version of the story about Jesus riding into Jerusalem it says that He cried when He saw the city: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you. even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace” (19:41-42). Jesus, the Messiah, cries when He sees the city and the people – these who did not understand who He was and what He wanted to do with their lives. Jesus cries because the message does not hit home. My prayer for this Advent is that I would not miss what He wants to do, His will and whatever is on His heart. My prayer is also that my heart would be moved to minister to those that do not understand who Jesus is.
Advent is a meaningful time – keep eyes and ears open.
In one of his psalms David says – and it is a quite amazing statement actually – ”He put a new song in my mouth” (40:3). The words can be understood in different ways of course: God changed the atmosphere on David’s inside and added the sound of a new song. David went from minus to plus. Or then David really made a new song, something that is very likely, if you think about all the texts David produced in the Psalms.
This fall I got an idea: I have contacted musicians and singers and asked them to contribute with a new song to a “Christmas calendar 2021” on Facebook and Youtube. My dream is that we would present a new song daily and maybe some of the thoughts behind the song: how was it born, what happened in life right then? At the same time we give these people an opportunity to say “A blessed advent” to all who listen. I don’t have 24 singers yet, but I am working on it. Exciting, isn’t it?
During the last days I have been thinking about distractions. There are various sorts of them. Something unexpected happens, someone says something that creates a frustration or you get angry with yourself because you forgot something important. Many things may upset us. The problem is that distractions often grow in size and become huge if we don’t control them.
The Bible says that Mary chose the good part, while her sister was lost in distractions. (Luke 10:41-42). The good part was the peace at the feet of Jesus, the focus on the words that came out of His mouth. That part was not going to be taken away from her. The good part always needs to be chosen, it does not happen all by itself. You have to choose the peace close to Jesus and turn your face away from that which causes stress and frustrations. But when you’ve found your place close to Him you sit by the well. And it always overflows.
About a month ago I started a one year training in coaching and it is extremely interesting. A word we have talked about is the word GROW. As you mirror yourself in that word, you can ask yourself the following questions. The risk in life is, isn’t it, that the development and growth stop at some time? And then everything continues like before. I am so happy that Jesus challenges us growth and development. That makes life so meaningful!
Take the letters in the word GROW and you get this: G as in GOAL. What do you want to do of your life, where are you heading? What kind of development and growth would you like to see? R as in REALITY. What does your life look like right now? Is there anything that needs to happen in order for growth to happen? Anything you need to let go of, anything you need to add? O as in OPTIONS. What are your options? Do you see them or are you looking so much in the old direction that you miss the opportunities? W as in WILL. In order not to get stuck where you are, what changes will you make, what steps will you take? Remember, growth usually happens outside of your comfort zone.
Sit down with a pen and a paper before God. Ask Him to speak to you as you think about the questions. You choose how deep you let them challenge you. They might sound over-easy and superficial but they are, perhaps, deeper than you think. Have a blessed day!
Because of the corona-situation we have very few activities in the church, but try instead to publish program on the web (unfortunately mostly in Swedish). We meet, however, every Tuesday for prayer at 6pm, starting again at 5.1 2021. Welcome!
In March 2020 we made a fast decision to bless various people working at the hospital in Vaasa with some candy, fruit and nuts. Today (25.3 2020) four huge bags with goodies have been delivered and well received. Thank you to all who contributed to this! We hope that all who work at the hospital in Vaasa feel remembered and encouraged.
Tuesday 24.3 2020 at 10 am we start our prayer-meetings on Zoom. This week we have one meeting, during the coming weeks we will probably add some more. If you want to participate do like this:
If you have downloaded the app please click:
Meeting ID: 522 697 6536
If you have not downloaded the app, click on: https://zoom.us/j/5226976536
ALL are welcome! Also if you are new or have not prayed with us before.