The unexpected treasures you’ll find past the pearly gates

Do you ever think about what heaven will be like? Sometimes I do. When I stop long enough. Honest, if you don’t think about eternity on a regular basis, you might want to reassess your life’s focus. Christ-followers are supposed to be in the world, yes, but we’re not supposed to be of it, which basically translates to living our lives for eternal things rather than things that will eventually pass away.

That being said, I don’t think about heaven as often as I should. It seems so far away, so impossible to comprehend. How can you think about heaven or even imagine it when it’s going to be so wonderful nobody can grasp it?

Well, I believe sometimes we get glimpses of it. Sometimes I believe God lets us experience overwhelming and abundant joy on Earth so that we can get a tiny taste of what heaven will be like. It doesn’t happen often. But when it does, you just have to stop and stand in awe.

It happened Sunday night for me. It wasn’t anything particularly special. Just a big (BIG) group of friends getting together for a hog roast. Friends from all over the place, different backgrounds and different parts of the country. But most of them had one thing in common–we all know Jesus. And there was just something in the air, being reconnected with so many people who I love so dearly–people I don’t get the chance to see on a regular basis.

And I think that’s a taste of what heaven is going to be like. We’re going to be together with the people we love the most. We’re going to be reunited with those who’ve already gone ahead of us in Christ. And we’ll get to be together and tell each other stories of all the amazing miracles God has done in our lives.

Can you even imagine anything better than that? Spending eternity with people you love talking about the crazy awesome stuff God has done?

pearly-gatesToday’s verses are Matthew 6:19-21.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

This is one of those well-known verses that people quote often, but I’m not sure we ever really think about what it means. We get this idea that heaven will be full of treasure. And I’m sure it will be. You’ll walk on streets of gold.

But is gold, gold, and more gold really the treasures that heaven will be full of? Will we even care about gold and wealth and status once we get to heaven? Heaven has a way of changing your priorities.

What’s better than gold? What’s more important than wealth? Go look at that family picture on the shelf. Go read that email from your best friend. Take a look at your coworker at the office.

People.

People are better than gold and more important than wealth and power and status. People are the biggest treasure you can find, an inexhaustible source of joy.

Sure that hog roast at my friends’ house was great fun, but how much fun would it have been if a few of us showed up with our piles of gold and sat around talking about them? I don’t know about you, but talking about money exhausts me. I’d much rather hear a story about how God did something great for a friend instead.

And that’s the point. Don’t get wrapped up in what the world says you have to have. Don’t get focused on achieving wealth and status and power and forget that the people around you are worth much much more than any paycheck you can ever earn.

Heaven will be full of treasures, but they won’t be the treasures the world expects.

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Fountain in the Rose Garden - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Be careful where you set your heart.

What does it mean to set your heart on things of heaven? I’ve heard that all my life. Store up treasures in heaven. Seek first the kingdom of God. All wonderful things but all vague if you try to put them into practice.

Fountain in the Rose Garden - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Fountain in the Rose Garden – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Luke 12:34.

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

How can you set your heart on the things of heaven when we really don’t know what heaven is like? I meant he Bible gives us clues not specific ones. So how does that help us set our hearts on heaven?

I’m a practical person. Granted, I enjoy creativity and artistry to a certain extent, but I really prefer to have some kind of practicality behind it. So vague, churchy phrases do little else than to irritate me.

It’s easy to set your heart on things of the world because they’re visible, tangible, usually immediate, and they make us feel better. But the things of the world are temporary. Wealth spends; health declines; possessions wear out. No matter how much you obtain in this life, you can’t take it with you. So it makes sense to store up “treasures” in heaven, which means to live your life for the intangibles that last forever.

Yes, I’m sure some treasures in heaven may consist of mansions and heavenly wealth and eternal life, yada yada yada. But to me, treasures in heaven are people I love. And that’s a great goal. But how do you set your heart on filling up heaven with treasures while you’re still on earth?

Well, I guess you live the dream God gave you.

God has given everyone a dream. Maybe some of us have hidden it, stuffed it way down deep into the corner of our hearts that rarely sees light because it’s too absurd to pursue in broad daylight. I can’t speak for anyone else. But for me? Writing has always been my dream. From the moment I understood that writing was something I could do for a living, it became my desire. But not writing specifically – publication: that magical word that changes a writer from an amateur to an expert (whether they actually know anything or not).

From the time I was very small, I wanted to be a published author. And I remember the first time I sent off a manuscript to a publisher. I cringe now thinking about what I mailed, and I pity whoever was unfortunate enough to open it. And I remember waiting and waiting and waiting for a response … and receiving none. But not to be deterred, I tried again. And again. And again. And the first time I received a response letter, I was so excited! Until I read it. A rejection notice. I’d heard of them. And this was the first of many to follow.

I could probably paper my walls with all the rejection notices I’ve received now. I remember hitting the bottom when I was halfway through college, thinking that it wasn’t worth it and that maybe I had misunderstood the dream God had given me because obviously nobody wanted anything I was writing.

But then I read a book somewhere that told me to define what success meant to me. And success for me was this: that someone would come to know Christ directly because of something I wrote. And by that definition I was successful through the first set of dramas I wrote for my church, a drama series called “To Be Continued.” And I have been writing ever since.

I had set my heart on being a published author. Granted, I wanted to become a published author so that the stories God has given me can reach as many people as possible. But I had my heart set on the wrong part of that goal. My heart needed to be set on reaching people for Christ. My heart needed to be set on the end and not the means. My interpretation of the dream God had given me was too small.

If I can step back and try to see the big picture of the dream God has given me for my life, that’s what I need to set my heart on fulfilling. If I try to set my heart on my interpretation of the smaller events that will lead to the big picture, it’s like focusing all my efforts on a single puzzle piece and neglecting the entire puzzle.

That’s why we crash and burn when we don’t get the answers we want. That’s why we get depressed and discouraged when our plans don’t work out. We have our hearts set on the means we think we need to accomplish our dream rather than the dream itself. If we can set our hearts on the big picture God has for our lives, it’s a lot easier to let go of the little things that don’t work out like we expect. It’s a lot easier to trust that whatever path He leads us down is the right one, whether it feels like it or not.

I’m almost 30 and have been writing for 20 years without being published. So what? I have my heart set on God using my writing to help people, and He’s done that. And He’ll keep doing it. It just may not look like what I think it should look like. But that’s up to Him.

The best way to tell the difference between your dream and God’s is that God’s dream for your life will always be impossible for you alone. So be careful where you set your heart. And before you get too attached to the plans you’ve made, ask yourself if you’re depending on your dream or God’s.