Disney, Diversity, and our Final Destiny

Disney Diversity

This week, my family and I had the joy of visiting Disney World while on vacation in Orlando, FL.  This is our fourth trip in recent years, and every time has been a magical experience.

There are aspects of Disney World that make me long for heaven. It’s not the expense (thankfully, our tickets were given to us as gifts this year) or the heat that we endure willingly while standing in long lines awaiting our next adventure.  It’s actually something very positive that makes me particularly long for heaven on these trips.

What strikes me the most nearly every time I visit Disney is the incredible diversity that gathers together in one place for a shared experience.

With a ticket, everyone is welcome.  Everyone is warmly received.  The young and the old.  Men and women.  Boys and girls.  The physically strong and the disabled.  Children and adults of every age, every race, every nation, and every language are all invited to come and to enjoy.  The appeal is universal and the reception is for all who will come. In that sense, it reminds me of heaven.

Heaven will be full of wonderful diversity.  It will be an incredibly colorful place. There will be no cliques. No exclusivity (John 3:16).  No partiality (Acts 10:34).  No favoritism (Rom. 2:11).  No crowds leaving other individuals on the outside-looking-in.  Heaven’s gates are open-wide to any and all who will come through Jesus Christ (John 6:37-40).  Jesus is the way and everyone is welcome who comes through him.

I love the way J.C. Ryle wrote about this in his book A Call To Prayer:

“There is a way by which anyone — however sinful and unworthy — may draw near to God the Father. Jesus Christ has opened that way by the sacrifice he made for us upon the cross. The holiness and justice of God need not frighten sinners and keep them back. Only let them cry to God in the name of Jesus, and they shall find God upon the throne of grace, willing and ready to hear. The name of Jesus is a never-failing passport for our prayers. In that name a person may draw near to God with boldness, and ask with confidence. God has engaged to hear him. Think of this. Is this not an encouragement?”

What encouragement this is!  Anyone can come to God through Jesus.  He is the passport.  He is the ticket.  He is the gate, and ALL are welcome to enter through him regardless of where they have been, what they have done, or where they are coming from.

Yes, heaven will be very diverse and very fascinating to us all.  It will be filled with sinners saved by grace from every nation, tribe, and race who have come to God through Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins.  We will enjoy hearing all kinds of different dialects and differing stories about the same Savior who is mighty to save.

Revelation 5 gives us a vision for heaven’s diversity:

“And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

This week, as I’ve beheld a great deal of diversity in Disney, I have been reminded that nothing can compare to the richness and variety we will encounter when we enter heaven’s gates.  In the midst of a sea of unique faces and surrounded by the sounds of different dialects, I once again remember Jesus Christ and long for my final destiny where all voices will unite together in joy to sing his praise!

It Takes Faith to Take a Vacation

oceanside

I have to admit that it can be difficult for me personally to take time off for vacation.

The two primary roles I have held professionally have been in sales and in pastoral ministry.  In my sales career, a great deal of my income has largely been tied to commissions.  I risk losing opportunities every time I leave my desk.  I also have clients (and a team) depending on my efforts.

In pastoral ministry, the work simply never ends. There’s always another message to prepare, event to administrate, or pastoral issue to walk through.  So, for me, taking vacation provides an opportunity to trust the Lord.  I have to remember that God created us to follow a regular rhythm of work and rest (Exodus 20:9-11).

Charles Spurgeon, the nineteenth century London preacher, counseled his students to take an occasional rest from their labors for the purpose of being refreshed.  In Lectures to My Students, he commented,

“He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy…  A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is the next best… The ferns and the rabbits, the streams and the trouts, the fir trees and the squirrels, the primroses and the violets, the farm-yard, the new-mown hay, and the fragrant hops–these are the best medicine for hypochondriacs, the surest tonics for the declining, the best refreshments for the weary…It is wisdom to take an occasional furlough.  In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.  On, on, on for ever, without recreation may suit spirits emancipated from this ‘heavy clay’, but while we are in this tabernacle, we must every now and then cry halt, and serve the Lord by holy inaction and consecrated leisure.  Let no tender conscience doubt the lawfulness of going out of harness for a while.”

This counsel has been so helpful to me over the years.  What I have found is that it is often in the break from regular routines and responsibilities that I (and my family) have received the refreshment needed to continue working hard.

Whether it is a week or a day, far away or in our own backyard, time away from our labors can sharpen the saw and allow us to return to our work rejuvenated and refreshed.  This in the end will be more productive than “on, on, on forever without recreation”.

With this counsel freshly in mind, my family and I are pulling away this week to spend time together in sunny Florida for a week-long family vacation.

I am planning on breathing a mouthful of sea air, enjoying a stiff walk in the wind’s face, and loving every minute with my family.  I’m asking God to tend to my work this week while I tend to my soul and my family (Isaiah 64:4).  I’m trusting that we can serve Him this week with holy inaction and consecrated leisure, and that in the long run we will do more by doing less.

Question:  Do you see the benefits of taking time off for vacation? How have your vacations been particularly helpful in rejuvenating you to return to your regular work refreshed?

Hope for the Discouraged

hope

hope

I battle discouragement.  As long as I can remember, I always have.  Some days, I struggle more than others and some seasons present more difficult daily battles, but the temptation to give in to discouragement has been an ever-present reality in my life for years.

I wonder if you can relate?

Mistakes we’ve made, sins we’ve committed, sins that have been committed against us, and opportunities we’ve lost can all ring loudly as the dominant notes in our ears like a sad song set in a minor key.  On this side of heaven, we can easily become disheartened, dispirited, and cast down.  Things are not all as they should be.

The God of Encouragement  

Yet, there is hope for the disheartened and discouraged.  Our God is “the God of endurance and encouragement” (Romans 15:5).  In the midst of a broken world, God sustains His children.  He speaks and quiets our fears.  He lifts our spirits. He delivers us from the depths of our discouragements.  He fills us with hope.

I can remember one particular, extended season in my life several years ago that was marked by discouragement.  Though people may not have perceived it outwardly, inwardly I was cast down.  I had recently transitioned jobs, and I felt like a complete failure.  I was sad.  I was burdened.  I was lonely.  I was struggling, and I wondered if God could ever use me again.

In my regular reading of Scripture, I stumbled upon the first chapter of Joshua, the account of God commissioning Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land just after the death of Moses.  It is no exaggeration to say that God used these verses to powerfully transform my perspective, deliver me from deep discouragement, and profoundly encourage my soul.

Here’s what I read:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).

A Gracious Command

It was as if the Lord had gently but firmly grabbed a hold of my shoulders, looked me square in the eye and said, “I know what you are going through, and I am commanding you now to be strong and courageous and to not give in to discouragement and despair.”

A Precious Promise

God could have ended the sentence after giving this gracious command, but he didn’t.  In his kindness, He provided a precious promise powerful enough to deliver us from deep discouragements and despair:

“The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 

God is with us.  Not only is He with His children.  He is with us wherever we go.  If you are in Christ, the God of all endurance and encouragement is with you right where you are.  He is with you to sustain you, support you, and empower you.

I realized that morning that though my job had changed, God’s presence was continually with me. Richard Sibbes has written, “His presence makes any condition comfortable.” (The Bruised Reed).  In the light of this truth, my entire outlook was instantly changed.  I can remember walking in to my new job that day with a sense of empowerment and purpose and the confidence that where I was, God was there.

God is the God of encouragement.  Discouragements do not come from Him.  He is with you, and He will never leave or forsake you (Heb. 13:5-6). No matter what.  Take all your discouragements directly to Him and the God of encouragement will meet you there.

Question: What Scriptures have been used by God to encourage you the most? How have you been delivered from deep discouragements?