Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

John’s jubilee towards the end of his book of Revelation is famous and source of comfort for the tormented.  Heaven is a good place. Heavenly features to look forward to are God’s loving presence, His overwhelming joy and peace and the absence of human sorrow and pain.

However, does this mean that there is no pain in heaven? What about God’s pain of losing His creatures due to their free will? Since we don’t have to choose Him (God being no dictator) pain is inevitable, because apparently there will always be creatures opposing the Eternal One. They will be harvesting ongoing pain, and consequently, God will go through the parental pain of not being able to help them. If God is in pain, how can we be oblivious to that when we’re right there, in heaven, the place God calls His home? Don’t we share both His joy and pain, especially as we get closer to Him?

Personally, I think Heaven would be one-dimensional if we had it any other way. Joy has more depth to it if we are unafraid of pain and embrace the undesirable feeling of sadness.

Pain can take our breath away and can plunge us into depression and hopelessness if we are not careful. The best way to navigate through the throws of pain is to share it. The worst part of being in pain is if we think we are alone in this. That, quite frankly, is a lie. If nobody can understand your kind of pain, God certainly can.

The reality, however, is – no kind of pain is really that unusual. People can normally relate. You don’t have to go very far to find out that other people find themselves in similar situations as you. When pain bears the fruit of empathy it will create community. If nothing makes sense in pain, this always will: Your particular kind of pain will equip you to be the best friend you can be to the person going through similar challenges.

We are made for one another. God has created us not only to beat loneliness but to make life a whole lot richer.

Here it is, plain and simple written in the skies: Money does not make us rich. Relationships do!

“Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you”

Songwriters: Christopher Anthony John Martin / Guy Rupert Berryman / Jonathan Mark Buckland / William Champion

Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus is many things. Besides being Lord of the universe He is also a friend who sticks closer than a brother; He is a shepherd tending to His sheep; He is a high-priest forever; He is the rainbow in the clouds, the bright morning star, the hope for the nations, the King who goes to bat for His people, the sacrificial lamb, and the list goes on and on. The reason we write and talk about these truths is God’s tireless communication.

Have you ever tried to communicate with someone who does not speak your language? It can get very frustrating trying to communicate when words fail us. God has been in the business of translating His thoughts into human language ever since we left the Garden of Eden. God has become an expert interpreter because He yearns to connect with his beloved creatures, people He made in His image. We are His loved ones.

If you know somebody who lost a person to Alzheimer’s disease, you probably know how painful it is to lose connection with a loved one when communication ceases. In a manner of speaking we all are battling severe memory loss by forgetting where we came from. We all come from God. And God uses His finest efforts to communicate this particular truth to us. Understanding the truth is like the break of dawn with the Sun rising in our hearts; God will be happiest to know we have received His message. His highest hope is for us to understand that He loves us dearly.

“If you could read my mind love
What a tale my thoughts could tell”       Gordon Lightfoot

Jeremiah 17:9-10: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”

If you are exhibiting any number of strange symptoms that don’t go away but get exceedingly worse, what is more depressing – to find a doctor and get a diagnosis or to ignore the symptoms as best as you can even as they begin to worsen? Living with a debilitating disease without a name is probably much more frustrating than getting a diagnosis and knowing what you are up against.

Essentially, that’s what Jeremiah did when he wrote his book assessing the human condition. His diagnosis of the human heart in a nutshell (Jeremiah 17:9):

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things”

Don’t we all like to think otherwise? Don’t we like to think of ourselves as humane and caring? Sure, we know there are bad apples out there, but saying that humanity in general is in such bad shape seems to be a depressing assessment – or isn’t it?

While Jeremiah’s diagnosis may sound bad, he simply gives us an honest evaluation. At the same time, He doesn’t leave us stranded with a hard-to-swallow diagnosis. Here is the good news: God wants to completely renew our hearts. Ezekiel wrote (Ezekiel 36:26):

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”

While it’s unhealthy to stick our heads in the sand and avoid a diagnosis just because it sounds horrible, it’s far better to face disturbing news and discover the hope God has for you and me.

Receiving a new heart from God, our inner being wakes up to a whole new world. We hear His voice, we experience His love. Can you imagine? Are you ready to be amazed?

“Sometimes it amazes me
How strong the power of love can be
Sometimes you just take my breath away” Eva Cassidy

Romans 12:15: “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”

About happiness we read in the book of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 7:14):

“Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.”

This indicates two things:

  • Wealth and possessions do not necessarily promote happiness;
  • Happiness is a gift from God;

Gifts are supposed to be unconditional – at least God’s gifts are, otherwise it’s not a gift but a bribe. The nature of God’s gifts: they are genuine. God is real and so are His gifts. While we encounter fake love and fake joy on too many occasions, God’s gifts are the real McCoy – a joy that’s deep, a hope that endures, and a love that lasts.

On that note (the love note that is), delving into the Bible I found 686 references to the word “love”, compared to around 20 findings of the word “happy”. This goes to show that pursuing the love theme comes first with happiness being more of a side effect of walking with God.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans we surmise that happiness is a thing to be shared – without ignoring people going through hard times. (Romans 12:15):

“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.”

As Jesus multiplied the bread and fish an unnamed boy offered to share, so our joy multiplies when we share our happiness with other people. It might be a paradox, and yet it’s true. Who wants to celebrate a party of one? Who wants to rejoice alone about a victory won? It is almost grotesque to imagine a lone happy person. Happiness is meant to be experienced together and then it multiplies, on the other hand shared sorrow alleviates our soul and makes our pain a little less hard to bear.

So share your time, your gifts, your affections and you’ll be amazed. It’s almost like magic. You’d be surprised how everything multiplies. You suddenly have more time, more gifts to give, more love to share. And watch out – happiness might be just around your corner!

“Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do”   Pharrell Williams

John 3:17: “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

Isn’t it great to receive a raving performance review? It will make our day to hear how we have exceeded expectations. And yet, there’s always this element of fear before we walk into the room to listen to our supervisor’s take on our performance – because our achievements as well as our shortcomings will be assessed, that’s just how it goes.

Every day people pass judgment or are being judged. We may not like that, but we know that this is how our society works. In the drift sand of anarchy and lawlessness mankind would have had no chance of survival. That’s why ultimately the law was given to mankind. The criminal justice system keeps things at bay, but it does not bring salvation.

Judging a person, we will most likely miss the whole picture. Try as we may, our judgment calls are flawed. The only perfect judge of a situation or a human being is God. Still, being judged by God is not a good situation for us either. Although God is a fair judge and His judgement is 100 percent correct, our death is the direct result – thankfully, God is the first to lament the cruelty of judgment and the finality of it.

That is why God sent His Son into the world – particularly not to judge the world – since judgment obviously initiates no happy ending – God sent His Son into the world to restore and save humanity. That’s the best possible outcome for the bad situation we got ourselves into. He came up with an unusual salvation plan. God becoming human is very unusual to say the least. But then His love is quite unusual too, and it’s His love that motivates His sacrifice. No measuring of His love is possible. God’s love meter goes beyond all expectations. His passion for us is an undying flame.

Looking at the way God chose to save us is looking at a divine love declaration written all over the skies, a love letter written in stone. It’s love that never goes away. God is in permanent search mode looking for the lost and broken and reaching out daily. His call goes around the world. Given all the effort He has put in, can you imagine His joy once we answer His call and grab His hand? Like His love, His joy is immeasurable.

Saving us is no easy business. It requires blood, sweat and tears, but feeling guilty about that would be entirely counterproductive. If we asked Jesus how He feels about us after all that He had been through, He would probably say that the last thing He wants for us is feeling guilty all the time. He voluntarily sacrificed Himself to save us, and His gift comes with absolutely no strings attached. I believe we make Him happiest when we accept His gift and never look back.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)

Romans 12:10: “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

In Queen’s rendition of the Bohemian Rhapsody we are presented with a murder case. The song powerfully expresses the contradictory feelings of a man who had just killed a person. Following is a brief excerpt of the lyrics penned by the late Freddie Mercury:

“Mama, just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away”

We sometimes forget that by proceeding down the slippery slope of anger and hate we’re all prone to kill someone. The best way to prevent this disaster from happening is to pursue the opposite direction: Investing genuine interest in other people and to love generously is the way to go. The trick is not to differentiate between people because God doesn’t. God loves humans indiscriminately, always has, and always will. We’re supposed to follow His example once we jump on His bandwagon. Of course we have our reservations when it comes to loving everybody. Jesus had a conversation about this very topic with a teacher of the law.

Discussing the specifics of loving God and particularly our neighbors, a teacher of the law spoke up and asked Jesus: “Who’s my neighbor?” In an attempt to narrow down on the amount of people to be loved he asked Jesus this very loaded question. “Who is my neighbor?” really leaves a lot of room for individual interpretation, if you think about it. Basically, we pick and choose whom to love and whom to pass by. In other words, we categorize people, apply tags, and consider some of them not worthy of our love.

Well, Jesus’s answer is a classic. He told the story of an unnamed person who got mugged and left on the road to die. After having been conveniently ignored first by a priest and then by a Levite, a despised Samaritan finally came to his rescue.

After telling the story, Jesus answered the law expert’s question with a question of His own (Luke 10:36-37):

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

God created no sub humans. Our job is to love everybody. How that works, I don’t know. I would say it’s humanly impossible. But we can start with the people right next door. And as we walk with Jesus, the Master in Human Relations, we can learn from Him. No doubt, loving people is a wild ride and it will break our hearts more than anything, but according to our Creator, it’s all worth it; love will eventually cut down on murder cases; and love most definitely will make the world a better place.

1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”

Human societies are run by institutions – governmental, educational, financial, and religious institutions; and the list goes on and on. While human civilizations are largely institutionalized, by contrast Heaven is not.

Have you ever pictured the Trinity as a hierarchy?  I know I have. We tend to think in these lines since this is what we are familiar with; and so we have trouble understanding how God operates. While God is everywhere and knows everything and potentially could run and rule every tiny little detail of His creation, He refrains from doing so. It’s very characteristic of God to delegate. A prominent example: His hands-off approach with planet Earth. He gave humans this planet as an assignment and made them chief administrators (Genesis 1:28):

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

It’s important to note that members of God’s kingdom see themselves as caretakers of this planet, not as owners. This attitude is entirely different from the common approach and rules out a seedbed of many wars and conflicts: human greed.

Church as an institution seems to be a rather poor reflection of God’s kingdom, reason being, today’s church is not a unit but more of a contradicting puzzle. I believe that church is not meant to be an institution but primarily a body of believers focused on loving God and people. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is asking his Greek friends to avoid division and to be of one mind in thought and purpose; living by this code will indeed deeply impact the world.

While throughout history human institutions have repeatedly failed, especially in the area of unity, God’s concept of peace has become very apparent with the arrival of the Prince of Peace, Jesus.

We know that eventually God’s kingdom of peace will come to full fruition. That’s why we pray the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done, Thy kingdom come”. The good news is that we don’t have to wait for His kingdom to arrive; we can live in God’s kingdom now if we pursue peace. Jesus confirms in His sermon of the Mount (Matthew 5:9): “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”