Tag Archives: Romans 8:28

What is life like in heaven? – Part 2



Heaven is more than we can imagine, but God reveals more about heaven than we might think. And many of these drive to the heart of some of our deepest questions about our life now and life after life, in heaven. We’re looking at 21 things we can surmise about heaven as shared by Randy Alcorn in his book, Heaven. Today, we’ll look at the final seven observations from Revelation 6:11.

“Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)


15. “Then each of them. . . We retain our individuality in heaven; we don’t become part of some cosmic dust, as some would imagine.

16. Robes suggest physical forms, not spirits. (Why would spirits need a robe, unless the reference is merely symbolic?)

17. God answers questions! We read in the previous verse that they asked, “How long?” In verse 11, “they were told to wait a little longer.” This indicates we won’t know everything all at once in heaven, but our knowledge and understanding will progressively unfold.

18. Even in heaven, they have to “wait a little longer until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.” Alcorn infers from this that “unlike the eternal heaven, where there will be no more sin, or curse or suffering on the New Earth (Revelation 21:4), the present heaven coexists with and watches over an Earth under these woes. We will be aware of the suffering on earth.

19. “How much longer” suggests there will be a sense of time in the present heaven. Whether “long” and “longer” imply time as we measure it now, we don’t know, but there is a sense of passing time.

20. There is a sense of the family of God in heaven and earth. “Their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters” indicate a strong familial bond and common purpose.  There is no indication of denominational differences, only a common focus on the Heavenly Father.

21. God is Sovereign. He knows ALL, what will happen, when it will happen, and how it will unfold. He is aware of your pain and suffering right now and he knows the answers to your prayers. What a difference it makes praying to a good and Sovereign God who knows you and cares for you and works all things for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28). Your woes do not escape his attention. Your pain is not wasted. This is not some “wishing upon a star” or “having a happy thought.” Only a Sovereign God can provide the assurance we seek.


Just as these three verses in Revelation tell us what to expect in heaven, there is a consistency of scripture that reinforces itself. We’ll be called to give an account of our actions on earth (2 Corinthians 5:10, Matthew 12:36). Eternal rewards “hinge” on our faithfulness (1 Corinthians 3:14). God keeps a record of all we do on earth (2 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 20:11-13). Should knowing everything we say and do was being recorded change the way we interact with others?!  Additionally, it appears that people in the present heaven see what happens on earth. We are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). “There will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7).


This is might lead us to ask, “Do people in heaven pray for us on earth?” We know that Christ intercedes for us (Romans 8:34) and that the martyrs pray (Revelation 6:10). We must conclude, that no matter how we feel, we are not alone! It remains a mystery, how people in heaven will be aware both of the suffering on earth and the joy of God’s presence. We can only presume that joy predominates this in a similar way that while we care for others, we are not totally undone regarding their suffering. We find ourselves sad for suffering, but joyful for the outcome! In the eternal heaven, when the old order of things has passed away, there will be no more death, crying or pain. None!


Like the atheist man who once told me, “You Christians have one thing we atheists don’t – hope! We are not to “grieve like the rest of men who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) We have the hope of reunion with loved ones who’ve gone before us; a time when “we will be with our Lord forever.”


“Therefore, encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18″







Praying people “out” of heaven?


A friend of mine said, “We spend way more time praying people out of heaven than into heaven.”


We are often quick to pray away suffering and pain, when God might choose to use that very difficulty to mature us and draw us and others closer to himself. Paul wrote about his own sufferings, “I want you to know that this has actually happened to advance the gospel.”   (Philippians 1:12) What the enemy means for evil, God uses for good – in all things. (Romans 8:28)


I am thankful for the steadfast prayers for my health recovery. I would love to see this more than three year journey through cancer end. And I’m glad to also pray for relief for others who are suffering. It’s scriptural to pray for others.  But when Jesus taught us to pray, it was always in his name; thy will O God be done, not mine.


If we are to live with heaven in mind, we should also pray with heaven in mind.


I’ve seen a number of times at a funeral when people who previously ignored God, made life-changing decisions to follow him and to live as their believing friend did. So how do we pray with heaven in mind?


We start by acknowledging that God’s ways are higher than ours. As we ask God if it would please him to spare our friends and loved ones from pain and sorrow and death, let our hearts sincerely say, “but not my will but yours be done.”


We can’t leave things in God’s hands if we insist on holding them tightly in our own.


Another approach is to pray scripture for ourselves and others. That is always God’s will.

“May your (my, John’s, Mary’s) love abound more and more.” Philippians 1:9

“May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12
I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” 2 Timothy 1:3

So I never stop being grateful for you, as I mention you in my prayers.” Ephesians 1:6

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19

“I ask God to help you live a life worthy of the calling you have received, to be completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love. May he guide you to unity and peace with others through his Spirit, to live with one body and spirit, in hope. May he equip you for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith. May you not be blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, grow to become in every respect mature in Christ. May your life grow and build itself up in love.”  – Based on Ephesians 4:1-16


And let’s not forget to pray people into heaven. That is, to ask God to intervene in their lives, through circumstances, a winsome friend’s testimony, a divine word from the Spirit of God, or “whatever it takes” to bring their name to appear in the Book of Life.


Pray for God’s will be done, in heaven as it is on earth.




What are your plans for tomorrow?


We all have plans. Plans for today. Plans for tomorrow. Plans for the future.  And of course, sometimes our plans don’t work out just as we expected.


We were planning to move to the Bolivian mission field but then I was diagnosed with Leukemia. I got better and was making plans to return to Bolivia for a three month trip to test my immune system But then I had a relapse of the Leukemia. Before I got better again we were talking about how we serve in local missions while supporting global missions from “home.” Then I came down with two rare blood infections. One of those now requires daily infusions at the hospital for a number of months.  Then the latest bone marrow report shows 1% cancer remains. The doctor says we are in a race against time, to cure the infection before the cancer grows, leaving dim prospects from a medical perspective. It reminds us of a scriptural truth:


“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9


Maybe you’ve made plans that were seemingly thwarted, even after consulting God and other mature Christians. You were sure of the “call” you heard, but everything seems to stand in your way.  Take comfort. Delays that seem untimely in our minds fit perfectly in God’s plan. Consider the paralyzed man who laid by the healing pool for 28 years, waiting for someone to help him into the pool, before Jesus came along and healed him. Or this: Even after David was anointed king he had to wait 14 years to assume his rightful throne. Fourteen years also separated Paul’s conversion from his first missionary journey. Have you ever wondered what they did in the interim? I suspect they drew even closer to God and listened carefully to his voice. I imagine that God used that time to prepare them for their future ministry. Maybe he used that time also to protect them from other perils.


It’s likely the same for you and me. You’ve heard, “When a door is closed, God opens a window.” But sometimes the door is just closed. There is no other way to go. You may feel stuck in a place you don’t want to be. But if it’s a place God intends for you, you just have to be still and know that God is indeed God. Draw close to God in your waiting and he will draw close to you. And be aware that “the plan” may need revision. Paul intended to go places to preach the gospel but was thwarted in his efforts so he could reach others instead. Remember:


“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28


While you want to make plans for tomorrow, talk with God about the good things he intends to reveal in your place of waiting today.



Do you believe God works good in ALL things?


“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28


We read it and quote it. But do we believe it? Really? What about when God answers your prayer with a no instead of a yes? When you find yourself absorbed by worry, taken prisoner by insecurity and fear? When you feel like you’re stuck and there’s no way out? What about when it feels like someone tossed a grenade in your dream box?

Here’s the truth I’m learning:
ALL things includes great times of joy AND dark times of sorrow and despair. When God says ALL, he means ALL, every bit of it, to the last drop of his Son’s blood that paid for it ALL.


Finally, my thick skull is understanding that if I’m going to follow Jesus I have to act as if I really believe his Word. I have to willfully trade fear for assurance, reluctance for obedience, anxiety for peace, my will for his, comfort and ease for whatever his plan is for my journey. Yes, the reality of pain and disappointment demand our attention. But you and I have a choice to surrender these to God’s promises and not let our emotions lead us.


So even though we received news that the cancer may still remain and even though a serious mold infection causes great pain, and even though God again takes our Bolivia move off the table (for now or forever) we’re going to be okay with that.


Here’s why:
God could answer my prayers just as I ask; but typically he has something better in mind. If I’m going to get upset when my prayers are answered differently than I wanted then I’ll have to take out my scissors and remove Romans 8:28 from the bible. I’ll have to remove Philippians 4:19 that says he meets all my needs. I’ll have to remove everything that speaks to his great promises. I’ll need to take the scissors to most all the Old Testament that speaks to his enduring faithfulness. If I think my life is supposed to be one of leisure and comfort, I’ll need to remove most the New Testament that speaks to suffering with Christ. All I’ll be left with is “God is love” and a handful of other comfortable verses.


BUT if I really believe God’s way is best and I really do want to follow him, then I just have to believe he really will work ALL things for good in ALL situations, for ALL those who love him and follow him…even those situations that challenge us most. Trust needs to be backed up by the bravery of action.


Maybe the bravest Christian in recent history was the SECOND Oregon student who said, “Yes, I’m Christian” after watching the first one be shot in the head. A few weeks ago CMA Pastor Edward Awabdeh was martyred for his faith by ISIS. He intentionally took the risk by staying in his village to care for and encourage the people in his village. He is now in heaven but only after living out the practicality of Romans 8:28.


Charles Spurgeon wrote, “God knows that soldiers can only be made in times of battle and are not developed in times of peace. So dear Christian, could this account for your situation? Is he developing in you the qualities of a soldier by shoving you into the heat of the battle? Do you understand that God may take away your comforts and privileges in order to make you a stronger Christian?


We’re trusting God that this continued battle with Leukemia and blood infections is covered under “all things.” What are you struggling with that needs to be surrendered to the God who works good in all things for those who love him? Decide today to trade your struggles for belief that lives out God’s promises.


Traffic lights


I’m thankful for traffic lights…especially when they are green. I’m guessing you feel the same way. We’re all busy, always going here and there, full of plans and activities and ambitions. We like the green lights that say to us, “Go on your way without any interruption. Please, proceed as planned. There’s nothing to stop you. Have a great day.”  They ought to put smiley faces on green lights.


But of course, it’s not all green lights in our life, is it? There are plenty of red lights that stop us in our tracks. They make us…WAIT! And which of us likes waiting? It often seems pointless, a waste of time. It frustrates our plans to sit at a red light when we want to move forward in the pursuit of our desires.


Then there are the yellow lights that confuse us. Are we supposed to hurry up and get through before the light turns red? Or are we supposed to slow down and be mindful of the circumstances that are unfolding around us?


Just as traffic signals govern the course of our driving, there are life signals that God designs to govern the course of our lives and even this very day before you. There are green lights that allow us to proceed as planned, full speed ahead. Of course some life roads seem to have lots of green lights. We might find we can make good time on those paths only to find they don’t really take us where we really want to go. Maybe you’ve been there, walking through every open door before you, only to discover later it led you to a place filled with emptiness and despair. The paths God chooses us to follow have green lights too, but not always. Sometimes the light turns red.


Red lights stop us in our tracks and impede our pursuit of our own plans. Cancer, chronic pain, a broken leg, the end of a relationship, a lost job, financial calamity… All these (and more) are red lights that put the brakes on life. We’re tempted to get angry and frustrated. But it’s at the red lights of life that we submit to being still before God and waiting for the perfect timing of his plan to be revealed. Red traffic lights test our trust in the orderly control of traffic. God’s red lights test our faith in his ability to maintain orderly control over our lives.  Red lights cause us to really unpack what it means that:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28


Do you really believe that? ALL things? Do you believe that God can use even disappointments and pain and an endless list of frustrating events to work out for good? Do you believe that God can use the red lights and yellow lights as much as the green lights in your life? You can, if the road you’re one that intentionally leads you ever closer to him, if it is marked with the passion of loving him and pursuing his purpose. And if you do, you may find the red lights that stop you and the yellow lights that urge caution will not lead you to frustration and anger, but to a place of peace where you draw closer to God and find him plenty sufficient for your needs.  It’s quite possible that the red light is not just delaying your progress but keeping you safe from a pending accident further down the road.


When you stop at a red traffic light today, take time to breathe slowly and deeply. Let yourself relax in his presence. Enjoy a moment of quiet peace at his invitation. Ask God to help you trust that his plan will not be interrupted by red lights and that indeed ALL things will work for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.


Travel well today.


Understanding “All things work together”


“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)


Don’t you love to claim God’s promises? I do, everyday. But sometimes we apply them with wrong interpretation.


Some would have this verse mean that everything that happens is for your good. Lose your wallet? It’s for your good. Lose your child? It’s for your good. Become crippled? That’s for your good too. Well, not necessarily. I don’t see evidence that our loving God orchestrated all the sufferings of life so that He could say, “Buck up, it’s good for you.” Indeed there are many sufferings that are plain cruel.


But… IN all things, God works for good. All the way from the book of Genesis to “the book of maps”, the overarching theme is that God’s plan will not be thwarted in the long run. Suffering abuse at the hands of another is not the way of God. But God can rescue the abused and bring them to a good and healing place. Falling into temptation is not good for you. But moral failure doesn’t have to win. God can bring you from this to good. He is the great redeemer.


No matter what unfair or painful situation you face, God is still on your side. He doesn’t abandon you. When all you can do is stand, HE is the one who fights for you. In and through all these miserable circumstances that cry out for justice, God is ready to work good things according to those who love Him, not because these things are good for you, but because God is good.


Our God can call down a storm upon our lives to chastise us, warn us, and turn us around…for His good. He can and He does allow the circle of free will to spin out of our control, if that’s what it takes to bring us to His goodness.


Jesus coming to earth in human form was God’s greatest rescue mission. He saved not only His chosen people, the Jews, but adopted the gentiles into His family as well. Nobody is beyond the reach of God. Nothing can thwart His plan. He will ultimately and perfectly bring goodness to those who truly love Him.


The good news of Romans 8:28 is not that losing one job will be rewarded with a better one. It’s not that your suffering will result in hundreds coming to Jesus. It’s not the promise that poverty will turn to riches. The good news is that God IS God. His plan persists. It will not be thwarted by any circumstance that comes our way. The good news is that nothing can separate us from His love. And…your faithfulness in tough times matters! It is the mark of “those who have been called according to His purpose.”


Look for His goodness wherever you go today. Share it with others.



Perfect Timing

Have you ever been convinced that a certain circumstance was a problem, only to discover that it happened in perfect timing to achieve a greater purpose…maybe even to save your life?

I recently bought a stair stepper – cross trainer at a garage sale. Perfect timing: the person selling it was one who went on one of our post-Katrina missions to New Orleans. This (not) ‘chance’ meeting revealed that she too has Leukemia and provided opportunity to share about God’s goodness in the midst of trials we all face.

On the ‘heels’ of my recent hiking progress, I started using the cross trainer last week, being cautious to not extend the cardiac part of the workout as doctors advise my body is not yet ready for that. I completed only 50 ‘steps’ the first day, 75 the next, and 100 on day three. On Saturday, day four, my legs completely locked up in severe pain, severely limiting my walking. I nursed the muscles for two days before going to the medical clinic on Monday.

I was supposed to see an ARNP on Monday, but she asked if I’d like to see the new doctor instead. Agreeing to this, I told Dr. Hamid how I was sure I had strained my muscles on the cross trainer. I was wrong (again). He immediately suspected the exercise had nothing to do with the pain. He ran a D-Dimmers test for DVT (blood clot), and then sent me immediately to Mercy Hospital ER, where an ultrasound confirmed the presence of a dangerous blood clot. Two other doctors confirmed that it was almost certain that the blood clot was caused directly by the Leukemia itself and that it was essential that I got treatment immediately (blood thinner injections twice daily for a number of months). Perfect timing: while there wasn’t a room available on 8 South oncology, I was finally admitted at 3:00 a.m. to 8 North, where Marcia and I had walked four times daily to encourage the staff when I was at Mercy for two months last winter. During today’s short twelve-hour admission we were able to reconnect with several staff with whom we had formed relationships on both units, and testify to God’s goodness through trial. . . All because of the perfect timing of pain. (And it did our souls good to see their smiling faces again!)

Back home already, Marcia and I reflect on how many times God uses one seemingly untimely and unwanted circumstance to achieve a greater good for us, for others, and for his kingdom. . . and how he accomplishes this in his perfect timing.

I wonder, what pain or sorrow is God using today to achieve his greater purpose in your life and in others, according to his perfect timing?

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Is God listening?

Research indicates that more people than not say they pray regularly. Some can’t imagine a day without prayer. And who hasn’t turned to God in prayer at least in a time of great need, even if that wasn’t part of their daily life routine?

Have you ever wondered, “Does prayer matter? Does God really listen to my prayers?” It would be easy to think this way, because answers to prayer are not always immediate. Some of my prayers have taken decades for the right answer to be revealed. Because God gave each of us free will, He cannot force Himself on us; so answers to prayers are often tied to the hearts of those involved. Other answers to prayer are immediate.

And don’t we sometimes think prayers are only answered when God says, “Yes.” But just as we parents denied some of our children’s requests for their protection, our Heavenly Father’s answer sometimes is, “No” or “Not yet.” But I believe what He says in His Word, that He knows and cares deeply about the condition of our heart and our circumstances. He does listen to our prayers and wants most to be with us in our circumstances.

It is a mystery I don’t know that I will fully grasp this side of heaven. God uses prayer to release His power. It’s not that we have to reach a threshold of people praying to accomplish this, but we are encouraged to pray for others and He seeks persistent prayer that is offered in the spirit of trusting Him. This isn’t the obligatory prayer that says, “Well, I hope that does some good,” but rather the prayer of the heart that sincerely believes and that expects that our loving God who cares for us has a plan for us and those for whom we pray. This plan may provide a different solution than that which we ask, but it will be good. It is the prayer that really believes “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Our experience in this journey through Leukemia is that prayer really does matter. God has used the prayers of many people we don’t even know to not only encourage us and spur us on, but to release His sustaining power to endure.

In recent years the revered Billy Graham was asked if there was anything he would have changed in his life. His thoughtful answer was “I would have prayed more.” Not more crusades, more bible study, more giving, or more good works, but simply to have prayed more. If Reverend Graham found this to be true in his life, I wonder how much we miss when we neglect our need to spend time with God.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16b