Between Heaven and Hell

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I was in Philadelphia. That should have been clue number one.

But I was in Philadelphia, and I was riding in a bicycle race. It was the first year that I had been cycling with any kind of consistency, and I was a bit more confident in myself than I should have been. Case in point: for this LIVESTRONG cycling event, I was lined up in the starting chute about 4 rows back from Lance Armstrong. The thought went through my head unchecked: If I really gun it, I’ll be able to catch up to Lance and say hi.

That was an error.

I burned out about 12 miles in to the 75 mile event, and spent the remaining 63 sucking wind, unable to feel my legs. The hilly course was unforgiving. The clouds started to surround us. Lightning soon followed. I’m reasonably sure I saw buzzards circling overhead.

And that’s when I had the thought: This is hell on earth.

Humorous stories aside, we are well aware of this concept of hell on earth, are we not? When we see images of a war torn country, we know it’s hell. When we see starving children, unable to get the basic nutrition they need, we know hell when we see it. Where injustice and oppression reign supreme, we know hell when it presents itself.

And yet, we know heaven on earth when we see it too. We’ve all been on that one vacation, or on that hike in the woods, or spending time with that special someone, to know that the kingdom of God is at hand, and that we’re experiencing heaven on earth.

The writers of the Bible had the view that heaven, the place where God resides, was above us, that hell was directly below us, and that the earth sat right in between. That seems awfully fitting doesn’t? Somewhere between the paradise that we are promised, and a darkness devoid of God stand we, the people of God looking for a way out. Some days we’re closer to heaven, some days we’re closer to hell. We’re so often in between.

This is why Jesus words in the Lord’s prayer are so critical to us. We are to ask for the Kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven. And that prayer has a bit of an implied action behind it, doesn’t it? We aren’t just in between heaven and hell, we’re called to CREATE heaven within the hell around us. We’re called to be a people of peace. We’re called to be a people of redemption. We’re called to be a people of hope.

So knowing that we’re in between heaven and hell, what does it look like for us to live a bit closer to heaven in our lives? What does it look like to walk in that direction, to bring the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven?

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