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THE HOUSE OF GOD, THE GATE OF HEAVEN

THE HOUSE OF GOD, THE GATE OF HEAVEN

by Ted Schroeder

October 16, 2005

Each one of us is on a journey through life. That life journey is often accomplished through a geographical journey. We begin our lives where our parents were living at the time of our births. Our early years are determined by their location. I spent the first twenty three years of my life, apart from the time I was at college, in the small town where my parents were born and spent their entire lives. After college, we begin our wanderings according to our training and careers. For me, it meant traveling to England, then to Massachusetts, Texas and Florida. Each place took on a significance in my life. In each place God revealed himself to me. In each place God's work was done. In each place God taught me something new. In each place a new stage in my life occurred. In each place a new community of faith was formed, and new friendships made. Now he has brought me and you to this place in our lives together. What is the significance of this place, this stage in our lives? What might God be doing in and through us today, where we are now? Let me use Jacob as a reference.

"Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set." (Genesis 28:10,11) Jacob was on a journey, seeking a wife, and the blessing that God had given Abraham. He reached a 'certain place.' We have reached a certain place in our lives. We have stopped here because the day is ending. Most of us have reached a certain time in our lives, when we are of a certain age. In the rhythm of our years we have reached a certain maturity. The sun seems to be setting, rather than rising, in our mortal lives. But that does not mean that our lives are over. They may be just beginning from the perspective of God's eternity. Many people come to Florida, and lay down to sleep for the rest of their mortal lives. Jacob laid down to sleep, but he had a dream that altered the course of his life. We, can come to this certain place, at this stage of our lives, and experience a revelation that will impact our future, and give us a perspective that we never realized before.

In Jacob's dream he sees a stairway, or ladder, "resting on the earth, with its top reaching heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said, "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you." (28:12-14)

This certain place becomes the vehicle for communication between heaven and earth. The angels, the messengers of God, are going backwards and forwards between the two realms. Jacob is given eyes to see this traffic. What he sees with his eyes, he hears with his ears - the voice of God. A message is given him, a message in which God identifies himself and makes the connection between Jacob and his forefathers. The promise he has given to Abraham and Isaac is renewed to him. Through him, God would bless all the peoples of the earth. God would be with him. God would not leave him. God would fulfill his promises to Jacob.

We have been brought to this certain place in our lives. This is a place where there is communication between heaven and earth. This is a place where God's voice is heard. This is a place where God is speaking to us through his Word and Spirit. This is a place where God's promises to our forefathers are being renewed. This is a place where God will bless us, and through us, all those who will come after us. God promises to be with us. God promises not to leave us. God promises to fulfill his promises to us. How do we know that?

When Jesus recruited Nathanael as one of his disciples, he told him that he saw him under the fig tree. This is sometimes taken as a reference to Nathanael studying the law of Moses, the Torah, which includes the book of Genesis. Perhaps he was meditating on this incident in the life of Jacob. Jesus tells him: "You shall see greater things than that. I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." (John 1:50,51)

Jesus identifies himself with Jacob's ladder. He is the ladder, the stairway to heaven. It is through him that the message of God is communicated. When you follow Jesus you see the messengers of God revealing God's Word. The disciples would see this revelation of God in Jesus Christ, who calls himself the Son of Man.

Daniel prophesied this in his dream. "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." (Daniel 7:13,14)

What visions, what dreams has God given you at this stage in your life? In this certain place? Do you want to see heaven open, and the messengers of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man in this place? How is that possible? What would that look and sound like here and now?

When the Holy Spirit was given to the church at Pentecost, St. Peter quoted the words of the prophet Joel:

"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

your young men will see visions,

your old men will dream dreams.

Even on my servants, both men and women,

I will pour out my Spirit in those days,

and they will prophesy." (Acts 2:17,18)

Jacob was given a dream. Daniel was given a vision. God's Spirit is poured out on us in order that we might see visions, and dream dreams. When we follow Jesus, like Nathanael, we are apparently meant to see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. These dreams and visions are given us to encourage us on our journeys, so that we realize the vision. We need to be assured that the journey is worthwhile and that our efforts will be rewarded - that others will be affected and blessed through what we have done. We need to be assured that God will be with us in Christ, and that what we do in his name will not pass away and will never be destroyed. We need to know that who we are and what we do is valuable and valued by God.

This is no passing thing that we do in this certain place. This is no light effort that we are making. This is no empty promise that God in Christ is making to us. It is guaranteed by the hosts of heaven. It is an everlasting dominion that has ramifications down through the generations and into eternity. This is a stupendous thought - what we do here in this certain place will affect and bless all the peoples of the earth, just as Jacob's dream has affected and blessed us and others many millennia later. It is hard for us to imagine this because we are so caught up in the moment that we cannot see down the road. Who can tell what the effect will be of what we do in this place at this time in history. Let us not sell short the purposes of God, and our efforts, on this day.

"When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, 'Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.' He was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place. This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.'" (28:16,17)

When we awake from the sleep of unbelief, and hear the voice of God calling us, and revealing his promises, we realize that we stand on holy ground. Most of the time we go about our daily lives not being aware that the LORD is in this place. Jesus said, "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) Either he is or he isn't. Either the promises of God are real or they are not. To experience their authenticity requires that we awake from the sleep of skepticism into the light of faith. Then we see that this is the house of God, the gate of heaven. This is God's dwelling, his certain place. He is the Host and we are his guests. He is the pater familias, and we are his children. He invited us in to live with him. This is the gate to his realm, to the everlasting dominion of heaven.

Everything that goes on here - in the Church of God - the house of God - is meant to usher us into the presence of God, through the gate of heaven. Our worship is an introduction to the courts of heaven. Our fellowship is preparation for the community of heaven. Our learning is tutoring us for the school of heaven. Our prayers facilitate us for the conversation of heaven.

"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God, and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.'" (28:20-22)

God is watching over us on our life's journey. He is giving us food to eat and clothes to wear. Like Jacob, we make pledges to honor God's provision for us by giving back to him a tenth of what he gives to us. Just as Abraham gave Melchizedek, king of Salem a tenth (14:20) of everything that he had been given, so that tradition is continued in his grandson, and down through the ages to us. Money enables things to happen, buildings to be constructed, staff to be paid, mission and ministry to be financed. God gives us the means to do his work.

What has God given us? Life, eternal life, salvation and health, faith, hope, love and everything. He has given us this stage in our lives, this opportunity to do good, this chance to be a blessing to others through this certain place where we have come today.

"Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?

For from him and through him and to him are all things.

To him be glory forever! Amen." (Romans 11:35,36)

Jesus is Jacob's ladder. He is the stairway to heaven. It is through him, in this place, at this stage in our lives, that the message of God is communicated. When you follow Jesus the message of God will be revealed in you and through you. This is a gift indeed for life's journey.

An audio version of this sermon may be found on www.ameliachapel.com.

Amelia Plantation Chapel,
Amelia Island, Florida

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