I hope that you're enjoying this series, and that it's making you think about heaven in a new way. More specifically, I hope it's helping you to explore what the Bible actually says about heaven and not just the images that our culture offers.
Yesterday, we explored more of what it means that heaven will actually be the new earth in the future, and I hope that makes you begin to long for it and imagine what it will be like, but to fully understand the wonderful and amazing hope of the earth being made new, we have to first understand where it all began.
In the beginning... I'm sure you know where I'm going... God made everything and he spoke it into being. When he made the earth, it was perfect, and he proclaimed that it was good (read Genesis 1 and 2). God made mankind in his image, and he made the first woman from the first man only after giving the man a responsibility over God's creation. The first woman and the first man walked in the garden with God. It was perfect. Perfect relationships. Perfect community and communion with God. They saw God face-to-face.
But then the serpent tempted Eve and she ate the fruit of the one tree that she was told not to eat in the garden. She offered the fruit to Adam, who ate it as well. Their minds were opened to the knowledge of good and evil, but they were now separated from God and from each other. They were filled with shame. With one choice, the first sin, their perfect relationship with God, and their perfect garden-home was lost.
I think we're so familiar with this story that it's gravity is often lost on us. Imagine paradise, living and dwelling with the Maker of the Universe, being perfectly loved and cared for by God, enjoying daily fellowship with Him, a perfect relationship with your spouse, fruitful and rewarding toil with your work, and in one moment it is all taken away because of eating a piece of fruit that you were told not to eat.
Paradise is lost, and it seems like there is no hope to recover it. But God has a plan, and it began in the garden and led to a cross.
Paradise was lost, but it will be remade.
Yesterday, we looked at how heaven will actually be on the new earth in the future, and this might raise some questions in your mind. Growing up, I always thought of heaven as an etherial place that is more spiritual than physical. I've heard others talk about heaven as a place where "we'll all just fly around with the angels and just sing to God for eternity." I can't emphasize enough that this is not what heaven will be like, and the Bible testifies to this.
I recently read a book by Randy Alcorn called Heaven, which is like an encyclopedia of references in Scripture to what heaven will be like. While there are many things that we do not know about heaven, there is much that the Lord has revealed to His people. Randy Alcorn does an excellent job answering questions that many have about heaven, such as "Will I recognize those that I love?" It's a helpful book for those that have a lot of questions, and it actually inspired this series.
One thing that Alcorn does an excellent job explaining from the Scriptures is that the image that most people have of heaven is that on the intermediate heaven - it's the place where those that die will go to be with the Lord BEFORE the earth is made new. When most people think of heaven, they are actually thinking of the intermediate heaven.
This is why heaven is not what you think. Heaven will not just be a spiritual place outside of earth. One day the new earth will literally be heaven, and the earth will be as it was always intended to be: perfect.
Can you imagine a perfect earth? A place where work and relationships are no longer tainted by sin? A place where God dwells with man, and we will see him face to face? It will be greater than we could ever imagine.
As I write this series, I hope that you're starting to get a fuller picture of what heaven will be like, and that it makes your heart long for it more and more. I am convinced that a right perspective of heaven and eternity with the Lord helps us to live a life focused more on the Lord than on what this current world has to offer.
Again, heaven is not what you think. And if you want to learn more, I would recommend reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn and even It's Not What You Think: Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven When You Die by Jefferson Bethke. They both offer helpful perspectives on heaven from the Scriptures.
November 21 marked the beginning of the last season of Fixer Upper, an HGTV show hosted by Chip and Joanna Gaines, who renovate homes in Waco, Texas in their typical modern farmhouse style. This show has fascinated millions with every episode as they take fixer-upper homes in Waco and bring them back to life through renovation.
Chip and Joanna Gaines are in the business of renovation. But did you know that Jesus is in the renovation business as well?
Chip and Joanna Gaines renovate homes. Jesus is renovating the hearts of mankind and one day, the earth will be "renovated" as well.
When asked about heaven, most people think of heaven as an etherial, other-worldly place. Many often think of heaven as more spiritual place than a physical location, but when Jesus talks about heaven, it's in a very tangible and physical way. We already looked at the Scripture in which Jesus talks about heaven as if it is a house. But this image is not something that only Jesus talks about.
A major theme of the old Testament (and the entire Bible for that matter) is the idea of God coming to earth to dwell with man. One day there will be a New Jerusalem, a new city, and God will dwell with man there. This theme resonates throughout the entire Old Testament, and it is a promise that God's people often longed to see fulfilled, but this theme is further expanded upon in the New Testament. Let's look at a passage from Revelation:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
In this passage, John is sharing a vision that he receives from God of what will take place after the final judgement, when everyone dead and alive will stand before the Lord and be held accountable for all that they've done. After the judgment, the earth will be made new, and it will be where God and man dwell together.
We will talk about this more tomorrow, but essentially what we think of as "heaven" will actually be on the new earth. It will be a real and physical place, and it will be perfect and completely new.
The earth is God's renovation project. While sin has corrupted the hearts of mankind and the earth as a result of sin, one day all will be made new and made right. God's renovation project will be complete and it will be beautiful.
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
One of the first blog posts that I wrote almost four years ago was a reflection from my time at the Biltmore Estate called: America's Largest Home to God's House in Heaven.
After sharing yesterday's post (Home) for this thirty one day series, I realized that this topic is one that I already shared about a few years ago, and it's a topic that keeps coming full circle - heaven will be greater than even the most spectacular and luxurious home we can imagine.
The earthly comforts of this world pale in comparison to the glory to be revealed by God when those that worship him will join him in eternity.
Let that sink into your mind today.
Also, take some time to check out my reflection from visiting the Biltmore.
The word "home" brings to mind many different images and feelings for people. Some of you did not grow up in a loving or welcoming home. Many have painful memories that are connecting with "home", while some have fond memories for "home". However, most long to either have or create a home where they feel loved, cared for, and known.
As my husband Brandon and I start out in marriage, creating a warm and inviting home is a priority for us. Even though we've only been married for a year and a half, our home has become a key part of our marriage and ministry, and we view our home as a means by which we get to offer others a glimpse of heaven.
Jesus himself tells the disciples before he is to be crucified that he will go ahead to prepare many rooms for his disciples in his Father's house:
In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2)
Jesus explicitly uses the image of a house to describe where he is going. While heaven might not be our typical construct of a house/home, Jesus uses this image to convey something to the disciples, that heaven is like a home, a place where you belong and are loved, cared for, and known.
In many ways, the desire to create a "home" is connected to a longing for an eternal home. A home that will be warm and welcoming for eternity.
In this life, when we work towards creating a warm and cozy and welcoming home, we are giving others a glimpse and a shadow of what our eternal home will be like. In many ways "home" is a great way to describe heaven, but it's a home that will be far greater than the most welcoming or even the most luxurious home we have ever known.
My family enjoys camping. From my middle school years on, my family regularly took camping trips. We started out as most people start out in camping, with tents.
I remember those first few years of camping in tents. We never slept on the ground but always on air mattresses, and in the morning, the dew on the outside of the tent would seep through the vinyl tent lining. While my family enjoyed a night or two in the outdoors, we always enjoyed coming home after the end of a camping trip to a nice warm bed and a hot shower.
Over the years, my family's camping experience has changed. While we started out with a tent, we ultimately upgraded to a pop-up and then eventually to a camper. The comforts of home traveled with us.
Here's the thing I've learned about camping: for most people, the amount of time you stay away from your home while camping is directly proportional to the comforts of home you bring with you. What do I mean by this? Most people don't like staying in tents for long periods of time, and the longer you camp in a tent consecutively, the sweeter it is when you return home.
Now, I might be making assumptions about people, but I have never met a person that would prefer a long night's sleep on the cold, hard ground to a nice warm bed. Most people would prefer their home to a tent.
Now, did you know that the Bible actually compares our time on earth to that of living in a tent? Check it out:
For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands. Indeed, we groan in this tent, desiring to put on our heavenly dwelling, since, when we have taken it off, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.
So we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to him.
(2 Corinthians 5: 1-9)
In this passage from 2 Corinthians, Paul is seeking to encourage the Corinthian church and remind them that this earthly dwelling is not their permanent home. He compares their live on earth to living in a tent, but their heavenly dwelling will be their ultimate home with the Lord. However, Paul's main point is that whether away or at home, their goal is the same: to be pleasing to God.
The same goes for us. Whether away from the Lord or at home, our aim should be to please the Lord, but we must remember that we're all just camping. This world in its current state is not our true home. Let that encourage you in the midst of hardship and suffering. This world is just the tent, and there are far better things to come in our heavenly home.
My mind raced as the tempo of my heart began to increase. My palms began to sweat and I felt lightheaded. My body felt like it was in the middle of an intense cardio workout, but I was just sitting in my kitchen. I could feel the fear rising within me, and the only thing I could think to do was go to my bedroom and lay on the bed and breathe, which is what I did. I thought I was dying, and the fear of not knowing what was going on led to one thought, "God please help me." I was having a panic attack.
I laid there for an hour and the only thing that helped my heartrate and breathing slow was thinking about heaven - paradise with the Lord.
This time last year, I was just beginning to walk through one of the hardest seasons of my life. After so many life transitions (marriage, moving, new job, and new community), my mind and body were on overdrive, and it lead to a season of internal and external anxiety which led to a rapid decline in my mental and physical health. Months of stomach issues, doctors visits, panic attacks, misdiagnosis of issues, and medications later, my stomach doctor found that what I actually had was an acute case of gastritis caused by internal stress and anxiety.
I was relieved to find out the root cause of my symptoms - anxiety that had led to gastritis, but long before I was physically healed the Lord started spiritually healing me.
That day that I laid on my bed and thought about heaven in the midst of a panic attack was a turning point for me. It was the moment my mind realized that my body and soul were longing for an eternal home, where the sufferings of this world would not longer affect me. That day, which actually was Valentine's Day, was the day I started truly longing for home.
This is the main page for the 31 say series, Longing For Home. Come back and visit this page anytime you want to see/read all of the posts from the series. The links to each day will be added after they are published.
Day 1: Longing For Home
Day 2: Beginnings
Day 3: We're All Just Camping
Day 4: Home
Day 5: What A Mansion Taught Me About Heaven
Day 6: The Ultimate Fixer Upper
Day 7: It's Not What You Think
Day 8: It All Started In A Garden
Day 9: God's Very Good Plan
Day 10: From Death to Life
Day 11: What He Said "It Is Finished"
Day 12: The Best Rest
Day 13: The Lord's Rest
Day 14: Heaven - Resources
Day 15: When Spring Comes
Day 16: When You're Still Waiting For Spring
Heaven - it's a topic that people bring up every now and then, but not something that many know much about. I was just talking with a friend the other day and she had a friend ask her what heaven would be like. This friend asked me this same question, and it was striking because heaven is a topic I have thought and read a lot about over 2017.
In many ways, this series has been years in the making, but the idea to write about heaven only came after a year of walking through health struggles which made me long for heaven even more.
If you were to ask someone what heaven is like, you would probably receive a number of different answers and most of them would not come from the Bible. While there is a lot that we do not and cannot know yet about heaven, there is much that the Bible does say about the eternal home and paradise for those who follow Jesus Christ. It's a topic that many wonder about, but few actually know what the Bible says about heaven.
The topic of heaven is what we'll be exploring over these next thirty one days as we ring in the new year, and I pray it helps us to start this new year with an eternal perspective in mind. I pray that it leads us to a greater love for God and a deeper longing in our hearts to see him face-to-face and to live with him into eternity.
Join me on this journey of Longing For Home - a 31 day series about heaven.
2017 was a year filled with excellent books, and I would be remiss if I didn't share some of these amazing titles with all of you. Books titles are one of my favorite things to share.
One of my goals for 2017 was to read 36 books. Well, I ended up reading 24, which isn't too bad. I thought I would share the ten best books out of the bunch to recommend to all of you.
Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
Why I Loved It: Hannah Anderson has a way of taking biblical principles and helping to draw them out in everyday moments and events. The main focus of this book is how humility gives us a firm foundation and actually helps us to flourish. What Hannah fleshes out is that anxiety and stress in our lives is a result of pride, and humility before the Lord helps us find peace in the midst of those struggles.
12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke
Why I Loved It: This book challenged and impacted me in a number of ways. I will never look at my phone the same way ever again as a result of the observations that Tony Reinke shares in this book. It's amazing to think how much our phones affect us and how little we care or pay mind to it. Tony Reinke calls us to prayerful reflection about our phones and their control and pervasiveness over our lives.
You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons
Why I Loved It: A thoughtful memoir by Rebekah Lyons as she walks in freedom in Christ in the wake of anxiety and depression. I didn't know I needed to hear this message until reading this book. There are some books that encourage you simply by a person sharing their personal journey and finding freedom in the midst of it. This is one of those books.
Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard by Jennie Allen
Why I Loved it: I appreciate Jennie Allen's down-to-earth writing and her way of taking deep theological truths and helping ordinary, everyday women understand them. After a year of studying the gospel of John, Jennie Allen shares the insights she gained from observing Jesus' ministry and being reminded that because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have nothing to prove and can stop trying so hard to earn our salvation or prove ourselves to others.
Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona and David Murray
Why I Loved It: This book was like an ice cold glass of water in the middle of the summer sun. Immensely practical and encouraging, Shona shares her journey of fighting for rest in the grace of God in the midst of a world that makes a lot of demands upon us. I did not expect for her to give so many practical ways to embrace a grace-paced life, but I am immensely thankful for her gospel-focused insights.
Zeal without Burnout by Christopher Ash
Why I Loved It: At this point you might be sensing a theme. I've read a lot of books about rest, resting in the Lord, and freedom from sin and anxiety. Well this book was the cherry on top. Short and sweet, Ash gives seven keys to a life-long sustainable ministry. This book is for more than pastors and full-time missionaries. I would recommend this book those that serves in the church in any capacity. We all need to be reminded that while we can work hard for the gospel, we need to rest in God's grace and not our own efforts.
Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice
Why I Loved It: This is an area where I am continually learning to grow. It is not easy or natural for me to talk about Jesus with random strangers or even with close friends that are not Christians. I often fall into the fear of man, and need to be reminded to choose love over fear and talk about Jesus even when it's tough. This book was practical, encouraging, and it made evangelism less fearful and more exciting and fun.
The Circle Series by Ted Dekker
Why I Loved It: This is my husband's favorite book series, and I've owned a copy since we became friends my freshman year of college, but didn't read it until this year. I'm sad I didn't read it sooner. It is a fiction series, but tells the story of the gospel in lieu of an alternate universe. I laughed. I cried. I desperately didn't want it to end.
The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
Why I Loved It: I'll be honest. I'm a big fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines. I appreciate their business model and the ways that they model working together as a married couple. I don't know what I expected from this book, but I appreciated them sharing how God was the one that wrote their story and opened up the doors for their business, Magnolia, which led to the TV show Fixer Upper. They started from almost nothing, and now they use the something that they have have given to bless others and their community.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey
Why I Loved It: This book is different from the others on this list. This is an organizational book, but boy does Stephen Covey give a lot of helpful insights and lessons about personal growth and being effective. His habits are different from what most might think, but helpful in that they truly are effective. I've found them helpful since first reading this book.
Reading is a discipline that many do not take the time to enjoy, but I hope sharing these titles encourages you to pick up one and enjoy the good gift of a good book.
As you make your list of books to read for 2018, I would highly recommend reading these ten.
I've already started working on my list for 2018, and can't wait to share with you the books that I read over the course of this year. What books are on your list for 2018?
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Welcome! I'm Madi, a laughter-loving, movie-going, spontaneous-dancing, follower of Christ. Join me as I seek glimpses of God's grace in the ordinary and everyday.
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