I've heard it said that only God checks everything off of his to-do list everyday. This is a slice of humble pie for someone like myself that tries to do everything and cross everything off of my to-do list. I don't know about you, but I start my day hoping to accomplish more than I actually can accomplish. Then I get to the end of the day and feel a sense of defeat when I don't live up to completing my list. But it is true: God is the only one that accomplishes his to-do list everyday - unless you keep a minimal to-do list.
The principle is this: God is the only that can perfectly accomplish what he sets out to accomplish, and his purposes are always accomplished.
Me? I'm very different from God. I don't know about you, but most of my life never feels accomplished or completed. After I finish a task, I need to do it again next week. I might check laundry off my list, but then I need to do it again. My work is never finished or accomplished... at least in this life.
Right before Jesus died on the cross, his last words were "It is finished" (John 19:30) And he meant it. God's mission to saving people from their sin was accomplished as Jesus gave up his life on the cross. Jesus' work was finished.
Because of Jesus, it is finished. We cannot earn our salvation. Salvation is freely given through faith in Christ, and because of Jesus' salvation, we have the hope of being able to enter God's rest.
Most people live their lives longing for things to be finished, but other than salvation in Christ, most things feel unfinished. We're working towards the end of the project, so we can rest only to have a new project. People work hard for the first 60 years of their lives to rest for the last few years. We're always working to finish and longing for rest.
Because of Jesus' finished work on the cross, the greatest rest we can imagine, God's rest, is offered. We'll talk about God's rest tomorrow.
The resurrection of Christ is at the heart of the gospel. Without Jesus' resurrection, there would be no hope for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but because Jesus defeats sin and death, there is great hope for us in following Jesus.
Image the disciples. They witnessed Jesus dying a gruesome death on the cross. They watched him die, and then three days later they saw his resurrected body. The resurrection of Christ is what led them to give their lives for the gospel to the point where most of them were martyred. The hope of the resurrection is the reason many Christians endure the intense pain and suffering that comes with persecution.
The resurrection changes everything, and it gives us a glimpse of eternal life with Jesus.
It's also the fulfillment of God's promises.
The resurrection of Christ gives us hope in this life to know that any hardship, suffering, or persecution we face in this life, will not compare with the glory to come.
Paradise was lost in the garden, but that was not the end of the story. It was just the beginning. God would come in flesh as his Son, Jesus, and bring a redemption unlike anything anyone has ever seen. He would redeem man's sin by his death on the cross, but Jesus didn't just die. On the third day, he rose again, defeating sin AND death.
You see, when Adam and Even first sinned, they were cursed. Adam's work was cursed and Eve's relationships were cursed. Work would be hard for Adam, and childbirth and her relationship with her husband would be hard for Eve, but that was not all! They once had eternal life, but their sin led to death. They were made to live forever, but their lives would one day come to an end.
That was not how God originally made things, which is why death affects us so much, because we know that it's not how things should be. But that's not the end of the story.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon reminds us that God "has put eternity into man's heart" (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and we know this to be true. It's why we go to great lengths to live longer, to avoid death. It's why we live as if we will live forever until this world disappoints us or our body fails us and reminds us that we are dust and we will return to dust.
But that's not the end of the story.
The story continued when Jesus rose from the grave, proving that God himself is Master over death. The resurrection is at the heart of the Christian faith, and it is because when we are united with Christ in life, we will be united with him in death. If we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, not only will we join in in eternity, but we too will one day rise from the dead.
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.
Shalom! 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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She Laughs Without Fear