The last thing I recall was my own primal scream and the unearthly terror of falling to the ground. I was up fifty feet on that scaffold when I fell through an unprotected area where planks had been removed. It’s a miracle I survived. Continue reading
Okay, let’s think outside the box.
Evil has recently been vanquished and the redeemed now live on New Earth where all is perfect and Jesus is King. Many customs and things still resemble the previous world, although spectacularly enhanced now. Pastime and sports, for example, still exist and so does most other recreation, including a truly virtual telecasting experience.
The biggest draw across the global kingdom now is an ongoing contest called “Open the Universe!” initiating Jesus’s long-awaited expansion of the human race to other planets throughout the cosmos. But who will govern the first new world?
Thus, Jesus has handpicked two teams of the faithful to compete and showcase their glorious skills and abilities. The task: build a city. Each team travels to a designated location on New Earth, constructs, and manages a city of their own, engaging the help and talents of the chosen denizens who will inhabit that domain.
In the end, Jesus will award his first regency to the team that has best organized, designed, erected, and governed its city. There are no losers; the second team will gain regency of the next expansion.
The people of New Earth are riveted by the giftedness of the participants, for each person presents facets of the Sovereign One, as they are called, only that individual can express. In fact, the hosts in Heaven watch with excitement, too.
Here are the first teams:
Team: Moses, John, Ezekiel, Apollo, Paul, Deborah, Solomon, Titus, Stephen, Silas, Noah, Elijah, Hezekiah, Ezra
Team: Abraham, Peter, Nehemiah, Josiah, Daniel, Esther, Joshua, Barnabas, Elisha, Luke, Samson, Timothy, Philip the Evangelist, John the Baptist
Cities on New Earth are designed around themes that are strongly incorporated in the built environment. The theme Jesus desires for these new cities is “Human Wonder in Eternal Triumph.” Use of the theme also factors in team selection.
Based on what you know of these people’s lives, particularly their strengths and abilities—projected in a perfect reality—which team do you think would be awarded the first regency? Why?
- How do you interpret the city theme?
- How might each team incorporate the theme into its design?
Please comment and be imaginative!
Consider this for a moment: the eternal God gives lasting gifts. You may think, Yeah, I know that, but really take in the implications.
I’m a stickler for quality. I don’t mind paying more if I am certain the item will last for years to come. That’s not having ‘expensive taste’ or ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, in my opinion. It’s actually saving me money and the hassle of replacing goods. I too like lasting things.
And what God gives you and me are eternal possessions, inasmuch as they belong to him, the Eternal One. God’s gifts proceed from his own good nature, just as light and warmth proceed from the sun. Without the sun we earthlings couldn’t survive; Jesus says the same: “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). All love, mercy, and virtue shine upon us from the glorious God—he being as much the gift as its expression.
God’s Greatest Gift to Us
One gift so many people, including Christians, take for granted is our humanity. I think folk miss out on quality life by either disrespecting their humanity or by not dignifying it and giving it proper expression. Many Christians hold a distorted or wrong anthropology and don’t understand that we were created as humans to eternally exist as humans glorifying God with our humanity. My goodness—Jesus represents us now in Heaven with a human body. I cannot imagine that he lived a crummy earthly life.
I don’t dispute the fact of sin and the depravity of the soul as a present reality. Still, although sin marred the creation, it never effaced the glory of God in it. The angels in Isaiah’s vision cried, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3).
In Christ we have restored freedom to be as human as possible in this life. Let that sink in: free to enjoy life. Jesus modeled a perfect humanity. I think that if we studied his words and life and the deep implications, we could free ourselves from rote and weighty behavior patterns that suck life out of us rather than give us life. We would see that there are far fewer restrictions on our lives pertaining to what it takes to please the Lord and just to experience genuine happiness.
Some people regard the Bible like a big red stop sign: “You can’t do that! You’ll be punished! God is angry!” But it was after I studied portions of the Old Testament prophets (yes) that I discovered just how loving God is and that all his words to us are a “Go!” rather than a no.
I wonder if we unnecessarily tie ourselves in knots sometimes.
Thus, we are free to celebrate and explore our passions, to embrace one another, to develop the virtues within, to enhance our talents, to soak in nature and art, to wonder and draw near to God by it—more gifts he gives.
In Yet a Little While…
Is this not the most fitting way to honor the God who bestows these good and lasting things? And how inseparable they are from our very human nature! It is how we process our existence…humanity is our existence. We are not angels or spirits nor were we intended to be. Instead, God has deemed it that we praise him best as humans; and I will accomplish that by being the best human I can be.
So I honor God and this great gift he’s given me by unpacking all the treasure he’s placed within me. I do it by cherishing others and building lasting relationships. I do it by fighting sin and storing up spiritual wealth. I do it by clarifying his will in my life. I do it by having uninhibited fun. And I do it by gleaning from every experience because I know my growth will continue in the life to come.
I cannot wait to see myself in resurrection with perfect form, within and without. You know, we’ll spend time in Heaven but we’ll return with our King, arrayed in immortal bodies, to a gloriously new earth. I believe that.
What excites me is that the gifts, talents, and virtues—that ‘spiritual wealth’—we amass now…things we love and that God has given us to perfect: they hold much value for that time, although we cannot fathom how. I surmise that this present life is just too important and too short to squander.
Every gift from God should ultimately become a gift back to him. Vibrant, godly, authentic humanity is our best worship.
The number of friends and co-workers that came to see me off that morning overwhelmed me. I never figured I mattered as much. The occasion effervesced with cheer, but it was also awkward. Nobody wished to see the elephant in the room. A year of good memories collected in this final moment slowly infecting with sadness.
When the time came to move to the platform, the sadness became palpable. Some could hold their tears no longer, and I was pressed to see everyone to say goodbye. Then, the train, a bullet train, arrived, as much an interruption to its own arrival. The guys helped me load my bags.
I took my seat and gazed at my friends, refusing to take my eyes off of them. There was no guarantee that I’d ever see them again. The women wept sorely. I mouthed words and made faces, fighting my own tears. I loved these people and never had an earlier time done more to convince me of this than this moment.
I ached at their grief and finally turned my face and wept. After several minutes, the departure bell sounded and, in seconds that would wait no longer, I was whisked away to be all but standing at my destination.
Isn’t this what death is, the unbearable parting with one love for the long awaited greeting of another?
I always remember this overseas farewell scene when I ponder death. My questions about the life to come are settled, and I have no fear of death or dying, as I did when I was young. I do wonder how my end will occur. I imagine the moment to be like the shock of an off-guard punch leaving me to heave celestial winds that renew my every fiber with the life of God.
Who will be the angel that greets me? Is my journey direct? Who will be in my greeting party? How long until I stand before God? And will Christ embrace me and, in that glorious moment, make me everlastingly holy? Just some of my endless questions…
Death is often my pillow thought, but I get excited when I consider it. There is no hopeless sadness about it, and neither do I have a morbid fascination or longing to die. Instead, I will live heartily and joyfully until it is my turn to wonder no more.
Jesus told us, “If I’m leaving to make room for you, then I will surely come back for you” (John 14:3). Who doesn’t want to be with Jesus? My problem is the blockheads around me who tell him, “Don’t bother.”
Okay, this is one of my spiritual peeves—Christians who understand nothing about the words “blessed hope.” It happens during conversations and in church when people, grateful to be alive, remark, “We could’ve been dead, sleeping in our graves” or something like it. Truthfully, we’ve all probably had several close calls, some we knew about and some we didn’t. So, for everybody, Thank you, Lord, for sustaining our lives!
He Shall Never Die
What bugs me, however, is the notion that death is so bad, which urges me to question if life is really that good. When people pipe up with ‘happy to be alive’ comments (and I love life), I sense that somehow this world is all the reality there might be in their minds. I don’t wish to be unfair, but I never encounter those who, like me, cannot wait to be with Jesus in the joys of the life to come.
Before you think me unnecessarily critical, the apostle Paul had to deal with the same kind of people. The Thessalonians must have recently lost some beloved person because it prompted Paul to correct their undue mourning. “We want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13, NLT). He referred to those without Christ who have either no hope or false hopes about their eternal security.
Our bodies will expire; I think we get concerned about sickness, suffering, and pain. I don’t enjoy thoughts about what I might have to endure before I pass on. But though we believers experience physical death, like all humanity, we never die. Our lives before Christ and present clash with sin is the only spiritual death we will ever know. Jesus’s own death usurped sin’s authority, so death, the fullest extent of sin, becomes a grace that makes an end of our dealing with sin—forever.
The Joy of What Awaits
Our future is alive. We immediately go to God, who welcomes us into Heaven—and what that must be like! I’ve heard theology about it, and I’ve heard people who say they’ve visited. It’s all exciting. Is Heaven anything like Earth with vast regions and social systems? And the physics must be mind-boggling! Just think of Christ after his resurrection. Then, there is the New Earth to come.
We will breathe our last here, but we will not die. And Christ’s return will ‘seal the deal’, and these very bodies of ours will be refashioned and made perfect. (The sinner doesn’t get that.) So I don’t dread death or live life ducking. Now I enjoy my humanity and the world around me until it’s time to leave. In fact, that’s my prayer to God: Grant me to live out all of my appointed days. I ask not to die prematurely.
The blind monk in the wonderful documentary Into Great Silence says, “The closer one brings oneself to God the happier one is…the faster one hurries to meet him. One should have no fear of death…it is a great joy to find a Father once again.”
I cannot wait to see God, and I often tell him this. You’re also wrong if you think I have a death wish. So until the angels finish my mansion there…on a splendid mountain overlooking God’s throne…I’ll keep at his will here and send my treasure ahead.