Death is just a doorway between life and Life

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that God is good. I mean, you know He’s good in that distant disconnected way like the elected official is good or the popular spiritual leader is good or the hero you admire is good. He’s good, but He doesn’t really get you. There’s a big difference between knowing that God is good and truly understanding His goodness.

There’s so much sorrow in the world. There’s so much hurt. People hurt each other physically and emotionally. We say things to each other intended to cut and demean. Some are the brunt of general meanness. Others are not even involved in the evil that’s happening, and they still get hurt. And even in the innocent passing of time, we lose people we love. Sometimes we expect it, due to sickness or age. Other times we don’t. Either way, it still hurts.

And that’s the world we live in. That’s life here. Sure, there are joyful moments. But then “real life” rears its ugly head and reminds us that life isn’t going to get better down here.

If that’s our future, if that’s all there is, why do people keep living? I couldn’t do it if I didn’t have the hope of salvation, the peace of knowing that God really is going to work everything out. Because the truth is that God really is good–and not just in some distant, disconnected way. He’s here, in our lives, seeing what we feel and hurting with us when we hit those dark times of sorrow and sadness. And there’s something really important that we need to remember about this crazy, screwed-up, hot mess of a world we live in: It’s not all there is.

doorwayToday’s verse is John 16:33.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Jesus wanted His followers to understand that even though the world was broken, they could still have peace with God through Him. He’s the one who made the way to be saved. He’s the one who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we would have the power to overcome the world.

Do you know what that means? To overcome the world? It sounds awfully dramatic, and maybe it is. But in a practical sense it means that the world has no power over those who believe in Christ. The world can be identified as a lot of different things. The influences that pressure you to disobey God. The powers of the enemy. Just the brokenness around us that threatens us with a hopeless, meaningless existence. However you define it, the world is powerless against a Christ-follower.

Even death itself has no power over a Christ-follower. We don’t have to fear it. We don’t have to run from it. We don’t even have to hate it. Because of what Jesus did for us, death is just a doorway between this life on Earth and our eternal welcome in Heaven with God.

It’s important to know that we will have trials and sorrows. Multiple trials and sorrows. And it’s important to know that it’s okay to mourn. It’s okay to grieve the loss of people you love, the destruction of relationships and families, the consequences people have to face for the choices they’ve made. When you’re sad, you need to grieve. Don’t bottle it up and put on a cheery face to make people feel better. Be sad, but know that you don’t have to stay sad.

The world is still under the control of death, the control of the enemy, the result of our sin. As long as that brokenness endures, we will live with pain and death and sadness. Oh, but we don’t have to stay here. There’s a day coming when we’ll get to go home, where nobody hurts each other, where nobody dies, and where we’ll never have to say goodbye again.

The world is full of death and sadness, but Jesus is stronger than the world. He overcame it. And because He overcame, we can too.

Something to look forward to

Have you ever noticed that Christians talk a lot about hell but we don’t talk much about heaven? There’s this prevailing idea in American culture that heaven is a place full of clouds where angels float around plucking harps all day. That concept of heaven isn’t supported anywhere in scripture. Honestly, I’m not even sure where the idea of angels playing harps came from. I know angels are musical but first and foremost they are messengers. And angels aren’t going to be the focus of heaven. Heaven is all about one person: Jesus. And if I know Him as well as I think I do, sitting around listening to harps all day would bore Him out of His skull.

The verse for today is Revelation 21:2-4 and it’s a popular one that floats around the church. At NewSpring you’ll especially hear it during Judgement House.

2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.[a] 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Forgive me a Judgement House Tour Guide moment . . . . “We don’t know all the glories of heaven, but we do know that Jesus will be there ready to welcome us home.”

Heaven is a wonderful place. And maybe that’s why we don’t think about it. Maybe we don’t talk about it because it’s going to be so incredible that we are afraid to imagine it. In any case, I think we need to spend more time contemplating what heaven will be like. After all, it’s going to be our home for eternity. Shouldn’t we want to know everything we can about it?

Like here. If you know you’re moving, do you just pick up all your belongings and move to a new city without learning something about the city? Maybe some people do. But it’s a good idea to learn about the schools. To learn about which neighborhoods and areas of town are best avoided at night time. To figure out where the closest Wal-mart is. To make sure there’s a library close by.

Granted, we don’t have a lot to work with as far as knowing what heaven is like. From the Revelation we know that it’s beautiful and extravagent. I find it ironic that gold costs so much down here and in heaven they use it to pave the streets. That tells you how much gold is worth in heaven. But I am less concerned with what heaven will look like than I am in what life will be like there.

It’s a given that heaven will be beautiful. Earth is beautiful. The mountains. The oceans. The plains. Canyons. Trees. Clouds. Flowers. Earth is a wonder and it’s broken. Earth is incredible and God made it in six days. Imagine what He has done with 10,000 years! Imagine what He has made without us crazy human types up there to screw it up! The scenery of heaven isn’t going to be clouds and blue sky. It will be like Earth. Just better. Flawless. Unbroken. Whole.

But life in heaven? No. We’re not going to sit around playing harps all day. Well. Let me take that back. If you love to play the harp, you’ll be able to do that.

I really believe that whatever gift God has given you is what you will do when we get to heaven. There’s this concept that all we’ll do is sing hymns and play music. Maybe. If those are your gifts, that’s great! But the real point is that in heaven we will spend all day, every day worshipping God. And the very simple truth is that worship isn’t just singing. Worship isn’t just playing music. Worship is living life for God. Making every moment of your life about Him. Intentionally living every moment of every day for Him, doing what He asks, listening when He speaks, going where He tells you to go, and staying when He tells you to stay.

You can worship God when you drive a car. You can worship God when you mow your grass. You can worship God when you drink a cup of coffee (right, Colonel?). Worship is a lifestyle. And when we get to heaven, worshiping God with every breath will no longer be a challenge. Pride won’t get in the way anymore. And that’s what I look forward to most. Being able to use the gifts God has given me without the fear of me taking over, without the danger of pride having a part in my actions.

I don’t think God would have created a world of people with vastly different personalities and talents and gifts only to snatch them all up in the end, stuff them in angel robes, thrust a harp in their hands and expect them to float around plucking strings all day for eternity. That’s not God’s style. If He’s given you a gift, He expects you to use it, both here and in the life to come.

So it might be a good idea to figure out what your gift is. =)

I know for me, I can’t wait to get to heaven. I’ll be able to tell stories all day long. And then fearing dangling participles is no longer a concern. =)