A Devotional for Home: Our Eyes on Heaven

As a child, contemplating an upcoming vacation produced emotions of extreme excitement alongside simultaneous feelings of irrelevance. The days of excitement would carry with them my own efforts of preparation. Now, there were other days with less enthusiasm; days I felt that there was absolutely no need to do anything, because in time the trip would take care of itself. As trivial as our view of travel preparation might seem, there are interesting points of comparison to our Christian understanding of Heaven. And it turns out, our view of Heaven can be a great source of strength in the midst of situations like community-changing storms.

The Bible is a wonderful story of God’s work in the world, and Heaven can rightly be seen as the climax of the biblical narrative. The final scene in the entire Bible is one of God joining man in a New Heaven and New Earth. The divide between what the Bible says (i.e. what Christians should believe) and what the modern world understands concerning Heaven is no small gap. Instead, MacLeod describes it as a “great gulf,” and continues, “it is the difference between hope and despair… between two totally different views of life.” One simple explanation of hope can be looking down the path of life (into the future) and seeing God there with you; despair is looking into the future and not seeing God with you.

This is the reality: Hope comes from a true belief in Heaven, and despair comes from its neglect. Therefore, our consideration of Heaven should invigorate a hope in us as we trust our God to fulfill His promises. This is where we start.

Let’s briefly look at one passage that presents the incredible coming reality. In the last book of the Bible, we see Jesus returning and triumphing as King of all Creation. At the end of His victory over evil, God declares a marvelous promise; a promise that should melt our hearts: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5). Here God is speaking directly to John from His throne (not through an angel messenger), and what does He promise? The transformation of all things from their old, corrupted state, to a state of newness; He speaks of the grand work of re-creating every piece of the world.

Read that passage again: “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Let’s quickly consider three things. First, the scope of God’s intended work. Second, the depths of God’s work. Finally, let us remember the initiator of this work. 

1. All things make up the scope of God’s work.

“All" in Greek here gives us “all, every, the whole.” The whole, made up of smaller parts, each carrying its own weight and influence. It’s like telling a child, I will help you built the whole puzzle. I will be involved until the whole is complete as a result of each individual part being found and put in its place. All and every. Jesus used the same phrase, “all things” in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” He had just explained all the kinds of things we get anxious about and think we need to directly pursue without end to ensure our provision. Instead, Jesus says pursue God’s kingdom trusting that “all and every, the whole” of our needs will be tended to by God Himself. Here God is again highlighting the scope of His influence: Every aspect and element of this world, your interaction with it, your heart, and everything else in between will be directly changed by the power of God. Changed in what way? That is next.

2. New is the depth of God’s work.

The greek term gives the idea of freshness, the kind that comes with being young. The depths of the redemptive work is such that “all things” are addressed with the skilled surgical hands of creation’s Creator, where the corrupting influence of sin is removed, and the original intent for His creatures is realized in full relationship with Himself. If you remember my stories recently of playing soccer again in the local adult soccer league, the result of inconsistent exercise combined with the nature of aging resulted in lots of pain afterwards and a couple tweaked muscles. Nothing highlights the fragile reality of life than the simple process of aging. And what is happening with age? The absence of “new” or “freshness” is having its effects. God’s promise is a work that recreates His world, and you, His Beloved, with the greatest freshness and newness possible—an existence (a) without sin and its effects, and (b) with unbroken and unhindered relationship with God. 

After hearing points 1 and 2, pause for a moment and think about a few aspects of life that will be made new. What comes to mind?

These are a few I thought of: the burden of sin we daily carry is completely removed; the tension that exists when interacting with others over hard topics is subsided; the continual heartache felt from the loss of a loved one is relieved; the barriers that exist between fellow man that are direct results of fallen human natures are crumbled to dust; your ongoing fight against sin, maybe a particular sin that seems to be a life-long struggle, is granted final victory as that thorn is removed completely. Slow down, and think about His promise. What is your biggest, ongoing burden? Your continued prayer request? The thing you desire to see untainted by sin? “ALL things NEW”—and here is the heart of our hope: the intimacy of the redemption. 

3. I am making is the promise.

God says, “I will do it." Often in a movie or show we hear the line, “I’ll do it myself!” in a frustrated tone, when everyone else has failed. Not so with our good heavenly Father. Instead, His plan from the beginning was to handle it Himself. This means the promised life is not provided by a kind organization. This newness is not donated by a social group. This promise is yet again a mark of God’s intimate care for YOU. The care and the attention to detail, the scope and the depths of our hearts needing healing, can only be served by the Creator. And He’s working even now as a result of His ultimate gift, Jesus. God has proven the lengths He is willing to go by giving Jesus over to death so that you would be set free.

 The difference:

This means life is forever changed. You have a hope that cannot be removed, and that hope is toward a firm promise that everything will be made whole, complete, nothing missing, and nothing broken. And why? Because we serve a Father who loves us that well. Engaging with dangers, with stresses, with disappointments, with heartbreaks, even storms… each take on a new lens when we have a God who is actively working now and forever. Without such a promise at the end of life, there is no ground to have a peace when considering what comes after death; there is no ground for hope.

Let us take a few moments to pray for those who have seen their lives reshaped by this storm. They have lost treasured possessions, some their homes. They may have lost family members. Now is when they need the comfort of God’s embrace. Now is when they need the reassurance of a Father, that everything will be OK.

Let us consider God’s Word to us, and be encouraged—be filled with hope, because God is making all things new.

Let’s talk about it:

When you think about Heaven, does it shape today or is it of little to no consequence? 

What things can you think of that need to be made “new”?

What does God’s all-encompassing promise show about His care for you?

For more reflection: Isaiah 65:17-25, 2 Peter 3:1-13, and Revelation 21:1-8.

Named by God, Recognized in Community

You desperately want a name – an authentic, unique-to-you name. You cannot help but long for this – it is an innate need. Middle-school classmates are typically not kind enough nor wise enough to see underneath and call you who you really are. When they misname you or abusively name you, you try to make a name for yourself.  But naming ourselves never works because we cannot get under all the masks either. We are too close and too afraid to name the core of ourselves.

The Grace of Thanks: How Thanksgiving Prepares us for Christmas

Thanksgiving means our nation has, in general, taken a week off singing alongside Ariel, “I want more!” (my daughter loves princess songs, so the lyrics are fresh!) and, instead, we have given an intentional look at the gifts we have stacked up in our little treasure troves; we took a break from the “who cares, no big deal” attitude and have acknowledged the presence of grace in our lives.

That is the primer: acknowledging the existence of grace.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts: A Look at Preparing for Worship

In various forms, time is spent directing attention toward the upcoming event so that the numerous pressures and distractions are not able to steal focus. The consistent efforts to focus display a respect for the upcoming event. I would also say preparation time admits a natural struggle to be fully engaged. If it is so necessary to set aside time to get the mind right before regular sporting events, how much more of a priority should it be before the activities that feed our heart and soul? 

Introducing: The NorthCross Blog

Why would we be putting a blog together when there are so many other incredibly wonderful options already out there? Are we trying to be hip and up to par with the Christian culture? No, that's not it. Are we aiming to be noticed and made famous? No, neither of us have the face for that. Is it because we have a wisdom that no one else has and we feel we must share it with the world? No. Well, that's not quite it. 

As pastors, our desire is to instruct and minister to the members of our church in such a way that they are actually equipped to serve others with the grace and love of Jesus.