It Will Hurt Either Way

“It’s choosing the pain of present-tense discipline over the pain of future-tense regret.”
Mark Batterson in Win the Day
That quote has stuck with me since we first discussed it in our previous message series. If we really care about living God’s way, and not giving into temptation, there will be pain. It’s not a question of if, but when. It’s sometimes painful—and can even feel like a sacrifice—to do what God says, and to steer clear of what He says to avoid. But, again, if we truly want to live God’s way, it’s much more painful to give in to temptation and live with that regret. It will hurt either way, but one type of pain is worth it.
If temptations were easy to resist, they wouldn’t be tempting. But we know better; we know from too many personal experiences that overcoming our sinful desires is really, really hard. We see in the Bible that temptations are to be resisted (James 4:7), endured, and escaped (1 Corinthians 10:13). We also see that temptations cause suffering and we need help to overcome them (Hebrews 2:18). In addition, the ungodly desires that tempt us are harmful and can lead us into ruin and destruction (1 Timothy 6:9).
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” and then a few verses later, we’re reminded that, “in [our] struggle against sin, [we] have not yet resisted to the point of shedding [our] blood” (Hebrews 12:4). That verse makes it clear that our efforts to overcome sin and temptation launch us into an extremely difficult and painful battle. It calls to mind the struggles of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, just before He was arrested and eventually crucified. He prayed to His Father, God, to take away His suffering, but then He said, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Jesus’ soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, and He dealt with the most severe conflict with temptation that He had ever encountered. He experienced such anguish that as He prayed intensely, His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Or, you might say, His resistance to sin was so great that it forced His blood through his pores.
Of course, in Hebrews 12:2, we see that the unimaginable struggles of Jesus were worth it to Him. He endured the cross because of the joy set before Him. He chose the pain of present-tense discipline over the pain of future-tense regret. For those of us who follow Jesus, we can do the same. We will never have to endure the horrific suffering that Jesus endured, specifically because He already went through it for us. But we can follow His example and fight, with everything we have, against temptation and sin, knowing that while the battle is painful, it is more than worth it.
Troy Burns

I Will Fight No More Forever

Hear me, my Chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever. – Chief Joseph
Perhaps more than any other time in my life, people are divided. They take passionate stances on issues, often moving to the extremes on one side or the other. The most vocal among us speak publically about their beliefs and opinions. They appear to enjoy conflict and express an intense dislike, if not hatred, for those they consider to be enemies on the other extremes of the issues.
In the 1993 movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer, a young chess prodigy named Josh Waitzkin refuses to harden himself in order to become a champion like the famous, but unlikable, Bobby Fischer. Josh does end up taking lessons from a former great champion named Bruce Pandolfini. In one scene, Bruce asks Josh, “Do you know what it means to have contempt for your opponent? Josh replies, “No,” and Bruce explains, “It means to hate them. You have to hate them Josh, they hate you.” To that Josh replies, “But I don’t hate them.”
I can relate to young Josh in that interchange. There are people who seem to hate me, simply because my beliefs are different from their own. My natural response is to hate them back, but I don’t. I might disagree with them, but I have no personal hatred for them as fellow human beings. In fact, since I strive to follow Jesus, my goal is to love every person the way God loves them, as we learn from the most well-known of all Bible verses: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
I also know from the Bible that while Jesus was being crucified (not because of a single crime or sin He ever committed), He said to God, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. If Jesus can ask that for the very people who were killing Him in such an unjust manner, perhaps I can show some grace to those who despise me.
It also helps me to remember that while we are in a battle, other people are not my enemies, no matter how much they might view me that way. As we discover in Ephesians 6:12, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil.
What’s more, I have no interest in fighting with anyone, especially not in a public manner where we essentially scream at each other through megaphones on a busy street corner, so to speak. Those who agree with me will say, “Exactly!” or “That’s right!” Those who disagree will not be swayed in the least; if anything, they will push back even harder and treat me more like their enemy.
Having said that, if someone wants to sit down with me, in person, and have a calm, rational discussion where each of us listens, seeks to understand the other, and demonstrates compassion, then I’m all in for that. Otherwise, I’m out and I will fight no more forever. Instead, I’m striving to live out the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:18: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Troy Burns

Famous in My Own Home

Our country is divided, marked frequently by two opposite extremes. If you don’t believe me, you’re ignorant and probably evil, and I never want to speak to you again, nor do I want anything to do with you for the rest of my life. I don’t mean that seriously, of course, but it seems that many feel that way when it comes to other people with whom they disagree.
Perhaps the heart of the problem is that we do not look deeply and honestly enough at ourselves. I remember our beloved former pastor at Sunrise, the late Mark Kent, preaching on a Sunday morning and noting how people often say they won’t attend a worship service “because there are too many hypocrites in church.” Mark’s response was basically this: “No, that’s not true. There’s always room for one more.”
As was often the case, Mark delivered some deep truth, mixed with a healthy dose of humor. His point, obviously, was that we’re all hypocrites. There may be different degrees, motives, and intentions, but we all live in ways that don’t line up with what we say we believe. But instead of admitting that and dealing with it, we tend to judge other people for doing essentially the same thing we’re doing.
Along those lines, I read the excerpt below from the new book, Uncanceled, by Phil Robertson, of “Duck Dynasty” fame:
Even though the rule is to be kind, loving, and nonjudgmental, it doesn’t always apply, because there is a hidden exception to the rule: you are permitted to be unloving, unkind, and judgmental if you are calling out someone you decide isn’t loving, kind, and nonjudgmental. Then you can hate and judge all you want.
If that doesn’t summarize what we see in our nation and in the church, I don’t know what does! Jesus talked about judging others in Matthew chapter 7, where He said that we will be judged in the same way we judge others. One of the many dangers of passing such judgment is that our own standard will come back to haunt us. To make things worse, when we condemn someone’s behavior, whether it’s sinful or simply different than our own, we almost never use the proper standard of judgment.
We tend to judge others according to our own strengths and opinions, and our judgments are based on extremely limited knowledge. We should also recognize the difference between arrogant and humble judgment. I ran across some examples of both kinds:
Arrogant judgment says, “I would never do something like that.”
Humble judgment says, “Though I may not struggle like they do, I sin against Jesus in 10,000 other ways.”
Arrogant judgment says, “I’m better than them.”
Humble judgment says, “We both need Jesus.”
Speaking for myself, I have enough trouble judging my own motives, let alone someone else’s. And even if I could judge properly, I know that I sin and fall short as much, if not more than, the people who are supposedly worse than I am. With that in mind, I’m deciding to control what I can control: my actions. I want to become a better version of myself and actually live out what I say I believe. I’ll know I’ve succeeded when I’ve earned the best possible reputation with those who know me better than anyone else in the world.
This is summed up well by Mark Batterson, who writes the following in his book, Win the Day: “Relationally, success is when those who know you best respect you most. At the end of the day, I want to be famous in my home.”
Troy Burns

What’s Your Reaction?

I act like a kind, joyful, and patient person at the church building on Sundays, then sometimes when I leave the parking lot and another driver cuts me off, I react like an unkind, miserable, impatient man. That’s just one of many examples I could share, but it illustrates these haunting words: “It’s much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one… It’s our reactions that reveal who we really are.”
Those words come from Mark Batterson in Win the Day, the book we’re using as a basis for our current message series. As I read the chapter for this week, I was struck by the author’s words and found myself looking into a mirror, figuratively speaking. I’m often happy with my actions, and I’m often horrified by my reactions, especially since the latter reveals more about who I really am. How do I know that’s true? Jesus said as much:
43 No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. – Luke 6:43-45
I hate to admit it (in fact, it hurts me to admit it), but there’s often little difference between professing, or even actual Christians on the one hand, and people who don’t follow Jesus on the other. And what hurts me the most to admit is that I’m part of the problem.
As one of my closest friends says it, “I want to be a Christian on the inside.” He knows how easy it is for us to pretend outwardly, to be hypocrites, while something entirely different is going on inside of us. He wants to be the same, inside and out, and live as a genuine, obedient Christ follower in every aspect of his life. So do I.
Have you ever eaten a bunch of garlic, and no matter what you did, you could tell by other people’s reactions that you still reeked of the stuff? A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to travel with some good friends to Seattle for a couple of Mariners games. A huge highlight of the trip (for me at least) was eating an order of their popular garlic fries, loaded with lots and lots of chopped garlic cloves. The fries were absolutely delicious and enhanced what was already a magical experience at the ballpark.
If you’ve ever eaten a large amount of garlic, you know what happens for quite a while after you eat it. You smell very strongly of the stuff and there’s not much you can do about it. You can brush your teeth, scrub your tongue with a paper towel, chew gum, eat breath mints, and wipe the gum or mint juice all over your face, but the smell will likely stay with you until at least the following day.
A few of us on that Seattle trip had eaten garlic fries and then drove back to Spokane the next day. The day after that (now two days removed from the garlic fry consumption), the wife of the guy who drove our group to Seattle and back got into her car and said, “this thing reeks of garlic!” The issue with garlic is that the odor doesn’t just come from your mouth, it’s actually expunged through your pores as you sweat, as well as through your mouth. In other words, you can’t really contain the smell no matter what you try.
To circle back on what Jesus said, maybe the garlic is the bad fruit from the bad tree, but what if we eat something that creates a much more pleasant aroma? Might that be the good fruit from the good tree? I want to be the good man who brings good things out of the good stored up in my heart. That means my heart needs to be right, and God can change my heart and make me a Christian on the inside. Then it will be a good thing when my reactions reveal who I really am.
Troy Burns

When Doubt Helps You Out

The first time I attended college, I majored in English and gained a lifelong love for language and literature. I still read poetry and novels to this day, one of which includes a passage describing a rattlesnake: “The Creator of the Universe had put a rattle on its tail. The Creator had also given it front teeth which were hypodermic syringes filled with deadly poison.” After that description, the author wrote, “Sometimes I wonder about the Creator of the Universe.”
As a follower of Jesus, I’m taken aback by such writing, yet I admit that in my life, I’ve wrestled with serious questions and doubts. I also know that the Bible contains some deep questions for God, even some accusations that are thrown His way. One such passage that jumps to mind is in Psalm 44:
23 Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. 24 Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?
Another such passage is found in Psalm 77:
I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted.
And just one more example includes questions raised in Psalm 13:
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
Perhaps the bigger question is why we even have to struggle so much in the first place. Why did God even allow the option to sin and to make wrong choices that lead to terrible outcomes? Why were Adam and Eve able to sin, in the event we call “the fall?” Why would God permit such a tragic event, such a flagrant act of rebellion, in full knowledge of its horrific consequences?
The Bible does not tell us directly why God permitted sin to enter the world. But from what we do know in Scripture, we can trust that God had good reasons for allowing the fall, whether or not we fully understand them. It’s also critical to remember that, as James N. Anderson writes, “Our world is not merely a fallen creation. It’s a fallen creation into which the eternal Son of God has entered, taking on human nature, perfectly expressing God’s likeness in our midst, living a morally flawless life, making atonement for our sins through his sacrificial death, rising in triumph from the grave, and ascending into heaven, where he continually intercedes and secures for us an eternal joyful dwelling-place in God’s presence.”
In addition, when we read the Bible, not just a secular novel, we find a remnant of faith in the writers, despite their struggles. As we read later in Psalm 77, following the writer’s seemingly unheard cries of distress:
13 Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? 14 You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. 15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people.
And as Psalm 13 continues, after the writer feels forgotten by God:
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.
If you were not aware of the Bible passages in which the writers question, and even accuse God, you may be taken aback, as I once was. But what’s the difference when people of faith work through their doubts and questions? Hope.
We tend to think that doubt will lead to a weakening, or even an abandonment, of our faith. But what if the opposite is true? What if we respond to our doubts in ways that will actually help us grow stronger in our faith? As Lee Strobel writes, “A bout of doubt may turn out to be one of the healthiest and most hope-inspiring experiences you’ll ever go through.”
Doubt is different than unbelief. If we’re struggling with doubts, we’re not fully believing or disbelieving. We’re just stuck on some questions or concerns. Doubt is not sinful and God does not condemn us when we ask Him questions, even the really hard-hitting questions. If that were the case, we wouldn’t read some of those challenging words I shared from the Psalms.
A genuine faith is a tested faith. As Rufus Jones writes, “If you have not clung to a broken piece of your old ship in the dark night of the soul, your faith may not have the sustaining power to carry you through to the end of the journey.” As we climb out of the depths of despair, and as we fight through our uncertainties, we can arise with a deeper, more hope-filled faith than we had before.
Troy Burns

Giving Up What I Want the Most

When we took my daughter to college in Phoenix last summer, I drove every single one of the nearly 2,800 round trip miles. I didn’t have to do that. My wife and my son, who are both excellent drivers, made the trip with me and were more than willing to drive. But I still drove every mile myself. Why? Control. I wanted (needed?) to be the one operating the vehicle at all times.
And it’s not just driving that presents a control issue for me. My natural inclination is to “take the wheel” in every circumstance of my life. When I do that, if things don’t go my way, I might struggle to trust God. I don’t like to admit it, but the truth is that I often act as though I’m in charge of my life. If I’m brutally honest with myself, I even try to control things so much that I forget about God (or at least leave Him out of it). But the undeniable fact is that I have little control over my life. And if you’re reading this, maybe you realize that the same is true for you. The more control you seek, the less you actually have.
In an old movie revolving around race car driving, the main character has a crash and his doctor says, “Tell me what you love so much about racing.” The driver replies, “Speed. To be able to control it. To know that I can control something that’s out of control.” In response, the doctor answers, “Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac. Nobody knows what’s gonna happen next: not on a freeway, not in an airplane, not inside our own bodies, and certainly not on a racetrack with 40 other infantile egomaniacs.”
On the other hand, I read a quote from Skye Jethani that not only reminds me of the doctor’s words in that movie, but also reveals the solution to the problem: “Faith is the opposite of seeking control. It is surrendering control. It embraces the truth that control is an illusion – we never had it and we never will.”
That’s the bottom line: I seek control when I need to surrender control. It’s even true when it comes to the language I use to write this blog. As I often discover, the words of others are more powerful than my own. This is the case in the song, “Control,” by Tenth Avenue North, with these fitting and meaningful lyrics:
God You don’t need me / But somehow You want me / Oh, how You love me / Somehow that frees me / To take my hands off of my life / And the way it should go… Somehow that frees me / To open my hands up / And give You control.
I’m praying that God will help me to give up what I want the most: control. And if I remember that He is in charge of everything, anyway, I just might be able to do it. I don’t know what will happen next, but God does. I’m trying to pry my hands off the wheel right now. I’m almost there…
Troy Burns

The Darkest Hour and the Sunrise

God will make a way / Where there seems to be no way / He works in ways we cannot see / He will make a way for me / By a roadway in the wilderness, He’ll lead me / And rivers in the desert will I see / And He will do something new today.
Lately, the old song by Don Moen (quoted above) has practically “played on repeat” in my mind. Of course, the real source of the lyrics is the Bible, where we read that God is “the one who made a road through the sea, a pathway through the surging waters,” and that He is about to do something new when He “will make a road in the wilderness and paths in the wastelands” (Isaiah 43:16, 19).
The old song plays in my head because, as we all know, life is unbearably difficult at times, to the point that we face challenges we believe are impossible to overcome. But God is in the business of making a way where there seems to be no way.
A few months ago, I was sharing with our elders and youth minister about how hopeless it can feel when it comes to the difficulties we face in living through the current situation in America and in the world. I even told them that the apparent impossibility of these circumstances has made me feel like giving up on more than one occasion. On the positive (and more important side), I also shared how God convicted me that we are here in this time and place for a reason, and that giving up in the midst of a crisis or challenge is not the right time to walk away.
Since I love to run, I described an analogy about those stretches on the road when I’m ascending a steep hill, and how I never let myself walk until I reach level ground again. During those times, I tell myself that if I need to walk, I can do it after I’ve crested the hill. Then what usually happens (actually, what always happens) is that once I return to level ground, I no longer need to walk. With this in mind, I told our leaders that I’m praying and trusting that something similar will happen with the challenges we face.
What’s incredibly encouraging is to see is the unity of our leadership. I believe if we continue to focus on the bigger picture of showing love and concern for others, while striving to do what is biblical, then God will bless our efforts greatly. They say the darkest hour is just before dawn. Maybe it’s no coincidence that a “Sunrise” could be just around the corner for us.
At the risk of sounding overly optimistic or naïve, I’ve felt for some time that we can potentially come out of this whole thing better and stronger than we were before, even if there are days (and weeks and months) when it just seems to get worse and worse. That’s ultimately up to God, of course, but if we are faithful and prayerful, and if we continue to focus on what’s most important, God just might “make a way where there seems to be no way.” He just might reveal a breathtaking sunrise to follow that darkest hour. One of our elders, Bud, discussed it in the sense of doing our small, but necessary part and then seeing God do His miraculous, seemingly impossible part. As Bud said, “We just need to figure out what our five loaves and two fish should be. Then we can watch God feed 5,000.”
Troy Burns

That’s Enough for Me

I don’t typically feel like I have a favorite book of the Bible, but Job has a special place in my heart. Disclaimer: there is a key part of the story to which I cannot relate; it’s when Job is so convinced of his own innocence that he wants to state his case directly before God. Job had great confidence that God would find no guilt in him; I do not share that confidence and even if I did, I would not want to plead my case face-to-face with God.
To be fair, it’s not all that difficult to understand why Job was so adamant about his innocence. God practically bragged about him to Satan when He said, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Can you imagine God saying that about you? I cannot.
When Satan comes to accuse Job before God, he insists that Job only serves God because God protects him. Therefore, Satan asks God’s permission to test Job’s faith and loyalty. And God grants His permission, within certain boundaries. After losing his family, wealth, and health, Job wants to know why the righteous suffer. He gets some answers from friends (who are not helpful), and then Job questions God Himself and learns valuable lessons about just how powerful and all-knowing God is. This leads Job to recognize, even more, his need to trust completely in God.
After seeing and hearing directly from God, Job replies this way:
I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?” Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. – Job 42:2-6
While Job was a very righteous man compared to other people, he acknowledged that he had neither God’s power nor His wisdom. You might say that Job realized his place in the world as a mortal human being. He came to understand (as we all need to figure out) that he was not the center of the universe.
Someone has said that “Five seconds of honey on the tongue will show you more sweetness than ten hours of lectures about the sweetness of honey.” And we read in Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” Until God gives you a taste of His goodness, all the theology in the world will not give you the knowledge that changes your heart and saves your soul.
When God came to Job and spoke, taking the initiative to make Himself known, Job tasted the goodness of God. And his eyes were opened. Job gained a new sense of God’s reality. It was more than intellectual or speculative knowledge. It was the understanding of the heart. He had tasted, and then he saw. And the result was a broken and changed man.
Life has broken me to pieces, but I want to change and grow like Job did. I want to stop asking questions that won’t be answered while I live on this earth. As a finite human being, I’ll never understand why the righteous suffer, let alone the unrighteous (like me). But I believe with all my heart that God is good, and that’s enough for me.
Troy Burns

A Little Closer to Heaven

When I was 19, I spent several weeks in Georgia, where most of the people around me spoke with an accent and said words like Y’all on a regular basis. After talking and listening and observing these wonderful people for some time, a funny thing happened: I began to talk like them. Once, when a new friend was introduced to me, I said, “Where y’all from?” I sounded ridiculous, I’m sure, as a person from the Pacific Northwest with no southern accent, but one thing was clear: I had spent time with people who talked differently than I did.
I also read about a professional baseball player who was the kind of athlete that other players just wanted to be around. He was the ace of his pitching staff and was consistently one of the top players in the entire league. He was incredibly talented, of course, but he also worked extremely hard, day in and day out. He continually prepared both his body and his mind so that he could perform at the highest possible level. Other players on the team loved to spend time with him. Being near him and observing how he trained was immensely valuable to his teammates. Many of those players said that being near him, watching him, and copying him made them better athletes.
In both of these situations, people were impacted immensely by those with whom they spent time. We see something like this in the Bible, in Acts chapter 4, verse 13, where we read the following: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
It was no compliment to say that Peter and John were unschooled, ordinary men. The Jewish leaders were taken aback by the courage of these two men, but they were not impressed with their backgrounds. What they did recognize was that the men had been with Jesus. Peter and John did not have the education, credentials, or religious pedigree that would have impressed those leaders. But they did have a courage that came from spending time with Jesus. Their behavior was not really from themselves, but resulted directly from being with Jesus.
You and I do not have the benefit of spending time with Jesus for three years of our physical lives on this earth (as the disciples did), but we can be shaped and changed by the Word that God has given us, to teach us how to live as Jesus did. When we allow the Bible to transform us, our lives carry the aroma of heaven. This means, among other things, that our lives are marked by a genuine love for God and for people, a true willingness to forgive others, and many other qualities such as joy, peace, humility, honesty, approachability, kindness under pressure, and truth-telling when it would be easier to lie.
May we be the people about whom others say, “Whenever he or she entered the room, I felt a little closer to heaven.” Let us be the ones who draw others closer to God whether we are talking or listening, laughing or crying, standing or sitting, following or leading.
We know that we’ve truly been with Jesus when we want what He wants and we put God’s will ahead of our own. This means that we’re all about discovering His will, rather than trying to impose our will on Him. We cannot rationalize and try to make God’s will match up with what we’ve already decided we want.
It reminds me of the old sailor who was repeatedly lost at sea, so his friends gave him a compass and urged him to use it. The next time he went out in his boat, he followed their advice and took the compass with him. But as usual, he became hopelessly confused and was unable to find land. Finally, he was rescued by his friends. Disgusted and impatient with him, they asked, “Why didn’t you use that compass we gave you? You could have saved us a lot of trouble!” The sailor responded, “I didn’t dare to! I wanted to go north, but as hard as I tried to make the needle aim in that direction, it just kept on pointing southeast.” That old sailor was so certain he knew which way was north that he stubbornly tried to force his own personal persuasion on his compass. Unable to do so, he tossed it aside as worthless and failed to benefit from the guidance it offered.
Isn’t this how we often treat God’s will, or our efforts in trying to know it? We want to make it match what we have already decided we want. But when we’ve been with Jesus, we seek first what God wants and then we obey Him and put His will into practice, no matter how difficult or inconvenient it may be. And people notice. We draw others closer to God in everything we do and say. We walk into a room and people feel a little closer to heaven.
Troy Burns

A Forever Home Away from Home

We can never know about the days to come / But we think about them anyway / And I wonder if I’m really with you now / Or just chasin’ after some finer day – “Anticipation” by Carly Simon
I wrote in a previous blog that I need to live in the present moment, one day at a time. I even shared how I feel worried, or at least unprepared, for whatever the future holds. And while it’s true that I should not worry about tomorrow, what happens if I’m excited for it? Can I live in the future just a little, if it gives me some hope and makes me eager for what’s to come? Here’s my near future: in just a few days, Lord willing, I’ll be at my home away from home: the ocean and the beach that lies along its edge.
My youngest daughter is so excited for our upcoming vacation that she presented me with a complete “play-by-play” analysis of everything she wants to do on our trip, an analysis that took every second of a 30-minute car ride. If it’s possible, her words made me even more eager for the trip than she is. We’re heading to the coast, as I mentioned, and it’s my ideal home, or happy place; it’s the part of this planet that I’m even tempted to call “heaven on earth.”
But that last phrase led me to think about our eternal future and the real heaven waiting for those who have responded to God’s offer of salvation. While it seems easier to anticipate “heaven on earth” than “a new heaven and a new earth,” there’s actually no comparison between the two. Heaven is a real place, where God lives, that’s been designed for us. Jesus said, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). He also shared this invitation with us: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
Revelation chapter 21 tells us, among other things that heaven is where God will live with us in the place where He makes everything new. While He does life with us, He will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away. This new heaven and new earth might well be called our forever home away from home. While I strive to live in the present, I can’t help but long for a future that’s not only better than my favorite place in this world, but actually far more incredible than anything I can even begin to imagine.“
What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived—the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Troy Burns