People of Hebrews 11

The people of Hebrews 11 had a taste, a glimpse of what God has planned. Abraham, who lived constantly on the move because God said, “Move!” never knew quite where he was going. He never put down roots and called one place “home.” Yet he was “confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.”

Sarah “believed that God would keep his promise” even though all of “reality” said that what was promised was impossible.

Moses kept right on marching out of Egypt toward…where? He didn’t know. All he knew was that God had promised … and Moses was following.

Everyone mentioned in that famous chapter lived on this earth as a foreigner. Their lives were not dictated or limited by this world; they lived as though they were already in the new world and kingdom God has planned for His people.

We aren’t so famous. (Well, you might be. But I’m not.) But we live in the same way. Having caught glimpses, we’re looking forward to what God has planned and prepared for His children. We believe God will keep His promises. Our lives belong to a different kingdom, not this world.

These words first came from the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, who also gave us God’s message about a new earth and heavens. They are repeated by Paul as he wrote about God’s plan unfolding —

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared for those who love him.”
(1 Corinthians 2:9)

And the Spirit repeats them now in our  souls, as we keep right on going, with our eyes on the eternal.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

The freedom this hope offers

Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away. (1 Corinthians 7:30-31)

This thought comes after a long discourse on marriage and singleness. The apostle Paul wrote that even this important aspect of life—marriage and family—should not absorb us and restrict our sights to an earthly level.

Think about that word “absorbed” — swallowed up, wrapped up, taken in, consumed.

Of course, Paul is not saying that taking care of your family is unimportant.

But he is saying that nothing in this world should have such a strong grip on you that it blocks your view of where you’re headed. No, not even family.

What is it in my life that swallows me up or consumes me? What has such a hold on my days and my energies that it blocks my view of the new world coming?

Whether there is great grief in your life or wonderful joys or many possessions or pursuits, do not hold onto any of these things too tightly—or let them hold you. Because it will all soon be gone. 

I think of Moses, who went right on moving ahead with God’s plan in spite of what was happening around him—because He kept His eyes on the one who is eternal and on what the Eternal One was doing. Moses and God had quite an adventure together. (He was married and had a family, too.)

I think of Paul’s accounts of how much he had suffered in his missionary life, and yet he said it was all nothing—it was “light and momentary”—compared to what’s ahead and waiting for us.

I think of Jesus, who submitted to the agony and humiliation of beatings and a shameful death because of the joy of what He knew His mission would accomplish for all of us in the eternal realm. (He must really love us.)

I think about the rich young man who wanted so very much to be assured that he could have eternal life…yet he turned away, sad. Because there was something he couldn’t let go of…

And I think about us, running our races, but sometimes weighed down because we insist on holding on so tightly to things that will soon be gone, passed away, over and done with…

What am I holding too tightly today? Or what is it that is holding me?

If it’s of this earth, it will soon be gone.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Wondering about the new world…

What do we know about the new earth, freed? Will the trees dance with us? Will we understand the words of the birds’ songs? Will we join in worship with flowers and butterflies and the wind and rain? Will we talk with beloved pets? (Okay, I know many people do that now…but in a new way?)

What will a creation free from decay and death look like? I don’t know. We have very few hints in Scripture. I’m pretty sure it will be something new and beyond anything we can dream up now.

And it’s even beyond what we can describe now. My questions about trees and birds are couched in what we know now. What is coming—well, that is something we have never known. Even if we saw it clearly, we would have no words for it because we’ve never experienced it before.

Still, God in His love and mercies, has given us some glimpses. A taste. We are given many Scriptures about what life in this new world will be like. And He presents the picture in terms of what we know now.

Read Isaiah 65 and 66. Isaiah was given a vision of that new world coming someday, a world where God’s people flourish and enjoy “a river of peace and prosperity.” They enjoy rewards of their “hard-won gain.” Children no longer die young; full lives are not cut short by untimely deaths. God provides for His people’s needs before they even ask Him. Jerusalem sees an end to her mourning and is restored as the holy city of God, given honor and glory. God’s anger punishes His enemies, and…don’t you love this?… “The snakes will eat dust”!

Peter sums it up when he says the new heaven and earth will be one world filled with God’s righteousness. (2 Peter 3:13)

John’s vision also saw heaven and earth joined together, one place where God dwells with and is worshipped by His people. A place where the river of life flows freely and the tree of life offers healing and there is no more death or tears or sorrow or pain. And there will no longer be a curse on anything. (See Revelation 21 and 22)

But, as we are told, this will all be something new. So new, in fact, that we can’t grasp it or have words that will truly describe it at this time. And, frankly, when we try to do that and give this new thing that God is doing a description and definition in our current language and comprehension, we get pulled into debates—sometimes such strong disagreements that we forget Christ’s one, new commandment to His disciples.

These lines are from Isaiah 65. There, Isaiah passes on God’s message to all generations, a view to the future that was given even before Christ came to earth. And God said:

“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation!” (65:16-17)

God is creating. The story of creation is not done. Far from finished! That’s one of the things that is so exciting as we read God’s history Book.

Be glad! Look at what He’s doing!
We already have this new life that lives in eternal realms.
Someday we’ll see and understand and be able to describe the new world He’s planned.

For now, be glad and rejoice in His creation—now and in the world to come.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Waiting for the new earth…

The best time to walk is early morning. Just as a new day is born, before the world—and my mind and soul—are cluttered with the day’s traffic and smudged and torn. When the world, for just seconds, seems to hold its breath, wondering at the new day. When all seems fresh, new, unspoiled and almost perfect, and there is so much glory that no camera or brush can convey it.

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It’s an illusion, of course. This world—and my mind and soul—are quite smudged and torn.

Any picture we have of “perfection” in this world is far from perfect.

Our souls know that. Like all of creation, which Scripture says groans under the curse put on it because of man’s rebellion against God, we are waiting and looking forward to something, yes, something perfect. 

I don’t understand the breadth of that word curse, but I see the results in everything. Horrible evils in this world scream at us and break our hearts. And even in those things in which we take the most joy and satisfaction, we are still aware of imperfection and incompleteness.

Yes, all of God’s creation is quite smudged and torn.

Actually, it’s much more serious than smudged and torn. Romans 8 names it: death and decay. 

Nothing in this world escapes death and decay.

We know it. We feel it. And we long for cleansing and healing and wholeness. C.S. Lewis wrote that this was some collective memory and longing for Eden and a perfect relationship with God. I wonder, though, if perhaps it is a longing planted in us by the Spirit when we’re given a new life, living in spiritual realms—a longing that gives us a bit of homesickness and makes us look forward to God’s new heaven and earth.

And in answer to our longing, God’s Word assures us—it’s coming! An entirely new creation, bursting with the freedom of perfection!

A creation, free of every hint of death and decay.

There are many Scriptures that promise this. Some of them are old, old prophecies that came even before Jesus’ time on earth. I’m sure those prophets, as they passed on God’s message to His people, really did wonder how God was going to accomplish all of this. We wonder, too, but I believe we’ve seen some things those prophets had only an inkling of—the power of resurrection, for one thing. And the establishment of God’s new covenant, for another …. but I’m going off on another trail…

The old earth will be destroyed. The new one will be healed, perfect, complete. There are many Scriptures that promise this, but one that speaks great comfort and expectation to me is found in a conversation Jesus had with His disciples. The subject wasn’t really a new creation; they were wondering…just wonderin’, Jesus, what reward will there be for us? We’ve left everything of our old life behind to join up with you…and we’re just wondering…what will we get in return?

Yes, they actually voiced that question to Jesus.

And in His response I find this exciting remark:

“I assure you that when the world is made new and I’m sitting on my glorious throne …” (see Matthew 19:27-30)

That’s not the main point of His answer, but He said it, just as casually as I say, “When I go to Dover tomorrow….”

He said it because it will happen. God has assured us that whatever He plans will come to pass.

This is a hope we hold onto: When Christ sits on His throne, His people will be living on a new earth. (See Revelation 21:1, 5)

I believe Him.

I’m looking forward to the day when the blazing glory of the world around me doesn’t slip away in seconds and is never marred by what we’ve done.

Every morning, the world pauses for a millisecond, poised at the edge of a new day…sometimes, you can feel the expectation…and it wonders, Will this be the day?

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

God of Renewal

I’d never read the Bible through chronologically and in a condensed period of time (as you would read any other book) until two years ago. Now I’ve done it twice, and it’s changed my relationship to the Word of God in so many ways—one of which was totally unexpected.

I always dreaded history classes. Except for the two in high school that I enjoyed simply because I enjoyed the teacher. Other than those two classes, history was tedious and a chore. Traveling, I had little interest in historical spots. Drive on by, please.

Then I read the Bible. Through. Beginning to End. Alpha to Omega.

It changed my attitude toward history.

Because the Word lays out our history in the context of heaven’s influence and plan. It sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it, to say that reading the Bible gave me a new and exciting perspective on history?

It did. It does.

And in the history of God’s people and the world in general, you can’t miss that God is a God who makes all things new.

Look at all the words in Scripture that point to this work of God. He redeems. He restores. He renews. Re-creates. Cleanses. Purifies. Washes.

He makes new.

I’d somehow “lost” the Bible app on my phone…one that gave me a verse each day. It’s been “gone” for several weeks. I retrieved it this morning, and the verse that came up?

Come, let us sing to the LORD!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise to him. (Psalm 95:1-2)

That echoes my feeling as I think about our God, who makes everything new. He did not turn His back on us as a lost cause. He is working in us, creating us anew. He’s given us new life. He’s turned wildernesses into gardens, and deserts into oases. He brings dry bones to life.

He is the one who brings our salvation (rescue).

He created His beautiful world. He put mankind here to tend the creation. Humans decided, however, they’d rather go their own way.

Did He wipe us out? No. Did He turn His back and say, “Forget them” ? Nope.

Instead, He makes things new. He’s been promising it and doing it since Genesis. At this very moment, I’m sure there are some of His children confessing sin … and He will cleanse them. He’ll continue renewing, redeeming, cleansing, purifying—until, at the end of this earth’s life, the One on the throne will make everything new.

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 21:5-6)

And I have to add the rest of the verse. It doesn’t pertain to making all things new, but…it’s all just so wonderful and hopeful.

“To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.” (verses 6-7)

Sing to our Lord, the One who does not abandon us but rescues and makes everything new.

 

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)