Hope that changes everything

Martha was very much like us. Or maybe it’s the other way ‘round. We are so much like Martha. Her brother had died. The family had sent for Jesus, hoping, I’m sure, that Jesus would heal Lazarus as He had done for so many others.

But Jesus didn’t come.

And Lazarus died.

When Jesus did arrive, Martha and Jesus had a conversation.

“If you would have only been here…but I still believe God will give you whatever you ask.” (Hint, hint.)

“Your brother will rise again,” said Jesus.

Martha must have thought He was only trying to comfort her with the hope of something in the future.

“Yes, I believe we will all be resurrected someday,” declare Martha. For many generations, the people of Israel had believed in a future resurrection, a life after this earthly one.

But Jesus pushed it further.

“I am the resurrection and the life,” He said. “Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Do you believe me?”

I can imagine Martha giving Jesus a blank stare. Why would He doubt she believed there would be resurrection? She had always believed that. But what did He mean when He said He was the resurrection?

“Yes, yes, yes. I have always believed everything you say.”

And yet, when they visited the tomb together and Jesus asked for it to be opened, Martha protested. “The stink will be horrible.”

When Jesus replies to Martha’s protests, I hear Him saying to me, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see God’s glory?”

 

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Before the new body, resurrection must come. (Or maybe they come in the same instant. We’ll see, eventually.) Resurrection is a bringing back to life. It is not the spirit that is revived, but the body. Resurrection is a very physical thing.

I fear we have much in common with Martha. We say we believe in resurrection, but we talk much more about “eternal life” than we do about our bodies being raised from the dead and changed into immortal bodies…that is resurrection, just as Jesus was brought back from the dead and once again walked this earth in His body.

How can I believe that there will be a resurrection and dead bodies will come back to life?

Because Jesus said He will do it, and He said it is the will of God.

“And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:39-40)

Jesus came to make and be the way for people to have an eternal life. His sacrificial death made it possible.

But if the story ends with His sacrificial death, what hope is there for us?

The story didn’t end there.

In the book of John, we hear Jesus saying again and again that He came to give life. He said it straight out, without symbolism and parables. I imagine He wanted to make sure everyone heard it. He was the life-giving Bread from heaven. Anyone believing on Him would be eating of this Bread that gave endless life.

Yet…would you have understood and believed what He was saying?

Would I have believed this man when He claimed to have power to give me a life that lasts forever?

We know about death to all men. That’s what our experience knows.

But with Christ, a new thing began. Now our hope knows about resurrection.

Resurrection showed the power of God.
The power to make new.
The power to break the curse of death.

Death came into the world through one man, but the “resurrection from the dead has begun through another man” (1 Corinthians 15:21).

Resurrection sent the message: “This is a new day.”

It’s God’s plan. It’s the will of God. All who see his Son and believe in Him…will see the glory of God at work in their dead-but-raised-to-life bodies.

“All who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back” (1 Corinthians 15:23).

Ah…when He comes back.

He is, you know. Coming back.

Believe, and you’ll see the glory of God. In so many things. In your new body. And in our King, coming back to earth.

And if we believe Him, that hope changes everything, doesn’t it?

 

 

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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.)

Why is my body important to God?

There is another question I find myself asking: Why new bodies?

Yes, I understand if we are going to live forever, we need bodies that will not wear out, so we need something quite different than these bodies we now have…but …why do we need bodies at all? Why not just exist in the spiritual realm?

Over the centuries, I think the body has become a representation of the bad or evil. We speak of our bodies as prisons we will be happy to escape. Somehow, “flesh” and “the body” get blamed for too many of the sicknesses of our souls.

Is that it? Is it that we can attempt to hide the sickness of our souls, but the body is such an apparent, obvious thing that it becomes the easy scapegoat? The fact is that just as our bodies have been twisted and afflicted by sin, so too have our souls.

But our bodies were part of the total creation designed by God for us. It is the whole package He’s concerned about. He’s not just saving our souls—He’s making all of life new. He paid a price to rescue and redeem all of me…and that includes my body, part of His original design.

For God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

Think about Scriptural references to this tent we live in now.

Paul says to present our bodies to the Lord, as sacrifices that we give up and hand over to our God.
We’re to use our bodies do God’s work.
The bodies we have house the spiritual temple in which God lives and works in this world.
We are the representatives of Christ.
What we do with and in our bodies presents to the watching world the most obvious and apparent manifestation of the Holy Spirit at work in us.

That’s serious stuff. I’ve been under conviction lately—I need to change the way I treat my body and the way I care for it and how I use it.

God created a body even before He gave breath to the human race—and our bodies were meant to show His glory, like all the rest of creation. Earthly bodies have been living with a curse (like thorns and thistles in our lives), but we have many, many Scriptures that encourage us to use these bodies so that His glory can shine through us.

New bodies will be part of His new creation. And someday, my new body, free from the curse, will be…amazing.

 

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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.)

Will we know each other in heaven?

So…will we know each other in heaven? I asked the question yesterday, but somehow other thoughts took up the space of yesterday’s post. In everything, we see and know incompletely now, but I think we are given some indications of what to expect. Here are my musings.

I think many times Jesus’ teaching gives us a framework, a heavenview, if you will (compared to what we call worldviews here). While the main point of a teaching might have been something else, what He said is still grounded in heaven’s realities.

For example, take Matthew 8:11. The story is of a Roman officer who came to Jesus to ask for healing of a servant. Jesus was amazed at the man’s faith. He was not even a Jew! Then Jesus remarked to those following Him that there will be many Gentiles from all over the world who come to sit down and feast in heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Of course, this was surprising—shocking even—to hearers who were accustomed to thinking that it was children of Israel who were God’s special people. Now Jesus was saying—Gentiles will be sitting and eating with founders of their faith! That was Jesus’ point but I think that it also gives us a clue—we will know others. Not just our families and friends and contemporaries (in the earthly sense), but also people we’ve never met! (Yes, another exclamation mark. Amazing stuff.)

I’ve also been thinking about the scene on the mountain with Jesus, Peter, James, John—and two men who suddenly appear unannounced. The disciples recognize them as Elijah and Moses.

Now, think about this a moment. They didn’t have history books with photographs. How did they know what Moses and Elijah looked like? How did they identify these two men?

Did Jesus have to introduce them? “Hey, fellas, I’d like you to meet Elijah, and this is my old friend Moses.”

I doubt it. I think they just knew.

And just as they caught a glimpse of Jesus in His great glory—a glimpse into the eternal realm, with Jesus having a conversation with eternal beings—I think they were given a second or two of eternal sight and knowing. Scripture says we will know all things clearly. I think we will not only recognize people, but we’ll know them in a way far beyond our knowing today. You will know your best friend in an even deeper, more complete way than you do now. You will know Rahab, and Moses, and the thief that believed in Jesus as he hung on the cross beside Him.

This knowing even extends to our King. We looked at 1 John 3:2 before, and caught the promise that we would be like Jesus. What intrigues me is the last part of that verse: …we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.

No words now can express what that will be like.

To see Jesus as He really is.

No longer will there be any thought of “I don’t understand.” Absolutely no doubt will float about in our minds. And we will have minds able to grasp it all, to comprehend that love that Paul said is beyond our comprehension!

That total understanding and coming face to face with our Rescuer and our King will make us complete and like Him!

How will that be accomplished?

I don’t understand or know how… but what a thing to look forward to!

Oh my, so many exclamation marks today.

 

 

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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.)

“But we do know that we will be…”

Did you catch that one line in 1 Corinthians 15—That our bodies will be buried in brokenness, but will be raised in glory?

Glory. For you. For me. Can you see yourself there? It’s difficult for me to grasp. But it’s the hope on which I’m traveling ahead.

Included in this promise of new bodies is a promise even more amazing: We will be like Jesus.

Finally! This transformation that He has begun in us now will finally be complete with even a new body like His. And the glory He has planned for us …well, doesn’t that just astound and excite you?

After Jesus’ resurrection, He walked around in his body. When He appeared one of the first times to the disciples (in a locked room), they were so shocked that they thought they were seeing a ghost. But no, Jesus said, “It’s me. Touch me. Look at my hands and feet.”

His body still bore the scars.

It makes me wonder…how will what we do here, now, in this world, affect what we are in the next? Just wondering…

Whatever effect is there…it will be a glorious thing. Yes, even if we carry scars, they will be glorious. Changed from the awful, terrible, or painful things they once were to something glorious. (I’m just wandering and wondering, now. No Scripture to back that up, except for the “glorious” part.)

But the plan—the one God is still sticking to—is that His children will be given all the “full rights” to which His sons and daughters are entitled.

Entitled…to heavenly rights and privileges! You! Me!

That includes new bodies like Jesus’ new body after His resurrection. Will we walk on water? Walk through locked doors? I don’t know. Will raging storms on the sea and locked doors exist in the new world? (Oh…remember? He cooked fish for them all to eat, too, after His resurrection.)

But don’t let my superficial imaginings distract you.

Don’t miss this—the promise is that we are going to be like Jesus.

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. (Philippians 3:20-21)

This verse comes right after Paul’s warning about folks who were too focused on this earth, their conduct showed them as “enemies of the cross,” and they pursued only earthly satisfaction…they’re headed for destruction. But citizens of heaven are headed for something quite different.

Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

Paul and John both have their eyes on the eternal. They’re looking forward to all the new God has planned.

And if we’re doing that too, we’ll be preparing ourselves even now for a new world and new bodies.

 

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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 seed planted for the unimaginable

It is our natural tendency to wonder and want to know what’s ahead. What will our new bodies be like? Will I still have this same shape? Will you still have curly hair? Will we recognize each other? What “age” will we be? And what will these bodies be doing—working? playing? hugging and kissing? needing rest and food? Will the person whose body now craves running find that heaven has marathons? Will I be able to enjoy every food I want and not have to think about pounds and cholesterol?

Jesus talks about people feasting in His kingdom. In several of His parables, people recognize each other in the next life. Prophecies have many references to things we know now—things like farming and vineyards, productive work and travel and worship and governing leaders. Google it. You’ll find all sorts of opinions about what our bodies will be like.

Of course, all of the prophecies are presented in language we understand now and activities familiar to us now. Most of us interpret the “streets of gold” as a figurative description. And thus, even to talk about heavenly “bodies” carries so much of earthly description and implication that we are at a loss to imagine what our new bodies will be like.

That’s okay. Our puzzlement is quite Scriptural.

There is one thing that we know—the bodies we have now will be resurrected. Raised, to new capacities and existence. Not done away with, as so many folks might think. But brought into something so new we can’t imagine it.

It’s the season of pumpkins. At a pumpkin festival in October, one of the events was the official weigh-off of many huge pumpkins aspiring to be the champion. Folks plant a seed no bigger than a thumbnail, and that small sliver grows into something much bigger and very different. The winner this year exceeded all previous records—1727.5 pounds of orange pumpkin, almost the size of a VW Bug. Imagine that.

But if you had never seen a pumpkin before, even a small one, could you have imagined such a thing as you watched as a small seed was buried in the dirt?

Apostle Paul uses this analogy in 1 Corinthians 15 when he writes about our new, heavenly bodies. What we put in the ground at the end of this life is only “a bare seed” of what will be. And then, just as God brings giant pumpkins from thin disks of seed, He will give us the bodies He wants us to have.

How can we even imagine what those will be? We don’t have words or the capacity to grasp it.

These things we are promised, though:

Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. (verse 42)
Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. (verse 43)
They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. (verse 43)
They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. (verse 44)
We’re now earthly people… we will be heavenly people someday. (verse 49).

These physical bodies cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever (verse 50) and so “our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die.”

Suits me.

Even if I don’t know all the details.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be quite content and satisfied in my new body.

 

 

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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)

*

© 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.)