Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 27 November 2017

For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.  Hebrews 13, verse 14.

Do you struggle with the here and now as I do?   I remember from years ago a sermon presented by our pastor in west Colorado Springs.   It was about heaven being our real home, how we are really just transient citizens on this fallen earth.   You know the details:   this world will end and Christ will return to judge the living and the dead, then usher in a new heaven and a new earth.   “No matter what is happening here, don’t lose heart.  Heaven is our real home” said this pastor.  We shouldn’t get too wrapped around the axle about holding on to this place because we’re actually citizens of another, better place.

But what about now?

Here and now is all I know.   Like so many people, I have déjà vu moments that seem like fleeting glimpses of something else.   Sometimes I wonder if they aren’t “soul memories” of where I was before I was born.   I know:   crazy stuff.   Or is it?   A learned, educated, rational Lutheran pastor insisted (as millions of others do) that I, as a believer in Jesus, am actually a citizen of a multi-dimensional existence that is a reality outside of what we know as time and space.   Trusting that I will spend eternity there with a Savior who I’ve never met in person is a bedrock of my faith.   It keeps me going sometimes because, as they say in the church I now attend “eternity matters most.”   To an unchurched mind, THAT is crazy stuff.   Here and now is the known.  So what about now?

You see, I get it.   The pastor was correct.  I get that Jesus has a place ready for me in heaven.   Whatever heaven is, wherever heaven is, I’ll be going there when my time here on the Third Rock is done.   I really, truly do trust that this earthly home – the only home I know – isn’t a permanent place, that my permanent residence is a place I haven’t yet seen, or that I remember so deeply from so long ago that I can’t recall the memories and can’t tell you what it looks, smells, and feels like to be there.  I get it.

And that’s good.   It really is.  But while it’s a focus, that’s the forest.   Today is built with trees.  Here and now is where I’m a front line soldier in the army of the Living God.  I know I have a place in His ranks someday in heaven, but for know I also know that I’m on the lines here on terra firma.   That most of the world doesn’t believe in this Jesus.   That much of the world believes in a host of terrestrial ghosts, or the manufactured demonics of Islam, or, worse, in nothing at all.  Here I’m armed with Christ’s command to love as He loves, to tell others about Him, and to use what time, talents & treasures He has given me to do my best in my various callings.  Here I’m fighting on His front line every day, defying the prince of this world, sometimes minute by minute, so that people won’t look at me and be led astray from Jesus.   I’m glad that heaven is my home, and I’m glad that I’m not part of this un-permanent settlement in the land east of Eden.

But east of Eden is all I really know and it’s more than a Steinbeck novel   Jesus calls me to remember that I’m a part of His eternity now, but that, for now, my role before eternity is here.   To do His bidding here; to do His work at hand.  And I struggle with that, struggle to keep my eyes on the ball, to follow His commands, to lay down my hypocritical judgments, to turn aside from my petty thinking and small ways.   East of Eden is all I know, yet I also know Jesus walks with me here.

For further reading:  Hebrews 12:27, Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 11:10.

Lord Jesus, I live in the land of Canaan, and I struggle here.   I pray, encourage me, walk with me, and strengthen me to fight Your good fight today.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 8 August 2017

If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.  Hebrews 11, verses 15-16.

More thoughts on the idea of longing for a country.

As we talked about, the country we long for is indeed with God.   I go back and forth with the idea that “heaven is our home.”   That’s great talk, but what about now?   Here and now, people die.   Here and now, it’s tough to pay the bills.   Here and now is all we truly know about.  I’m all for heaven but what can help me here and now?

Don’t mind me:  as my grandpa might have said, ‘it’s just piss and wind.’  What can help me here and now is quite apparent.   His name is Jesus, and He is the Son of the Three in One Godhead.  His perfect sacrifice made it possible for me to stand in front of my perfect Father and say “forgive me, Father, because I’ve really messed things up.”   Because of Jesus, I know my Father will pick me up and embrace me and tell me “I’m so glad to see you again, Dave.   I love you.”   I know all this because the Spirit Jesus and His Father share teaches it to me.   He has all my life, even in the doubting times.   In the days when I’ve wanted to give in, His Spirit said “one more time.”   In the times I’ve wandered, He has said “follow Me.”   What can help us here and now?   You know.

So what will the city look like?   Beats me.   None of us knows.   All we know is that we’ll see Jesus there in full and we’ll be both known and knowing.  It’ll be beautiful and it’ll be forever.   Personally, I’m hoping for a farm on a cool spring morning, with smells of the earth and growing and life.   I’m hoping there will be fishing in the sun, hot coffee in the sunrise, and fellowship with the loved ones (which will mean everyone).

I hope for those things because some of those things are memories I have from the here and now.  Walking barefoot in loamy black soil and tending good things as they grow.  Of fishing with my pals in the mountains, or with my boys way north in Minnesota, or with my Dad and Grandpa on those same lakes.   I think of mugs of hot coffee with my Hunnie during our morning devotions, or the taste of good coffee from a cool morning campfire pot.   I think about times with my family, and friends I’ve known for decades, and of basking in the love of togetherness.  Good scotch on the rocks, all the dogs I’ve ever owned, waking up to the smell of biscuits and butter, and warm summer nights under a blanket of lush stars.   These are things that warm my visions of heaven, of the country I long for still.  How about you?

Intertwined in all of them, participating in every scene, and holding all these visions together is my friend and Savior, Jesus.   He’ll be there to talk with, and learn from, to listen, to love.  And I’ll get to praise Him with my words and songs and moments.    All my life I have wandered, sometimes wandering very far from where I should have been.   Yet in all those moments, I always hoped for more, hoped for something better than where I found myself.  If that had been my only hope, then I would have gotten what I wanted (and found it eternally lacking).   No, even when I feel I’ve let my God down, He’s never let me down.   Through it all, He’s always brought me back and kept me looking forward, looking forward to that undiscovered country where He lives.

I don’t know where that city is, but I know I’m on the road that leads there.   You and I, we weren’t made for imperfection.  We were made to live in full harmony with God in His heaven.   In that respect, heaven is indeed our home, or it will be.   Until then, we wander here.

For further reading:  Genesis 24:6-8, 2 Timothy 4:18, Mark 8:38, Genesis 26:24, Exodus 3:6-15, Hebrews 13:14.

Lord, I long to be home with You.   Until You call me there, wander with me.

Daily Proverbial, from Ruth, 19 February 2014

So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.  Ruth 1, verse 22.

When we return home, we rarely do so empty-handed.  Yes, there are many times when folks move into back into our lives, or our homes, seemingly with nothing in hand.   Have you ever had one of your children move out, only to move back into your house later?  My wife and I have; it has happened several times in fact.   On the surface, you could say the person who returns comes back with less than they left, but that simply wouldn’t be true.   Even if the only thing they return with is memories and knowledge, they return with more than they left.

That’s an important concept to remember for several reasons.   Most obviously, it was true with Naomi.   Yes, she returned home without her husband and sons, but she did have Ruth.   As we are learning, that means she returned with a treasure.  Yet the larger picture, I believe, is that we always return with God.  It is God who provides us with experience, knowledge, wisdom, mistakes, memories, hopes, wishes, challenges, and all that we return with even when we return without physical possessions.

In one sense, we can never ‘go home.’  The first time you return to your birth-home, or the place from where you departed when you started life on your own, you realize that things have changed while you’re gone.   That’s the nature of things, and it’s a blessing of living in a world of God’s motion.  Yet in the larger sense, wherever we are, when we journey with Jesus, we are always home.   When we return to where we started, we’re bringing back the richness of all He has taught us in the intervening time.  And Him.

This week, I spent a day with my father-in-law at my parents’ home in Oklahoma.   We were getting things out of the house because my mom has moved into assisted living; we’re readying the house for sale.   As I was walking through the place, in-between asking myself “how am I ever going to get this ready” I realized again that, once we leave, we can never really go home because home is wherever we make it.   Home is wherever Jesus is because that’s where love is.   The longer I live, the more I see that home is anywhere we share that love, especially when it is with family.    That God provides for us at the proper time wherever we are and wherever we go.  In the verses to come, this is a truism that Naomi is about to learn.

Jesus of home, You are my home.   Wherever You are is where I am at home.   Thank you for providing me with family, a place to live, and memories.   Guide us now in these days up ahead.

Read Ruth 1, the whole chapter one last time.

 

How did you feel the first time you returned home after moving out?

Have you ever returned home feeling bitter?

What do you bring with you when you go back home?