Home Sweet Home

I’ve been doing some much needed fixing up around the house lately and can be seen from time to time vanishing upstairs with a chisel in one hand and a paint brush in the other. The look of fear on Belinda and Bethany’s faces when this happens is matched only by their groans at the thought of the clearing up they have to face when I’m done; and I have notice too that Belinda will check our house insurance documents to make sure the premiums are paid up and that we’re properly covered for any damage that might result. I have always thought this a bit unfair of her, but then I do concede that there was that little hiccup with the blow torch and a downstairs carpet a couple of years ago. (Don’t ask!) But it doesn’t change the fact that I can be a useful old sausage here and there, and such am I currently being!

My limited practical skills are put to the test all the more though given that the house we live in is a bit….now how can I put this…a bit…higgledy-piggledy! It’s a council house, you see (that’s ‘government rental’ to my American friends), and was therefore constructed for practicality as opposed to any aesthetic considerations. Although we have lived here for nearly twenty years we have yet to find a proper right-angle where the walls and ceilings meet. None of the walls are actually flat and the doors don’t hang properly because the frames and lintels aren’t accurately parallel with each other. It’s all a bit of a challenge really, but although the thought of living in a better built abode one day is tantalising, this is still our home and we are nevertheless very happy in it. It is truly our home sweet home, notwithstanding the practical challenges entailed regarding ongoing maintenance.

And this is, I think, a nice little illustration of the relationship between our lives with the Lord down here and what awaits us after death. Although knowing and trusting the Lord brings us great contentment and peace, life is definitely, like our home, on the higgledy-piggledy side. Nothing fits quite as it should (sin will always cause disjointedness), and some bits, like our front door that has a gap at the bottom where the north wind pours in throughout the winter, are just downright disastrous. It’s good, yes! Even great sometimes! But man, it could be so much better! And of course the good news is that although there are no guarantees that Belinda, Bethany and I will ever live in a house with right-angles, flat walls, fully vertical doors and horizontal ceilings – oh yes, and a front door that shuts properly – we nonetheless know that, because we know the Lord, we are guaranteed that something infinitely better, in every way, awaits us after death.

The contrast for the believer between life here and life after death is the difference between living in some hovel with a roof that doesn’t even keep the rain off your head, and moving into a specially built palace on the most beautiful beach in the world in which every room has been designed, and then exquisitely crafted, just for you and for your complete personal satisfaction. There will, of course, be a 65″ 4K HDR TV in the man-cave to watch Star Trek re-runs on, and an entire rail network of full-size trains to play with and drive in the quarter of a million acre back yard

Of course, such an illustration doesn’t even begin to do justice to what I am trying to say because it’s limited entirely to material considerations, but it’s a start. Indeed, Jesus spoke promisingly of our eternal homes with Him the other side of death, so He obviously thinks the comparison is a good one too! I am therefore buoyed at having written this!

Do pray for Belinda and Bethany though. I’ve still got stuff to do and they look so worried when they see me with a blow torch in one hand, a box of matches in the other, a bow-saw between my teeth and a look of grim determination on my twitching face. But all will be well. Not necessarily because of the improvements I am making – well, I think they’re improvements – but because one day we will be with the Lord in the utter perfection of righteousness; and therefore of complete happiness and contentment. Even Star Trek and trains will fade into inconsequential oblivion in comparison!

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Heaven…quite literally!

I have long been perplexed by the fact that just about everyone, Christians included, spell Heaven with a small h. Heaven is, if I am not very much mistaken, a place, and places, if I am not even more mistaken, are proper nouns which should always be capitalised. This fact can’t just be put down to the fact that most people don’t believe that Heaven is a real place because most people don’t believe in such places Asgard, Valhalla or Narnia either, yet such are nevertheless always capitalised. No, the presumption of a place being fictitious doesn’t change the fact that it should be still be spelt with a capital letter. Whether it be Thomas More’s Erewhon, Dylan Thomas’ Llaregub or Gene Roddenberry’s Vulcan, places, whether believed to be real or fictitious, are always started with a capital letter. So why not Heaven? And especially, why don’t Christians capitalise it?

At least most people get Paradise right, even though it’s only a part of Heaven, much as London is only a part of England. So wouldn’t it be strange if I were to capitalise London, yet spelt England with a small e? What on earth is going on?

Well, I actually have no idea, this adding to the sheer extent of my perplexity. So all I can do is put forward a tentative theory, and it is this: What if it’s part of a ploy by the enemy to minimise the reality of Heaven in people’s minds by reducing it more to a state of being than an actual place? I talk a lot about the Early Church Fathers in my teaching because their thinking has had a monumental effect on the Christian faith over two millennia, partly good, but partly too a complete disaster. And one of the more disastrous aspects was the influence they laboured under from Greek thinking and philosophy which understood the physical material universe as being inherently evil. This led, quite logically, to the idea that anything really spiritual must also be non-physical, hence the traditional Christian art that depicts Heaven as comprising non-corporeal-type beings floating around on clouds. To the modern mind such a notion quickly translates into the idea of an almost metaphorical spiritual state of being as opposed to an actual place. So what does the Bible say?

It is simply not possible for us to get our minds around the idea, in any significant way, of there being something outside of the Universe, but that is precisely what we are dealing with when we speak of Heaven. The Lord has lived there throughout eternity, the angelic realm having come into being and living there too before the creation of the actual Universe. So Heaven, this place God calls His home (it even has a garden), is therefore somewhere completely other than in the cosmos in which the rest of God’s creation exists. What we can, or at least vaguely, get our heads round though is that just as Jesus got a resurrection body which, although physical (he ate and drank in it), was so much more than that, being a vessel perfectly fitted for a human being to be able exist in God’s home outside of the Universe, so too will we, as God’s people, eventually get the same type of body. But there is just so much more!

Not only will we one day be physical beyond our comprehension, but the Lord is actually going to create a completely new Universe made from the same ‘stuff’ as Jesus’ resurrection body (I call it ‘miracle matter’), and Heaven is going to actually enter that Universe and land on the newly created Planet Earth, the Lord thus making His home with us as promised in His Word.

Let’s get this straight once and for all. Heaven is a literal place outside of this literal Universe, and should therefore, as a place, be capitalised when written. Jesus is literally God become a man, and He was literally raised from the dead in a literal physical ‘miracle matter’ body, being now literally back in the literal place outside the Universe called Heaven. Believers literally join Him there when they die; and folk who don’t believe such to be literally true, and who just laugh and scoff, are in for a terrible shock when they discover, when they die, that Hades and the Lake of Fire are literal places too!

What a wonderful salvation and eternity Jesus has won for us, and for any who will yet humble themselves, repent of their sins and simply receive it as a free gift from Him. I am literally cock-a-hoop about the whole literal thing!

Home Sweet Home

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The travelling we do as a family is extensive, and, although a great privilege and blessing, the trips are long, somewhat arduous, and quite exhausting. They always end with long haul flights which, as anyone who does them a lot knows, are about as much fun as having your toenails pulled out. But what keeps us going at that point is one simple, and utterly delightful, fact: We’re going home! Man, we’re going home!

And just like our trips, life in this world, though comprising of great joy, and the most wonderful sense of purpose in the Lord, can be exhausting, arduous, debilitating and often heartbreaking. A fallen world is never going to be a truly fun thing, and serving the Lord, having our sinfulness dealt with, plus being opposed left, right and centre by the evil one, makes it decidedly all the harder. But what keeps us on track as the Lord’s people, and what makes it all worthwhile, is the sure and certain knowledge that, the whole time, we are actually on our way home, and that we will eventually, for a surety, most definitely get there.

Home, where rest follows labour and peace follows turmoil. Where security reigns and the vagaries and, at times, even dangers, of travel give way to the calm safety of the delight of just being at home with one’s family. Where difficulty and trial give way to freedom, fun and delight.

For Belinda, Bethany and I there is nothing quite like coming home. That we are together on our travels is everything to us and is the reason why I can accept invitations to serve the Lord’s people in such far flung places the way I do; but it doesn’t, and cannot, compare to us actually getting home once our task is accomplished. And so it is with our home in Heaven with the Lord. We will get there, and it will be everything we could possibly ever imagine – and far more! More rest, more peace, more love, more security, more freedom, more fun and joy than we could ever begin to even conceive! The whole family of God together at last, but together at last with Him!

I have, as some of you will know from my battle with cancer, faced death and looked it squarely in the eye, and although it is obviously a bit of a bummer that it usually means leaving loved ones behind (though I always knew that Belinda and Bethany would join me later), I can nevertheless confirm that there is truly is no sting to it, given what – or, rather, Who – awaits us beyond it!

So be brave, Christian friend!  Be brave and keep going! Be diligent and unstoppable in serving the Lord, battling against sin and living godly in Christ Jesus! Keep resisting the devil and his wiles and keep being the light of the Lord in this dark, dreadful, beautiful, evil and wicked world! You are headed home! You are going to get there! You are going to be so very happy and have not yet the slightest clue just how incredible, wonderful and amazing it is going to be! You will be with Jesus! You will be without sin! You will, indeed, be home at last!