Few Christians realize that the ten commandments stridently address some pressing problems of our generation: massive inequality of wealth, growing refugee populations, rampant consumerism and more. In their original context the ten commandments were a platform for justice, and they are a platform for justice today. For our generation, recovering the ten commandments will equip the church to live gratefully, generously and prophetically.
I am sitting at a picnic table on Stephen’s Cresc in Guilderton, WA, looking over the Moore River.
It has taken me 90 mins to drive here, and before I do any of the things I have in mind for today, I just want to sit and listen in the quiet.
The descending call of a Whistling Kite, the gentle cooing of some Spotted Doves, interrupted by angry staccato bursts of some unidentified Honeyeaters.
Across the small waterway – just another little inlet on the Moore River estuary, a couple of men engage in animated conversation. I can’t tell what they’re saying. It doesn’t matter. Seven kayaks ply their way across the inlet.
A pair of ringnecks burst past in a flash of fluoro green and yellow. A Red Wattle Bird calls. A congregation of White Tailed Black Cockatoos scriyaws their morning choir practise, while a Wedge Tailed Eagle slides in large lazy circles, magnificently indifferent to smaller birds’ attempts to pester him out of their territory.
The sun is on my neck.
The wind is at my back. It blows away the business of recent weeks.
God is close. His world is beautiful.
Our Church Council is working through Greg Ogden’s Leadership Essentials, and recently I was challenged to reinstate monthly prayer and process retreat days. This is the first of those days for a long time.
As we walked around the bottle shop at The Blue Cattle Dog, he asked, “if you knew Jesus was coming again wouldn’t you want to buy a bottle of Penfolds Grange just to see what it was like?”
I thought for a few seconds, and said ‘No mate, I probably would not. I think the wine in the new heavens and the new earth is going to be way better that anything that Penfolds – or anyone else – can offer.”
He looked puzzled. “Why would we have wine in heaven?”
“Well, why wouldn’t we?” I responded. “What makes you think there won’t be great wine in heaven? And food better than anything we can imagine?”
This seemed to confuse him even more. He said he knew we would still have bodies, but wondered whether they would be the kind that will have need for food or drink, or any other kind of sustenance.
Will we eat in heaven? Live in homes? … Will there be a structured society? Or will it be a case of some kind of bodied existence will little or no relation to the world around us?
And then I started wondering about this little exchange, and why I thought an eternal physical reality, with joys like eating and drinking was such an obvious thing to expect, and why he thought it was so abnormal…
What do you think? Will we eat in heaven? Live in homes? Walk in national parks? Or grow vegetables in the backyard? Will there be a structured society? Or will it be a case of some kind of bodied existence will little or no relation to the world around us?
These are not just academic questions, the answers to which we’ll only know when Christ returns. My belief is that the picture you have of where you have come from (Eden) and the picture you have of where you’re going (eternity) will determine the shape of your spirituality and your mission in the present.
So, the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that my friend would probably have most of the Christians in Australia on his side, and that maybe I was a minority.
How you see where you have come from (Eden) and where you’re going (eternity) will determine the shape of your spirituality and your mission in the present.
After all, haven’t we always been told that the heaven is a spiritual place? And doesn’t that mean there will be nothing physical or material there? Isn’t it true that this earth will pass away, and be burned up and there’ll be nothing left of it?
This is the tension I want to wrestle with. In future posts I want to draw on some of the biblical themes relevant to these questions.
For now, why not let me know what your thoughts are?
Grace and peace,
A middle aged man grieves the loss of his father. Confused and confronted by some family reactions, he prays for peace among his siblings so they can honour their father’s life.
Two young people are prepare to marry. Their ‘right now’ a juggle of plans for a wedding breakfast, settling a guest list, a honeymoon, and their day to day lives.
A middle aged man sits in the morning traffic, mind blank with the yawning sameness of his daily commute. His mind flickers between being free from the grind, the financial reality of a mortgage, the boss’s expectations, and uncomfortable relational realities at home.
A young woman plans a community event, desktop stacked with schedules, memos, invoices. Under pressure. Phone rings. Plans change. Again.
Another walks home, weary from an early start. Thinks about her lack of love, and ponders shallow friendships. She doesn’t like to think about it, or where her life is headed. Or whether.
Some people say that God is only with us when we’re doing the right thing, when our lives are heading in the right direction, when we’re honouring him with right living and acceptable behaviour.
Others will say that God is really only present when were doing spiritual stuff. When we in ‘quiet time’. We read our Bible regularly, we use the right version, we pray in a humble spirit, we worship in spirit and truth, witness regularly.
Ask them, and they won’t have an answer for the people in the grind of life, except that faith is probably not strong enough, and that it’s no surprise they are doing it so tough.
The God of grace is not impressed with the musings of the comfortable, who believe their responses somehow make him present. Scripture reveals a God who is present and who is there, whatever is happening.
When the people of Israel gathered on the promised land’s fenceline, the Lord reminded them that if they were faithful to him they would be blessed in the field. He would protect them fro the enemy. Their sons and daughters would be strong, healthy. Their harvests plentiful.
Best of all: The Lord will dwell with them. He would be with them. He would be their God, and they would be his people.
Scripture reveals a God who is present and who is there, whatever is happening.
Later, when the Lord points out the implications of any future disobedience – and they are awful, horrible things – he never says ‘and I will not be with you, I will forsake you and leave you alone forever.’ Whatever happens, and whatever path his people would tread, whether faithful or rebellious, God would still be with them. Yes, he would despise their behaviour and hate its outcomes. But he would still be with them because of his covenant. His promise to be their God would never fail, because he is faithful, even when they were faithless.
Whatever is happening in your life today: whether it brings a cheer, or whether you are overcome with pain and grief, God is with you.
He knows your life is broken. And he gently whispers that his plan is to heal, and mend, and make right. He is with you. Trust him.
Three men shared death upon a hill,
But only one man dies;
The other two—
A thief and God himself—
Three crosses still
Are borne up Calvary’s Hill,
Where Sin still lifts them high:
Upon the one, sag broken men
Who, cursing, die;
Another upholds the praying thief,
Or those who penitent as he,
Shall find the Christ
Beside them on the tree
“Upon A Hill”, Miriam LeFevre Crouse
On May 20, 2012, 18 year-old Takunda Mavima was driving home drunk from a party when he lost control and crashed his car into an off-ramp near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Riding in the car were 17 year-old, Tim See, and 15 year-old, Krysta Howell. Both were killed in the accident.
Takunda Mavima lived.
Mavima pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to between 30 months and 15 years in prison.
Despite their unimaginable grief and anger, both the sister and the father of victim, Tim See, gave a moving address to the court on behalf of Mavima, urging the judge to give him a light sentence.
“I am begging you to let Takunda Mavima make something of himself in the real world — don’t send him to prison and get hard and bitter, that boy has learned his lesson a thousand times over and he’ll never make the same mistake again.”
And when the hearing ended, the victim’s family made their way across the courtroom to embrace, console, and publicly forgive Mavima.
Make sure this image sticks with you forever:
Photo Credit, Chris Clark, Grand Rapids Press.
There will be a time in your life when someone will wrong you. God forbid they take the life of your child. But it will happen. And what matters most isn’t how it happened, but how you respond to it.
And if you’re a person of faith, the calling is even greater. The gospel of forgiveness isn’t a high calling for the heroic individual, or a counter-cultural description of heavenly perfection. It is a principle central to the gospel itself – the very heart of our faith in which we are called to embody.
In the swelling sea of human destruction, the little story of Takunda Mavima and a family from Michigan is a lighthouse on a hill, a beacon of hope, guiding the way for all our ships to pass through.
Right now, how can you prepare yourself with a clear plan of action to forgive in the darkest of times?
You’ve probably heard it, and maybe you’ve even said it: “time heals all wounds”. Plenty of people have said it to me over the last couple of years. I guess they are saying that if you just leave something, the pain will eventually subside. Soldier on. Life goes on. People move on. Or whatever.
Maybe Lennon and McCartney were right. Sometimes, the best way to deal with a tough situation is to just let it be. Sometimes some of the hurts we carry just need to be left. It’s best for us. It’s best for others. In reality, there are some things that come our way that are not worth responding to. Laugh them off. Let ‘em go through to the keeper. Forget about it.
I heard once about a conference speaker who had people throw balls to them while they were speaking. That was interesting enough. But what really caught my attention was that the speaker did nothing to catch the balls. They just bounced off, and rolled along the stage, out of sight. From from time to time, though, the speaker did catch one of the balls, and then used that occasion to speak specifically about a situation that had troubled them or hurt them. Meanwhile, other balls were thrown, and they continued to bounce off, and roll across the floor.
when things are thrown at you sometimes the best thing to do is to let it go
The speaker was making the point that she did not have to respond to everything that was thrown at her, and that she was quite intentional about what she would respond to, and when. Great lesson. And a reminder that when things are thrown at you sometimes the best thing to do is to let it go.
But there’s a part of “time heals all wounds” that bothers me, and which ultimately works against what God would have us do with our pain. While there are occasions where it’s best to let it go, there are other occasions where we should never let it go. A serious disagreement between two people? You should not let it go. A heated argument between a husband and wife? You should not just let it go. Growing resentment in a relationship? You should not just let that go.
Over the years there have been too many times when I have heard people say ‘time heals all wounds’ as an excuse not to do the very thing they needed to do. Then, ‘time heals all wounds’ was just a convenient and sometimes cowardly way to live in denial.
In a moment of anger a stressed husband makes a cutting remark to his wife, and she is hurt. The husband might think, “Well, I’ll just let it go. She’ll be OK in the morning, and she doesn’t understand the pressure I am under anyway.” The night passes, and in the morning he’s just pushing through but she’s still hurt. The wound is there, but time probably won’t heal it. If it’s left untreated, the natural reaction is resentment. To cover the hurt by not discussing work stress again. And so the dysfunction is multiplied. The wife is still hurt. The husband’s work stress remains a ‘no go’ area. In the end, it’s an area of the relationship which becomes closed. Have a few of them from time to time, and the relationship not only loses wonderful opportunities for growth, but it will start to wither in key areas.
Truth is, time only heals small wounds. Just leaving things alone, especially if they are big things, only increases the capacity for pain and dysfunction in the future. And it makes it easy to repeat the same mistakes down the track.
So, how can we tell the difference between an issue we can leave, and one which needs to be addressed? Is it possible to know which wounds time will not heal? That’s for next time…
Q: Does this resonate with you? Has the maxim ‘Time heals all wounds’ worked for you? Leave a comment to share your experience.