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Friday, June 9, 2006

"Our Permanent Home"

"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands" (2 Corinthians 5:1). "I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me" (2 Peter 1:13,14).

This morning I walked through a huge mansion that is under construction here in the Lancaster area. One of the construction workers seeing me walk around asked if I was the owner!  I told him I I wasn't but my mansion is under construction on the other side. I purposefully counted the bathrooms (there are at least seven) and quipped to my friend as we drove off if he thought they would be keeping the job "johnnie" at the end of the driveway when they finished. With a chuckle he responded, "Probably, just in case they can't make it into the house!"

In the Bible portion we referred to yesterday Peter explains unapologetically about the importance of being repetitious concerning the essential truths God wants us to know.  This verse prompted Brooksyne to share the following reflection:

Grandma and Grandpa Sherrell lived in the hills of Arkansas about 180 miles from my home town of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Three to four times a year our family would make the long journey to visit them over the weekend and we children always spent a week with them during the summer.  I very specifically recall how Grandpa would sit my sister and me on his lap and talk about heaven.

Photo of Brooksyne's grandpaBeing a colorful storyteller he would describe what heaven looked like and tell why he and Grandma were going there. Grandpa told this same story every time we visited but somehow I never tired of hearing his repetitious story.  Perhaps it was because his eyes sparkled, his countenance brightened and there was excitement in his voice as he would talk of heaven.  He made it seem like it was going to take place that same day and he was preparing me for the great event.

In fact the event did not take place for another decade or so when Grandpa left the "tent of his body." Though I loved him immensely, when I attended his funeral I didn't weep with sorrow, although I did shed tears of joy. I still remember how joyful the occasion was because Grandpa had given me a picture in my mind of him being in heaven and enjoying all the things he described to me throughout my childhood. The big event for him had finally taken place.

It's been almost thirty years since he joined the saints in heaven, but I'll always remember his repeated stories of going to be with Jesus.  He talked to me often about the things that really matter and I, too, long for that union in heaven when I shall behold the Lamb of God. 

And what do you think Ester has heard me talk about quite often through the years?  Whenever she's had hospital stays where she experiences a great deal of pain, such as atrial flutter with heart rates over 200 BPM, she will often say, "Mommy, I just want to go to heaven."  It's in those instances that I know that she has grasped the beauty, joy, and pain-free atmosphere of heaven.  Of course I nervously remind her that it would be much more natural for me to go to heaven first, just in case she was making plans to go ahead of me!

In 2 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5 the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, shares some incredible insights regarding the perspective we all should have as we live out our life on this earth. Apart from a few select people throughout history (Enoch and Elijah) all have experienced the destruction of the earthly tent we live in. We call that death. There will be also be a group who will be alive at the return of Christ who will experience a transition w/o death (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Paul uses the phrase "earthly tent" to describe the temporary nature of our present dwelling. One commentary makes this observation: "The figure of a tent picturing the human body suggests impermanence and insecurity and is a common picture of earthly life and its setting in the body."

Our future home is "a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands."  Wow, what a powerful description! Today may this encourage those who have loved ones in heaven. May it also encourage those dealing with ongoing physical affliction or situations that seem so broken. 

The ongoing challenge for all of us is not driving the stakes in too deep in this present "tent". We must be very cautious about not getting too settled or comfortable.  That's particularly true for those of us who live in relative affluence, which can be such a seducing trap. One day we will be transferred to our permanent home, a home not built with human hands!

O God, our Help in ages past,
Our Hope for years to come,
Our Shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal Home! *

Be encouraged today!

Stephen C. Weber

Brooksyne's prayer: Jesus, I know that temporary dwellings built by human hands cannot compare with the eternal house You are building in heaven for those who believe.  Since my ability to visualize this heavenly dwelling is extremely limited, I ask for a heavenly vision to grasp the indescribable home You have prepared for me.  Help me to fix my heart and my mind on that which is unseen, rather than that which perishes.  For eternal hope does not diminish with the disappointments of the day.  Thank You that I have an eternal home!

Here's a photo of Brooksyne with her grandpa.
Photo of Brooksyne with her grandpa

In searching for an appropriate song to reinforce today's message we came across this song. It's not necessarily our style but has a great message and actually would have been close to Brooksyne's grandpa's style!  Welcome Home  
Randy Bowen

Here are two excellent books I would recommend pertaining to today's topic:

Safely HomeSafely Home  By Randy Alcorn / Tyndale House
"Is this the day I die?" wonders Li Quan as he endures persecution for his faith. Half a world away his college buddy, businessman Ben Fielding, steps on the plane to China. Reunited after 20 years, both men face decisions that will determine their destinies---and the fates of their nations and the world. 400 pages, softcover from Tyndale.  Here's an excerpt.

79422: HeavenHeaven By Randy Alcorn / Tyndale House
As the years pass and we watch more and more of our family, friends and mentors pass away, it is only natural to ask questions about heaven. However, our understanding of heaven is often limited to a few half-forgotten Sunday school lessons and the insubstantial images provided by popular movies and T.V. Fortunately, in Heaven Randy Alcorn provides us with a thoroughly researched and biblically definitive description of heaven. As Alcorn addresses our most serious questions about heaven, including the nature of judgment, and answers a few of our less serious questions as well, including the accessibility of cafe mochas the sweet by and by, we will develop a deeper understanding of our eternal destination and will find the courage to strive for heaven while were living on earth.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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