Category Archives: homecoming

The hope of the resurrection

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I and not another.

(Job 19.25-27)

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you..

(John 14. 2)

When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each seed he gives its own body….so it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a supernatural body…..then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

(1 Corinthians 15. 37,38, 42-44, 54&55)

There is so much that we do not know about what God has in store for us on the other side of death, so many unanswered questions and it can be tempting to indulge in speculation, seeking for comfort in bereavement and struggling to accept the absence of a precious companion.

But I believe that most of what lies ahead for us is simply beyond our understanding, and therefore God in his mercy has hidden it from us for the present. It makes sense, that even as we struggle to imagine the eternal present which is God’s presence, so we cannot begin to comprehend how humanity can exist within that context. We are utterly bound within time and space, and our future lies in a different realm!

I believe that we have been given as much as we need, grounds for hope and assurance, and glimpses of glory to whet our appetites. We see Christ, our Saviour and elder brother, going ahead of us through death into a resurrected body. His people could hold him and recognise him, and yet his body was – as Paul says – raised in glory, raised imperishable. This same body is in heaven now, a glorified and perfect human being is there in God’s presence – so we know that we too will dwell in recognisable form with God. That in itself is incredible to us, and wonderful!

A human form, imbued with eternity and perfectly equipped to thrive in the new heavens and new earth which are promised after God has wound up this era of suffering, pain and toil. Does this not thrill us? Are we not deeply conscious of a longing to explore all that humanity is capable of in its perfect state? We don’t long eagerly for a disembodied state, nor for annihalation – that is to reject the promise which God created in us, and is a rejection of his vision for humankind. We are broken and marred, yes indeed, but the solution is not the destruction of self for ever, rather it is the redemption and transformation of self by the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.

I believe that the piercing joys, the fleeting moments of glory and intense gladness which are our experience here are simply foretastes of what God has in store, in that home for which we are all looking and longing. There we will belong, there we will have tasks which inspire, enthrall and satisfy us – perfectly suited to our unique qualities and characters. We will not disappear into some bland uniformity, but rather become more intensely and gloriously ourselves, the “I” whom God saw in us from the beginning, now free of all weakness.

Oh, friends, may God give us patience and courage to wait for this, wait for his timing, and meantime to exult in the hope we have! These words express something of the ecstatic joy which fills me even as I write, perhaps they will lift you too for a moment, to glimpse the glory:

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship, when, at his bidding, every storm is stilled,   Or who can say how great the jubilation when all the hearts of men with love are filled.  But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture, and myriad, myriad human voices sing, And earth to heaven, and heaven to earth will answer: At last the Saviour, Saviour of the world is King!

(William Young Fullerton, 1857-1932)

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Are we nearly home yet?

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am .

(John 14.1-3)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.”

(Rev 21.3&4)

For as long as I can remember, I have been conscious of a longing for another place, a place of which our world is only a pale imitation. CS Lewis puts it beautifully in ‘The Last Battle’, when one of the characters cries out in delight as he gazes around his new home:

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this..”

I love the world in which I live, and have always responded deeply to the power and beauty of creation, delighting in the grandest and the tiniest details, rejoicing in my own powers of appreciation, the senses I have to receive and respond to my Father’s artistry. I love knowing to whom I owe an unpayable debt of gratitude for the joy which beauty brings to my life – the great original himself, from whom all our human creativity is derived and to whose glory it should be exercised.

And yet..I still find myself looking beyond, longing for more: a deeper, richer experience and also some sense of home-coming, of final and utter belonging. I believe that when God in his good time finally ushers in his new creation, then I will find that ultimate fulfillment, because the thing lacking – his glorious presence with me, undimmed by my sin – will be abundantly and eternally mine. I will enter into beauty, and be satisfied, lost to myself and found by him.

There is another reason that I long for the home which is promised by my Lord so tenderly in his words to his apostles, reassuring them as they were fearful and unsure and would face severe trials for his sake in the days to come.. I am just plain tired of myself and of the struggle to make a decent attempt at living for Jesus in this fallen world. I know it is not so that we will give up striving in this world that Jesus shows us a glimpse of the Father’s house, but it is so good to know it is there.

When I am weary, stricken by disappointment – with myself and with others – conscious of persistent sin and convinced that there is much about myself of which to be deeply ashamed, it is sweet relief to remember that my place in that final home is not dependent on my perfect life here! I think my Father is more compassionate and tender with me than I am with myself, but I also know that all his love is directed towards encouraging me not to give up, but to persevere.

Yes, I am not what I should be – given all the blessings and privileges of faith I have enjoyed. But, I am a daughter of the King of Kings, and my citizenship in his eternal kingdom is assured. God looks not at my weakness, doubting and pathetic track-record in his service; but he looks at Jesus, my Lord, my Saviour, my Champion, who has fought the fight for me and won it, for me! In him, I am entitled to claim a place in my Father’s house and to know that even I am eagerly awaited.

Is it not enough to make us long for the day when all will be made new, and our faults and failings will be forgotten? When we will stand with heads held high and no more trace of sin to stain our vision; no dragging grief or disappointment to embitter our joys, only complete freedom to forget ourselves in joyful service and worship of our Lord.

No, we are not home yet, but each day I live brings me nearer..May God give me patience and courage to live the time that is allotted for me, allowing that glorious promised future to inspire me with hope for each day, and an urgent desire to share the riches I have with those who do not know Jesus!

Coming home…

They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.

(Exodus 29.46)

The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John 1.14)

Jesus replied,”If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

(John 14.23)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

(Revelation 21.3)

I believe that the Bible reveals a unifying narrative, the great plan which God is putting into action in ways which we can’t grasp across time and space. Certain themes occur again and again from the beginning which underpin that plan, themes reflecting God’s character and also what lies behind His breathtaking plan of redemption for us.

At the very beginning, in some early dawn of history, we read of Eden, of that state of perfect communion which God enjoyed with his beloved children as they walked together in the cool of the day. This is what we lost, and are forever seeking, the natural loving companionship of our creator throughout our days. The staggering thing is that God misses it too, that our absence from his immediate presence is a source of such deep agony to him that He will go to incredible lengths to bring us back! I need to ponder this truth more and more, to allow it to heal the places in my heart where I feel worthless, insignificant and a failure. Each and every one of us is priceless in the eyes of our heavenly father – let this be my answer to a world that would discount me for my age, lack of career or obvious achievements, for the ordinariness of my life or the things I struggle with.

In the book of Exodus, God is creating a model which will demonstrate his desire to dwell with his people – a temple or tabernacle – while also showing that the way to communion with him is not yet reopened, and that it is the need to be purified of sin which keeps us separate from him. The sacrificial system, the role of the priests, all speak of the holiness or otherness of God, and of how our rebellion against Him has created a barrier to fellowship. But the overriding desire is clear – He wants to be with us.

With the coming of Jesus, the Word, John tells us that God is beginning to fulfill His great plan, and that the barrier of sin – that fault-line in each one of us – is now being addressed. All the sacrifices of the old system were simply signs, pointing forward to the great sacrifice which would one day be paid – by the perfect Lamb, our flawless Christ. Through faith in Jesus, in His work of salvation and atonement for our sin, we are made whole, restored as places fit for our God to dwell. Does that not leave your mind boggling? King Solomon, in dedicating his wonderful temple, stated quite truthfully that no temple made by human hands could ever be fit or adequate to welcome the Almighty, and yet Jesus says quite simply that He and His Father will make their home with those who love Him.

Think about it, let it astonish you, move you to tears and songs of joy and humble gratitude to the God of all goodness, that He should desire to dwell – not visit, not say hello in passing, but DWELL – with you.

God lives with me, within me, at the very core of my life.. if this is true, then what should follow?

Let me keep no part of my life hidden from God’s loving transforming power to heal and bring glory:

Let my relationships be like an open window, so that the love of God might be seen clearly at work in my life for the blessing of others:

Let me rest utterly in this glorious truth of God’s saving of me – I have nothing to prove or achieve in order to enjoy his presence now, and in unimaginable ways forever, in the new creation.

God has come home to his children, and we will never be alone again.

Lord, I come before your throne of grace: I find rest in your presence and fulness of joy

In worship and wonder I behold your face, singing “What a faithful God have I!”

What a faithful God have I, what a faithful God, What a faithful God have I, faithful in every way!

(Dawn & Robert Critchley 1989)