Monday, July 9, 2012

On Heaven as it is on Earth


“On Heaven as it is on earth.”

I do recognize that this is a direct misquotation of the Lord’s Prayer. Forgive me for that.   I hope this is in no way sacrilegious or dishonoring to the magnificence and glory that we will surely one day encounter in heaven.  But I think it is a pretty powerful thought.  Let me explain.

The other night—a sleepless one, where there was nothing in particular restraining me from sleep, yet a continuous sequence of nothings rendering the fading hope of a little kip as elusive as a vanishing cloud under the burning summer sun—I found myself visiting a blog that I had read through just over a year ago.  Many, to be sure, may have also been exposed to the incredible journey of Katie Davis—a 21-year old adoptive mother of 13 little Ugandan daughters, founder of Amazmia Ministries, currently (and most permanently) living in Uganda.  Along with thousands of others, I have at times been quite drawn to her bold story of love, sacrifice, obedience, and blessing.  At 19 years of age, she left home, her boyfriend, everything she knew, and took on the role of Mommy to 3 precious little girls.  I don’t mean to glamorize her life, or exonerate her sacrifice above any other.  I certainly don’t think everyone needs to move to Africa (not to mention, alone) and adopt 13 children, but I do think her example is living proof that we can give EVERYTHING to God.  Absolutely everything.  Nothing could ever be too much.  Katie’s life is so completely full.  Every day is a mission field.  Every day seems to hold incredible adventures, blessings, and trials.  Yet, in some ways, her life is even normal.  She loves her daughters as they love her, they read stories together—laugh, play, get sick, get better, and eat dinner together.  I imagine Katie even has days, just like I do—where we wake up (or lie awake) and think—“What in the world am I doing here?”  I am sure there are, or have been, days where Katie wanted to quit.  I am sure there have been times where her heart felt like it was ripped out of her chest, where the hurt was so deep or loneliness was so great that even breathing became a chore.  And then, there may have been times where her heart maybe even felt numb, or almost desensitized to the world moving around her.  I am sure there are days Katie almost talked herself into packing up and moving home—that her sacrifices there weren’t really needed, or that perhaps the easier road was really where God wanted her.  (I realize I am speaking for her quite a bit here, but even the Savior of the world asked God to “take this cup from [him].”)  But then, looking at the pictures of Katie, surrounded by her loving, precious, happy family—I thought of how incredible it will be one day, when all of those souls are gathered around her in heaven and are no longer her adopted children, saved by grace after enduring trials we have never even imagined, but they will be whole creations, at one with her in the Creator.  I thought of her whole family in a mansion grander than any on this earth.  I thought of the love and fullness that Katie and her family would experience in heaven because of their obedience, sacrifices, and love here on this earth.  And I prayed for a second, “Lord, on earth as it is on heaven…”  And that is when it clicked.  

Bounce back.

Almost 3 years ago, I went on my first study-tour to the Near East with George DeJong.  We actually began our journey in Egypt, and worked our way over to the Sinai Peninsula, through Jordan, and up to Israel.  We followed the journey of the Hebrews as they were taken out of captivity in Egypt and in to the Promised Land.  A year later, I joined Ray Vander Laan on a trip through Israel and Turkey.  There, on the rugged Turkish hills—land forgotten and unnoticed by most “visitors” to the country, land that our feet came to know so well, and land that taught me so much about the story of our God and His people—I remember a small little faith lesson that I believe was a bit unplanned (as so many of Mr. Ray’s are).  I think we had passed a bit of trash on the road, or—given the scorching desert heat—perhaps his stance on global warming came in to question.   But I remember he was commenting on our role as Christians to be good stewards of the land, the earth.  He said that we had been given dominion here to rule over the resources God placed here in a way that would honor and glorify the Creator.  Now—this particular concept was not necessarily new news, as I had been working for a youth mountain hiking ministry in Colorado for the previous 7 summers.  There I developed an appreciation for the land and learned about our relationship with the natural world—the Creator, and His creation.  Mr. Ray also told us how diligently the Hebrews would work and tend to their land.  They saw their land as God’s charge to them and their purpose would be fulfilled in the honor with which they tended the land.  They would pass on their fields generation to generation, always hoping to leave the land better, more fertile for the future generations.  

But what Mr. Ray said next was new.  It did bring entirely new light to my idea of Godly Purpose on this earth.  He said that part of the reason the Hebrews were so diligent in their tending of the land was because of their dutiful commitment to their God-given dominion over the earth, but another aspect was a result of their their understanding of the Covenant.  Part of God’s promise to Abraham was certainly referring to a Promised Land land flowing with milk and honey, where they would not be enslaved.  But the other Hebraic understanding included the comprehension of a place to serve God, and then extend His kingdom.  Each square foot of land that the ancient Jews would work, was a square foot of land that had been reconciled to God.  The Jews thought of their service as literally bringing down the Kingdom of heaven, in accordance with the ancient prayer, “on earth as it is in Heaven.”  

And I have never been one to “get into” end times studies or even postulate too extensively or concretely on the reality of heaven, but this next discussion made a lot of sense to me.  Mr. Ray said that perhaps (just perhaps—always only a suggestion), there wasn’t a new place that we would ascend to in order to enjoy eternity, but maybe this earth was really it.  Maybe this earth was also part of the “all things reconciled to Him…” from II Corinthians 5, or from Acts 13, “Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that he may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of the restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.”  

God’s ordained Words, the very Words of God—a period of restoration, not recreation.  

We will dwell on the new earth—yet, perhaps not an entirely new world or some floating pearly city in the sky. 

And this realization gave me a renewed sense of purpose.  The work I do here is actually aiding in the restoration and reconciliation of “all things.”  Under this interpretation, I can participate in the ushering in of the new earth.   I can be a part of that force that Rv. 21 refers to as the new Jerusalem descends like a bride on this earth.   

“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  (Rv. 21.2)

What we do really matters.   This understanding makes the purpose of God’s creation, salvation, and reconciliation so much more relevant and immediate.  I can be a part of this “on earth as it is on heaven.”

***Disclaimer:  I am not saying the above is necessarily “correct” Biblical interpretation, but I am merely suggesting (per Mr. Ray) that this is perhaps a layer of how we can understand Heaven, earth, and our place there within.

Which is where I jump back to Miss Katie’s story.  She is doing it.  For her, it is happening.  She is ushering in the grace of God and the reconciliation intended for us all.  She is serving with the diligence, determination, and immediacy that the descent of the new Jerusalem and the establishment of the new earth will require of us. In going back to her blog to confirm a few details for this post, I noticed for the first time that the tab of her blogspot reads "on earth as it is in heaven."  My heart is pricked with the ironic confirmation of her work.  In her daily, constant, loving, tried, and true efforts, Katie is partnering in God's story to bring a piece/peace of heaven to this earth.  And even now, the truth is evident--in so many ways, her world already resembles what I envision to be the nature of heaven.  How cool is that. For Katie, perhaps it may be “in Heaven as it is on earth.”

And maybe, someday, for me as well.

Thanks for reading.  Stay Dusty.

*b.Nicole

**Disclaimer:  If I have misrepresented the views of either Katie Davis or Mr. Ray Vander Laan, please feel free to let me know (if you are either of these two--highly unlikely!!, if you were there, or if you can provide me with the correct details from a reliable source).  Gracias.

7 comments:

  1. I love your thoughts. I agree that the Kingdom of God is not some place far away, but it here and now. It has begun when Christ died on the cross, fulfilling God's covenant with Abraham. It by no means is complete, but when perfection comes, it will be complete (1 Cor 13:12) There is a book that has really inspired me lately, talking about how Jesus has already begun restoring the world in small ways for 2000 years. It's called, Who is this Man? by John Ortberg. The Kingdom is here and now! It's our job to open our eyes and join God in restoring this world to Him, to perfection, to completion. Praise God that he is a God of restoration and love.

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  2. Amen! Thanks so much for reading Jake! Hope you're doing well!!
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