“Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.” ~Philippians 3:19-20
We live in the “already / not yet.” We live in the overlapping period of the arrival of the Kingdom of God and the ultimate fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. Yes, God’s Kingdom has broken into this present evil age. But it’s not here yet in all of its fullness. So our enjoyment of the totality of God’s presence and blessings are still a future reality. Our experience today of God’s power and glory, as great as it is, is still just a down payment of the glories to come. And that, in no way, discounts or disqualifies that future as anything less than an absolute reality.
Once we realize that, once we truly grasp the fact that our hope is in the future and final consummation of the Kingdom to come, we live our lives in ways that relate to that ultimate reality. Whatever we long for and hope for in the future inevitably determines how we live in the present. Hope and its desires are the engines that drive us. The pursuit of the greater good in the future is enough to bring about a willing and persevering self-denial in the present. Our hopes determine our habits. We are a future-determined people. The world to come, not this one, must captivate our minds and our hearts.
“Modern and postmodern culture revolves around a this-world orientation; the only long-term future our culture conceives to be important enough to plan for consistently is retirement. This pervasive preoccupation with living as long as possible, as healthy as possible, and as wealthy as possible has dramatically impacted the church in the West. Our knowledge and experience of God are so weak, and our desire for the pleasures of the present so strong, that we find it almost impossible to imagine that life with God in the world to come could be incomparably better than what we hope to experience in this world.” ~Dr. Scott J. Hafemann, Wheaton College
The apostle Paul writes about this extensively in 2 Corinthians. Paul fixes his gaze and sets the course for his life on what can’t be seen (4:18); on his inner glory instead of his outer suffering (4:17); on his inward renewal, not his outward decay (4:16); on the new age instead of the old (4:18); resurrection life, not dying (4:10-11); the weighty, not the insignificant (4:17); the eternal, not the temporary (4:18); and on the heavenly, not the earthly (5:1-2).
Our courage comes from having the right desires for the future. That leads to having the right ambitions in the present. Those who live in the present desire what this world has to offer. Their ambition is to please themselves with the temporary pleasures of this life. But those who live for their future with God desire the life promised by God. Their ambition is to please him here and now, since he is their true joy and hope.
What a terrific weekend we enjoyed in Arkansas with Keith and Amanda and their kids and Jimmy & Elizabeth and theirs. My little brother took us on a tour of Harding where he’s in his third year as a Bible professor. I’m not sure our children were supposed to take their shoes off and splash around in the fountains, but they did. We also ran into a couple of our Legacy kids out there pledging clubs. Jarron and Jacob weren’t quite sure how to react to seeing us on their campus on a Saturday afternoon. Paul taught Valerie how to scale interior door frames like Spiderman. Isaac lost a tooth. And Rachel was way too stinkin’ cute the whole time. Keith and Amanda also graced us with Dr Pepper products from Holland.
After 24 hours with Keith and Amanda it was back down to Benton to see Jimmy and Elizabeth. Jimmy was the youth minister at Marble Falls when we were there a couple of years ago. And we miss them tremendously. The Northside Church of Christ, where he serves now, graciously invited me to preach for them Sunday. And it was fantastic. Jimmy was leading singing and I was preaching. We prayed it up together an hour before Bible class. Just like the good ol’ days. We focused our Bible class time and our assembly time on the grace of God as a free gift. We enjoyed a huge fellowship meal together. And we now count the wonderful people at Northside among our dearest friends. Brown’s Buffet for dinner. A Benton tradition, I think. Not quite like the Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls. More like a Cracker Barrel on steroids.
The only criticism I have of our weekend in Arkansas concerns an eating establishment we visited in Searcy and noticed again in Benton. Colton’s fancies itself a Texas-themed restaurant. Peanut shells on the floor, cowboy pictures on the walls, Texas icons on the menu, and a huge Texas flag on the roof of the building. But they don’t serve Dr Pepper. It’s Mr. Pibb. And the wait staff use the names of the two soft drinks interchangeably. Like synonyms. When the waitress brought Carley her Mr. Pibb refill (Carley has no integrity) she said, “Here’s your Dr Pepper.” Blasphemy! They should remove the flag and not put it up there again until they can deliver the most basic and fundamental of Texas beverages to their patrons.
“Just as a television commercial will use an athlete, an actor, a musician, a novelist, a scientist or a countess to speak for the virtues of a product in no way within their domain of expertise, television also frees politicians from the limited field of their own expertise. Political figures may show up anywhere, at any time, doing anything, without being thought odd, presumptuous, or in any way out of place. Which is to say, they have become assimilated into the general television culture as celebrities.
Being a celebrity is quite different from being well known. Harry Truman was well known but he was not a celebrity. Whenever the public saw him or heard him, Truman was talking politics. It takes a very rich imagination to envision Harry Truman or, for that matter, his wife, making a guest appearance on ‘The Goldbergs’ or ‘I Remember Mama.’ Politics and politicians had nothing to do with these shows, which people watched for amusement, not to familiarize themselves with political candidates and issues.
Television does not reveal who the best man is. In fact, television makes impossible the determination of who is better than whom, if we mean by ‘better’ such things as more capable in negotiation, more imaginative in executive skill, more knowledgeable about international affairs, more understanding of the interrelations of economic systems, and so on. The reason has, almost entirely, to do with ‘image.’
Men always make their gods in their own image. But to this, television politics has added a new wrinkle: Those who would be gods refashion themselves into images the viewers would have them be. It is a sobering thought to recall that there are no photographs of Abraham Lincoln smiling, that his wife was in all likelihood a psychopath, and that he was subject to lengthy fits of depression. He would hardly have been well suited for image politics. We do not want our mirrors to be so dark and so far from amusing. What I am saying is that just as the television commercial empties itself of authentic product information so that it can do its psychological work, image politics empties itself of authentic political substance for the same reason.” ~Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1985.