Recently, I met Mark. Mark was scared. Mark had spent the last week cutting people’s limbs off.
I’m not kidding.
February 22nd saw Christchurch, New Zealand rocked by a deadly earthquake. At present nearly 200 have lost their lives. Hundreds more have been injured, many of them dreadfully so. This is where Mark comes in. Mark is a doctor, a surgeon. When I spoke to him he looked like a man who’d been through hell. Not “hell and back”, mind you. After all, he had to go back to work the next morning.
I would imagine that it’s a very difficult thing to cut someone’s leg or arm off.
Mark and his wife moved to New Zealand five years ago. They thought it was paradise. And it almost is. Until suddenly it’s not. Now, like most of the 400,000 people in this ironically-named secular city, they are confused, scared, and scarred. They want what we all want: a good life in a safe place with those they love. They used to think New Zealand was that place. Now they’re not so sure.
But there is a place just like that. Only it’s not New Zealand. Or some picture-perfect tropical paradise. Or America.
Heaven, though, like love, is an over-used and under-valued word. It’s too easy, almost trite. That resort was a slice of heaven. This dessert is heavenly. It was a heavenly trip. But heaven is more than a mere grammatical embellishment. Heaven is where God is. Heaven is His home.
And heaven is your home.
And it’s Mark’s home. I just don’t think he knows it yet. I want to tell him. I want to tell him that heaven is safe and beautiful. That he was made for heaven and heaven was made for him. That heaven has no earthquakes and no amputations. I want to tell him that heavenly is more than a dessert description. And then I want to tell him about the best part of heaven: God.
Right now Mark is recovering. So is his family. They’re just waiting for the earth to shake suddenly and mercilessly below their feet once again. And honestly, it could happen. Some say it’s likely to happen. I hope they’re wrong, but I fear they’re right.
This world is growing old. Paul says that “the whole creation groans” (Rom. 8:22) in the very next verse he says that “we ourselves groan” (v. 23). Think about that word for a moment: groan. The word is almost onomatopoetic. It connotes pain, despair and resignation.
Four times in the larger context (vss. 18-25) Paul speaks of “the creation” or “the whole creation”. The passage is brushed with both futility and hope. And it drips with expectancy. Paul’s personification of “the creation” as “groaning” is profoundly picturesque. It’s as if the world knows that this isn’t how things are supposed to be. And we know the same, says Paul. “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (v. 23). I love that word eagerly there. It communicates urgency and, again, expectancy. We want something different. We were made for something different. We know it. In the words of singer/ songwriter Andy Gullahorn, “[we] feel it in [our] bones”.
We all feel it. Something is wrong with this world. And in our more honest moments we can admit that something is wrong with us. We know it. We feel it. All of us.
The new heaven and the new earth is earth’s solution (Revelation 21, 22).
A new birth and a new heart are our solution (John 3:7; Ezekiel 36:26).
In the meantime we’re groaning. And so is “the whole creation”. Believers are groaning. And non-believers are groaning. I’m groaning. Mark is groaning. You’re groaning. “If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25).
So we wait.
And we groan.
But we do so eagerly.
And yet patiently.
Because we know. We know that change is coming. Our change and the earth’s change. The Bible tells of it. Jesus secured it. God promises it.
And ARISE is committed to it. It’s what we’re all about. We live and breath to meet the “Marks” of the world, and more than this we live and breath to help the “Marks” meet Jesus. It’s what gets us out of bed every morning. It’s who we are and what we do.
ARISE is presently undergoing some major changes. New personnel. New website. New projects. New ministries. New visions and plans.
And it’s all about two things: God and Mark.
Do you know God? Do you know a “Mark”? Does your heart long for both?
If so, then arise.