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Monday, March 3, 2014

Heaven: No More "Istawicayazan Wi"

During our three years in North Dakota, living on a Sioux reservation, I picked up a couple things with the language.  One is the Sioux word for the month of March: Istawicayazan Wi.  It literally means “Moon when eyes are sore from the bright snow.  I understood the sentiment.  During our time there, we got our first “staying snow” about the end of October, and we rarely saw the grass again until April.  That’s a lot of time staring at the white blinding snow. 

But that was North Dakota.  That was just a hop, skip and a jump from the Canadian border.  I live in Southwest Missouri now.  Things are supposed to be different.  And yet here I am, heading out into another fine March day in the Ozarks.
This has been a rough winter on a lot of folks. It’s by far the snowiest and coldest in this area in the 10 ½ years we’ve lived here.  And while I appreciate the beauty of snow as much as anyone…

We’ve missed a lot of church services this year as well.  More Sunday evening and Wednesday evenings than I can recall.  We only missed out on one Sunday morning completely, but then this last storm made this past Sunday morning a challenge.  I made it in, the seven mile trek into town a challenge but not un-doable.  And so did a handful of others.  We had about 16.

Well, I didn’t want to dump the whole load on just a few (old preacher story; some of you know it), so we did something a bit different.  We had a little interactive, Q & A time.  Thought I’d give the folks a chance to ask a few questions about the Bible, Theology, etc.  I should have prepared more!  They got right down to the fun stuff.

One question had to do with what Heaven will be like.  Talk about a doozey. I did my best to share what I believe Scripture has to say about our eternal dwelling, and it boils down to this.  Scripture speaks in four places of a “new heavens and a new earth.”  Twice in Isaiah, once in 2 Peter, and once in Revelation.  The implication seems to be of the old order of things passing away and a new, re-created heaven and earth existing.  This is similar to other places which refer to this world order passing away, perishing in fire, being burnt up, etc.

I wanted us to see that our eternal dwelling will be at the same time completely familiar and yet totally unimaginable.  It will be the created order as it was intended to be prior to the Fall.  This world still retains a flicker of that perfect creation, but it has been tainted by sin just as man has. 

But one day, that will be destroyed and we will be given a new earth.  I take that to mean that there will be much about that new earth that we are familiar with.  It’s not just floating on clouds playing harps.  A new earth, with things to do, service to give our King, etc.  And yet at the same time, because of its perfection and living in the direct presence of God, it will be utterly different.  A new earth, much like the old, but now God is our light, our life, etc.

My daughter commented recently that the one thing she is looking forward to in the new earth is No Allergies!  Spring and flowers and grass without the side effects of sneezing and suffering.  Not bad, huh?  Think I’m looking forward to a place like that.  All the beauty with none of the suffering.

Scripture describes that lack of suffering like this:  "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:3-4, ESV) 
No more, no more.  And no more Istawicayazan Wi, no more “moon when eyes are sore from the bright snow.”  So, does that mean we’ll have snow?  I don’t know.  But if we do, it won’t be the hardship on men that it is now.  It will be the pure delight and beauty of the snow on our best day.  It won’t come with the dangers and the freezing.  All the beauty with none of the suffering.  And that’s primarily because of the first part of that statement.  Our dwelling is with God and He with us. 

Dwelling in the presence of God.  That’s what Heaven is really all about.  All those other questions; will we recognize this or that person?; will we have pets?; will there be snow?; all those things fade into the background of just being in the presence of our God.  That is indeed a place worth looking forward to.  And don’t you think that maybe that’s a big part of why we have so much discontent in this world?  Our hearts know we are made for something else; or rather Someone Else.  I look forward to seeing Him, and pray you’ll join me. 

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