A New Heaven and a New Earth

I wonder what your favourite Christmas present was? Perhaps you got some new clothes, or a new device such as a phone? Maybe some new books to read or something connected to your favourite hobby?  Most of us enjoy getting new things, but when we do we quickly lose interest in what we had before. Last year’s prized possessions get forgotten as they are superseded by new ones.

New Year too, often signals time for reflection on the year gone by and thoughts turn to hopes and aspirations for the year to come. Whatever 2015 was like for you it is natural to hope that 2016 will bring joy and happiness, and that the disappointments of the past will be left behind.

The Christian faith has much to say about newness. For example Paul wrote that ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’ (2 Cor 5:17 ESV). This amazing statement describes a present reality for all who truly believe in Christ. However the message of the Bible is not simply comfort for this present life. Rather it offers us hope for a glorious eternity.

John, the Evangelist, was privileged to be given a wonderful vision of the future of creation which he recorded in the book of Revelation. Towards the end of that revelation John sees ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev 21:1 NIV) which he then goes on to describe. We learn that this present world with all its pain and suffering, disappointment will cease to exist. In its place God will create a new, eternal order. In this new world God himself will dwell among his people. It will be a place of outstanding beauty and incredible happiness. We are told: ‘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 21:4 NIV)

Wow! There can be few people who would not wish for such a world!

My desire for everyone that reads this is that 2016 is truly a Happy New Year for you. I hope that every day from 1st January – 31st December is full of joy and hope. The experience of Christians throughout the centuries is that the greatest joy and hope is found when we have assurance that our eternity with Christ in the new heaven and new earth is secure. The joy and happiness of the new heaven and new earth will surpass the greatest pleasures we could possibly know in this life. The joy and happiness of the new heaven and new earth will more than compensate for the deepest sadness of this present life.

Whatever else you do in preparation for 2016, make this the year you secure your place in the new heaven and new earth by becoming a follower of Jesus!

This blog post featured in the January 2016 edition of Hook Focus

Fasting Prayer

Like many churches across the nation we will be marking the beginning of 2016 by holding a week of prayer. Talking and listening to God in prayer helps prepare the way for him to use us. I know of 15 people who prayed the ‘sinners’ prayer during 2015, most of these during the autumn term. This is the great mission that we are on – to see more and more people coming to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Our desire is that in 2016 we will see even more people taking that life changing step.

We each have a part to play in talking about Jesus, however the bottom line is that it is the Holy Spirit who waters the seed and brings people to faith in Christ. The work begins with prayer. Jesus commanded us to pray for workers to go out into the harvest field.

How did Jesus prepare himself for his ministry? The answer, as many of you will know, is that he went out into the wilderness for 40 days and nights to fast[1]. It is clear from the New Testament that fasting was a part of the spiritual life of the church, especially around times of decision making and strategising[2]. Jesus himself seemed to assume that it was something that his followers would do after he ascended to heaven[3].

What then is the benefit of fasting? Many people seem to have the idea that fasting is a way to make prayer more powerful, if you like to twist God’s arm. I am not sure where this idea comes from. However it seems to me that fasting is more about us drawing closer to God in intimacy. By resisting a natural appetite for food we are declaring that we have a greater hunger, a hunger for God. The discomfort of an empty belly reminds us to choose to push deeper into Christ. It also frees up time in a busy schedule that we can use to spend in prayer.

I would encourage you to fast during our week of prayer and use this opportunity to press into God. There are many different levels of fasting, from missing one or two meals during the week through to fasting for the whole week. You could choose to miss the same meal each day for the week, you could miss all meals on one or more days.

Whatever you choose to do I pray that God will richly bless you as you join in our prayer times together during the week.

[1] Matthew 4:2

[2] Acts 13:2-3; 14:23

[3] Luke 5:33-35

 

This blog post featured in the January 2016 edition of Lifelines