The Not-Quite-There Place

We’re just not quite there yet.

I was reminded of that fact this week in a very abrupt manner. As a minister, I get to spend an inordinate amount of time reading, praying and thinking. I get to take long looks into Scripture. I get to read books and research by men and women who are much more intelligent than I. All of this in a search to understand what God is up to in the world and how we as his people should be joining him in that mission.

It often feels like a long climb up a mountain. But every so often I feel like I reach a clearing, like I’ve worked my way through the pitfalls and distractions and I get a to a place of clarity where I can honestly see and deeply understand. These are the times I live for, that make the rest of it all worthwhile.

But what invariably happens is that frustration sets in. Because when you see God’s purpose – his heart for us and the world he created – it’s very difficult to not get irritated that we fall so short of that purpose.

This is the place I have found myself this week. And it doesn’t even matter what the topic is that has gotten me so upset, although I am hugely passionate about seeing that ideal realized. I am bothered that once again I see on one hand the beautiful image of God’s desire for us and in the other a people failing to live up to that image.

We’re just not quite there yet.

I recently invited Trevor to come teach a class at the church where I minister. It’s been incredible. Over the last several weeks, he has been walking us through the 4-part story that is seen in Scripture, illustrated by this graph:

4-Part Redemption

This 4-part story is God’s redemptive work in the world — from perfect creation, to the effects of sin, to the gradual redemption and finally to the restoration of all things. As we read through the Bible, we see this meta-story take shape.

What has struck me has been how much I long for the 4th part of the story. That beautiful picture in Revelation when God will indeed restore all things back to the ideal he first created —

Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. — Revelation 22:1-2

I think we all long for that day. God’s people have always sung songs about our longing for that time. But that is not where we live.

Nor do we live in barren land of the Fall, where all is broken because of the effects of sin.

We live, rather, in that third place. The place of redemption and new life. A place where amongst the effects of sin and death, life is springing forth as God’s people join him to pull the world forward into that amazing Revelation picture.

As Trevor called it yesterday, we live in the “in-between.” So even though I can see what we will one day be, I know that we live in that not-quite-there-place.

I pray for courage to always call us to be the people God intended us to be. We are called to participate in a new kingdom where everyone has a place and where the effects of sin have no sway. Too often we fall short of the glorious existence that God calls us to. And when that happens, I want to be there standing alongside you, calling us forward toward that Revelation picture.

But I also pray for patience because we live in the not-quite-there-place. Until God restores all things, there will be places in this world that will need to be revived. God forgive me when I fail to be as patient with you as he has always been with me.

So today, may we not forget where we have been. Let us be real about the effects that sin has had on the world. Let us see that we live in a place that is

But let us all still strive to be people of redemption in this world, working with God to restore a reality that was there in the very beginning, always moving forward toward that glorious future reality.

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