I spent last week at the National Worship Leaders Conference. It was a great week of worship and learning and fun.
The printed and stated theme of this year’s conference was “In Remembrance of Me”. However, a sub-theme emerged almost from the first speaker and carried throughout the weekend. The sub-theme was “fear”.
Nearly every worship leader talked and sang about their profound fear, some even talking about how fear had grown so large in their life they were nearly paralyzed. One communicated that his fear, thought to be contained by his own life, was picked up by his daughter.
Though the theme was “remember”, a position I usually associate with the past, many of the speakers chose to talk about Heaven and the “not-yet”.
Fear and Heaven. Admittedly I didn’t make the connection until talking with my pastor. As I recounted this strong emphasis on experiencing fear and the desire to experience Heaven, he reminded me people have been dealing with their fears this way through the ages.
From African Spirituals, many focused on being delivered from a painful present and achieving the Promised Land, to the Left Behind series’ slant on the coming age, people cope with distress, depression, disaster, etc. by projecting their attention to a distant and yet unrealized better time. “Today is bad…real bad. But tomorrow is coming. Keep your eyes on tomorrow.”
As a Christian, I am looking forward to the Kingdom coming on Earth as it is in Heaven. But, I affirm that Kingdom has actually already broken into the present with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In Him the new has begun…it is not complete…but we live now (the already) as if it has all been accomplished (the not yet). We don’t dismiss the present, as disturbing as it often is. We don’t have to wait for some future event to spark the recreation of all things. We don’t have to ignore the reality of today as we dream of a better tomorrow. And perhaps best of all, we don’t have to be afraid. Why? Because sin and death have been overcome. Grace and love have won the day. Jesus is victorious. Heaven is here now.
I’m not sure why, but I didn’t get asked to speak at the National Worship Leaders Conference. I didn’t lead a small group break out session or sing any songs to the 1,700 men, women and children present. But if I had the opportunity, I would have read from Joshua. I would have quoted Paul. And since you and I are here now, I’ll share with you.
Joshua 1:1-9 New International Version (NIV)
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them —to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates —all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Romans 8:38-39 New International Version (NIV)
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Life is better together (and we don’t need to be afraid),