Place matters

The home I grew up in. My elementary school. The homes of my grandparents and great grandparents. Eagle Eyrie. The basement of the library at Baylor University and the Brazos River. My first apartment . The classroom where I taught my first high school English class. The sanctuary at my church. My current home. The bench by the creek in my front yard. The park where I taught my children to ride their bikes. My father’s grave.

These are the places of my life. Not the huge moment places, but the places that sustained me, shaped me, changed me, nurtured me, still affect my soul. These places will always matter to me, no matter how they have change, no matter how far I am removed from my connection to them.

Place also matters to God. God has always prepared a place for his people before he leads them there. God didn’t ask Abraham to be faithful in Ur; God insisted that Abraham move to a new place that would become the Promised Land for his people. When famine hit Israel, God already had Joseph in place in the pharaoh’s palace with extra food stored. God called specific people to build ebenezers in the place where they had “met” him. God’s glory dwelled in the Temple and the Tabernacle. The Old Testament said that the messiah would be born in Bethlehem and come up out of Egypt. Judas knew the exact place to find Jesus and betray him. Jesus promised that he was going to prepare a place for us.

My church has a strong ministry to the refugees in our city. One Sunday after church I took one of those refugee families home to their apartment. The 20 year old son had been born in a camp. He had never known life outside that environment. When his family learned that they would be relocated to America, he set about learning the language, culture, economy and history of America. If you know that you don’t belong in the place where you are, you study the place where you are going so that you can be better prepared when you get there. Hear that idea from the heart of Moses. He was a Hebrew living in an Egyptian palace, a prince living as a shepherd on the back side of the desert, and a spokesman who stuttered. He said in Ex 2:22, “I have been an alien in a foreign land.” The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is like the Bible’s Hall of Fame. It mentions so many of those who stood firm in their belief in God during their time on earth. Heb 11:16 says of all of them, “They were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

That place is real. It is not a “cosmic oneness”. It isn’t just light or a feeling of well being. Heaven is an actual place. In Revelation 21 John described watching as an angel measured it. It has walls and gates and streets. The Bible compares it to a kingdom, a city, and a garden. Learning about the place God has prepared for you can give you better perspective on the circumstances of the place where you are. Heaven is not the place you look back on, it is not the place that shaped you; it is the place that can begin to shape you now, that can give you the courage to overcome the temptation and the suffering of this life because you know that this life is not all there is. May God give you a vision of the place he has prepared for you. May that vision sustain you until it becomes the place where you spend eternity.