Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Noel Heikkinen on The Good News

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

This entry is a part of an on-going blog series called The Good News, which is taking place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. Noel’s local city newspaper is the Lansing State Journal. Here is Noel Heikkinen on the Good News.

THE GOOD NEWS

I am writing this at an altitude of 37,000 feet, hurdling at 530 MPH away from my home in Lansing, Michigan. But even as I fly, I know that Michigan is coming with me. In fact, I can already hear the conversation I will have a dozen or so times over the next couple days:

“So, where are you from?”

“Lansing, Michigan.”

“Oh…wow…how are you guys holding up?”

It seems everybody has a foreboding tone when they talk about Michigan, whether they live here and have experienced the 12% unemployment rate first hand or they have read about the potential for General Motors to go “belly-up” (I can’t even tell you how many times I have heard that phrase used). It’s almost no wonder that nearly half of the graduates from Michigan State University make a beeline out of the state minutes after they graduate, taking their educations and Michigan’s hopes for renewal with them.

I recently read the words of a wise man who lived thousands of years ago. He could have been writing about Michigan when he looked at the world around him and declared, “Everything is meaningless…utterly meaningless.”

And as someone who grew up in Michigan, I can honestly say it’s felt that way here for a very long time. If there is one word I would use to describe the mood of this state, it’s “pessimistic.”

But oddly, I am optimistic. I am hopeful.

About the state of the economy? No, not really. About the future of the auto-industry? I’m on the fence on that one, too.

I have hope because something huge is planted inside my heart: eternity. The same wise man who spoke about the meaninglessness of everything wrote that part of the problem is that we are finite beings with infinite hearts. We can’t see the whole scope of all that is going on in this world from beginning to end, but we long to understand. We long for something that makes sense. We long for good news.

And that brings me to the source of my optimism and hope: Jesus.

Nearly two millenia ago, Jesus revealed himself as the architect of the world spinning outside my airplane window and the future architect of a new world where all that has seemed meaningless will have meaning. Jesus not only has eternity in his heart, he has it in his grasp. He can see from beginning to end.

But I can’t.

Because of my rebellion against his perfect will, my view is limited and I am part of the problem-we are all part of the problem.

But this is where hope steps into the picture. Jesus lived a perfect life and yet he was brutally executed as if he was part of the problem, too. And that execution, along with his miraculous resurrection from the dead became the solution once and for all. And from the first century until today, Jesus’ people have set about to bring this good news to the world, to become part of the solution. We set about to work against the pessimistic tide of our culture. We proclaim a hope that while things may seem meaningless, it’s only because we can’t see the beginning and the end. And we know that the solution starts with acknowledging a God who has eternity in his grasp.

Noel Heikkinen is a recovering hypocrite who spends the majority of his time pastoring and teaching at Riverview Church, surfing the internet on his iPhone, and hanging out with his smoking hot wife and four wildly talented children. Noel plans on spending the rest of his life figuring out how to vicariously plant hundreds of churches without ever leaving Riverview.


11 Responses to Noel Heikkinen on The Good News

  1. sonja says:

    Noel,
    It is good to know that Jesus ‘knows the beginning and the end’ even when we can’t always see like you shared.I wonder though what made you think that ‘the solution starts with acknoledging a God who has eternity in His grasp’
    Are there not more ways to prepare before a solution is becoming?
    I understand that you see ‘the jesus people become part of the solution’

    You mentioned too ‘we set about to work against the pessimistic tide of our culture’
    Can you explain that more?
    I just wondered why we could not accept this pessimistic tide…and start to work ‘with’ instead of’ against’.
    Sonja

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  3. brgulker says:

    Cool post, Noel.

    I have hope because something huge is planted inside my heart: eternity. The same wise man who spoke about the meaninglessness of everything wrote that part of the problem is that we are finite beings with infinite hearts. We can’t see the whole scope of all that is going on in this world from beginning to end, but we long to understand. We long for something that makes sense. We long for good news.

    I wonder, how does that hope for eternity impact our lives as more than just an idea in our minds and a feeling in our hearts? In other words, is the Christian hope for eternity merely escapism? Or, does our hope for eternity make a difference in the here and now in more than just our thoughts and feelings?

  4. Bryan Wiles says:

    Great thoughts Noel. As someone who bounces back and forth from being a pessimist to an optimism it is great to be reminded that Jesus is the solution. While our government, economy, jobs, and everything in this world may look to be falling apart, there is one constant source of hope. Thanks for your thoughts!

  5. Noel says:

    If God is truly the author and creator of everything, than he is ultimately in control. He sees from beginning to end and is the only one who can see how everything fits together in his overall plan. That’s why I think it is essential to acknowledge him first.

    On your second question, I would say that there are many tides in our culture that we can and should work with. At the same time, as Christ-followers, there are tides that we must work against. We are not to be pessimistic people.

    Paul addresses both of these in the book of Ephesians, where he writes:

    I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.​ I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. (Ephesians 1:18-21)

    Those of us who follow Jesus are to be hopeful people, because we serve Jesus who is far above everything and the same power that raised him from the dead is now at work in our lives.

  6. Noel – Very well written and true indeed!

    JR – The project is a great idea, I’ve followed it a bit and have really been blessed!

    ‘brjulker’ – Great question about escapism! Sadly, I think a lot of Christians think about this planet (issues of justice, mercy, and stewardship) like they would about polishing the Titanic before it sank – a total lost cause. But I think that smells more like American consumerism/individualism/apathy, than it does the teaching of scripture.

    I rather see the resurrection and then the Great Commission (Mt. 28) not just as a way to believe ONLY for the sake of going to heaven in a little row boat; I think Jesus’ atonement of my sins was His greatest accomplishment, but it’s even bigger than that. Jesus, with all authority, beckoned His people to be and make disciples who obey all His commands (by grace, not law) which include being sanctified, doing justice & mercy, and living out our role as peacemakers and stewards on His earth. Just as God became flesh, we the new humanity are to incarnate too; be “salt”, “light”, – “ambassadors”…

    As a matter of fact, I just remembered reading one of JR’s papers a few years back and I think it speaks to your question quite well:
    http://jrwoodward.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/a-holistic-gospel-final.pdf

    Justin

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  8. sonja says:

    Noel,
    Thank you for your explaination and sharing about ‘the incredible greatness of His power’. We are to be hopeful people as believers and in need of unity ourselves first,before we can even think to be part of other great projects right?.
    sadly enough there are many theories about how that power should manifest itself through all the different church ‘continents’.

  9. Sonja says:

    Noel,
    It reminded me of this verses of hope in exodus again:

    In your unfailing love you will lead
    the people you have redeemed.
    In your strength you will guide them
    to your holy dwelling.
    The nations will hear and tremble:
    By the power of your arm
    they will be as still as a stone —
    until your people pass by, o lord
    until the people you bought pass by.
    You will bring them in and plant them on the
    mountain of your inheritance
    the place,o Lord.
    you made for your dwelling,
    the sanctuary, o Lord, your hands established.
    The Lord will reign forever and ever
    Exodus 15: 13,16b,17,18

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  11. Krista says:

    (my quick response/ramble…)
    Wise words most appreciated.
    In most ‘circles’ I feel it is waaay too easy to get sucked into the pessimistic lull. It seems there is always something to get down/complain about (weather, health – namely: lack there of, job, loss of job etc). Not that these aren’t often real problems, its just, in the light of eternity they are small, and most importantly, not without hope.
    Thank you for reminding us of the importance of hope & faith in a good, just, and loving God.

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