Randy Alcorn

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      What A Ten Year Study on Self-Centeredness Revealed: John Cacioppo concluded, "that focusing on yourself causes you to feel more isolated which causes you to focus even more on yourself. A vicious cycle of self-centeredness and loneliness ensues. To put it plainly — a focus on ourselves grows when we are continually by ourselves." 

2.      Half of Millennial Christians Say It's Wrong to Evangelize: Kate Shellnutt reports on new research from Barna, "Younger folks are tempted to believe instead, “if we just live good enough lives, we can forgo the conversation entirely, and people around us will almost magically come to know Jesus through our good actions and selfless character,” she said. “This style of evangelism is becoming more and more prevalent in a culture constantly looking for the fast track and simple fix.”

3.      What God Does for Us in Suffering: Randy Alcorn offers important wisdom, " There’s no nearness to God without dependence on God. And nothing makes us more dependent on Him than when the bottom drops out."

4.      How to Read the Book of Revelation Well: Great advice by Ian Paul. Every point packs a great punch and is well worth the read. He shares, " This is not an exercise in being ‘academic’ in our reading. It is just the normal discipline of recognising that the Bible was speaking in the language of its context and culture, and this decisively shapes its meaning."

5.      Confronting Defensive People: Jim Van Yperen with seven pieces of advice that we can all use, "A simple rule is this: never confront power with power, confront power with loving truth."

6. Making Faith Your Own or Making Up Your Own Faith? Benjamin Vrbicek reflects on stunning statements from a seminary President.

What I Read In 2018; What I’m Hoping to Read in 2019

What I Read In 2018; What I’m Hoping to Read in 2019

I read 54 books in 2018: about one a week. I love learning and books are one of my favorite forms of learning. I tend to read five types of books: Christian Living, Theology, Leadership, General Non-Fiction, and Fiction. If you’re interested in tracking my reading, getting fuller reviews, and sharing with me your favorites, I use Goodreads and would be happy to have you friend me there. Here were some highlights for me in 2018:

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      What Americans Think About the Afterlife: Aaron Earlys reports that, "According to Pew Research’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, 66 percent of American Christians say many religions can lead to eternal life." 

2.      Should Christians Arm Themselves? John Piper weighs in on the issue of nonviolence. His answer is similar to mine, “The issue is about the whole tenor and focus and demeanor and heart-attitude of the Christian life. Does it accord with the New Testament to encourage the attitude that says, ‘I have the power to kill you in my pocket, so don’t mess with me’? My answer is, No.”

3.      Younger People Decidedly More Pro-Choice: Discouraging news for Pro-Lifers. Carol Pipes reports, "A new survey from Public Religion Research Institute shows a widening generational divide on reproductive health issues and abortion, with one-quarter of young people ages 18 to 29 saying they’ve grown more supportive of abortion rights over the past few years."

4.      Rediscovering the Lost Art of Lament: Stephen Um reflects, "The Bible is not ashamed of lament. In the Psalms, 60 of the 150 are categorized as lament psalms—40%. There is one book in the Bible that is devoted to laments, and it is aptly named Lamentations. Why does the Bible embrace a lament? Because it is honest about human experience. It doesn’t settle for some superficially shallow way of describing what’s going on, as if to pretend that suffering is not serious or that it is just an illusion. We, too, must learn to meaningfully and honestly express the anguish of our hearts, if we are to avoid superficiality or pretense."

5.      Heaven Would Be Hell Without God: Randy Alcorn reflects on a thread of some recent talk about heaven: God is absent. That is a significant omission. 

6.      Nutella: a Tasty Snack Created by the Necessity of War: Interesting History of a delicious treat. 

What is Heaven? It's a Community

What is Heaven? It's a Community

Every so often someone will share with me that they don’t have any friends or haven’t found anyone who they think would make a good friend. And so they sit on the sidelines, disengaged from community.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around their experience. I’ve never lived in a place where I didn’t feel disappointed by the fact that we aren’t able to spend meaningful time with all of those we wanted to befriend or that we weren’t able to go deeper in our existing friendships. And many of my deepest regrets are in the ways I’ve failed others relationally: either not investing in relationships locally or not maintaining friendships from a distance.

Some have the faulty notion that relationships will cease when we get to heaven. Whether it is my childhood image of us perpetually singing around the throne of God or the ubiquitous picture of us strumming harps on clouds, relationships are largely omitted in popular conceptions of heaven.

One of the great promises of heaven are the relationships that will be rekindled, the relationships that will be deepened, and the brand new relationships that will be sparked.

What is Heaven? It's a Feast

What is Heaven? It's a Feast

Some of the most surprising and revealing passages in scripture are the glimpses we have of the resurrected Christ. In these snapshots, we have brief previews of what our bodily resurrection will look like. In two of these snapshots we see Jesus eating fish with his disciples.[i] What? The resurrected Jesus is eating? He sure is.

And with our resurrected bodies, we will eat too! One of the most powerful images in scripture of heaven is tucked away in Isaiah 25:6

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines.

That, friends, is a party! I don’t know about you, but the idea that we get to eat for eternity is very attractive to me. Can you imagine all the new types of food we will taste? Exotic dishes we will experience?

I can smell the steak grilling and the bacon sizzling now.

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What is Heaven? It's Dynamic!

What is Heaven? It's Dynamic!

Can we learn in heaven? According to one survey, only 18% of Americans believe that people will "grow intellectually in heaven.”[i] It makes sense. We should know everything in heaven, right? In the presence of God, won't all knowledge be ours?

And yet, we will be learners in heaven. Ephesians 2:6-7 says, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace.” Do you catch the presumption of active learning in heaven in that verse? God is going to show us the incomparable riches of his grace… in the coming ages!

What are the incomparable riches of his grace he will show us? The list is endless. We will certainly understand the wonder of God’s grace on the cross more perfectly, but we will also be shown more profoundly God’s grace in creation, in art, in science, in beauty!

America’s greatest theologian Jonathan Edwards rejoiced in the progressive increase of our knowledge in heaven, “The number of ideas of the saints shall increase to eternity.”[ii]

In God’s grace-filled purpose, we are built to be learners.

What is Heaven? It's Physical

What is Heaven? It's Physical

When I trusted Christ as a young boy, I remember thinking that the one downside of being a Christian was the boring afterlife that now awaited me. “I hope Jesus doesn’t return before I go to high school… before I get married… before I have kids,” I thought. There is a classic Gary Larson cartoon that captures my worst fears about heaven: “Wish I’d brought a magazine," the bored saint reflects.

I recently asked a group of sixth grade boys what they thought heaven would be like, and their picture of heaven mirrored what mine was at their age: a worship service that never ended, standing around the throne of God and singing song after song after song after song.

I mean, I liked church more than the average kid. I even sat through “big church” with my parents and liked the singing and preaching. But doing that forever? In the words of the old hip hop group OutKast, “Foreva eva?”[i]

Good news, friends. This won’t be the sum of heaven.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Sea Lions, Sharks, Dolphins, and a Whale take on a Shoal of Sardines: This is incredible to watch.

2.       How to Ruin Your Teens for Life: Eleven ways to make sure your teen is not prepared for the future by Tricia Goyer.

3.       Entertainment and Worship: Joe Thorn with a nuanced perspective on entertainment and worship: "The nineteenth-century pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them.” It may not be new, but it is increasingly popular, especially in light of our entertainment-driven culture."

4.       Will We Be Married in Heaven? Randy Alcorn responds to what he says is the most frequently asked question he gets about heaven: "there will be one marriage in Heaven, not many. That marriage will be what earthly marriage symbolized and pointed to, the marriage of Christ to His bride. So we will all be married—but to Christ... However, I do envision that people who’ve had important roles in each other’s lives will continue to be friends—and that would include a lot of people who’ve been married. So although married couples’ relationships will look different in Heaven, that certainly doesn’t mean that earthly marriage is unimportant and that God doesn’t use it in our lives in profound ways."

5.       What if There are More Categories Than Creation vs. Nurture? Justin Taylor explores the idea of creation nature, sin nature, sin nurture, and grace nurture. It's a very helpful way to think about this issue from a gospel perspective. 

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Arizona's Monsoon Season Begins: Incredible footage of an incredible season here in Tucson. 

2.      How the Worst Moment in My Life was Also the Best: David Murray shares the story of Matthew Bryce and considers it in light of our salvation: "Just over a week ago, Matthew Bryce decided to go surfing off the Scottish coast. Within a few hours the tide and wind had blown him thirteen miles out to sea. He watched the sun set, knowing he would not survive the night."

3.      How Self-Forgetfulness Makes us Happier: Randy Alcorn on how self-forgetfulness makes us happier: " However, people who think a lot about Christ and His grace, the great doctrines of the faith, and how to love and serve others tend to be happy people. By redirecting attention from ourselves to God, we adopt a right perspective that brings happiness."

4.      What to do when singleness lasts longer than expected:  Marshall Segal shares, “Marriage is a good gift and a terrible god. Most of my grief in my teenage years and even into my twenties came from giving more of my heart to my future marriage than to God. It’s easy to anchor our hope and happiness in a wife or husband and to define our growth, maturity, and worth by our marital status. And when we worship love, romance, sex, or marriage—and not God—we welcome the pain and disappointment.”

5.      7 Things to Consider Before You Make a Political Post: Thanks to Tim Challies who pointed me to Scott Slayton’s sage advice.