heaven

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     Just How Big is the US Economy? This visual chart is a reminder of just how big the economies of the US and China are. Wow.

2.     5 Misconceptions About Heaven and the Afterlife: This is quite the read, with a lot loaded in here, but if you enjoyed my series on heaven last year, I think you will enjoy this more academic version. J. Richard Middleton's has several pointed moments including this one: "For many decades now I have been asking my students—whether in Bible studies, Sunday School, or in my college and seminary courses—to find even one biblical passage that clearly says that Christians will live in heaven forever (or that heaven is the eternal destiny of the believer). I have even offered a reward for success. So far no one has ever found such a passage."

3.     Why God Delights to Forgive: Scott Hubbard shares this wonderful news with us, "[D]eep down, where roots sink into soil, we wonder if God is really that happy forgiving us. Our suspicions easily replace the Bridegroom’s pleasure with pursed lips, the Shepherd’s song with a lecture, and the Father’s robe with the elder brother’s hand-me-downs. If we are going to feel and not just confess that God delights to forgive those who come to him through Jesus, we will need to grasp why he forgives."

4.     Don't Downplay Your Suffering: Regan Rose with a counter-intuitive admonition: " One of the biggest mistakes believers can make when facing a tragedy is to minimize it. I think so many of us do it because we are lacking a robust theology of suffering. So, our first reaction to a tragedy is to try and explain it away. “Hey, it could be worse!” “Everything will be okay.” “This is just a season.” Like a doctor slapping a smiley face sticker over a cancerous tumor, all some Christians know to do in the face of true calamity is to pave it over with platitudes."

5.     Crowder's Happy Day: How can you not smile when you watch this?

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. 

Anticipating Heaven

Anticipating Heaven

“How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” This absurd question is attributed to William Chillingworth[i], who was mocking the penchant of some medieval theologians for expending their energy debating meaningless topics.

It has been famously said “Don’t be so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good.”

We’ve expended a number of weeks discussing heaven. Do these conversations and dreaming about heaven diminish our earthly usefulness?

Is talking about heaven the equivalent of debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? What does it have to do with your life? With my life?

Dreaming about heaven is no worthless theological debate over angels on the head of a pin! Our anticipation of heaven has the power to radically re-shape our lives to be more like Christ, looking toward the joy set before us.[ii]

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.     Safety is Not the Antidote to Fear: A brief video by Gary Haugen that shakes our expectations of what God wants to do in the midst of our fears.

2.    Learning About the Wolves: Kevin DeYoung reflects on who are wolves in the church and how we should respond to them.

3.    How Our Churches Can Grow in Diversity: We have so far to go in this. I'm grateful for Greg Morse presenting not just the seriousness of the issue: "The father of lies devours minority souls, barring them from the gospel of grace and eternal life, simply by whispering, 'Christianity isn’t for you. Whites only.' When Christianity is whitewashed, when the church becomes associated with suburban country clubs, when our celebrated leaders and theologians throughout time have almost exclusively white faces... minority souls close their ears to the gospel and die in their sins." Morse also calls us forward. Among his admonitions he asks us to re-evaluate our stance on justice issues: " Social justice is not the gospel — but it is a result of the true gospel, and can be instrumental in directing souls to the true gospel." 

4.     Why the End of Marriage in Eternity is Good News: John Piper shares hard to believes news, " If the age to come is not only an improvement over the worst of this world, but over the best, then the end of marriage is spectacularly good news. Do you see this? Marriage in this age, at its best, offers some of life’s most intense pleasures, and sweetest intimacies. If you have ever tasted these, or have ever dreamed of tasting them, then you can feel the astonishing force of the promise that marriage will be no more because it was too weak to carry God’s best eternal pleasures."

5.     Match Made in Marrow: Radiolab is one of my favorite podcasts, it is also done from a secular scientific worldview that is atheistic in slant. I was shocked when they made the story of a man who came to faith in God because of his atheist bone marrow donor the centerpiece of their podcast last week. It is a fantastic listen.

6.       Penguins Don’t Belong in Antactica: Kellen Erskine is too funny: “Have you ever seen the way penguins walk? They walk the same way you would, if you were wearing cold, wet pants.”

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.