Archive for ‘Heaven’

07/07/2017

FOMO

     One legitimate FOMO [Fear Of Missing Out] cuts through all the other FOMOs of life: the fear of eternally missing out.  God’s wrath is real.  And apart from Christ, there is only eternal destruction.  The wealthy man in Jesus’s parable [of the Rich Man and Lazarus; Lk. 16:19ff] is a portrait of life’s greatest tragedy – a man filling his pockets, his belly, and his life with vain pleasures.  He bought Satan’s old lie to Eve, choosing the foolish path of God-ignoring self-sufficiency, and never embraced God as his greatest treasure.  He deadened the reality of judgment with the Novocain of self-indulgence, and by it he destroyed himself eternally.

In this condition of unbelief, the rich man faced the agony of the one most dreaded missing out, an eternal missing out, a weeping-and-gnashing-of-teeth missing out.  ‘Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it’ (Heb. 4:1).  The fear of missing out on eternal life is the one FOMO worth losing sleep over – for ourselves, our friends, our family members, and our neighbors.

But if you are in Christ, the sting of missing out is eternally removed.  FOMO-plagued sinners embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he promises us no eternal loss.  All that we lose will be found in him.  All that we miss will be summed up in him.  Eternity will make up for every other pinch and loss that we suffer in this momentary life.  The doctrine of heaven proves it.  The new creation is the restoration of everything broken by sin in this life; the reparation of everything we lose in this world; the reimbursement of everything we miss out on in our social-media feeds.

Lazarus learned this blessed truth: heaven is God’s eternal response to all of the FOMOs of this life.  Heaven will restore every ‘missing out’ thousands of times over throughout all of eternity.  Therefore, the motto over the allurement of the digital age is set in the slightly altered words of the apostle Paul: I count every real deprivation in my life – and every feared deprivation in my imagination – as no expense in light of never missing out on the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for all eternity.

Tony Reinke, Twelve Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 160-61.

09/21/2016

Words at a Grave

Rosemary Ellen Carter

Graveside Committal Service

New London Friends Cemetery

9/20/16

 grandma-carter

We come now to this place where so many of our ancestors have been laid to rest in order to commend the soul of our sister, sister-in-law, mom, mother-in-law, grandma, great-grandma, and friend to Almighty God as we commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

 

The reason why we have profound sadness in our hearts right now is because we know it wasn’t meant to be this way.  Tragically, sin entered our world, and death through sin (Rom. 5:12).

 

But the great reality that gives hope is that God has entered this world, in the person of Jesus Christ.  He took on our flesh; and then took on the sin of all those who are united to him by faith and graciously paid the penalty for that sin in his death on the cross.  He was buried.  And then three days later his body came back to life never to die again.  He ascended into heaven and has promised to come again one day to finally put everything right.

 

Grandma repented of her sin and put her trust in Christ as her Savior, therefore we can have assurance that though her soul is absent from her body, it is present with the Lord at this moment (2Cor. 5:8).  And one day at Christ’s return her soul will be reunited to this body and she will rise to live forever in a new creation with God where he shall wipe away all tears and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things will have passed away (Rev. 21:4).  Therefore, we do not have to sorrow as others who have no hope (1Thess. 4:13).

 

Grandma wanted Jesus’ words from John 14 to be read on this occasion.  It was a favorite passage of hers that perfectly puts this scenario into perspective for all of us.  Jesus said to his disciples:

 

Let not your hearts be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know.  Thomas said unto him, Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?  Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one comes unto the Father, but by me.

 

God has told us very clearly the way to be with him forever.  Praise God for this!

 

Let us pray:

 

Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend thy servant Rosemary Ellen Carter.  Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming.  Receive her into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.  Amen.

07/17/2014

The Everlasting City

Listen to Augustine describe the eternal city of God. Don’t you want to go there?

Who can measure the happiness of heaven, where no evil at all can touch us, no good will be out of reach; where life is to be one long laud extolling God…. God will be the source of every satisfaction, more than any heart can rightly crave, more than life and health, food and wealth, glory and honor, peace and every good – so that God, as St. Paul said, ‘may be all in all’ (1 Cor. 15:28). He will be the consummation of all our desiring – the object of our unending vision, of our unlessening love, of our unwearying praise… in the everlasting City, there will remain in each and all of us an inalienable freedom of the will, emancipating us from every evil and filling us with every good, rejoicing in the inexhaustible beatitude of everlasting happiness, unclouded by the memory of any sin or of sanction suffered, yet with no forgetfulness of our redemption nor any loss of gratitude for our Redeemer…. And, surely, in all that City, nothing will be lovelier than this song in praise of the grace of Christ by whose Blood all there were saved…. On that day we shall rest and see, see and love, love and praise – for this is to be the end without the end of all our living, that Kingdom without end, the real goal of our present life.

From Augustine, City of God: An Abridged Version, ed. Vernon J. Bourke (New York: Doubleday, 1958), 540-45.

06/27/2013

O, To Die Like This

Charles Drelincourt (1595-1669) was a French Protestant Pastor. These are his famous words upon his death:

Adieu, my dear relatives, my precious friends! I rise to God, I am going to my Father. The struggles are over, and I abandon my misery and exchange today the earth for the heavens.

By faith, dry the tears from your eyes, banish from your hearts all bitter sadness, and if your love for me was ever sincere, reflect on my joy and be happy for me.

Ah! but my lot is wonderful! It is worthy of envy. By death, I pass to the domain of life, and in dying lose nothing but mortality.

Follow me, with vows of hope and zeal. If death separates us for a limited time, God will unite us in eternal glory.

Qtd. in D.A. Carson, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 140.

05/29/2013

Hope

Alan Paton, author of Cry, The Beloved Country, said in a lecture in 1985:

In such times as these it is easy to lose hope. Nadezhda Mandelstam, whose husband, the poet Osip Mandelstam, died in 1938 in a ‘transit camp’ at Vladivostok, wrote a book about their life of unspeakable suffering under Stalin. This book she called Hope Against Hope. After his death she wrote a second book, and wished it to be called in English Hope Abandoned. In South Africa we are still writing the first book. We trust that we shall never have to write the second.

Humans must have hope to exist. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12) and hope erased makes the heart die.

As Christians, our hope is ultimately in heaven – “the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13), “the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23), “the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1Pe. 1:13), etc…

C.S. Lewis remarked [The Problem of Pain (New York: Collier, 1962), 144]:

We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about ‘pie in the sky,’ and of being told that we are trying to ‘escape’ from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric.

Gary Haugen in his book Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World [(Downers Grove: IVP, 1999), 118] adds:

If there is no pie in the sky, I frankly don’t have any earthly hope that is not immediately crushed under the weight of the empirical data of despair around me. The pie in the sky is not, for me, a reason to escape from the needs of our world; rather, it offers the nourishment of spirit that has empowered Christians through the ages to serve those needs tirelessly, even unto death.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (Jn. 14:1-3).

05/23/2013

A Normal Life of Love

I watched the series finale of The Office last night. Intriguing! There was so much there that echoes biblical truth (and so much there that undermines it too).

The last line was:

I think an ordinary paper company like Dunder Mifflin was a great subject for a documentary. There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?

Mark Galli has an article in the latest issue of Christianity Today about Rob Bell. But it’s about more than that. It’s about our religion of feeling and disdain of the ordinary. I found Galli’s last words to be utterly profound and full of biblical truth.

To be sure, we now also know joy, but only because the promise of our redemption is assured by Christ’s death and resurrection and made known to us by the Holy Spirit. But it’s not a present experience of redemption – of flourishing and thriving, of becoming all that we can be, of amazement at the immediate encounter with God each day – but the assured hope that redemption is coming. “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (vv. 24-25, ESV).

To wait in patience is just the opposite of what we are often encouraged to do. Instead, we convince ourselves that we don’t need patience as much as willpower, because if we do everything right, we can make divine encounters a daily, ongoing, and enthralling experience. But with this comes the corollary: There must be something wrong with me, something lacking in my devotion, if I don’t have these experiences. By contrast, Paul’s admonition to wait in patience suggests that it’s normal not to have such experiences.

Yes, they do happen. In his grace God gives us periodic glimpses of the future, tastes of what is coming. This happens in those famous conversion experiences, and in healings, in miracles, in those moments when God’s presence is keenly felt. I myself have experienced a healing of severe pain in my leg. I have also almost been “slain in the Spirit” (but got hold of myself just in time!). And as the Spirit leads, I speak in tongues. I have also had ecstatic experiences when the love of God penetrated my whole being.

And in a life of 60 years, I can count these experiences on one hand. Because I’ve had such experiences, I understand perfectly the desire to have them all the time, and to imagine that maybe there is a technique, a method, a way to pray, a way to be open and alert – something! – that will allow me to experience this daily. Believe me, I tried that for a while and discovered that, yes, I could manufacture something very similar to a genuine spiritual experience. But it soon became clear that the search for daily wonder was creating a religion of Mark Galli. It wasn’t helping me love my neighbor, though it did help me judge my neighbor as relatively unspiritual, at least compared to me.

I believe there is yet another reason we’re fascinated with divine encounters: our boredom with the life God has given us.

Instead of a life of experience, Christ calls us to a life of love. And a life of love for the most part means attending to the tedious details of others’ lives, and serving them in sacrificial ways that most days feels, well, not exciting at all. Rather than sweeping the kitchen, cleaning the toilet, listening to the talkative and boring neighbor, slopping eggs onto a plate at the homeless shelter, or crunching numbers for another eight hours at the office – surely life is meant for more than this. We are tempted to wonder, Is that all there is to the “abundant” Christian life? Shouldn’t my life be more adventurous if God is in me and all around me? How am I going to be all I’m supposed to be if I have to empty bedpans in Peoria? I would just die if I had to do that.

Yes, you would. Jesus called it dying to self. Love is precisely denying the self that wants to glory in experience. The cost of discipleship most of us are asked to pay is to live the life God has given us, serving in mundane ways the people he has put in our path. To be free from the self and to discover such love is the essence of abundant life.

As Paul put it, in the final analysis love is not about speaking in tongues, having prophetic powers, understanding all mysteries or knowledge, having experiences of wonder, or being all we can be. Love instead “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7; ESV). Yes, endures. It endures now because it hopes. And it hopes because it has not yet been given in full what is promised, but only glimpses here and there, mere appetizers to the great kingdom feast.

04/02/2013

Edith Schaeffer (1914 – 2013)

What a magnificent description of her death from her son-in-law Udo Midleman:

Today she ‘slipped into the nearer presence of Jesus’, her Lord, from whom she awaits the promised resurrection to continue her life on earth and to dance once again with a body restored to wholeness.

03/28/2013

Why I Am A Baptist

While some are less than helpful, there are some really insightful testimonies in Why I Am A Baptist, edited by Tom Nettles and Russell Moore (Nashville: B&H, 2001).

In Don Whitney’s essay he quotes from William Cathcart’s Baptist Encyclopedia (1881; emphasis mine):

The Baptists of this country hold that the Word of God is the only authority in religion, that its teachings are to be sacredly observed, and that to religious doctrines and observances there can be no additions except from it; they hold that a man should repent and be saved through faith in the meritorious Redeemer before he is baptized; that immersion alone is Scripture baptism; that only by it can the candidate represent his death to the world, burial with Christ, and resurrection to newness of life; that baptism is a prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper; they hold the doctrines of the Trinity, of eternal and personal election, total depravity, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, progressive sanctification, final perseverance a special providence, immediate and eternal glory for the righteous after death, and instant and unending misery for the ungodly. They hold the doctrinal articles of the Presbyterian Church, and they only differ from that honored Calvinistical community in the mode and subjects of baptism, and in their congregational church government.

Such uniformity could not be claimed today, but that this was case during the founding of our denomination is a major reason why I am a Baptist.

11/08/2012

Hell

In my preparation for preaching this week on Matthew 25:31-46 I read this helpful paragraph from D.A. Carson, Matthew, Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 523:

The final separation of ‘sheep’ and ‘goats’ is a recurring theme in the NT, including Matthew (e.g., 7:21-23; 13:40-43). Some have argued that this doctrine has turned many people into infidels; but so have other Christian doctrines. The question is not how men respond to a doctrine but what Jesus and the NT writers actually teach about it. Human response is a secondary consideration and may reveal as much about us as about the doctrine being rejected. Nevertheless two things should be kept in mind: (1) as there are degrees of felicity and responsibility in the consummated kingdom (e.g., 25:14-30; cf. 1 Cor 3:10-15), so also are there degrees of punishment (e.g., Matt 11:22; Luke 12:47-48); and (2) there is no shred of evidence in the NT that hell ever brings about genuine repentance. Sin continues as part of the punishment and the ground for it.

10/10/2012

The Sound of Bad Theology

I love the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. It has a nostalgic effect on me. It is a moving story. The melodies are memorable. And in many ways it is wholesome entertainment.

But underneath even the most wholesome movies we must beware of wretched theology. Do I really need to have ‘confidence in me’? Or how about when an unexpected good happens to us, should we sing, ‘Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could. So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good’? There is no gospel here. It’s all a sugar-coated form of merit.

But I’ve been thinking lately about the scene where Maria is struggling to find God’s will for her life. Mother Superior’s advice is that she should ‘climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, ’till you find your dream.’ That seems to be the motto of our culture. It was the processional at my high school baccalaureate service. But what if, because of the security of the gospel… and the sure hope of heaven, the right Christian approach is to just pick a hill and die on it?

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you” (1Thess. 4:11).