Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
World Magazine profiles Jason Kovacs and the ABBA Fund:
When Jason Kovacs and his wife Shawnda were newly married, they developed a strong passion for adopting. "We were convicted by James 1:27, which said that 'true religion' involved looking after orphans," Kovacs said. But as a young couple on the staff at a church—Minneapolis' Bethlehem Baptist Church—the estimated $20,000 needed to adopt a child was simply beyond their means.
So they turned to the Abba Fund, one of a small but growing number of organizations that provide matching grants and interest-free loans to Christian families that want to adopt. Now, nearly 10 years and two adoptions later, Kovacs is the executive director of the Abba Fund.
Adoption funds are, in concept, simple: They provide grants and interest-free loans to couples who want to adopt but cannot afford the up-front costs associated with adoptions. "Most adoptive couples are relatively young," said Kovacs. "This is a great way for the church to come alongside these young couples to help with the adoption process."
Monday, October 27, 2008
Joan Dugan, The Worst Babysitter Ever
Therefore, Go! Will We Choose Comfort or a Cross?
Whose are you?
We were created for…
1. A Person
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” –John 14:1
2. A Place
“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” –John 14:2
“…Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or crying or pain…” –Revelation 21:3-4
3. A Purpose (Christ is IN you FOR them!)- Pray & Preach!
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” –Matthew 24:14
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news’… Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” –Romans 10:13-15, 17
“I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” –Revelation 7:9
“All the nations you have made will come and worship before you” –Psalm 86:9
Our two motives for missions:
(1) “For the sake of the name” (3 John 1:7)
(2) Compassion- “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown in the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15)
PLACES: HOME & ABROAD: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” –Acts 1:8
STATE OF THE WORLD STATS (from Momentum Magazine & The Joshua Project)
*An average of 160,000 people a day hear the gospel for the very first time. In 1800, 75% of the world’s population had never heard the gospel. In 1900, it was about 50% (879 million people). Today, 28% of the world remains unreached- still 1.7 billion people!
*2/3 of the world lives in what is known as the “10/40 window”- an area 10-40 degrees of the equator, and 95% are unreached or “least-reached” people groups.
*There are approximately 16,450 people groups (6.63 billion people) & 6,580 of them are unreached or least-reached people groups (2.67 billion people).
*30,000 children today will breathe their last breaths
Friday, October 17, 2008
The reason for fighting I never got straight
But I learned to accept it, accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead when God's on your side.
That Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you; you'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot had God on his side."
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Erin spent her first full day at home, and it was a good one! She is really beginning to get a feel for her wheelchair and is beginning to eat with more regularity, which is great. All things considered, things are going well. Doesn't she look beautiful? She is such a trooper.
Support has continued to pour in. The Samford Crimson is printing an article tomorrow, and people at Campus Outreach volunteered to cover our dinners from Sunday to Friday. I just can't stop thanking God for the response of his body. If you're looking for a way to contribute, meals would be a fantastic way... or write up a check to Redeemer Community Church... or gift certificates (Amazon & Urban Outfitters)?
Here is the wheelchair ramp that Mr. Eades & Thomas built. Not bad, eh?
Less important Matt news: I've been raising support to go on staff with Campus Outreach, and, by the sheer grace & providence of God, I have jumped 36% in the last eleven days... God has given me such encouragement & re-affirmation over the last week-plus. I'm asking God to help me get on campus by next semester, so please keep praying for Erin & me as well...
Lastly, Ben Folds put out a new album today! Huzzah!
Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Mr. Eades & Thomas built a wheelchair ramp for her at Thomas & Melissa's this morning. Very handy indeed.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
I think Erin would join me in saying thanks to God & you, the body of Christ, and how you have responded. There have been so many phone calls and so many people bringing clothes, toiletries, books, movies, and other things to replace what she lost. The body of Christ has been a wonderful picture of community- rallying in prayer, giving time & things, and, ultimately "filling up in [your] flesh what is still lacking in regards to Christ's afflictions." Thank you for showing us pictures of Christ's love.
As for Erin herself, she received her "corset," (Melissa & I want to have a contest to see who can come up with the pimpest design for it- in the lead are Robby's offer to cover it in cloth, my idea to make it look like a shot-through-bullet-proof vest, Mr. Eades's skeleton proposal, and Wonder Woman) as she lovingly calls it today, and she made her first venture into a wheelchair, which will be her vehicle for the next 6-8 weeks. It was a rough adventure, but Erin's looking forward to building some spectacular biceps (and abs, as a part of her back rehab).
Mr. Eades will be building a ramp so that she can stay at Thomas & Melissa's once she leaves here. Thank you to all of you who so graciously offered your home (I think the count stands at 5- you guys are ridiculous).
Erin's trying to go to sleep now, so I think I'm going to shut the computer and watch the rest of the UGA debacle on mute.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Erin's out of surgery now... She had surgery on her ankle, specifically the talus bone, which is one of the bones that comprises the ankle, and, incidentally, one of the planets in the Star Wars universe... The doctor said that the surgery went well, but there's just no way to know just yet how it's going to turn out. If the blood vessels in her talus grow back properly, then she should be a-okay. If not, however, she could have avascular necrosis (bone death due to lack of blood flow) and they'll have to go back in and fuse the bone to another one... Bummer. Either way, she'll be rocking a wheelchair for 4-6 weeks. Brainstorming ways to trick it out presently. She'll also be sporting a new, hip vest for her cracked vertebrae (t-11 & t-12).
We'll be chilling at the hospital for the next few days if you want to drop by (Room 403, yo). Oh, and Joel said that if you'd like to make a contribution to her, Laura Vandal, or Laura Pearson, because they lost... everything... if you write it out to Redeemer Community Church, then they can meet the needs specifically (and be tax-deductible!). 205-253-5635.
Phone Calls Received Concerning Erin: 34
Text Messages Received: 60+
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Driscoll: "The curious paradox of the atoning death of a bloody Jesus rising above the plane of human history with a mocking crown of thorns is that he is offensive in an attractive way. It is the utter horror of the cross that cuts through the chatter, noise, and nonsense of our day to rivet our attention, shut our mouths, and compel us to listen to an impassioned dying man who is crying out for the forgiveness of our sins and to ask why he suffered. Tragically, if we lose the offense of the cross, we also lose the attraction of the cross so that no one is compelled to look at Jesus. Therefore, Jesus does not need a marketing firm or a makeover as much as a prophet to preach the horror of the cross unashamedly. (Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, 33, emphasis added"
Driscoll on Joel Olsteen
Though I haven't read the book just yet, Alister McGrath, a professor at Oxford that I admire, released a book in response entitled The Dawkins Delusion? and wrote an amusing, intelligent article (the first link is another article written by him) called "Do Stop Behaving As If You Are God, Professor Dawkins."
Any way, all of that was a prelude to an article I found in the Wall Street Journal called "Look Who's Irrational Now." Interesting indeed.
An excerpt: The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won't create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that's not a conclusion to take on faith -- it's what the empirical data tell us.
"What Americans Really Believe," a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.
Recommended books in response: The Reason for God by Tim Keller & Letter from a Christian Citizen by Douglas Wilson
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I found this on Justin Taylor's blog. His post was entitled "A Knock-Down Argument Against Dancing in Church." I disagree. I expect Joel to implement this at Redeemer by Sunday.
And I heard so much about this video, I couldn't NOT post it. It's a song called "Jesus is my Friend." If you haven't seen it yet, just promise me you'll make it to 1:45 in the song so you can hear Jesus being compared to a mountee who "always gets his man." I wish I could hang out with the lead guitar player...
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
"The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It's an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets... God has put in the human heart a desire to know and to be known, to love and to be loved and so many seek a counterfeit," Bruce Larsen & Keith Millar
It makes sense, doesn't it? We were created for confessional community... Community that struggles together, labors together, prays together, fights together, cries together, etc. and when we don't have that, we search for it elsewhere- wherever we can find it. The bar is such a place. On Beach Project, especially the first summer I was down there, generally the most deep, impactful conversations I had were over cigars on the beach at night. It was almost as if we need this semi-rebellious excuse to really dig into each other's hearts & seek the mysteries of God. Silly, I know, but I think that I, as an American male, am in one sense, terribly afraid of being fully known, being "found out" by others as a fraud, as inadequate, etc., but, in another sense, as one created in the image of God, my heart cries to be known fully by another, to know another fully. My soul longs for the day when I will "know even as I am also known" (1 Cor 13:12).
And so I am excited about what's going on at Redeemer Community & (hopefully deepening) at our house... I want to be prone... I'm learning, as time goes by, that vulnerability bleeds vulnerability... If I want us all to be real with one another, I have to first be real... I must first commit to true community before true community can happen... Why has it taken me my whole Christian walk to get this? Dang...
This video's for John Lambuth, room 106, & Sean Leboeuf
Monday, August 25, 2008
1. Andrew Bird “Oh, Sister” (Bob Dylan)
2. Amos Lee “Listen”
3. Liam Finn “Second Chance”
4. Beck “Modern Guilt”
5. Son Lux “Betray”
6. Coldplay “Cemeteries of London”
7. Fleet Foxes “Ragged Wood”
8. Wild Sweet Orange “An Atlas to Follow”
9. Death Cab for Cutie “You Can Do Better Than Me”
10.Joshua James “Abbie Martin”
11. Blind Pilot “The Story I Heard”
12. Emily Wells “Symphony 6: Fair Thee Well & The Requiem Mix”
13. Death Cab for Cutie “I Will Possess Your Heart”
14. Bon Iver “Skinny Love”
15. Coldplay “Violet Hill”
16. Emily Wells “Symphony 8 & the Canary’s Last Take”
17. Amos Lee “Better Days”
18. Katie Herzig “Forevermore”
19. Ola Podrida “Atmosphere” (Joy Division)
20. Man Man “Top Drawer”
Two videos guaranteed to make you hurt & laugh: Slap Fight & Too Smart for Strangers by Winnie the Pooh.
And, just in case you haven't heard, David Blaine's latest trick: to spend twelve sleepless nights
Saturday, August 16, 2008
"There's a scripture that I think about almost every day and I've come to personalize it to my life. It says: 'Lord, who am I that you are mindful of me?' And the Apostle Paul says, 'Think of what you were when you were called. Not many were wise by human standards. Not many were influential. Not many were born of noble birth.'
"And when I look at my life and how I grew up, I certainly had none of those qualities or benefits.
"But I understand and I know that I'm here not by in and of my own strength but it's by the grace and the power of God upon my life who I know gave me favor along the way and who provided opportunity and room for me to use my gifts.
"So I am very grateful to receive this honor, and I can stand here before you and say, hey, look at me, look what I did. But if I'm going to boast, I'm going to boast today in the Lord, for it's because of him that I'm here and I give him thanks and glory and honor for all that he has done for me."
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I had never heard this hymn until Michael Cody informed me that he was going to reference it in his talk this summer on spiritual depression and fighting for joy. Over the past six weeks, it has quickly become one of my favorites. It is so good because in our most Job-esque moments, when we cannot see the light of the glory of Christ, when our guilt trumps our conceptions of grace, when darkness veils His lovely face, these words help us to rest in God's unchanging grace.
Few people understood that "God moves in a mysterious way" as deeply as William Cowper ("Cooper"), the poet who penned these words (and the words to other great hymns, such as "There is a Fountain Filled With Blood," "The Saints Should Never Be Dismayed," & "O for a Closer Walk with Thee"). Cowper (1731-1800) had attempted suicide three times before he moved in with the Unwin family and relocated with them to Olney, a town famous for its pastor, John Newton. Cowper & Newton built a relationship and Newton, composer of "Amazing Grace," asked Cowper to contribute to a hymnbook he was compiling. Cowper contributed hymns filled with such faith, but his bouts with insanity & depression continued. In 1773, he fell into another spell of insanity, believing that he was already irrevocably condemned to hell & that God was calling him to sacrifice his life. He battled depression on and off for the rest of his life, dying of dropsy in 1800.
Cowper had a tremendously hard life, but he was anchored in faith that, though he couldn't see or understand what God was doing, God knew (knows) exactly what He was (is) doing.
Though now known to us as the hymn "God Moves in a Mysterious Way," Cowper entitled it "Light Shining Out of Darkness." Fitting indeed.God moves in a mysterious way
his wonders to perform:
he plants his footsteps in the sea,
and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines,
with never-failing skill,
he treasures up his bright designs,
and works his sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
the clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy, and shall break
in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
but trust him for his grace;
behind a frowning providence
he hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
unfolding every hour:
the bud may have a bitter taste,
but sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
and scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
Since we'd never heard the hymn before, we (the COB-1 crew on Beach Project this summer) made a new melody for it. We wanted to get the full band to play for this rendition, but we garage-band'd it the night before Judson had to head home & Cliff was sick, so it's just Alyson, Judson, and I in the back of the resource room. We want to try it again with a fuller sound, but this one'll do for now. To download it, right-click (or control-click, for you awesome Mac users) on the file listed under "Advanced Audio Coding" (it should be the one that says 5.9 MB) and save the linked file. You should be able to play it in iTunes or any other media player.
Or... check out all of Cowper's poetical works here!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Preface: Everyone who walked into the church was greeted by St. Peter, who granted them admittance and gave them a halo. They walked into a room full of clouds made of pillow stuffing hanging from fishing line and terrible smooth jazz on repeat. We were going to play a terrible game of Bible Verse Bingo (in which, of course, everyone would win at the same time, though they had slightly different cards, and win the same prize: joy! hoorah!), but we couldn't pull it off. The five minutes before the talk, after having read the George Bernard Shaw quote below, I asked everyone to journal about what they really thought heaven was going to be like- not what they THOUGHT they were supposed to think about it, but what they REALLy thought about it...
Most people had a hard time spending five minutes describing heaven, which is frightening indeed, being that we'll be there forever and ever and always.
Sorry that the talk's in two parts. Blame it on Garage Band.
Heaven (part one)
Heaven (part two)
i hope this works...
Monday, June 30, 2008
JOURNAL ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK HEAVEN IS LIKE (5 min- following their mock time in "heaven"- playing Bible bingo, elevator music, clouds everywhere, etc.)
“To me, to live is Christ and to die is gain… Yet what shall I choose? I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” -Phil 1:21-23
Colossians 3:1-3 (ESV) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
A tip of the cap to Jonathan Edwards, Tim Keller, Randy Alcorn, Charles Spurgeon, J.I. Packer
Everyone has his or her thoughts; Mine stemmed mostly from Looney Tunes & All Dogs Go to Heaven. It was a boring place of sitting on clouds, pure white, & harps. It was a kid’s nightmare. Heaven sorta sucked.
“Heaven, as conventionally conceived, is a place so inane, so dull, so useless, so miserable, that nobody has ever ventured to describe a whole day in heaven” -George Bernard Shaw
“To me heaven is getting a harp, drinking a mint julep & asking Ronald Reagan questions” -S. Colbert
ASK THEM SOME OF THE THINGS THEY JOURNALED
Compare what you thought & what George Bernard Shaw thought to this:
“And oh! What joy will there be, springing up in the hearts of saints, after they have passed through their wearisome pilgrimage, to be brought to such a paradise as this! Here is joy unspeakable indeed, and full of glory- joy that is humble, holy, enrapturing, and divine in its perfection! Love is always a sweet principle; and especially divine love. This, even on earth, is a spring of sweetness; but in heaven it shall become a stream, a river, an ocean! All shall stand about the God of glory, who is the great fountain of love, opening, as it were, their very souls to be filled with those effusions of love that are poured forth from his fullness… Every soul there, is as a note in some concert of delightful music, that sweetly harmonizes with every other note, and all together blend in the most rapturous strains praising God and the Lamb forever… And thus they will love, and reign in love, and in that godlike joy that is its blessed fruit, such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath ever entered into the heart of man in this world to conceive; and thus in the full sunlight of the throne, enraptured with joys that are forever increasing, and yet forever full, they shall live and reign with God and Christ forever and ever” -Jonathan Edwards
Heaven, which in both Hebrew and Greek is a word meaning "sky," is the Biblical term for God's home (Ps. 33:13 - 14; Matt. 6:9) where his throne is (Ps. 2:4); the place of his presence to which the glorified Christ has returned (Acts 1:11); where the church militant and triumphant now unites for worship (Heb. 12:22-25); and where one day Christ's people will be with their Savior forever (John 17:5, 24; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). It is pictured as a place of rest (John 14:2), a city (Heb. 11:10), and a country (Heb. 11:16). At some future point, at the time of Christ's return for judgment, it will take the form of a reconstructed cosmos [world] (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1).
Why Should We Spend Time Studying Heaven?
The summer before I came on Beach Project I was in Montana… analogy- which is more loving for someone who is battling depression, etc.: for me to pull them in front of a full-size mirror or for me to pull them outside & let them be awed by beauty wholly outside of them, wholly beyond them?
1. We were created for a person (Christ) & a place (Heaven)
When you think of heaven, don’t think of a place where all the best amenities that the world has to offer are there available for us, as if God were competing with the prosperity of the West. Imagine a place where the very best things that the world have to offer pale in comparison to being with the very God of the universe.
When He tells us that He is going to prepare a place for us, he spoke as a groom to his bride-to-be. These are words of love and romance. How would any bride who loves her husband-to-be respond to these words? She’d be thrilled. Not a single day would go by, not a single hour, in which the bride wouldn’t anticipate joining her beloved in that place he prepared for her to live with him forever.
Like a bride’s dreams of sharing a home with her groom, our love for heaven should be overflowing and contagious, just like our love for God. Our passion for God and our passion for heaven should be inseparable. The more I learn about God, the more excited I get about heaven. The more I learn about heaven, the more excited I get about God.
Hebrews 11:13- Strangers & exiles in this land
2. We’ll be there forever
If we believe it lasts forever, shouldn’t we know something about it?
Like 007 going to take on the dirty Commies in Russia. Of course he would prepare before he got there.
In The Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis paints a beautiful picture of heaven in the final book, The Last Battle. The book begins with a near collision of a railroad train, where the children are thrust into Narnia. But when their adventure is over, the children are afraid they will be sent back to earth again.
Having experienced the joys and wonders of Narnia, and the presence of Aslan—the Lion who is in fact Christ—the thought of returning to earth was unbearable. Then, in the final section, called “Farewell to the Shadow Lands”, Aslan, the great Lion, gives the children some wonderful news:
“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are, as you used to call it in the Shadowlands, dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia have only been the cover and the title page. Now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the great Story which no one on earth has read; which goes on for ever; in which every chapter is better than the one before. -C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: Macmillan, 1956), 183-184
3. Nothing will so affect the way that we live in this world
If we study heaven, we’ll be better able to enjoy this world and labor well in it now
“What the New Testament says is God wants you to be a renewed human being helping him to renew his creation, and his resurrection was the opening bell. And when he returns to fulfill the plan, you won’t be going up there to him, he’ll be coming down here”. -NT Wright
“The kingdom of God… does not mean merely the salvation of certain individuals nor even the salvation of a chosen group of people. It means nothing less than the complete renewal of the entire cosmos, culminating in the new heaven and the new earth” -Anthony Hoekema
Why should we protect the environment? Why should we help the homeless? Why should we strive for peace in our world? For lives to be restored? For the hungry to have food? Because God is going to redeem this very world. No other religion in the world teaches this! So many other religions proclaim that this world is evil & religion is about escaping the desires of this world, but Christianity teaches that God is going to reconcile this very world (Romans 8:22- the world groans as it awaits new birth; Colossians 1:19-20- God is going to reconcile to himself ALL things through Christ’s death)
Our treasure is found elsewhere.
Matthew 6:19-21- store up for yourselves treasures in heaven
Edwards- What will it signify for us to hoard up great possessions in this world; and how can the thought of having our portion here be pleasing to us, when there is an interest offered us in such a glorious world as heaven is, and especially when, if we have our portion here, we must, when the world has passed away, have our eternal portion in hell, that world of hatred, and of endless wrath of God, where only devils and damned spirits dwell?
Heaven takes the pressure off this world and enables us to enjoy it.
If you insist that your work, your spouse, your sport, etc. is “it,” is worthy of all your hopes, it is certain to crack under the pressure. You won’t be able to truly enjoy these things unless you know that there’s something more. Does it not make sense: if you have a wildest fantasy, how do you feel the day after? Miserable. Does it make more sense to sacrifice now knowing that our greatest delight is still to come?
What Is Heaven Like?
1. Heaven is purest beauty & satisfaction beyond our ability to comprehend
Revelation 21:1-8 (note that there was a FIRST heaven; just because God is beyond time does not mean that heaven will not have a sequence of events or that we will not experience time. I think that the Bible makes it fairly clear that we will, because if we die before the “end of time,” we will be in heaven, but we will be awaiting Christ’s work to be finished so we can experience what John is talking about here, the joining of heaven and earth, and our joy will be so great that a thousand years will seem as a day) Read 2-8
Heaven is incredibly hard to describe. Every description that we have of heaven uses the word “like.” It’s like a city with clear gold; it’s like a marriage; it’s like a feast, etc. We dwell on it, fix our thoughts on what it is “like” and then our minds are blown as we learn that it is infinitely greater than the grandest of our thoughts.
1 Cor 2:9 “No eye has seen... what God has prepared for those who love him” Beautiful song? “No ear has heard” Magnificent image or description? “No mind conceived” Spurgeon said, “What a mistake for us to conceive such a thing! Heaven is not a place for the delight of mere sense; we shall be raised not a sensual body, but a spiritual body. We can get no conceptions of heaven through the senses; they must always come through the Spirit…But never think that imagination can picture heaven. When it is most sublime when it is freest from the dust of earth, when it is carried up by he greatest knowledge, and kept steady by the most extreme caution, imagination cannot picture heaven”
2. In many ways, heaven is a perfected earth. (Alcorn)
Revelation 21:9-21 is a physical description of the new Jerusalem. It is a literal city with literal dimensions.
Heaven is both a country (Luke 19:12; Heb. 11:14-16) and a city (Heb. 11:16; 12:22; 13:14; Rev. 21:12). A country is typically a large territory of various geographies, with citizens of diverse cultures and jobs, sometimes even languages, under one government that provides a common identity. A city is a place of many residences in near proximity. A city’s inhabitants are subject to the common government. Cities usually have varied and bustling activity, community events, education, arts, and visitors.
Heaven is and will be a place of great beauty, both natural created beauty and architecture, including streets of gold and buildings of pearls and emeralds and precious stones (Rev. 21:19-21). Heaven will have the advantages we associate with earthly cities, without the disadvantages
Other ways that heaven will be like earth: We will have bodies. There will be trees, fruit, animals, a river… We will continue to learn & grow in heaven. Once we get there, we won’t know everything automatically or else we would be God. We will have homes. We will recognize people from earth.
We will rest from our labors on earth (Rev. 14:13). There will be work in heaven, but heaven’s labor will be refreshing, productive and without futility or frustration. Perhaps it will be like the work Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15), before sin brought the curse on the ground, with its thorns (Gen. 3:17-19). We will be exercising leadership, since we will reign with Christ in heaven, and making important decisions. We judge or rule over the world and we judge and rule over angels (1 Cor. 6:2-3).
We will fellowship at the table with Christ and the redeemed saints from earth, communicating, story telling, and rejoicing with them (Matt. 8:11; Luke 22:29, 30; Rev. 19:9). Communication, dialogue, corporate worship, and other relationship-building interactions all take place in heaven. Saints and angels and God himself will interact together, building and deepening their relationships.
Above all else, we will worship God (Rev. 5:13-14; 7:9-12). Multitudes of God’s people, of every nation, tribe, people, and language, will gather to sing praise to God for his greatness, wisdom, power, grace, and mighty work of redemption
3. Above all else, heaven is a world of indescribably perfect & infinitely satisfying love (Edwards)
1 Corinthians 13:8-10, 12 “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when that which is perfect comes, that which is in part disappears… Now we see but a poor reflection [through glass darkly] as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”
In heaven, God will so perfectly and fully manifest His love to and in every heart that there will be no need for any other spiritual gift. Why would we need prophecy when we all see God face-to-face? Why should some excel in hospitality when all love and are loved perfectly? When every need is forever met?
Since the God of love (1 John 4:16) himself, the One whose very name is love, lives in heaven, heaven is a world of love for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light… “Seeing he is an all-sufficient being, it follows that he is a full and over-flowing, and inexhaustible fountain of love. And in that he is an unchangeable and eternal being, he is an unchangeable and eternal fountain of love.”
On earth we experience glimpses of this love: in parent-child relationships, in friendships, in romantic relationships- all of these are gifts of God to show us glimpses of His love, little drops of His love. It’s not like these things existed, and then God said, “Oh yeah, those things are sort of like how I love you…” No. God created these things in order that we might understand in part what his love is like, but in heaven, dwells the God from who every stream of holy love proceeds. It’s like moving from a light drizzle to being submerged in the ocean.
EYES CLOSED (FOCUS): There are none but lovely objects in heaven. There are none that pretend to be Christians. There are no hypocrites. There is nothing there that is not pleasant. Not only is everything lovely & pleasant, everything is perfectly so. “That blessed world shall be perfectly bright, without any darkness; perfectly fair, without any spot; perfectly clear, without any cloud. No moral or natural defect shall ever enter there; and there will be nothing that is sinful or weak or foolish.” No matter where you turn your eyes, all you see is dignity, beauty, and glory.
Everyone is united, with one mind, to breathe forth their whole souls in love to God their eternal Father, and to Jesus Christ their common Redeemer, and head, and friend. Every heart is wedded to its spiritual husband, and all the members of heaven are gloriously united. There is not a single secret or open enemy among them all. Not a heart is there that is not full of love, not a single inhabitant that is not loved by all the others. Love is mutual, full, and eternal. The saints in heaven love God for his sake and each other for God’s sake. There is no pride or selfishness in heaven to hinder this love. There is no more hatred, coldness, or deadness of heart towards Christ or towards anyone else. No, such feelings will be as far as sin is from holiness & heaven is from hell. Neither shall the saints of heaven have any doubt as to the greatness of God’s love towards them, and they shall have no doubt of the love of all their fellow inhabitants in heaven.
No one in heaven will be hindered from full & complete enjoyment of each other’s love by distance; for they shall all be together, as one family, all as the children of God, as brother and sister, in their heavenly Father’s house. There shall be no misunderstandings between them or misinterpreting things that are said and done. There will no divisions due to social status, prosperity or poverty, political alliance, race, nationality, or anything else, but everyone will be allied to the same Savior, and all employed in the same business, serving and glorifying the same God, all belonging to one another.
Everyone will enjoy one another’s love in the greatest prosperity, in glorious riches and comfort, in the highest honor and dignity, reigning together in the heavenly kingdom- inheriting all things, sitting on thrones, all wearing crowns of life, and being made kings and priests unto God forever.
In heaven, nothing will age or decay. The heavenly paradise of love shall always be kept as in a perpetual spring, without autumn or winter, where no frosts shall blight, or leaves decay and fall, but where every plant shall be in perpetual freshness, and bloom, and fragrance, and beauty, always springing forth, and always blossoming, always bearing fruit.
Life in heaven will be without the least sinful failure or error. None shall ever come short. Every feeling and action you have or anyone has shall be made perfectly in love and shall be perfectly glorifying to God in every circumstance.
JOURNAL ABOUT YOUR PICTURE OF HEAVEN NOW (5 min)
How Else Should This Knowledge of Heaven Affect Our Lives Now?
1. It should make it easier for us to fight sin- If we focus our hearts on heaven, sin will seem so much less appealing. Thinking of heaven helps leads us inevitably to pursuing holiness.
Edwards- “So now his or her heart, since it has the taste of heaven within it, strives all the more to end sin in his life, longs for the holiness that his heart cries out.”
2. If we cast our hope on heaven, the weight of all else will be easier to bear.
Romans 8:18- I consider that these present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory to be revealed in us.
KKK butterfly analogy
If you feel empty, feel unsatisfied, hate the wars, hate the fact that you struggle with dependence on people, the falseness of Christians, etc., REJOICE! Even the sweetest fellowship that we enjoy here on earth is but the smallest glimpse. The closest we’ve ever felt in this life is still only, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “seeing through a glass darkly,” but then we shall see face to face. So REJOICE! Nothing is as it should be. Nothing is as it WILL be! We HOPE in this world, but in the next one we will be SATISFIED completely. The Christian life is more about hope for the future than it is about satisfaction now, for THEN we will be satisfied.
If you lose hope, you WILL stop walking with God. Nobody can live without hope. When hope is gone, what reason do you have to live? None. What have we to hope for in this fallen world? Nothing. Cast your hopes in heaven. God will complete what He has begun. God will lead us into his kingdom.
Hope is designed to enable you to run until the very last breath that you take. Hope takes every event that happens in our lives and interprets it in light of what God has promised.
If we cast our hope fully in heaven, then the good things of this world will never distract our vision of God & the bad things of this world will never drag us away from Him.
3. We will boldly preach the gospel
Life is a marathon race. Paul exhorts us to run in such a way as to win the prize (1 Cor 9:24-27; Compare with Hebrew 12:1-3). What does that mean? It means that you run with everything that you have. It means that you run full force after the prize; you don’t look left or right, but set your sights and your heart fully upon the prize. Anyone who has run a race will be sure to tell you that the harder you run, the more sweet your rest will be in the end. So it is with heaven. The harder we have “run this race,” the more sweet our reward will be in heaven.
Side note: I know this may be confusing to some of you, as it was to me, but the Bible makes it clear when it speaks about “receiving crowns” that some will have hearts that are more able to be filled in Christ’s love than others, but our capacities will continue to expand like a balloon on the faucet that cannot burst.
We must remember, as J.I. Packer says, “when God rewards our works he is crowning his own gifts, for it was only by grace that those works were done… [and the] essence of the reward in each case will be more of what the Christian desires most, namely, a deepening of his or her love-relationship with the Savior, which is the reality to which all the biblical imagery of honorific crowns and robes and feasts is pointing.” Also, it is important to note that we will not be jealous of those “ahead” of us because we will be fully satisfied in Christ’s love and those that are above us shall also be that much more humble than us, as they will have even further understood how high and deep and long and wide is Christ’s love.
So, in this life we fix our eyes on Jesus, our prize, and run with perseverance the race marked out for us, because we know how sweet & glorious the prize that awaits us is.
So now, we’re going to break up into our rooms and read an article about multiplication discipleship. Multiplication discipleship is the idea that the best way to evangelize and reach the lost world is to use the model that Jesus gave us- that is, to preach to the masses and specifically pour into a small, select number. Jesus taught thousands, claimed twelve as “disciples,” and even had three that we’re “the closest.”
Think about this: if our salvation were merely for us, then why wouldn’t God have claimed us out of this world right after we became Christians? The reason that we’re left here on earth after we’ve been given this new life is so that we may proclaim the good news to the ends of the earth. It’s a job we must take much more seriously. We run after Christ, with heaven in our sights, trying with all our energy to bring as many people as we can along the way
Hebrews 13:14- For we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
The way may be arduous and painful and long and difficult, but what is that compared to the glorious rest that we shall enjoy once we reach that city of light and love?
In all your ways, fix your eye upon Jesus, who has gone to heaven as our forerunner.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
A drunk piano player sits alone upon the bench
And his words are slurred together, but message all makes sense
He prophesies while a full glass lies safely in his right hand
The world spins then once again rests his head upon the Grand
As he wipes away the dribble from his world-weary mouth
The smell of whiskey fills the air, before his lips spout out,
“All our tears o'er the years are kept in a jar in God’s overcoat;
His breath, it makes every snowflake to give us sinner’s hope
He tips the Mason jar, his right hand full of grace
His speech sways the saline, each to its sacred space
Water crystallizes into forms all unique
Like the souls of those children who cried themselves to sleep
In catacombs, I stray alone because I long to be afraid
Valley of bones, I call you home, safe from what my hands have made
Like stars pretending to still be alive
An apparition of the glory that once gave birth to light
I am a skeleton of the man that once had life"
His words break the silence, hands slam upon the keys
The notes of discordance bring the world to its knees
The soothsayer sings of future things too great to be known
Of gnashing teeth and endless grief and ungodly moans
He sings, “A piccolo is playing the dirge for the dead
And soldiers sigh where angels fear to tread
Creation kneels while the devil steals the crown of the earth
He masquerades in a clownish parade as the world awaits rebirth
A harvest of hemlock! For every girl and boy!
Let us mourn for our fathers and the fall of Mother Troy
The peace of childhood seems deluded naïveté
And if ignorance is bliss, growing dumb sure seems heavenly
Am I to blame for the blue-black flame that burns in place of my eyes?
What life is this? As if I exist to count shells where once were lives
Take a drink from the bottle of prosperity
Before the damning dark of disbelief
Removes the veil off our eyes to see the world's plea for mercy
The moon is turned to blood and the world is full of fright
The atheistic priests commiserate over pints
Rasputin sings while Jezebel brings a word from the Lord
Babies they weep while their mothers sleep, hands a-ready at the sword
Glory falls from the clouds and luminescence swallows sight
Everyone is blinded; everyone has seen the light
Satan rants while children dance, lamb and lion reconcile
The Son of Man, He takes the hand of every singing child
The prophet he falls, the patrons all go home
The world still spins, the world she still groans
The bartender asks, "Where have all the good men gone?
Where have all the good men gone?
Are we left here all alone?
No finality and no direction home?
Where, o where, did we all go wrong?"