Judgement-lite

As I read about the second Counterfeit Gospel, Jeremiah 8 kept coming to mind.

They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed an abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. (v. 11-12)

All day long, in every podium (alas, often in our churches) the buzz-word, “tolerance” blares. “Don’t judge.” (The Biblical context disregarded.) “We all need to love one another.” No one wants to have to choose, let alone instruct anyone else in right or wrong. We have parents raising their children “genderless” so that they can choose whatever makes them “happy.” Parents are encouraged not to spank their children and to soften their approaches to discipline, another indication that our world can’t stomach any form of judgement.

Trevin Wax coins this dilution of the Gospel, “judgmentless.” The problems listed above are modern, plastered on the front pages of newspapers, preached from universalist pulpits, and marched in protests. But Wax examines the root of the problem.

The idea that people are basically good. This philosophy looks at the tantrum throwing two-year-old and declares that he doesn’t really mean it, certainly he was just provoked. Surely, words of hatred, white lies, divorce, infidelity – all have justifiable causes. Since God looks at our hearts, and since God is love, this gospel insists that God understands.

It makes it easier to win converts. Quite simply, it’s easier to build a mega-church if you allow everyone to have their own version of God. It’s really hard to look at your coworker and honestly tell them that if they don’t believe in Jesus Christ as the one and only Son of God who sacrificed Himself for their personal sins and rose again, they are going to hell.

Near the end of the chapter, Wax delivers a decisive blow. For all our talk about justice: we cry for justice against the evils of slavery, we want justice and equality for women in the work place, we want criminals punished, and underdog to be rescued – we don’t know what we’re asking for. If we truly want justice, we truly want a righteous Judge.

If you expect God to do something about the evil in this world, then you want God to judge. (pg 80)

Therein is the truth, the beauty and the difficulty of the true Gospel. We all deserve judgement. The real, divine righteousness that our hearts long for will condemn each one of  us. Thankfully, the mercy of our God is equal to His absolute justice. He poured out unspeakable wrath against all evil on His own son, Jesus. And Jesus rose, conquered death, condemned sin in the flesh.

[Now] We need only recognize our guilt in light of God’s holiness and then bask in [His] forgiveness in light of God’s grace. (pg. 82)

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I’ll See You At Home

For two weeks now, my husband and I have been visiting family in Oklahoma and Kansas. Before that, I was lucky to fly to TX in November to see my newborn niece, Kylie. So right now, I am on a high – thrilled with the passionate hugs of family, the pleasant smiles of friends, late nights by the fireplace and afternoons reminiscing over a cup of coffee. How I love being HOME!

There is something inexplicable about being home. Have you ever noticed that you, (or your spouse) have a tendency to revert to child-like behaviors when you go home? For me, suddenly I hear myself getting loud and giddy with my sisters or quickly irritated by my dad. My husband can sometimes act like the sullen, quiet teenager he once was when we’ve been with his parents for too long. There’s a hankering for the special meal your mom used to make, and she’s thrilled to serve it for you one more time. Patrick and I enjoy returning to the college bar that holds iconic stature in Stillwater – Eskimo Joe’s.

Is that what Heaven will be like? Enns accurately reminds us that Heaven is our real home.

“One of the rich, colorful words describing heaven is the word patrida…The word is related to pater, meaning ‘father.’ Hence, patrida has a family meaning. This is where one’s family lives. It reflects the family’s culture, language, habits. It is home.”

Is it reasonable then to believe that we will be more “ourselves,” more authentic in heaven? I think so. We will see just how we really were created in the image of our Abba.

Living in VA, far away from my family, I often feel lonely and a little left out. I wasn’t there for the special family dinner celebrating my youngest sister’s engagement. I wasn’t able to fly home fast enough to be with Granddad in his final hours. I didn’t spend Christmas around my mom’s Christmas tree. But someday, when I am really HOME, I will never miss anything.

There’s a good chance that I may never meet you here. I will probably miss all your birthdays, your anniversaries, your tearful moments, your joyous occasions. But someday this long journey will be over. I do hope to meet you at home. Do you know your Father?

P.S. Here’s another review of Enns’ book. I hope you enjoy it!

Day 2, Review of Heaven Revealed

“The notions about heaven that many people have do not come from Scripture; rather, it is their failure to study Scripture that has led to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the biblical meaning of heaven.” (pg.17)

Monday, I began my review of Paul Enns’ book Heaven Revealed.  As I pressed myself further into the book, all the way to Chapter 1, I began to reassess my own beliefs about heaven. I have also been reading Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, Morning and Evening.  Spurgeon harps on the truth that a Christian’s life is not to simply be about a relationship Jesus, or following Jesus, or seeking to know Jesus. My life as a Christian is to be consumed by Jesus, such that my identity dissolves in Him becoming insignificant and eternally important simultaneously because of His infinite value.

Enns’ description of heaven develops a practice field for this concept. He quotes a chapel speaker he once heard, “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.” NOT SO! Enns cries!

“Unless you are heavenly minded, you will be no earthly good,” he challenges.

Enns provides several Scripture references indicating heaven as our focal point. There are no verses, he points out, that enjoin us to focus on earth. If there is truly continuity between today and forever, I want my last day on earth to be merely a single step into the pages of eternity. I want my worship on earth to be so similar to the heavenly chorus that my voice blends with angels, scarcely missing a beat.

Enns is absolutely right when he tells his readers that studying God’s word will reveal an accurate knowledge of heaven, and an exquisite future for those who believe in Jesus Christ. In order to make heaven our focal point, we need to bury ourselves in Scripture. By enjoying the mercy of Jesus in the pages of the gospels, by heeding the criticism and stern rebukes by Paul in the Epistles, by joining David singing in the Psalms we will begin experience heaven on earth. Heaven is complete communion with God; a daily life with no barrier of time or space between us. That sounds remarkably like the life a growing Christian is learning to live here, now, today.

The video above is a fascinating  lesson by Louie Giglio. His explanation of the heavens (the actual created cosmos) stops my heart momentarily and excites me to see what is just barely beyond my vision today.

 

 

Do You Want to Go to Heaven?

Doubting one! thou hast often said, “I fear I shall never enter heaven.” Fear not! all the people of God shall enter there. I love the quaint saying of a dying man, who exclaimed, “I have no fear of going home; I have sent all before me; God’s finger is on the latch of my door, and I am ready for him to enter.” “But,” said one, “are you not afraid lest you should miss your inheritance?” “Nay,” said he, “nay; there is one crown in heaven which the angel Gabriel could not wear, it will fit no head but mine. There is one throne in heaven which Paul the apostle could not fill; it was made for me, and I shall have it.” O Christian, what a joyous thought! thy portion is secure; “there remaineth a rest.” “But cannot I forfeit it?” No, it is entailed. If I be a child of God I shall not lose it. It is mine as securely as if I were there. Come with me, believer, and let us sit upon the top of Nebo, and view the goodly land, even Canaan. Seest thou that little river of death glistening in the sunlight, and across it dost thou see the pinnacles of the eternal city? Dost thou mark the pleasant country, and all its joyous inhabitants? Know, then, that if thou couldst fly across thou wouldst see written upon one of its many mansions, “This remaineth for such a one; preserved for him only. He shall be caught up to dwell forever with God.” Poor doubting one, see the fair inheritance; it is thine. If thou believest in the Lord Jesus, if thou hast repented of sin, if thou hast been renewed in heart, thou art one of the Lord’s people, and there is a place reserved for thee, a crown laid up for thee, a harp specially provided for thee. No one else shall have thy portion, it is reserved in heaven for thee, and thou shalt have it ere long, for there shall be no vacant thrones in glory when all the chosen are gathered in.

taken from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, Day 10, morning

Just A Shadow, Day 1 Review of Heaven Revealed

“Who has a loved one, a wife, a husband, a child, a parent, or a friend who is in heaven?”

It’s not my question, it was posited by Paul Enns, author of Heaven Revealed.  It’s not a silly question; it’s not a given answer. Everyone knows someone who has died, but do you know with all confidence where they are spending eternity? What about yourself? Does death hold promise or fear?

I didn’t even make it to the first chapter of Heaven Revealed , before I had enough notes to fill a least one blog post. So, I promise I will not ruin this book for you. I will barely serve the first course before this week is over. But your mouth will be watering for the end, so save your pennies and buy your own copy of Heaven Revealed.

You know that feeling that you’re waiting for something? I often feel like I’m sitting on pins and needles, with baited breath, wondering what’s going to happen next. It’s that pending feeling. That feeling of teetering on a balance beam, knowing that sooner or later, I will topple off and land squarely on something more firm, more real than what I know right now. That’s the heaven I’m anticipating.

I know that it is distinctly different and more real, permanent than what I am living right now. But Enns points out something that I had never considered before. Listening to biblical scholars and well-known preachers, we often imagine a timeline. It’s something like:

NOW……………………………RAPTURE…………………….MILLENIUM……………………..HEAVEN…………………………………………FOReverrrrrrrrrr

But what if there’s not some critical distinction between each of these wonderful, promised, prophesied  events?

“…when I investigated some of the passages, I saw words like ‘forever,’ ‘for all time,’ and ‘shall never end.’ Were those words to be restricted to one thousand years? Or does ‘forever’ mean ‘forever’? The key question then becomes, ‘Is there a continuity between the millennium and the eternal state?’ If so, the millennial passages then provide significant insight into what we refer to as heaven.”

Enns continues this welcomed debunking of the theory that heaven is a solid gold palace filled with deadpan angels strumming harps. Hebrews 8:5 tells us that the earthly Jewish temple, priests and ceremonies were a shadow of heavenly things. And we know that heaven is more fantastic than any mind can conceive. So picture the most delightful, joy-producing things on earth.

 

My puppy, my husband

                                                                              My niece, Kylie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunsets, coffee on a crisp morning, the sound of rushing water, the feel of silk, the sweet taste of strawberries

These are shadows! These are the dim reflections of something we cannot imagine. But God doesn’t want heaven to be such a mystery that we shove it to the back of our minds, relegated to the certainty that we’ll figure it out in person someday.

Enns is determined to discover the Son behind this shadow. His book reveals the essence of what makes heaven worth hoping for.

For a few more thoughts on heaven, eternity and such, check out these links:

http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/an-atheist-who-writes-consistently-with-his-worldview-sort-of/

http://extraordinaryvisions.wordpress.com/2007/06/02/heaven-revealed/

P.S. This book review is due to the generous curtesy copy of the book that I received from Moody Publishers.  Moody is an invaluable resource that strengthens my faith through every avenue of their ministry. Thank you, Moody.

A Pathetic Witness

I’ve had a lot of thoughts today about mentors and mentoring. None of them collections; they are scattered and hardly worth relaying. But perhaps they will stimulate your mind and prompt you to fill the comments with more meaty material than my post! (:

This morning I was journaling my disappointment with myself. The Bible commands Christians to always be ready to give a defense for the hope that it is  in us. I am confident that I have grown exponentially in my faith over the last 17 years and especially in the last 4-5 years. However, the courage and comprehensive thoughts that are required to present a persuasive “case for Christ” evade me. How is it that I can KNOW with all surety that Jesus is my life, that Jesus is the only reason that I am alive today, that Jesus is my hope and uncanny Joy, that Jesus is the solitary solution for every pain and question, and that everyone who does not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is headed to hell – how can I know this – and still stutter when given the opportunity to share my faith?

A friend from work joined me at church a couple weeks ago. She loves the Lord, but is admittedly young in her faith. Two days later we were both approached at work by another friend and the conversation led this friend saying, “Oh, I never read the Bible. I think it is just too far-fetched, a story. I raised my children to be religious. I believe that god is in each of us and we need to aspire to be good.”

I love this friend. We’ve had such fun together at work, laughing and goofing off. Now, she asked me a few questions and as I told her who Jesus was and why the Bible is trustworthy – it sounded sci-fi, out there and little crazy even to me. I found  myself saying, “It’s hard to explain.” I can scarcely believe I’m admitting this. I write this blog as devotional, with a heart to serve Jesus with my talents and make Him winsome to others. And here I am telling you that I’m pathetic at sharing the gospel.

Journaling leads me down rabbit trails sometimes, but then often drops me back off where I started by the end of my ramblings. That happened today. I drew the connection between mentoring relationships and Jesus with His disciples. They chose to follow Him. They sought His advice and learned from his teachings both in word and in action. He poured His life into them. I am a disciple of Jesus, so I asked His advice.

“Jesus, Rabbi. Why can I not explain the intense value, perfection and necessity of believing in you? What if Peter had been asked why he was following you?”

“Abby,” Jesus answered me, as a faithful mentor always does. “My disciples were asked why they believed in me. I even asked them myself.

‘Who do people say that I am?’ I followed that question with, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Peter answered with words that the Father gave him, ‘ You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.'” (Matt 16)

Suddenly, I saw a difference in Peter’s response and my own. Peter did not respond, “This is what I personally think…” He responded with undiluted certainty, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

When the final critical question is asked, a confident answer is required. Especially in financially troubling times, days of earthquakes, extreme weather, drunken fathers, abused children, AIDS epidemics and ravaging cancer – people do not care what I think. I cannot impart the truth with a timid suggestion of a possible truth.

So declaratively, without apology: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It is more than my belief. It simply, HE SIMPLY IS.

What is a “Good” Person?

It’s a common cultural assumption that there is value in being a good person. Indeed, there is value in being well behaved: you will have more friends that if you’re ugly, you will likely stay out of jail, others will usually be good to you and other obvious benefits. But, contrary to this common cultural assumption, there is NO LIFE-SAVING value in being a good person.

Watch this:

This morning I was reading “Table Talk”  a devotional magazine published by Ligonier Ministries. Dr. Sproul explained concisely the impossibility and worthlessness of being a good person prior to faith in Jesus Christ.

“[The] desire to please God is a mark of conversion, and the Bible finds it inconceivable that any regenerate person would lack a desire to please the Lord. Some people might consider an emphasis on our need to do what pleases God incompatible with the gospel of justification by faith alone. Indeed, a stress on pleasing the Lord would be improper if we were to believe that we must please God before He will save us. Our best deeds fall far short of our Creator’s perfect standards, so pleasing Him is not our ticket to heaven. But it is not inconsistent to seek to please the Lord following salvation. In fact, a desire to please God is the necessary and inevitable consequence of the new birth.” (Table  Talk, August 24, 2011)

Christians aren’t always good people, in fact, unfortunately, Christians are often (rightly) held to a higher standard of morality and fall disgracefully short. Good people aren’t necessarily Christians.  Christians are the worthless sinners who have recognized their need for a savior and have recognized Jesus Christ as that perfect, righteous Savior. AFTER believing Jesus, it is a Christian’s reliance on Him that enables goodness. And it is AFTER believing in Jesus that God requires a life that is a worthy representation of His Son.

Camping near the kingdom of Heaven

I haven’t been camping in years and years – probably since I was 16 or 17.  Half my life-time ago.  I am sitting on my back patio, and it’s a good thing I have a privacy fence; I am weeping.

This is a cool morning, only 63 degrees!  Over my fence, the busts of trees look like a forested camp ground.  Pine trees tower above the skyline and thus shroud all houses.

Maybe my imagination is playing tricks on me, but I smell maple syrup.  Hidden behind that sweetness is the hint of griddle cakes and a salty, sausage scent.  Maybe someone left a window open, because the fog-piercing smell of coffee whispers.

This morning I propped my feet up in a camp chair and opened my Bible, on the patio.  I wrapped a blanket between my shoulders and the faintest breeze.

I might be all alone – camping near the kingdom of heaven.

In Hopeful Anticipation

I know that this site generally discusses lies.  But death is a reality, the final truth of life.  My granddad died on Wednesday morning.  His memorial service is tomorrow.  I wrestled violently with what I should do – go home? when? stay here? Finally, per my Heavenly Father’s leading and my mother’s graceful confirmation, I decided to stay here in VA instead of flying home to Oklahoma for the service.

As I prayed for wisdom on this decision, I journaled my prayer.  What came from my pen was a letter to Granddad, about two days before he died.  How comforting to KNOW that our loved ones know Jesus and are suddenly more alive than we are!

In Granddad’s memory and hopeful anticipation:

Dear Granddad,

I wonder what you’re seeing right now?

Have you closed earth’s eyelids and already glimpsed the face of Jesus?

 

When they say that to live will never be the same,

“How right they are,” you must be thinking!  “I never yet have lived!”

 

As you gripped the strong hand of Jesus

And he pulled you past earth’s clouds,

You might have turned and waved goodbye, uttered half a sigh.

In a moment’s years we too will know the real life that you see

And wonder why we wept down here and cried impotently.

 

I believe the grass is more verdant where you stand

And waterfalls shout acclamations of joy.

Earth’s been silent far too long

And you’re first to applaud heaven’s chorus.

 

To be honest, down here, I wrestle with protocol.

How best to mourn, how to comfort,

And yet how much is necessary?

Do you appreciate our tears?

 

I imagine you are already so enraptured in new-life, real-life,

That you may not even notice our sadness.

 

I don’t believe you’ve died.

I believe that you have proven that REAL life runs parallel to our petty shroud.

 

Perhaps like David, you’ve shad your raiment.

You are cloaked only in ballad of worship.

Granddad, dance, dance with all your might.