Category Archives: God & Life

What’s Heaven Like?

Lately I’ve been preaching on what the Bible teaches regarding Heaven, Hell, and life after death. The Christian life is always a balancing act – this is especially true when it comes to the balance between our focus on Heaven and our focus on life here and now. Sometimes you hear the phrase: “He’s so heavenly minded he’s no earthly good” – which applies to a type of Christian who seems so focused on spiritual and heavenly things he/she does very little to help people on this earth. No one likes this type of person. Yet I agree with C.S. Lewis that when you study the people who have thought the most about Heaven – you find that they also did a lot to improve life here on earth for others. This is why it is good for us to learn about the promises God gives us in his word about what to expect after we die.

In preparing for my sermons I came across a beautiful and Biblical description of Heaven by a French Reformed theologian, humanist, and poet named Simon Goulart (1543-1628). Goulart was a contemporary of John Calvin and part of the Protestant Reformation of his time. It was an era when life was short, but the strong vision of Heaven that pastors preached about helped give hope to people as they faced plagues and persecution and other challenging circumstances. Here is Goulart’s description that I found very helpful for contemplation and meditation:

“The eternal and blessed life with God in heaven, accompanied by rest and unspeakable glory, is the goal of the faith of Christians.

This is the harbor of their hope, the refuge of all their desires, the crown of their consolation that they will certainly enjoy, having escaped from the travails of this miserable and fleeting earthly life, indeed, from death itself.

They will receive in heaven glorified bodies, healed of all evils, no longer afflicted by sin, ignorance, errors, illness, sadness, worry, fear, anguish, or enemies. They will be delivered from all pain and suffering.

They will enjoy fully and completely the Lord their God, the fountain and inexhaustible treasure of all good things, who will pour out on them all His goodness, His infinite joy, with which He will satisfy all their thoughts and desires. They will see Him and contemplate Him face-to-face, without any clouds to obscure Him.

They will learn of God’s wisdom with regard to the creation and redemption of His elect by means of Jesus Christ, and the reasons for all His all-powerful and wondrous works.

The eternal Father will disclose His burning and unspeakable love for them, which He demonstrated by sending His Son into the world to draw them from death into eternal life.

His children will be moved by His gracious work, filled with wonder, contentment, and ineffable delight, and will love their heavenly Father with a burning love, submitting themselves fully to His wisdom with eager joy.

And they will submit to Him as their only sovereign and greatest good. And they will rejoice with continuous joy in His presence, magnifying His glory, singing of His goodness along with the holy Angels and the entire Church triumphant.

There they will see Jesus Christ, the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Apostles, and all the faithful who have preceded them, including their family members and friends who died in repentance and faith.

This entire company together, with one heart and voice, will recall the goodness and infinite blessings God has shown them, celebrating with songs of thanksgiving the praises of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thus eternal life is the end and fulfillment of all good things for which God has purchased us through His Son.

This is the goal on which our gaze should be fixed throughout our earthly pilgrimage. This is the treasure that we should unceasingly desire. This is the hour and the blessing to which all the plans and efforts of our lives should be inclined. This is our true country, our permanent city, in which our citizenship has been acquired by the merit of the death of Jesus Christ. This is the home that we long for, amidst the banishments, the weariness, the dangerous fears of this valley of misery and the shadow of death. This is the safe refuge and the beautiful harbor toward which we sail amidst so many waves and storms that constantly trouble the world. This is the blessed land where we will dwell by means of death.” –Simon Goulart (1543-1628), Christian Discourses XXVIII, 322-327.

Messy Grace & The Incarnation

Image result for messy graceI recently read a short book called Messy Grace (How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction) by Caleb Kaltenbach. The author does a good job of telling his story of becoming a Christian, facing rejection from his parents, but finding a way to combine grace and truth in his ministry and family relationships.

The longer we live the more we tend to understand the idea that life is messy, relationships are messy, and our own lives are messy – but God is always at work bringing peace, grace, and wisdom to our lives as we grow in following Jesus.  I appreciate that Caleb Kaltenbach made the effort to put his story into writing and to challenge both the church and the gay community in various ways.  The sexual ethic he outlines in the book is thoroughly orthodox, yet because of his background and life journey it comes across differently than many books on the same topic.  His approach is to call everyone to the gospel core which combines both truth and grace — not an easy task, but essential in the offering  of an authentic Christian witness.

Here is one of many helpful passages in the book:

If we are going to be honest, Christians do not have the best track record in loving people… Part of the problem is that we get trapped in the wrong thinking. We think that we are not supposed to love people who live in a way that is contrary to what God says. Atheists, abortion doctors, legalists, alcoholics, convicts, hypocrites, the sexually immoral, gossipers, and anyone who seems to be on the opposite end of any kind of spectrum from us – these are people we are fearful to get involved with because it seems messy.

It’s a good thing Jesus didn’t decide that we were too messy to get involved with! The apostle Paul said, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners… Not when we had it all together. Not when we started attending church. Not when we started acting the way Christians act. Not when we started believing. Paul said that while we were still sinners, God extended an offer of relationship toward us. We need to express that same kind of love – a love that doesn’t wait for people to be perfect or get everything in order before beginning a friendship with us. It’s imperative that we have grace for people while they are still thinking, speaking, and acting in ways we might not agree with.

Image result for joy to the worldAs we journey toward Bethlehem and the celebration of Christmas, we do well to note that the incarnation (God becoming flesh) was a pivotal moment in human history where God enters into the messy world and begins a quiet revolution of love. As God has come into our mess – to offer us cleansing grace – so too we are called to enter into the messy lives of others to offer them love, truth, and grace.

Image result for truth and graceI hope and pray that Jesus’ followers will not allow the polarizing forces of our culture wars to infect our calling to tell the One Great Story of Jesus through our words and our deeds. I hope and pray that we can be a model of Christ’s love as we live and speak with both grace and truth.

Image result for truth and graceAs we sing “he rules the world with truth and grace” let us reaffirm our commitment to both truth and grace.  Let us renew our calling to be part of his army, his kingdom, not afraid of stepping into the lives of others and offering our hands and hearts in acts of sacrificial love in a messy world that God loves more than we can imagine.