Sunday, 30 December 2018

Heaven: A Book Review

"My home is heaven. I'm just traveling through this world."
Billy Graham

Have you ever wondered what Heaven will be like? I’m sure that we all have a time or two. Perhaps that is why, upon the recommendation of a friend, I purchased a copy of "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn.

In its 500 pages, Alcorn argues for a more literal eschatology, as opposed to the perhaps more common, figurative views held by many Christians. Having said that, and though he uses a plethora of scripture quotations to back up his take on Heaven, he admits that these are just his views and that he may be wrong in some of his interpretations. Fair enough.

One of the terms he often uses in the book, that apparently he himself coined, is “Christoplatonism.” This comes from his belief that the church has borrowed ideas from Plato, an early western philosopher who essentially saw the physical world as a liability. The body, he thought, was little more than a prison for the soul. Alcorn believes that this platonic thinking has crept into the church, even though many scriptures point to a physical heaven in physical bodies. He delves into this argument in greater detail in the first of the book’s two appendices. In the second appendix Alcorn discusses literal versus figurative interpretation.

In the book Alcorn talks about two heavens, so to speak. When the Christian dies, his/her soul goes immediately to be with the Lord. I suspect that not too many of us would argue with that. However, the Bible also speaks of a “New Earth” into which we will one day be physically resurrected. This, says Alcorn, is a physical earth, which will be made up of physical inhabitants. Just as Christ was physically resurrected, we too can expect to be physically resurrected, and as such, our eternal heavenly home will be physical like it now is, minus the sin and corruption. Here is where the eschatology of many seems to get a little more cloudy, thanks in large part, believes Alcorn, to the church’s platonic influences. Thus his term, Christoplatonism.

Many of the book’s 46-chapters, divided into 12-sections and into 3-parts, seem almost a Q&A format (Question and Answer). In them Alcorn tries to answer some of the many questions he apparently has received over the years on the subject. The topics he covers in these 12-sections are:

  • Realizing our Destiny
  • Understanding the Present Heaven
  • Grasping Redemption’s Far Reach
  • Anticipating Resurrection
  • Seeing the Earth Restored
  • Celebrating Our Relationship With God
  • Ruling on the New Earth
  • What Will the Resurrected Earth Be Like?
  • What Will Our Lives Be Like
  • What Will Our Relationships Be Like?
  • What About Animals?
  • What Will We Do In Heaven?

All in all, I enjoyed reading Heaven. Did I agree with everything in it? No, my own theology caused me so say “Hmm” a few times. Still, it’s a good and interesting read. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s a great reminder of the eternal hope that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. This life is short and fleeting, and will soon be over; we all know that. Then what? “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn tries to answer that question and many more.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so in Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
(Hebrews 9: 27-28; ESV)

Ἀμήν, ἔρχου κύριε Ἰησοῦ 
(Revelation 22:20)

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Fresh Anointing

This was shared with me today and was both timely and a real blessing. May it be a blessing for you as well. Peace.

May the Lord Himself pour out a fresh anointing on your life today.

May you suddenly have a heightened discernment about where to walk, what to say, and how to pray.

May the Lord fill you afresh with new insights from His Word.

May your taste for things that weaken you be replaced by a hunger for that which strengthens you.

May God open your eyes to the importance of your life and calling.

And may you find strength and courage with every faith-filled step you take.

You are mighty in God. Have a great day today!

Blessing Source: Susie Larson
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons

Sunday, 7 October 2018

My Devotional Life: A Handwritten Bible

"I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer." - Martin Luther

Well here we are, October 2018, and another Thanksgiving weekend is upon us. (For my American friends, sorry; you'll have to wait until next month for yours). 😉 Seems like only last week was the start of Spring! In our region, the first couple of snow falls of the season have already come and gone. Maybe it's a sign of getting older, as I've heard some say, but time sure seems to race on lately. You may be able to relate. Wow!

Well this Thanksgiving also marks an anniversary. It has now been two years since I started my quest to create a handwritten Bible. In those two years I have completed the entire New Testament, as well as the Old Testament from Genesis through Job. As a matter of fact, I said farewell to Job just this morning. So far I have three volumes that make up the New Testament, and I just recently began my fifth volume of the Old Testament. Now, here on the second anniversary of this project, I begin with the Psalms. I am looking forward to this next chapter (no pun intended) of this early morning devotional routine.

I have blogged about this experience a little before. Is there a take away from this project? Most certainly there is.

The first thing I noticed in trying to create a handwritten Bible is how much slower one has to read the Bible if the object is to copy every word and punctuation mark. While this may sound tedious to some, I find it strangely therapeutic in that it also results in much more scriptural meditation and reflection. In other words, I spend much more time on a passage of Scripture than if I were to simply pick up the Bible and read as one might read a novel.

Another thing I've noticed is that the very early mornings are now my favourite time of day. I'm now usually up between 4:00 and 5:00am (without the help of an alarm clock, I might add), and sometimes earlier yet. Well before anyone else in the house is stirring, and with the coffee pot on, I typically get lost in the Scriptures for the next one to two hours before having to leave for work. There's something about an early morning time in prayer and Bible reading that just sets the day off on the right foot. As a matter of fact, from personal experience, when I don't have that quiet time before rushing off to work, my day often seems disjointed and more stressful than normal. Coincidence? I think not. What a beautiful way to start the day!

So here's to the Psalms. Judging by the many markings and notes, not to mention the tattered pages, I've clearly spent some time here before. I can't wait to do so again.

Peace, Blessings, and Happy Thanksgiving. 😊

Other related posts:

Me as an Amanuensis: Morning Devotional's Next Level?

Morning Devotions Are Awesome Once Again

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Jesus Unbound: A Guest Blogger Book Review

Buy here: Jesus Unbound
Once again, Keith Giles has written a book with a title that is bound to get a few feathers ruffled. While you may not agree with all that is presented, I feel that most people will come away in general agreement. Many will try to use the Canon to shoot holes in his argument (I couldn't resist), however they will likely find, as I have, that his opinions are well founded in research. The chapters are quite concise, and the prose easy to follow.

As with his book JESUS UNTANGLED - Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb, Giles is not “against” the subject at hand, but rather “for” a deeper, personal relationship with the risen Lord.

Another “must read”.

By guest blogger: Waldo Rochow

Jesus Untangled: A Guest Blogger Book Review

Buy here: Jesus Untangled
Well, this is a first for me. I read this book in less than a day. Now in fairness, it may be the first time in a long time that I could devote a day to reading. All the same though, the author's prose, and the logical flow of the book made it difficult to put down.

Keith Giles is clearly knowledgeable and has obviously done his research. But more than that, he seems to have been granted an insight that may be hidden from many American evangelicals today (the target audience). Now I must admit, that I am neither an evangelical, nor an American, so some of the concepts that may be controversial to the target audience didn't phase me, however I can see how they might cause some to flinch. 

I am a strong believer in introspection, and as a Christian, I feel it is extra important to, as Mr. Giles says, “place our convictions on the anvil and hammer them out a little. Not just  so we can watch the sparks fly, but so that, when we are done, we will know if our assumptions and beliefs can stand the test.” 

In this book, you will be presented with many questions. For some, the answers to these questions may be uncomfortable. For others, downright scary. But I believe that if you call yourself a Christian, you owe it to yourself to dive into this book give the Spirit a chance to talk to you.

Finally, as mentioned before, the target audience is the American Evangelical community. But if you are not from that group, you will still find value in this book. It is obvious that the author chose this group because that is his background. However, I also found something for me, even though I am a Canadian from outside the institutional church. The time spent on reflection is never wasted. Read this book. You will be glad you did.

By guest blogger: Waldo Rochow

Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Exchange: A Day of My Life for ...

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1)

Every once in a while I discover a little nugget somewhere that ends up having a profound effect on me. It's not about whether the source has Christian origins or not. It's about a truth in a message, regardless who the messenger is.

Today was one such day when I discovered the following, said to have its origin with the Trappist Monks at Genesse Abbey. It goes something like this:

This is the beginning of a new day. I've been given this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is important because I'm exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something I have traded for it. I want it to be gain, not loss; good, not evil; success, not failure; in order that I shall not regret the price I paid for it.

Profound, isn't it? I thought so. For me it begged the question: "How do I spend my days?" Can I name even one positive thing that came out of today? Was someone's day a little brighter and more hopeful because my path crossed theirs today? Was I a blessing today?

Or did I essentially waste the day, once again, a day that I can never get back? Maybe I was more of a curse than a blessing. Maybe I once again dragged my sorry self through the day, complaining about who knows what, being a cantankerous old fool, and taking down those whose paths crossed mine, as opposed to blessing them. I hope not.

What did you exchange for this day of your life?

Something to think about. Peace.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Friday, 16 February 2018

What Are You Doing Here?

“… and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah? … And behold, there came a voice to him and said, What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19: 9,13; Amplified)

My wife and I have both been reading though the Old Testament again lately, and as often seems to happen, a nugget comes to mind that makes us stop and reflect and fellowship around that nugget. Recently she shared with me the “what are you doing here?” nugget above from 1 Kings. For several days now, I have not stopped for long in meditating upon it. Is God trying to say something to me? Hmm, I wonder.

What are you doing here?

The context is an interesting story. There had been a three-year drought in the land, and food and water was scarce. Elijah goes to a destitute widow in Zarephath, to a poor woman who had nothing, who happened to be picking up two sticks for dinner for herself and her son. God miraculously provides for Elijah’s needs through her, and for the needs of the widow and her son as well (1 Kings 17).

A little while later Elijah finds himself alone in a showdown with a bunch of pagan prophets. Long story short, two bulls are sacrificed; one for all the prophets, and one for Elijah. Neither altar is given the customary fire. The prophets dance around their altar calling on the name of their deity, but nothing happens. Next it’s Elijah’s turn. He begins by increasing the odds against him by three times calling for four jars of water to be dumped on top of the bull and firewood. God shows up and burns up Elijah’s sacrifice, to the amazement of all. All the pagan prophets are killed, the rains return, and the drought was over (1 Kings 18). King Ahab tells his wife Jezebel what Elijah did to all her prophets, she gets ticked and threatens Elijah, and Elijah runs away scared for his life (1 Kings 19).

What are you doing here?

Every time I’ve read this account of Elijah in the past, I’ve always thought of the “here” that God speaks to him about in a geographical sense. “Why are you here?” (insert name of city or town where you currently are). Where is “here?” Of course, it’s a place. That’s what “here” is; it refers to a place. As you read 1 Kings 19, there are several places mentioned. Go to any one of them, and you could say, “I am ‘here’.” However, true as that may be, I’m starting to see another possible way to read the “here” that has nothing to do with a geographical location.

Could it be that maybe the “here” is also a state of mind or circumstance? How did I get myself “here” (teenage pregnancy)? How did I get myself “here” (addicted to alcohol or drugs)? How did I get myself “here” (obese)? How did I get myself “here” (divorced)? How did I get myself “here” (constantly stressed out)? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Is that what God asked Elijah those two times in verses 9 and 13 of 1 Kings 19? “What are you doing here, Elijah” (running scared)?

What are you doing here?

I’ve never claimed to have this faith-walk thing all figured out; not by a long shot. Yes, I believe God has shown me some interesting things along this pilgrimage of mine, but time and again I’ve also made a royal mess of my spiritual walk. I too have seen God’s hand miraculously in my life on more than one occasion, and sometimes I too have still run scared. Why?

Oh, I know I’m not alone. The Bible is full of examples of people who have seen the miraculous hand of God, only to turn and run scared or do something incredibly stupid and unbelieving. As I’ve reflected on that a time or ten, both on some of the antics of biblical characters and my own stupidity, it seems fair to say that sometimes we Christians act more atheistic than the atheists themselves. At the very least, sometimes we seem more agnostic than Christian.

So when we see Elijah, one of the mighty men of God, fresh from back to back miracles, running scared, it makes me scratch my head in wonderment. Part of me wants to yell out, “What’s the matter with you, Elijah? God just worked in some pretty incredible ways in your life, and you’re running scared from some heathen queen, the very one whose prophets were just proved false?” Still, I’m not one to judge, because I’m no better. “What are you doing here, Will?” Hmm.

What are you doing here?

Is there an answer to the “here” problem? If so, I have yet to figure it out. All I think I know, is that the particular “here” that God asked Elijah about, and asks you and me about, is not really the place he desires us to be. I cannot believe that God desires us to run scared, or to experience teenage pregnancy, or to be addicted to drugs or alcohol. And I certainly cannot believe that God’s plan for us is to be constantly stressed out over all the junk this world has to offer and seems to demand of us. The good news is, God loves us too much to leave us alone in our “here,” and so He comes to us, as He did with Elijah, and wants to care for us and give us rest. The good news is, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3: 22-23; ESV)

Thomas ‘A Kempis once said, “Habit overcomes habit,” and I like that. Maybe the answer lies, at least in part, in the creation of some new habits. That’s not to say that everything about our particular “here” will suddenly change and get better. They could, and yet consequences for our previous actions can also still remain. The teenage pregnancy will still lead to an infant being born at an inconvenient time in life. An addiction can still yield irreparable damage to the body.

Maybe that is why God asked Elijah those two times, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God is in the restoration business, and maybe before He can bring that restoration, He wants us to each come to grips with the question, “What are you doing here?” It is not about condemnation, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Rather it’s about a God who loves us enough to confront us with our “here” in an effort to heal and restore.

What are you doing here?

Photo Credit: Nina Matthews Photography; Flickr Creative Commons

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Government: The Other Church Member?

So it would seem that the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and his Liberal party have once again endeared themselves to Christian churches with their latest political left-wing agenda. Ah, the drama of this former drama teacher and his cronies would be amusing if it were not so sad. What is it this time?

This time the circus performance centres on new changes to the summer employment program, whereby organizations, including churches, can apply for subsidies to hire students for summer jobs. Unlike past years, part of the conditional application, apparently now requires applicants to take a pro-abortion stand on their applications. If I read this correctly, the bottom line is, anti-abortionists need not apply. The bottom line is, think like and agree with Trudeau, or stay home. Democracy? Hmm.

Still, I am not really pro or anti any political party. I'm actually seriously contemplating never voting again. The old adage that one should vote for the lessor of the evils doesn't work for me; it is still voting for evil. It's the world's governmental system; these Caesar's are here today and gone tomorrow when another Caesar comes along with his/her mouthful of manure to, oddly enough, endear the masses tired of chasing the south end of the previous northbound horse. Truth be known, and harsh as it sounds, all politics is little more than s**t, no matter what the title or the political party. None of it has anything to do with God, and personally, I'm tired of bowing the knee to Caesar.

"What harmony can there be between Christ and … " (2 Corinthians 6:15)

Though I'm a Christian, I really cannot join these churches in their quest to change the government's position. While I am a man of prayer, I won't be joining their call for the faithful to pray about this matter. Now this may shock you, but I say, "So what! Who cares?!" The creation of student summer jobs is an admirable one, no doubt. But I fail to see why church institutions should expect a secular government to contribute to their programs.

Personally I think that churches are too married to the Caesar's of the land already. They have charter numbers and indirectly through that are entitled to seek government charitable donation receipts. At the risk of further offending, maybe the government needs to scrap that too! I cannot help but wonder how many would continue contributing to the churches' coffers at the same level if there were no tax receipt attached. Hmm, but that's a topic for another day.

There are plenty of reasons why I think we all need to do some serious rethinking as to how we do church. Government interventions are but one of the many reasons why I dissolved my association with the institutional church over fifteen years ago. There are many more reasons, to be sure! However, as someone once said, "Oats come a little cheaper once they've already been through the horse." By linking ourselves to the state, have churches become lethargic and content with second-hand oats? Whatever happened to the purity of clean and unadulterated oats? Hmm.

In revising the abortion laws, it was Justin's father, Pierre Trudeau, who once said, "There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation." I would like to suggest that there is also no place for the state in the churches of the nation. Churches would do well to stop abdicating their responsibility as a church by expecting handouts from the government to do what they alone were called to doing. Failure to do so simply means that the government can come along any time they want and essentially tell the church what to believe and what to do, as they seem to be attempting in this instance. Their financial contributions to the institutional church essentially makes them church members, and as such Big Brother has a vote in its operation.

I love the (non-institutional) church, and I love Jesus. But I'm gaging a bit on the thought of a State Church, one which, if we are not already there, we seem to be headed full steam towards.

That's the way I see it anyways. Peace.

Source: Summer Job Program Changes Anger Churches

Sunday, 7 January 2018

of Bumper Stickers and Tailgating Jesus

Well here we are, one week into yet another new year. A time to celebrate and share hopes and dreams for good things ahead. So let me ask, how has 2018 been for you thus far? Awesome? Maybe less than awesome? Perhaps ‘Meh’ describes it best? I confess that mine was pretty awesome … on day one. After that it’s been, well, rather, … meh.

I’ve never really been one too much for New Year’s resolutions; mostly I think they’re a waste of time and never last the first week anyways. If they do, there’s probably a pretty good chance that come February, they’ve already fizzled out. I’m not sure what the actual statistics are on New Year’s resolutions, or if anyone has actually studied them for that matter. However, I remember some years back when my wife and I were members at a local gym, we always saw a huge increase in traffic at the gym on January 1. By mid-month, you'd never know it; traffic patterns were pretty much back to pre-January norms. New Year’s resolutions are, well, … meh.

But I’m not pointing fingers; eventually my own lofty weight loss and fitness goals also fizzled out. I know that I should get back to it, but often something inside of me just seems to time and again say, … meh.

Having said that, there is one “resolution,” however, that I do desire to see succeed, though often I feel like I’m only batting 5% at best. Year after year, and often throughout the months in between, the regular desire of my heart, is a closer following of Jesus. This yearning is evidenced by this bumper sticker someone created and shipped to me recently.

Are you following JESUS this closely?

What a timely gift! I love the double entendre; it speaks loudly to my abhorrence with tailgaters (even though I have to confess that sometimes I’ve been one too). Perhaps more importantly, it asks the sobering question: How closely do we follow the Lord whom we claim to love and follow?

While in context referring to the end of the Babylonian captivity, I believe the Lord’s message through the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel rings just as true to you and me today. The Lord said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Yes, a different context, but the same divine expectation from the same God. Are we seeking God with all our hearts, or only with half (or less) of them? Remember, Jesus himself said that he wasn’t into lukewarm followers (Revelation 3: 15-16).

Are you following JESUS this closely?

I’m not there yet, not by a long shot! But as I pick myself up and dust myself off from my latest sad-excuse for a Christian walk, I resolve to move forward and strive to follow Jesus a little closer, and with a little less lukewarmness. Thankfully God is gracious, merciful and loving, and He does pick up the pieces of broken lives that seek after Him with all their hearts.

So here we are at the genesis of another new year. It is exciting to see what God may have in store for us. As we wait on Him, I'd like to challenge each of us to be tailgaters of JESUS. Yes, follow Him that closely. But please, let's refrain from tailgating the car in front of us; that might not end as well.

And, please, no more, … meh.