Jesus Is Offensive: Let Him Be (Part 3)

Read Part One Here.

Read Part Two Here.

 

Part III: Jesus was offensive in his teachings

 

If your message isn’t different than an atheist’s, it isn’t the Gospel 

The first time I heard Matthew 25:31-46 I found it offensive. Jesus speaks of treating the hungry, the prisoner and the stranger as if they were literally Jesus himself. By calling them “brothers” it sounds like he means outcasts who are Christians. Regardless of what he means, we know from the rest of Scripture that Christians are mandated to help the poor whether they are believers or not.

These days, while I believe the Church still has a huge responsibility to teach this and similar passages, it is not offensive to my ears. It has been taught so often and so passionately in my circles, and my church is so intentional about it, that the zing of it is gone. And while I could always do more to practice this passage, it has been a source for several articles I’ve written for REO, which you can read here, here and here. (I add that because our culture is so honed in on this teaching, often wielding it imprudently as a political statement[1. There is no question Christians should practice it but to what extent the government uses it as a policy guide it isn’t close to clear in my mind] that its offense has been greatly diminished on a broad scale. Even nominal Christians who do nothing for the poor likely aren’t offended by the suggestion.)

Additionally, the idea of “helping the poor” is something atheists can agree within a vacuum. So there are many other passages Jesus taught that are far more inherently offensive. If we are to understand Jesus as offensive, I want to focus particularly on things that will offend all people to some extent.


Christians, Family and Hate 

One of the most obvious to my mind is that Jesus taught that we are to “hate” our family if we are to follow him. Correctly, preachers and teachers for millennia have taught that Jesus did not mean this literally, as that would contradict a bevy of other Scriptures on loving your family. But what he did through the use of hyperbole is make it clear that if love your family more than you love him you are not his disciple. Is that offensive? It is to me, and essentially everyone in every culture of the world I would guess. In fact, I have a friend from China who left his family to come to the US to study to be a pastor and his family thinks he hates them because he chose Christ over them. That is how he filters this passage.

Another similar one is when Jesus taught to not invite your friends and family over to your house for dinner but to invite the poor, the lame, the crippled and the blind. This to me is offensive because it is on a different level than “help the poor”. It’s one thing to go serve at the Pacific Garden Mission occasionally on a Saturday. It’s another to have those who are shunned by society sit at your dinner table as equals. That passage is in our Bibles and it doesn’t seem to be confusing in its interpretation or application. Yet a tiny minority practice it regularly in the U.S. I would guess. Because it is utterly offensive. 


Jesus Didn’t Always Aim for “Church Growth”

Perhaps the most obvious example in the Gospels of Jesus offending the masses is in John 6. After miraculously feeding the 5,000 Jesus later teaches them that they must believe him to be his disciple. They ask for a sign like the manna for their ancestors in Exodus. Jesus, as the master teacher, turns their words into a brilliant (if disturbing) illustration: to believe in him you must consider him the bread of life and in a figurative sense eat his flesh and drink his blood. The offense is not foundationally in the grotesque imagery, though it is that to any non-savage culture. It is offensive because as he did in Luke 14:25-35 above, he is demanding complete association with him to be his disciple.

And how do they respond? Most of this free lunch crowd confesses it is too hard a teaching and they walked out. I am not advocating modern churches practicing this often (nor am I saying not to), but what if we were willing to preach a Jesus or Jesus teaching so offensive, that the majority of our Sunday morning crowd decides they can’t accept it and do not come back? Even if we do not scare people off, at minimum people in the seats need to know that Jesus is offensive enough to accomplish that kind of mass rejection.

The point could be belabored because in nearly 100 chapters in our Gospels, Jesus offends people over and over and over by what he teaches: The rich young ruler walks away sad, unwilling to part with his wealth…the lawyer tries to justify himself and gets put to shame…Jesus claims Gentiles are important so a crowd prepares to stone him…Jesus fastens a whip out of cords and violently drives moneychanger out of the temple, rebuking them for making his house of prayer for all nations into a den of thieves…Jesus regularly preaches on Hell and final judgment for those who reject him…and on and on. Jesus was a compassionate man to those who were hurting and humble (and even then he wasn’t always, as we saw in the last article). But you cannot escape how often he caused people to feel anger, shame and conviction when he taught. It is no wonder that Peter and Paul both interpreted Isaiah to mean that Jesus was a rock of offense, causing people to stumble. 


Offensive Can Be Good 

One connotation issue in American English is that our word “good” seems often to be associated with things that are pleasant, nice or agreeable. These are not synonyms for good in a biblical sense. If I work too much and God needs to slow me down, he could cause me to become violently ill. And that would be good, even if not nice or pleasant. Similarly, in a few weeks my wife is going to give birth. My understanding is that event will be painful and undignified and the opposite of agreeable or delightful. But will it be good? According to many fathers I talk to, it will be the best.

That is how we need to process Jesus and his teachings. Offensive seems bad, and not good, if we have poor definitions. Jesus’ hard teachings are good as only God’s goodness can be. But they are not easy to accept. They will knock us to our knees, cause us to weep with conviction and make us feel deep shame if we let them. Jesus makes no sense to an unbroken, self-sufficient people. That is the heart of offense and that is what Jesus does.

May we stop trying to portray him otherwise.

 

 




Jesus Is Offensive: Let Him Be (Part 2)

Read Part One Here.

 

Part II: Jesus was offensive in his language

 

I am thankful that some modern Christian leaders wisely advocate for graceful speech to others on social media (and off social media for that matter) when we disagree. Especially about politics. I myself have done so for REO, even linking an article by Tim Keller that helps deal with polemics in a mature and nuanced way.

So I want to be clear that, generally speaking, I think name-calling and demeaning language are not things Christians should practice. Quite often I would say they are sin since we are mandated by God to speak gracefully and to consider others more important than ourselves.


Sticks and Stones

Yet, when we read the Gospels, we discover that Jesus had zero issue calling people insulting names and being harsh in his speech in general. This, as much as anything, is proof that the real Jesus—and not the Politically Correct, Flannelgraph, Buddy-of-Sinners American Jesus—can be quite offensive to our ears and sensibilities.

One of the most obvious examples is how he referred to the hypocritical Pharisees as “whitewashed tombs” and children of Satan. That is pretty debasing language. But I’d like to spend more time in this article on other examples of this type of behavior from Jesus because one thing even the “Just Love Don’t Judge” crowd has no trouble recognizing is that Jesus was harsh to the Pharisees. The high and mighty religious crowd is the obvious exception. Often the Inoffensive Jesus advocates see the modern parallel for the Pharisees as Christians who preach even the judgmental portions of the Bible.

This is erroneous thinking. And even if it weren’t, Jesus’ scathing words to the Pharisees don’t begin to cover it when it comes to ways Jesus talked to people that can shock modern ears. A few others that are significant to me:

“At that time some Pharisees said to him, ‘Herod Antipas wants to kill you!’ Jesus replied, ‘Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow…'”

‘Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. ‘Get away from me, Satan!‘ he said.” 

Then Jesus said to the [Gentile] woman, ‘I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel…It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.’”

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.”

“Then Jesus replied, ‘Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!‘ (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)”

None of the people on the receiving end of these insults could be described as the “religious crowd,” at least not in the typical New Testament Pharisaical sense. You have a follower who abandoned Christ and (I believe) ended up in Hell, a follower who remained faithful to death, a woman who was a complete stranger and foreigner and just needed help, a general crowd of people including his apostles, and a Gentile ruler. In each case, Jesus is not graceful with his speech, but downright rude at best and vicious at worst. If Jesus is our example, this really turns the “Love Thy Neighbor No Exceptions” T-shirt on its head.


Trying to Rationalize It

Now I know in the case of the Syrophoenician woman, that a rejoinder is that Jesus did end up helping her and perhaps came across as curt and even racist to make a point to her to be persistent. Yet can you imagine, in that case, or any of the above, a modern comparison? Christians calling our governmental leaders and former leaders names is extremely common on social media. But if I seriously called one of my church staff “Satan” in one of our meetings, I would be confronted for being a jerk. Even worse (and this is incomprehensible), if a woman of another ethnicity came to my church and asked for help and I used a slur about her people as I at first refused to help, I’d get fired. Even if I did help her eventually.

Let me again be clear that I do not think people reacting by confronting or firing me in those cases would be wrong. This is really what I’m getting at: Jesus was, and is, offensive in ways that we should not be. At least not normally. And while we do not always mimic him, we do accurately portray him. And that is what I fear that American Christianity fails to do quite often. When we make Jesus the nonjudgmental guy who only showed compassion, we misrepresent him. And that is a frightening thing to do.


As far as it depends on you

If you read Paul, he can seem to contradict himself at times. As in Galatians 1 when he said, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Contrast that with 1 Corinthians 9 when he says, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” How is this reconciled? 

Well, I think in large part the two passages are explaining two things. In one Paul is talking about preaching the Gospel. In the latter. he is talking about how he lives before lost people. That is a huge difference and it can be applied in 2018 this way: People absolutely should be offended by my Christianity. But they should be offended by Jesus, NOT by my behavior, attitude and even the way I talk[2. Both Peter and Paul advocated being respectful and gentle when sharing our hope or correcting opponents and Paul instructed to live as peace with others as far as “it depends on you”.]. I aim to remove every obstacle to the Gospel I can (especially cultural ones) but I cannot remove Jesus. And as Jesus himself noted over and over and over, HE is the offense. That is why people will hate us.

Now, Paul did refer to false teachers as “dogs” so I cannot say for sure that insulting language is always wrong[2. False teachers, in my opinion, are a special case of people who merit far less compassion and patience, biblically speaking, than other lost people but that is an essay for another day.]. But I can say for sure that generally speaking, people should not be offended by me. And equally as important–they should be offended by Jesus. It is the height of lamentable irony that we want to make Jesus inoffensive when he himself assured us that he is the worst offense there is. The kind that produces hate. I absolutely love my neighbor as myself, per Jesus’s command. But if I expect that to mean I will get along in perfect harmony with lost people, then I do not understand Jesus at all. He said himself that he came to bring a sword and divide people. It’s his name, his message, that people hate.

So do I speak the way Jesus spoke? Not necessarily. But do I preach him and his words—pure, unedited and without shame? Absolutely. It doesn’t make a nice T-shirt. Because you can’t be offensive and nice at the same time.

 

 

 




Jesus is Offensive: Let Him Be (Part 1)  

You’ve probably seen this T-shirt floating around social media:

Let me be absolutely clear that, without further context, I agree with it. When it’s time to shovel my neighbors’ snow, I should not for one second allow their religions or sexuality determine whether I serve them. Or when I’m at Aldi and the person behind me has two things to buy while I have a cartful, these things don’t matter for me to allow them to go ahead of me.

But if you dive deeper behind much of American culture, even in the Christian subculture, my fear is that we limit what “love your neighbor” is to things that are as above, completely non-offensive and by most measures the opposite of offensive in that they are welcoming.

Further, the life and work of Jesus Christ is at the core of this thought. Because, after all, Jesus was a “friend of sinners,” right? Well, the truth isn’t nearly that simple. It typically is not.


Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs 27:6)

To be completely straightforward, my aim in this series of essays is not to blaze a new trail on the topic. Encouragingly, I have heard sermons and read internet articles that try to push back against the Inoffensive Jesus. My goal here to help with that. Based on the temperature of American Christianity, we are not going to lack for correction on this topic. We are a nation that thrives on offense being the worst thing in the world. Think just for a second about terms that have been added to our vernacular that seemingly crept in overnight but now are everywhere (especially social media): triggered, safe space, snowflake. 

I’m guessing that some people associate those terms with political views. That is not my desire here. My point is simply that the culture at large has begun to qualify with its vocabulary how much we loathe being offended. This is prevalent in the church also, where people seem content with coming just to big gatherings on Sunday and never getting deeper into the community (as is modeled for us in Acts 2), all for fear of being known and judged.


Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? (John 6:61) 

I acknowledge that much offense, like racism, is terrible and in that sense needs to be battled. But in Christianity, offense is at the heart of our message. That cannot be changed. When people say Jesus was a friend of sinners I do not think they always represent that correctly.

There is work behind interpreting and applying the Bible and my efforts in understanding the passages that use that phrase do not leave me with a sense of “Jesus went out and showed great compassion to the disenfranchised tax collectors, refused to judge them and just loved on them.” No, I do not get that impression at all, even though that is often how I feel people want it to be applied.

Instead, in Matthew 9 we find Jesus calling Matthew to come follow him. We know when Jesus called people, he was as offensive as could be. He told them to forsake their families and to die to themselves. And just a few chapters prior Jesus demanded repentance from those who wanted to follow him. When people accused Jesus of hanging with the bad crowd, Jesus replied that he came to call those who were humble enough to need a doctor. How absurd would it be to imagine a doctor with a cure for a major disease partying with his patients and never telling them what is wrong with them or how to fix it? (I also hasten to add that I have at times heard people claim Jesus was only offensive to “religious” people, but that is nowhere close to the truth and I will deal with that myth in later essays.)

Jesus wasn’t Matthew’s drinking buddy. Nor was he merely “hanging out” with his friends and loving them in innocuous ways. I have zero doubt Jesus spent time with these people to preach to them. Since the core of the Christian life is a relationship (as seen by the Trinity), he didn’t just preach. He communed with them. How many of them were saved? I do not know. But I have no doubt Jesus didn’t commune with sinners without offending them.


And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me. (Matthew 11:6)

Jesus is far less offensive to the humble than to the proud. And the issue with the T-shirt above could be that I know that many of those neighbors that I am supposed to love by shoveling snow see zero need of Jesus in their life. At some point, they need to be offended by the truth of Jesus Christ. Isn’t this the most loving thing to do?

Jesus is the greatest proof that loving and offending can overlap. If my child needs a shot from the doctor, is it loving to prevent it because it hurts?  If the building I’m in is on fire and there is only one door to escape from certain death, is it offensive to try to tell people other ways out are wrong?  That’s a little simplistic but the point is true in Christianity, which claims quite offensively to be the only way to salvation.

So buckle up, REO readers. This year for Christmas we want to encourage you to block out all of the cultural noise and false “no offense” prophets and see Jesus for who he truly is. Because the truth is that he can be terrifying at times, and difficult to accept. Since he is by nature God, even clothed in humanity, we should expect him to be.

Part 2 coming next week.

 

 




Corporate Worship Throughout Bible Times

The Word of God in the read and spoken word is the epicenter of worship. From this lifegiving epicenter flows elements of worship of God with such things as thanksgiving, repentance, adoration, supplication and praise. Corporate worship, the gathering of worshippers to worship God as a unity, is something we should do every week. It takes many different forms throughout the long story of Scripture. This not meant to be a thorough look at all the intricacies of corporate worship in Scripture, but rather a broad look at its changing faces throughout.

The Birth of Worship

In the very beginning, Adam and Eve had full and personal communication with God, but this ended after they disobey God and broke off that close communion. The hearts of all humanity was separated from God by a deep gulf of sin. Yet via personal and corporate worship, we have long been able to maintain some semblance of communication with and focus on God. From this focus flowed such crucial aspects of worship as prayer, personal sacrifice, beauty, unity, divine adoration, and love.

With all corporate worship, God has also been clear that order is necessary. To this end, throughout Scripture, he has always ordained leaders to guide the people in worship. This individual or individuals was to lead worship entirely based on the word of God.

And then there is music. Music has so often been the vehicle of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and supplication. We see its human development first mentioned in Gen. 4:20-21. In the centuries afterward to the present time, it has played a crucial role in corporate worship. God showed that He loved music, especially when its emotional power and beauty were used in the worship of Himself. He engrained worship music into the very fabric of His rules concerning the worship practices of His chosen people, the Israelites. It became part of who they were. Just a few of the many examples: Exodus 15:1 and 20-21 record how Moses and his sister Mariam led the newly freed Israelites in worship songs of praise and thanksgiving to God after they were freed from slavery in Egypt. When God would set up the order of the priesthood, he would dedicate a sizeable branch of them just to song and the playing of instruments. The entire book of Psalms is composed of worship songs.

The Continuing Need of Renewal Through Corporate Worship

Authentic worship of God has so often resulted in heart revival, both personally and corporately. In Genesis 35:1 Jacob and his sons experienced history’s first recorded revival after returning to Bethel where Jacob had earlier had a strong spiritual experience.

But the Bible made it clear early on that one revival does not necessarily mean there will never be a need for another one. Many years after Jacob and his sons had died, the freed Israelites, the direct descendants of Jacob, were discontent despite their newfound freedom and almost continually in need of renewal.

Shortly after being freed from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites came to Mt. Sinai where God gave His human leader, Moses, the Ten Commandments, which Moses in turn presented to God’s unruly people Israel.

Not coincidentally it was also at Mt. Sinai that God led the people into another revival. Moses spoke the Words of the Lord, and the people responded positively. This is important because by doing so, the Israelite nation was giving their agreement that these words and commands were authoritative and binding.

When we hear the Word preached, we also ought to respond positively, acknowledging that what we hear is the authoritative, binding Word of God. By hearing the Word and truly acknowledging our accordance and agreement with the beauty of God’s Words, the Holy Spirit helps instigate the worship that can result in heart revival. This is still needed, by the way. The revival at Mt. Sinai, nor many after it, did not fix everything for all of eternity. We are still afflicted by the curse of Sin and are in constant need of fixing our wayward hearts through worship of God.

The Transitions from Tabernacle Worship to Temple Worship to Synagogue Worship

Not long after they left Egypt, God instituted tabernacle worship for the wandering children of Israel. Even after they were settled in the Promised Land of Israel, this would remain the case for many years. It would not be until the time of King Solomon that a temple would be authorized by God to be a permanent place of worship.

In the years afterward, temple worship became a deeply ingrained part of Israel’s cultural identity. This ended after they were exiled in captivity. Beginning in the 6th century the dispersed Jews began the practice of synagogue worship in an attempt to regain and save some of their Israelite identity lost to them in the absence of the temple. From the very beginning, synagogue worship emphasized reading and discussing Scripture, praying, and singing. All three of these primary characteristics of Synagogue worship would be imitated in early Christian church worship.

The Transition to Jesus

The Jews were eventually able to return to their homeland, resuming temple worship but still keeping synagogue worship as well. And then Jesus stepped onto the scene and changed everything. Luke 1 and 2 tells us how God the father introduced His Son Jesus as a man-child into this world in part by way of song. His birth was lauded in this way by several sources: Angels, Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon.

Jesus grew to remold man into a new creature and to, therefore, remold worship into a new creature as well. He had come to die for the sins of all men on earth. On the night before His death, Jesus gave some last warnings and words of instructions to his fearful disciples. In John 16:7 he tells them that although He will soon be going back to heaven, He will be sending down a Comforter in His place to help the believers. This Advocate was the Holy Spirit who among many other things has always been instrumental in Christian worship.

The Transition to Church Worship

It was on the Pentecost of around A.D. 30 that the Holy Spirit first came upon the followers of Jesus in a definite and dramatic way. About 10 days prior to this annual Jewish celebration around 120 of Jesus’ most devoted followers united in fervent prayer. The Holy Spirit came upon the group so powerfully that His presence filled the whole house. The spirit was so full in these believers that day that the revival spilled out into the community with the results that 3,000 more people were added to the church.

While not all worship services have as vibrant a Holy Spirit revival as was seen on this particular Day of Pentecost, we should always pray that the Holy Spirit have a very real presence in our gathered assemblies. In addition, while it is excellent whenever such a dynamic revival does occur, we should never assume our worship service has failed and that the Holy Spirit has not worked in magnificent ways if there are no dramatic, visible movings and emotion.

It has been mentioned that the church worship borrowed several key features of synagogue worship. However, these were not the only things Christianity borrowed from Judaism. In fact, for a long time, most of the secular world at that time thought it was just one of its branches.

Many of Paul’s divinely inspired epistles lay out various regulations about how we are to conduct worship in church services. The books make it abundantly clear that church worship is always to be centered on God’s Word, Jesus Christ, unity with other Christians, and the joy in Christ through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Here through Paul God gives crucial commands concerning how to carry out worship in general:

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with
the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving
thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of
our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the
fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;
teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and
spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

What is interesting about both of these key worship passages is that in both of them Paul stresses the importance of music in worship.

The early church would live during some interesting times in its first century of existence. Israel’s second temple would be destroyed in A.D. 70. After Rome destroyed the temple the close connection between Christianity and Judaism was forever severed.

Perhaps the best non-canonical description comes to us via Justin Martyr. These were both written sometime around A.D. 100. While the Bible should clearly be taken much more seriously as the inspired Word of God, many non-inspired ancient Christian documents do present some good doctrinal points to consider and interesting historical insights. This is such an example.

In his “First Apology,” Justin wrote how most of the worship service was designed to show their unification and adoration of Jesus. But he describes how the early church worshippers not only practiced unity with Jesus but with one another:

“Now we always thereafter remind one another of these things
And those that have the means assist them that are in need;
And we visit one another continually.”

Justin relates that the early Christians worshipped on Sunday (instead of Saturday) for the following reason:

“We hold our common assembly on the day of the sun, because
It is the first day, on which God put to flight the darkness and
Chaos and made the world, and on the same day Jesus Christ
Our savior rose from the dead…”

Today, while Sunday remains the primary day most Christians continue to meet together for corporate worship, it is not the only day. Corporate worship, whenever it takes place during the week, is a holy and magnificent moment of worship ordained by God. It has had many faces in Scripture, but all of this has made it abundantly clear that God values prayer, personal sacrifice, song, heart revival, order, beauty, unity, divine adoration, and love in everything that goes on in such times. And it is also clear that all of this springs from a thorough focus on His Word and on Jesus Christ, God the Son. Indeed, the Lord God in all three persons, He who has created us all is more than worthy of all of this worship. Worthy is the Lamb!




Moments of Revelation

The bones of this article were written for my now defunct blog over ten years ago (January 2008.) A version of it was published by an online magazine called The Brink some time back as well. I keep coming back to it though. When I wrote it, I was only 30 years old. I had been married for less than ten years. I had two boys. I was less than two years into my job as a Disability Claims Examiner for the State of Tennessee.

Things have changed in the intervening ten years. I am 18 years into marriage with an amazing woman. I have three boys now – ages fifteen, fourteen, and nine. I’m a man. I’m 40! I have been at my Disability job for over 12 years. And I keep coming back to those things I wrote a decade ago. It is a simple story and one that has repeated itself in my life more times than I can recall.

I was driving home from work one afternoon. The traffic was bad – as usual – though in retrospect, it was nothing compared to our current traffic problems in Nashville. The heater in my car was nearly dead, and needless to say, it was cold. Not surprisingly, I had a headache as well. I wouldn’t describe my mood as good. It wasn’t a horrible day – I wasn’t angry or bitter or anything like that. In as simple terms as I can put it, I just wasn’t “feeling” that Tuesday afternoon. Does that make sense? There are days where it is better for everyone to just turn the page and get to the next one. That was my reality that cold, January afternoon. I was ready to move on to Wednesday.

That all changed, though, while I was driving home. When I first wrote this article (or blog post), I had a catchy name for what happened to me. At least, I thought it was catchy, but as it didn’t actually catch on, it was probably not nearly as catchy as I hoped. I had a “Moment of Revelation.” I was 30 and full of vim and vigor so you have to grant me some grace in thinking that “Moment of Revelation” was going to revolutionize the world.

What exactly was my “Moment of Revelation?” God didn’t audibly speak to me. I didn’t get a vision from heaven. What did happen was that I caught a glimpse of something beyond me and my immediate circumstances. Scripture tells us that God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; I am sure there are many different ways that verse can be interpreted or explained, but I am not going to exegete the passage. I know what that verse says to me; God has made everything beautiful in its time and he created humanity with an innate ability to appreciate truth and beauty. He did this so that we could and would recognize the Originator of that Truth and Beauty.

That gets me back to my “Moment of Revelation.” I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular while I was driving, so I wasn’t exactly searching for anything beautiful, but beauty found me anyway. I had the radio on one of those “We play whatever we want” stations. (Jack FM if you want me to be specific.) The volume was low because the song that had been playing was terrible. Due to the low volume, I missed the first couple of notes of the next song, U2’s glorious With or Without You. Once I realized what song was on, I turned up the volume to a comfortably deafening level. (“Comfortably deafening” might seem contradictory, but if you are a big music fan, I think you know exactly what I mean.) I don’t have the ability to describe the rush of emotions that hit me. I forgot I was cold. I forgot my headache. I forgot the crappy day I had at work. I forgot about the bumper-to-bumper traffic. I simply allowed the song to “minister” to me. I know that sounds preposterous and touchy-feely, but it happened.

My entire outlook for the day changed. That one song at that specific time was exactly what I needed. Before anyone chimes in about the song itself, I’ll make a few things clear: I didn’t/don’t base my theology on this song, even though it probably captures the typical Christian experience better than just about any song on Christian radio any given year. I don’t have to agree with everything an artist is expressing. I just need to be ready to catch a quick glimpse of the eternity that the artist may or may not have even intended.

I experienced this the first time I saw Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey hug on the big screen in The Fellowship of the Ring. I was hit over the head with it when Stephen Lawhead, in his magnificent Pendragon Cycle, wrote about Merlin holding a wounded Arthur in his arms as their small boat sails to Avalon. Every time I hear The River Will Flow by Whiteheart, my soul smiles. I think God smiles too. These “Moments of Revelation” are everywhere; we just have to be ready to receive them. Mind you, they are not just in the arts. It could be a sunset. Laughing with a friend. Spending time with your family. I could go on for pages about the ways my kids help me experience it. My point is that we need to cultivate an appreciation for these moments that God gives us. There is a fundamental reason we have this ability; it points our eyes to our Creator. If we truly appreciate the beauty and truth we find in our lives, it will only nurture our love and devotion to the Source of that beauty and truth.

I look for these moments often though probably not as often as I should. I have even written about a few of these moments already for REO. (Here, here, here, and here.) If your day, or week, is not really doing it for you, keep your eyes open. Maybe God has a moment prepared for you. Don’t miss it because you are too busy stuck in your present circumstances.

Can you relate? Do you have these moments? We would love for you to tell us about them in the comment section below.

 




Coming to You

Sometimes when I think about the immensity of the universe I am both overwhelmed and humbled. This line of thinking also leads to a fuller joy, security, and boldness.

Consider the huge and complex dance:
The universe is so incredibly big many scientists believe it doesn’t even have an end. Our small, finite minds have a problem comprehending that. It is really hard to register the endlessness of anything. That is one reason, it is so hard to really fathom the enormity of what we know or guess is out there.

Space and spatial bodies are so large the measurement of light-years is used. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. One year’s worth of those seconds comes to almost 6 trillion miles. Well, the average galaxy is about 1,500 to 300,000 light-years. That’s huge!

There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in this universe. Each of these galaxies contains hundreds of billions of stars. In addition, they contain lots of other bodies and substances. We live in the Milky Way galaxy, which is a spiral galaxy. That means it has several arms coming out from a hub and it looks like it is spiraling like a whirlpool. It is about 100,000 light years in diameter.

We live relatively close to the edge of this whirlpool in a minor arm called the Orion Spur in the Solar System. Our Solar System lies on the outskirts of this arm. For the size of the galaxy, our Solar System seems really small. Scientists estimate the Solar System is between 7,348,981,944 and 9,320,567,882 miles in diameter. Within this expanse are a number of familiar bodies: the Sun, the planets, moons, comets, asteroids, and meteoroids.

One of these eight planets is Earth—our Earth. As far as we know, it is the only place in the universe that sustains life. At this point in time, there are about 7.6 billion people inhabiting the earth. These 7.6 billion people are spread throughout 195 countries on 7 continents. Zoom to your continent. Zoom to your country. Zoom to your city. Zoom to your street. Zoom into your house, dorm, apartment, igloo, whatever. We have come to you.

This is a very, very, very brief description of the universe. All of this grandeur of the heavens and the earth came to us from God Himself. God was the creator of it all (Genesis 1:1)!

Yes, we are a teeny-tiny part of it all. In essence, each one of us is a speck on a speck (the world) on a speck (the Solar system) on a speck (the Milky Way galaxy) on a speck (that’s right, the endless universe is a speck in the mind of God). We are less than nothing, but the sovereign God who is the omnipotent Creator of the universe, the divine choreographer of this great complexity yearns to have a personal, intimate relationship with you. You! He is the endlessness beyond the endlessness who cared for you before you were born, who cares about every aspect of your present life, and who wants to be forever with you after death.

Did I mention this is the God of the universe? That part needs all the emphasis in, well, the universe. Sometimes it seems we forget that part. We are mere specks and know so little. As mere, selfish specks we do not even deserve His attention. For some reason He gives it. For some reason, He cares for our lives—both this and the next. How is this not a reason for a greater joy and boldness? The God behind the endlessness is at work in you!

 

*A version of this article was originally published at The Brink Online.




The Invisibles: Bible Characters Christians Never Discuss, But Should

One of the most popular articles in the history of REO is our “Top Ten Favorite Bible Characters“. On that list, you find some of the most amazing humans that ever lived and we are blessed to get to read about them in our Bibles.

But that list was quite predictable, on purpose. The most well known Bible characters are so for a reason. They did incredible things and lived exemplary lives. Today, however, I want to go beyond the obvious and talk about a few Bible characters that deserve accolades but almost never get them. These people also did incredible things but because they weren’t as prominent as Moses or Paul, they rarely get taught about in Bible studies or discussed among the great people of the faith.

Today I want to give them their due. Here are a few people in the Bible that rarely get discussed but deserve full sermons dedicated to them.


Bezalel and Oholiab

Listen to what Exodus says about these men:

Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills…

Now let me pause here and wonder if a person doesn’t know the rest of the chapter, what kind of call would you think Bezalel had on his life? I mean, he is filled with the Spirit and wisdom and understanding. Is he a priest? A Levite? A prophet?

None of the above. Here is what he and his chosen assistant Oholiab were filled with the Spirit and with wisdom to do…

to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan0, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.”

They were filled with the Spirit and wisdom to work with their hands! Christians need to understand and teach the biblical significance of men and women laity who do blue collar jobs (and any non-pastoring jobs). In the Old Testament, they were spiritually qualified by God to the highest level, using phrases we’d use for the most significant spiritual offices. And since the New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers, I’d say all Christian accountants, janitors, teachers, and electricians are today as well.

We need to teach jobs as ministries. These men help us do that.


Onesiphorus

I owe Tim Campbell the credit for teaching about this man to a chapel full of students at Welch College 20 years ago. Other than a greeting in 2nd Timothy, the extent of what Paul writes about Onesiphorus can be found in two verses in 1 Timothy:

“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me.”

What a short, but significant tribute! Not everyone gets to be Paul, but to be the person that loves and encourages Paul like this? That’s someone worth teaching Christians about. May we all be the kind of person who refreshes others, who isn’t ashamed of them even when they are rejected by others, and who seeks them out. I long for that kind of testimony.


Asaph and the Sons of Korah

It is important to note that just because a Psalm is “of” someone, it does not mean that the person or group wrote it. It could be dedicated to that person or something similar. Yet I think it is very likely that Asaph and the sons of Korah wrote the psalms that bear their names in our Bibles.

Considering how deeply music speaks to our souls, confirmed by God by inspiring our biggest Bible book to be a hymnbook, we should know who wrote the greatest songs of the faith that Israel praised God with. Between Asaph and the sons of Korah you find many of the Psalms that have inspired some of the great modern Christian worship songs, like Psalm 42 (“As The Deer”) and Psalm 84 (“Better Is One Day In Your Courts”) and even the less well known but profoundly lyrical Psalm 73, which is found by that name in Indelible Grace Music. I give a shout out to Dr. Matthew McAfee for introducing that song to my church years ago. Few Bible passages wrestle with the unfairness of the world and the justice of God as this one does. What a privilege to sing it.

But even more important to me, Asaph and the sons of Korah penned several heart-wrenching lament psalms, like Psalms 44, 80 and 88. Psalm 80 contains the refrain, “O Lord God of hosts, cause your face to shine on us, that we may be saved” three times, which Michael W. Smith turned into a modern hymn as well. As far as I know, Psalm 88 has not been turned into a popular modern song, but perhaps that is because it is one of the few psalms that doesn’t end on an up note but remains in the darkness. For that reason, it may be my favorite psalm of all.

Both Asaph and the sons of Korah played a huge part not only in writing but leading Israel in musical worship (1 Chronicles 15, 2 Chronicles 20). These are men who should be known.


Micaiah

No, not Malachi or Micah. Micaiah, a prophet so unknown that my computer is giving me the red squiggly line under his name right now. He prophesied during the time of King Ahab and what a thankless, demeaning job that must have been. We get a taste of what his life was like in 1 Kings 22 (and its parallel, 2 Chronicles 18) when Ahab calls him in to advise him about going to war with Ramoth Gilead. It is obvious that Micaiah never prophesies anything good for Ahab because the wicked king says so plainly. It appears that this is the case because Micaiah intends only to speak the truth. And this obviously happens over and over and this has to weigh on his psyche.

It’s possible we even get a bit of sarcasm here from the noble prophet because at first he tells Ahab to go to war and Ahab knows he’s not being serious. But Micaiah then speaks the harsh predictive reality to him and instead of receiving thanks for the warning, he ends up with a smack to the face. A mere four chapters after Elijah calls down fire from Heaven, another similar prophet is taking inglorious shots to the face in a rather mundane existence. For this, he deserves our respect.


Zelophehad’s Daughters

Because the cultures of the Bible were so demeaning to women by our modern standards, we very much need to preach stories like these women standing up to Moses on behalf of giving them their father’s inheritance. Zelophehad was a righteous man but had no son. So they boldly stood before one of the most significant leaders in the history of the world and asked for justice. And God took their side. There was no doubt about that because he spoke directly in the passage to affirm their position.

Justice gets thrown around so much in American Christian vernacular I hope we don’t miss what it really is. It has been and always will be doing right by those who are denied things they deserve. That is the heart of these few verses in Numbers. So here’s to Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah–women of great character that we should honor.


So, at least for today, that is my list. What are some under-appreciated Bible characters you wish we talked more about?

 

 

 

 




How are Good Works and Salvation Connected?

People love the idea of earning stuff. There are trophies awarded in sports for winning a competition. Money earned by doing some sort of work. Students get a good grade for doing well on a test. The list goes on and on. Most of the time earning what you get is not wrong at all. In fact, much of the time it is good, right, and biblically-based. However, the mindset of needing to earn rewards explains why it is so hard to accept how salvation really works.

 

What All Christians Need to Accept

As indicated, we didn’t and don’t earn Salvation. That’s a very good thing because it would be impossible for any human to actually do so. It is equally true, however, that now that we have been saved, we should be compelled to do good works for the person and cause of Jesus. Scripture tells us that a faith that does not result in good works is dead (James 2:14-26).

 

Accepting What You’ve Already Accepted

Sometimes this is a truth that is hard to really accept even for those of us who have already supposedly accepted it. Sometimes, if we are not careful, we who have known this truth for years can drift into backward ways of unbiblical thinking. Biblical Christian thought goes against the natural way most of society thinks today in so many ones. This idea that we don’t have to and can’t earn this really good thing, this salvation, is just one of those things. Like so many other Christian counter-cultural thoughts, we will likely be struggling with this issue for the rest of our Christian lives.

Accepting the counter-cultural teaching of Scripture is something I have had trouble with in the past. Not just this particular truth, but many other biblical truths as well. If we are not careful and alert, unbiblical “spiritual” practices and ideas can become a lazy habit. For myself, sometimes along the road of the Christian life, while I thought I had fully accepted a truth, the Holy Spirit will lead me to take a long look at myself and show me that, no I hadn’t actually and fully accepted it yet, just some of it and that that some of it needed to be revitalized and more fully rounded. This kind of spiritual growth is what happens on the lifelong climb of sanctification.

 

The Short Story of Salvation

The whole need for human salvation in the first place started in the Garden of Eden. There was one particular tree there known as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This tree was exactly what its name implies. It embodied our free will to choose good or evil, to either willfully obey God or to willfully disobey Him. Adam and Eve, the first couple, chose evil, sin, disobedience of God’s one rule. Therefore, through them all humanity from that day forward was sentenced to death, eternal death.

The entirety of the rest of the Old Testament is God’s path toward the redemption of mankind through Jesus in the New Testament. We’re talking His own beloved Son here – His only Son. God the Father sent His only Son to die for a people who spat in His face and deserved exactly what they got. He did this so that we could be reunified with Him and have access to everlasting life (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9). Doing what God did would be an unthinkable, mind-boggling sacrifice for any parent–and this was our Creator!

After he arose from the dead, Jesus went to heaven to intercede on our behalf before the Father. For our benefit, he left the Holy Spirit to guide His believers to the end. We did not deserve access to the Holy Spirit; He was freely given (Titus 3:4-5).

Yes, acceptance of this sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus was and still is the only way for us to begin on that Holy Spirit-led path. As Romans 3:23 points out, all of us have sinned and therefore fall short of the glory of God. Because of this, we are completely unworthy to stand in the presence of God. Accepting the sacrifice of Jesus cleanses our sin and makes us able to stand in His presence. It is then that the Holy Spirit leads us up the road of salvation. It will prove to be an up and down road for us, with lots of hills and valleys, but thankfully His work on our behalf does not depend on our constant spiritual highs. His infinite love and grace have got our back.

 

The Final Answer

Going back to that first question about the connection between good works and salvation, While the two are definitely connected, it’s not like one might first assume. Salvation is nothing any human will ever earn by doing good. It was given to us. We were freely given the gift of salvation through the death of Jesus (Romans 6:23). With an authentic salvation experience, we are now bound for heaven, on the road of sanctification with the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the end of final glorification in the eternal presence of God. And how does that authentic salvation experience work? It is by fully confessing complete and lifelong acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior in you’re heart and through your mouth (Romans 10:8-9). That is how salvation comes about. Now we do our good works not to earn salvation, more salvation, or continued salvation, but because Christ saved us, because He commanded us to do so, because we love, honor, and praise Him for everything He has done for us and for humanity. Now we do so for the rewards awaiting us after this life with Jesus in eternity.

Now we obey His words and do our good works because He is truly our Lord today and forever (Luke 6:46).




Being Generous By Spending Money On Yourself

The Bible speaks abundantly about money and is pretty straightforward: Work hard. Be generous. Save money. Don’t be materialistic. Be content. Do not spend money selfishly.

Let me be clear that I get that. Let me be equally clear that part of the reason ramblingeveron.com exists is to use writing as a way to encourage people to dig deeper beyond the obvious. To push back against thinking boxes. To eviscerate platitudes and cliches. Jesus often blows my mind about how to live and I want to share that with others.

With that in mind, I want to rethink the exact applications of the biblical principles mentioned above. Working hard is non-negotiable, though that can look very different for different people. But on the issues of saving money, being generous and being selfish, it is my contention that we can (and perhaps sometimes should) live these things out in ways that are counterintuitive and countercultural.

What I mean is this: What if there are times it is really the more selfless thing to spend money instead of saving it? When generosity is spending money on ourselves? What if the more noble thing is to spend more on an item instead of finding it cheaper? What if concepts like minimalism, while entirely appropriate for some, isn’t necessarily the best approach for all?

The biggest application I think of when it comes to this are simple and are often mentioned as a way to be a good neighbor: buy local and support small businesses. I hear this advice frequently, but I do not think we discuss enough in the framework of Christianity.

Click here for a deeper dive into giving and generosity.

Anyone who knows me well knows I am frugal. I saved up as much money as I could before I got married so that I could have a huge safety net to provide for my wife. This causes my wife to be concerned when she wants to buy something one of her friends is selling via their personal small business on Facebook. She thinks I will get mad about it. Yet very quickly into our marriage, I began realizing how selfless it can be to support our friends who really are working hard and using their gifts to provide a quality product or service. Therefore, quite often when my wife asks my opinion (Note: NOT my permission) on buying something from a friend on Facebook, I enthusiastically tell her I hope she does.

Same for where we shop and eat in Bel-Cragin, Chicago where we live. We can (and do) shop at huge nationally known stores that allow us to save money. But we could also spend a little more shopping at a place that someone in the neighborhood owns. If I can buy a book from Amazon for $5 or buy it for $7 from a local bookshop, my initial reaction always is, “Go for the bargain. It’s the wise move financially.” But who probably needs it more? Same for eating. If it comes down to buying a meal for $6 at McDonald’s or a similar quality meal for $8 from Endi’s at Diversey and Central, whose owner I see all the time, is it always worth it to save the $2?


My wife and I have a child coming in February. You better believe we are thinking about money and how to provide for the child. But thanks to the grace of God, we are not in a position where we have to count pennies or truly worry about whether we will be able to make it. I have a ton to learn about parenting, yet right now I have learned from the wisdom of others (including my parents) that I want to teach my children from birth that they do not really need everything our culture says they do. I hope they learn that we will be generous by giving money to church, missionaries and social justice causes, but also to people who have earned it through selling goods and services.

REO’s look at managing your money wisely.

Additionally, I have learned in my marriage that spending money on things like vacations and date nights isn’t about living a certain lifestyle or materialism as much as it is about creating memories and a bond in my marriage that is invaluable. So when I look up tickets to Wicked and see prices that would cause pre-marriage Gowdy to shriek in horror, I remember that it is an investment in my wife and my marriage. While I obviously love going to the beach and enjoy every second of it, spending the money to do it doesn’t have to be selfish. My wife loves it as well and the time away matters to us.

Jesus helps me to crystallize this is the parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16. That is one odd passage if you read it on its face. The manager is in trouble and cuts deals with people who are in debt. And the rich man commends him. Trying to figure out how to apply that today is a challenge. Yet something Jesus draws out of this, “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourself.” The reason, I think, is because we need to understand how desperately we need other people. We need community. The manager was in a desperate situation and the only way out was to be shrewd with his money. In the same way, I can use my money on others to communicate to them that I need them. I take a guy from my church out to lunch and I pay. He gets blessed with a lunch but we both get blessed with the friendship. We think we are helping others when we spend money on them, but they are actually doing us a relational favor by being helped. Only the Bible could be that counterintuitive and countercultural.

A couple of disclaimers I feel are important. First, I realize some people do not have excess or for other good reasons need to be saving money, even the $2 for the burger. My intention in writing this is to challenge traditional thinking, not to present my thinking as absolute truth for everyone. If a person or couple is going in debt from their spending, then a change sounds prudent. In those cases, people may need to be creative in finding inexpensive ways to support local business or their marriage. (Being creative is something we all can stand more of anyway.)

Also, I want to be clear that I am not writing this from a place of success. These are things I need to practice much, much better. I am an Amazon addict. And even though you can buy from individuals on Amazon, I find myself wanting the new things with free shipping. This kind of thinking isn’t easy for me. And it is my hope that by writing about it, I will bring myself accountability.

To me, the worst thing you can do biblically with money is to hoard it. I don’t think, however, we were created to just pay bills and give it away either. We also should spend money on ourselves in a way that benefits others, so that we are completely aware of how badly we need relationships and community. That’s just one of many ways Jesus has blown my mind about how to live.

 

 

 

 




Heaven is Home

I’ve lived a fairly long life – 68 years now. To most people I’m “old,” and I’m fond of saying when asked how I’m doing “pretty good for an old man.” However, that falls flat when I’m with our seniors at church, or at a luncheon with other pastors and retired pastors, and there are many who are 5, 10, 15, or 20 years older than me.

But the longer I live, the more I remember: “I’m not home yet.” Especially in these days of so much turmoil, socially, politically, morally, and even religiously, life is hard to bear some days. The shooting last year at the Texas church brought that home once again. I have cried looking at pictures of the children shot down deliberately in cold blood by a man filled with evil.

The political division, the “me first” mentality, self-identifying, sexual exploitation of children, world hunger, rampant racism, abortion – not only accepted but glorified by so many – cause a heaviness and a sorrow that will never be gone here on earth. We’re reminded that:

1. Perfect healing will not take place in this life, but in the world to come.

2. Perfect justice will not take place in this life, but in the world to come.

This means, of course, that we will suffer angst, pain, anxiety, and grief all throughout our lives. Though Jesus is King, though His peace is real, His grace is sufficient, and His power available, things will never be perfect down here.

Some people are recognized for their greatness in this life, while God honors others in the life to come. Henry C. Morrison was a faithful missionary who served the Lord in Africa for over 40 years. He recalls that emotional day when he and his wife boarded a ship on their way back to the United States. His mind flooded with memories of the wonderful experiences they had enjoyed on the mission field. He began wondering what it would be like to return to his Midwestern hometown — will anyone there still remember us? Aboard that same ship, that day with Henry and his wife was the former President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt. He was returning from a big game hunting trip in Africa. When the ship pulled into the New York harbor, there were thousands of people there to greet him. The crowds cheered and the bands played. There were signs, banners, and billboards everywhere saying, “Welcome Home!”

As the dear missionary and his wife left the ship, they saw that no one had come to welcome them back home. With a heavy heart, Henry Morrison went to his hotel room and told his wife, “Honey, for 40 years we poured our lives into ministry and service. And yet we come back to America and not a single soul comes to welcome us home!”

His wife came and sat down next to her husband. She put her hand on his shoulder, and said to him, “Henry, you have forgotten something. You’re not home yet!”

Do you ever feel like the things you do for Christ are overlooked? Maybe you spend long hours working with children each day, or you work a mundane office job. Never forget that this world is not your home.  Serve your Savior faithfully each day, and He will reward you for your labors — just keep in mind, you’re not home yet.

Earthly crowns are dross to him who looks for a Heavenly one. — Jane Porter[1. Excerpt from a devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder.]


Here’s just a little of what awaits us!

The Absence of all that’s bad (Revelation 21)

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” There isn’t a more comforting verse in all of Scripture!

The  Presence of all that’s good

There’s a joke about two guys who speculate whether there will be baseball played in Heaven. One says “I’ll pray and ask God tonight since you want to know so badly.” The next day, he tells his friend. “Well, I prayed about whether there would be baseball in Heaven, and God answered me.  I’ve got good news and bad news.” “Tell me,” says his friend. “The good news is that, yes, there will be baseball in Heaven. The bad news is that you’re the starting pitcher tomorrow!”

The Glory of God in Jesus (Revelation 22:3b-5)

His servants will serve Him. We will see His face, shine in His glory, and sit with Him as Kings.

Eternal

“And they will reign forever and ever” with Him.

Home

“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places (mansions)…I am going away to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2 CBS


Building 429 sang  “This Is Not Where I Belong”

…all I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

So when the walls come falling down on me
And when I’m lost in the current
Of a raging sea
I have this blessed assurance, holding me

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

 

B.J. Thomas wrote the song “Home Where I Belong”

They say that heaven’s pretty,
And living here is too.
But if they said that I would have to choose between the two.

I’d go home,
Going home,
Where I belong.
While I’m here I’ll serve him gladly,
And sing him all my songs.

I’m here,
But not for long.
And when I’m feeling lonely,
And when I’m feeling blue.
It’s such a joy to know that I am only passing through.

I’m headed home,
Going home,
Where I belong.
And one day I’ll be sleeping,
When death knocks on my door.
And I’ll awake and find that I’m not homesick anymore.

I’ll be home,
Going home,
Where I belong.


To conclude, I’ve asked my son Phillip to write a little something about C.S. Lewis’ description of Narnia’s version of Heaven in “The Last Battle.”

 

I am hard pressed to find a better depiction of Heaven in any work of fiction than what C.S. Lewis wrote in the final book of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The last few chapters of “The Last Battle” are full-to-bursting with the beauty, grandeur, and awesomeness that awaits those who believe. Food tastes better. The world is familiar yet deeper, richer, and better in every way imaginable. There are sweet moments of reunion with those who have gone before, as seen when King Tirian is reunited with his father. Yet nothing captures that pull we feel when we think of our heavenly home, that sense of longing – better than these words by one of the characters in those final pages: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.” Heaven is the place we “have been looking for” all our lives. Heaven is home, our “real country.” Heaven is where we belong. What an amazing hope we have as believers!

 

 

 

 

This life is just the preface.  The real story starts when we’re home!