Monday, October 19, 2015

A Closer Look: Important Reads from the Weekend

Here are a few articles you might not want to miss:

* “Killing O’Reilly’s Reagan” (Stephen Hayward, Power Line)

* “The Obama Intifada” (Matthew Continetti, National Review)

* “Introducing The ‘Democratic Socialist’ Party” (David Harsanyi, The Federalist)

* “We Band of Brothers -- 600th anniversary of Agincourt" (Josh Gelernter, National Review

“Sweden Close to Collapse” (Ingrid Carlqvist, Gatestone Institute)

* “Perpetual Green Weenie Awarded” (Steve Hayward, Power Line)

* “The Sentencing Trap” (Paul Mirengoff & William G. Otis, Weekly Standard)

* “The One-State Solution, Cont’d” (Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review)

* “Doctor Zhivago and American Conservatism” (Benjamin Musachio, National Review)

Moving Through Heaven #6: Jim Shares Some Provocative Thoughts

Background — I have invited a few friends from across the country to join me (and each other) in reading Randy Alcorn’s masterful study, HEAVEN, and then engaging in some dialogue about what we’re reading and thinking about it. Even though I've re-read the book a few times, I'm again taking notes and praying through key points...and there are a gang of those! Previous posts can be found by scrolling down through the blog.

Here's the latest response from Jim Bingham.

I feel clean after reading Randy's quote of John Updike at the very beginning of Chapter 11. It strikes me as an encouraging clarion call to simply believe God for Christ's resurrection. It is spoken boldly as a prophet would speak it; like a man who simply believes God for what He says. It's wonderful. Let me quote it again:

"... Let us not mock God with metaphor, analogy, sidestepping transcendence; making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages: let us walk through the door. - John Updike

I'd like to try my hand at similar admonition, aimed at the consequences of ill-begotten doubts:

Would you redefine and diminish the mighty works of the eternal God, guided only by ill-informed, finite, self-important musings of men who subtly and deceitfully seek options and evasion from what God has clearly expressed?
Do you recall the methods of the serpent, who used the very same tactics in the garden, and received judgment for it?
Do you not see that men die and need resurrection precisely because they believe and act on such deceits, and choose to rely on the damning delimitation of doubt, instead of straightforward belief in what God has said?
Stand. Believe. Attribute omnipotence to God and rejoice in His mighty works! Cease defining the light by what can barely be seen in the darkness in which you reside. Doing so imperils yourself and all who regard you.

Heaven and eternal life are necessarily reduced to deformed and misshapen concepts if reigned over by a God incapable of performing bodily resurrection.  To the delight of our souls, Jesus returned and walked among us, ate with us, spoke with us, as a resurrected being. We have been informed what He was like; thus, what we will be like; not apparitions seeking embodiment and purpose.(notwithstanding Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol")

The consequences of the Resurrection are immense and encompass all of creation. It is total. Rather than recap what Alcorn expressed in exquisite detail, I want to relate how it affects me as I read it.
- I am amazed that King Jesus endured death for me
- I am amazed that as my future became death owing to the federal headship of Adam, my future became life again, owing to the federal headship of Christ, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
- Because Jesus died and was resurrected, all believers have the joyful expectation of eternal fellowship, uninterrupted by death or business demands, or time constraints.
- Some of the greatest words ever spoken are in John 14. "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I WILL COME AGAIN AND RECEIVE YOU UNTO MYSELF THAT WHERE I AM, THERE YOU MAY BE ALSO."

This is the greatest invitation ever offered. It is a genuine offer, and thrills the soul. It is possible because the resurrection is real, because God provided life for us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and imparted the benefits to us."  Such generosity is indescribable. Such a gift is unspeakable.  No such invitation could have been made based on mere metaphor or analogy. The resurrection was real, so the invitation is real.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Moving Through Heaven #5: Anticipating Resurrection

Background — I have invited a few friends from across the country to join me (and each other) in reading Randy Alcorn’s masterful study, HEAVEN, and then engaging in some dialogue about what we’re reading and thinking about it. Even though I've re-read the book a few times, I'm again taking notes and praying through key points...and there are a gang of those! Below are a few observations I’ve made after reading Section 4 (Chapters 11-13).

* “Your body does not merely house the real you — it is as much a part of who you are as your spirit is…God designed our bodies to be an integral part of our total being.” The tendency to believe otherwise comes from the errors of Christoplatonism which the author discusses at several parts of the book. And he shows the Scriptural record to back up his points, especially the many references to the physical resurrection of Jesus AND of those believing in Him for salvation. Good stuff.

* The material on “redemptive continuity” was also excellent. God isn’t going to scrap His original creation and start over. And He certainly isn’t going to change us (after creating us as spiritual and physical beings) into disembodied spirits floating in some surreal fog. No, God is going to take us and through His great mercy and power redeem, restore, and renew us. And all of His creation too.

* Our resurrected bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrected body. Very real. Very much a physical thing.

* Chapters 12 and 13 with their discussion of the redemption of all creation were intriguing, exciting, and challenging to the max. Terrific! So too their analysis of Romans 8 and the curse upon creation which came with the fall of Adam. But the good news? Creation will be redeemed as well. So very cool.

* A point to ponder. The unshakeable conviction that even the irreligious feel that “Despite vestiges of beauty and joy, something on this earth is terribly wrong.”

* I’m fascinated and delighted over the idea that our service for Christ in this life will also be resurrected, that it might indeed become part of the kingdom’s imperishable character. What a motivation for abiding in Christ moment by moment now!

* I’m also deeply interested in the “redemptive continuity” when it comes to a person’s unfulfilled dreams and talents, the culture of mankind, the beauty and truth of certain works of art, and more. Wow.

* Since the first time I read the book, I’ve been working on Chapter 13’s exhortation to reform my vocabulary (concerning heaven, the New Earth, the life to come, etc) to more accurately fit the biblical information concerning the resurrection.

* Finally, a heads up to my friends who are also reading HEAVEN right now. This week is really busy for us. I must read two other books for discussion evenings, do five “When Swing Was King” shows, do two speaking engagements, pray and witness at the Planned Parenthood abortion business tomorrow, keep up my walking regimen, and several other tasks…all before cleaning the house and packing for two weeks down in Branson, Missouri. So, I'm afraid I won’t be reading the next sections and posting my notes on Vital Signs Blog until next week. But I’m still hoping to see more of your notes!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Moving Through Heaven #4: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

“We are homesick for Eden. We're nostalgic for what is implanted in our hearts. It's built into us.” (Randy Alcorn, Heaven, Chapter 8)

I couldn't agree more. Lewis and Chesterton also speak of this often. I've often pointed out how our legends and fairy tales utilize this very human yearning for paradise (and they lived happily ever after.)

But it’s not just an earthly utopia we most deeply long for, but something sublime and spiritual, something that answers our soul's yearning for serenity and significance that is beyond anything we’ve known. At least, that we haven’t known yet. Some of the most plaintive of our popular songs express this: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” or “There's A Place for Us,” “Moon River,” “Age of Aquarius,” “Theme from a Summer Place,” “Bali Hai.”

Oh yes. Man, created in the image of God, is wired for paradise. His heart naturally yearns for the righteousness, wholeness, and security of heaven.

Moving Through Heaven #3: "God is the Ultimate Salvage Artist"

Background — I have invited a few friends from across the country to join me (and each other) in reading Randy Alcorn’s masterful study, HEAVEN, and then engaging in some dialogue about what we’re reading and thinking about it. Even though I've re-read the book a few times, I'm again taking notes and praying through key points...and there are a gang of those! Here are a few observations I'll share after reading Sections 2 and 3 of the book.

* A Bible study on heaven naturally corresponds to its teaching about rewards for the Christian in the life to come. We do not work our way into heaven. That comes only from believing in the finished work of Christ's death as the payment for one's sins. He is our substitute. The spotless Lamb of God died for us, thereby opening the way of forgiveness and redemption to all who trust in Him. However, once we are saved through faith in His wonderful gift, our obedience to His Word results in rewards (gifts) besides the entrance into heaven itself. Wow. How awesome is the mercy of God.

* Randy's discussion of Christoplatonism is very important. How damaging the effects have been when certain religious leaders and groups have insisted that whatever is physical is inferior, even debased. These folks end up exchanging biblical teaching for a sappy, sentimental, and self-oriented spirituality.

* Tozer's quote in Chapter 6. "We do well to think of the long tomorrow" has provided my prayers with a new and now oft-used phrase.

* Chapter 7's notations of things we see in Scripture from persons living in the intermediate heaven are encouraging: memory, verbal expression, consciousness and rationality, knowledge of things happening on earth, prayers, understanding of time, family connections remaining important, etc.

* Chapter 8's chart (on pages 82-85) are really nifty. I'm copying it, squeezing it down to fit on 3 by 5 cards, and using it as "meditation stuff" on my prayer walks.

* Randy's emphasis on the redemption of all creation is spot on. And terribly exciting.

* Other wonderful items from this section? Paligenesis...Isaiah 60 as the best biblical commentary on Revelation 21 and 22... A.A. Hodge's quote on pages 97 and 98...the talk of thrones...the paradox of "already and not yet"...and those thrilling lines of "Joy to the World" -- "He comes to make His blessings known far as the curse is found." Wow!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Moving Through Heaven: Anticipations

A couple of weeks ago I invited 21 of my friends from across the country to join me (and each other) in more purposeful dialogue, accountability, and intellectual stimulation.  That project is reading (or re-reading) Randy Alcorn’s monumental book, Heaven.  We’re taking it one section a week (25-40 pages or so) with a view to finishing the book by Christmas.  As part of the conversation, I’m occasionally posting observations and prayer items here on the blog like the one I print below.  Those friends involved in the partnership can respond to my notes and/or write up their own via email, phone, and posts on their own blog or a Facebook page. (Maybe you’d like to join us?)

Here’s one of the most moving of those responses. It comes from Jim Bingham.

I've thought long and hard about my level of anticipation of heaven since reading this first section. 

Some of the things I look forward to in the New Heaven and New Earth are: Never running out of time to finish a project. Endless discoveries of the endless never-diminishing delights He sets before us, because in His right hand there are pleasures forevermore. I look forward to being free from all stress, regret, anxiety and fear. 

But those aren't my highest motivators when I think about heaven. My motivators are the pure levels of fellowship to be shared there eternally with Christ and with Christ-like brothers and sisters. No mixed motives. No mixed messages. No tentative or uncomfortable relationships. A universal shared joy at the presence of Jesus Christ. 

We have a taste of that now in our fellowship in the church. We rejoice in the giftedness of our pastors and teachers. I think of the pure delight I feel when I hear Denny Hartford or Dan Hauge express brilliantly something I feel and don't quite know how to say, or they represent the mind of Christ via an explanation of His Word and burdens lift and I feel gratitude and comfort, or the healing of blessed correction or the balm of much-needed soul relief. I don't know how to give it back to them. I love them for it. It makes me wonder what it will be to hear the Master Himself speak to me with all grace and a perfect knowledge of me. 

I rejoice at thoughts of my loved ones enraptured with the love of Christ and fully equipped to express it back to Him. We'll rejoice in the freedom of being able to openly and unashamedly display our love and joy.

If I were to take a long journey on the New Earth to see marvelous sights, I would want Him with me. I'll be able to do just that without waiting for a gap in His schedule, because the Word says He's infinite and omnipresent. It's the ultimate perfection of creation to be in the presence of the Creator and enjoy Him. 

I fully expect spontaneous rather than scheduled convocations of worship, song, and laughter, and leaping.

I fully expect the anticipation of discovering why he calls us together, and finding it far better than the anticipation of any delights we've enjoyed on earth. I fully expect to always be more excited by the Giver than the gifts.

I fully expect a deep sense of fulfillment at performing my tasks and seeing His pleasure at it. 

I'm surrounded by earthly illustrations of these things. I see delight in the eyes of my grandchildren when I make up a story for them. And it makes me profoundly happy. Like heaven: innocence, love, and joy at being together.

I see new joy in the little pup we rescued from neglect and mistreatment. She thrills to be where I am and revels in my attention and shivers with delight when I appear. I am just like my little pup. I was lost, alone, injured, and my Rescuer came for me and set my feet in a broad place and enlarged the borders of my tent and called me friend. My heart is full. And He promises me more in Heaven. Endlessly. On the journey toward Heaven He whispers gently to me: “I have called you by name. I have chosen you. I will not leave you comfortless. Learn of Me for I am meek and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your soul. I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have so much to show you.” These whispers and the loving relationship that expresses them are the joys of the New Heaven and New Earth I most look forward to.

I'm convinced that a failure of excitement at the thought of Heaven has roots in a failure to see what Christ has done for us already, and how great the love He's shown us really is. 

Ephesians 1 - “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places in Christ according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of his will.”