I am, as a pastor, asked often about my views on Heaven.
People are always asking me questions like: Is it a real place? Will I be
married there? Will I recognize people there? Can I have sex there? (Guys are
always asking me that!) What will we do in Heaven? Where is Heaven?
On one hand my answer is simple, I don’t really know! I mean
who does really know for sure, I mean really! How can we, you can’t vacation there
and return with pictures to tell about it. People have claimed to have died and
gone to Heaven and then returned to write a book about it. I am not saying that
it didn’t happen or that it’s not true, I am just sayin. They can’t prove they
went to Heaven, and no one can prove they didn’t. So, is Heaven real?
Let me start with the question; is Heaven Real? Yes, I do believe
that it is. I believe in a literal Heaven, a place you go to after death. I
believe it is a place that God prepared for us by His own hands (obviously His
creative power of words, not that He actually swung a hammer and handled a saw,)
and that Jesus died to get us there. I can’t upload pictures of Heaven to my
instagram or faecbook, but there are ancient manuscripts (The Bible) that give
some insights to what Heaven will be like. But it only gives us a glimpse, it’s
definitely not conclusive. It’s a place
that I am sure will surprise, and amaze every minute we are there!
WHAT HEAVEN WON’T BE
I truly believe that Heaven will not be a place we float
around while singing worship songs written by Hillsong (I love Hillsong songs,
I’m just sayin!) Honestly, I love Jesus with all my heart, but I don’t want to
TO THE POINT
I believe that Heaven will be basically a place where all
that is will be good, pleasing, healthy, whole, loving, forgiving, etc. All
things good. A place absent of all evil, and all that comes with evil. Now, on
all the other questions about sex, marriage, kids, etc.I don’t know for sure, but I believe that
Heaven will be must like our existence now, but again, just absent all things
bad. Heaven will be full of all that God intended! Nothing will be broken or
out of place. No pain. No heartache. No death. No Loss. No lies. Only peace.
Only goodness. Only love. A perfect place!
WHAT ABOUT HERE AND NOW
As you know, our world – here and now – is broken. We are a broken people, and earth is broken
too. We can do and should do all that we can to “save the planet” but more
importantly we should do all that we can to “save our lives.” Jesus is the one who
can help us put the broken pieces of our life together. I challenge you to
trust in Him today!
As I prepared for my sermon on "The Importance of
Community" I came across some great teaching by Jonathan Edwards a Theologian from 1700’s. He wrote a book called, Thoughts
on Revival. Not one of his most popular books, but in it he talks about
what has killed spiritual revival and even church community. And to sum it up,
what kills revival or church community is pride, more specifically,
"spiritual pride." It really stepped on my toes and has challenged me
to a higher standard of living; I hope it does the same for you! Enjoy!
So rather than
quote exactly what he said, because his verbiage is from the 1700's, I contemporized
some of his points for us to consider.
Pride – makes you
more aware of others faults then you are of your own.
Humility- makes you
far more aware of your own faults than others.
“Pure Christian humility causes a
person to take notice of everything that is good in others, to make the best of
it and to diminish their failings; however, he turns his eye chiefly on those
things that are bad in himself and to take much notice of everything that
– Jonathan Edwards
Spiritual Pride –
leads you to, when you speak of theirs faults, to have contempt and distain
when you speak of others faults. An attitude of Superiority.
Humility– leads you
to speak of others faults only with grace, grief and mercy.
Spiritual Pride –
leads you to quickly separate from people who have criticized you or those
Humility– leads you
to stick with people even through difficult relationships.
Spiritual Pride –
leads you to be dogmatic and sure about every point of belief you hold.
Humility– leads you
to be flexible, teachable, and gracious of what others believe while
understanding you could be wrong.
I do agree
with Jonathan Edwards here that "Spiritual Pride" is a killer of revival!
It's a killer of relationships, not only with others, but with God too. The
Bible says that, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the
humble." I need grace, don't you!
important to remember that we, the church, are the only 'Jesus' some people may
ever encounter, and if we are cocky, prideful, arrogant, and judgmental and act
all superior, it's not going to help reach people with the love of Christ. I
think it's worth noticing that sinners, like notorious sinner, i.e.
prostitutes, tax collectors, thieves, and adulterers flocked to Jesus because
of His love. If He was all judgmental and always pointing a condemning finger
at them they NEVER would have wanted to be around Him. I personal hope and pray
that notorious sinners - like prostitutes, strippers, drug addicts, IRS
employees (j/k), etc. flock to Mercy Church! I really do!
Scriptures for further study:
3:13; Romans 15:14; Romans 12:9; John 17:20-24; Romans 15:1-3; Matthew 27:46;
James 3:18; James 4:1-12
I, like many pastors and religious teachers, have a theological position; which is what we believe about God, the Bible and Religious Faith in general. And we all differ a bit here and there.
Augustine of Hippo defined the Latin equivalent, theologia, as "reasoning or discussion concerning the Deity."
In my 20 years of ministry I have become more and more gracious in my Theology (study of God.) I would say that GOD crawled out of the BOX that I had Him in years ago.
I find it strange that we humans have God all figured out. I think we should be a bit uncomfortable when we think we’ve got God and his ways confined to a humanly derived theological system of thinking. We have constructed a systematic theology that we feel good about, or can defend rather then allowing ourselves to follow a mysterious, frustrating, seemingly contradictory God who “sent us His spirit” to lead us into the knowledge of truth ... and we do this by living by faith. Mind you, I love theology, I love to study, debate, ask questions ... I guess over the years I haven't had to have all the answers anymore.
I will be honest, I have an answer to most questions because I am opinionated (my wife can tell ya!) But my heart always speaks up within me and reminds me that I am not all-knowing!
Steve Falkenberg, professor of religious psychology at Eastern Kentucky University, says, "I've never met anyone who actually believes the Bible is literally true. I know a bunch of people who say they believe the Bible is literally true but nobody is actually a literalist. Taken literally, the Bible says the earth is flat and setting on pillars and cannot move (Ps 93:1, Ps 96:10, 1 Sam 2:8, Job 9:6). It says that great sea monsters are set to guard the edge of the sea (Job 41, Ps 104:26)..."
Q: So, is the Bible true?
The Bible being true (inerrant or infallible) doesn't mean (at least to me) that some stories are actually just that, stories told to communicate deeper truth to help mankind.
So was Job a real guy who suffered greatly and never turned his back on God? I believe he was a real guy, who really lived and really didn't turn his back on God during his suffering. But, even if it's a made-up story to communicate a deeper truth about suffering, that doesn't bother me. Now, some people (right-wing-conservative-fundamentalists) think that to believe Job (or any other story, i.e Noah & the Ark, Jonah & the Whale) to be just a made-up story is to discredit the entire Bible. I don't see it that way and I would probably be considered by some to be a conservative fundamental Christian (usually it's the super-liberal crowd who would see me that way.) I believe I am a moderate ... meaning I am in the middle on many issues facing Christianity. And I also am, for whatever reason, gracious towards others positions on scripture and I believe that that is a position we as Christ followers should all have towards on another.
I have met many wonderful Christians with different views then me, and we could cuss and discuss the issues and walk away friends. To me that is a true sign of Christianity at work.
So back to the question at hand; I do believe the Bible to be truly the word and work of God through human-beings inspired by the Holy Spirit and that the Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
All that said, let's be intelligent thinking people here ... the Bible doesn't need to be defended when there are apparent errors (and there are) or inconsistencies (which there are) translation problems (which there are) ... we do not need to hide those things or explain them away or try to cover them up for fear of the whole thing coming apart. It's still the living breathing word of God, and it speaks for itself.
For many many years there has been a debate about Man's Free Will to chose vs. Predestination, God sovereignly chooses for us or the more religious crowd would understand when I say - Calvinism vs. Arminianism.
When people ask me if I am Calvinist or Armenian I say yes. I think that they co-exist, and this is what makes God so amazing; some how these two can exist at the same time (this is so clear in scripture). I do not believe it's an either-or here. But unfortunately in too much of the Christian world you must pick sides ... so I pick both sides. This is my short answer!
Many of you know that I like to tackle the stuff that many stay away from … and frankly it’s not because I am so courageous, I just speak my mind and like to give my perspective on religious issues, good or bad.
So here are my thoughts on Religious Bigotry; it’s a shame for people of faith, especially people of the Christian faith for whom I am apart, to be bigoted as it relates to faith. Christians are to be people of love, grace, mercy … people full of kindness… right? At least that is how I read the Bible. I do not see room for religious bigotry.
Now let me be clear here, I am a Christian and I believe that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and that there is no other way we are made right with God but by the blood of Christ Jesus that was shed on the cross. Okay, I get it; I believe it and I share it! BUT I see many in my own group who are judgmental, and even hateful of those who do not share our tenants of faith … this my friends is religious bigotry and if the truth be told it’s not very Christ like. I believe we should LOVE people into the kingdom of God, not judge them or even scare the hell out of them! That’s so not Jesus!
I’ve never seen a group more divided and even divisive as the “Christian Church” … each group thinking they have the corner market on biblical understanding and divine truth … often bashing other groups because of their “lack of understanding”. Just nuts! I remember this all to well since I was one of these people years ago … thinking that everyone else was wrong and I (of course) and the group I was in (of course) had the FULL unadulterated truth. Religious pride in its grandest form! It’s disgusting!
All this doesn’t mean that we change our beliefs or that we say others are right and we are wrong … I think it’s more an attitude of the heart, a heart of love and compassion towards other people. And don’t we ultimately defeat our enemy by making them our friend? I think so! Also when you get into absolute truth … truth is truth, but how you come to understand and live out that truth is crucial.
For example if my son came to me with a math quiz and he had said that 5 + 6 = 8 I would lovingly instruct him and show him again how mathematics work to help him reach the truth on his own. I wouldn't tell him that his mathematical skills are stupid and he is going to math hell … that wouldn’t help him. I also wouldn't just say – “your wrong, and the answer is 11 … I am right … I know the truth and you don’t.” And here is another thing I would do; I would have him explain to me how he came to the conclusion that 8 was the answer … then we could discuss.
I think religious people often get defensive, argumentative and upset when someone challenges or offers another opinion because they are insecure and can’t really defend their position because they don’t even know WHY they believe what they believe.
I was thinking today how wonderful it is to be in a messy church rather than in a tighty whitey church where everyone is acting like they are perfect. I attended those kinds of churches when I was younger.
I appreciate our authentic honest culture (and many churches are like this). It’s very freeing. It’s where TRUE FREEDOM happens. “The truth will set you free” … so you can never be FREE when you are hiding or acting like something you are not and lying about who you really are … it’s the truth that frees us! The truth is that we are ALL broken and sinful. And acting like you are not is SINFUL in itself.
There was this one person who was perfect, his name is Jesus … and what is cool about Him and His ministry is that it was MESSY! And the uptight-acting-like-they-are-better-than-everyone-else-religious-pharisees hated Jesus because of it! I love it!
When I say “our church is messy” I mean that our church has real people with real issues in it … and they don’t (some do) hide it. They are who they are! There aren’t many churches where you can be who you are while on your journey of faith. Most churches are attempting to fit you in their little box … their little view of what they think a Christian looks like.
I just got a call today from a couple who want me to perform their wedding because their pastor won’t because they have been married before. That’s ridiculous and is nothing like the Jesus of the Bible. That is some whacked-out form of religion that turns people away from the love of God.
I will end with this story; a woman in our church told me she attended a “membership class” at another church where they asked if you smoked, and she was honest and said “yes”. And because she smoked she was denied membership. How nutty is that! It makes me want to spit! And this wasn’t like something that happened in the 80’s … this was just a few months ago and here in Olathe! Wow!
I could rant and rave here for hours… I will end with this; Jesus said “come unto me ALL ye …” that is you, me, the drug addict, the prostitute, the stripper, the homosexual, the adulterer, the fornicator, the liar, the cheater, the greedy, the lazy, and the religious nut!
I think if we are honest we all “struggle” with something; whether its dealing with in-laws, or depression, anxiety, lust, fear, anger, rebellion, hatred, bitterness, gossip, lying, stealing, resentment, judgment, selfishness, greed, etc.
I use the word “struggle” loosely … because some do not actually “struggle” they “give in”, therefore there is no “struggle” going on. When I say “struggle” I am thinking of the person who is engaged in an actual fight against the thing that is trying to destroy their life … taking an offensive stance rather then just giving in to the whims of desire or feelings that lurk in us all.
I think this is the victory we have is that we do struggle, we do fight, we do war within … if you are not “struggling” then you are either dead (which would be weird that you can access the internet) or you have just given into whatever your flesh desires to do. This is what gets people in trouble. Right? Like the guy who desires women, lots of women, and rather than fight the good fight of faith and be true to his one and only, he “gives up the struggle” and indulges himself in a woman other than his wife. Then the trouble begins.
We are all capable of this! Myself included! I think most men I know … if they were honest … wouldn’t be opposed to having Solomon’s problem of having hundreds of wives. It’s just not legal!
I celebrate 15 years in just a couple months and I have not had an affair, but it’s not because I am intrinsically different or better or more spiritual then those who have. I have thoughts, desires and temptations like any other person on the planet … I think the difference is “I struggle”! I fight against those desires that lurk within … those feelings that are leading me away from what is good and right!
So I challenge you to join me in the STRUGGLE against SIN! Live HOLY! And if you do – EVERYONE WINS!
We’ve been doing church in a school for 6 years now and though there are obvious challenges to not having our own place to worship ... there are many positives as well.
1) We have no large “facility mortgage payment”, that can strain a young congregation.(Not just young in age of the people attending, but young in years the church has been around).
2) There is a clear message communicated that “the church” isn’t a “building”, it’s the people.(If you have a building with a steeple but have no people, what do you have? A building with a spear looking thing-e sticking out of it … but it’s not a church … it’s a building.)
Mathew 16:18b Jesus said, “…I will build my church…”
Jesus wasn’t referring to piling bricks on top of each other; He was referring to building people!
Lastly, 3) People who are coming to Mercy Church are not coming because of a cool building (obviously), which would be a shallow reason to attend church if you ask me.(Now this statement shouldn’t surprise you since we don’t have a “cool” building that is attracting people and someday we will (God willing) but until then what we have to attract people is the unadulterated message of hope through Jesus Christ.)
This blog is for all the people who attend “churches without a building” … don’t get hung up on “a building”, Jesus didn’t, the disciples didn’t, the early church didn’t … focus on the church … which is the people who gather together to worship and grow in their faith!
Have you ever felt like God was gone on vacation? Or just not alive; like He may have tripped over a cloud and fell and hit His head on a mountain and perished?
If you are human (and honest) you probably have. If not then you might want to stop reading my blog and find the blog called “little Christian perfect people” … it’s in the same section of blogs where you’ll find stories of sightings of unicorns. I digress!
Before you think it’s blasphemy to think any negative thought of God you might want to read the Psalms … David is often spewing things that are a bitter complaint of God’s seeming absence from life. Saying things like, “my God my God why have you forsaken me?”(Ps. 22:1) which is a shockingly honest confession of the experience of godlessness and godforsakenness in a suffering world.
Yet even in David’s songs (Psalms) you read (after he has given full vent to his frustrations, anger and pain of the seeming silence, absence and hiddenness of God in his experience) he remember what God had done in his own past. Like when he says, “I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; I will remember your wonders of old.”(Ps.77:5,11)
David remembering the times God was a very present help in a time of trouble, and when He did answer prayers, and He did act to help and save.
Remembering the past victories gives us a hope for the future.
Let’s face it - this world is still broken, we are still broken and full of all kinds of evil … we are motivated by fear, guilt and shame… we need Jesus to give us hope (something to strive for… something to pursue and imitate … to save us from ourselves)…
To answer the question in the title – YES HE IS!
I want to accomplish one thing in my life, besides being a great husband, a great father and having a great head of hair! And that one thing is to help people have healthier happier relationships!