"God be merciful to us & bless us, & cause His face to shine upon us.
That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.
Oh, let the nations be glad & sing for joy!"
God, high and lifted up, whose dwelling is in unapproachable light, heaven is
your throne and earth is your footstool: raise our sights and give us durable
glimpses of heaven beginning with this sermon and throughout this series, that
we might become so heavenly minded we finally become some earthly good; through
your Son Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
Just about everyone under the sun assumes
that they’re going to go to heaven. But what does “heaven” mean to them? If you
ask folks, some will only say it’s just a better place; others, the great
golf course or hunting camp in the sky. That most folks believe in heaven
shouldn’t surprise us, for God, we are told, has “put eternity into man's heart”
(Ecclesiastes 3:11). Almost every culture and society, throughout the millennia,
has believed in a Life after Death. What’s sadly humorous to me, though,
is that within 21st Century American Christianity itself there seems
to be very little interest in Heaven. Go to any Christian bookstore, and you’ll
find tons of books on how to make money, care for children, stay married, speak
in tongues, have health and glory here-and-now, find assurance, become more
certain that you are a child of the king, overcome demons and territorial
spirits, etc. But rarely will you see a book about heaven. Therefore, this
evening, we want to answer some questions: Why study about heaven, what it is,
and where it is. And we will examine
if it really has any meaning for you and me today? When we’ve finished this evening,
you should begin to have some clear answers to these questions, with maybe a
surprise or three.
Why Studying Heaven is
a. We are too terribly preoccupied
with the here-and-now, with the present moment. Use the coin and eye
illustration. The daily realities may not be really as big or important
as we think they are, but they impinge on our sight/perspective.
b. Life is sweet and we’re drugged
by well-being and prosperity. Usually death or tragedy shocks us – temporarily –
out of our lethargy. But it’s not long, “time heals all wounds” and we’re back
to the same old routines...
c. Most folks simply take it for
granted that we’ll move into that stage someday. It’s just another, automatic
stage of our existence.
d. But also, maybe because it just
doesn’t appeal to us: It’s the everlasting Church service; it’s perpetual harp
playing; it’s wings and white robes and flitting about from cloud to cloud.
e. It’s beyond our comprehension. 1 Corinthians
2:9 – “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what
God has prepared for those who love him”
f. Brainwashed into neglecting
heaven: it has no earthly value, we’re told. And so Johnny Cash sang that old
song about being too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. Our age tells us
to drop the “pie-in-the-sky-bye-and-bye” thing, and make money, feed the
impoverished, save the koalas, fight ozone depletion, etc...and we’ve too often
swallowed the whole can of worms before we know it.
Why Studying Heaven Matters.
a. Because many folks who think
heaven is automatically theirs are gravely mistaken! Matthew 7:21-23!
b. Because many of the notions about
heaven are grotesque misrepresentations that need to be corrected.
c. It can be one of our more
powerful aspects in evangelism.
d. It’s for our own spiritual growth
and effectiveness in Christian Service. The truth is in the Scriptures
primarily to comfort us, shore up our strength in perilous times, encourage,
inspire, promote holiness, fill us with joy now, etc. The reality is that
you’re no earthly good until you get heavenly minded. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are
above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on
things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and
your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears,
then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). You
get so heavenly minded you finally become some earthly good.
(1) Atmosphere: 2 Chronicles 6:13 and 26a. (2) Space:
6.14 and Genesis 1:1 and 14. (3) Heaven itself: 2 Chronicles 6.21, 25,
27, 30, 33, 35, 39. And yet God cannot be restricted to any one place-6:18.
“Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the
LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:24).“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool” (Isa. 66.1).
// In various places, glory and heaven
are used interchangeably – for example: “You guide me with your counsel, and
afterward you will receive me to glory” (Ps. 73.24).
Based on all this, we must recover the
simple and profound Truth: Heaven exists for the Glory of God. He is what will make heaven, HEAVEN!
Unfortunately, when you ask many folks about what they think heaven is, most of
their descriptions will be empty of God and his Son Jesus Christ. In almost
every case, the thought of the centrality of God in Christ is utterly missing
from their heaven – God and Christ have become completely irrelevant. Many
folks would be quite happy without God in heaven. But heaven exists for
God and Without God, heaven is meaningless! We can never think of
heaven separately from God.
But notice in this prayer of Solomon that
there seems to be this great distance between Heaven and Earth. Why is that?
Because heaven has been ripped away by Sin and Satan. Romans 3:23. And the
Story of Holy Scripture, simply put, is the story of God bringing
heaven and earth back together; heaven filling earth again! It’s the story of
how God is revealing and restoring, even now, His majestic heaven to earth in
Jesus Christ. In the words of the hymn (#111) we just sang: “Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth
and heaven be one.” In Paul’s words: “to unite all things in him
[Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1.10). The
Story of the Bible is the Story of Heaven and earth - reconciled in Jesus
Christ. (The remedy to Romans 3.23 is 5.1-2 Matthew Henry: Grace
is Glory begun!).
1st, then, heaven is not located
at an address way out there, but is a place that may be for some, too close for
comfort. 2nd, Heaven is God-saturated, and Christ-dominated. 3rd,
God is - through Jesus Christ - bringing heaven and earth together. So, if you want
heaven, you must reject the hell-oriented way, and run to Jesus, where God’s
heaven and earth are brought together.
When I was 20 years old, I was stationed in a Muslim country for two years. During that time I read the Quran (in an English translation from Oxford), interacted with Muslim acquaintances, and saw Islam lived out in it's communal context. Therefore I was excited when my mother gave me a copy of "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus". With bazillions of reviews already plastered on the various sites and venues, mine will be short and succinct.
Nabeel Qureshi has woven together a very personal and personable volume written to give "an insider's perspective into a Muslim heart," as well as equip readers "with facts and knowledge, showing the strength of the case for the gospel contrasted with the case for Islam," while chronicling his own inner struggles, sacrifices and doubts when grappling with the Christian faith. The style of writing is autobi…
"When evil looms and darkness falls And tragedy is breaking When all that's good seems overturned By God I'm not forsaken For though I fall or wander far I'm not too far for saving And when my Shepherd seeks and finds How can I keep from singing" (229)?
So cantillates Jennifer Michelle Greenberg, mother, wife, writer, musician and abuse survivor, in her new 240 page hardback "Not Forsaken: A Story of Life After Abuse". This volume is the tale of her terrors and troubles at the hands of an abusive father, and it is far, far more. It is truly a story of life after abuse, abundant life found only in the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. An easy to read book, it is ideally suited for those who have been traumatized and those who long to help the trampled! "I am not my abuser. I have a choice. I aspire to heal and grow by God's grace" (82).
It's a memoir, a series of journal entries telling a very human set of stories in a very friendly, personable way. It's not fully polished, but it's real, sometimes raw, and always forthright and frank! Holly Rench, Executive Director and co-founder of The Welcome Mission, has penned a touching series of real-life exploits, escapades, agonies and adversities of the women she has been involved with for over twelve years in this 231 page softback "At Home: The Incredible Story of The Welcome Mission".
Rench unravels the tangled lives of several of her and Marcus's "adopted" adult children describing their destructive pasts and how many of them, through love and hospitality, have moved further up and further on. But the tales are also filled with pitfalls and potholes that will jar the reader's suspension system's and rattle any self-righteous lug-nuts s…