#MyParadiseIn5Words was trending on twitter recently. Thousands offered what their paradise would be like. Many said things like “Permanently ending cancer and war” or “never getting out of bed” and pretty much every five-word sentence you can imagine. It’s fascinating to ask non-Christians about heaven. They rarely think about it. To them, heaven is on earth and made up of worldly pleasures.

Recently during a conversation about whether we should talk about hell with our kids, someone in the group asked how often we talk to our kids about heaven? It made me wonder, how often do people talk about heaven in general?

Paul writing in Colossians 3:1-4 says, Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

In Paul’s opinion being with Christ should be the focus of our life. We should be actively training our minds to think about the day when Christ, our life, is revealed.

Sadly it is easy to be distracted, temporal concerns can easily grab our attention and overall it seems like we don’t think or talk about heaven nearly enough. Here are ten reasons why heaven should often be on our minds and in our conversations.

We will spend eternity there

This is obvious but we have to start here. John in Revelation 21:3-4 says, And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” This verse reminds us of the fact that heaven is eternal and that it is much more glorious than anything we can experience on earth. When we experience pain, sadness and even death our minds should jump to the joy we will experience forever with Christ.

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Have you ever waited so long for a promise that you when it arrives you don’t believe it? Perhaps your boyfriend promised to propose when he felt “ready.” But half a decade later, you’d lost hope, and when he finally did get down on one knee you thought he was tying his shoe-lace.me cynical

I had such an experience some years ago. I had ordered a landline from our country’s only (monopolized) national telephone service provider. With no competition to rival it, this service provider was not known for its promptness or customer satisfaction. So, I ordered the line about three months before I was ready to move into my new house, thinking I was beating the system.

After moving in, early in March, and without any trace of a telephone connection, I began a weekly routine of calling to ask about the progress of my line. I was repeatedly assured that the line would be installed by August.

August came and went—twice.

Then, one fine day, out of the blue, I received a call on my cellphone from a lady who claimed to be an employee. She casually asked if I would be home the next day, because my landline was to be installed. There was an awkward pause as I considered which of my friends was playing a cruel joke on me. I decided to play along and assured her in a sardonic tone that I would be eagerly awaiting the workman the next day.

To my bemusement, the very next day—two and a half years after the order—a pleasant gentleman arrived wearing coveralls and an air of nonchalance. He effortlessly completed the job, which took all of twelve minutes. By this point I had cycled through all the normal stages—denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance—and so I expressed my genuine gratitude for a job well-done. He smiled knowingly and chided me for my doubt with a hackneyed line he’d proffered countless times, “We said we’d get to it, we just didn’t say when.”

That is why I have sympathy for Zechariah. Continue Reading…

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels
so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God
and not from ourselves.
– 2 Corinthians 4:7 –

This verse teaches a fundamental, orienting principle for Christian ministry: there is a disproportionate relationship between the glory of the New Covenant message and the glory of the New Covenant messenger. There is a fundamental contrast between the glory of the New Covenant ministry and the shame of the New Covenant minister.

True North

Gospel Treasure

We see that by the word picture that Paul employs. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” The Gospel is a treasure. The glorious Good News of the New Covenant is absolutely priceless.

  • Whereas the Old Covenant brought only death and condemnation, the New Covenant brings spiritual life and saving righteousness (2 Cor 3:7–8).
  • Whereas the Old Covenant provided only limited access to the concealed glory of God, the New Covenant provides continual access to open-faced admiration of the glory of God shining in the face of Christ (2 Cor 3:12–18).
  • Whereas the Law made nothing perfect (Heb 7:19) and only further aroused our sinful passions (Rom 7:7–11), the New Covenant brings inward transformation and conformity to the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18).
  • Whereas the Old Covenant was powerless to transform the heart of man, the Gospel of the glory of Christ shines into that dead heart, and the Holy Spirit Himself awakens the affections to hate sin and to love righteousness (2 Cor 4:4, 6).

This Gospel is a treasure!

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Have you ever heard someone speaking of the difficulties of ministering in a “third world” country? I would argue that we should remove this terminology from our vocabulary, being that our using it is probably ignorant, sinful, or both.

I know. That’s a pretty strong claim. But I’m speaking from my heart, as a man who recently looked up the meaning of the term “third world”, and was convicted that my sinful heart has used it in a way that is condescending to my fellow man.

Why ignorant?

Did you know that Switzerland is a third world country? China is a second world country? Puerto Rico is a first world country? You see, technically, “third world” was not originally an economic term. It was a political term. So if you speak of a third world country as poor, you’re not using the word according to its original meaning.

Cold_War_alliances

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Young-leopard-tries-to-eat-porcupine-3-570x257The conversation has often happened like this: “Hi pastor. I’ve enjoyed the worship at this church and benefitted from it. I like this and that. But, I just don’t think I can stay. You see, there are too many younger folks and just not enough people my age.” Sadly, it’s something that not a few pastors and church planters have heard.

Now, on the one hand, such conversations evidence something wonderful. Christ is, indeed, building his church from the next generation. In the church I get to serve, few things are more thrilling than the fleet of 20-somethings following Christ, loving his word, diving into sound theology, and pouring themselves out for the church. And the more I speak with church leaders across the country, the more I hear of the same.

But more to the point: I often run into situations where seasoned saints avoid a church due to an age gap. Granted, some might be necessarily hesitant to plug into churches because of the irreverent, unbiblical tone too-often inherent to us youth (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12). But even then, seasoned saints should rethink avoiding such churches. The younger generation needs the older to hurry them out of youth. That’s a fact innate to every sphere of life: the less experienced need the shaping of the more experienced. But for some reason, we often see a lack where, of all places, it should be most embraced; the church.

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Discipline is without a doubt one of the hardest things to master. As a young guy in ministry, I’m always looking for advice from men and women who live very disciplined lives. Recently as I was looking through my seminary papers I found a short article written by John Macarthur in response to this question:

Practically speaking, how can a person develop self-discipline in his or her life?

jmHere is John Macarthur’s response,

Here are some things that have helped me through the years:

  • Get yourself organized

Make a schedule, however detailed or general you are comfortable with, and stick to it. Have a to-do list of things you need to accomplish. Using a daily planning book or a personal information manager program on your computer would be helpful. But get organized, even if all you do is jot down appointments and to-do items on a piece of scrap paper. The simple reality is that if you don’t control your time, everything (and everyone) else will.

  • Don’t constantly seek to be entertained

When you have free time, do things that are productive instead of merely entertaining. Read a good book, listen to classical music, take a walk, or have a conversation with someone. In other words, learn to entertain yourself with things that are challenging, stimulating, and creative. Things that are of no value except to entertain you make a very small contribution to your well-being.

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Nadia-CWe usually think of perfection as an ideal for which athletes aim rather than a goal anyone seriously expects to achieve. After all, nobody’s perfect. But that all changed at the Montreal Summer Olympics when a young Romanian girl achieved the impossible.

On July 18, 1976, fourteen-year-old Nadia Comăneci represented Romania in the gymnastics team event. Spectators watched in riveted silence as she confidently completed a mesmerizingly ambitious and astonishingly flawless routine on the uneven bars . . . until the instant her feet planted an unfaltering dismount, which generated an avalanche of applause. But the jubilation dissipated suddenly when her result appeared on the digital display: Comăneci’s brilliant performance had scored only 1.0.

In gymnastics, a panel of judges rates each performance according to its difficulty, creativity, and the technical proficiency of its execution. The highest and lowest figures are discarded and the final score represents an average of the remaining numbers. The highest number a judge can give is a perfect 10, and every judge would need to give a 10 in order for the cumulative score to be 10.

one-point-o

Because this is so unlikely, the electronic score board only allowed space for a single digit on the left side of the decimal point: the maximum number it could show was 9.9, which means it displayed Comăneci’s score as 1.0 instead of the perfect 10 the judges had awarded for the first time in Olympic history. An apologetic voice over the public address system explained the error and the crowd roared to ovation.

Little Nadia was—gymnastically speaking—the world’s first perfect woman.

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Over my years of pastoral ministry I have received emails from pastors and lay-leaders and emails asking me how to set-up a counseling ministry in the local church. Those inquiring had generally been shepherding their flocks for years before finally realizing that their congregations’ counseling needs had become overwhelming.

My first suggestion is that they come to the annual ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) conference to get the basics. My second suggestion is that they do not come alone. I encourage them to bring along some of those gifted within their community of believers who want to help others understand how the Bible can give comfort in times of trial.   Continue Reading…

benny-hinn-prayer“But I’m telling you, I saw it! I was there and it really happened.”

Often miracle claims are brought before us. Fairly regularly, I hear of things like local, impromptu, evangelistic, healing events during which individuals were approached at random, prayed over, and healed of some various physical ailment. The claim might be followed by an individual testifying sincerely that it happened or a video documenting the healing miracle as undeniable proof that the pain departed, the crutches dropped, or the oppression lifted. Excitement erupts. God is at work. The Spirit is moving. It’s a God thing. How could it not be?

But is it? How should we respond to these things? After all, well-meaning and sincere professing Christians saw it and documented it, so how could it be denied? Why wouldn’t the Holy Spirit want to do that? And doesn’t that mean that the Spirit wants to use us in such ways?

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I still remember sitting in a high school class when all of a sudden my teacher had an epiphany.

“What if Eminem got saved?” she exclaimed, “Do you know how popular he is??? He would start rapping for Jesus and millions would be saved!”

eminemShe went on to pray for a few minutes that God would save Eminem and use him to save millions.

I remember sitting there and thinking that it would be a great thing if someone as famous as Eminem got saved, because not only would people be more likely to listen to him, but they would probably be more likely to think well of me as a Christian.

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