No Scars In Heaven

I’m writing this after attending a funeral. It was a good one. What makes a funeral good? Well, the deceased and her family members were all Christian. They are grieving, but not as “those who have no hope.” She was at peace, and so are they. This song by Casting Crowns was used as part of the service. I hadn’t heard it before, but it’s a powerful reminder of God’s love and provision. Listen and bask in that love.

For more music see these posts:

Born Again by Casting Crowns

Funeral Songs

Just A Closer Walk With Thee

I Can Only Imagine by Bart Millard — Book Review

This book for children was inspired by the hit song of the same name by MercyMe. The author, Bart Millard, is one of the founding members of this contemporary Christian band. In it a little boy imagines what it will be like to see Jesus face to face and live with Him forever. Will there be yummy food? Will there be sports and swing sets? Does God like ice cream? Are there pets? These questions cannot be answered right now, only imagined.

Some things, of course, are certain. In heaven each day will be happy because we’ll be with the God who knows and loves us. Best of all, we don’t have to wait to spend time with God because His Spirit is in us right now!

The illustrations by Sumiti Collina are bright and attractive Children will be engaged and encouraged to share their own imaginings about heaven and what it will be like.

VERDICT: 4 STARS

For a review of the movie and the song see this post:

I Can Only Imagine

For more Christian books for children see:

What’s So Wonderful About Webster? by Stephen and Alex Kendrick–Book Review

When I Hold You by Ashley Huffstutler–Book Review

Little Sweet Pea, God Loves You — Book Review

Walking Toward Heaven

My husband and I recently watched a television series about the life of singer Aretha Franklin. She began her career singing gospel songs in her father’s church. Later in life her gospel album entitled Amazing Grace (this was a live album recorded over two days in January 1972, at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in South Los Angeles.) included the song, Climbing Higher Mountains. It reminded me that our walk with Jesus has a destination which is our true home — heaven.

For more gospel music see these posts:

Oh Happy Day

Just a Little Talk With Jesus

This Little Light of Mine

Journeying to Eternity

“While we poor wayfarers still toil, with hot and bleeding feet, along the highway and the dust of life; our companions have mounted the divergent path, to explore the more sacred streams, and visit the diviner vales, and wander amid the everlasting Alps of God’s upper province of creation. (Thus) we keep up the courage of our hearts, refresh ourselves with the memories of love, and travel forward in the ways of duty, with less weary step, feeling ever for the hand of God, and listening for the voices of (those) whose happy welcome waits us. Death, in short, under the Christian aspect, is but God’s method of colonization–the transition from this mother-country of our race to the fairer and newer world of our emigration.

James Martineau

For more about eternal life see:

Prepared for Eternity

The Life Everlasting, Part 3

The Hope of Heaven

90 Minutes in Heaven — Movie Review

This movie is based on the true story of Pastor Don Piper. While driving home from a conference in the rain, he is involved in a terrible car accident. Responders to the scene find no pulse and wait for the coroner to arrive and pronounce him dead. After 90 minutes, a pastor arrives and asks if he can pray for the dead man. As he prays and sings a hymn, he is startled to hear Don singing softly along with him! Most of the movie is spent detailing Pastor Piper’s long and difficult recovery. Confined for months to bed with a fixator attached to his leg, he battles with depression, and learns to accept help from others. He also struggles with whether to reveal an amazing experience. While he was dead, he visited heaven! Finally he describes this event to his best friend, who encourages him to share ut with others.

If you’re looking for a lot of details about heaven, you won’t find them in this film. Pastor Piper does describe a happy reunion with many who had preceded him in death, beautiful music and a peaceful sense of God’s presence. He no longer had any concern or anxiety about the life he left behind. He did not want to return.

Convinced that he was sent back to reassure and comfort others, he has spent years traveling to churches and telling his story. There is a short clip of the real Don Piper at the end.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. His story is very believable, but the movie drags at times.

P.S. There is also a book written by Pastor Piper with the same title, if you would rather read about his experience. The movie follows the book quite closely.

For more about heaven see these posts:

The Hope of Heaven

Heaven is a World of Love by Jonathan Edwards — Book Review

Martin Luther on Heavenly Blessings

Interesting Word #3

The word paradise is used only a few times in the Bible. The most well known verse is in the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus tells one of the thieves on the cross:

“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

The apostle Paul also uses this word to describe a vision he experienced:

“And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” 2 Corinthians 12:3-4

Finally, it is mentioned in Revelation:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’ Revelation 2:7

But what exactly does paradise mean? Is it synonymous with heaven? Well, not quite.

Paradise was originally a Persion word meaning “an area enclosed by a wall” or a “garden.” In the Old Testament, it’s used to refer to the Garden of Eden in Genesis. In intertestamental (noncanonnical) literature such as the pseudepigrapha and apocrypha the word takes on a more specifically religious meaning. Human history will culminate in a divine paradise on earth. Since there was (and still is) no immediate access to the garden of Eden, or the New Jerusalem, paradise (also sometimes known as Abraham’s Bosom) was considered the realm of the righteous dead who are awaiting the resurrection of the body. It’s this intermediate state which is probably referred to in the verses above.

For more posts about the garden of Eden see:

Back to the Garden

It Started in the Garden

What’s a Libretto?

Laughter in Heaven by Barbara Jean Meter–Book Review

A friend at church gave me this book for donation to our Little Free Library(for more information about this see The Lutheran Ladies Changing Their Environment) or to our Youth Ministry.  Aimed at elementary age children, it is the story of Josh, whose grandfather dies.  Josh struggles with questions like

  • Why do you have to go and look at dead people?
  • What is it like to be dead?
  • Does it hurt to die?
  • Is my grandfather in heaven?
  • What is heaven like?
  • I prayed — why didn’t God heal my grandfather?
  • Will I die if I go to sleep?

Josh meets a friend of his grandfather’s (Gabe — we are led to believe he may be an angel) and is given answers that are clear, biblical and comforting.  He is also able to confide his confusion about his own sadness, and the failure of others to understand his feelings.  It encourages children to forgive, and to speak with their parents and other adults about the issues that are troubling them.

Laughter in Heaven by Barbara Jean Van Meter (2010-09-10)

There were a few things I didn’t agree with in this book — I don’t think pets go to heaven, or angels walk on the clouds — but for the most part, I found it to be realistic and helpful.  It’s easy enough for a youngster to read on his or her own, but would also be a good vehicle to use in opening a discussion about death.

VERDICT:  4 STARS

For more Christian books for children see these posts:

Gracie’s Garden by Lara Casey — Book Review

The Great Farmapalooza by Jill Roman Lord — Book Review

What’s So Wonderful About Webster? by Stephen and Alex Kendrick–Book Review

 

The Hope of Heaven

The Thessalonian believers were troubled.  They wondered what would happen to those who died before Christ came again. Here are Paul’s words of comfort to them and to us:

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Notice, he does not say do not grieve;  of course, we will mourn the loss of a loved one.  What he does say is this:  in spite of our sorrow, we can have hope.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ are not lost to us forever.  We can be assured that the God who resurrected Jesus is keeping them safe until He comes again.  At that time:

“…. the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

We don’t have many details, but we know that heaven will be a lovely place.  The City of God, the new Jerusalem will be:

“… prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”  Revelation 21:2

God will live with us.

” They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night.  They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.”  Revelation 22:4-5

Best of all:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

So, whatever your situation, be encouraged.  If you are in Christ, you have something to hope for.

 

For more about heaven see these posts:

Living in Heaven

Martin Luther on Heavenly Blessings

The Beginning of Heaven

 

 

 

Heaven is a World of Love by Jonathan Edwards — Book Review

This book is part of the Crossways Short Classics series, which introduces readers to some great heroes of the faith who wrote many sermons, essays, lectures and other short pieces that are well worth reading.  Jonathan Edwards was one of those heroes, and he was immensely productive — the Yale University Press edition of his collected works contains twenty-six volumes.

This short book (about 100 pages) is an exposition of 1 Corinthians 13:

“Charity never faileth;  but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail;  whether there are tongues, they shall cease;  whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”

If your contact with Edwards has been limited to his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, this book may surprise you, because it is almost all about love.  The love that we will both give and receive in heaven.  Love is that “great fruit of the Spirit” which will remain when all the other fruits are no longer needed.  It will flow like a fountain from the Father, Son and Spirit.  This love is holy and perfect.

Love in heaven will::

  • Always be mutual
  • Never be interrupted or damped by jealousy
  • Will not be hindered in its’ expression by anything internal or external
  • Be expressed with decency and wisdom
  • Unite all the saints in close and dear relationships
  • Allow all believers to share in property and ownership of one another
  • Conspire always to promote more love
  • Continue forever

In consequence of this heavenly, perfected love:

  • Behavior toward God and one another will be perfect
  • There will be perfect peace and joy
  • There will be no contention and strife

It’s hard to wrap our human minds around this agape love, and it is something that as Christians, we hope for.  There is also a section about hell, where everything is hate.  God hates the inhabitants there, and they hate Him and one another.  There is no union, or friendliness or peace.  Edwards warns those who refuse to repent, that this will be their final destination.

A brief biography of Jonathan Edwards in included.

VERDICT:  3 STARS.  I found it a bit repetitious, and I disagree with Edwards’ belief that some saints will experience more love in heaven because they are holier.

For more about the Puritans see:

An Introduction to John Owen by Crawford Gribben–Book Review

Beyond Stateliest Marble by Douglas Wilson — Book Review

The Lutheran Ladies recieved a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

If you would like to purchase this book follow the link below:

https://www.crossway.org/books/heaven-is-a-world-of-love-tpb/

 

 

 

The Life Everlasting, Part 4

This is the conclusion of the sermon started several posts earlier.

Turning back to the Creed we learn that our ultimate hope as Christians is not “going to heaven when I die” but the resurrection of the body. We are physical beings, God made us that way because it is His intention that we be physical. Had He wanted us to be spirits or angels, He would have made us so. And in each of us is a sort of longing for the Garden of Eden. We don’t always understand what is missing for us, but it is that blessed place God prepared for us. Eden is our home and it is the intention of God to take us back to where we belong.

So our souls and our bodies will reunite and we will have imperishable bodies. We will live in the presence of God for all eternity, embodied. It is His presence with us that will make the new creation to be heaven. We can see that in the creation account in Genesis where we find that God went to Adam and Eve in the Garden. He didn’t bring them to Himself spiritually, but He came among them. We will have bodies which are like the Body which our Lord Jesus assumed. In his first epistle John says, “… what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know when He appears, we will be like Him …”

So listening to John we know both how we will be and when these things will occur. Heaven will be when Jesus returns on the last day. On that day the entire world we know will cease to exist, replaced by a new, perfect, eternal world where Christ and His people will be together. It will be a world without sin, a world without disease, a world without sadness, a world without despair. And the lowly condition of the bodies we have will be exchanged for the glorified condition of Christ’s own body.

The writer of Hebrews says that here in this world we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. We long for the glory that will be ours as it was always meant to be, the people of God in full communion with God, pure, holy and eternal.

So the Creed has taken us from the beginning to the new beginning. It is precious to the Church and I can only say how sorry I am for our brothers and sisters who do not recite it and pray it over and again. We thank our ancestors in the faith for preserving it for our comfort and our dedication.

For earlier portions of this sermon go to these posts:

The Life Everlasting, part 1

The Life Everlasting, part 2

The Life Everlasting, Part 3