Going home

“Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-2

Jesus is heard to say “you will be going home.” The spiritual author Octavius Winslow reflects on these verses in his Morning & Evening Thoughts for December 31st….
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GOING home! what a soothing reflection! what an ecstatic prospect! The heart throbs quicker—the eye beams brighter—the spirit grows elastic—the whole soul uplifts its soaring pinion, eager for its flight, at the very thought of heaven. “I go to prepare a place for you,” was one of the last and sweetest assurances that breathed from the lips of the departing Savior; and though uttered eighteen hundred years ago, those words come stealing upon the memory like the echoes of by-gone music, thrilling the heart with holy and indescribable transport. Yes! He has passed within the veil as our Forerunner; He has prepared heaven for us, and by His gentle, wise, and loving discipline He is preparing us for heaven.”

Enough that God is my Father, my Sun, and Shield; that He will give grace and glory, and will withhold no good and needed thing. Enough that Christ is my Portion, my Advocate, my Friend, and that, whatever else may pass away, His sympathy will not cease, His sufficiency will not fail, nor His love die. Enough that the everlasting covenant is mine, and that that covenant, made with me, is ordered in all things, and sure. Enough that heaven is my rest, that towards it I am journeying, and that I am one year nearer its blessed and endless enjoyment.”

Excerpt From: “The Works of Octavius Winslow” iBooks (ePub) edition*

*Available free (on 12/31/13) in ePub or .mobi formats at Monergism.

The temporal trumps the eternal?

Thomas Manton writes:

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“Alas, in general, things temporal work more upon us than things eternal, and the things visible than things invisible. A small matter will prove to be a temptation, and a little pleasure or profit will greatly motivate us. We do not have half the seriousness in spiritual things as in earthly. Surely men do not cherish heaven, since they labor and care for it so little. Alas! They live as if they have never heard of such a thing, or do not believe what they hear, since every toy and trifle is preferred before it. If a poor man understood that some great inheritance was bequeathed to him, would he not often think of it, and rejoice in it, and long to take possession of it? The promise of eternal life is left with us in the gospel, but who puts in for a share? Who longs for it? Who takes hold of it? Who gives all diligence to make it sure? Who desires to go and see it? O, that I might be dissolved, and be with Christ! If these hopes have so little an influence on us, it is a sign we do not cherish them more in our hearts.”

Do not poison your concept of Heaven

Is your understanding of Heaven poisoned by self-centeredness? In one of the most helpful books on Heaven and Hell, Edward Donnelly writes that

“Heaven does not exist primarily for our sake. Its main purpose is not to make us happy, to offer us a selection of pleasures, or to provide for us an eternity of well-being. It will do all these things… but that is not why God created heaven and it is not why he will bring heaven to its glorious consummation at the return of Christ. Heaven exists for God’s own glory. It is essential that this be absolutely clear before we move on. If it is not, our whole concept of heaven will be poisoned by self-centeredness. We will have a degraded perspective, interested in heaven only for what we hope to get our of it. And that is profoundly wrong.”

Amen.

Quoted from:
Edward Donnelly, HEAVEN AND HELL,
Banner of Truth Trust, 2001,
page 77 (emphasis added).

Ryle: Do not be cast down over sickness

You need not be cast down by sickness. The eternal part of you is safe and provided for, whatever happens to your body. You may well look calmly on death. It opens a door between you and your inheritance. You may well not sorrow exclusively over the things of the world – over partings and bereavements – over losses and crosses. The day of gathering is before you. Your treasure is beyond reach of harm. Heaven is becoming every year more full of those you love, and earth more empty. Glory in your inheritance. It is all yours if you are a children of God. “If we are children, then we are heirs.”

~ J.C. Ryle

Life without dismay

The venerable old J. C. Ryle observed,

The person who has Christ, has life. They can look around them on the temporary things and see change and decay on every side without dismay. They have got treasure in heaven, which neither rust nor moth can corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. They can look forward to the things eternal and feel calm and composed. Their Savior has risen, and gone to prepare a place for them. When they leave this world they shall have a crown of glory, and be forever with their Lord. They can look down even into the grave, as the wisest Greeks and Romans could never do, and say, “Oh, death, where is your sting? Oh, grave, where is your victory?”

Thank God for John Stott (1921–2011)

The internet has quickly spread the news: John R. W. Stott, at the age of 90, went home to be with the Lord Wednesday, July 27th. He was a dedicated pastor, a fine author (over 50 books, several classics) and a gifted conference Bible teacher. In 2005, he was honored by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

Dr Stott, through the exposition of Scripture found in his books, shaped my early understanding of Christianity. My wife connects her conversion to having read Stott’s little book, Basic Christianity. I first heard him in person at an Urbana Missions Convention teaching through portions of Romans. (I also was known in our college fellowship for doing my own impersonations of JRWS!). I was later privileged to meet him during my years in seminary. I greatly thank God for this man.

Dr Stott wrote so many important books and useful and commentaries (I highly commend “the Bible Speaks Today series he edited for IVP). His bestselling book was one of his earliest (written in 1958 when he was 37 years old), Basic Christianity, which has sold over 2.5 million copies. It is one of the BEST evangelistic introductions to Jesus and the Christian faith. He also wrote an outstanding book on preaching, Between Two Worlds in 1982, which I read my first year in seminary. His book, The Contemporary Christian, is a useful introduction to the “Christian & Culture” issues we face.

Certainly, as Taylor writes, “his most substantial book is probably The Cross of Christ (1986), about which J. I. Packer says, “No other treatment of this supreme subject says so much so truly and so well.” I’ve read that more than once, and commend it to everyone.

Justin Taylor’s blog has more to say on a wonderful page of information and tributes.

Christianity Today had a full obituary yesterday, with these details at the top:

Editor’s Note: John Stott died today at 3:15 London time (about 9:15 a.m. CST), according to John Stott Ministries President Benjamin Homan. Homan said that Stott’s death came after complications related to old age and that he has been in discomfort for the last several weeks. Family and close friends gathered with Stott today as they listened to Handel’s Messiah. Homan said that John Stott Ministries has been preparing for his death for the past 15 years. “I think he set an impeccable example for leaders of ministries of handing things over to other leaders,” Homan said. “He imparted to many a love for the global church and imparted a passion for biblical fidelity and a love for the Savior.” This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

The Return of Jesus Christ!

God’s Word, the Bible, clearly says that no man knows the time of the return of Jesus (verses below, linked to their ESV context). Thus it is folly, rebellion and sin to declare a date for the Second Coming of Jesus. I fear the shameful pronouncements of men who set dates will only serve to increase the skepticism of unbelievers, seduce (and later shame) those who are duped, and, discourage many Christians striving to spread the gospel of the Lord Jesus.

But TRUTH will prevail. It is not derailed by mischievous men. THE TRUTH: Jesus will return. The Bible clearly says (for all to read, without secret formulas), that the same Jesus who once walked this earth will return here, as King and Lord of all. And every knee will bow to Him.

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only…. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. — Jesus, in Matthew 24:36, 44

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.Acts 1:7

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.1 Thess. 4:16

…so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14

While on this day, May 21st, I shake my head in sadness, my heart is steadfast in the truth. And I long for Jesus to return, end the folly and sin — and then make all things new! If you are a true Christian, one who loves Jesus and His Word, then you too must long for that day, though we know not its date.

~ pdb

TGC-2011 Day Three…

Today started earlier than normal with a special session at 7:30 AM, entitled “God: Abounding in Love, Punishing the Guilty.” It began with Dr Don Carson laying out a detailed picture of the problem of universalism and a biblical case against it, followed by a panel of four pastors (including Kevin DeYoung & Tim Keller) answering questions on the subject. This special session was called in response to current events, namely the book “Love Wins” by Rob Bell which denigrates the traditional view of the reality of hell, and promotes a form of “universalism.” Dr Carson’s main points were helpful in approaching this dangerous view of universalism. In his conclusion he said that Bell’s handling of the doctrine of the atonement is deeply manipulative — and even blasphemous. I urge you to check out the audio of this address (if/when available here

This issue is of great importance for the future of Christianity in America. *Just today TIME magazine put this issue on its cover (click cover for magazine site).

SESSION 8 – Mike Bullmore (a pastor from Wisconsin!) spoke from Zephaniah on “God’s Great HEart of Love Toward His Own.” A fine exposition, clearly connecting the OT with the NT, and point to Christ. (listen here).

SESSION 9 – featured Don Carson speaking on “Getting Excited About Melchizedek” with texts from Psalm 110, Genesis and Hebrews [note his high aim with that title!]. This was, perhaps, the strongest message on the theme of the conference — Preaching Jesus and the Gosel from the Old Testament. Listen here.

In between sessions I was able to pack and store my suitcase, and walk through the exhibits and book store one more time! I also ran into an old dear friend (the former IVCF staff from my college campus) Cam Anderson. After 30 years with InterVarsity, Cam is now director of CIVA, Christians in the Visual Arts. We had a nice time catching up — and thanking God for blessings past and present. I also ran in to another former intern at BBC, Brent Nelson, (a guy with a golden voice) who now pastors a large church in Michigan.

My view of the stage (one of 4 huge screens is partly visible beyond the podium)


As I ponder a final assessment of this conference, I know already I can say the following:
• it was a vibrant gathering of a great number of believers that brought an increased sense of hope in God’s work in this present day
• much was learned about important passages in the Bible
• sound doctrine and the gospel are what I crave to hear preached
• the variety of ministry styles observed here was instructive
• there are far more good books available today than I’ll be able to read
• that there are myriads of wonderful songs for singing God’s praises
• that some of the sweetest blessings to my soul come from contact with old (and new) friends who clearly walk with Christ
• and that I cannot thank God enough for such seasons of reflection, refreshing & rejoicing!

– pdb

The Gospel Coalition 2011 meeting begins

I arrived in Chicago last night in order to attend “The Gospel Coalition 2011” conference. The theme this year is They Testify About Me – Preaching Jesus and the Gospel from the Old Testament. Thousands of people are expected to attend. Speakers will include Al Mohler, Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, James McDonald, Conrad Mbewe (of Africa), Matt Chandler, and D.A. Carson. Music will be led by Keith & Kristyn Getty. I hope to blog my way through, but we’ll see!

I’m rooming with a very dear, old friend, (Dr Ron Giese), staying in the conference hotel overlooking the McCormack Place convention center. We have already enjoyed catching up on things.

McCormack Place from 14th floor of Hyatt

In the lobby I happened to be standing next to a little group that included Justin Taylor (he’s way taller than I expected), Collin Hansen, and a couple of other ‘famous’ guys. Neat stuff.

Last night Ron and I rode the city bus to downtown for world famous Giordano’s Chicago deep dish pizza (fantastic).

This is a big American city, with old and new buildings (tall and wide), and streets throbbing with commerce and people. This morning I read about cities in the Bible. I lingered over Isaiah 26, which declares to believers, “We have a strong city…”

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. 2 Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

From Genesis on, the Bible presents a contrast between the cities built by men, and the ‘city’ being built by God (here’s a nod to Augustine’s famous writing CITY OF GOD). The ‘city of God’ is the only safe and lasting place to dwell. As Isaiah tells us, you enter by being righteous — right with God — by humble faith (26:4) in His mercy and grace. And that’s found in Jesus Christ, who came and brought the kingdom of God near. Isaiah not only declares these things, but invites men and women to come and enter — and enjoy the blessings of our great redeemer God.

I look out my hotel window and see a great city before me. As I attend this conference, with thousands of believers gathering to praise the Lord, and to sit before His Holy Word, I see a greater city. I’m glad to be an American, but I am overwhelmed that I am a citizen of heaven.

pdb

Christians as sojourners on earth…

Fellow believer, this world is not our home. The psalmist declares, “I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!” (Ps. 119:19). Puritan Thomas Manton’s sermon on this text lists several reasons for this “strangers on earth” mindset by Christians. Let me summarize them for you…

(1) They are born elsewhere — born from above, by the Spirit of God! 1st John 5:4a says, For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And 2nd Peter 1:4 says, …he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. Heaven, not the USA, is our native country.

(2) Their inheritance lies in heaven. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” declares Eph. 1:3. The best that our heavenly Father has for His spiritual children is held for us there, not here. In somewhat coarse language Manton tells us why, “Here God will show his bounty to all his children; it is a common inn, where sons and bastards are entertained; a place of trial, not of recompense, God’s footstool, not His throne (Isa. 66:1).”

(3) All our spiritual kindred are there in heaven. Manton writes, “There is our Father, it is His house… and there is our elder brother [Christ].” And, there are our spiritual brothers and sisters who have gone on ahead. See Col. 3:1; Matt. 8:11.

(4) There they abide the longest. All the time we spend here on earth is “but a night” compared to the time we will spend there in heaven. This place is not our final resting place (Micah 2:10); rather — like saints of old — we seek a continuing city, a heavenly city (Heb. 11:16). See also James 4:14.

There is more to say, but this should suffice for us to hold fast the title of pilgrim and press on to our true home — where, because of Jesus Christ, our Father will welcome us as His own! ” Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Heb 11:16b).

pdb