On the shore, waiting to cross over to the other side

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6).

These days, to ride the Fort Morgan ferry across Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island, the cost for one car and two passengers is $27. That’s up considerably since the last time my wife and I rode it with our grandson.  Grant was about six, as I recall.

We had arrived at the ferry landing and took our place in line with other cars. I bought the ticket and we were milling around waiting for the ferry to arrive from the north shore.  Grant was apprehensive.

“Grandpa, are we going to cross that river?” I assured him we were.

“But there’s no bridge. Are we going to drive out in the water?”

I explained about the ferry boat.

“Grandpa, I’m afraid.”

I said, “Grant, you are with grandpa and grandma.  Do you know how much we love you? We are going to take care of you.  You have nothing to worry about.”

A half hour later, in the middle of Mobile Bay and standing on the deck of the ferry, my beloved grandson looked up, beaming. “Grandpa, this is fun.”

I smile at the memory.  It was indeed fun.

The story makes a point…

Continue reading

The one question I’d love to ask our Lord Jesus

Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him…. And he questioned Him with many words…. (Luke 23:8-9).

Someone asked Larry King, the legendary television interviewer, if he could sit across the table and interview one person in all of history, who would it be.  “Jesus Christ,” said this man who is Jewish.

“And what would you ask him?”

“I would like to ask Him  if He was indeed virgin-born.  The answer to that question would define history for me.”

To be sure. That answer could change everything.  As it  has for many a person.

So with the resurrection.  Answer that in the affirmative and everything else falls into place.

Many people asked….

Throughout the Gospels, we find people asking one question of the Lord Jesus, then going their way.  We have to wonder if through the years, as they reflected on their single moment with Destiny, this one touch with the Divine, they didn’t regret the shallowness or superficiality of their request.  Here are some…

–The disciples of John asked why they had to fast, but Jesus’ disciples were not required to.  Matthew 9:14.

–The tricksters asked Him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” that they might accuse Him.  (Matthew 12:10)  It’s not a bad question, although they didn’t care for the Lord’s answer.

Continue reading

Not everyone wanting to go to Heaven would fit

Some people would not be happy in Heaven. Nothing about it appeals to them. They would be forever out of place. So, we have good news for them….

God is not going to make them go.

The biggest slander I know is that Heaven is going to be one unending church service. Every pastor, every song leader, and every pew sitter groans and thinks, “Lord, I hope not.”

Not to worry. It will not be like that. Or, like anything else you know or have prepared for or imagined in your fondest dreams.

Throw away the categories. Nothing pertains any more. Jesus said in Heaven there’s no marrying or giving in marriage. He said angels are rejoicing each time a new person comes into God’s eternal family. He told us the angels of certain “little ones” do always behold the face of the Father.

The thing to keep in mind is that Jesus Christ is the authority on Heaven. He’s a native. He told Nicodemus, No one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there, referring to Himself (John 3:13).

The old line goes, “Everybody wants to go to Heaven but no one wants to die.” And, according to polls we see published from time to time, most people expect to go to Heaven.

My contention is most people not only are not going to Heaven, they don’t even want to go. They just want not to go to the other place. And since Heaven seems to be the only alternative, it wins by default.

I’d like to interject a question or two into the next poll someone is taking on who expects to go to Heaven. After the interviewee attests that, “yes, I expect to go to Heaven,” I want to ask, “For what reason? What do you expect to happen in Heaven?”

Continue reading

All indications are the Lord has been making plans for you for some time now.

“…the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

We don’t begin to have a clue.

God is doing a zillion things He has not deigned to mention to us mortals.

It’s not our business to know, for one thing.  He has reserved most of what goes on in the universe for Himself.  The secret things belong to the Lord our God…  (Deuteronomy 29:29).

All that we know about the operation of the created world is a sliver of the full story.

How can it be that before the world as we know it was formed, the Heavenly Father was already at work making plans for us to arrive and dwell with Him forever?

I do not know. Neither do you.

What unimaginable reality may we expect to find when we get to Heaven if Father has had all these eons to imagine it, design it, and put it in place?

What does this say about pre-history, the story of what God was doing before the Big Bang of Creation?

We hang our heads in humility.  We read the final verses of Romans 11 and say, “Oh yes.  Yes, indeed. This is how it is!”

Continue reading

One reason I believe so strongly

“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel….” (II Timothy 2:8)

Asking thoughtful believers why they are so dadgum confident of the truth of Jesus Christ will result in a hundred different answers.

A pastor friend says for him, it’s the Lord’s resurrection. It’s as historically verifiable as anything in ancient times and perhaps more. And if Jesus rose, then according to His word He’s still alive and how good is that!

To me the scriptures “fit” and just “feel right,” providing a wonderful assurance for this country boy. I recognize the arbitrary and subjective nature of that, but there it is.

Other reasons believers give for their eternal hope range from the archaeological evidence to the miracles they’ve experienced or their grandma’s testimony.

But there’s something else that looms large in my mind, a fact that dominates almost everything else.

Continue reading

Heaven is preposterous. One more reason to believe in it.

Imagine this scenario.

Sometime before your birth, you are having a conversation (of some type, in some setting, just use your imagination) with someone about your future life in a place called Earth.

You: “And this Earth, it’s supposed to be beautiful, right?  With glorious landscapes and fresh air and it has seasons?  This planet is situated just the exact right distance from the sun to sustain life?  And there are oceans and mountains, rivers and seashores, farms and villages and cities?  You can spend your days fishing or mountain-climbing or flying a kite? And the food is incredible, every kind imaginable?”

He: “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m telling you.”

You: “You know this is preposterous, don’t you?”

He: “Why?”

You: “Because look around at the rest of the universe.  There is nothing like it.  In the entire Galaxy, do you see another planet just like that? They are all balls of stone or globes of fire or poisonous gases.”

He: “That’s right.”

You: “That’s why I have difficulty believing in earth.  There is nothing like it in the universe, nothing to prepare me for believing in Earth.”

He: “Not only is there an Earth, but it is so perfect, once you get there, you can live in peace and comfort all your days–three score and ten and possibly beyond–without a single thought as to how it’s all happening.  If you like, you can spend your existence studying, say, the life of Abraham Lincoln or even trying to become a leader like him, and never wonder about the air you breathe, the spinning of the Earth on its axis, the orbit it’s taking around the sun, the condition of the sun, or the journey of the Galaxy throughout the universe.”

You: “None of that?  I don’t have to worry about how this is happening? I can just get on with living?”

He: “That’s right.”

You: “That’s preposterous.”

He: “I know. Isn’t it wonderful?”

The word preposterous comes from pre meaning “before” and posterous meaning “to come after” (think “posterior”).   Something that is both “before and after” at the same time might be said to be reversed or backward. In other words, absurd.

Continue reading

What is your idea of Heaven?

My friend Bob was dealing with a difficult family situation. Now, in my opinion, he did not need the grief, because Bob was getting up in years and his health was poor.

He said to me, “I can’t wait for heaven.”

I said, “They don’t call it ‘rest’ without reason.”

That’s a reference to Revelation 14:13. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on….that they may rest from their labors.

When I was a kid, a song we’d hear occasionally was called The Big Rock Candy Mountain. We heard it, smiled at its silliness, hummed along with the catchy tune and thought nothing more of it.

One day I discovered this song was the hobo’s national anthem during the Depression. And it gives us his idealized picture of paradise.

Harry McClintock (aka “Haywire Mac”) wrote the song, we’re told, in 1928. Here’s a little of it….

“In the Big Rock Candy Mountain

You never change your socks

And the little streams of alcohol

Come trickling down the rocks.

The brakemen have to tip their hats

And the railway bulls are blind.

There’s a lake of stew and of whiskey too

You can paddle all around in a big canoe

In the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Continue reading

Why we need a hell

These days, books about heaven are very popular.

Write one about how you died for a few minutes and experienced a momentary jolt of nirvana beyond anything you ever imagined and publishers will line up outside your door ready to print it. They know the book-buying public is eager to get a glimpse through that scary curtain called death…so long as what’s on the other side meets with their preconceptions.

Ross Douthat is a columnist for the New York Times. In a column titled “Hell’s grip on religious imagination weakens,” he wrote, Even in our supposedly disenchanted age, large majorities of Americans believe in God and heaven, miracles and prayer. But belief in hell lags well behind, and the fear of damnation seems to have evaporated.

He says near-death stories are quick to sell. “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” tells of a child’s return from paradise. However, “you’ll search in vain for ‘The Investment Banker Who Came Back From Hell.”

Douthat blames this disenchantment, this unbelief, regarding hell on “growing pluralism,” among other things. Meaning what?

Meaning that people of all religion live on our block, go to our schools, shop in our stores, and are no longer abstractions to us. So, when we consider the question whether those-who-do-not-believe-in-Jesus go to hell, we are asking about some very real people we know personally and not the impersonal heathen of some dark continent.

Can we talk about hell for a moment?  I’m convinced there needs to be one.

You may recall when a Navy SWAT team dropped in to Islamabad, Pakistan, to take out Osama bin Laden. They shot this terrorist twice, then gave him a prompt at-sea burial to prevent his body from becoming a relic of worship or martyrdom to the Islamic world.

Americans were quick to react, almost all enthusiastically endorsing his dispatching. Religious leaders chimed in. Hardly a Facebooker resisted the temptation to say something about bin Laden’s execution. I said a couple of things about it myself.

Continue reading

How to arrive in Heaven in grand style

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble, for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:11)

It finally hit me the other day what Peter is promising the faithful here: a grand reception in Heaven when we arrive.

Here’s the way “The Message” expresses verse 11–

Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior Jesus Christ.

It reminds me of the way we all welcomed our New Orleans Saints home from Miami last January 8, on a Monday afternoon. This was no well-organized parade, but a spontaneous outpouring of affection from an estimated 20,000 fans who lined both sides of the highways–and then filled the streets too!–waving our banners, hollering our “Who Dats!”, and cheering our champions as they arrived home.

That’s the idea. When you arrive in Heaven, they throw a party for you.

Continue reading

Your first discoveries in Heaven

“Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so, amen” (Revelation 1:7).

Tonight, my wife and I watched the replay of the final services of Queen Elizabeth. It was so touching.  I found myself praying that millions across the world who were watching would take to heart all the scriptures being quoted on Heaven, eternal life, and our eternal reward.

I love to think about Heaven.  Scripture calls it “my Father’s house,” “a kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” and “paradise.”

I’m going there. I actually have a reservation, one that is “imperishable, undefiled, will not fade away, and is reserved in heaven” for us (First Peter 1:4).  How good is that?

Now, would you allow me to make a few predictions about Heaven?

As with every religious charlatan who ever came down the pike, there’s no way to prove me wrong for the time being. But unlike the con men, I’m just thinking out loud here. After all, who among us does not like thinking about Heaven, our abode forever and forever?

The first surprise, I have no doubt, will be to find yourself awake.  “Wow,” you think. “I died.  I really did.  I remember everyone gathering around the hospital bed and them all crying.  And I recall that last surge of pain and then everything went black.  And lo and behold, I wake up.  How wonderful is that?”

“As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness.  I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awaken.” (Psalm 17:15)

Continue reading