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Archive for November, 2010

After reading Let Boys Be Boys, I went scrounging the net looking for some audio to listen to while working. Here is a two part interview she did on a podcast. (The interviewer is pretty lame, but he eventually quits talking long enough to let Dr. Meeker make some insightful comments.)

Here are her interviews about raising daughters and raising sons. Here is a youtube video (which I have yet to watch, but will soon).

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bad song theology

“This world is not my home;

I’m just a passin’ through.

My treasures are laid up

somewhere beyond the blue.

The angels beckon me

from heaven’s open door,

and I can’t feel at home in this world, anymore.”

This ditty is just one example of the bad theology that reigns in much Christian music. Have you stopped to consider that every line in this stanza is, at best, only partially true? The song also  reveals how great the influence music has on our thoughts and perspectives.

As we go through this series, you will no doubt hear a number of things that sound discordant or at least quite different from what you have heard before. When that happens, stop to ask yourself if it is because of a song you have heard.

I fully realize that no song is capable of expressing a full explanation of any given topic, but a lot of our songs are so woefully incomplete or meander down some heart-tugging lovers lane that they are distracting, if not deceptive.

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where are we heading

The New Earth and Heavens encompasses a vast array of topics for our consideration. Depending on my perseverance, here are the topics I intend to explore in the coming weeks:

We have looked at an introduction to the whole subject, Snapshots of our Eternal Home.

Next we will consider the subject “How will we get to heaven?” I’m not talking about salvation here. We will consider various aspects of the Bible’s Explanation of Death and Dying.

In our 3rd lesson we will look at Who will be in eternity? What can we know of God? What are angels like? Will children who die be in heaven?

Lesson 4 will consider the Heart of the New Heavens and Earth, an explanation of Revelation 21-22. This is one of the most difficult passages I have studied in quite a while. When it unlocked, the blazing glimpses of eternity quickly became some of the most riveting!

Lesson 5-What will we be like for all eternity? What will our physical bodies be like? Will we change? Will we learn more things or will we know everything when we get there? What will our social relationships be like? Will we know one another?

This lesson will naturally lead to the next two lessons, where we will look at A Theology of Rewards, and What will we do in eternity? Does God treat us all the same in eternity? Does our work now count in any way toward eternity? What’s the deal with the crowns being thrown around? We are going to be in heaven forever; what in the world (no pun intended) will we do to keep from being bored out of our minds?

Lesson 8 will sum things up with a ‘so what’ lesson. Who cares? What does this all mean to me now? What difference does it make? Is this all just pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by trivia? How shall we now live? will consider these questions and more.

I hope you join me for these. Please keep sending questions. What are other topics that you are curious about that are not among these that are listed? (As my former students can well attest, I wander down many a rabbit trail, so I will likely touch on additional subjects throughout the series.)

 

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I saw this book at a friend’s office and it called to me that it must be read soon. A fascinating book highlighting the uniqueness of boys and their particular needs.

The author is a pediatrician (as is her husband) in the UP (that’s a significant portion of Michigan for those of you who are geographically challenged) and the mother of several children, including a son. She draws on her experiences with parents and boys to illustrate the points she makes. Dr. Meeker also helpfully draws on a significant amount of research and studies to guide toward her conclusions and recommendations.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way early.

The book is in some ways mistitled. The subtitle talks about 7 secrets to raising boys, but I realized about halfway through the book that I couldn’t find the “7 secrets.” There are 12 chapters, so that didn’t help. None of the chapters talks about secrets, except the final chapter “Ten Tips for Making Sure You Get It Right.”

Dr. Meeker writes this as though she were talking with you over coffee, hence it is somewhat clunky in its writing style. Her editor could have done some things to clean up repetitive phrases and other minor annoyances that crop up occasionally.

Setting these in context, Dr. Meeker’s passion for raising boys to be men shouts loud throughout the book. She is, I believe, a practicing Catholic, and several times she points out the need of religious training, but the book is written to the general public rather than toward a specifically religious reader.

There are numerous nuggets worth mining and many thoughts that stopped this dad and made him consider his actions.

  • “Every son is his father’s apprentice, studying not his dad’s profession, but his way of living, thinking, and believing.”
  • “Our job is to teach our sons to be assertive enough and strong enough to be different from the rest [of his rebellious peers].”
  • “for girls, the greatest predictor of good self-esteem is the physical affection her father shows her. Similarly, when a father encourages his son, whether through words or physical affection, the boy’s life always changes for the better.”
  • “One of the first and longest-lasting struggles a boy feels is mastery over his body.”
  • “Adolescence is, in a nutshell, the period in which a boy learns to master himself.”
  • “The best aid any parent can give a[n adolescent] boy is to capitalize on his receptivity when he is a child. Teach him your beliefs, and tell him why you believe what you do. Give him a solid moral foundation and then help him practice it. This way, when he is an adolescent, he will have a clear structure with which to work.”
  • “The biggest mistake we make with adolescent boys is forgetting that they all need help moving out of adolescence.”
  • “Every boy in America needs a man to become one.”
  • “Your son needs to live life beside you.” (emphasis mine in this quote)

Wanna read the book now? I want to read it again! Dr. Meeker also has a book on daughters, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know, that I also want to read (at least to find out if the subtitle fits that book any better!)

 

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Aubrey looked at our Christmas tree this morning and remarked,  “I know why this [Christmas] tree is so special. It’s God’s holy tree.” I think I need to tell her the story of Boniface.

Boniface, hero of the Christian church, early missionary, indomitable defender of the faith, was born to a prominent family of Wessex (now the southern portion of England) in about 675. Called Winfrid, Wynfrith, or Wynfryth (spellings and pronunciations were rather fluid back then) in his early years, he joined a Benedictine monastery* against the wishes of his father.

The Benedictines were a great missionary order, and Winfrid journeyed to what is now the Netherlands in the early 700’s. This mission was not extremely successful, yet his perseverance gained the attention of many throughout Christendom. At about 722, he was given the name Boniface and sent to eastern Germany where he ministered to great effect for the next 30 years.

The Germanic tribes were notoriously violent and held in thrall by their equally violent worship of various gods and goddesses. Their worship of Thor, in particular, involved the sacrifice of conquered foes, as well as their own children-usually a young virgin girl-at a gigantic, sacred oak tree. This horror infuriated Boniface to the point that he determined to throw down the gauntlet.

Boniface spread the word that intended to cut down this sacred oak, and if Thor could defend his tree, let him try! Crowds gathered to watch this contest of deities. Boniface strode through the crowd with his ax over his shoulder. As he swung the first mighty blows, a mysterious wind blew up and toppled the oak! Seeing the power of Boniface’s God, the Germanic tribes cast aside their superstitions and converted to Christianity.

So goes the legend.

Ah, but the legend also grew a new shoot, as it were. The story continues that Boniface later noticed a young fir tree growing among the roots of the fallen oak. Boniface claimed this new tree as the symbol for their new found faith. “This humble tree’s wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the centre of your households. Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light. Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your Comfort and Guide”. Christians began to use an evergreen tree as a reminder of the birth of their Savior.

And so we come full circle, Aubrey. Our Christmas tree is not holy, but it is a reminder of a great Christian missionary, as well as our Redeemer.

*Boniface lived at a time when Christendom was a muddle. True children of God were intermingled among those who used Christianity for their own ends. He has been claimed by both Roman Catholics and Protestants. It is our great loss that many modern evangelicals and fundamentalists ignore the lives of past church leaders. Was Boniface a true believer? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

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snapshots (part 3)

Hebrews 4 and 11 sketch out two of my favorite snapshots of eternity. In Hebrews 11 God describes the OT faithful as ones who were looking for an eternal home, and in chapter 4 the author says that heaven is a place of rest. He compares our experience in eternity to the entrance of the Israelites into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership.

I have found that many believers labor under the misunderstanding that this ‘rest’ means that heaven will be a place of indolent worship. To hear some Christians talk, it seems as thought we will occasionally sing along with the angel choirs while we are lazing around in our Barcaloungers. This is so incredibly mistaken! How dreary and stultifying and, frankly, unbiblical this is. It misunderstands the beauty and goodness of work, the richness and vibrancy of eternity, and a key purpose for our existence.

Eternity will not be the cessation of our activities any more than the rest at the end of the creation week meant that the Father ceased His activity. Jesus Himself reminds us that “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (Jn 5.17) We will see later that many of His parables indicate that some of our greatest rewards for current service will be greater responsibilities throughout eternity. Remember as well that this reference to the Israelites entering their promised rest, simply meant the end of their wilderness wanderings. They still had to till the ground, plant their crops, and herd their flocks*.

So if New Earth is not a vacation home, what is it? If “rest” doesn’t mean doing nothing, what does it mean? Hang on; this is when it gets really breathtaking!

The emphasis of Scripture is on our spiritual rest, we will no longer struggle against sin, the world, Satan, and our own flesh.  Can you imagine a world that didn’t bombard you with temptation with virtually every billboard? or television commercial? or overheard conversation? Don’t you wish you could stop having to battle those constant, nagging sin weaknesses?   Haven’t you longed for a room where you could go and escape yourself?

In New Earth we will be freed to know and serve God without the insidious poison of sin seeping into every thought, every activity. Imagine creation unshackled from the affects of our sin (Rom 8.19ff), populated by a redeemed people unshackled from their own sin-corrupted finiteness! You are yearning for Home.

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” Heb 11.13-16

Randy Alcorn described home as “the place of acceptance, security, rest, refuge, deep personal relationships, and great memories.**” My home is a refuge; when I come home at the end of the day, I can relax, let down my guard a bit, and really be myself. But can I really ‘be myself’? Do I dare? I know my own faults and flaws and weaknesses, and you know yours. Imagine this: In New Earth, you won’t even have to be on guard against yourself!

How many times have you prayed, “Lord, protect me from myself. Protect my family from me.” I am my own worst enemy. But in eternity, I will never have to pray that prayer again! Ever!! I will be secure from every danger and able to relax in my work for God, because I will be Home!

And what a home this will be! Rev 20.14 tells us that Death is thrown into the Lake of Fire. And Rev 21.8 says that there will be no cowardly, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, or liars. Verse 27 emphasizes that “nothing unclean will ever enter.”

That means that there will be no sickness or death. No hospitals, or nursing homes, or cemeteries. No homeless shelters or orphanages.

No fear, for perfect love casts out fear and in eternity we will understand God’s love for us and in response will love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. No bitterness, anxiety, or depression. So there will be no mental health clinics, or halfway houses.

No abuse or abortion, rape or murder, drunkenness or drugs, bombs or terrorism. And so no police stations, courthouses, or prisons. No fire engines, ambulances, or police cars. The only sirens will be at hockey games!

No diminishing or exaggerating. No demeaning or ego. No regrets or recriminations.  No panic, uncertainty, insecurity, or instability. No unexpected calamity or insurance. No hoarding or lack.

“Murphy’s law will finally be nullified. In heaven, whatever might go wrong…can’t!.^”

When we look up from our day-to-day hurry scurry and consider the eternal vistas, we are left wondering, “is this too good to be true? Surely this is overstating the biblical record.” Surely this is not! And we will examine this in more detail in coming weeks.

*Yes, they also had to battle enemies, indicating that their Promised Land was just a type of our eternal rest. Christ accomplished the defeat of our foes on the cross, and He will complete their downfall at His coming. However, work is not a product of the fall of man. God was working well before Adam ever sinned; our race was commanded to work prior to Genesis 3; and we will continue working throughout eternity.

**Money, Possessions, and Eternity p.113

^John MacArthur – I think I ran across this in his book on heaven, which is a good book, but not the best one I have read on the subject.

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snapshots (part 2)

New Heavens and New Earth will be a joy-filled place. We will be continually delighted to explore God’s redeemed and cleansed and refashioned universe. But have you ever visited an incredible city or resort without family best friend? Do you remember how your solitude drained the experience of its color and vibrancy? In the same way, a glorious creation would not be perfect without people with whom to enjoy it.

Eternity will be an ever-increasing experience of joy and delight primarily because of our relationship with God. At the beginning of Jesus’s High Priestly prayer, He made an interesting comment, “And this is life eternal, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John 17.3). Do you see this? Eternal life is not experiencing a place; it’s relating to a Person! Everything else in eternity will find its proper place under that overarching reality. Every other joy is derivative to God…and therefore, it is a greater joy than it would otherwise be.

Compare this to marriage*. The joy of marriage is in the intimate, personal, growing relationship with your spouse. However, that intimate relationship is not the only joyful aspect of marriage. In fact, while every other joy is derivative, it is enhanced by the delights of the marriage relationship. For example, I love good food. I love making good food. I love eating good food. However, if I sit down to an incredible dinner but Jill is sick, much of the pleasure of the meal is drained away. Why? If she can’t enjoy it with me, it’s just not as delightful. And if we sit down to an incredible dinner and she is obviously enjoying it as much as I am, the entire meal is much more delightful in every way.

In the same way, throughout eternity for the first time we will truly and completely love God with all our “heart and soul and strength and mind.” Without reservation or hesitation. Without rival or rift. Without wavering or wandering. And because God will be our preeminent love, every other experience will be enhanced not diminished.

Think of those things that currently tend to supplant your affection for God. Sins and temptations are obvious. But do you realize that every sin is simply a corruption of a God-given desire? Immorality is the temptation to experience God’s gift of sex at a time and/or in a way that God has not intended. Laziness is the temptation to experience the God-given gift of rest to an inordinate degree. ‘Workaholism’ is the same temptation to the opposite extreme. So sins are obvious. But we also have many good things that may rival your affection for God. It may be family, work, hobbies; none of which are wrong.

Right now we struggle to love God preeminently; all too often sin and even good things supplant God from our affections. But in eternity our joy will be centered in God. In New Earth, when you are wholly righteous, God will be your chief joy without rival. Everything else will click into its proper place, allowing you to enjoy them with God to their fullest possibility.

“You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps 16.11) Isn’t it interesting that God has to remind us that He is not the only joy and pleasure in our lives. There are joys and pleasures in His presence; they are therefore separate from Him. It is not wrong to delight in God’s good gifts; it is in fact entirely proper to do so. “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts” how much more does the Father delight in delighting us with His gifts?

It is also noteworthy that these pleasures are eternal. “Forevermore” is not some poetic hyperbole. These pleasures that are lasting. And here is a thought: God is infinite in every way. Do you think that He will run out of new imaginative ways to delight and enthrall us? Imagine that!

What about our relationship with fellow believers?
The synoptic gospels give us the account of the Transfiguration; each one providing certain unique details. My favorite account is in Mark 9 because it so vividly describes the reactions of the three disciples. You remember the event when Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the mountain and it is as though the Father decided to peel back the veil of humanity and show these men as much of Jesus’s divinity as they could handle. What was their reaction? Mark says they were terrified to the point that Peter began babbling without knowing what he was saying. “Lord, we need to build three shrines, three monuments. One for You. One for…” Did you catch that? How did Peter know who these other two were? Elijah had been dead for nearly a millennium; Moses for several hundred years longer than that. How did he know who they were? While it’s possible that their names were mentioned in conversation with the Lord, the Bible does not record that this happened. It is equally possible that we will have an intuitive knowledge of one another in heaven. That we won’t have to be introduced to one another, but we will simply know who each other is because we are family.

Another issue that always comes up has to do with marriage. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22.29-30 that our marriages will not continue into eternity. For some believers this is, I suppose, a great relief. For the rest of us, this is incredibly perplexing. How can eternity be such a pleasure if I’m not married to Jill? How will our relationships change? Will we know our current friends? Our spouse? Will we care about them? Will they mean anything to us, or will everyone be our ‘best friend’? Be patient, we’ll be taking a closer look at these later.

We’re not done yet! God has two more fascinating comparisons for us to explore.

[*Throughout this series I will be referring to many current experiences in order to help explain the experiences in eternity. This is intentional. First, because of the continuity of our current lives to our lives in eternity. We will experience many of the same things, but without sin tainting them in any way! Second, even for those things that will not remain in eternity-marriage being one of them-God has given them to us to help us understand our eternal home and to prepare us for it.]

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