With this week’s release of the movie 90 Minutes in Heaven, heaven is all over social media and the news. I’ll review the movie Tuesday, but today I want to ask you a more important question: Do you think that the “main point” of the Bible and salvation is escaping hell and going to heaven?
I grew up with the Wordless Book—one page black for sin, one red for Christ’s blood, one white for being cleansed of sin, one gold for going to heaven, one green for growing. It is a strategy often used in children’s ministry to explain the salvation message. It has no doubt been helpful to bring many to Christ.
But I think in my own life that gospel message and the children’s ministry I was a part of nurtured a “Salvation is a ticket to heaven” mentality. The main thing was to get rid of my sin, escape hell and get to heaven. I think there were some adults in my life who were trying to cast a vision of being reconciled to God so I could know him, so I could love and enjoy him more. But all the heaven talk kind of drowned it out.
Being a Christian became primarily about the destination, and then learning God’s word, and then obeying– black, red, white, gold and green. And somewhere after that, the relationship and intimacy. Anyone else growing up in a Christian home or church have that experience?
When I was twenty-nine I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. As I tried to live in a world of shattered dreams, chronic pain and limited mobility I lived`more and more from duty and resignation. In his mercy, God met me right where I was, as he always does, and drew me into the intimacy and joy that I was missing. I chronicled that journey in my book Godsight: Renewing the Eyes of Our Heart.
I discovered that there was a name for what I had experienced: “Destination Theology.” I decided to re-read the book of Acts with careful attention to the way Jesus’ disciples presented the gospel. What I found there surprised me.
We arrive at my Dad’s graveside service and park behind the hearse. Even though we had asked for an honor guard, the sailor and Naval officer standing watch over his flag-draped coffin surprise me. While we welcome family and friends they face each other with unflinching gazes–all dress whites, gold buttons, epaulets and gloves.
The Guard’s gravity gradually pulls us into its orbit. In perfect synchronization they tuck under the ends of the flag. About a hundred feet away a sailor lifts his bugle and begins to play. The sailor and officer posted at the casket offer a slow-motion, final salute.
My Dad died last night. Mom was on her way over to see him in his memory care facility, but Jesus, who holds “the keys to death and Hades,” slipped the key in the lock and opened the door.
Today Dad is in heaven. And we are getting washed around by alternate waves of grief and urgency–to make plans and respond to family and praying friends. I’m a words girl and your words of sympathy and tenderness are washing over my soul. Comforting me. Encouraging me. Thank you.
Yesterday evening I was on the front row of a political forum, listening to Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal tell his story of how he found Christ (or Christ found him, and wow! he was impressive, more later) when I got the call.
Media vita in morte sumus. In the midst of life we are in death. The ultimate disruption.
Dad’s life has been severely disrupted by the deepening onset of Lewey-Body Dementia and Parkinsons. He fell and broke his hip in the summer of 2011. He has spent the last four years in that place where none of us want to be–losing his brilliant mind and his independence, living in a wheelchair. He did not go quietly into that good night. He hated the limitations of both.
(“Best of” blog) This post was written when we moved from Houston, to Columbia, South Carolina almost five years ago. We are still delighted to be in our new church family and home. The lessons in how we can see a new hope and a future and move people there and keep them inspired are still fresh.
After months of transition, job search, selling a home, finding a home, a month of living with delightful, incredibly generous friends while we wait for the new home sale to close, we have finally, actually, irrevocably MOVED. What seemed so daunting and risky and unknown has become, step by step, reality. Actually, God is in the business of moving us all from HERE to THERE. And as Bill Hybels pointed out at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit last week: the essence of leadership is to lead people from HERE, the current reality, to THERE, the much preferred future.
As Christians so often we are known for the behaviors and causes we oppose. But do our Facebook friends and communities really know what we are for?
Here’s part of our problem: We are told that when we give to God we should give in secret. We also want to follow Jesus, who was a portrait of humility. So…much of what Christians do to serve others flies beneath radar. But sometimes we work as a team. And as a team leader I want to give a shout out to the team and not just tell, but show how our Community Connection Team made a difference in someone’s life.
One of our team members is a physical therapist. As we considered who we wanted to help on our next Saturday of Service he gave us the name of a disabled widow who lived in the basement of her home because her leg had become so bad that she could no longer access the main floor. She wants to move to assisted living but doesn’t have the help she needs to prepare her home for sale so she could make the move.
On a bright, cool Saturday morning about 25 of us gathered to help prepare this home for sale. We rented a big blue pod and began filling it with boxes of trash.
We who follow Jesus have a high calling. And often a high privilege of telling others about him and his way of life, equipping or simply encouraging them on their journey. But we are all sinners, desperately in need of God’s saving grace. So when our lives haven’t aligned with the way of Jesus how do we decide if we still should speak (or write) about following Jesus in that way?
For example, How can we best honor Jesus and speak with integrity to our children about sexual purity if we were not sexually pure?
Or should we counsel and minister to other couples about how to have a strong marriage if we’ve struggled in our marriage or been separated or divorced? What if we’ve committed adultery?
Should we counsel others on how to help their children love and follow Jesus when our children have not followed him? Do we have anything to say? Should we keep silent? If not, how might we speak with integrity?
I probably have as many questions as answers on this so I’d love for you to think and engage with me on this topic…even give me your advice.
Another beheading. More Christians raped, murdered and fleeing ISIS in terror. The enemy wants us to feel powerless. Hunker down. Circle the wagons.
But Jesus always calls us to something richer and life-giving, even in the midst of death. After we’ve written a check, after we’ve gathered in our churches and prayed for our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, after we’ve signed petitions…then what? What can we actually DO in a hands on way?
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” What a relief. God never labels me a Loser. He never dismisses me. Writes me off. Withdraws from relationship.
But it is one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs to convict us all of sin. And we’ve all felt his sharp elbows in our guilty little ribs. So what is the difference here? How can we live the difference between conviction that brings a proper response to the grave reality of our sin without getting sucked out to sea in an undertow of self-condemnation and regret?
(“Best of” blog)
After months of transition, job search, selling a home, finding a home, a month of waiting for the new home sale to close, we have finally, actually, irrevocably MOVED.
What seemed so daunting and risky and unknown has become, step by step, reality. Actually, God is in the business of moving us all from HERE to THERE. And as Bill Hybels pointed out at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit last week: the essence of leadership is to lead people from HERE, the current reality, to THERE, the much preferred future.
Is your brain like a German autobahn with lots of slick, European sports-car thoughts…zooming in out of nowhere…inspiring…creating…(distracting)? Creativity is a joy to give away–writing, cooking, festive table settings, gardening, crafts, ministry projects, lesson preps—all these rich gifts God has given us. But there’s a downside too.