On rewards, punishments, and our journey to them

“How we travel to someplace determines how we feel about that place.”

The above quote comes from writer Eric Weiner on Travel with Rick Steves. During his interview, Mr. Weiner also commented upon the connection between traveling and travailing. “To travel is to travail,” he said. He was speaking in the context of taking a long train ride and feeling differently about his destination as a result of his journey. But my thoughts went to much more consequential things.

As followers of the Way and sojourners upon earth, we are all travelers. It is certain that how we travel determines our destination. If we walk “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), “in the light” (1 John 1:7), “in the truth” (2 John 1:4), and “in love” (Ephesians 5:2), by God’s grace we will dwell with him for eternity. Peace, joy, rest, and utter amazement will be ours forever. Continue reading “On rewards, punishments, and our journey to them”

Toss that dirty diaper

In my father’s house…” (John 14:2).

Radio personality and financial advice-giver Dave Ramsey has a saying about debt that goes something like this: “Some people feel the same about debt as a baby does about a dirty diaper: sure, it stinks – but its warm, and its mine.”

That is not a pleasant picture. But it is accurate. A baby doesn’t know there is a better way to live; that is all she knows. Continue reading “Toss that dirty diaper”

Is your name written there?

Our family had a good friend who was skilled in sleight-of-hand magic. Our children were about 10 or 15 years old at the time and were mesmerized by the illusions he could perform. They were particularly amazed by a finger guillotine he used. He asked each of them to place their fingers in the guillotine, and then it would seem he would close it over their fingers without ever hurting them. They couldn’t figure that out. Continue reading “Is your name written there?”

Mansions

“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. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3, NKJV).

Several years ago a younger visitor commented about his modest aspirations for a house. “I don’t want anything fancy, just a simple place kind of like your house.” Though I would agree that my house is not fancy, it represents many years of saving and working and is likely the largest and last house I will own. I was a little shocked at this example of the next generation’s definition of “starter home.” Of course, that particular individual may not be a true representative of his generation. Continue reading “Mansions”

A Place For You

I am going to prepare a place for you” (John 14:3).

It is difficult to fully fathom what the various descriptions of heaven might mean or imply, but they are interesting to ponder.

Heaven is there as opposed to here. Heaven is a place to which one goes. Jesus went to prepare it and will come back and take us there. Heaven and earth are always spoken of as distinct entities. Will earth become heaven? Some Jews believed the earth would receive a “makeover.” Others believe that heaven and hell is a construct of the conscience. When the rich man pleaded with Abraham, he wanted someone to go “back” to where his brothers were (Luke 16:27). Heaven and hell were not in his mind, nor were they the same location. They are entirely different planes of existence. But where, exactly, is there? Continue reading “A Place For You”

Fire from heaven

They were disciples, apostles, and brothers. Along with Simon, whom Jesus called “Peter” (meaning “a stone”), they were part of Jesus’ inner circle. Like Simon, they had been given a sobriquet. The Lord called them “Boanerges.” They were the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).

Perhaps they were powerful preachers. Perhaps they had powerful personalities. We simply don’t know the full reason for the moniker.

James was the first apostle to die (Acts 12:2), John was the last. While Jesus walked the earth, no one was closer to him than the “Stone” and the “Sons of Thunder.” Continue reading “Fire from heaven”

You are reaching the goal. Right now.

November is a big month for writers and authors. It’s the National (American) Novel-Writing Month, a yearly challenge for people anywhere to write a novel in a month’s time, with a challenge of so many words a day. Other people have been inspired by it to create challenges to write daily during November for nonfiction and academic writings.

I like April when the National, and now Global, Poetry Writing Month rolls around, but November is the big month for writing challenges.

Humans like challenges and deadlines. Many if not most people live by competing against others, against the clock, against the current. This probably qualifies as eustress, Hans Selye’s term for beneficial stress: Continue reading “You are reaching the goal. Right now.”

The glory of heaven

“Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that he might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27 NKJV).

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God” (Revelation 21:9-11).

Most Christians are familiar with John’s vision of the New Jerusalem as recorded in Revelation 21. We frequently long for the time when we will approach the Holy City, New Jerusalem (v. 2), enter through its gates of pearl (v. 21) and walk those glittering streets of gold (v. 21). Even as we imagine those things however we puzzle over many questions: where exactly is heaven? How literal are those gates and streets? What will we do when we are there? On the one hand we are intrigued with the imagery John uses. On the other, we understand that it is a vision, and therefore may not be intended literally. Continue reading “The glory of heaven”

From heaven or from men

The Tuesday before his crucifixion Jesus made his way into the temple. He was approached by Jewish leaders who questioned his authority, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23).

It was a good question, though obviously not born out of sincerity. The need for authority in religious practice often is regrettably ignored, forgotten, or abused. Continue reading “From heaven or from men”