Posts Tagged ‘heaven’

This week: Is Hitchens right that eternity is unbearable? Some thoughts on being a complementarian, and what it means to know and be known by a well-known blogger and now pastor.

Chris Hitchens

Future Imperfect: Will Heaven Be Intolerable? (by Barry Cooper)

…Hitchens allows himself a small loophole – “Anything eternal is probably intolerable” – and I think he’s right to do so.

Is it possible that eternal things seem intolerable to us because in this world nothing is? Might we lack a reasonable sense of what eternity will be like because we’ve never experienced anything that comes close? We tend to think of a single day endlessly multiplied, and soon, our mental picture of heaven resembles one of those imaginary prisons conjured up by Piranesi when he was feeling a bit peaky. Even a good party, as Hitchens rightly notes, becomes insufferable as soon as it becomes inescapable.

Confessions of a Conflicted Complementarian (by Wendy Alsup)

After I had kids, I looked around at the godly women in my life. So few looked like my earlier naive notions of the good Christian woman. Were their life circumstances mistakes? Were they doomed to substandard application of Biblical instructions to women because of the way their life had turned out?

“Dora the Doormat” and other Scary Straw Women of Complementarity (by Mary Kassian)

Recently, someone in the twitter world called me an “uber-complementarian.” They threw out the term “complementarian” derogatorily, like an ugly handful of mud – akin to calling someone a “racist,” “fascist,” “sexist,” or something scary like that. I had to smile, since I remember sitting around a table with John Piper and Wayne Grudem and others, wracking our brains to come up with an apt label to describe the historic Christian teaching on gender. Oh how quickly labels turn into stereotypes!

To Know and To Be Known (by Tim Challies)

What if all the blog readers are impressed but my wife is entirely unimpressed? There are many pastors who are loved all around the world but who have earned very little respect in their own church. There are many men who are admired far and wide but whose wife and children struggle to find any reason to respect them.

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Of course, if a man were at home and the rain poured into his house, he would regard it as an intolerable hardship; but when he is travelling, he is not so troubled about rain and storms. When you are at sea, though you have not as many things as you have at home, you are not troubled at it; you are contented. Why? Because you are at sea.

Storms at Sea I Painting - Storms at Sea I Fine Art Print

In a recent post I mentioned two paradigms that Jeremiah Burroughs has been helping me with from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment: The hope of eternity and the truth that this world is not my home. In that post, I focused more on the hope of eternity. In this post, I want to dig into what has actually been more of the paradigm shift for me, the truth that this world is not my home.

You are on a Journey at Sea

You are not troubled when storms arise, and though many things are otherwise than you would have them at home you are still quieted with the fact that you are at sea. When sailors are at sea they do not care what clothes they have, though they are pitched and tarred, and but a clout about their necks, and any old clothes. They think of when they come home: then they shall have their fine silk stockings and suits, and laced bands, and such things, and shall be very fine. So they are contented while away, with the thought that it shall be different when they come home, and though they have nothing but salt meat, and a little hard fare, yet when they come to their houses then they shall have anything. Thus it should be with us in this world, for the truth is, we are all in this world but as seafaring men, tossed up and down on the waves of the sea of this world, and our haven is Heaven; here we are travelling, and our home is a distant home in another world.

If you are at sea, you are not expecting a nice steak dinner or to sleep in a comfy sleep number bed, you anticipate the hardship and differences. Of course, most of us are not travelling via Paul Allen’s Octopus or a Disney Cruise. This is no 3 day trip to Bermuda but a long voyage.

You are at an Inn

Consider what your condition is, you are pilgrims and strangers; so do not think to satisfy yourselves here. When a man comes into an inn and sees there a fair cupboard of plate, he is not troubled that it is not his own.- Why? Because he is going away. So let us not be troubled when we see that other men have great wealth, but we have not.-Why? We are going away to another country; you are, as it were, only lodging here, for a night. If you were to live a hundred years, in comparison to eternity it is not as much as a night, it is as though you were travelling, and had come to an inn. And what madness is it for a man to be discontented because he has not got what he sees there, seeing he may be going away again within less than a quarter of an hour?

You don’t have all your things when at a hotel. You might unpack but all you have is from a suitcase. You eat more on the go maybe at an unfamiliar restaurant. You don’t have your own pillows or your own bed. It’s only a temporary residence.

The Indicative: This World is Not My Home

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11 ESV)

I think I understood before that, like a journey at sea or a stay at a hotel, this world is not my home. But my problem is that I think I took verses like 1 Peter 2:11 as commands and missed the indicative. Peter does not tell us to “act like sojourners and exiles.” He calls us sojourners and exiles. He gives us an indicative that we are sojourners and exiles. This is the truth not something to obey. I am never told to act like this world is not my home – I am told that this is a truth that I need to accept and believe. That steak I might be looking forward to is merely salted meat aboard the ship or bland hotel food.

We’re not told to take the sea voyage but we’re on the sea right now. We are away from home right now. We don’t have a choice. We can try to naturalize and throw away our citizenship and simply forget about home or maybe work for the enemy but those options will only lead to more heartache, pain, dissatisfaction, and disorientation. We’re merely passing through here. We have to accept we’re sojourners, remember our short term mission & ambassadorship, and take joy in the fact that we will indeed be home someday and it will be infinitely better than this world.

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. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 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. (Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)

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I have been immersed in the Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs now for almost 2 months and it has been extremely good for my soul. Two themes in particular has been huge: that this world is truly not my home and that the world of eternity promised to us in Christ will be better than I can fathom.

The World is Exhausting

These past few days I played Mr. Mom as my wife helped out with our local twins club and their biannual used kids sale. The first day I was amped up and motivated, vacuuming almost the whole house and doing some outside work around our house as well on top of taking care of my 5 little ones. It was an enjoyable day. The next day I was feeling it. I was struggling to get moving in the morning. But, the day went well and I felt like I was able to delight in my kids and even made a fun dinner for them. Day 3? I was toast. Of course, my kids were tired and cranky as well. I was struggling to delight in them, to joyfully serve them, to not fall asleep. Fatigue and my own selfishness fought to taint everything on day 3 without my wife. I honestly was trying to trust Jesus to sustain my but I was exhausted. I almost couldn’t think straight and was starting to become harsh with my kids as Hyde was screaming to take over.

What is My Hope in?

How did I finish the day? I started to put my hope in when my wife got home and my time with her! The evening went pretty well because I was simply looking forward to her. It tainted everything I did from that point forward. I thought about what we might do together and even had some sparkling wine ready to enjoy together. Thinking about my wife impacted the rest of my day and helped carry me through the fog of exhaustion.

The reality is, due to circumstances out of her hands,  she got home later than we both thought and, by that time, we were both walking zombies (date night tonight though!). This anticipation plays out many a time though. It can affect my wife’s entire week to know we have a date night coming. On days we have a date night, my work day flies by and I have an anticipation that can carry me. Eternity should be like this for us. Everything we end up hoping for in this world can carry us only temporarily and can disappoint. This is not the case with what Jesus has stored up for us.

The Hope of Eternity

When you sailors see the haven before you, though you were mightily troubled before you could see any land, yet when you come near the shore and can see a certain land-mark, that contents you greatly. A godly man in the midst of the waves and storms that he meets with can see the glory of heaven before him and so contents himself. One drop of the sweetness of heaven is enough to take away all the sourness and bitterness of all the afflictions in the world.

We know that one drop of sourness, or one drop of gall will make bitter a great deal of honey. Put a spoonful of sugar into a cup of gall or wormwood, and it will not sweeten it; but if you put a spoonful of gall into a cup of sugar, it will embitter that. Now it is otherwise in heaven: one drop of sweetness will sweeten a great deal of sour affliction, but a great deal of sourness and gall will not embitter a soul who sees the glory of heaven that is to come. A carnal heart has no contentment but from what he sees before him in this world, but a godly hearts has contentment from what he sees laid up for him in the highest heavens.

There is a great deal of hope in these thoughts from Burroughs. We who trust in Christ do indeed have a light at the end of the tunnel and it is a glorious light. There is land ahead of this journey on the sea and we will get there. It feels so far away as the world and trials beat down on us but it is there. In hoping for heaven and eternity, God will use that anticipation to give us the joy and contentment we need to thrive and not merely gut it out in the here and now.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-25 ESV)

This life can be complex and feel like the walls are caving in. Simple tasks can be painful. The rug can be pulled out from beneath us so quickly.  But it will not be this way forever. This world is not our home and we are just passing through.

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