Posts Tagged ‘joy’

Apostles’ Creed: And The Life Everlasting

October 20, 2014

What awaits those who trust in Christ? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Death is something we often don’t really care for. It’s such a finality to matters. I have been to two funerals this year for instance. One was for an aunt who died. The other was for a neighbor who lived just down the street from us and whose death we were not at all expecting. My wife has lost her grandfather this year as well.

When someone dies, we are suddenly filled with grief if we knew the person well and cared for them. When I walk past my neighbor’s house for instance, I can know that in this lifetime, I will never see him out there tending to his garden and have him wave at me and have my wife and I talk to him about the plants in our garden.

Scripture gives us the promise of life everlasting as does the Apostles’ Creed, but here is another area where we have misunderstandings. This is often done at funerals. As I mentioned in an earlier post, too often, we have made it seem like the goal of Christianity is simply to get to Heaven. That’s a goal very much about us.

Yet the Bible is about what God is doing with His creation for His glory and part of it is redeeming the creation. It is not as if he says “Dang it. Looks like the devil screwed up that Garden of Eden plan. So much for that planet.” Too many Christians have this idea. This world is not our home supposedly. God did not make it to be our eternal dwelling.

Wherever that idea comes from, it is not Scripture. It is more a Platonic sort of idea of an otherworldly experience apart from this world. In fact, Scripture says the opposite. Heaven comes down to Earth in the book of Revelation. It is not the case that people go to Heaven. God comes to dwell with His people. His people do not go to a far off place where He is. In fact, if we are true believers of Scripture, we should realize God is here right now. We are just waiting for His presence to be more manifest and I would suggest the problem is not with Him, but it is with us. After all, it can never be with Him.

Part of that promise is not just going back to Eden, but going beyond Eden. This will be a place that is far better than Eden. This will be life everlasting and of a kind that will eternally satisfy us. Thankfully, it will not be like what we often see in the cartoons. For most of us, if Heaven was simply sitting on clouds and playing harps, most of us would wonder if we had instead gone to Hell. It is why some youth growing up have asked the question of if Heaven would be boring. With our descriptions of it, we have not given them much to be excited about.

Of course, the biggest excitement is that God is there and we interact with Jesus. Now if some of you don’t get excited as you should at that, could it be because we have not made the topic that exciting? We have turned God into some detached far off being that is not really interacting with our world, aside from as a friend of mine said yesterday, to perhaps send a hurricane to judge homosexuals and people attending casinos and I could add perhaps answering that prayer for a miracle and finding that parking space every now and then.

And as for Jesus, well we’ve made Jesus this nice approachable figure from our Sunday School lessons that doesn’t really challenge us which leads to an obvious question. Why would someone crucify this Jesus? For instance, as I read through Five Views on the Historical Jesus, I found Crossan’s essay quite interesting with the ending that Jesus would be seen like someone providing social renewal with a message of love. Okay. Perhaps He did. Here’s my problem. A Jesus like that is not a threat. At the worst, He’s an annoyance. There’s no reason to crucify Him.

Do we really think about Jesus? Do we think about who He is and why He came? For instance, last night I read Psalm 86 with the prayer in there of thanking God for saving them. Now isn’t this interesting? The knowledge of salvation and forgiveness before the cross? But on what basis? Because people were keeping the Law to show their faithfulness to God in response of His faithfulness to them.

Did Jesus really come into a world where the Jews were looking for a way of salvation? It doesn’t look like it. Most of them had a way that seemed to work quite well for them. Yet still He came to show them a new way. What a strange message this must have been. Instead of righteousness with God being found on the basis of the Law which came from Moses, it was found on the basis of this man who just showed up and did some miracles and spoke in these strange parables? Look at it this way, and you can understand why Jesus was not received as well by the leaders of His day. We must all honestly ask ourselves before we condemn them if we would do any better.

Then you can ask also how John the Baptist fit into this. Why did John the Baptist speak out against the actions of Herod? Was he just a political agitator? Or was he concerned about the righteousness of the people and people getting their hearts right in preparation? If he said nothing about the leader of the people openly disobeying what was righteous, then how could He be taken seriously?

These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking. Who was Jesus? What kind of world did He come into? What difference did He make in it? What difference does He make in it? What does He tell us about God? Remember, Jesus is the revelation of God. He is the one through whom we are to see and interpret the Father. To know Jesus is to know God.

If the prospect of eternity with the Trinity does not excite us, it is because we have not come to fully know them as they are, and indeed this certainly applies to my own self who often does not get excited enough. None of us will have that kind of excitement until we pass over into eternity as we are all still bound by our sinful natures.

The good part is that we will have all of eternity to discover the wonder that we have missed and the wonder that we were meant for. It will never be interrupted. It will never be painful. It will never be sorrowful. It will never be boring. This does not mean we will be passive. We will be incredibly active. We will be working in Heaven, but it will be worthwhile and enjoyable, unlike most of our work today where most of us can’t wait to get home from the evening shift.

To see the analogy, go back to the Garden of Eden. As David Lamb says in his book “God Behaving Badly”, man is placed in the garden and given a job and he is given what many men have called the greatest commandment God ever gave man. “Go forth and multiply.” As Lamb says, he is told to eat a lot of food and have a lot of sex. Now men, imagine going through CareerBuilder or a Monster.com and seeing a job description like this.

“I have a garden that I want a husband and wife to attend to for me. I will cover all of their expenses. I will handle their dental, health, and any other insurance coverage. Aside from one tree I choose, they may eat anything they grow in the garden that they want. I will make sure their clothing and living arrangements are provided for. I will make sure their children are provided for. Oh. One more thing. I also expect the husband and wife to have a lot of sex with each other in the garden. No credentials or skills in gardening needed. I will teach you all you need to know.”

Personally, if I saw a job application like that, I would be applying immediately. In fact, I would probably be reapplying to it every day.

It’s my suspicion that our work in Heaven will be jobs tailor made for us. I suspect someone like myself could be assigned to do research and teaching and I will have the best library of all with all the books ever written and I will get to do that research alongside people like the Apostle Paul and Thomas Aquinas and just think of the conversations we can have.

Also, I do fully believe that this will take place on this Earth. What all that entails for us I cannot say. I get suspicious of people who claim to give detailed accounts of what Heaven is like when Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12 that he could not speak of what He saw. Whatever it is, it is made for us to enjoy and it will be enjoyable because it is our place in God that we find. We find our total completion in Him when we get there.

As I write this, I can confess I do get a hint of that joy and that desire. To use the parallel given earlier, and every man can understand this, imagine being at work one day and it being tedious and boring and you find out on your break you have a voicemail from your wife. You turn it on to listen still kind of in a moping mood and hear something like this.

“Hey honey. I just wanted to let you know it’s been really lonely here and I’ve been thinking about you a lot and how much I appreciate what you do. I sent the children over to grandma and grandpa’s to spend the night with them. I am as we speak fixing your favorite dinner right now and we’ll share it together when we get home and then, we can go to the bedroom together. I went out and got a new outfit today and I think you’ll really enjoy it. I can’t wait to see you when you get home and I hope you can’t wait to really see me.”

I can assure you if I was that husband, my mood would have gone straight up for the rest of the day and I could not wait to get home in the evening. Some of you women might be thinking “Won’t my husband be worried about how much the outfit cost?” I can assure you that will be one of the last things on his mind. In fact, the desire that he has is in fact enjoyable in itself. Anything he goes through for the rest of the day will be worth it in comparison to the joy that he knows awaits him when he gets home.

This is why the Bible compares things so often to a marriage. We are awaiting the full consummation of what is to come. Remember also we are the bride. We are the ones that will have the life of God given to us. What you see happening in a marriage is meant to be a picture of what happens between Christ and the church. This is in fact why we must take marriage seriously as Christians and must take sex sacredly as Christians. To do anything less is to dishonor God.

Keep the faith Christian, and someday, you will be in the manifest presence of God celebrating His great love and never again to be absent or apart from it.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Ode To Joy

July 8, 2013

What difference can one life make? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was going to write something today for a friend in response to a Mormon video, but I must put that one on hold for a day now. As listeners of the podcast know, and I hope you all are listening, my grandmother-in-law passed away Saturday. This is the grandmother on Mike’s said, in other words, the mother of Michael Licona, for those wondering which Mike. His daughter is my wife after all. Right now, Allie is up in Baltimore for the funeral of Grandma Joy.

If you are a fan of Mike, and many of you are, you need to consider that this woman was the main woman in his life before his wife that shaped him, and give thanks. Joy was in turn a great influence on my own wife, helping her through her own personal crises. In the midst of all her pain, she had only joy and concern for other people.

Joy had had breast cancer that was stage four. It disappeared sometime around last September for awhile, and I think this was a gift from God to allow her to have one more Thanksgiving with us all. This was the second time I had got to meet Joy. The first was at the wedding and I did not get to interact with her that much. At this Thanksgiving, Allie and I stayed at her house and got to meet her and regularly speak with her.

Joy was a delight whose Christian faith showed through and her simple laughter in everything. For instance, two of her grandsons came over every day. One was especially interested in Mike’s doing magic tricks with a deck of cards. When Mike was gone one time, I asked this grandson if he would like to play a card game. This one was either an early teenager or about to be one.

“Yeah!”

“Ever heard of 52 pick-up?”

“No!”

“Wanna play it?”

“Yeah!”

To which, I of course threw the deck in the air and watched all the cards land telling him to pick them up. Joy watched and smiled delighting in such a prank.

Joy was active the whole week being in the kitchen helping to prepare meals. She offered advice to Allie and I and I don’t remember her ever being negative about her past experiences. Joy was quite good at living out her name.

Allie and Joy would quite often talk to each other. There was a special bond there between the two of them which made the loss so much harder for Allie. I have even been told that when Joy was not really responsive to anyone, that she still cried when she heard Allie’s voice on the phone.

During the past month, we had been waiting in limbo expecting the end to come any time. We actually expected it the first week in June, but Joy was always a fighter and hung on for a long time. On Saturday, I received the call from Allie while I was out doing some shopping. On the show, I asked for prayer at least twice for the situation.

Through her Christlike actions, Joy helped shape society. Those of you who have appreciated Mike’s work should give thanks for Joy, for one could easily question whether he would have done his resurrection work if it had not been for the influence of a godly mother. Those of you who are mothers out there. Never underestimate the influence that you can have on your children.

Those of you who like my work, and I hope that’s all of you, need to have the same consideration. Because of Joy’s influence, Mike married a Christian woman and together they raised their children to be Christian. One of them is my wife today who has Joy’s Christianity in her. My wife is, aside from Jesus Christ, the greatest influence on my life. It is her that has been the greatest change in my apologetic career really giving me the confidence to go further. Joy’s actions reached far beyond herself. They reached to those who would come after her and even to those who were in no way part of her family at first.

It is said that when we are born, we cry and the world rejoices. We should live so that when we die, the world cries and we rejoice. The world has much to cry about today. Joy, meanwhile, has much to rejoice about. As of now, she is matching her name more than she ever has before. Though not in the body at the moment, she is nevertheless in the presence of Jesus.

In fact, as I drove home from the store, I kept thinking that Joy was in the presence of Jesus, and I could not help but smile. As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, we do mourn, but not like those without hope. The mourning is not for Joy. Joy is far better off than we are. In her state right now where she is, the happiest she has ever been here is like stark depression in comparison.

It is definitely a time like this that I can even more appreciate the meaning of the resurrection. The study of the resurrection is not an isolated point to prove that Christianity is true. It is something that changes the course of history entirely. I do agree with the claim that apart from the resurrection of Jesus, there is no other hope for mankind.

While we will mourn for a season, especially when the funeral takes place and the reality sinks in the most, we mourn not for Joy, but for ourselves. We are at a loss for not being able to directly interact with her any more for now. There can be no tears shed for Joy. Her battle is over. Her pain is gone. She is in the presence of her Lord. There are tears for those of us left behind and a reminder of why we do what we do. We look forward to the day when the curse will be broken and God will make all things new.

Until then, there will always be an empty part in those of us who knew Joy as we await the time when God will right all the wrongs and reverse all the sufferings. Let us live our lives in a far greater light now realizing the impact that one life has made and will have throughout the centuries. Joy was impacted by those who came before her. Mike has his own impacts through his work. I in turn will have my own impact and if Allie and I have children, they will get the legacy of their great-grandmother. What we do and what happens in the future will be done in part from the work of a simple woman who just sought to honor Christ in her life and set Him first. We in apologetics do far less if we only seek to prove Christianity but do not set Christ first.

Joy’s pebble has already landed in the pond of our timeline, but the circles that go out will go far beyond what she had ever thought and may we do the same and give Christ all that we have and let him see what He will do with the circles that come forward.

May the memory of Joy be eternal and may we always carry it in our hearts.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Resurrection and Joy

October 4, 2012

Do we have reason to rejoice? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’ve been looking at the resurrection lately and what a difference it makes for the Christian. For tonight, I think of what N.T. Wright has said about comparing Judaism of the day before Christ to the time of Christianity. The Jews lived in a time of hope. It was the question of if God was going to come and bring about the promises that He said He would do. Would God conquer their enemies? Would God rescue His people? When would God fulfill His end of the covenant?

Nothing wrong with that of course. In the time before Christianity, one could have joy of being a member of the community of God, but it still was looking forward to something important. One was still in bondage. As we know from John 8, Christ did come to set us free and that was what we had really been waiting for. Christ did not come for a patch of land. He did not come for one group of people. He came first of all for God. He came to do the will of the Father. He came second for the world. He was not interested in a land but the planet. He was not interested in a group of people but every tribe and nation.

That hasn’t changed.

Now the Jews and their land was the means to that. For the Jews, everything revolved around the Temple. Consider it if you will a gateway between Heaven and Earth. This is the best analogy I can think of, but some of us who grew up in the gaming sphere know about a scene where someone enters a place like a temple and ends up finding a gateway that leads to the place where the really good being or the really evil being lives. It is the idea that there are two worlds and this one place is the connection point between both worlds.

I want to be sure that you know I am not saying God lives in another dimension as it were and that that place is physical. I do not think that as God is not physical. I am saying that there was a place that He did make His presence known especially for the Jews and that was in the temple. As long as the temple was there, YHWH was there. God did not reveal Himself to everyone but made a plan to reveal Himself to everyone starting with a particular people in a particlar place.

For we Christians, this hope has been fulfilled and it was fulfilled in Christ. Now our lives are to be dominated by joy. I plan to get into this more in future blogs but let’s consider some points. First off, we have the ultimate reversal. When Christ resurrects, what happens is that death itself starts to work backwards. Christ is the first one to experience this but we are told that not only we, but all of creation will experience that resurrection. (There is nothing conclusive about animals in the new world, but the thought of something like this would be one of my main inclinations to think that God will redeem the animal life of His creation as well.)

Second, we have been set free. The Jews wondered when they would be set free from Rome, but their goals were too small. God was not coming to set them free from Rome but to set them free from sin. The problem is we Christians often make the same mistake. It is not that our wishes for our lives are too great for God to fulfill. They are often way too small. In Luke 12:32, we are told that God has given us the Kingdom for instance. It is quite amazing how much we ask for forgetting we have the Kingdom. We think that God does not give us anything when in reality, He has given us everything, namely Himself. What more can He give?

Finally, this means that we are forgiven. This is something else I will expound on later and I thank a good Christian friend for pointing this out to me in a similar sermon he did on the resurrection. It had the interesting thought experiment in it of imagining what it would be like to live in a world without forgiveness. None of us would want to live in that world, but to an extent, we all act like we do, though we don’t do so as seriously. We think of some sin that is so heinous to us that we cannot imagine that God would ever forgive it, all the while going through our lives committing X number of sins regularly that are smaller sins but still thinking “It’s no big deal.” If there is no forgiveness, there is no sin that is “No big deal.” If there is forgiveness, every sin is also in its own way a big deal when you consider the price that it took to grant that forgiveness. In the first world, we say mercy is not great enough. In the second, we try to say our sin is not great enough.

Consider this then as an entryway into a subset on the resurrection at this point and how the resurrection leads to Christian joy. I hope you’ll continue coming along. Also, for those interested, I am looking into upgrading the blog site talking to some people who know a lot more about this than I. I already know about the issue with the date of the blog entries. Feel free to let me know about anything else you’d like addressed.

In Christ,
Nick Peters