Archives For Heaven

Decatur, Ill. | Two days after a mass shooting at a Southern Baptist church in Texas, Illinois pastor Randy Johnson urged pastors to preach every message like it could be their last opportunity to deliver the gospel.

Johnson, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur, filled in at the IBSA Pastors’ Conference for Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines, who was slated to preach during the conference but is in Texas ministering to First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs. On Sunday, Nov. 5, a gunman killed 26 people at the small church outside San Antonio.

Preaching from the book of 2 Timothy, Johnson encouraged pastors to check their measure of gospel urgency. Preach like it could be your last message, he said, and also like it could be your hearers’ last opportunity hear the gospel.

“As a preacher of the gospel, your highest calling is to preach the word,” he said. “It is your responsibility to stand before your people in your church and tell them what is right, what isn’t right, and how to get right.”

Johnson exhorted pastors to not only remember that every message could be their last, but also that every hearer will have a last moment.

“Preach like it’s their [the congregation’s] last moment. They don’t know when it’s going to be… You’re going to have people who don’t want to hear what you’re going to say. Consider their last moment. What are you leaving them with? What are you turning their hearts toward?”

On Wednesday morning, Ed Stetzer (below) spoke to Pastors’ Conference attenders about working for and journeying toward the long view of ministry. Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, urged pastors to have an eternal perspective and to recognize the contrast between life now and eternal life in heaven.

Ed Stetzer web

“It’s a long hard slog sometimes in ministry,” Stetzer said, “and we’re going to see Jesus one day.” That sounds very “old-school Baptist,” he acknowledged, but Baptists a few generations ago talked about heaven a lot more than we do now.

Christians have a confident hope, he said, because they walk by faith and not by sight.

“The afterlife is a sighted life, but life now is not. You don’t know everything. But you have a confident hope, because you know Jesus does.”

 

 

 

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Brighton Presbyterian Church in Rochester, N.Y., is the first church to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) after a majority of the denomination’s districts voted to change its definition of marriage. The amendment to the group’s constitution, which will become official this summer, alters the marriage definition from “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

The_Briefing“Our reason for leaving is centered on the status of biblical interpretation within the PC(USA),” Brighton spokeswoman Kerry Luddy told The Christian Post. “We believe that Scripture’s meaning and intent should not be altered to fit a current culture.”


“Heaven visitation resources” like Don Piper’s book “90 Minutes in Heaven” are no longer available from LifeWay Christian Resources. Spokesman Marty King told Baptist Press LifeWay stopped ordering “experiential testimonies about heaven” last summer, and has pulled the remaining products from stores and its website.

LifeWay’s decision followed the adoption of a resolution on “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife” by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting last summer.


Legislators introduced this month a bill that would allow adoption and foster care agencies to operate within their religious convictions concerning placing children with same-sex couples. “This commonsense bill simply ensures that these child welfare providers can keep doing what they do best and are treated the same as the rest,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), according to a WORLD News Service report.

Illinois is one of four states where agencies have discontinued adoption and foster care services because they would have been required to place children with same-sex couples.


More than 83,000 Bibles were shipped to Cuba this month through a partnership between Southern Baptist agencies, churches and individual donors. The Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention, which will receive 32,000 Bibles, reported more than 29,000 professions of faith last year, said Kurt Urbanek, International Mission Board strategy leader for Cuba. “The growth is so incredible, that’s why Bibles are so important.”


“If it wasn’t for the Baptists, I don’t know what I would do,” said one homeowner whose basement was repaired after severe flood damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy. More than two years after the storm devastated parts of New York and New Jersey, volunteers working through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief are still rebuilding and repairing homes in the region.

 

 

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

doneenoughA report on a new LifeWay Research survey says what Martin Luther King, Jr., once said about Sunday morning in America is still true: “At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation.”

Released just before the national holiday in honor of King, the survey found more than 80% of churches are made up of one predominant racial group, but 67% of churchgoers say their church is doing enough to become ethnically diverse. And 53% disagree that their congregation needs to become more diverse.

“Surprisingly, most churchgoers are content with the ethnic status quo in their churches,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, in the research report by Bob Smietana. “In a world where our culture is increasingly diverse, and many pastors are talking about diversity, it appears most people are happy where they are—and with whom they are.

“Yet, it’s hard for Christians to say they are united in Christ when they are congregating separately.”


In honor of MLK Day, ChurchLeaders.com gathered 25 of his “retweetable” quotes, starting with this one: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or darkness of destructive selfishness.”


In the newest “Question and Ethics” podcast, Ethics and Religious Liberty President Russell Moore interviews actor David Oyelowo, who portrays Martin Luther King in a recently released movie. “…I think what you see in ‘Selma’ the film is not only was Dr. King a speaker of the word–we celebrate him as an orator–but he was a doer of it, and that’s the attribute I most admire in any Christian,” the actor says.


The U.S. Supreme Court said Jan. 16 it will soon hear arguments in an appeals court case concerning same-sex marriage. “Depending on the justices’ decision,” Baptist Press reports, “gay marriage could be legal throughout the country by the end of June or states could maintain their authority to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.”

Oral arguments about the appeals court decision, which concerns Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, are expected in March or April, BP reports, with a decision before the Court’s summer adjournment.


“I did not die. I did not go to heaven.” Christianity Today reports on that retraction by 16-year-old Alex Malarkey concerning his book “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.”

Malarkey made his admission in a statement titled “An Open Letter to LifeWay and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.” LifeWay Christian Resources–an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention–told The Christian Post they “are returning to the publisher the few copies we have in our stores.”

The Post also notes that during their annual meeting last June, Southern Baptists adopted a resolution reaffirming “the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell.”


Colton Burpo, whose account of heaven also became a bestselling book and later a feature film, said he stands by his story. The Christian Post reports Burpo took to his website to say, “”I know there has been a lot of talk about the truth of other Heaven stories in the past few days.

“I just wanted to take a second and let everyone know that I stand by my story found in my book Heaven is for Real.”


The Seattle Seahawks’ unbelievable comeback in the NFC championship game Jan. 18 brought quarterback Russell Wilson to tears in his post-game interview. Before and after the victory, Russell, who is vocal about his Christian faith, tweeted his thankfulness and praise to God. “My pursuit of exellence is to honor Jesus!” Wilson tweeted Saturday, with the hashtag #ItsAllAboutHim.

After the game, he posted a praise chorus by Lenny LeBlanc: “There is none like You! No one else can touch my heart like You do! I can search for all of eternity, but there is none like You!”

pull quote_ADAMS_julyHEARTLAND | Nate Adams

One of the ways my wife, Beth, and I celebrated our anniversary this year was to watch the video of our wedding ceremony and reception. It’s been a few years since we’ve done that, and I found myself a little surprised by some of the things I saw and heard, and how they made me feel.

I was ready to see a bride and groom that looked very young, but I was taken back a little at the site of our parents. For example my dad, on my wedding day, was exactly the age I am now after 28 years of marriage.

Having recently performed my own son’s wedding ceremony, there was something about seeing my dad perform my wedding ceremony when he was my age that was a little unnerving. Has a generation passed already? Will the next generation pass that quickly?

During that nostalgic viewing, however, I found great encouragement in the music we chose for our wedding ceremony. Some of it was just fun, such as the piano recessional that was the Charlie Brown theme song from the Peanuts cartoon series. Some of it was serious and prayerful, such as the hymn that truly expressed the desire of our hearts, “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”

But there were two more contemporary duets that spoke freshly to me as we watched ourselves getting married a generation later, and wondered at how quickly time passes. Just after our vows to one another, we heard this musical encouragement for lasting fidelity from the Farrell and Farrell song, “After All Those Years.”

“After all those years, when our children have said goodbye, after all those years I’ll love you even more.”*

I first heard Farrell and Farrell sing that song at an IBSA-sponsored Youth Encounter in Springfield, Illinois. Its message stuck with me, as I knew even then that I wanted to marry someone who I would adore, even after the kids were grown and gone. We’re almost there now. And I do.

But there was another duet, “The Wedding Day” by Harvest, that also reassured me, and helped me reset my perspective on weddings, and generations, and how quickly time passes. It pointed to the Wedding Day that is much more important than any here on earth.

“We will fly away, when He hears His Father say, ‘Jesus, go and get your bride. Today’s your wedding day.’”**

I think I understand more fully now why music is so important in our worship. We the Church are indeed the bride of Christ, waiting with longing for our Bridegroom to come and make our relationship complete. On one hand, it seems we’ve been waiting a long time. But when we live by faith with the one we’ve chosen to adore, the years and the generations fly by quickly. And that’s okay.

The music of a Christian marriage can give us a wonderful picture and promise of love and fidelity that lasts, both in a marriage and in a relationship with God. Many of us are fortunate to have been blessed by that kind of marriage for years, even generations.  And all of us in the Bride of Christ, His church, are blessed by it from now through eternity.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

* “After All Those Years,” by Tim Sheppard, ©1982, Tim Sheppard Music Company
** “The Wedding Day,” by Brent Lamb, ©1981, Straightway Music

Two Americans in Paris

Meredith Flynn —  August 9, 2012

COMMENTARY | Serena Butler

There are certain things in life that bring comfort to us during times of trouble. Hugs, a cup of hot chocolate, a smile from a friend, knowing someone is praying for you – those are just a few of the things that come to mind. Recently I found comfort from something I never expected.

I was finishing up a mission trip to the Olympics in London when something went wrong. Our team had decided to end our trip with a day in Paris. We boarded the train and headed into Paris to see whatever time would allow. Crowded subways to us to Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and a boat ride on the Seine. Then we headed back to the subway that would take us back to the train back to London. When we got off the subway, one of our team members discovered that her wallet, which contained her passport, credit cards, and money, was missing. (We assume she was the victim of a pick pocket.)

Without a passport, you can’t leave France. So, the rest of the team boarded the train to London, leaving two of us behind. We made phone calls to the States, filed a police report, and found a hotel. This all happened on Friday evening, and the US Embassy wouldn’t open until Monday morning at 8:30 am. So we found ourselves in Paris, with a lot of time to get all our papers in order for our visit to the Embassy.

We arrived at the gate at 7:20 am Monday morning to find 13 people ahead of us in line. We later learned that they were most likely French citizens applying for Visas to the US. At about 7:30 they opened the gate and we stood in line to go through security. As soon as I showed my US Passport we were put into a different line that put us ahead of everyone else. We were the first admitted to the Embassy and were sitting inside by 7:35, being smiled at by portraits of President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

Now comes the surprisingly comforting moment: I’ve heard others say this, but this morning I experienced for myself the peace and comfort that comes from knowing you are on American soil in a foreign country. I don’t think you fully understand it until you have experienced it. I felt a little bit of home and, most importantly, I felt safe. There were at least 13 other Americans there who had lost passports over the weekend and we spoke to them, joined together by the same circumstances.

As I sat waiting, I thought this might be something like the feeling we will have when we found ourselves ushered into heaven. Instead of the President, Jesus will be smiling at us. Instead of a portrait, He will be standing right in front of us. Instead of showing a passport, they will see our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life and they will point us to the open door. We will not have metal detectors or scanners to walk through, but will be greeted with open arms.

After a lifetime on earth, a place that is not our eternal home, we will finally feel at rest and at home, safely in the land of our heavenly citizenship.

Serena Butler blogged here about her adventures in London, and also will be featured in the August 13 issue of the Illinois Baptist. Sign up for your free subscription at IBSA.org/IllinoisBaptist.