Biblically-Anemic Preaching

Those who are familiar with my ministry know that I am committed to expository preaching. It is my unshakable conviction that the proclamation of God’s Word should always be the heart and the focus of the church’s ministry (2 Tim. 4:2). And proper biblical preaching should be systematic, expositional, theological, and God-centered.

Such preaching is in short supply these days. There are plenty of gifted communicators in the modern evangelical movement, but today’s sermons tend to be short, shallow, topical homilies that massage people’s egos and focus on fairly insipid subjects like human relationships, “successful” living, emotional issues, and other practical but worldly—and not definitively biblical—themes. These messages are lightweight and without substance, cheap and synthetic, leaving little more than an ephemeral impression on the minds of the hearers.

[What are} the negative effects of the superficial brand of preaching that is so rife in modern evangelicalism[?]

1. It usurps the authority of God over the soul.

Who has the right to speak to the church? The preacher or God? Whenever anything is substituted for the preaching of the Word, God’s authority is usurped. What a prideful thing to do!

2. It removes the lordship of Christ from His church.

Who is the Head of the church? Is Christ really the dominant teaching authority in the church? When Jesus Christ is exalted among His people, His power is manifest in the church. When the church is commandeered by compromisers who want to appease the culture, the gospel is minimized, true power is lost, artificial energy must be manufactured, and superficiality takes the place of truth.

3. It hinders the work of the Holy Spirit.

What is the instrument the Spirit uses to do His work? The Word of God. He uses the Word as the instrument of regeneration (1 Pet. 1:23; Jas. 1:18). He also uses it as the means of sanctification (John 17:17). In fact, it is the only tool He uses (Eph. 6:17).

4. It demonstrates appalling pride and a lack of submission.

In the modern approach to “ministry,” the Word of God is deliberately downplayed, the reproach of Christ is quietly repudiated, the offense of the gospel is carefully eliminated, and “worship” is purposely tailored to fit the preferences of unbelievers. That is nothing but a refusal to submit to the biblical mandate for the church.

5. It severs the preacher personally from the regular sanctifying grace of Scripture.

The greatest personal benefit that I get from preaching is the work that the Spirit of God does on my own soul as I study and prepare for two expository messages each Lord’s Day. Week by week the duty of careful exposition keeps my own heart focused and fixed on the Scriptures, and the Word of God nourishes me while I prepare to feed my flock. So I am personally blessed and spiritually strengthened through the enterprise.

6. It clouds the true depth and transcendence of our message and therefore cripples both corporate and personal worship.

What passes for preaching in some churches today is literally no more profound than what preachers in our fathers’ generation were teaching in the five-minute children’s sermon they gave before dismissing the kids. That’s no exaggeration. It is often that simplistic, if not utterly inane. There is nothing deep about it. Such an approach makes it impossible for true worship to take place, because worship is a transcendent experience. Worship should take us above the mundane and simplistic. So the only way true worship can occur is if we first come to grips with the depth of spiritual truth. Our people can only rise high in worship in the same proportion to which we have taken them deep into the profound truths of the Word. There is no way they can have lofty thoughts of God unless we have plunged them into the depths of God’s self-revelation. But preaching today is neither profound nor transcendent. It doesn’t go down, and it doesn’t go up. It merely aims to entertain.

By the way, true worship is not something that can be stimulated artificially. A bigger, louder band and more sentimental music might do more to stir people’s emotions. But that is not genuine worship. True worship is a response from the heart to God’s truth (John 4:23). You can actually worship without music if you have seen the glories and the depth of what the Bible teaches.

7. It prevents the preacher from fully developing the mind of Christ.

Pastors are supposed to be under-shepherds of Christ. Too many modern preachers are so bent on understanding the culture that they develop the mind of the culture and not the mind of Christ. They start to think like the world, and not like the Savior. If I’m going to stand up in a pulpit and be a representative of Jesus Christ, I want to know how He thinks—and that must be my message to His people too. The only way to know and proclaim the mind of Christ is by being faithful to study and preach His Word. What happens to preachers who obsess about cultural “relevancy” is that they become worldly, not godly.

8. It depreciates by example the spiritual duty and priority of personal Bible study.

Why would people think they need to study the Bible if the preacher doesn’t do serious study himself in the preparation of his sermons?

9. It prevents the preacher from being the voice of God on every issue of his time.

When I speak, I want to be God’s messenger. I’m not interested in exegeting what some psychologist or business guru or college professor has to say about an issue. My people don’t need my opinion; they need to hear what God has to say.

10. It breeds a congregation that is as weak and indifferent to the glory of God as their pastor is.

When you tell people that the church’s primary ministry is to fix for them whatever is wrong in this life—to meet their needs, to help them cope with their worldly disappointments, and so on—the message you are sending is that their mundane problems are more important than the glory of God and the majesty of Christ. Again, that sabotages true worship.

11. It robs people of their only true source of help.

People who sit under superficial preaching become dependent on the cleverness and the creativity of the speaker. They are wowed by the preacher’s creativity and manipulated by the music, and that becomes their whole perspective on spirituality.

12. It encourages people to become indifferent to the Word of God and divine authority.

The preacher who always aims at meeting felt needs and strokes the conceit of worldly people has no platform from which to confront the man who wants to divorce his wife without cause. But if you are going to try to deal with sin and apply any kind of authoritative principle to keep the church pure, you must be preaching the Word.

13. It lies to people about what they really need.

[Preachers] lie to people about what they really need, promising them “fulfillment” and earthly well-being when what people really need is an exalted vision of Christ and a true understanding of the splendor of God’s holiness.

14. It strips the pulpit of power.

“The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). Everything else is impotent, giving merely an illusion of power. Human strategy is not more important than Scripture. The showman’s ability to lure people in should not impress us more than the Bible’s ability to transform lives.

15. It puts the responsibility on the preacher to change people with his cleverness.

We preachers can’t save people, and we can’t sanctify them. We can’t change people with our insights, our cleverness, by entertaining them or by appealing to their human whims and wishes and ambitions. There’s only One who can change sinners. That’s God, and He does it by His Spirit through the Word.

So pastors must preach the Word, even though it is currently out of fashion to do so (2 Tim. 4:2). That is the only way their ministry can ever truly be fruitful. Moreover, it assures that they will be fruitful in ministry, because God’s Word never returns to Him void; it always accomplishes that for which He sends it and prospers in what He sends it to do (Isa. 55:11).

-John MacArthur, Biblically-Anemic Preaching: The Devastating Consequences of a Watered-Down Message; 2 Timothy 4:2
http://www.gty.org/resources/Articles/A118/BiblicallyAnemic-Preaching-The-Devastating-Consequences-of-a-WateredDown-Message

What’s the Worst Heritage to Leave Your Kids?

Bible scholar Don Carson cautions us about parental hypocrisy by recalling the enduring impact of his parents’ prayerful example:

“My father was a church planter in Québec, in the difficult years when there was strong opposition, some of it brutal. Baptist ministers alone spent a total of eight years in jail between 1950 and 1952. Dad’s congregations were not large; they were usually at the lower end of the two-digit range.

On Sunday mornings after the eleven o’clock service, Dad would often play the piano and call his three children to join him in singing, while Mum completed the preparations for dinner. But one Sunday morning in the late fifties, I recall, Dad was not at the piano, and was not to be found.

I finally tracked him down. The door of his study was ajar. I pushed it open, and there he was, kneeling in front of his big chair, praying and quietly weeping. This time I could hear what he was saying. He was interceding with God on behalf of the handful of people to whom he had preached, and in particular for the conversion of a few who regularly attended but who had never trusted Christ Jesus.

In the ranks of ecclesiastical hierarchies, my father is not a great man. He has never served a large church, never written a book, never discharged the duties of high denominational office. Doubtless his praying, too, embraces idioms and stylistic idiosyncrasies that should not be copied.

But with great gratitude to God, I testify that my parents were not hypocrites. That is the worst possible heritage to leave with children: high spiritual pretensions and low performance. My parents were the opposite: few pretensions, and disciplined performance.

What they prayed for were the important things, the things that congregate around the prayers of Scripture. And sometimes when I look at my own children, I wonder if, should the Lord give us another thirty years, they will remember their father as a man of prayer, or think of him as someone distant who was away from home rather a lot and who wrote a number of obscure books.

That quiet reflection often helps me to order my days.”

Source: Don Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Baker, 1992), page 26.
http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/keeping-home-priorities-in-view

Worship and the Davidic Kings

“In the Old Testament no credence is given to kingship which does not share the character of obedient sonship, whether this be in the kingship Psalms or in the wider kingship theology of the Old Testament. The king was Yahweh’s ‘beloved’, the son of his choosing and the object of his gracious affections. In response, the kings of Israel were to love the Lord and his Law, and lead the nation in covenantal faithfulness to him. They were to shepherd the nation with integrity of heart (so Ps. 78:70-72 cf. I Kings 9:4f.), and to walk in humble worship and adoration before the Creator God who had adopted Israel as his son, and appointed them to rule over this chosen nation….

It also laid upon the king covenant obligations to walk in obedience to the Lord, such obedience being particularly emphasized in the matter of worship. Such worship would be faithful to Yahweh’s covenant Law, as expressed externally in theTemple, but as known internally in the attitude of a humble and obedient heart (cf. Ps. 51:17)….

Thus one of the prime aspects of his shepherd/guardian role over Israel was the preservation of true worship…including the removal of the high places and the promotion of true worship in the Temple. The reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah are particularly commended in this regard…

In short: where the kings of Israel led the nation in true worship of Yahweh, blessing was the result, and their reigns were commended in the writings of the former prophets. Where they refused to lead the nation in their covenantal obligations regarding worship, they and the nation reaped the curses of God’s judgment. Their epitaph is entirely negative, often linking them with ‘Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin’ (e.g. 1 Kings 16:26; 21:22; 22:52 etc.), especially by raising up false worship centers and encouraging idolatry…

The anointing of Jesus with the Spirit at his baptism thus identifies him as the covenant king of Israel, who is both the vice-regent of God and the covenantally obligated ruler of God’s people. His mission as the great Davidic King would hinge entirely on his worship of God. Its successful outcome would be a worshiping people, led by his own faithfulness to the throne of his Father. Jesus’ role as the purifier of the Temple (e.g. John 2:13-22) and the transformer of worship (e.g. John 4:19-24) is thus fully fitting for his kingly ministry over Israel and for his construction of a new Temple, far greater than that of Solomon or Herod.”

-Noel Due, Created for Worship: From Genesis to Revelation to You, Fern,Ross-shire, Scotland, Christian Focus Publications, 2005. 10-11

Stop Patronizing Women, Offer Support and the Truth

Recently a Texas judge upheld a law that requires a woman to be shown an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion. His decision was discussed on The View and Joyce Behar and Barbara Walters made the following stunning statements:

Joyce Behar: “It’s very totalitarian in my opinion. I mean, it smacks of forcing somebody to confront something that they have already decided they don’t want to deal with.”

So if a person doesn’t want to deal with something (in this case, someone), you just avoid it? Can you imagine applying this principle to other situations in your life? “I don’t want to deal with the fact that my daughter has been molested, so I’ll just ignore it.” “I don’t want to deal with my child being bullied at school, so I’ll just ignore it.” Countless people suffer tremendously because they don’t deal with the truth but disregard it.  Ignorance is not bliss. Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” It is very disrespectful to women to withhold truth from them. They need to know facts and see their unborn baby before they make a decision that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Women need support, not abortion.

Barbara Walters: “I think that in order to even think about having an abortion, to give up a child that is obviously unwanted, that’s why you’re doing it, it is such a tremendous decision, it’s involved with so much fear of what you’re doing, and guilt. 

Then to have to go and be forced to hear, to see the fetus, to hear the heartbeat, to put more guilt on you, I think is heartbreaking.”

So it’s all about how the woman feels, not about bringing harm to someone else? Notice her reference to “a child.” That’s no longer in question like it used to be. Now people admit it’s a child. They have to because it’s so clearly proven by the in utero technology we now have. But that doesn’t seem to matter. The message given on The View is that what really matters is what the woman wants. What selfishness! As a woman, I take great offense at these statements because they imply that what’s most important to a woman is how she feels, not what is true. “She shouldn’t be given all the facts, because that might make her feel guilty. After all, we must avoid guilt at all cost!” This undermines the strength of a woman and her ability to deal with what is true and to make wise choices in light of that truth.

And why is this such a “tremendous decision”? Why does it involve fear and guilt? Because this isn’t just another medical procedure like having your gall bladder removed. It involves another human being, a life that God ordained from the beginning of time. “For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13).

Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). It is always in the best interest of the woman to give life and to love another human being. That love might be expressed in the form of relinquishing her baby for adoption into a loving home or choosing to parent. But it will never be expressed by taking the life of her unborn child.

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Prov. 3:7).

 -Kathy Norquist, Executive Assistant to Randy Alcorn
http://www.epm.org/blog/2012/Mar/28/women-need-support-and-truth-not-abortion

The Proof of God’s Love

“The love of God towards the world is not a vague, abstract idea of mercy, which we are obliged to take on trust, without any proof that it is true. It is a love which has been manifested by a mighty gift. It is a love which has been put before us in a plain, unmistakable, tangible form. God the Father was not content to sit in heaven, idly pitying and loving His fallen creatures on earth. He has given the mightiest evidence of His love towards us by a gift of unspeakable value. He has “not spared His own Son—but delivered Him up for us all.” (Rom. 8:32). He has so loved us that He has given us His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ! A higher proof of the Father’s love could not have been given.”

-J.C. Ryle, Tract: Faith

Achu’s Hope Part II

-continued from yesterday-

“Dr. Dan Galat, orthopedic surgeon at Tenwek Hospital who has overseen Achu’s care, picks up the story:

As our orthopedic team evaluated Achu, the foul smell of necrotic flesh was strong, and our first thought was “there is no way to save her leg.” The piece of protruding bone was too large and after removing it, we were concerned that the remaining defect could never fill in with new and healthy bone. However, we were encouraged, as x-rays showed a surprisingly large bridge of new bone posteriorly, which explained why Achu, despite her condition, was still able to walk, bearing weight on her leg. In addition, we had the sense that God was at work and we were just along for the ride. So that same day, we took Achu to theatre, and removed this piece (approx. 3 inches) of dead sequestrum. Indeed, the hole it left in her leg was cavernous, but we could feel the bridge of bone posteriorly, and the leg miraculously felt very stable.

Achu is currently still in the hospital undergoing daily “whirlpool” therapy in a Jacuzzi-like tub to clear up any remaining signs of infection, and soon, we hope to continue wound VAC therapy which utilizes a sponge and suction to encourage formation of granulation tissue that will slowly fill in this defect. What is most striking to us now about Achu is her beautiful and continual smile, which, I believe, is the reflection of new-found hope. She knows there is a God who has seen her condition and is loving her with a perfect love.

Her story reminds me of Hagar, who when she met God, called him El Roi, “the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). God is answering her prayers (and the prayers of many others) and we are privileged to be a small part of this process, seeing yet another one of God’s miracles on behalf of the poor at Tenwek. I am humbled and moved to worship the Father who sees the neglected, the abused, and the hopeless.”

“Dr. Galat shared some specific prayer requests: that the new bone continues to strengthen and remodel so that it is healthy; that the defect would fill quickly with healthy granulation tissue; and that Achu’s time at Tenwek would allow her to experience how much God loves her.

As Nanci and I have read these various reports and articles about Achu, we have wept together. God’s hand upon this girl’s life is remarkable. What a privilege for EPM to help her live and walk and, we hope, to love Jesus with all her heart.

And thanks to those who kindly support EPM with your financial gifts. You had had a major role in the life of this little girl, and countless others.

-Randy Alcorn,  http://www.epm.org/blog/2012/Mar/23/god-who-sees-me-achus-hope

The God Who Sees Me: Achu’s Hope

“Can you remember what it was like to be a kid between Thanksgiving and Christmas? For most of us, the anticipation of Christmas coming was all we could talk about. Some things are like that—they’re so good we can’t get them off our minds. That’s definitely the case with the story of a Sudanese orphan named Achu.

Even though the New Republic of Sudan seceded fromSudanin 2011, after five decades of Islamic invasion, slavery, and genocide, there is still no infrastructure within the fledgling country. In fact, much of it is still under attack and bombed on a daily basis.

Since there is no other medical care available, thousands of people walk for hours, and even days, in the unbearable heat to visit the small Make Way Partners open-air clinic. With our extremely limited staff and resources, each sunrise delivers two to three times more patients piled and waiting around our door than those we can actually treat in one day.

So, each morning the clinic staff passes out vouchers—first come, first serve—to the waiting number of patients which the medical team deems they can treat that day. As hard as it is to do, all others are mercifully sent away so that they do not wait all day—in vain—under the unforgiving sun.

Dr. Matt Mooreland, MWP mission-team member, was finishing his second day of serving in 130 degree heat on the border of Darfur, Sudan when his eyes fell upon a frail child sitting in the door way. She had no life-saving voucher to wave before Dr. Matt. Early in the morning Achu had been told that she could not be seen that day…no room in the inn…she was sent away.

Persistent as the woman in Mark 7, who begged Jesus to treat her like a dog who ate the crumbs falling from his plate, Achu didn’t leave. She curled into a fetal position on the sidelines, where MWP indigenous director Lual Atak found her, and helped her toward the front of the clinic.

The miracle happened. Dr. Matt met Achu.

Bad news accompanied the miracle, however. As Dr. Matt unwound the filthy cloth tied around Achu’s twig-thin leg, he found that three to four inches of Achu’s bone protruded through her skin just below her knee. Pus poured out of the swollen wound, and the foul stench of decaying flesh quickly filled the room, forcing most of the nonmedical staff to leave.

Dr. Matt learned that the injury had occurred a year earlier: “Achu stated that a little over a year ago she was wrestling with a friend by the borehole in her village and her leg got twisted up.  Unable to bear weight, she crawled back home and stayed on the ground for almost two months straight. Her mother was dead, her father was a drunk, and the stepmother was refused any money for aid because all Achu’s father would do is drink it away. Because of her leg injury, Achu was not able to work, and her family blamed her for the loss of two otherwise healthy hands… After two months, she forced herself to start walking and moving around, and over time developed a way to function day to day, while completing her chores.”

But the story grew worse. Dr. Matt realized that the infection was so severe, that even with excellent medical care—which was not possible from our scantily-supplied-open-air clinic—Achu would surely lose her leg, if not her life.

In the words of Dr. Matt, “It was my duty to tell her there are no amount of medications to keep a dying piece of bone from eventually infecting her entire frail body. It was a devastating prognosis. Achu, who was without a smile already, dropped her head and stopped making eye contact with anyone. As medical professionals, we are taught to deliver bad news with honest, straight talk followed by a sincere attempt to show sympathy and hope. However, in this case, my response was long on sympathy and very short on hope. The facts are simply that the average citizen in this area of the world has no access to surgical services and no means to travel the hundreds of miles to obtain those services. I had just handed down Achu’s death sentence.”

The entire team remained in constant prayer for Achu. I’ve always been sort of a dragee when it came to social media, but I’d read a convincing article by John Piper a few months earlier about God using 140-character tweets just as powerfully as 30-minute sermons. We just have to work harder on getting them down to size! So I called on thousands of others to join in prayer, and realized John was right—God can indeed move through social media.

Thousand filled (and continue to fill) the no-man’s-land between Heaven and earth with prayer. Then, another miracle: Eternal Perspective Ministries wrote offering to cover Achu’s medical expenses, if Make Way Partners could coordinate it.

I called my friend Dr. Carol Spears at Tenwek Hospital inKenya and asked her if Tenwek would be able to treat Achu. Dr. Carol informed me that not only would they treat her, but also that Dr. Dan Galat, on staff, was a Mayo Clinic-trained orthopedic surgeon.

Miracle number too-many-to-count—a Mayo-trained orthopedic surgeon in the next country over, who was willing to operate on Achu! But we would need the stream of miracles to flow with whitewater power; getting Achu out ofSudanwould be no small task.

In order to justify not giving up any of his booze money, Achu’s father denied Achu needed help. So, even though we offered to cover all expenses from the private charter to get her out of war-tornSudan, to medical expenses inKenya, to food and lodging for her big sister to accompany her along the scary journey, Achu’s father refused. Drunken Sudanese men do not easily or usually change their minds, nor admit they are wrong.

Even if her father agreed to let us take Achu to Tenwek, we still only had a few days to create and file for approval the necessary travel and immigration documents to legally transport her across international borders. Achu is from a land where there are no birth certificates, identification papers, educational records, or immunization vaccines. She had never ridden in a car, much less flown on a plane.

Slowly-by-slowly, as they say inSudan, I kept making plans through Dr. Carol inKenya, and believers fromAlabamatoSwitzerlandandSudantoAustraliakept filling up that no-man’s-land with prayers. The stream of miracles raged on against the gates of evil, and Achu’s father suddenly agreed to let her go even as the local commissioner rushed together all the required travel documents.

This emaciated, abandoned orphan had every reason in the world to not trust anything we said. Yet, she boarded our plane in childlike faith, spreading her lips in a smile that lit all our hearts for the next eight hours of fly-time.

My seat sat backwards, like the old trains used to do, so that I was facing Achu. I studied her face as our World-War-II-era DC3 bounced down the trench-riddled dirt airstrip and rattled into ascension. I expected fear. I saw nothing but the pure unadulterated Hope that the One True Christmas is surely coming.

Achu had told Dr. Matt that a month before coming to the Make Way Partners clinic, she had started going into the local church and praying to God that she could find a way to get her leg fixed.  When she and her sister heard about the clinic, they traveled in faith, hoping that someone there could help her. Achu then stated that God had answered her prayer and that now—for the first time—she had hope.

Hebrews chapter 13 comes to me. With passionate exhortation the author exhorts us to stop trying to live the privileged life, and to go outside the camp—where Jesus lived and died, where the action is. I have lived on four different continents and traveled to many others. I know of no other place farther “outside the camp” thanSudan.

Thank you for joining Achu—and many other unadoptable orphans “outside the gate” in prayer, financial support, and sharing her story so that others might join her, too. Miraculous stories of Hope are like experiencing a childlike Christmas all over again; you just can’t stop talking about them and sharing the hope with others!

Love, your sister along the journey,

Kimberly L. Smith”

For the rest of the story, read here: http://www.epm.org/blog/2012/Mar/23/god-who-sees-me-achus-hope

What Heaven Is Missing

“Ask your average man-on-the-street what he thinks about “heaven,” and he’ll probably describe a place where just about everything people enjoy in this life is completely missing.

In the minds of most, things like vibrant colorgood foodloud musicclose friendships, and physical activity are all absent from heaven. They envision a place where everything is white, sterilized, and generally quiet—like a cosmic hospital or giant library in the sky. Heaven’s inhabitants float around like disembodied spirits with little halos, wearing white choir robes, sitting on clouds of cotton balls, and playing tiny harps for all of eternity. It’s like something out of a Precious Moments catalogue — the very opposite of anything exciting, enthralling, or eternally enjoyable. (No offense to those who collect small, winged, ceramic figurines.)

The sad reality is that too often, we as Christians can allow our own understanding of heaven to be tainted by the culture around us. But Hallmark must not define heaven for us. Hollywood must not define heaven for us. Centuries of monastic tradition must not define heaven for us.

Instead, only God’s Word can rightly inform our understanding of heaven. And when we go to the Scriptures, we find that our future home is anything but bland, boring, or quiet.

In particular, the eternal heaven (which Revelation 21–22 describes as a new earth) will be a place of vibrant color (Rev. 21:19–21; cf. 4:3), good food (22:2; cf. 19:7–9), loud music(cf. Rev. 5:8–13), intimate fellowship [with God Himself] (22:3–4), and joyous physical activity (21:24–26; cf. 1 Cor. 15:35–49).

The best this life has to offer cannot compare to heaven in any respect. The best thrills, the best joys, the best memories in this life are but shadows; our most wondrous, most profound, most heartfelt, most emotional, most fulfilling moments in this world, cannot hold a candle to the brilliant sun of heavenly experience.

Ironically, many of the wonderful things people enjoy in this life and assume will be missing from heaven, will in fact be part of life on the new earth—only in an infinitely better, eternally-perfected form.

So why write a post entitled “What Heaven Is Missing?”

Because there actually are some significant aspects of our current experience that will be absent from heaven. If we are to rightly understand just how wonderful heaven is going to be, we not only need to know what will be there … we also need to know what will be missing.

That’s why, in Revelation 21–22, the Apostle John spends as much time describing the new earth by telling us what will be absent from heaven, as he does telling us what will bepresent.

So what is heaven missing? Here’s a list of 17 items that John states will be absent from the new earth. Each of these represents some aspect of fallenness, rebellion, or divine judgment connected to this present world. And there will be no sign of corruption or judgment in the world to come.

1. No sea (Rev. 21:1) — In Scripture, the sea is often representative of evil, disorder, and chaos. Moreover, the ocean as we know it today is a result of God’s judgment in the Flood (Gen. 6-8). But all signs of evil and judgment will be gone in the new earth.

2. No longer any separation between God and man (vv. 2–3)

3. No tears, mourning, or crying (v. 4)

4. No pain (v. 4)

5. No death (v. 4)

6. Nothing that will not be made new (v. 5)

7. No spiritual thirst (v. 6)

8. No unredeemed sinner — whom John lists as the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, immoral persons, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars (v. 8); no one who practices abomination and lying (v. 27)

9. No temple (v. 22) — because God is the temple

10. No need for the sun or moon (v. 23; 22:5) — because God is the light

11. No need for a lamp (v. 23; 22:5)

12. No night (v. 25; 22:5) — and presumably no need of sleep for resurrected saints

13. No closing of the gates of the New Jerusalem (v. 25)

14. Nothing unclean (v. 27)

15. No one whose name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life (v. 27)

16. No curse (22:3)

17. No end to the eternal reign of Christ and His redeemed (22:5)

A short blog article does not permit us to go into detail on each of these items. But the point should be clear enough:

In order to underscore the wonder of the new earth, John contrasts the new earth with this one by emphasizing aspects of our fallen world which will be missing from heaven.Because sin and its corrupting consequences are such a normal part of this life, the apostle has to go to great length to emphasize the fact that absolutely none of that will be present in the life to come.

A Quick Illustration

There are times in our own experience, of course, when the best way to describe something is to contrast it with something that is familiar.

When I was in college, for example, I bought a used car.  It was a small four-door compact, and it suited my needs perfectly as a college student. The car was already seven years old when I bought it and it had 80,000 miles on it. But it ran great, and I kept it for another ten years.

By the time I finally got rid of it, it was in (very) bad shape. The engine still ran, but everything else about the car was clearly worn out. The struts were totally shot, so that I could feel every bump in the road. The air conditioning was broken; the paint was peeling; the seats were ripped and scarred. The doors were scratched; one of the side mirrors was broken off and being held on with duct tape.

The car would constantly fail its smog check, and was categorized by the state of California as a “gross polluter.” On multiple occasions, I had to go to the DMV and get a special permit to drive it around. It was too old to have a CD player, and the cassette player was broken too. One of the hubcaps was missing. Both the front and back bumpers were damaged; and at times the power steering wouldn’t work. Needless to say, the car was a mess.

I knew I couldn’t sell it. So I finally took it to a wrecking yard and said goodbye.   Then I went and bought a new car.

Now, if you had asked me to describe my new car, in the days after I bought it, I would probably have done so by describing as much about what it was missing as what it had:

“There is no longer any trouble starting the engine.”

“There are no more strange noises when I drive around.”

“I am no longer embarrassed when I see someone I know.”

Its paint was not peeling; its upholstery was not damaged; its hubcaps had not fallen off. No longer did I have to deal with a faulty suspension, a broken mirror, a damaged power-steering system, or the repeated frustrations of trying to pass a smog check.

Those were all things that characterized my old car. But they did not characterize the newone, because even though both are cars, the new car is exponentially better than the last.

Now that illustration is obviously limited. But it gives a sense of how the Apostle John uses contrast to describe the glories of heaven in Revelation 21–22. In the final two chapters of the Bible, he explains the greatness of the new earth by noting how different it will be than this sin-stained, broken-down, cursed and corrupt world system.

So what is heaven missing? A lot. But not in the way our popular culture thinks.

When we accurately understand the kinds of things that will be absent from our eternal home, it should only get us more excited to go there.”

-Nathan Busentiz, 03-22-12, http://thecripplegate.com/what-heaven-is-missing/

Walking While Black

“I still remember the first time it happened. I was dropping off my 17-year-old cousin at a friend’s house in the wealthy, whiteMassachusettssuburb in which I lived and where my father is still a professor. We knocked on the wrong door. Minutes later, I was pulled over by the police. Slight, young and scared, I was interrogated about my activities, whether I was delivering drugs and what I was up to.

I remembered. My parents had sat me down months before when I got my license. It doesn’t matter that you are an honors student. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never been in trouble a day in your life. It doesn’t matter that you are leaving to start attending Stanford this fall. When most of these police officers see you, all they will see is a young black girl and that can be dangerous. So, when you are harassed, and you will be, try to stay calm. Try not to be afraid and call us as soon as you can. A black teenager’s right of passage.

Since then I, a minivan-driving soccer mom of three, have been stopped because I “looked suspicious.” My husband, a partner in aDallaslaw firm, has watched white women clutch their purses in the elevator out of fear of him because he “looked suspicious.” One of my best friends from college, a Wall Street banker, was stopped last year after leaving a midweek choir rehearsal at his church and arrested for “looking suspicious” in his own tinyWestchestersuburb, and was forced to spend the night in jail. And my 26-year-old brother-in-law, a Princeton honors graduate, an ordained minister and a Habitat for Humanity staff member living in Harlem, was stopped and questioned while walking home from work by four white police officers just a six weeks ago because they thought “he looked suspicious — like he was looking into a van.” Thank God none of us were shot out of “self-defense” since our brown skin made us look so “suspicious.”

I am scared. It is not a new fear, but one that has never gone away, and is heightened as I look at my three beautiful boys. These precious ones, for whom my husband and I have lovingly and willingly sacrificed much; with whom I have stayed up countless nights, wiping noses and reading bedtime stories; for whom I have visited dozens of schools and spent hours of research, trying to find the right school; in short, the sons for whom I have given my life could find themselves in danger through no fault of their own.

Now they are growing up from babies into fine young men. And that should be nothing but pure joy. Yet, in our society, that also means new danger for them. Not just from the random violence that can touch any life, but due to the particular violence that is visited upon black boys — especially as they begin to look like young men.

We have to prepare them for what they will encounter because of someone else’s perception of who they are, based on media images that portray black boys and men as predators, pimps and thugs — even though my sons have no personal reference for this. No, the black men in their lives are loving, responsible and hard-working fathers, uncles, teachers and friends, who model courage and conviction, values and virtue, and family and faith.

So, how could it not be the case that the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin inFloridalast month breaks my heart, troubles my soul and compels me to action. How can it be that, a month later, his shooter has not even been charged with a crime? How can it be that we live in a country that we fight to defend, but where the taking of our sons’ lives does not even warrant their killers’ arrest? How can it be that this child’s life was taken simply because he was walking while black? How can this be theAmericathat I love? Sadly, so little has changed.

My well-meaning white friends have no idea why so many African-Americans distrust or fear the police who have vowed to protect and serve. And they have no idea what it is like for black parents to have to prepare their children to deal with a public that often still judges them by the color of their skin. These friends are so committed to the idea that we live in a color-blind society that it is hard for them even to perceive, let alone to help change, the reality that impacts our lives and the lives of our children daily.

I learned in law school, and it is still true today, that it is the color of the victim, not the perpetrator, that is the one of the greatest determinants in criminal sentencing. The harshest penalties are given for crimes against white women and the least harsh, even for the same crimes, are meted out when the victim is “only” black.

So, I can’t make nice. I can’t pretend. The killing of Trayvon Martin could be the killing of any black boy going to the store for iced tea and candy, including my sons. The clock is ticking, and justice has not been served. The clock is ticking, and my sons will be black young men soon. And my husband and I have to prepare to have the same talk with them that my parents had with me. You are bright. You are funny and smart and sometimes silly. Your laughter and smiles fill up the room when you enter. And your warmth and your hugs fill my heart with more happiness and joy than any one person has a right to expect in a lifetime. You are capable of being anything you want to be in this life — even President of theUnited Statesone day. But when you walk out of the safety, protection and loving arms of our home, you are walking while black, and only our prayers can protect you then.”

-Frances Cudjoe Waters, 03-21-2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frances-cudjoe-waters/trayvon-martin-black-boys-mothers_b_1369971.html

20 Reasons I Don’t Take Potshots at Fundamentalists

1. They are humble and respectful and courteous and even funny (the ones I’ve met).

2. They believe in truth.

3. They believe that truth really matters.

4. They believe that the Bible is true, all of it.

5. They know that the Bible calls for some kind of separation from the world.

6. They have backbone and are not prone to compromise principle.

7. They put obedience to Jesus above the approval of man (even though they fall short, like others).

8. They believe in hell and are loving enough to warn people about it.

9. They believe in heaven and sing about how good it will be to go there.

10. Their “social action” is helping the person next door (like Jesus), which doesn’t usually get written up in the newspaper.

11. They tend to raise law-abiding, chaste children, in spite of the fact that Barna says evangelical kids in general don’t have any better track record than non-Christians.

12. They resist trendiness.

13. They don’t think too much is gained by sounding hip.

14. They may not be hip, but they don’t go so far as to drive buggies or insist on typewriters.

15. They still sing hymns.

16. They are not breathless about being accepted in the scholarly guild.

17. They give some contemporary plausibility to New Testament claim that the church is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth.”

18. They are good for the rest of evangelicals because of all this.

19. My dad was one.

20. Everybody to my left thinks I am one. And there are a lot of people to my left.

John Piper, June 2, 2008
-John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis,MN) and the founder of Desiring God.
http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/20-reasons-i-dont-take-potshots-at-fundamentalists