Heaven is for Real

With the movie Heaven is for Real coming out this week, I’ve gotten questions on whether I think this book and movie is worth seeing and reading and if it is true. This is the best thing I’ve found on it.

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Are visits to heaven real?

It is quite true that heaven is a place of perfect bliss—devoid of all sorrow and sin, full of exultation and enjoyment—a place where grace and peace reign totally unchallenged. Heaven is where every true treasure and every eternal reward is laid up for the redeemed. Anyone whose destiny is heaven will certainly experience more joy and honor there than the fallen mind is capable of comprehending—infinitely more than any fallen creature deserves. But if you actually saw heaven and lived to tell about it, those things are not what would capture your heart and imagination.

Yancey Arrington on What to do when you’re in a preaching funk.

It seemed every time I stepped down from the pulpit my heart was full of frustration because, in my estimation, my sermons felt chunky, cluttered, or confused. There was an aimlessness about them. Everything kept coming off flat. They weren’t, for lack of a better term, ‘clicking’ in the hearts of the congregation (or for me for that matter). I would have people speak encouraging things to me after services but they were of the generic, southern politeness, garden-variety remarks that you would get no matter what because people are kind. And even if those messages were good, I didn’t feel that way. And if you don’t think your sermons are good, it doesn’t matter what others tell us. And for quite a season, that’s exactly how I felt. It was a Sahara of preaching because I felt desolate in the pulpit. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake it. I still look back on that season and shudder. I hated it and wouldn’t wish it on any preacher.

Carolyn McCulley on How women easily confuse what they do with who they are.

Any change in what we do can easily trigger a crisis of identity — what is the story we are now to tell others about ourselves? While I think this is true for men, I think it is different, and perhaps more pronounced, for women because our productivity choices are scrutinized more often than those of men. That’s why the most divisive terms may be the dreaded “working mothers” versus “stay at home mothers.” If it were a simple description of the location of female productivity, that would be one thing. But these phrases are loaded with guilt and judgment.

Kevin DeYoung on Celebrity Pastors.

The term “celebrity pastor” is decidedly pejorative. I don’t know anyone who would be happy to own the phrase. That doesn’t mean we can’t use it. But it means we should not attach it to pastors in a knee jerk way. A Christian with some combination of influence, social media followers, books, a large church, and speaking engagements may be a public Christian or a well known individual, but let’s not use “celebrity pastor” unless we mean to say he relishes the spotlight, has schemed his way into the spotlight, and carries himself as being above mere mortals. Does this fit some popular preachers? Probably. Does it fit all of them? By no means.

Mark Dance on Should pastors be excited about everything?

Pastors sometimes feel pressure to show equal excitement about all of the ministries in our church, lest we show a hint of favoritism.  Well meaning members and staff lobby for their ministry’s rightful place in the promotional rotation, budget and church calendar.  Some of them even pressure the pastor to give a shout-out from the pulpit.

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Rob Bell, his New Book and the Definition of Love

The blog world went crazy today (at least among pastors). News of Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. I have been a fan of Rob Bell’s few several years, he has challenged me, pushed my thinking and helped to shape my beliefs by the questions he has forced me to ask. I try not to throw out good books because I disagree with them as many Christians seem to do. In fact, some of my greatest growth in terms of my spiritual journey and theological beliefs have come from the writings of Rob Bell and Brian McLaren with the questions they forced me to wrestle with. Depending on your maturity, how long you have followed Jesus and some other factors should go into deciding to read books that you disagree with theologically.

So, what is this all about? Bell’s new book comes out in March and his publisher released a description:

Fans flock to his Facebook page, his NOOMA videos have been viewed by millions, and his Sunday sermons are attended by 10,000 parishioners—with a downloadable podcast reaching 50,000 more. An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Time magazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation. Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins.

Now, as a speaker and filmmaker, Rob Bell is second to very few. They also released a trailer to go with the book, which is now all the rage.

While it is difficult to know what all will be Bell’s book, this gives a pretty good idea what the gist is and taking the leap from his other writings it isn’t surprising that this is the turn he is taking. Bell’s point about who knows where people stand is true. We are not the judges and all I have to go on about his book is this video, description and what I’ve heard him say in sermons before this.

Here is where I struggle with universalism. Jesus did not die on a cross to save us from God. He died on a cross to rescue us from our sin to be made right with God. Like Bell, I believe love wins, but not how he describes it. To believe in universalism, you have to toss the idea of sin, the idea that God is holy and set apart, different. You have to toss the belief that Jesus died on the cross, the beauty, glory and agony of that love. Why would he have to do that if “love wins” and we all “get in.”

Think about it as a parent, if I see that my kids are doing something destructive, will I stand by and do nothing? If they do something wrong, are there consequences I will bring to bear or natural consequences they will have to experience? Yes. It is the same with God. The idea of universalism creates this image of a God who is needy for me. Saying, “It doesn’t matter if you have spent your entire life living as if I don’t exist, in total opposition to the way I have dreamed creation to live, come spend eternity with me.”

Love does win. Love has won, but not the way Bell says it does (but I am interested to read his book).

HT: Justin Taylor

For some more helpful thoughts, check out what Kevin DeYoung and Brent Thomas had to say.