god

Will Christians Love Their Spouses In Heaven?

Long distance relationship.

That’s what my wife and I were in for over a year before we got married. I lived in Southern California. She lived in Arizona. And it was terrible. It doesn’t take long to realize that it’s not the way a relationship is supposed to be.

I remember how much I would miss her; how I’d look forward to holidays like Spring break and Christmas. Just to see her. And to get rid of Skype! (Which we were both thankful for and ready to never use again)

After we got engaged, I remember thinking, “I can’t stand the long distance factor in our relationship now — I want to be with her more than anything. Will there ever be a time, in heaven for example, when I’ll have to be parted from her again? Will marriage, and the love that it creates [which I was anticipating], be done away with in heaven?” I was hoping that heaven would be some kind of continuation of that blissful longing and loving.

What bliss marriage has been! But I think now, after being married for just a few months, I’m in a better space to hear C.S. Lewis’ answer to my question, “will I love Anna in heaven the same way that I do now?”

If you’re a married Christian, or hope to be married someday, will you love your spouse in heaven? In his discussion of “Charity,” the fourth love, in his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes,

Theologians have sometimes asked whether we shall “know one another” in Heaven, and whether the particular love-relations worked out on earth would then continue to have any significance.

It seems reasonable to reply: “It may depend what kind of love it had become, or was becoming, on earth.”

For, surely, to meet in the eternal world someone for whom your love in this, however strong, had been merely natural, would not be (on that ground) even interesting. Would it not be like meeting in adult life someone who had seemed to be a great friend at your preparatory school solely because of common interests and occupations? If there was nothing more, if he was not a kindred soul, he will now be a total stranger. Neither of you now plays conkers. You no longer want to swop your help with his French exercise for his help with your arithmetic. In Heaven I suspect, a love that had never embodied Love Himself would be equally irrelevant. For Nature has passed away. All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.

We were made for God. Only by being in some respect like Him, only by being a manifestation of His beauty, loving-kindness, wisdom or goodness, has any earthly Beloved excited our love.

It is not that we have loved them too much, but that we did not quite understand what we were loving. It is not that we shall be asked to turn from them, so dearly familiar, to a Stranger. When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it.

He has been a party to, has made, sustained and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because His.

In Heaven there will be no anguish and no duty of turning away from our earthly Beloveds. First, because we shall have turned already; from the portraits to the Original, from the rivulets to the Fountain, from the creatures He made lovable to Love Himself. But secondly, because we shall find them all in Him. By loving Him more than them we shall love them more than we do now.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pp 137-139

3 Reasons to Read “What’s Best Next” by Matt Perman

What's Best NextDoes God actually have anything to say about getting things done? Is it even possible to have a biblical perspective on such a practical subject like how to get things done? And should we even care about it as Christians, or is it unspiritual?

That’s the question Matt Perman wants to answer in his new book, “What’s Best Next.” It releases on Tuesday, March 4, and I want to commend it to you.

A short disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy to read and review, but am not being compensated in any way to provide a favorable review. These are my honest thoughts about what Matt has written and how it might interest you.

Here are three reasons that normal people (not just executives, managers, or productivity buffs) will enjoy this book:

1.It’s easy to read

Brevity: (Most of) The chapters are short, and this makes it a breeze to read.  A quick look at the table of contents will show you that the chapters are mostly 10-15 pages long, which means that the average reader can manage about a chapter a night. This helps.

Clarity: I would say that Perman’s writing style is informal, but precise. The most important ideas are easy to find, thanks to grayed-out boxes on the pages that highlight key terms, main points, and important quotes. This not a book that you’re going to struggle to understand. Most chapters end with a “core point,” “core quote,” and “immediate application.” I was never left wondering what to do with the stuff I’d just read.

2. It’s God-centered

It’s unfortunate, but the phrases “God-centered” and “gospel-centered” have become a bit of a buzz word in Christian circles. If you say that something is “gospel centered,” you’re in the club/circle. It’s also unfortunate that, in light of this, you can find yourself surprised when a book actually lives up to the claim, “this is a God-centered take on [insert an issue here].” What’s Best Next actually does. So, what does a gospel-centered perspective on productivity look like? Here are some quotes to give you a feel for the way it’s presented in the book:

As Christians, we are here to serve (Matt. 20:25 – 28). When we are being productive, we are actually doing good works, which is part of the purpose for which God created us (Eph. 2:10). A good approach to getting things done reduces the friction in doing good and also amplifies our ability to do good.

… getting things done, making ideas happen, and being productive are all ways to make a difference in people’s lives. As Christians, we ought to care about this and be excited about it, for it is not only exciting in itself, but one of the chief ways God is glorified in our lives.

And the paragraph that struck me most:

The essence of GDP [gosepl-centered productivity] is this: We are to use all that we have, in all areas of life, for the good of others, to the glory of God—and that this is the most exciting life. To be a gospel-driven Christian means to be on the lookout to do good for others to the glory of God, in all areas of life, and to do this with creativity and competence. Further, being gospel-driven also means knowing how to get things done so that we can serve others in a way that really helps, in all areas of life, without making ourselves miserable in the process through overload, overwhelm, and hard-to- keep-up systems.

Or consider Ephesians 5:17, the fundamental New Testament passage on time management. This passage speaks of time management as not being chiefly about applying correct principles to our lives but being about understanding “the will of the Lord” and doing it. Productivity is specifically about doing “the will of the Lord.” It’s about specifically orienting our lives and decisions around God’s will.

3. It’s practical

Theology ought to be the most practical thing in the world. What has more relevance to everyday life than the God who made it? In What’s Best Next, you’ll find a gospel-centered perspective on productivity that’s actually practical. This shouldn’t be noteworthy, but it is. Here are 2 things that Perman covers:

  • email. I’ve been using his system to deal with email for a few months, and have saved myself an absurd amount of time. He outlines this process in the book. If you’d like a preview you can find his blog post on it here, or get it as a pdf here.
  • weekly plans. This is one of the key ideas in the book. A whole chapter is dedicated to helping the reader figure out, “how can I plan proactively for the upcoming day/week/month so that I’m doing what I really need to do?” This is about as practical as it gets.

Get the book!

Again, I’m not getting paid to blog about this book. But I can’t recommend it to you enough. Matt Perman’s blog, which goes by the same name as the book — http://whatsbestnext.com/ — has been an enormous help to me as I figure out how to organize my life and work. My guess is that

  • if you’ve got more to do than you think you can handle
  • if you find youself fogetting important things
  • if you want to be able to more projects and tasks better

then you’re going to love this book. Pre-order it on Amazon here, or you can get it WTS books here for 4$ less!

Did Jesus Exist? Part 1: What the Greeks and Romans Said

How do we know that Jesus actually existed?

In the four Gospels we have about 300 individual and unique literary units all generated by this figure: Jesus Christ. There’s no doubt that the early church thought he existed. Their lives were radically changed because of who he was, what he did, and the things said. But how do we know that our gospels aren’t simply Christian delusion, or the result of an ancient conspiracy that went just a little better than planned? Are the Gospels the only place that we hear about Jesus?

The answer is a firm “no.” We have several written documents besides the Gospels that mention Jesus. While it’s true that the Gospels are the main place we hear about Jesus, it’s not true that they’re the only place. Other ancient witnesses testify to the existence of Jesus. And even though that doesn’t settle the question, “was he who he said he was?” it does answer the question, “did he exist to say these things?” And that’s what I want to focus on in these posts. What evidence, outside the four Gospels, do we have for Jesus’ existence?

Greco-Roman Sources

1. Tacitus

Tacitus (AD 56-117) was a Roman historian who described the persecution that Christians faced during Nero’s reign. Tacitus refers to Jesus through his latin name, “Christus.” Speaking of the Christians, he says

“They got their name from Christus who was sentenced to death during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate.”

Annals, 15.44.

Tactitus goes on to describe the way that the Christian movement was “checked,” or stopped, because of the crucifixion of Jesus. Unfortunately for the Romans, the movement “broke out” once again both in Judea and in Rome.

… a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome

Annals, 15.44.  It’s clear that Tacitus thought of Christians as a nuisance. His words mock Christianity, “mischievous superstition,” “evil.” Tactitus’ historiographical skill and anti-Christian bent leads many scholars to believe that Annals 15.44 is the most important and trustworthy reference to Christians and Christ we have outside the Gospels themselves. There is no way that a Christian would refer to their own movement in this way.

2. Suetonius

In the early second century (100’s), another Roman historian, Suetonius, wrote,

Because the Jews at Rom caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from the city

Suetonius: The Twelve Caesars, §25. There’s a lot of debate about this section in Suetonius’ history. One of the main issues is whether Suetonius is actually referring to the Christ, Jesus. The “misspelling,” is at the root of the confusion. Is “Chrestus” a reference to Christ? Or is this another figure in Rome?

I’m inclined to say that Suetonius is referring to Christ for two main reasons:

  1. The Jews and Christians in Rome (and everywhere) did not get along. The book of Acts testifies to this. 1st century Jews and Jewish Christians had numerous irreconcilable religious differences that would have (and did) lead to many disputes and conflict. This would’ve happened in Rome only if there were someone for them to fight with: those instigated by Christ, the Christians.
  2. The majority (though not all) of writing I’ve read on this quote seems to evaluate it this way: “a garbled reference to Christ.” Once you’ve considered Tactitus’ reference to Christ and Pliny’s reference to the problems Christians are making him face, that seems to be a fair evaluation. Christians probably did exist to create these issues for government.

3. Pliny the Younger

Around the same time, in the early second century, a governor of Bithynia (in Asia) named Pliny the Younger wrote to the emperor Trajan wanting to know how to deal with Christians who wouldn’t worship Trajan. Pliny mentions “that on an appointed day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak, and to recite a hymn to Christ as to a god.” Documents of the Christian Church, Henry Bettenson, pg 5-7, cited Four Gospels, One Jesus, pg 39 by Mark Strauss.

Darrel Bock, in his class on the “Life of Christ,” says that the evidence of opponents can sometimes be worth more than we first think. It’s especially true in this case. In Pliny the Younger, we have an enemy of Christianity with something very important to say: the Christian trouble-makers worshiped Christ as though he were a God.

A Pending Conclusion

“In summary, Greco Roman writers of the late first and early second centuries are aware that Jesus was a Judean who was crucifed by Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius, and that his followers now venerated him as a god.”

There are certain questions that historical research can (usually) answer: Did a person exist? What did they say? How were they received? These are all legitimate questions that can be addressed by going to the sources. It does seem Jesus existed. We do have a record of what he said. And we know exactly how he was received: at once with enthusiasm, and finally with blows. But there are questions that historical inquiry cannot answer: Is it true? Of how much value was this person? Were they justified in doing what they did? Once these kinds of questions are run through a text, they us up off the ground and into the air of evaluation and judgement.

But because of these 3 Greco Roman sources we have this firm ground beneath our feet: A Judean man. Governed by Pontius Pilate. Crucified. Worshiped. [1] That’s what the Greek and Roman sources tell us.

1. Four Gospels, One Jesus, pg 39 by Mark Strauss.

The New Testament & Old Testament in 10 Minutes

These two videos has been making their rounds across the Christian blogosphere. In them you’ll see two trustworthy and articulate thinkers presenting the essence of each Testament. The essence. See, for yourself, if the Bible is an amazingly unified whole:

The Old Testament in 10 Minutes

The New Testament in 10 Minutes

Was Jesus’ Self-Centered? John Stott Answers

stottJohn Stott helping us to understand what Jesus thought about himself.

This self-centeredness of the teaching of Jesus immediately sets him apart from the other great religious teachers of the world. They tend to be self-effacing. He is self-advancing. They point people away from themselves, saying, “That is the truth, so far as I understand it; follow that.” Jesus says “I am the truth; follow me.” No other religious founder who dared to say such a thing would be taken seriously. The personal pronoun forces itself repeatedly on our attention as we read his words. For example:

[John 6:35 ESV] 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

[John 8:12 ESV] 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

[John 11:25-26 ESV] 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

[Matthew 11:28-29 ESV] 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Basic Christianity, John Stott, pg 34.

God is love. Love isn’t God.

It happens in marriage:

…when we realize we’ve married someone selfish, we discard the dream and become cynical about the possibility of love. We set ourselves up for failure by overloading love with far more than it can bear. Married love as a source of life crashes on the rocks of human depravity. … But love and relationships were never meant to be the center. Love is not god. God is love.

Paul Miller, A Loving Life, pg 38.

And it shows up in the Bible:

St John’s saying that God is love has long been balanced in my mind against the remark of a modern author (M. Denis de Rougemont) that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god”; which of course can be re-stated in the form “[love] begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pg 6-7.

Love by George Herbert

A poem by George Herbert about the way that God loves us. It’s not for the faint of heart — there are some tricky words and less than crystal clear sentences.

My favorite lines: ‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame Go where it doth deserve.’ ‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

Kingship: The Reason We Love Middle Earth

Tony Reinke, being insightful as always.

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

On a massive scale in The Lord of the Rings, and on a smaller, but no less significant, scale in The Hobbit, we encounter the longing for the right king to emerge from the shadows and to recapture his rightful empire…

Today, kings are mostly marginalized to meaningless pageantry. But there remains in kingship an enduring significance that is inescapable, something deeply burned into our souls, something telling us the world will only prosper when it’s ruled by the true king.

Where no kings reign, evil reigns. Tolkien knows this. This is what makes the Misty Mountains so treacherous for the company of Bilbo, the dwarves, and Gandalf, the travelers in The Hobbit. From the outset of their journey together, the wise wizard knows full well that to travel “over those great tall mountains with lonely peaks and valleys where no king ruled,” meant danger and “fearful adventure.”

The Hobbit should be read (or viewed) as a clash of competing kings, and when the rightful king returns, evil is imperiled. The great dragon Smaug must be struck down, and he will be, and rumors of his death will unleash waves of lesser evils, all vying for the wealth of the Lonely Mountain.

All these evil, greedy marauders must be driven from the Lonely Mountain, and such victory is tied to kingship.

Reinke then quotes a beautiful passage from a sermon by Tim Keller, which helps us see that Tolkien was not the first to feel, or depict, this yearning:

The reason for the old myths, the reason for the new myths (all the superhero myths are new myths about kings), the reason we adore kings and create them is because there is a memory trace in the human race, in you and me, of a great King, an ancient King, one who did rule with such power and wisdom and compassion and justice and glory so his power and wisdom and compassion and glory were like the sun shining in full strength. We know we were built to submit to that King, to stand before and adore and serve and know that King.

That’s what the Bible says. The Bible says there is a King above the kings. There is a King behind the kings. There is a King beneath all of those legends. Even the greatest kings are just dim reflections of the memory trace in us.

It’s a beautiful and well written piece. Head over to Desiring God and read it in full.

How Can God Be Good In Suffering?

I don’t know exactly why, but this video encouraged me tremendously. Perhaps it’s because these men exude such incredible confidence about the applying the gospel to life, while I’ve been focused (for a while) on what you might call “theoretical” issues.

Whatever the reason, I was stunned and encouraged and uplifted and corrected and confronted by their honest advice about what to do and think when suffering strikes.

These guys have experienced degrees and lengths of suffering I’m not sure I ever have. Perhaps you’ll be helped by their measured words (I didn’t hear one stray or flippant thought) and real-life encounters with God in the midst of suffering.

The Interpretive Toolbox: Follow the Trail

CC Image courtesy of Ed Coyle Photography on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of Ed Coyle Photography on Flickr

My wife and I aren’t exactly avid hikers, but we like to walk easy trails. One trail, in the mountains near us, has an easy one mile loop that saunters down and around several scenic spots. Just after the trail head it cuts up through an apple orchard, runs past a small lake, and then skirts down the gentle mountain slopes that mark the edge of the property. Then a fork. Turn left and you’re led through tall reeds that brush up against either side of a suspended wooden platform. Turn right and you’re plunged into a small dell.

I stand at that fork and consider my options. What would it be like if I went down the diving right hand trail? I would come up the other side out of breath! What would it be like if I took the gentle left hand turn? I’d reach the same end, but much more composed, to be sure.

Sometimes the best way to understand a passage in the Bible is to do something similar. When we reach an interpretive fork – a place where we’re presented with seemingly similar options – we just need to stop and consider the outcomes of going down each path. What would the passage mean if we followed this train of thought? What if we went a totally different route?

Luke 22

A really interesting place to do this is Luke 22:66-71. In this little passage, Jesus is being presented before the Jewish council for questioning. It’s the last of these meetings, and the elders tell Jesus, “If you are the Christ, tell us.”

Follow the trail with me.

What would likely happen if Jesus went ahead and told them that he was the Messiah?

  • They most likely wouldn’t believe. Context tells us they’re already set on getting Jesus crucified.
  • They would have a confession from Jesus himself.
  • They would be able to tell Pilate that Jesus thought of himself (that Jesus told them) he was the “Messiah” or the King of the Jews.

Following the trail here helps us see why Jesus answers the way that he does. The Jewish leadership are not looking for evidence to weigh and consider – they’re looking for a claim to political authority that they can tell Pilate about. In this light, Jesus’ answer to them makes a lot of sense. He says, “If I tell you, you will not believe.”

In verse 69, Jesus claims that he’ll be able to permanently dwell in God’s presence – which, for a first century Jew, profanes the uniqueness of God and is worthy of the death penalty. So we see that if Jesus was going to be indicted for something, he would have it be a claim of ontological equality – not political authority. He would be known as God’s Son, not Caesar’s challenger.

If you follow the trail, you understand the passage better. What would have been the outcome if Jesus went this way? What if he went another way? When you get to a fork, stay there for a while. Consider your options. And then walk the interpretive walk.