Sunday, February 19, 2012

51 Minutes (or so) in Heaven

I've always been dubious when I've heard about books where people say it happened to them, but today it happened to me and the experience I had was absolutely trustworthy. I know of many people who long to get a peek, just a glimpse, into what happens when they die, so they buy people's testimonies about glimpses, trips, experiences, dreams, where they saw, visited, experienced, gazed at, heven or hell. These readers all seem to have one thing in common: they long for a deeper assurance of the eternal, and they want other people in their lives to be jarred into these greater realities as well. But I've always found this unsettling, because although there is a God who reveals glimpses of the eternal to people, there is also an enemy who deceives, not to mention deceitful people out there who write lies in order to get rich. But I know for certain that my story is true and certain and to be trusted, and I come away from it feeling an assurance of the eternal that is absolutely to be trusted. Let me tell you what happened to me today.

It all started with my friend John. God led him to heaven for several hours this week, and today he led me, my wife, and about a thousand other people to see the very same realities. John is my pastor, and he is preaching through the book of Revelation. And my wife and I agree that as we were sitting under this ministry this morning, we were transported to see heaven (and hell) in a way that has changed us.

This should not shock anyone. In reference to his preaching, the Apostle Paul told the Galatians: "It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified" (Gal 3:1b, ESV). Paul's preaching gave people a visual display of the the realities he proclaimed. In another place, Paul said that "All Scripture is breathed out by God" (2 Tim 3:16a). So when I heard my pastor open God's living Word this morning, read it, and proclaim its message to us, I should not be surprised that I was, and about a thousand other people were, transported. That he is currently preaching through the book of Revelation explains why I saw heaven in particular so clearly.

And so it comes back to me as a preacher. As I evaluate myself I need to ask, 'will my preaching lead people to a clearer vision of Christ crucified?'; 'am I preaching from all parts of God's Word (including Revelation), so that God's people have a vision of heaven that they long for?'; 'will my preaching leave people wondering about the eternal, wanting a bit more of a peek, leading them to buy less-than reliable books when the absolutely trustworthy, living Word of God simply needs to be declared to them and they would be transported to another world?'. I think that preachers are too quick to mock those books and not quick enough to evaluate themselves and what the popularity of those books must say about their own preaching. To a man (or woman), every person I know who buys books of personal testimony about trips to heaven or hell have at least two things in common: 1) they have good motives; they sincerely want to understand more deeply and live more for the eternal; 2) they find the book of Revelation daunting and confusing.

I am thankful to be under the faithful ministry of a man so gifted and godly. I am thankful that he is preaching through Revelation, and, as he often says in sermons, inviting us to put on these new lenses through which we will see the world. I am thankful that my friend in Toronto has begun a series on the same book!

To download my Pastor, John Mahaffey's series as it unfolds, go here.

To check out the Canadian Gospel Coalition Conference he is organizing, click here.

To listen to John Piper's testimony of having God actually speak to him, click here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Middle-Aged White Guy's Guide to Christian Rap

My buddy Tim Challies has provided the following helpful (and hilarious) infographic (I think you can click on it to view the full version):

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tim Keller on New York City's Ban on Churches Meeting in Public Schools

By Tim Keller....

[This was posted today on]

I am grieved that New York City is planning to take the unwise step of removing 68 churches from the spaces that they rent in public schools. It is my conviction that those churches housed in schools are invaluable assets to the neighborhoods that they serve. Churches have long been seen as positive additions to communities. Family stability, resources for those in need, and compassion for the marginalized are all positive influences that neighborhood churches provide. There are many with first-hand experience who will claim that the presence of churches in a neighborhood can lead to a drop in crime.

The great diversity of our city means that we will never all agree completely on anything. And we cherish our city’s reputation for tolerance of differing opinions and beliefs. Therefore, we should all mourn if disagreement with certain beliefs of the church is allowed to unduly influence the formation of just policy and practice.

I disagree with the opinion written by Judge Pierre Leval that: “A worship service is an act of organized religion that consecrates the place in which it is performed, making it a church.” This is an erroneous theological judgment; I know of no Christian church or denomination that believes that merely holding a service in a building somehow “consecrates” it, setting it apart from all common or profane use. To base a legal opinion on such a superstitious view is surely invalid. Conversely, I concur with Judge John Walker’s dissenting opinion that this ban constitutes viewpoint discrimination and raises no legitimate Establishment Clause concerns.

A disproportionate number of churches that are affected by this prohibition are not wealthy, established communities of faith. They are ones who possess the fewest resources and many work with the poor. Redeemer has many ties with those churches and their pastors, and our church community invests time and resources to assist them to be good neighbors in their communities.

Let them be those good neighbors. I am hopeful that the leaders of New York City and the legislators of New York State will see the value of a society that encourages all spheres of culture—the church, government, education, business, etc—to work together for human flourishing.

Dr. Timothy Keller
Senior Pastor
Redeemer Presbyterian Church

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Carl Trueman: Gnosticism, Nicea and Celebrity

I think it is wise to be following the whole controversy surrounding the Elephant Room 2, as it helps us think through: 1) the importance of theology; 2) the issue of celebrity pastors; 3) the issue of authority: who we listen to today....not to mention the fact that like 'em or not, the people involved are all influential within the church.

As usual, Carl Trueman offers a very helpful critique. As I do a 'mirror reading' of his little piece, I'm guessing that he's responding to some comments made by James McDonald. A few of the many helpful paragraphs reads as follows (after pointing out that many people who participated in the Council of Nicea had suffered for their Trinitarian theology):
That someone is willing to die for a cause does not sanctify it; but when you add to this that Nicene orthodoxy has been universally agreed upon as important by millions of Christians of multiple races, nationalities and age profile, through sixteen centuries, surely that should give us pause for thought. The questions asked at Nicea were important and they were asked by serious men, men serious enough to risk death for their faith. To dismiss all this with a wave of the hand or through simple lack of knowledge and competence, and to follow this up by playing the race card, is an interesting move.

But hey, if a bunch of middle-aged American pastors in the Elephant Room tell you Nicea and its delegates -- and all the Christians who have suffered and died to maintain its truth over the centuries -- are irrelevant, who am I to question them? To do so would surely be the height of arrogance. Ahem.
Read the whole thing here.

James McDonald is a very good popularizer, but obviously, not a great theologian. He would be an excellent church leader if he surrounded himself with great theologians and listened to them. That he has failed to do this thus far, severely limits his ability to shepherd a growing movement effectively. It's too bad.