The Grief of Finite Joy

Somehow my oldest child is a freshman in high school. As I’ve experienced those where-did-the-time-go emotions that come with such minor milestones, I’ve started to feel a deep, preemptive loss.

I have loved being a parent. It has been one of the best callings in my life. My sadness at (possibly) having less than four years left with my daughter at home is not mere nostalgia for familiar or picturesque days. In the midst of a happy season, I can see its end on the horizon.

I’m not alone in this, and these feelings are not reserved for parents. I’ve felt this same grief in the middle of a family vacation as the lightness of the first few days becomes weighted with regret as I feel the end approaching.

This grief creeps into small things too, like stretching out the end of a good book to avoid snapping the cover closed for the last time. Or savoring a delicious coffee so long that it turns cold and sour.

This is a narrow, specific kind of grief, but it can be stifling. At times I feel myself pulling away from gatherings or experiences because I dread their endings. An honest person has to see how powerless the world’s pleasures are to give true, lasting satisfaction.

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 10, “Hope”)

God has put eternity into our hearts, and we long not just for joy but for joy unending. Every happy experience we have on earth will end. That prick of incompleteness, of a premature finale, is an indication of the capacity of our souls. It points to a new land.

In the midst of a much-debated passage about the second coming of Christ, we read this from the apostle Paul.

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

Perhaps it is too well-known to warrant our attention, but the word “always” jumped out at me recently in this verse. Once we are with the Lord, we will never be away from him. I don’t know if this will be full-time, ecstatic joy, but the absence of the curse, along with unmediated fellowship with God, will give us a settled, fulfilled happiness that won’t ever be cut off. (See Revelation 21:3-4.)

Our joy will stretch out like a long road before us. We will no longer flinch when considering the end of a great happiness, for our happiness will have no end.

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Links for the Weekend (4/2/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

What Is the Historical Evidence that Jesus Rose from the Dead?

Justin Taylor helpfully points us toward an article which argues for the historical credibility of the claim of Jesus’s resurrection. There are also two videos linked in Justin’s post made by apologists arguing for the resurrection.

Rejoice Together, Suffer Together, Repeat

Christians are to rejoice with each other and weep with each other. Anne Kerhoulas writes about what it means that these commands come in the context of writing about worship. Quite an insight!

Rejoicing is an act of worship. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). It is always about God because every good and perfect thing comes from Him (James 1:17), and we get to praise Him for what He has done. When my friend got engaged I didn’t tell her good job for her accomplishment. No, we celebrated what God had done and was doing.

Let Go of Lies About Heaven: Eight Myths Many Believe

Years ago, Randy Alcorn wrote a big book about heaven. In this article, he points out eight common myths about heaven. He directs our attention to the Bible to examine what God says about the future.

In an age when people try to make doctrines more appealing by ignoring or twisting biblical truth, here’s the irony—the true biblical doctrine of Heaven is far more attractive than the dull, inhuman view of the afterlife that has long prevailed in evangelicalism.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (2/26/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Burn Long Not Just Hot

Does passion for Christ look more like zeal or endurance? These are mutually exclusive, yet we may not often link endurance and passion the way the Bible does. Erik Raymond helps us understand what it means to burn long and not just hot.

I’m not saying that Christians should not be passionate. We should. Instead, I’m saying that today too often, we put a disproportionate and unbiblical emphasis upon what appears to be zeal instead of what is clearly endurance.

Homesick

Popular Christian blogger Tim Challies suffered a father’s nightmare when his healthy son died suddenly this past fall. Since then he has been writing more frequently about grief, love, and heaven. This is a nice meditation on what it means for us to call heaven “home.”

But there is far less mystery and far more familiarity to the most precious of its descriptions: home. For each of us, the Father has reserved a room in his home, says Jesus, and he himself has gone to prepare it. To leave behind the body is to be at home with the Lord, assures the Apostle. And so his longing and ours is to be away from this fragile tent and to be safely delivered to the great home that has been so carefully planned by the mind of God, so carefully constructed by the hand of God. What comfort there is in knowing that when we come to the end of our lives, we do not depart into the ether or disappear into the void, but simply go home.

Journey to the Cross

Gospel-Centered Discipleship has published an excerpt from Paul Tripp’s forthcoming book, Journey to the Cross. This is a great excerpt about groaning.

You see, we are not just groaning into the air as some cathartic exercise. No, we groan to someone who has invited us to groan and has promised to hear and to answer. We groan to one who is in us, with us, and for us, who has blessed us with life-altering promises and who will not quit working on our behalf until we have no more reason to groan. We groan to one who has already won the victory over everything for which we groan and who will not rest until all his children are experiencing all the fruits of that victory.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called My Favorite Benediction. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Jesus Did Not Come to Bring Peace on Earth

It’s too late for this year. But if you’re looking for a Bible verse for next year’s Christmas card, I have a suggestion.

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (Luke 12:51)

Your card is sure to be a hit, though it may get you disinvited from some parties.

What About the Angels?

In seriousness, this passage in Luke 12 raises some difficult questions. We’re used to reading and singing about “peace on earth” at Christmas. And for good reason!

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13–14)

As we read closely, we see that the angels were praising God and praying as well. They both sought and heralded peace on earth among those with whom God is pleased. So, the angels weren’t declaring an immediate, universal peace with the arrival of Jesus, but they were calling for a peace among his people.

Because the birth of Jesus was a definitive, declarative step in the victory of God, and because this victory brings believers peace with God, peace among God’s people is possible. We can rest in our acceptance by God, our common adopted status as his sons and daughters. We can stop tearing each other down and start building each other up. We can love each other as brothers and sisters.

Not Now But Later

I read that portion of Luke 12 and I think, Why not, Jesus?

Why didn’t Jesus come to bring peace on earth? There’s a deep part of me—maybe it’s within everyone—that cries out for true peace on earth. Now.

But Jesus came to bring division.

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49–53)

Jesus’s “baptism”—likely his crucifixion—will kindle a fire. That fire will bring division based on allegiance and worship, and these fault lines will shoot through households and families.

Sons and daughters of the king will necessarily divide from those outside the kingdom. We love and work and sing and pray and plead for our neighbors, but eventually everyone’s heart follows their treasure.

But among God’s children, there should not be such division: “Peace among those with whom God is pleased.” Though peace will come imperfectly, it should come.

In this aspect as in many others, the church points ahead. We have God’s presence with us now, but we will have it fully in the age to come. We understand dimly now as we look forward to crystal clarity. And we aim now for the peace that will one day extend in all directions, forever.

No Peace for Jesus

We long for that future day without death or pain or any sign of the curse (Rev 22:3). It is coming as surely as the sun rises. But it comes at a cost. We will have peace because Jesus had none.

During his earthly ministry, life for Jesus was chaotic. He had nowhere to stay, no one who understood him, and a growing crowd of accusers. His life ended with betrayal, loneliness, pain, and disgrace.

But most peace comes through conflict. The peace that Jesus secured for us came through the anguish of the cross. God the Father focused his wrath against Jesus, who stood in our place. We can have peace now in part, and we can look forward to perfect peace, because Jesus knew no peace on earth.

Christmas Cheer

The reason for Jesus’s birth doesn’t lend itself to foil-stamped greeting cards. The Incarnation wasn’t about warmly-lit, soft-focused images to make people feel cozy.

But it was about love. It was about peace.

Remember Jesus’s purpose this season. He came to bring peace within the church, division with the world, and a sure hope that sustains us until he returns.

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Heaven is a Person

I drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and take a deep breath. My shoulders loosen and I feel just a bit lighter. The salty air and sea gulls usher me into this familiar, wonderful place.

I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I love the water and the wide-open spaces; I love the farmland and country roads; I love all the sights and tastes and smells.

Heaven is a Place

You probably have your own favorite place like this. Maybe it’s the first house you remember, your college town, or the backyard where you began to raise your family.

As Christians, we read that heaven will be more than cotton-ball clouds, pearly gates, and harps, and it strikes a deep cord within us. Heaven will be tangible, not ethereal. And what’s more, heaven won’t just be our last place, but surely it must be the best place. All our attachment to places on this earth must be shadows of our longings for heaven.

When we learn that heaven is a place, questions are natural. What will it look like? What will we do? What will we eat?

On these matters, God isn’t silent. The last two chapters of Revelation give us some descriptions, and there are heavenly glimpses and images elsewhere in Scripture. But we end up with far more questions than answers, and we wonder: Why doesn’t God give us more information about the place—the city—where we’ll be spending eternity?

It’s Not About the Place

We read this after the very first mention of the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3–4)

This is primary—God will dwell with man. He will be our God and we will be his people. In other words: Heaven isn’t about the place, it’s about the Person.

God has given us some information about heaven, but consider how much more he has told us about himself! The Bible is stuffed with truths and stories about God’s character, his demands, and his grace. When we complain that we don’t know much about heaven, we’re missing the point. God has told us gobs about the most important feature of heaven—himself.

The reality of a new earth and a new body is mind-blowing; I don’t want to minimize this. But the most important—indeed, the most glorious, joyous, and rewarding fact about heaven is that God is there. With our new eyes, we will see him face to face. With no more curse, we will enjoy him in new and fulfilling ways we cannot imagine.

Long for heaven. Stretch for it. Gather everyone you can.

Heaven will be breathtaking, because God is there.

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Links for the Weekend (8/30/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

The Blessing of Heaven as a Near Reality

Melissa Edgington writes about a lunch she attended when two older saints were saying good-bye, perhaps for the last time on this side of eternity. She describes how real heaven is to this one sweet lady.

But one blessing of old age is her growing connection to the future that she knows is coming. It is the essence of hope, this sure belief in a painless world of sweet reunions and Christ in His full glory. It is what can bring a genuine smile to an aged face. And it is a motivator to run this race well, even through the pains of all kinds, and finish strong. Perhaps there is no greater hope in the Christian faith than the hope of one who recognizes that she is running her final miles toward glory.

How To Be More Curious Than Certain

The PCA’s discipleship ministry for women produces enCourage Resources. One of the resources is a podcast, and this episode of the podcast is focused on deeper relationships in the church. The podcast host speaks with Tami Resch, the Parakaleo Church Planting Spouses Ministry Founder & Programs Director, about vulnerability within relationships. Tami Resch also shares some practical questions and techniques to get to know people on a deeper level.

Five Hard Lessons Learned from The Fall of a Once Revered Evangelical Leader

In the wake of a number of high profile Christian leaders walking away from the faith, Jim Newheiser turns to the Bible for wisdom. How could such a thing happen?

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Jesus, Our Eager Shepherd. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Thanks to Maggie A and Cliff L for help in rounding up links this week.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (1/4/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Make Habits, Not Resolutions

Since it’s prime New Year’s Resolutions season, I thought I’d share this helpful article at The Gospel Coalition. Justin Whitmel Earley writes about the difference between resolutions and habits and explains why habits are so powerful.

Unlike resolutions, we actually become our habits. There are no changed lives outside of changed habits. And if we want to actually change, we need to take a sober look at where our habits are leading us.

Longing to See God’s Face

Over at Desiring God, Jon Bloom writes about the song “When We See Your Face” by Bob and Jordan Kauflin. He breaks down the words to the song and how they point him to the great fulfillment of longing in heaven. You can listen to the song at the top of the article.

For my soul very much needs this song’s reminder, especially as another year passes and I am another year older, still fighting against the relentless darkness, still waiting, still desiring something that has never actually appeared in my experience. Not yet. It remains a desire for a promised appearing — an appearing I’m growing to increasingly love (2 Timothy 4:8).

What if Some Christians Are Hypocrites?

Randy Alcorn tackles a tough question: How should we respond to those who reject Jesus because some Christians are hypocrites? After acknowledging that some Christians are hypocrites, Alcorn suggests that we explain why this isn’t a good reason to reject Jesus.

However, note what Paul and Silas did not say to the jailer:  “Believe in us—since we’re so great—and you will be saved.” No, they said, “Believe in Jesus and you’ll be saved.” The Good News is not about how great you and I are (thank God for that). It’s about how great Jesus is and the wonderful things He’s done for us.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog Sarah Wisniewski wrote about Branding and the Reputation of Jesus Christ. Check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the groups referenced here.