heaven (3)

Whenever the idea of Christian vocation is addressed in an article or conversation, there’s a well-known quote attributed to Frederick Buechner that inevitably comes up: “Vocation happens when our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

Actually, according to Beuchner himself, it’s not a direct quote, as he explained in an interview. But it captures the essence of what he was getting at.

As Christians, imbued with God’s image, we all want to know why we’re here. What we’re supposed to be about. For what purpose did God create us?


And we tend to spend a lifetime seeking “the” answer to that question.

In the meantime, we live and move and have our being, going about our days, doing our best to please God and enjoy Him for now and here, longing for over there.

This we call our Christian walk.

In the process of living our lives in the light of God’s Word, we seek to be better people. To be Spirit-filled, God-shaped, Christ-redeemed creations.

We care about those around us. Go to work and do our jobs as well as we can. Give money to those in need. Do acts of service. Treat people well. Grow where we are planted.

As we do these things, our vocation and purpose takes shape through our humble, clumsy service to God.

Perhaps we even recognize that our “purpose” is not singular, but rather a series of purposes, a multiple of callings. All, of course, anchored in Christ connected by His will flowing through us.

From time to time, our thoughts turn to heaven. “What’s that going to be like?” we wonder.

Honestly, I’m not sure Christianity has done a good job of revealing what heaven and the new earth will be like.

What it won’t be like is how it is cartoonishly characterized, us sitting on a cloud wearing a halo and wings, strumming a harp. Although there are people who believe that’s the case.

While elements of this false image can be found in scripture, the Bible never describes such a scene.

The Bible does, however, in short, reference a new heaven and a new earth, our reigning with Christ, streets, cities, dwellings, all implying activity.

Frankly, I’m really hoping there will be books as I’m thinking there’s going to be a lot of time to catch up on my reading!

“But,” you object, “reading implies inquisitiveness and when we’re in heaven all our questions will be answered!”

Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not sure if we’re going to know all we want to know all at once.

If our inquisitiveness and appreciation of literature, art, music, and all the fun things of life will be of no use, why did God so firmly implant them in us to begin with?

Last year I read a really great book, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity by Nancy Pearcey. I strongly recommend the book to everyone.

In it, on the topic of Christian vocation, Pearcey states, “In our work we not only participate in God’s providential activity today, we also foreshadow the tasks we will take up in cultivating a new earth at the end of time.”

As Spock would say, Fascinating!

This means we’re going to have stuff to do over there on the other side. Stuff for which we are perfectly suited, that fits to a T our created personalities, that extends our unique gifitings into eternity!

Wowza! That sounds, well, darn fun!

And how we live now, all we do here on earth in this short time we have prepares and shapes us for the rest of our eternal lives.

Holy vocational education!

Going back to Buechner, he explained, “When you are doing what you are happiest doing, it must also be something that not only makes you happy but that the world needs to have done. In other words, if what makes you happy is going out and living it up and spending all your money on wine, women, and song, the world doesn’t need that.”

This helps sift down the possibilities for us in terms of what we’re made for. Wanton carousing isn’t something this earth or the new earth needs.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

In this we find further guidance when it comes to vocation as well.

We seek to do that which pleases God, serves Him and provides us a sense of enjoyment -- joy, satisfaction, contentment -- in the process.

Add in the context of Luke 10:25-37, where an expert in the law correctly explains the path to eternal life is found when we “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself,” and we also learn that what we do must benefit those around us.

Jesus clarifies this through the telling of the parable of the good Samaritan.

It’s not about us having our fun, doing what we want, living our truth, even if it’s not hurting anyone else.

How we live here on earth, what we do now, does have eternal consequences. For believers, these consequences don’t end at heaven’s gate.

Death for the Christian isn’t an end. It’s a new beginning to a new life and a truly glorious career!

So, how’s your on-the-job training going?

BlogQuestion.pngDoes this change how you think of Jeremiah 29:11?:“‘For I know the plans I have for you’—this is the Lord’s declaration—‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” Do you wonder what life after death will be like? How have you envisioned it? What do you believe you will be doing in heaven? Do you agree or disagree that what we do now is a preparation for what we will do in eternity?  Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Read more posts like this at www.FaithBraised.com.

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“The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is a foreign place.” (Hugo of St. Victor)


To be civic-minded is good—we naturally love our native land. To be cosmopolitan is better—we should know and care about all nations. To be Christian is best—we’re “citizens of heaven” and “temporary residents and foreigners in this world” (Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11 NLT).


Everybody else may be worried about earthly things; but we who follow Christ are not like everybody else, so we “let heaven fill our thoughts”  (Colossians 3:2 TLB). We’re different, because our heart is Christ’s throne and heaven is our eternal home.



The idea that Christians can create a permanent home in this world is a mistake. The gospel song gets it right—“This world is not my home, I’m just passing through; my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me to heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”  (Albert E. Brumley)


At the tomb on Easter morning, the angels asked Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” And Jesus asked her the same question. Perhaps it’s still His question for us. Why is there still such anguish in the world? Why are we burdened so, living as though there has been no resurrection? Could it be that we’re so preoccupied with the mundane, that we think infrequently of the Messiah?


We’re wayfaring strangers in this world—listening hopefully for God’s future melody, dancing joyfully here and now by faith. Exactly what that future will look like is mysterious; but we rest assured believing that when Christ appears again, “we will be like him and see him as he is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). “God weeps with us so that we may someday laugh with him.” (Jurgen Moltmann)


At the end of the movie, Patton, the general, having commanded armies winning many battles, reflects inwardly about Roman generals returning from victory—greeted by a great procession lining the streets and cheering, vanquished troops marching in chains, strange animals brought from subjugated lands, musicians and singers celebrating his conquests, his children robed in white riding trace horses, and a slave riding with him in his chariot holding a crown for him and whispering in his ear, ”All glory is fleeting.” And so it is. The one exception is Christ’s glory awaiting us—not too good to last, an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.


“When, by the gift of His infinite grace, I am accorded in heaven a place, Just to be there and to look on His face, Will through the ages be glory for me." (Charles H. Gabriel) “To dwell in that celestial land, where joys immortal flow” (John H. Stockton) will be ecstasy beyond any experience this side of heaven.


Politicians cannot fix social inequities. Philosophers cannot bring peace of mind to troubled souls. Doctors cannot find an antidote to death. Lawyers cannot legislate a preventative to crime. Warriors cannot establish lasting international peace. There’s only one hope for earth’s heartaches—the restoration of paradise by the returning, reigning Lord Jesus Christ. Heaven on earth is more than wishful thinking or a fairy tale—it is the promise of God that ultimately all will be well.


“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27 NLT)

Johnny R. Almond

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity

Interim Pastor, Nomini Baptist Church; Montross, Virginia

Blog http://GentleWhispersFromEternity-ScripturePersonalized.com/

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BOOK REVIEW: I’ll see you in hell. Not!

H – E – Double Hockey Sticks. Hell.

The place we want to send all of our enemies while avoiding it ourselves. And for many, a place imagined to be one giant endless debauched party. Woot!

Which is, of course, better than being bored in a heaven.

Right? Wrong!

aaHeaven&Hell.gifAs absurd as it is to curse someone by telling them, “I’ll see you in hell!” it is equally absurd to imagine heaven as nothing but a bunch of silk-robed cloud-riding harp-strummers.

Sadly, for many, their views of heaven and hell are as wrongly skewed as their view of God. Or even Satan. What should be viewed with awe, respect, and fear has been made pretty and puny through trivialization and petty humor.
So, how does one reset and enlarge their understanding of heaven and hell?

Well, you could read some of the many recent books on hell, such as Erasing Hell by Francis Chan. And then a few from the many available on heaven, such as Heaven by Randy Alcorn.

Or, how about a basic primer that references these two books and many more while covering both heaven and hell?
While not exactly a Heaven and Hell For Dummies*” Christopher D. Hudson** has come close with his new book Heaven & Hell: Are They Real? recently released by Thomas Nelson***.

Divided conveniently into two sections the book addresses 61 intriguing questions people ask about heaven and hell. Many of the questions were apparently suggested by readers of Hudson’s blog and followers of his Facebook page and Twitter account.

Get a clue about heaven for heaven’s sake!

On the heaven side of things, you’ll learn about what happens right after you die, what life will be like in heaven, what your resurrected body will be like, and who you might see way up yonder.

Probably one of the biggest misconceptions of heaven is that it will be boring. Clearly those who believe this haven’t really paid attention to what the Bible actually says about the place.

Hudson quotes Hank Hanegraff, known as “The Bible Answer Man,” who explains “..heaven will be a place of continuous learning, growth, and development.” Hudson adds, “our activities will include work and relationships that are enjoyable and fulfilling.”

Speaking of enjoyable, another area covered addresses whether or not there will be sex in heaven. While we will be busy, sex won’t be the activity. Unlike some religions that promise 20 virgins per guy, our focus will be somewhere else once we are face-to-face with our Creator God.

To address the sex issue, Hudson leans on C.S. Lewis who reminds us that “heaven is more than earth,” that our earthly relationships will be “subsumed…with deeper intimacy unspoiled by sin,” and the issue is “not that sex is taken away, but taken up into something even greater.” In other words, “where we fear fasting, there is really feasting.”

The bottom line is that our life in heaven is going to be far above and beyond anything we can fully imagine with our tiny little creature minds.

Hell no you don’t want to go to there!

On the flip side, many pooh-pooh a fiery hell making it out to be the more interesting-than-heaven after-death alternative; a kind of party-central.

Not. Even. Close.

And as far as seeing anyone there, if that’s possible you won’t know them or even care.

You and they will be in wretched everlasting agony.

The book touches on the fact that hell is indeed a real place, that getting a ticket to hell is your choice, that once confronted with the reality of hell you’ll resist and be tossed in, and how God’s sending people to hell is entirely just.

Probably the biggest issue for some is the struggle to understand how a loving God can condemn people to hell, aka eternal damnation. Those who raise this question often have a limited understanding of who and how holy God really is.

To them Satan is a pipsqueak, God is a glorified Santa, heaven’s a myth, and hell is a fantasy.

They’ll often object to the consequence of sin that is hell by claiming it’s not fair to receive endless punishment for a few sinfully delicious indiscretions. But on the other hand, they have no trouble claiming that a life of trivial good deeds and smug niceness should win them an eternity in paradise.


The reality is, as Hudson points out, that hell is just and you will lose everything if you end up there. “There are no friendships and no relationships. There is no love or joy or anything that will make you smile.”

And unlike some who believe that annihilation and non-existence follows death, there are chapters that address the eternal nature of our souls and the persistence of punishment in hell for those who choose to reject God.

You don’t just stop being when you die.

In fact, Hudson reminds us of Jesus’ own words regarding the awfulness of hell where, “the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched, [and] everyone will be salted with fire.”

Jesus repeated emphatic warnings to avoid hell and the terrors it holds. The only after-death party will be the big one in heaven.

You’ve got to serve somebody

Hudson winds the book down by stating, “Hell is not a consequence for a specific sin or the list of sins we may commit over a lifetime. It is the eternal punishment and inevitable destination for those who have rejected God and his plan for salvation.”

Being good doesn’t earn merits for getting into heaven. There is only one way, and that is to accept, believe in, and follow Jesus who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, NIV).

As Hudson concludes, “By following Jesus, we travel a well-lit path that leads to heaven, a place where we will experience life to the fullest in the presence of God himself.”

There is no other path. No other way. No other light.

You may not believe in God and heaven or hell and Satan now. But you will one day. And then, it will be too late.
It’s your choice. Which will it be? Heaven or hell?

Choose wisely. You will spend eternity in one or the other.

The good, the odd, and the missing

This is a book that can be read from front to back, but also is designed to work as a reference of sorts. Using the table of contents, you can easily look up and read the parts you are specifically curious about.

Being an entry-level text on the topics of heaven and hell, this would be a great book for a new Christian or a serious seeker. It’s accessible and biblically grounded providing a good overview.

This would be an okay book for a group study but is better suited for individual use. If used in a group, it would be best to tackle it a subsection at a time. There are five subsections on heaven and six on hell, making for a decent 11 week small group study.

Each chapter ends with only a single one or two sentence question for further thought or as discussion generators if used in a group.

Included in the book are a couple of info-graphics and a smattering of art reproductions. Some of these are etchings which are fairly dense visually and barely hold up printed in black on the lightweight pages. And, oddly, not a single illustration is referenced in the text leaving the reader to ascertain their significance.

The book is primarily comprised of quotes, both short and extensive, from a variety of sources, all well footnoted.

Sadly, there is no bibliography, index, or list of suggested readings. To go deeper, you’ll need to take the time to look up the books and sources referenced in the footnotes. However, there is an appendix that lists Bible verses by topic.

Overall, the book will probably not definitively answer every question you may have about heaven or hell, but it is adequate for getting a good grasp on the essentials from a solidly Christian and biblical point of view.


***Disclosure #1 (to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255): I selected this book to review and received it free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

**Disclosure #2: After receiving the book and doing a little research, I realized that Chris, the author, was the project editor for Inside the Mysteries of the Bible: New Perspectives on Ancient Truths (American Bible Society), to which I was a contributor. ‘Tis a small world.

*Disclosure #3: Not that it’s important, but I used to be a project editor with Wiley Publishing in the awkwardly named Consumer Dummies division. I shepherded the development of titles such as Seasonal Affective Disorder For Dummies,The Book of Revelation For Dummies, and U.S. Military History For Dummies (all excellent titles). I also unsuccessfully lobbied for the development of Heaven and Hell For Dummies, a title I still believe they should pursue.



What do you think heaven will be like? What do you think hell will be like? How have you come to these perceptions of heaven and/or hell? Share your thoughts on heaven and hell in the comments!NOTE: This was originally posted on my blog, FaithBraised.com, which was awarded top honors for a single author blog by the Evangelical Press Association in 2012 and 2014.

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