Category Archives: Heaven

The Connection Between the Gospel and Discipleship

Book Review: Eternity is Now in Session: A Radical Rediscovery of What Jesus Really Taught About Salvation, Eternity, and Getting to the Good Place, by John Ortberg

“Salvation isn’t about getting you into heaven; it’s about getting heaven into you.” This is one of the statements made by pastor and author John Ortberg in his latest offering, Eternity is Now in Session: A Radical Rediscovery of What Jesus Really Taught About Salvation, Eternity, and Getting to the Good Place.

As the quote implies, Ortberg wants people to see that salvation is about more than just going to heaven. He explains in the acknowledgements,

I fondly hope this little book can help stimulate a fresh conversation about the glorious nature of salvation. I hope it can help people inside the church and out to see the indissoluble connection between the gospel Jesus preached and the discipleship he offered and to encourage people to “sell all they have in great joy” in order to follow him.

The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 focuses on “Rethinking Salvation.” Far too often, we emphasize the importance of believing in Jesus in order to get to heaven. It is sort of the minimum entrance requirements. The author wants us to understand that salvation also involves a daily relationship with Christ. Part 2 describes “Walking with Jesus.” It provides insight into the nature of discipleship. It begins with seeing God everywhere, leaving baggage behind, forming a new mental map, and abiding with Christ.

The book is a typical Ortberg book. The author incorporates truth with humor, teaching what Scripture says and illustrating it with philosophers, movies, history, quotes from Dallas Willard, and personal stories. While perhaps not one of his best books, it will challenge the reader to reexamine what they believe about salvation and encourage them to experience a growing relationship with Christ today rather simply waiting until they arrive at heaven’s door.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on August 27, 2018 in Books, Discipleship, Heaven, Quotes


Death is so unnatural

In my lifetime, I have buried my father, brother, mother, two hamsters, and one cat. I’ve also presided over 50 funerals of children and adults. In addition, I’ve attended a number of memorial and graveside services.

As we were driving home from the vet when we put our cat to sleep, I was struck with the thought, Death is so unnatural.

God originally wanted us to live forever. The Garden of Eden contained both the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and sinned, God sent them out of the garden lest they eat of the tree of life and live forever in a sinful state (Genesis 3:22-24).

When God recreates the world in the new heaven and new earth, one of the things he does away with is death (Revelation 21:4). Death brings with it tears, mourning, crying, and pain. All of those will be removed when God establishes the new heaven and new earth. The tree of life will be present in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:2).

Death and funerals are unnatural. They are one of the consequences of sin. One day they will gone. One more reason to long for Jesus’ return and joining him in heaven.

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Posted by on May 29, 2018 in Heaven, Scripture



Like many, I was surprised and saddened to learn of Billy Graham’s death yesterday. Since he was 99 years old, it was expected, but it was still a surprise.

As I reflect on a life well lived, I acknowledge my debt of gratitude to Billy Graham. He impacted my life in a number of ways.

  • My mother-in-law came to faith in Christ during one of Billy Graham’s first crusades in Los Angeles.
  • As a junior higher, my parents and my brother and I sang in the choir during a crusade in Anaheim Stadium. I recall going forward and rededicating my life to Christ during that crusade. I benefited from the follow up material afterwards as it helped strengthen my faith.
  • I attended the counselor training when a crusade was held in the Seattle-Tacoma area.
  • Our church participated in phone counseling after several of the Graham crusades.
  • Billy Graham’s practice of financial integrity and avoiding temptation with the opposite sex provided models to follow.
  • Our church participated in the My Hope campaign four years ago. It provided one more tool of how to share your faith.
  • A couple of articles I wrote were published in Decision Magazine.
  • My wife and I visited The Cove and The Billy Graham Library two years ago and were greatly impressed and encouraged.

Salvation, discipleship, equipping, resources, examples, tools, models, encouragement, ministry opprotunites … I am indebted to Dr. Graham in many, many ways.

Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.

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Posted by on February 22, 2018 in Funerals, Heaven, News stories


Is there a “fast pass” to heaven?

The world was horrified last week to learn of another school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the midst of the tragedy, there were also acts of heroism as teachers shepherded students to safety. In particular, assistant football coach and security guard Aaron Feis used his own body as a shield to protect students. Taking a bullet and giving his life to save a student was a noble, heroic, sacrificial action.

Aaron’s action prompted one editorial cartoonist to suggest it was an automatic ticket into heaven.


It God grades on a curve, a sacrificial death would certainly rank higher than helping an elderly person cross the street. It would undoubtedly gain more points than donating blood, telling the truth, digging a well in Saharan Africa, curing malaria, or giving up your seat on a bus to someone with a broken leg.

But does God grade on a curve? Can one earn their way into heaven by performing good deeds? Do some actions guarantee one’s entrance into heaven?

In order to answer that question, we need to examine what Scripture says. Jesus told his own disciples that the path to God runs through himself.

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

In an interview with a Jewish leader, Jesus said that eternal life is directly related to one’s faith in Christ.

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The apostle John reiterated the same point years later when he wrote his first letter.

1 John 5:13 – I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

The apostle Paul explained that one needs to believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Only then can we be saved and enter heaven.

Romans 10:9–10 – because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

If there was any question about how to enter heaven, the apostle Paul explained that salvation is determined by what God does for us, not by what we do for ourselves.

Ephesians 2:8–9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Good works, selfless deeds, and sacrificial acts are certainly valuable. While they might result in greater rewards in heaven, they won’t guarantee one’s entrance into heaven. Only putting one’s faith in Jesus for salvation will lead to eternal life.

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Posted by on February 19, 2018 in Heaven, News stories, Scripture, Theology


To the Church in Philadelphia: A Church that was Faithful

While I was in the rehab center back in November, I applied for a disability parking placard from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). When I called two weeks later, I was told it took two months to process and I would receive it in February. Frustrated by the bureaucracy, I forgot all about it. Two weeks ago, I received a letter from the RMV asking me to surrender my driver’s license because the doctor who signed my original application noted I was medically unable to drive. I called to explain that was three months ago and was no longer valid. I was told I needed a note from my doctor saying my condition had improved and I was medically cleared to drive.

Rather than taking your driver’s license away, what if someone wanted to take heaven away from you? What if you were told that the door to heaven was closed and you were no longer welcome? What if your church told you to stay away and you could no longer attend?

In Revelation 1:11, Jesus sent a message to each of seven local churches in Asia Minor. While the believers in Philadelphia may have been excommunicated from the Jewish synagogue, Jesus send them a letter (3:7-13) encouraging them that the door to heaven is always. That hope would help them remain faithful in the midst of trying circumstances and persecution.

Jesus wants us to remain faithful in difficult situations. We must keep his word if we want to remain faithful.

The Church (7a) – The church was possibly founded as an outreach of Paul’s ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19:10).

The City (7a) – The city was located about 28 miles southeast of Sardis. It was located in an area noted for its grapes but afflicted with earthquakes which destroyed the city several time, most recently about AD 17. With an economy based on agriculture and industry, Philadelphia enjoyed considerable prosperity. Because it was located in a vine-growing district, the worship of Dionysus was its chief pagan cult.

Philadelphia was situated in a strategic place on the main route of the Imperial Post from Rome to the east, and thus was called “the gateway to the East.” It was also called “little Athens” because of the many temples in the city.

The Character of Christ (7b) – Jesus described himself as the one who is holy and true, who holds the key of David, and is able to open or shut a door which no one else could open or shut.

Holiness speaks of his purity and total consecration to God. He will not lead his people into moral error. True or faithful would remind the believers that Christ can keep his promises and carry them to completion. Jesus is reliable. He can be trusted. The key of David refers to Isaiah 22:20-23 where Eliakim was the steward of Hezekiah and possessed the key of David. He was the gatekeeper who allowed access to the king and the king’s presence.

Christ alone has the authority to admit persons to his heavenly city. Because he is holy and true, no one can ever argue that his admission of some and refusal of others is unrighteous.

The Condition of the Church: Commendation (8-10a) – Though small in number, the congregation had a powerful impact. Though they had little strength to oppose the forces of evil, they kept Christ’s word and were faithful. It is not the size of the church that determines its ministry, but faith in the call and command of the Lord.

Jesus has placed before the church an open door. This could mean an open door for evangelism (1 Corinthians 16:9). As the “gateway to the East,” they had a unique opportunity to carry the gospel to the cities of Phrygia. It could also mean an open door to heaven (Revelation 4:1). Christ has placed an open door into the eternal kingdom, and no one can shut it.

The believers were faithful and loyal. They had not denied Christ even though they had opportunity to do so. Despite the pressure, they were faithful.

Christ refers to their enemies as the synagogue of Satan. They were Jews who opposed the believers’ Christian testimony. The day will come, however, when all opponents of the faith will have to acknowledge the truth. This probably refers to a future event of judgment.

The Commitment (10b-12) – Because the church was faithful and willing to endure patiently, Jesus promised to keep them from the hour of trial. The hour of trial will be terrible for all who live on the earth. Christ also promises that he will coming soon. They were encouraged to hold on to what they have so that they do not lose any heavenly rewards because they fell into sin.

Everyone who is an overcomer will become a pillar in the temple of God. This is a picture of stability and security. Because believers have identified with Christ by faith, he will identify himself with them. Jesus will write his name on the faithful believers.

The Challenge (13) – Take the message to heart. Hear and heed the message.

Principles (1) God is more interested in faithfulness than success. Perseverance is the key to receiving the rewards God has for us. (2) Jesus has the key of David. He is able to provide access to heaven to those who keep his word. He can be trusted to keep his promises.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 18, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on The State of the Church. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Heaven is not a cartoonist’s punchline

The comic strip, Non-Sequitur, by Wiley Miller, occasionally pokes fun at religion and spiritual things. In so doing, he often expresses truth whether he intends to or not. Two recent strips speak of the reality of heaven and who can enter.

“The ultimate glass ceiling reinforces the truth of Matthew 7:21-23.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

“The uncertainty of the afterlife” is a direct contradiction of 1 John 5:13.

 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

If we put our faith in Jesus Christ, trusting him to forgive our sins rather than depending on our own good works, we can have the confidence that heaven is open to us. All because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

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Posted by on January 8, 2018 in Heaven, Non-Sequitur, Scripture


Hope that sustains

Book Review: All Things New: Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of Everything you Love, by John Eldredge

When we experience seasons of loss—loss of a dream, death of a loved one, friends moving away, becoming empty nesters after a child’s graduation or wedding—we have to deal with times of grief. We also need to find a hope that will sustain us and help us move forward.

What if someone told you that everything you’ve lost will be restored to you, but in even better shape than before? What if someone said that all the things you loved will be renewed?

This is the premise of John Eldredge’s latest offering, All Things New: Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of Everything you Love. The title and theme come from Revelation 21:5 where Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Eldredge’s point is that Jesus is not making new things, but regenerating the old ones into new and better condition. If we believe that God is going to restore our lives and everything we love any day now, this hope will give us an anchor which will not only sustain us, but help us to look forward to the future with hope.

All Things New is a very encouraging book. As with John Eldredge’s previous books, it is real, honest, gritty, emotional, and uplifting. He draws illustrations from personal experience, movies, literature, and daily life. While not intended to be a book of theology, it will give you a new perspective on eternity and cause you to rethink your view of heaven.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on October 5, 2017 in Books, Heaven