Why I’m not buying into ‘Heaven is for Real’

The newest Christian movie hits the screen in a few days – ‘Heaven is for Real.’ Since I haven’t read the book, I decided to check it out from my local library. I’m on a waiting list 40 deep. Still, without reading the book, I can tell you why I’m not buying into the whole story, and won’t be going to see the ‘true’ story.

It’s not true.   720x450-hs-2005-37-a-full_jpg

The boy’s tale is  heartfelt enough, but there is so much inconsistency that it would be laughable to a Christian follower of a few decades ago.

The rainbow horse, the multicultural imagery, the winged humans and so on make the movie resemble something more out of ‘Barbarella’ than our true Heaven. It certainly doesn’t match up with the Bible. What little faith we have in Scripture to believe the fanciful dreams of a child.

I know dreams can seem real. I know because I too had a dream as a child. I didn’t dream about heaven. I dreamed of a wolf.

I was only a few years old. The cause of the dream was precipitated earlier in the day, while I was outside playing at my grandparent’s house. I heard a commotion down the hill. The neighbors were out in their driveway watching a dog run through their yard.

I didn’t think anything about it at the time, but, that night, in the quiet of my dreams, a different animal appeared.

I relived the afternoon. The neighbors were down below. The dog was in the yard. Suddenly, it looked around and  stood up on it’s hind legs. It began talking to them in a human voice.

It became a wolf, akin to the drawings on Egyptian pottery. It’s eyes glowed as it talked to the neighbors. A young man came out of the house. He stood before the creature.

The beast said something to it, and the glowing eyes turned red. Suddenly, it opened it’s mouth and leaned over the young man, inhaling him as he screamed. I stood stock still. The wolf’s feast ended. Suddenly, it sniffed and started looking around. Before I could duck down, it turned one of the red glowing eyes to look directly at me.

I woke up.

I didn’t think much about it after that – it was just a dream. Months later, I would have a different dream. I was in my grandparent’s house, and it was night-time, and I had to go to the bathroom. I went in, turned on the light and started to walk over to the toilet, nestled in the corner under the bathroom window. The curtains had been tucked back to let the earlier sunshine in, and no one had closed them. I saw movement and I looked to the window. A red glowing eye appeared and I saw the brown muzzle of the wolf-creature leering in it at me.

“I’m outside,” it said, and shuffled away from the window.

I woke up.

I didn’t remember the dream until later in the day when I saw the open curtains in the bathroom. The wolf might be out there, I thought.

To me, the wolf was real. It lived down the hill, and knew I knew about it. Every time I was at their home, there was a momentary panic when I went into that bathroom and saw the curtains open.

Flash forward to years later. I was visiting again, and soon found myself standing atop the hill, looking down at the neighbors. They were out in the driveway, watching a dog run across the yard. It was a German Shepherd. It played and ran around the family. It ran up to one of the teens and stood on its hind-legs. My heart skipped a beat or two and I watched it move toward the boy. It opened it’s mouth …. and began licking him in playful joy.

I stepped back from the precipice with a smile on my face. It wasn’t a wolf after all.  It was just a dog. All those years of frightful visits in the bathroom fled away from me. The wolf-creature wouldn’t bother me again – in real life or in dreams. My fear had transformed to joy, because the adult I was becoming realized the truth behind the fanciful story cooked up by a young boy with a very active imagination.

Sadly, though, the tale doesn’t have such a happy ending. Even though my personal wolf has faded into distant memory. There are still wolves out there – and many of them are showing up right inside our church doors.

Check out these other reviews

Phil Johnson from Grace to You in a 2010 post called “The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine”

“No true evangelical ought to be tempted to give such tales any credence whatsoever, no matter how popular they become. One major, obvious problem is that these books don’t even agree with one another. They give contradictory descriptions of heaven and thus cannot possibly have any cumulative long-term effect other than the sowing of confusion and doubt.

But the larger issue is one no authentic believer should miss: the whole premise behind every one of these books is contrary to everything Scripture teaches about heaven.”

Tim Challies, 2012, “Heaven Tourism”

We have no reason to look to another person’s experience of heaven in order to prove that heaven is real or hell is real. The Bible promises blessings on those who do not see and yet believe. Our hope is not to be in the story of a minister or toddler or doctor or anyone else who insists they have been to heaven; our hope is to be in Jesus Christ as God has graciously revealed him to us in the Bible. Faith is believing that what God says in his Word is true and without error. You dishonor God if you choose to believe what the Bible says only when you receive some kind of outside verification. You dishonor God if you need this kind of outside verification.”

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Patient Christian and Dead Pastors Society

Hi, just a quick update to let you know that my blog has been picked up by the fine folks over at Dead Pastors Society. My first blog for the new site “Christians and Funerals” was posted Friday.

You can check it out here.

I’ll still be posting here in between blogs at DPS. They are a great group of guys, so if you don’t know about them check them out, save an RSS of the site, and start following us over there.

For now, I’ll leave you with this:

1Cor 6:2-3

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

Please use discernment in this life, so you are not deceived. I plan to do a series of blogs on discernment, so stay tuned to Dead Pastors Society for more details.

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Mourning in America? Not likely

My friends and family don’t understand why I have been increasingly mournful over the recent political elections. They say I should just “get over it.”

What they don’t get is that our lives took a dramtic and costly turn in this election. We cannot go back to bury our heads in the ground as if everything is okay. We cannot ignore the immense significance of what happened 11/06/12 – a date of true infamy if there ever is one.

Secular press and the G0d-haters got it, and described it as “a tipping point” in America. Meanwhile, the people from the pews sipped their lattes and sang their “joy in the Lord” songs on the way to work with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads as if life was the same Nov. 7 as it was the day before.

They let the single-most significant event of our modern Christian history pass by without blinking an eye.

Confused? This devastation of an election is one giant leap forward to the end times spelled out in Revelation and other chapters in the Bible. It’s easy to say we believe those end times are near, but when you start to see the sudden birth-pangs lived out in front of your eyes, it is a sobering wake up call.

Many Christian leaders have already been warning that God is withdrawing His hand of grace and mercy from America. We see that in Romans 1:18-32, where pe0ple are given over to the evil they so desire. We can easily see this unrighteousness in not only the people that were elected, but the measures that were passed in the individual states – and people cheered as it happens.

“But those are the pagans, we expect them to act that way,” people say.

That doesn’t mean we support it. Millions of Americans were praying that God would be merciful on America, and withhold his judgment on a nation that is turning its back on Him. We begged God for one more chance to try to fix the problems that we allowed to happen. He chose not to listen to us, and go ahead with His righteous judgment. The depth of what that means is staggering. America has gone from turning its back to God, to blatantly shaking its fist toward Him.

Yes, we know that He is in control, and we rejoice in that fact. But it is still a bitter pill to swallow. We have to sit on the sidelines and watch as America continues to slide into depravity. We have to sit by and watch as our salt and light becomes even more muted, because the world sees Nov. 6 as validation for their unrighteousness. They are overjoyed, while we mourn.

Well, most of us.

What is amazing is today’s body of believers (The Church) is so focused on fun and joy and peace that they don’t see what has happened. James 4:9-10  should be the watchwords of the day – yet people choose to ignore the discernment of the Spirit.

That probably should come as no big surprise. After all, The Church embraces the heresy of those who teach you create your own joy and best life. We love those who tell us that we find salvation when we do good things for others.

But, this is American Christianity today. Sunday, millions of Americans will drive to their House of Worship for a breakfast of doughnuts and coffee or hot chocolate. They’ll sing and sway and think life is grand. They’ll hear a few jokes, get an encouraging message that tells them to keep living for tomorrow by helping someone today. They’ll leave thinking God loves them because they are special and rush home to get back to their lives enjoying football and Gossip Girl and reality TV – all the while ignoring the spiritual reality that they should be proclaiming from the rooftops.

  • God is judging America.
  • That judgment will be severe.
  • Many will not survive that judgment.

And never forget, we were there to see it begin.

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Time, well spent

There is nothing more effective, more productive than time spent with . . .

You fill in the blank.

Over the course of the last few months, God has been teaching me that time is the key ingredient for improving ___________. That blank can be filled in by such words as:
Relationships
Knowledge
Wisdom
Friendships
Self
Others
. . . and so on.

The Adversary loves it when we get soooo busy, we lose time for other things.

Bible study, for instance. We often find ourselves “rushed” in the morning, busy in the afternoon and “exhausted” at night. Our Bible-reading and prayer time are often the casualties in our struggle with time.

And the Adversary quietly chuckles to himself.

If we want to improve in anything, we have to be willing to spend time with it.

You can’t learn a foreign language by taking shortcuts, hoping hand gestures or yelling louder can get you by. You have to immerse yourself in the language, the culture.

But, often we find ourselves taking the shortcuts when it comes to knowing God’s word. We try memory tricks or special reading plans in hopes of getting the job done. Yet nothing can teach you as to exactly what the Bible says, as spending hour upon hour reading it.

My wife and I first met when we were teens. As we began dating, we started spending more time together, or talking on the phone. Over the hours of talking, we got to know each other. We were learning about the things that were deeper than skin and physical attractiveness.

Imagine a dating relationship where the couple treated each other the way we treat God’s Word. Phone conversations would last only a few minutes. Time face-to-face would be self-focused, with little or know inquiry about the other person. The couple would claim to know each other and be in a relationship, but if queried about the other’s viewpoints or moral compass, the couple could give few answers.

No, time is the key. We must shun the gimmicks of this world and make that quality time with God and His Word.

Minutes translate into maturity – the kind that the author of Hebrews talks about in Hebrews 5:12-13.

As we develop that maturity, we start to learn what choice God wants us to make. Since we know His prioritites, we are able to make right choices that bring glory to Him.

Our battle cry for 2013 should be “maturity, not milk”. Let’s guard our time and choose to give it God. It’s the only way we will grow closer to Him.

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Is my smartphone sinful?

I never thought about my desire for new technology as being sinful (well, except for a waste of money).

But, Tim Challies does an excellent job of expounding on this commentary about new technology as a lifestyle. We do sometimes fall into this trap, and it is having an even greater effect on our children.

How sad that we allow ourselves to buy into the lie that we “need” this stuff to define ourselves.

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The silence

Silence is good.
In today’s world, we try to avoid silence as much as possible. Think about the quiet just after the power goes out. The hum of 21st century America dies, and you are left alone with nothing but the sound of your thoughts, and the voices of those around you.

For many that depth of quiet is unnerving. It’s too. . . quiet.

Society is not geared for that type of quiet. We might start to think. If we start thinking, we might start thinking about solutions to our problems. We might start thinking about ways to better our own lives and help others, too.

Instead we replace thought with speech. We all seek to have “a voice.” Facebook, blogs, Pinterest, and so on all give us that voice, even though we really don’t have much to say that is relevant.

Instead, we are so inundated with “noise” via social media, texts, phone calls, and so on, that the truly relevant voices are drowned out.

We have trained ourselves to multitask in every situation. Watch someone in a restaurant or a ballgame. Often they are more focused on what is going on outside their location. They check-in, tweet, post and write about their experience of being, rather than what is happening in front of them.

Life has become less about the reality of the event – and more about the experience.

That mentality has crept into our worship of God, too. We are told we should “feel the music” and “soak in” the glory (of God or Christ or the message). The volume has gone up to help drown out anything else. Unfortunately, God is often drowned out, too.

Loud is not always better. The heart-thumping bass can often over-shadow the quiet, still urgings of our conscience or God.

We can often learn more by spending time with a small group of friends, focused on intense Bible study, than we can in the largest arena listening to the greatest speakers of our day. We get lost amidst the noise of the crowd.

But, set aside time with a person who knows how to read and study the Bible, and suddenly the quiet voice we thought we would never hear explodes into our lives. Every sentence, every word within God’s Word has meaning, and relevance. A simple greeting from Paul, or a transitional word from John or James suddenly becomes a gateway to a closer relationship with God.

Embrace silence.

Not the mindless silence of Eastern monks, hoping to hear something that leads them to greater consciousness. Not the silence of New Agers hoping to hear their spirit guide. To even think that such silence could ever lead to a better relationship with God is heresy.  God speaks to us today through His Word. We have to be in it to hear from Him- read, study, ponder, digest, ruminate, and let His Word ecapsulate your life - and it will change not only your life, but those around you.

Psalms 46 is a great reference for how we allow ourselves to be distracted from who is important. The rumblings of the world and the nations and our fellow men keep our eyes off God. It is another example of the great lie of Satan. Focus outward, not upward. Have greater fear (or love) for our fellow man, than we have for God.

We put men before God – and Satan loves it.

But when we are still, we take our focus off our fellow man. God rises to the top. We may start out distracted with thoughts or feelings for others, but it doesn’t take long for the prodding of the Holy Spirit to press through those outward expressions – and we turn inward. Not in a self-aggrandizing fashion. Maybe at first, but then our layers are stripped away, and we start to see ourselves not as we want to be seen, but as we truly are. Needy, alone, sinful. When we reach that point, who else is there to turn to but God? He who alone is worthy of our focus, our attention, our love and and our obedience.

Psalms 46:10 sums it up.

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”

Silence. A very good thing.

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Time to stand up, Christian

If you or someone you know is reading material from Rick Warren, Beth Moore, Moody Institute, Saddleback programs, Erwin McManus, Francis Chan, John Piper, Tony Campolo or anyone from the Emergent Church, you owe it to yourself to listen to this sermon on how off-base these people are. I go into more detail below. If nothing else, listen to the last few minutes.

This is probably one of those posts where my angry side is overshadowing my patient side – although this has been on my mind since Sunday, so I’m surprised I waited this long.

To be blunt, the lack of discernment by today’s Christian is disheartening and infuriating.

Each day, there are new articles, podcasts and videos about people who are supposedly God’s children being suckered into believing all manner of falsehoods and teaching that is clearly against what the Bible proclaims.

I spoke Sunday at a local campground, for their morning worship. It was refreshing to see new faces, but not knowing their background, I worried that the sermon I had prepared was a little strong. It went beyond teaching to exhorting, and more (learn the difference in teaching and preaching).

This gist of my introduction was this:

People don’t need motivational speeches, they need to hear the word of God. They need to hear the Good the Bad and the Ugly of what the Bible says. You see, the more you read the Bible, the more you study it, the more you try to learn it, the more you realize how miserable you are compared to how great God is. You realize how unloving your life must be to a Holy and Perfect God. Yet, He still loves us. He loves us enough that He experienced not just death, but the punishment for every sin ever committed. Jesus took that punishment on Himself when He died on that cross.

He took the punishment for that little bite of fruit that Eve and Adam took in Genesis. He took the punishment for David sleeping with another man’s wife, then getting the man killed, then lying about it. He took the punishment for Jonah going the opposite way from the way God commanded him to go. He took the punishment for Ananias and Sapphira who deceived their fellow brothers and sisters in the book of Acts. He took the punishment for the worldly people described in Revelation, who will shake their fists at God, even when the whole universe is collapsing around them.

And he took the punishment for every misspoken word, every evil thought, every tiny little thing you and I have ever done that was, is or will be contrary to what God expects of us.

That’s how much God loves us. He gave us Christ, as an escape from the evil we do every single day of our lives. And that’s a message the world needs to hear. The person caught in an addiction needs to know that they are loved. A person walking through an endless cycle of bad marriages needs to know they can find a truly loving relationship through Christ. The women caught up in pornography or prostitution, or the men and women who make use of their services needs to know they are not damaged goods. They are redeemable, not because of what they have or have not done, but because God loves them, and because He loves them, we love them, too.

Later, I heard two wonderful pastors speaking on similar topics – speaking the truth of the Bible.

Pastor Jim Murphy, at First Baptist Church of Johnson City, NY, talked about how some very heretical teaching has crept into the churches. He said we celebrate things that are so against the Bible, yet we do not see the warning signs. Pastors stand in pulpits and echo the words of these false teachers, and hold them up as heroes.

More importantly, he asked for the congregation’s forgiveness for him not standing up when these teachings first became mainstream. I’m proud of this pastor for standing up now, when so many shrug their shoulders or refuse to call it heretical.

He said, “We are going to root it out of our ministry, because it is unacceptable, and it is not Biblical Christianity.”

I love that a seemingly regular pastor (not one of the big giants like John MacArthur or R.C. Sproul) is finally standing up saying these things.

“It is a big deal. It is a big deal to me, and it is a big deal to God. It is in opposition of the truth we believe,” Pastor Murphy said.

It comes down to a choice between feel-good Christianity or God’s way, he added.

Pastor Murphy also said that developing that sense of discernment is something each of us is called to do, and it is hard work. We have to actually read the Bible, and study it, instead of reading it off a screen on Sunday mornings.

The whole sermon is worth listening to, because he goes back to the root causes of all this – as far back as 1947. You could probably take it even further to the days of Charles Finney.

The second pastor I heard, Matt Brown, of Gaston Baptist Church in Booneville, Mississippi also laid some hard Biblical truth on the line. He preached on holiness, from a series on 1 Peter (1 Peter 1:17-2:3).

I was struck by how simple some of this stuff is to understand, when we take time to read it, or when we have someone truly knowledgeable about the text explain it to us. I’ve heard teachers older and more experienced than Pastor Brown try to explain passages like this, and they blow it big time.

They try to say its all about how God wants a personal relationship with us – like we’re so loveably cuddly that he can’t help but love us. Ugh.

Instead Pastor Brown said this passage is a great explanation of how we should live a holy life. Our relationship with God and Christ should cause us to want that holy life. He gives us the power to live a holy life, but we have to take advantage of that power, as given through the Word of God. We also have to set aside the “sins of attitude” and speech, as described in 1 Peter 2:1.

What I really loved, was his explanation of holiness, love and fear of God. Especially mindful for me, was the description of brotherly love. I know I’m not good at that, but he said “love is not based on a feeling, it is based on will.”

Wow, how many people today go around looking for the feeling, or holding back because they don’t have “a feeling.” We don’t do Christianity based on a feeling, but because it is what is expected of us.

What is truly heartbreaking is what links these two sermons together.

1) We have a duty and an expectation to be reading and studying the Word of God, so we know God, Christ and the Holy Spirit better. We don’t.

2) Because we don’t know what God’s word says, we are open to all manner of false teaching, heretical teaching, and beyond. Churches today, even those that seem strong, vibrant and Biblical don’t fight it.

3) Many Christians are hooked on a feeling so they miss out on so much Biblical truth, and being able to genuinely help people restore their relationship with God. They’d rather feel their faith, than try to work it out. (as an aside, that link above is for the David Hasselhoff version of the Blue Swede song, yikes, disturbing).

Sadly, like Pastor Murphy said, those who are aggrieved about what is going on in churches today are in the minority. This attitude of feel-good Christianity, of getting along at the expense of Biblical truth, and more, is so pervasive that we must constantly be on our guard. It is in the music we sing on Sundays, and in the books we study in small groups. Even worse, it is coming out of the mouths of people many have long respected.

It’s time Christian rise up and kick this junk out the door of the church, and get back to learning from the Bible so we can know the truth – and be set free indeed.

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