Archive for the ‘heaven’ Category

Only the Good Die Young?

May 18, 2008

This week saw the death of Tommy Burns one of the coaches of Celtic football club. He was a comparatively young 51 years. He seems to have been a genuinely decent bloke and his death touched not only his family but those involved in Scottish football. I read with interest one of the comments on his death by the BBC Scotland football correspondent Chick Young. Young wrote, ‘The good Lord hasn’t really got the hang of this. He really shouldn’t keep taking all the good guys. Poor Tommy. Snatched from us ridiculously early. It is scandalously unfair, this evil business of cancer.’ It reminded me of the obituaries that can often be read in the local newspapers. They run something like, ‘Jimmy you were one of the best because God only takes the best.’

What does this type of thinking say about us? On one level it shows that we are often hopelessly sentimental in the face of death. It also shows that despite declining church attendance in the UK we are a nation where ‘Christian’ folk religion is still very evident. (The comment that we believe in justification by death comes to mind.) It also reminds us that in a culture that scorns religion we still look to God for both answers and comfort in the face of death. The really sad corollary of this is that most people don’t look too hard. And they settle either for the suggestion that God is to blame and they have been robbed. Or for the comfort that their loved one is in the heaven they had no interest in whilst alive.

Above all they reflect a culture which largely denies death. Death in inevitable but only at a distance. Any death short of three score years and ten (plus another 20) is viewed as a savage act. Most people, according to one writer, envisage death in their early nineties after two sets of tennis, a good lunch and having made love to their partner. Then they will painlessly slip away. But death is no respecter of persons or age or our designs. Instead it is the great certainty for which we must be prepared. And it is in seeing death as that which Jesus has conquered in his death and resurrection that we come to realise that to be with Christ is no loss. Instead it is better by far.

Getting Heaven in Focus

December 18, 2007

At a recent Bible study in church we discussed our attitudes to heaven. It became clear as we did so that we had to admit that heaven did not occupy our thoughts in the manner that it ought to. It was suggested that some of the matters we discussed could be drawn together in some way so that we could think a little more about this important issue. I put together a short leaflet called ‘Getting Heaven in Focus.’ You can read it on our church website by clicking on the link below.

When Heaven isn’t Heaven

June 1, 2007

In his writings John Flavel, the Puritan minister, repeats the idea that heaven cannot be heaven to those who do not love God. For heaven is that realm where God is loved supremely and where God is prized above heaven itself. Therefore it must follow that for those who do not love God heaven cannot be heavenly.

It is an important point he makes. For in my experience of having to conduct funerals of those who have little time for God the expectation is that the departed loved one will go to heaven. I’ve never met anyone who even countenanced the idea that a loved one could go to hell. (In much the same way as I have never had anyone convert to atheism on their deathbed!) But would heaven be heavenly for someone who did not love God? I agree with Flavel that it would not. If God is not the delight of our earthly existence, how could He possibly be the delight of our heavenly existence?

In the final analysis, as Romans 2 makes clear, God give us what we have lived for. If we have sought Him He is our reward. If we have not sought Him then God also gives us the desires of our hearts- an eternal future without Him.

The pursuit of heaven really is the serious business of this life. The essence of true Christianity is not fire insurance faith but delight in and a longing for God.