Monday, June 24, 2019

Will We Learn in Heaven? BY Randy Alcorn

I heard a pastor say, “There will be no more learning in Heaven.” One writer says that in Heaven, “Activities such as investigation, comprehending and probing will never be necessary. Our understanding will be complete.” [1] In a Gallup poll of people’s perspectives about Heaven, only 18 percent thought people would grow intellectually in Heaven. [2]
Does Scripture indicate that we will learn in Heaven? Yes. Consider Ephesians 2:6-7: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace.” The word show means “to reveal.” The phrase in the coming ages clearly indicates this will be a progressive, ongoing revelation, in which we learn more and more about God’s grace.
I frequently learn new things about my wife, daughters, and closest friends, even though I’ve known them for many years. If I can always be learning something new about finite, limited human beings, surely I’ll learn far more about Jesus. None of us will ever begin to exhaust His depths.
Jesus said to His disciples, “Learn from me” (Matthew 11:29). On the New Earth, we’ll have the privilege of sitting at Jesus’ feet as Mary did, walking with Him over the countryside as His disciples did, always learning from Him. In Heaven we’ll continually learn new things about God, going ever deeper in our understanding.
Consider the Greek words ginosko and epiginosko, translated “know” in 1 Corinthians 13:12, used of our present knowledge on Earth and our future knowledge in Heaven: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Ginosko often means “to come to know,” and therefore “to learn” (Matthew 10:26John 12:9Acts 17:19Philippians 2:19). Epiginosko also means “to learn” (Luke 7:3723:7Acts 9:3022:29). [3] That we will one day “know fully” could well be understood as “we will always keep on learning.”
It was God—not Satan—who made us learners. God doesn’t want us to stop learning. What He wants to stop is what prevents us from learning.
Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards, who intensely studied Heaven, believed “the saints will be progressive in knowledge to all eternity.” [4] He added, “The number of ideas of the saints shall increase to eternity.” [5]
Will our knowledge and skills vary? Will some people in Heaven have greater knowledge and specialized abilities than others? Why not? Scripture never teaches sameness in Heaven. We will be individuals, each with our own memories and God-given gifts. Some of our knowledge will overlap, but not all. I’m not a mechanic or gardener, as you may be. I may or may not learn those skills on the New Earth. But even if I do, that doesn’t mean I’ll ever be as skilled a gardener or mechanic as you will be. After all, you had a head start on learning. The doctrine of continuity means that what we learn here carries over after death.
Don’t you love to discover something new? On the New Earth, some of our greatest discoveries may relate to the lives we’re living right now. Columnist and commentator Paul Harvey made a career of telling “the rest of the story.” That’s exactly what we’ll discover in Heaven again and again—the rest of the story. We’ll be stunned to learn how God orchestrated the events of our lives to influence people we may have forgotten about.
Occasionally we hear stories that provide us a small taste of what we’ll learn in eternity. One morning after I spoke at a church, a young woman came up to me and asked, “Do you remember a young man sitting next to you on a plane headed to college? You gave him your novel Deadline.” I give away a lot of my books on planes, but after some prompting, I remembered him. He was an unbeliever. We talked about Jesus, and I gave him the book and prayed for him as we got off the plane.
I was amazed when the young woman said to me, “He told me he never contacted you, so you wouldn’t know what happened. He got to college, checked into the dorm, sat down, and read your book. When he was done, he confessed his sins and gave his life to Jesus. And I can honestly tell you, he’s the most dynamic Christian I’ve ever met.”
All I did was talk a little, give him a book, and pray for him. But if the young woman hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t have had a clue what had happened. That story reminded me how many great stories await us in Heaven and how many we may not hear until we’ve been there a long time. We won’t ever know everything, and even what we will know, we won’t know all at once. We’ll be learners, forever. Few things excite me more than that.
Browse more resources on the topic of Heaven, and see Randy’s related books, including Heaven.

[1] Dave Hunt, Whatever Happened to Heaven? (Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House, 1988), 238.
[2] Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang, Heaven: A History (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), 307.
[3] Kittel et al., Theological Dictionary, 1:703.
[4] Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Perry Miller, vol. 13, The Miscellanies, ed. Thomas A. Schafer (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994), 483.
[5] Ibid., 275; I’m indebted to Andrew McClellan for several citations from his seminary paper “Jonathan Edwards’s View of Heaven,”August 15, 2003.

Friday, June 21, 2019


I know that “10 minutes to prepare for worship” probably sounds silly. Worship is so important that taking only ten minutes to get ready to encounter God feels almost sinful. My goal here, though, is to help those busy, busy church members who take even less time (if any at all) to get ready for worship each weekend. I want folks to start somewhere, so here’s a simple prayer strategy to follow:
  1. “Lord, cleanse my heart in preparation for worshiping You.”
Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me (Psa. 51:2-3)
  1. “Lord, make us long for You more than anything today.”
As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God.  I thirst for God, the living God. (Psa. 42:1-2)
  1. “Lord, give my pastor boldness to share the gospel.”
Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. (Eph. 6:19)
  1. “Lord, let us see Your glory.” 
                Then Moses said, “Please, let me see Your glory.” (Exo. 33:18)
  1. “Lord, change me. All of me – my heart, my words. Change our church through Your Word.” 
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. (Psa. 19:14)
  1. “I praise You, Lord.” 
May the Lord be praised forever. Amen and amen. (Psa. 89:52)
Amen, indeed. Worship Him fully this weekend. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Recap of the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention

I believe the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham, AL June 11-12, 2019 was the best I have ever attended.  The diversity of the gathering plus the anointed music led by The Summit Church, Durham, NC and the emphasis on handling sexual abuse and ministering well to the victims of sexual abuse all provided moments that made me proud to be a Southern Baptist.

For a full recapping of the convention, click here.

At that site are links to many of the articles reporting on the convention but also there are numerous links to other actual reports or videos.

The video of the Sexual Abuse Report by J.D. Greear on Wednesday is here.

All the videos of the sermons preached at The Pastor's Conference are available here.

Most all the videos of the actual convention are available through this web site by registering free for a Lifeway Digitial pass.   The Wednesday morning session of the worship is available there.

If you only want to watch 2-3 messages, be sure to see the second message by Jay and Katherine Wolfe on Session 1, Ed Litton's (the third one) message on Session 1 and David Platt's message in Session 2 where he addresses the issue of him praying for the President just eight days earlier.

The Roundtable on Racial Reconciliation (Session 3) was good and Andrew Brunson's message in Session four followed by the Persecution Roundtable was excellent.

Here is the short video of the bi-vocational pastor and his wife, Mike and Kim Perrigin, of Gordo, AL who have two special needs children who got their mortgage paid off by a private donor connected with the North American Mission Board.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Were the First Christians Socialists? by Kevin DeYoung

Now that we’ve gotten that answer out of the way, let me offer an important caveat. In arguing that the first Christians were not socialist (or communist for that matter), I am not supposing that they championed an early version of Hayek’s economic views and would have formed the first Cato Institute if given the chance. We should not make the Bible say more than it means to say, and that means that if we want to argue for the rightness of free-market capitalism we’ll have to do so based on something other than direct scriptural obligation.
It also means that we should not make the book of Acts into a precursor to the Communist Manifesto.
Here are the two passages most often used to suggest that the early church was socialist or communist.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. . . . There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32, 34-35)
Let’s set aside that socialism and communism are not identical, socialism being for Lenin a distinct stage between capitalism and communism. In broad terms, we could say that socialism implies social ownership of the means of production, while communism also insists upon an equitable and shared consumption of that production. In popular parlance (in America at least) communism still sounds bad to most people, but socialism is increasingly celebrated and defended. What contemporary proponents of socialism usually have in mind is not the ideas of Charles Fourier or Eugene V. Debs, but rather a rhetorical nod in the direction of strong government intervention into the economy and a redistribution of wealth that ensures no one has too little (and no one has too much).
Toward that end, you’ll often hear people point to the book of Acts as an example—to quote a recent tweet from a Member of the Scottish Parliament–of “outright socialistic redistribution amongst the first followers [of Jesus].”
At first glance it can look like the first-century church modeled an early form of socialism. After all, “they had everything in common.” Maybe Marx was just reading his Bible when he argued, “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.” Isn’t that what’s going on in the early church? Later in Acts 11:29 we read, “So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.” That sounds a lot like a big social safety net and redistribution along socialist lines.
Despite the initial plausibility of a socialist reading of Acts, there are at least two realities that make the sharing in the early church different from socialism and especially communism.
First, there is no evidence that the first Christians shared in the means of production and no record that they abolished private property. We see nothing like a workers collective, let alone state-run enterprises in the book of Acts. The Christians were generous, but they did not disavow personal ownership of their possessions. To be sure, we see Christians selling their land and houses in order to provide for the needy (Acts 4:34, 37). And yet, as Acts 5:4 makes clear, these assets remained in possession of private owners and could be used as the owners saw fit. Even after properties were sold, the proceeds belonged to the individual or family, not to the state, nor to a collective, nor even to the church. This is confirmed in the history of the early church as we see congregations meeting in private homes and persons still in possession of private property (Acts 16:15).
Second, the distribution of possessions in Acts was not by force or coercion, but chosen freely and voluntarily. To say the church had a wonderful communal spirit is far different from saying they practiced anything remotely like state-enforced communism. The expression “everything in common” was used to describe radical generosity in the early church. Sharing in the church was and is a clear sign of the in-breaking of the kingdom (1 John 3:16-17). But nowhere in the New Testament do we see the church embody or support a practice that forces wealth redistribution at penalty of church-run discipline or penalty of the state-run sword. “Everything in common” spoke to the love of the Christians, not to a law among the Christians.
One last thought in closing: When it comes to political prescriptions—from the left or from the right—we must insist as Christians on closer inspection of actual biblical texts. This doesn’t mean natural law has no place in our discussion or that we can’t argue from principles to practice. But it does mean that where we are talking about issues of economics or justice or race or whatever, we cannot settle for soft slogans and big themes. We have to get into the text and make our case from Scripture. And if we can’t make our case directly from Scripture—and often we won’t—let us be honest enough to make clear that we are basing our arguments, at least in part, on prudential considerations, history, social science, or other factors.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Southern Baptist Convention and Pastor's Conference

The Southern Baptist Convention and Pastor's Conference is in Birmingham this week.  If you are unable to attend, then you can watch all of it online.

The Pastor's Conference begins on Sunday evening at 6:00 and then three sessions on Monday.

The schedule is here.   The list of speakers is here.

You can watch it here.

The Southern Baptist Convention begins Tuesday morning at 8:00 and goes all day Tuesday and Wednesday.  The program is here.

You can watch it here.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Wednesday, June 5, 2019....From the Shepherd's Heart

I wish you could be around the church this week.  Our wonderful Children's Pastor is busy working and she has two fine young ladies helping her to prepare for VBS.  Teachers are coming in talking, plans are being made and everything (and everyone) is getting ready for THE WEEK!!!

That's right....THE WEEK!!  The single greatest week in the life of children's ministry in the church - Vacation Bible School.

It officially begins Sunday night at 5:30 and goes each evening through Thursday from 5:30 until 8:00.  It is for those who are three years of age through those who have just finished the sixth grade.  There is a Special Needs class for all ages.

Bible lessons, crafts, food, games, music, missions, fun....what a week ahead.

Would you stop a minute and pray for God to anoint the week with His Spirit?  Would you pray for the teachers as they mentally, physically and spiritually prepare to teach the Word of God?  Would you pray for all the children who will be coming?  Pray for God to open their hearts and eyes to the Gospel.  Pray for God to do a deepening work of His grace and power in the lives of the children who already have been saved.

It's going to be a great week.  Invite someone.  Bring them.  Everyone is welcome.  No one should miss it.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Two Verses Held Me Through Suffering by Paul Tripp

She put her world on hold for my sake.
Four years ago, when I suddenly found myself in the hospital for ten scary and torturous days, my wife Luella never left my side. It wasn’t just that she was there during normal visiting hours to talk with doctors and to greet the visitors whom I was unable to greet. She slept next to me in an uncomfortable recliner every night.
When the spasms returned, the pain intensified, or the nurse awakened me for medication, Luella was with me. In the morning when I awoke to face a day I really didn’t want to face, Luella was right there with me. When tears came, she was there to comfort. When I got discouraged, she was quick to encourage.
She said many encouraging things to me in that hospital room in my moments of physical and spiritual suffering, but there were five words she repeated to me over and over again that I needed to hear most: “Paul, your Lord is near.”

More Than Words

I have thought many times since then that Luella’s faithful, attentive presence in the darkest of days and the weakest of moments is a beautiful picture of the faithful presence of another. God is the ultimate present one. He has invaded our life by his grace. He is with us, for us, and in us.
The hope we have is more than a theological system or some wisdom principles for everyday life. Our hope rests on the willing, faithful, powerful, and loving presence of God with us. It is the ultimate gift of gifts to everyone who walks the harsh and bumpy road between birth and eternity. God has given us no sweeter, more beautiful gift than the gift of himself. He is the gift that changes everything.
Our hope is not found in understanding why God brings hardship into our lives. Our hope is not found in the belief that somehow we will tough our way through. Our hope is not found in doctors, lawyers, pastors, family, or friends. Our hope is not found in our resilience or ingenuity. Our hope is not found in ideas or things. Though we may look to all those for temporary help, ultimately our hope rests in the faithful and gracious presence of the Lord with us.

Two Verses to Memorize Again

I’m certain that you have memorized these two verses countless times, but I want to direct your attention to them again. These two amazing promises about God’s presence provide true, lasting, and sturdy hope when things you have hoped in lie beaten, battered, and broken into pieces.

“Behold, I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

It is important to note that Jesus spoke these words to his disciples while they were being commissioned to give their lives as agents of his great redemptive mission. Jesus ended his commission with these words because he knew the world he was sending his disciples into, and he knew what they would face.
He knew that their way would be difficult and their job uncomfortable. He knew that they would face constant opposition, misunderstanding, accusation, and rejection. He knew that they would be chased and imprisoned, persecuted, and beaten, and that many of them would give their lives for his cause.
But he would not let them suffer alone. He would not let them suffer in their own strength. He would not leave them to their own political standing. He would not let them rely on their own wisdom. He would give these loyal suffering ones the best assurance ever — that he would always be with them. He would not think of sending them into the cruelty of this fallen world without going with them. He knew what they were facing, and he would give them what they needed — and, more than anything else, what they needed was him.

“I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).

This promise is given numerous times in Scripture. Every time one of God’s children or the whole community of God’s children faced something hard, new, difficult, or overwhelming, God greeted them with this promise. He never called them to a task, sent them to a destination, or led them into difficulty, and then abandoned them. No matter how hard the situation or inadequate their response, God was with them and for them. The declaration that he would never leave them is a significant reminder and protection for everyone who suffers.

Not a Distant Lord

In an indescribable act of unmerited grace, God has made you the place where he lives, and in the faithfulness of that grace he will never walk away from you.
In all the emotional and spiritual ups and downs, on the good days and the bad days, when you fight or succumb, one thing is for sure: Your Lord is with you, and there is no struggle without or war within that will ever drive him away from his children. And his presence guarantees that in your suffering you will have everything you need.
Below is a meditation in the form of verse that I wrote to encourage my soul when my Lord led me into unexpected and hard places. I pray that the truths of the gospel will stimulate a worship, rest, and celebration in you that the difficulties of life, this side of eternity, will not have the power to end.
You are not a distant Lord,
a detached Master
moving the pawns
on the board
in an impersonal act
of winning.
Your lordship
does not separate
me from you
as a serf
would be separated
from a king. No, you accomplished
your sovereign plan
by invading my
dark and messy world
in the person
of your Son,
giving yourself
in radical grace
to people
who saw no value
in your nearness.
You are Master,
but you are
You are Lord,
but you are
You are King,
but you are
You are Sovereign,
but you are
Your rule is not from
No, your rule brings you
I have hope today
because you are not
And I celebrate
the amazing
rest and strength
to be found in the reality that
your sovereignty
has brought you