How I know heaven is for real

Today marks 8 years since our son Jacob left us.

What is heaven like for him? What does he see? What does he hear? I’ve been thinking about these things today.

If he could return and tell us of heaven, which he will not, would it bring unbelievers to faith? No, it cannot.

Paul the apostle was taken to heaven but not allowed to speak of the things he heard and seen. But many people have profited off fanciful books about supposed heavenly experiences.

After Paul’s heavenly experience God allowed Satan to torment and weaken him. Why? To humble him into silence and to prevent pride from growing, because of the multiple heavenly revelations given to him from God.

What makes us think that the “experience” of a child would convince us that ”Heaven is for real?” If the apostle was prevented from speaking on these things why would I believe anybody else?

And what about hell? The rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus back from paradise to his brothers and warn them of the coming torment.

What did Jesus teach on that?

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:31

Truth is, unbelief is impenetrable apart from the gospel. All mankind’s subjective experiences are powerless to produce faith.

This was made very clear to Peter, James and John on the mount of transfiguration.

And what was Peters words concerning his actual, real experience?

“For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 2 Peter 1:17-19

Peters actual experience, though valid, took a back seat to the fulfilled prophecies concerning Jesus.

What am I getting at? Apart from the scriptures concerning Jesus there is no experience that can penetrate the hardened unbelieving heart.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

The continuing gospel epic in the scriptures of Jesus the Son of God is the power that God uses to save all who believe. Do you believe the following?

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.”
1 Corinthians 15:3-6

I have hope that I will someday meet Jesus face to face and be reunited with the ones I love.

This confident hope isn’t based on fanciful fables. It is based on actual, factual, historical, undeniable and verifiable truth.

Happy heavenly birthday Jacob. We love you and by grace through faith will see you again.

Jacob love dogs

Wetting the shoulders of others.

Jacob and Emily

I know far too many parents who have lost children.

It’s been nearly 8 years since our son Jacob died of an overdose. Over those years we have been called upon a number of times to comfort parents that are new members to the club.

I remember the faces, the tears and the comfort provided by bereaved parents when we suddenly entered into our sorrows in late March 2014.

We received that phone call again on November 30th. A call from a bereaved sister to another bereaved sister to share the news that their cousin had just joined the club.

You know the journey all to well. You know what is ahead of them. You know the healing process and you know nothing but time will ease the endless pain.

You’re taken back when those calls come. Back to a time and place that you know all to well. A place of surreal numbness and unbelievable pain and a place you don’t want to return to but you must.

So we went to them. It’s best that words be few in these times. It’s a time to be silent and mostly listen to the hearts of the grieving. A time to embrace and wet each other’s shoulders.

I remember their joy when they discovered that they were going to be grandparents. We were so happy for them. Now that child is without a father. Their daughter in law is a widow and they are without their only son.

It’s easy to rejoice with those who rejoice. It’s not so easy to enter into familiar pain and weep with those who weep. But we go gladly remembering the club members who came to us in our first hours.

For those of us who are unfortunately familiar with the grief of losing a child it’s different. We have words of knowledge but for the most part they are better left unsaid. In time the bereaved will learn what we know and those comforting discussions will happen later down the road.

Perhaps the most common thing stated in the early stages of these horrific days is, “I don’t know what to say.” And we don’t. So I suppose it’s not even necessary to say that. But we do. And that’s OK too.

So we left to enter into the joys and sorrows of those we love and to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

Sometimes, especially in these times, letting our shoulders become tissues is the best and only thing we can do.

Tailgater or bandwagon fan?

I enjoy sports like many if not most Americans. I am a fan but also admit I am a fickle one.

Win or lose I have neither gained or lost anything. For me it’s simply entertainment. I can take it or leave it. If my team is winning I tend to follow them more, if they lose I watch them less. I am a Detroit Lions fan but become quickly disinterested every year.

I am a fickle fan. A bandwagon fan you might say and not a tailgater.

Can this be the spirit of the age in post modern Christian Americans? Can we be fickle admirers of Jesus but not truly committed disciples?

There is a huge difference between an admirer of Jesus and a disciple of Jesus willing to follow him to the end.

It’s so easy in our common circles of non conflicting views to talk about the evils happening in woke culture in our highest institutions and churches.

But will we speak into hostile circles confronting the present evil of this age? This in my view is the difference between an admirer and a disciple.

The good deeds of Jesus gained him many bandwagon admirers but it was his words that pared down this crowd to the core group of true disciples. Committed tailgaters.

There are admirers of Jesus in many American pulpits and pews but I’m afraid many are not disciples.

Jesus said to his brothers. “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” John 7:7

As disciples we testify of evil and call people to repentance through the gospel. We are to speak against the evil in the world that much clergy practices and preaches.

Admirers walk away from this but disciples don’t regardless of the consequences. We speak the truth in love regardless of cost.

Jesus said this to his tailgaters.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:18-19

I’m not interested in bandwagon faith. I admire Jesus but he wants much more than my admiration. He calls for a committed tailgaters faith.

What about you? Are you a admirer or a disciple?

The Comforter has come

The image of a mother kneeling and lamenting at her sons coffin draped with an American flag has troubled me this week.

We know all too well the depth of sorrow the death of a child brings on a soul.

Grief grips you tightly. There were days that I thought I’d never be free from its grasp.

The mourners of those 13 kids will be comforted in the coming weeks and months. It will come in odd ways through various means.

God is the healing balm for their souls. It’s applied daily and slowly until the wounds develop a scar and the sharp pangs subside to subtle aches.

The ache and scars never leave however.

God employs his people in this therapy. I remember their faces, their prayers, their presence and comforting silence.

The Holy Spirit is our comforter. He blankets us with love, soothing the pain of the soul.

There will be comfort in the coming days for these bereaved. Compassionate empathy and comfort will be dispensed. Most likely through other gold star parents.

When comfort comes we know it is directly from God who dispenses through whatever means he chooses.

Nothing is wasted with God. Our pain is someone else’s gain. Let us use our painful past to comfort those in present distress. It’s a God thing. It’s how he comforts the afflicted.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.- 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The saplings in our lives

I called my friend Barry when I was deep in grief and unloaded all my burdens on him.

I was angry. I was angry with people and circumstances that day. I spewed all my frustrations on my friend that sunny afternoon.

After my release of emotion I apologized for my rant. He replied, “Mike, if you are in the same place a year from now I’d be worried about you.”

Many years earlier before the death of my son Barry and I had a conversation about anger while sitting on his back porch.

He pointed at the enormous white pine in the back yard and made an observation.

He said, “You see that tree? When it was a sapling you could walk up and pull it out very easily with your hands. But now it has deep roots and years of growth. It will take a lot of hard work to remove it now.”

Continue reading