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Book Review: “The Shack”

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The Shack is a motion picture being released on March 3, 2017. It has a Christian message, yet some Christians are calling the movie heresy. What’s going on?
The movie is based on the bestseller of the same name by William Paul Young. It is a deeply emotional story about why God allows suffering. The main character, Mack, gets a note from God, asking him to return to the shack where his young daughter had been murdered. Mack goes, and finds answers to his questions and doubts about God’s goodness. Sounds inspiring, doesn’t it? Then why the controversy?

Negative elements in the book
Many people are bothered by the portrayal of the Trinity in the book. God the Father appears as a black woman who goes by the name “Papa,” Jesus appears as a Middle Eastern man, and the Holy Spirit appears as an Asian woman named Sarayu (Sanskrit for “wind”) whom you can see through. Although they appear as three persons, they are shown as completely one, as they answer Mack in unison from time to time, and whenever he has a conversation with one of them, they always continue the conversations he had with the others. “Papa” reminds Mack that God is spirit, and since Mack had a poor relationship with his own father, he chose to reveal himself to Mack as a woman to get around his resistance. In fact, (spoiler warning: don’t read this next statement if you don’t want to know too much about the novel’s plot…) at the end of the book, after Mack is reconciled to his own father, “Papa” appears to Mack as a man.
Some people will be put off by a few uses of profanity in the book in the dialogue. There is one use of S.O.B., and a few other milder profanities spoken mostly in passages where the speaker is angry.
The most troubling part of the book occurs on page 182. Jesus is talking to Mack, and he says, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions…” At this point, Jesus appears to be teaching universalism, that everybody will be saved. It appears that Jesus is saying that He has taken people from any background and transformed them. Notice the next words that William Young has “Jesus” speak:
“…I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some were bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.”
“‘Does that mean,’ asked Mack, ‘that all roads will lead to you?’
‘Not at all,’ smiled Jesus as he reached for the door handle to the shop. ‘Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.'”
Perhaps this is universalism, or perhaps it means that Jesus is the only way, but He will do what it takes to reach us. The only thing that is clear is that it is left unclear.

Positive elements in the book
The book does a beautiful job of showing that following Jesus is more a matter of relationship than religion. It illustrates how suffering cannot be understood because we cannot understand all of God’s purposes, thus we simply must trust God.
(Spoiler warning: skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know too much of the plot…) Perhaps the most powerful part of the book is when Mack is asked to “play God” and decide which three of his children will go to hell and which two will go to heaven. Mack’s reaction to this awful choice helps him see how God works through suffering.
There are several good quotations in the book:
“Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.” (p. 185)
God says, “I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active, and moving. I am a being verb.” (p. 204)
God says, “Forgiveness is about forgetting, Mack. It is about letting go of another person’s throat.” (p. 224)

Conclusion
This is a review of The Shack, the book. I have not yet seen the movie, so bear in mind that the movie could be better or worse. I plan to see the movie, and write a follow-up review of the actual film.
Should you go see the movie, assuming it is similar to the book? If you or those with you will be confused and upset by profanity, unorthodox depictions of God, and implications of universal salvation, then don’t go. If you feel that you can look past these matters to get an inspiring message of how God works through suffering, then you may want to go. Despite it’s negative elements, it can be an opportunity to discuss how we ultimately find hope not in the shack, but in the cross.

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The wonder of the Christ child

BethlehemStable

Article copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers

Barbara Robinson writes in her book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, about a Sunday School Christmas pageant. One child heard from Isaiah 9:6 that the Christ child’s name would be “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Wide-eyed, she responded, “He’d never get out of the first grade if he had to write all that.”
Perhaps we need to return to this familiar prophetic title with the same wonder of a child. We will see:

As Wonderful Counselor, Christ takes away our gloom.
As Mighty God, Christ takes away our doom.
As Everlasting Father, Christ adopts us all.
As Prince of Peace, Christ takes down the wall.

In the verses before Isaiah 9:6, we see how meaningful this really is…

I. Wonderful Counselor takes away our gloom

Isaiah 9:1 says “the gloom of the distressed will not be like that of the former times.” In this world, we often live in gloom and sorrow, but Christ takes it away. Our Wonderful Counselor listens with compassion, helps us see matters in a new light, confronts us with the truth, and guides us in the right way.

II. Mighty God takes away our doom

Isaiah 9:2 says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Because of our sin, we are living in the land of death, headed to a sinner’s hell. But the Christ child is more than a sweet baby; He is God in flesh, and able to save us from our sins by His sacrifice on the cross. He came to earth, so that we may go to heaven.

III. Everlasting Father adopts us all

Isaiah 9:4 speaks of the oppression and burdens of the people, who have no one to protect them. But God is a good Father, and His Son Jesus has come to adopt us all. When I say, “adopts us all,” I don’t mean to imply universal salvation; I’m speaking poetically of all who trust the blood of Christ, and then are adopted into God’s family, as if we were blood brothers and sisters. “I will not leave you as orphans,” Jesus promised in John 14:18.

IV. Prince of Peace takes down the wall

Isaiah 9:5 speaks of the blood of war, from which Christ came to bring peace. He takes down the wall of sin (Isaiah 59:2), so that nothing separates us from God (Romans 8:38-39). He takes down the wall that separates us from our brothers and sisters in Christ: “For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

When missionary Don Richardson was trying to explain the gospel to a remote tribe, they could not understand the incarnation of God in flesh or the atonement of Christ upon the cross. But then he learned that when tribes wanted to make peace, they would exchange children to grow up in the other tribe. That was it! He explained that Jesus is our “Peace Child,” the Son of God, born as a Son of Man to make peace through His flesh.
Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah’s birth long ago. As you celebrate His birth, you can also be born again by faith (John 3:3). Have you?

The right question to ask of Job

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Copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers

“Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2:10, HCSB)

Last week, I met a man who wanted to give up on life. I asked him if he knew the story of Job, from the Bible. He said he had a Bible somewhere, but had never heard of Job. So I gave him the short version of the story: Job was a good man who worshiped God, but he lost everything. Bandits stole his property, a storm killed his children, and then his skin broke out in painful sores. His wife told him, “Curse God and die.” When I said this, my new friend raised his eyebrows, and wanted to know what happened next. I explained that Job refused to curse God. Then his three friends came to comfort him, but instead of comforting him, they tried to defend God. They said Job must have sinned, and that was why God was allowing him to suffer. Job objected, saying he didn’t deserve his suffering. In the end, God spoke to Job, and restored his fortunes.

The wrong question to ask of Job

   Many people go to the book of Job looking for the answer to why people suffer. Unfortunately, the only answers they find are negative:
Job’s suffering was not because God was angry or punishing him. Bildad, one of Job’s friends, accused him of this. He implied that Job must have forgotten God, so God forgot him (Job 8:13). But Bildad was wrong! God specifically said in Job 1:8 and 2:3, “Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil.”
Job’s suffering was not because Job sinned. Bildad said that Job’s children died because of their sin (8:3), and Zophar, another one of Job’s friends, accused Job himself of being so sinful that “God has chosen to overlook some of your sins” (11:6). But they were wrong! Job 2:10 says, “Throughout all of this Job did not sin in what he said.”
Job’s suffering was not answered by God, either. After the long debates between Job and his friends, the Lord Himself answered Job from the whirlwind in chapters 38-41. But if you read those chapters to find an answer to suffering, you will be disappointed. It’s not there. Instead, God turns the questions on those who have been asking questions. “Where were you when I established the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding,” God asks (38:4). Then the Lord lists the amazing traits of His creation, and asks if Job can explain all of that. The point is blunt: We do not know all there is to know. Only God does. We cannot understand God. As the Lord proclaimed through the prophet Isaiah, “For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
So what is the answer to suffering? The Book of Job doesn’t answer that question. In fact, it’s the wrong question to ask.

The right question to ask of Job

    The question to ask is not, Why is there suffering? The question to ask is, What do suffering people need to do? The Book of Job has hope-filled answers to this question.
First, hold on to faith. Despite his losses and sorrow, Job fell to the ground and worshiped, saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh” (1:21). Later, in the middle of his debates with his friends, Job says, “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him.” This doesn’t fit with the so-called “prosperity gospel” that says if you just have faith, all will go well. No, this is a real-world faith, that holds on to God’s hand, even when it cannot see His plan.
Second, live in integrity. Satan, the old accuser before the Lord, said that Job would curse God if Job suffered. But Satan was wrong. This is one of the major points of the book. The word “integrity” is repeatedly used to describe Job. Notice the question Job’s wife asks: “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die!” (2:9) But Job rejects her suggestion as foolish, saying, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (2:10) We read in James 2:2-4 to consider it joy when we face trials, because God uses it to produce maturity in us. It has been my observation as a hospital chaplain, that suffering generally reveals the attitude that is already in a person. I’ve seen people handle horrible physical problems with grace and peace, while others with lesser physical ailments complain and are bitter. We choose how we will respond. Job set a standard, choosing to live in integrity.
Third, hope in the Savior. One of the greatest cries of faith comes in the midst of the greatest pain, when Job says, “Even now my witness is in heaven, and my advocate is in the heights!… But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last. Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh” (16:19; 19:25-26). Long before Jesus Christ came, Job caught a vision of the Redeemer, who would die on the cross for our sins, and be our advocate before God the Father (Romans 8:34; 1 Timothy 2:5).
There is an fable about a poor man who had a valuable horse. People told him that he should sell his horse, so he wouldn’t be poor, but he refused. Then the horse ran away, and the people asked, “Why didn’t you sell it when you could? The man said, “Don’t say that. All you can say is the horse ran away.” Later, the horse returned, with 20 wild horses, and the man suddenly became the owner of 21 valuable horses. This time they said, “We were wrong! Now we know why the horse ran away; it was to bring you riches later.” The man said, “Don’t say that. All you can say is the horse returned with more horses.” Then the man’s son broke his leg, trying to tame one of the wild horses. The people said, “Why did you keep the wild horses? Now your son has a broken leg.” The man said, “Don’t say that. All you can say is my son broke his leg.” Then their country went to war against a larger, more powerful nation, and the army came to their town, forcing all of the young men to join the army, except for the son of the man with the wild horses. The people said, “Now we know why his leg was broken, to spare him from dying in the war.” Once again, the man said, “Don’t say that. We don’t know why. All we can say is my son did not have to go to war.”
Thus the question we need to ask is not why? but what? Not, Why do people suffer? but What do suffering people need to do? Even if we knew the answer to why, it would not help us do anything different. But the answer to the second question gives us hope and purpose that we can put into action. Because our Redeemer lives, we even after our skin is destroyed, we shall see God!

Movie review: “Unbroken”

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I loved Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling book, Unbroken, about the amazing life of Louie Zamperini, so I was excited to hear that a movie version was being made. However, I was concerned when I heard reports that director Angelina Jolie had cut out the story of Zamperini’s Christian conversion.

The life of Louie Zamperini was made up of three inspiring stories of redemption: athlete, war hero, and Christian servant. Any one of these stories would make an great book or movie. The first story is how he was changed from a troubled boy into an Olympic runner through the inspiration of his big brother. The second story is how he survived air battles with the Japanese, a crash and 45 days afloat in the Pacific Ocean, and horrible torture in a Japanese P.O.W. camp through his personal determination. The third story is how he was saved from alcoholism, post-war trauma, a broken marriage, and bitterness toward the Japanese when he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at the Los Angeles evangelistic crusade in 1949 that made Billy Graham a world-famous preacher. The book tells all three of these stories; the movie tells the first two.

When I went to see the movie, I knew the conversion story would not be told, so I went with low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the movie did include the same foreshadowing of his spiritual conversion that is found in the book: the Christian message he heard growing up in an Italian Catholic home with a praying mother, and the promise he made to God when adrift in the ocean that if God would save him, he would serve Him the rest of his life. The movie ends with his homecoming after the war, but the text on the screen briefly tells the viewer that Zamperini “made good” on his promise to serve God, and that he returned to Japan to forgive his captors.

So the story of Zamperini’s faith is not omitted from the movie, but it is greatly abbreviated. The movie itself is very well done. The acting, filming, musical score and drama is top-notch and faithful to the story found in the first two parts of the book. If you have read the book, you will still enjoy the movie. If you have not read the book, I encourage you to see the movie and then read Laura Hillenbrand’s book to get “the rest of the story.”

Poem: “Glory”

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

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Glory

Things from nothing

Man from dust

Sin from perfection

Evil from innocence

Promise from faith

Hope from belief

Laws from above

Commands from Him

Failure from obedience

Despair from hope

Love for hate

Blood for anyone

Light in darkness

Peace in war

Crying to joy

Death to life

Glory

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The shotgun house on Desire Street

Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers

DesireStreet

Lillie Mae Lanier leaned on her wall

In her shotgun house on Desire Street.

Missing her husband, afraid of it all

In her shotgun house on Desire Street.

Her heart hurt, her head broke

Open the truth that she spoke

To her wall– as it wondered if it could stay still

When such painful emotions were written on the wall

In the shotgun house on Desire Street.

Katrina had come, Katrina had gone

To the shotgun house on Desire Street.

Waters had risen, families washed away

But Lillie Mae Lanier never wandered away

From the faith she had on Desire Street

Why? You may ask. Why lean on that wall

In your shotgun house on Desire Street?

Lillie Mae still leans day after day

In her shotgun house on Desire Street

For she knows the wall will never give way

And one day will take her heart far away

From her shotgun house on Desire Street.

When all that you have has melted away

And Monday’s food must last till Friday

You need a wall to lean on

You need a foundation to stand on

Lillie read the words written on her wall

That keeps her faith strong

That moves her along

She knows that one day He will take her away

And she’ll never again live on Desire Street.

For she’s a princess in hiding

And she’s waiting for her King

To smile on her heart on the day she departs

From her shotgun house on Desire Street.

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(If you see a video ad below this post, please understand that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product.)

Why John Calvin was wrong about Romans 9

JohnCalvin Copyright 2013 by Dr. Bob Rogers

Under consideration for publication.

Reproduction is expressly forbidden.

   John Calvin was wrong about Romans 9.
Calvin, the Protestant reformer of Geneva, Switzerland, was a great theologian. He became famous for his emphasis on the sovereignty of God and God’s predestination of our salvation. But in his commentary on the ninth chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, John Calvin took predestination beyond anything the apostle Paul intended to say.

Qualifications of what I’m saying

   Don’t misunderstand me. Let me state up front some things that I believe the Bible teaches. I believe that salvation is completely by the grace of God and cannot be earned by our good deeds. Second, I believe that God is merciful and at the same time God is just. Third, I believe in the sovereignty of God; God can do what he wants to do. Fourth, I believe that we have a free will to choose to follow or not follow Christ; however, when we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, the Bible says that we are chosen, or predestined.

   Let me also say that in disagreeing with John Calvin, I am not disagreeing with all people who consider themselves Calvinists. My disagreement is with a specific brand of Calvinism and with a specific statement made by John Calvin in his own commentary on Romans. Many will argue that Calvin himself took a different position in some of his other writings, and that may be true, but it does not change the fact that Calvin was wrong in his commentary on Romans 9.

 

The key verses and Calvin’s comments

   The debate centers around the key verses, Romans 9:18, 22 (HCSB): “So then, He shows mercy to those He wants to, and He hardens those He wants to harden… And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction?”

   Calvin says in his commentary on Romans 9, “Paul teaches us, that the ruin of the wicked is not only foreseen by the Lord, but also ordained by his counsel and his will… that not only the destruction of the wicked is foreknown, but that the wicked themselves have been created for this very end—that they may perish.” (John Calvin, Commentary on Romans.)

   John Calvin’s interpretation of Romans 9:18 and 22 is called double-edged predestination. It is the belief not only that the saved are predestined to be saved, but also that the lost are predestined to be damned. At first glance, one can see how Calvin would interpret this passage the way he did. But a study of these verses in light of the entire chapter reveals a completely different picture of what Paul was saying.

 

God is not unjust

   Calvin’s interpretation makes God arbitrary and implies that God is unjust. Yet Paul reminds us in Romans 9:14, “Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not!” Let’s go through the chapter and see how God is both merciful and just.

 

Hardened clay and melted butter

   When Romans 9:18 says that God shows mercy on whom He desires and hardens whom He desires, this does not mean that God is arbitrary or unfair. Let’s look at the context of this statement. In the previous verse, verse 17, Paul spoke about Pharaoh, who hardened his heart and would not let the people of Israel go from slavery. But if one reads the story in Exodus, one finds that half of the time it says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and half of the time it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. What Exodus described was the process by which God brought out the hardness that was already in Pharaoh’s heart. As Dale Moody says, “The sun that hardens the clay melts the butter.” (The Broadman Bible Commmentary, vol. 10: Acts- I Corinthians, “Romans,” by Dale Moody, p. 230.) Thus God was not making Pharaoh do something that Pharaoh didn’t already want to do. Likewise, God does not take away our free will to obey or disobey.

 

The clay pot and the potter

   Next, we note that Paul uses the example of a clay pot to illustrate predestination. He says in verses 20-21, that we have no right as mere humans to talk back to God about His will. It is interesting that Jeremiah 18:5-10 also uses the clay pot illustration to show how God reacts differently when we respond differently. Jeremiah says that if a people whom God warns will repent of their evil, then God will relent of his disaster and not inflict on them the disaster God had planned. This shows how predestination works in the mind and heart of God. Of course, God in His foreknowledge already knows what we will do, so when we choose Christ, God speaks of having chosen us.

 

A choice by faith

   Romans 9:30-33 shows how salvation comes by a free choice to believe the gospel, not by arbitrary predestination. It does this by drawing a contrast between Gentiles who obtained righteousness and the Jews who did not obtain righteousness. What was the difference? It was their faith! Verse 30 says the Gentiles obtained a “righteousness that comes from faith.” Verse 31 says Israel did not achieve this righteousness. “Why is that?” Paul asks in verse 32. His answer: “Because they did not pursue it by faith.”

 

Objects of wrath and objects of mercy—treated differently

   With all of this in mind, let us return to the key verses that are central to this debate, Romans 9:22-23. These verses have been interpreted as teaching double-edged predestination, because they speak of the “objects of wrath ready for destruction” and “objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory.” However, what many people miss here, is that Paul describes the objects of wrath (the damned) and the objects of mercy (the saved) in different ways in this passage. The Greek grammar in verse 22 describes the “objects of wrath ready for destruction” with a perfect participle in the middle or passive voice.  Thus it describes the objects of wrath, which refer to the lost, as “having been made ready for destruction,” which may mean they prepared themselves for destruction by their own unbelief. Notice also that God “endured with much patience the objects of wrath.” In other words, God patiently waited for their free choices, because, as 2 Peter 2:9 says, God is not willing that any be lost.

   However, the Greek grammar is different when referring to the “objects of mercy” in verse 23. Paul describes the “objects of mercy” as those “that He prepared beforehand for glory.” This time, Paul uses the active voice to describe God’s action of salvation. In other words, Paul speaks of the saved as actively being predestined by God beforehand, but Paul speaks of the damned as passively being predestined, implying it is the result of their own choices, which God in His omniscience already knew they would make.

 

Why John Calvin was wrong

   John Calvin said that the apostle Paul taught in Romans 9 that God created the wicked for the purpose of damning them to Hell. But when we read Paul’s words carefully and in context, we see that Calvin was wrong. Instead, Paul says that God is not unjust. He says that God hardens the heart, but those are hearts that have also freely chosen to harden themselves. He says that we are like clay pots that cannot question God who forms them, but those same clay pots do have a choice to respond to the potter’s hands. If anybody is an object of God’s wrath, it is because that person has failed to obtain salvation by faith. The choice is always ours, but God always knows what choice we will make.

Guest blog: OUT OF THIS WORLD! Part Three: Books and audiovisuals on near death experiences and the afterlife.

Copyright 2013 by Joyce C. Rogers

BOOKSnde(For the past two days on this blog, my mother, Joyce Rogers, has shared her insights from scripture and other resources on the subject of what happens when we die. Today she lists the books, articles and audiovisuals she read on the subject, with a brief comment about each.)

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alcorn, Randy. Heaven. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Randy is considered a leading authority on Heaven. He answers some tough questions as he invites you to picture Heaven as the Scripture does. This is a very scholarly book. One needs more than an afternoon to read it!

Alexander, Eben, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. Simon and Schuster Paperbacks. Dr. Alexander spent seven days in a coma and experienced a heavenly reality of love and beauty. His experiences changed his scientific mind to one of profound belief in God, spirituality and love. An excellent book.

Black, Dale. Flight to heaven; A Plane Crash: A Lone Survivor: A Journey to Heaven and Back. Published by Bethany House Publishers. Captain Black pursued his dream of flying planes, even after being severely injured in a plane crash. His trip to Heaven is beautifully detailed. The story is a fascinating read.

Burpo, Todd and Sonja Burpo. Heaven Changes Everything. Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. This is a sequel to the very popular book, Heaven is for Real, the story of little Colton Burpo’s unforgettable trip to Heaven. This family’s lives were changed. The Burpos show how believing in Heaven helps one survive hardships here on earth, including the death of a loved one, particularly the loss of a child. A sweet and down to earth book.

Burpo, Todd with Lynn Vincent. Heaven is for Real: A little boy’s astounding story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. Thomas Nelson Publishing. A four year old child, he sat on Jesus’ lap, said angels took him from his hospital bed and other wonderful things. Colton spoke with disarming innocence. A delightful and convincing book. Colton and his parents were interviewed on the “Today” show, showing the public interest in this story.

Garlow, James and Keith Wall. Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife: True Stories From People Who Have Glimpsed the World Beyond. People who have had near death experiences (NDEs) bring back word descriptions of the pathway to Heaven or the descent into the darkness of Hell. Those who go to Heaven lose their fear and report amazing feelings of love, warmth and acceptance. Those who go to Hell are horrified and so thankful they get to come back.
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Graham, Billy. Death and the Life After. Word Publishing. Billy Graham talks about how the culture relates to death, the death of children, living wills, euthanasia, hospice care, the grief process, and preparation for death. He explores the practical side of death. Dr. Graham helps the reader find peace and comfort for those grieving or pre- paring a will or planning a funeral.

Graham, Billy. Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well. Thomas Nelson Publishing. At 93, Dr. Graham said that old age was a surprise. He advises one not to retire from life. Many older people have heard and obeyed God’s call. He says leave a legacy of faithfulness. We are meant for Heaven, our final home. Heaven is glorious because it is the dwelling place of God.

Graham, Billy. The Heaven Answer Book. Thomas Nelson Publishing. This short little question and answer book gives straight biblical answers about heaven in typical Billy Graham style. He answers such questions as “Does Heaven really exist?” and “What is a resurrected body?” Dr. Graham is evangelistic in his approach to these questions and answers.

Harris, Trudy. Glimpses of Heaven: True Stories. Published by Revell. A hospice nurse relates stories of those leaving the world in his/her own unique way.

Harrie, Trudy. More Glimpses of Heaven: Inspiring True Stories of Hope and Peace at The End of Life’s Journey. Published by Revell. More stories of the beauty and pain of life’s end as observed by hospice nurse, Trudy Harris.

Lotz, Anne Graham. Heaven, My Father’s House. W. Publishing Group. Billy Graham’s daughter writes about our heavenly home compared to our earthly home. She says, “The invitation to my Father’s house is extended to all, but you have to RSVP.” This is an inspiring little book.

Malz, Betty, My Glimpse of Eternity. Published by Chosen. Betty was “officially” Pronounced dead for 28 minutes before waking to report seeing and hearing angels and understanding several different languages at once. Catherine Marshall said, “Upon occasion God breaks into human life to give us a glimpse of what lies ahead.
Betty Malz’s remarkable experience is a resounding ‘Yes, there is life after death.’”

Neal, Mary C. MD. To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, angels, and Life Again. Waterbrook Press. Dr. Neal, a spine specialist, had a kayak accident and drowned. Her friends worked hard to revive her and finally did. In her “in-between “ state, she experienced a joyous welcome celebration in Heaven. Very readable and interesting.

Piper, Don with Cecil Murphy. 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life. Published by Revell. A popular book involving a car accident, being pronounced dead and waking up to sing with a minister praying and singing over him. After a long, grueling recovery, Don was persuaded to tell his story.

Prince, Dennis and Nolene. Nine Days in Heaven: A True Story. Charisma House Publishing. Nine Days in Heaven relates the vision of 25 year old Marietta Davis more than 150 years ago, in 1848. Her story is re-written in modern English. She was shown the heavenly nursery where infants are cared for and taught redemption’s story. Each section is supported by Scripture. Beautifully done. Especially helpful for those grieving for a lost child. Not to be confused with 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper.

Rogers, Joyce C. “After This, Then What?” Family Bible Study, Life Ventures Learner Guide. Summer, 2005, p.116-161. LifeWay Sunday School unit. Speaks of salva-tion here and now and throughout eternity, Jesus’ return, and the special place God has prepared for His own.

Sigmund, Richard. My Time in Heaven: A True Story of Dying…And Coming Back. Whitaker House Publishing. Following a traffic accident, Richard found himself in a thick, cloudy veil. He could hear sirens and the words, “He’s dead.” He could hear singing and laughter on the other side. Led along a path by angels, he saw a book containing his name. He claims to have seen mansions belonging to loved ones and many other wonders. The book has testimonies, select scriptures and an index.

Springer, Rebecca. Within Heaven’s Gates. Published by Whitaker House. After feeling alone in her illness far from home and family, Rebecca has a vision of life in Heaven. She describes with unspeakable joy life in Heaven where she has her own mansion and visits with loved ones. A vision, not an NDE.

Stone, Perry. Secrets from Beyond the Grave: The Amazing mysteries of Eternity, Paradise, and the Land of Lost Souls. Published by Charisma House. Detailed studies of questions related to death and the afterlife. The author asserts that Heaven and Hell are real places. Details he relates include: people in Heaven or Hell have all 5 senses; are not limited to time or space or travel hindrances; and have conversations not with words but with thoughts.

Wiese, Bill. 23 Minutes in Hell; One man’s story about what he saw, heard, and felt in That place of torment. Published by Charisma House. Bill Wiese said that he saw the searing flames of hell and was terrorized. He said, “My sincere hope is that this book is the closest you will ever come to experiencing hell for yourself.” A question he answers is “Can ‘Good’ people go to hell? There is an 18-page scripture index.

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY Of AUDIO VISUALS

Besteman, Marvin with Lorille Craker, read by Maurice England. “My Journey to Heaven.: What I Saw and How It Changed My Life.” Baker Publishing House, Christianaudio, 2012.. Marvin Besteman shares the true story of his experience of Heaven in detail. He speaks of angels accompanying him to the gate, his conversation with St. Peter, and his joy when he recognized friends and family members who had touched his life. Very interesting story. Running time 4.7 hours. CD.

Malarky, Kevin. “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,” Tyndale Entertainment Production in Association with Franklin Films. Based on book by Kevin Malarky. Six year old Alex Malarky suffered a terrible car accident which left him in a coma for 2 months. He awoke to share an incredible story of angels, Jesus and his trip to Heaven. He was left paralyzed, but we see how God is still using him today. This is an amazing and convincing story. Running time 50 minutes. DVD.

_______. “The Final Frontier.” Produced by Eternal Productions. Revived patients encounter some form of extension of consciousness beyond clinical death. They encounter some form of reality: Heaven or Hell. These are not hallucinations, but a highly structured and organized phenomenon. More and more scientific evidence tells us that life after death exists. Where we are going is a matter of choice. We must think about our own lives. This DVD makes one think. Running time 53 minutes.

_______. “The Lazarus Phenomenon: A Glimpse of Eternity.” Eternal Productions. Lan McCormack was stung by jelly fish off the coast of an island in the Pacific and was unable to get help. His experiences changed his life. On the other side of the world, a pastor died and 48 hours later revived. He was shown his death certificate. He also had experiences beyond the veil. Well worth watching. Running time 100 minutes..

Jeremiah, David Dr. “Revealing the Mysteries of Heaven.” Turning Point Television. Shadow Mountain Community Church, San Diego, California.. Sermons on Heaven. Dr. Jeremiah preaches a 3 month series of sermons on Heaven. Each sermon covers A different aspect of Heaven. Topics such as “Won’t Heaven be Boring?” and “What About the Children?” are covered. He says “Worship in Heaven is not about us – its about Him. Its not about here – its about there. Its not about now – its about then. Its not about one – its about many.” Wonderful resource. Each sermon about 30 to 40 minutes. DVD.

Copyright 2013 by Joyce C. Rogers

Guest blog: OUT OF THIS WORLD! Part Two: The Afterlife

HeavenGreetCopyright 2013 by Joyce C. Rogers

(This is part two of a guest blog by my mother, Joyce C. Rogers, on what happens to us upon our death. Yesterday she dealt with the subject of near death experiences. Today she talks about out eternal destinations in the afterlife. She speaks from her extensive study of scripture, as well as over 20 books and other resources. Tomorrow she will share her bibliography, for your further reading on the subject.)

I studied Scriptures about Heaven and Hell when I wrote a Sunday School unit about the afterlife for Lifeway in the summer edition of 2005. Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven, is considered a defining book on Heaven and the afterlife. He says death is not a wall but a turnstile. He uses many Scripture passages in his writings. Other books, such as Billy Graham’s writings, are worthy of reading. Dr. David Jeremiah’s sermons on Heaven are great resources.

Revelation 21 plainly tells us that there will be new Heavens and a new Earth. God will dwell with us on the new Earth. Everything will be new and perfect as it was in the beginning in the Garden of Eden before sin entered. The animals will not harm anything or anyone. The Earth itself will be changed. There will be no pollution. Vegetation will be perfect. There won’t be sin among people because God can’t live with sin.

This teaching about the new Earth is not well known. Many seem to think we will be in the present Heaven forever. However, in the End Times, things will change. We don’t have to understand it all, but simply trust God in the here and now and for the future. I think of I Corinthians 13:12 (NASB), “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

Revelation 21 tells us that God’s holy city, the new Jerusalem, will come down out of Heaven. God will live with men and be their God. There will be no more tears, death, mourning, crying or pain. The New Jerusalem will shine with the glory of God. The city is described in its vastness and beauty. The 12 gates are 12 Pearls. The great street is made of pure gold. There will be no temple, no sun, no moon, no night, nothing impure, nothing shameful nor deceitful. This and much more is plain and obvious just from reading Revelation 21.

Some people think Heaven will be boring. When our son was about three years old, he asked “What will people do in Heaven, fly around naked all day?” We laughed, but he already had seen pictures of angels flying around, dressed with only a strip of cloth, as a picture of Heaven.

We will serve God in Heaven, Revelation 22:3 tells us. That could mean a vast number of ways to serve God. Music will surely be a part of worship. Maybe we will work in the nursery. Maybe we’ll paint pictures. Surely we’ll visit with Abraham, Moses, David and Paul. And of course, with our parents, grandparents and who knows what ancestors we may see.

Dr. David Jeremiah’s sermon titled “Will Heaven be Boring?” states that Heaven won’t be boring because God is not boring, we aren’t boring, our friends won’t be boring and our work won’t be boring. Instead, life in Heaven will be delightful in every way.

Randy Alcorn says for every one person who thinks he is going to Hell, there are 120 who think they are going to Heaven. But – Heaven is not automatic.

Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. All of us have sinned. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9, NIV).

As Paul and Silas told the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household.” (Acts 16:31, NIV)

Many people don’t seriously think about what happens after
death. They don’t want to believe they will ever die, so they just don’t think about it and hope it goes away. Unfortunately, this attitude is foolish, to say the least.

Why would anyone choose to go to Hell when they could choose to go to Heaven? If you’ve never thought of it that way, please do so now. Don’t assume you will go to Heaven because you are a “good” person. Salvation is based on faith, not works.

Here are some things I learned or had confirmed during this study:
1. God is sovereign over life, death and eternity.
2. It is very, very important how we choose to spend eternity.
3. Just as Heaven is indescribably beautiful, Hell is indescribably horrible.
4. Heaven and Hell are real, physical places.
5. Life and value of babies, including preborn ones, is confirmed.
6. NDE experiences differ from dreams or hallucinations in that they make sense and they are clearly remembered, even after many years.
7. Those having NDEs stopped before entering the Gate of Pearl or the pit of Hell, from which there is no return.
8. Most of those going to Heaven don’t want to come back.
9. All of those going to Hell want to come back.
10. Those going to Heaven had a sense of warmth, love and well being.
11. Many told of hearing heavenly music, colors and more beautiful sights than they could describe.
12. Many told of seeing loved ones who had gone on before. These people were recognizable and welcoming.
13. We won’t be angels in Heaven. We will rule over angels.
14. God is not limited by time or space. Neither will we be.
15. Heaven will be absolutely wonderful!!! OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!

Copyright 2013 by Joyce C. Rogers

(Tomorrow I will post her bibliography of resources used for these two blog posts.)

Taking it to the bank

Bank Copyright 2013 by Bob Rogers
When I went off to seminary, I moved from Woodville, Mississippi, to New Orleans, Louisiana. It was only a few hours’ drive, but the two cultures were light-years apart.

I had been serving Woodville Baptist Church as their youth minister. Woodville was, and still is, a small county-seat town located south of Natchez in the extreme southwest corner of the state. Woodville’s claim to fame was that it was the boyhood home of Jefferson Davis. Woodville also boasts the first standard-sized railroad line ever built in America, which once was used to ship cotton down to the Mississippi River at St. Francisville, Louisiana. Although it was a tiny town, they had very active Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Catholic churches, each one claiming to be the oldest of their denomination in the state. You could leave your house unlocked in Woodville and not worry about anybody breaking in.

I took my new bride from Woodville to New Orleans. We settled into an apartment belonging to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and I promptly went to a big New Orleans bank to open a checking account.

The bank clerk took one look at my check from Woodville, and said, “I can’t deposit this check. It doesn’t have an account number.” I said, “That bank doesn’t use account numbers. They go by your name.” The clerk sarcastically replied, “This is 1980. Nobody does that anymore.”

I just shrugged and said, “They do. Why don’t you call them and ask them?”

So the bank clerk took my challenge and left me sitting at his desk while he went off to another room and called. In a few minutes, he came back with a sheepish grin on his face.

I asked, “Well, did they tell you that my check was good?”

He said, “Yeah, and the guy also said to tell you hello.”

It’s nice to be known by your name rather than just a number, isn’t it?

God knows your name. Revelation 10:15 tells us that he has the names of all who believe in Jesus Christ written in his Book of Life. And beside the name of each believer, that book has these words written: “Paid in Full,” because Christ made full payment for our sins upon the cross (1 Corinthians 6:20). That’s one book that I’ve made sure has my name. And you can take that to the bank!