Daily Readings/ Editorial
Scriptures to be read before the sermon on Sunday, November 15:
Monday: II Peter 1
Tuesday: II Peter 2
Wednesday: II Peter 3
Thursday: I John 1-2
Friday: I John 3
Saturday: I John 4
Philip Yancey, writing in Christianity Today, noted that over two-thirds of Americans believe in an afterlife; however, no one talks much about it. Yancey cites the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, which contains only a few articles about the subject of heaven. The evangelical scholar, Dr. Wilber M. Smith, noted that is also true of books about Christian doctrine. Dr. Smith wrote that almost all Systematic Theologies devote more space to hell than heaven. He cited one book on Dogmatic Theology which had two pages on heaven and eighty-seven pages devoted to eternal punishment.
It was not a biblical scholar or preacher but a journalist, Kenneth Woodward, who wrote in Time magazine right before we entered the new century that American religion seems almost allergic to imagining it (heaven). In a curious way, heaven is AWOL. This is not to say that Americans think death ends everything or even that they doubt heaven’s existence. People still believe in it, it’s just that their concept of exactly what it has grown foggier. And, they hear about it much less frequently from their pastors.
Professor of theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Dr. David Wells, confirms in his own experience what others have been writing about this subject. Dr. Wells writes, “We would expect to hear of heaven in churches, but I do not hear it at all. I do not think heaven is even a blip on the Christian’s screen anymore!”
Yancey asks his readers to assume that since 99 percent of our existence will take place in heaven, isn’t it a little bizarre that we simply ignore heaven, acting as if it doesn’t matter? Why? Yancey suggests three reasons:
with street of gold and pearly gates which were inspiring to Middle-
Eastern peasants simply do not mean much to those who live in our
Yancey concludes, “To people who are trapped in pain, in economic chaos, in hatred and fear – to these, heaven offers a promise of a time, far longer and more substantial than this time on earth, of health and wholeness and pleasure and peace. If we do not believe that, then as the Apostle Paul noted, there is not much reason for being a Christian in the first place.”
Lack of focus on heaven may also be thwarting our attempt to practice the Christian faith as we have been called to do. It was C.S. Lewis who observed, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.”
Join us this coming Sunday to hear how Isaiah challenges us to think about “new heavens and a new earth” and what that should mean for our life of faith.