Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Category: Eschatology


Author Jim Rohn said, “I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacation with better care than they do their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change.”

I’m second to none in my zeal for vacations. When my wife and I take trips, we make plans. We consider the destination, the mode of travel, the route, the accommodations, the meals, the activities, the budget, the weather, and the souvenirs. All those things are elements of a successful trip, and they deserve at least a little bit of consideration before leaving. 

But after vacation comes the return to normalcy and the resumption of ordinary life. What are your plans for your life? 

Growing up I heard a lot of preachers say, “Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.” That sentiment is based on Jesus’ statement in John 14.1-3: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (ESV)

There’s a lot about that text I don’t understand. Jesus doesn’t tell us what preparations he’s making. He doesn’t describe the rooms or dwelling places we’ll inhabit. He doesn’t tell us exactly when he’s returning to gather us. But I do understand that he hasn’t forgotten about his followers, and that being in the Father’s house eternally will be a special thing.

But there’s an important implication. If Jesus is preparing a place for us to stay, what plans are we making to be with him? We don’t take vacations without making plans and decisions beforehand. Do we honestly think that the most important destination of all deserves any less?

We prepare for things we think are important. If heaven isn’t at the top of our list, we need a reassessment of what’s important. The most important thing of all is our spiritual wellbeing. Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16.26, NASB)

The point is simple: We’re all preparing right now for our eternal dwelling place. The question is whether we’re preparing to be with Jesus in our Father’s house. 


As a minister, I’ve attended a lot of funerals through the years. One feature common to all is the sharing of memories between family and friends. Often, visitations will feature slide shows, videos, memorabilia, and photos of the departed.

Memories, especially with the grieving, are a bridge between past, present and future. Long after our friends and family are gone, we still remember events, comments, and moments as if we were still experiencing them.

As we get older, we sometimes romanticize the memories, recalling only the best parts, or filtering out the worst parts. We sometimes remember the same things over and over. Sometimes the memories stay in our minds, and we withdraw into that place, and although nobody else can enter that place, those who live there seem content.

Using our memories, we sometimes judge the present by the past. Memories of long-ago are altered to suit our current thinking. Rather than reflecting what really happened, we remember things how we wish they happened. The Israelites were guilty of this after they left Egyptian bondage. In Numbers 11.4-6, they complained, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” “Free” fish? They conveniently forgot they were slaves! Nothing was free!

This makes me wonder about how memory will work in eternity. After Jesus returns and gathers his people home, how will we remember things? I think the apostle Paul gives us a hint. He said there is coming a time when “I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13.12). I believe he was talking about heaven. 

I imagine heaven as being a place not of perfect memory, but of perfected memories. Not complete recollection, but a proper understanding of what we do recall. Even what we consider to be bad memories will be put into perspective so that we understand, appreciate, and even rejoice in them.

Like so many other things in human existence, memory is imperfect. That doesn’t mean it’s unimportant or something to be avoided. Far from it. 

By all means, build memories. Build good memories. Share your memories. Use your memories, good or bad. Learn from your memories. Thank God for your capacity to remember, and for the memories you have. 

God gives us memory as a way of offering hope. As Jeremiah said, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope” (Lamentations 3.21).

The Bright & Morning Star

Early this morning, as my wife and I were walking, we saw the moon and the morning star. The temperature was in the forties, and the sky was clear. The moon was in its waning crescent, so we saw just a sliver of it. But above it were two stars (planets, actually): above it and to the left was the planet Jupiter, and just above it and to the right was the planet Venus. 

The planet Venus was named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. It’s called both the “morning star” and “evening star” because it can appear in the early morning and early evening hours. It’s the second brightest object in the nighttime sky besides the moon. About once a month, it appears in the nighttime sky in close proximity to the moon. On a clear morning, they’re a beautiful sight when seen together. 

In Revelation 22.6, Jesus said, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” What did he mean, and how does that affect us?

First, I think Jesus was alluding to an ancient prophecy from the Old Testament Book of Numbers. The prophet Balaam saw a star coming forth from Jacob and a scepter arising in Israel (Numbers 24.17). He was talking about the Messiah’s future dominion over all of Israel’s enemies. Readers of the Book of Revelation were suffering intense persecution, and John’s allusion to Balaam’s prophecy would assure them that Christ was, even then, in the process of fulfilling his role. He would be victorious over the enemies of God’s people.

Second, Jesus was reminding us that he’s King of Kings and Lord of Lords. From the earliest times, the Roman emperors believed they were descended from the gods. Julius Caesar believed he was descended from the goddess Venus. The emperor Domitian (who may have been emperor when Revelation was written) believed he was descended from the god Jupiter. Around the time that John wrote the Book of Revelation, the Roman poet Martial honored the emperor Domitian, saying, “Thou morning star, Bring on the Day! Come and expel our fears, Rome begs that Caesar may soon appear.” So, when Jesus called himself the “bright morning star,” he was countering the notion that any human leader could be his equal.

Third, Jesus was reminding us that he’s our ultimate reference point. When we see the morning star rising above the horizon, we know that daylight is near. Jesus was assuring his disciples that despite their suffering and persecution, they could look to him as the dawning of a new day, the arrival of a new era. That promise holds true for us as well.

So, the next time you’re awake before dawn, take a moment to look at the eastern horizon, and look for Venus, the morning star. Then take a moment to remember that Jesus is the ultimate bright morning star. He’s our king and our hope. Because of that we can rejoice at the dawning of each day. 


“So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews…” (John 20.19a).

After the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples were afraid and hid themselves. Their dream of participating in the Messianic kingdom had seemingly turned into a nightmare. Their hope became despair. Their triumph was dwarfed by what seemed to be an even greater tragedy. So they ran and hid. 

It was while they were hiding that Jesus first appeared to them as a group. It was on the first day of the week in a private setting behind closed doors. In the midst of their fear and despair Jesus came to them. The remainder of the verse above tells us that Jesus “…said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (v. 19b). Jesus then showed him his hands and side, and “he disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (v. 20b). 

In our darkest moments, when nothing else can console, Jesus offers us his peace.

He doesn’t take away the tragedy; instead, He offers us his peace. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14.27). 

Over the past month, the world has witnessed the war in Ukraine. We’ve watched in horror as schools, hospitals, and shelters have been bombed into nothing. We’ve seen loss of property, freedom, and life. We’ve heard the threats of further violence, and even the use of nuclear weapons. We’re collectively holding our breath while world leaders determine the best course of action. At some point, the madness will end. Then for a while things will get better, at least until the next war comes around. 

Does that sound bleak? Perhaps. But the truth of the matter is that so long as this world continues, the ruler of this world will continue to fight like a cornered animal. In Revelation 12, the dragon (Satan) is cast out of heaven and down to earth (v 7). He attempts to destroy Christ and his followers, only to be thwarted yet again (v 13-16). His only recourse is more rage (v 17), and he enlists the help of ghastly human agents who take no captives in an outrageous war that occupies most of the remainder of the book. Throughout John’s revelation (as with the rest of the Bible), sin, persecution and tragedy are realities on the stage of this human drama we call life. They are unavoidable, and all of us are touched by them. They originate with Satan, but he finds willing helpers among us. 

But greater still is the meek and mighty Lamb of God who wins the war and calls us home to victory, peace, and security. 

The peace that Jesus offered his disciples (John 14.27) is elsewhere described as a peace “which surpasses all comprehension” (Philippians 4.7). We can have this peace right now, in the midst of our daily struggles; in the midst of unspeakable tragedy; in the midst of despair. And like all valuable things, it only gets more valuable, grows more deeply, and becomes more secure as we continue in him day-by-day. 

And finally, when the devil and the world have had their say, God will have his.

Come, Lord Jesus.

“Show Him Your Hands”

My mother was not a theologian. Nor would anyone confuse her for an intellectual. I never remember her reading much. She would read her Bible, and she always worked her Bible class lessons. She looked at various housekeeping and craft magazines. She worked her nightly word search puzzles. But, she was not bookish. 

Mom was a resourceful, talented, and meticulous woman. She took pride in her home, in maintaining and decorating it. She enjoyed gardening, and gave special attention to her rose bushes. She canned vegetables every summer for years. She was an accomplished seamstress and quilter who taught all her daughters (and one son) how to sew. She enjoyed entertaining people, and frequently had large groups of people into her home for meals.

Mom was always neat and well dressed. She kept the house in meticulous order. She had cabinets, closets and shelves in abundance. Every item in the house had its own place. The house was filled with knick-knacks, but there was a neatness and orderliness that was unmistakable. The woman even kept the original box for every small appliance she owned!

One thing I remember about both Mom and her mother, Grandma Carman, was that they were always busy. Neither of them was idle. Both worked hard and long each day of their lives. Even when they sat down, they were often busy with their hands — shelling peas, sewing a hem, or making a shopping list. I don’t know any women who worked harder, and who never complained about their work. Their work was part of their identity.

Shortly after Mom died, Dad related a story about her that greatly resonated with me. Once He and Mom were talking about spiritual matters (probably when all of us children were still young). They turned their attention to heaven, and, in a moment of self-doubt, she asked Dad, “When I meet Jesus, what will I give to him?” Dad’s gentle reply was, “Show him your hands.”

The sage said of the virtuous woman, “She looks for wool and flax, and works with her hands in delight… She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong… She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle… She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy… She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness… Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31.13, 17, 19, 20, 27, 31).

The Lord has seen my mother’s hands.