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Christian Living

December 16, 2009

It was quite a while ago now that a little article on an obscure web site caught my eye. It was one I had to file away. For some reason, that now escapes my mind, I found myself at the web site of The Peninsula, which describes itself as “Qatar’s Leading English Daily.” I hadn’t been there before and I haven’t been there since, except to read this little article.

The title is, “400 sheep fall off cliff in Turkey.” Perhaps it was just a slow day for news, or perhaps something about the story tickled the fancy of an editor. Or maybe sheep are critical to the economy of Qatar so this is big news. Who knows. But for some reason the publication decided to provide a small snippet about something that had happened in Istanbul. Here is the complete text of the article:

ISTANBUL: Hundreds of sheep followed their leader off a cliff in eastern Turkey, plunging to their deaths this week while shepherds looked on in dismay. Four hundred sheep fell 15 metres to their deaths in a ravine in Van province near Iran but broke the fall of another 1,100 animals who survived, newspaper reports said yesterday. Shepherds from Ikizler village neglected the flock while eating breakfast, leaving the sheep to roam free, the Radikal daily said. The loss to local farmers was estimated at $74,000.

I laughed as I read the story. We have all heard of lemmings and their renowned but apparently mythological plunges into the sea. As I child, and especially as a teenager, I was often exhorted not to be a lemming. “If your friends all jumped off of a cliff, would you?,” my parents or teachers would ask. At times I did (and I’m still sorry, Mr. Weirsma, honest). But lemmings don’t really plunge into the sea in suicidal droves. That legend was created and supported by a Walt Disney movie filmed in 1958. Even lemmings are too intelligent to kill themselves en masse.

Sheep don’t commit suicide, or not knowingly at any rate. They don’t deal with despair by leaping to their deaths. The problem with sheep is that they are dumb. Really dumb. Far more dumb than lemmings. They are committed to a leader, and so committed that they will follow this leader even at the cost of their safety. When the leader wanders off a cliff, so do the rest of the sheep. This is both sad and slightly comical (unless you’re the guy who decided to have a hearty breakfast while he should have been keeping his eye on that $74,000 flock of sheep). And in this little article we see this kind of leader. He led his entire flock over a cliff. When he fell to his death he was quickly followed by hundreds and then thousands of the flock. They were soon piled so deep that the ones at the bottom were crushed and the ones on top were able to survive, their fall cushioned by the mass of bodies below. After a while it must have been like jumping onto a giant pile of wool.

Can’t you picture the shepherds, their eyes bulging as sheep after sheep disappears in the distance, careening off the edge of the cliff? Can’t you see them running towards the flock, yelling, shouting, drying desperately to distract the sheep from following their leader? Can’t you picture their shame as they look at the mass of writhing, broken bodies, and then look back at their breakfast, now forgotten?

This isn’t really the fault of the sheep is it? It was the fault of the shepherds who had neglected their flock in order to indulge in a meal. They knew their sheep and they knew that sheep are not intelligent creatures. While these men filled their stomachs, they neglected their sheep and hundreds of them were killed, falling to their deaths in a mad, blind rush off the edge of a cliff. It brings to mind Matthew 9:36 where we read that Jesus, going from town to town and village to village looked at the people and “had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” A sheep without a shepherd is helpless and pathetic. It is pitiable. I know a pastor who moved to the countryside and bought himself a small flock of sheep. He later told me that he learned as much about being a pastor from owning sheep as he had from all the books he had ever read on pastoral theology.

This story could almost be a parable, couldn’t it? I can almost picture Jesus standing on the side of a hill in Galilee sharing this story with his disciples as they sat before him. “A man had a flock of sheep and entrusted them to shepherds. The shepherds, growing weary, allowed the sheep to wander as they ate their meal…”

I sometimes wonder if God allows things like this to happen just to provide us with something to chew on, to mull over in our minds. I thought of concluding this article with some exhortations or applications, but I don’t think I even need to. I will say only this: Jesus calls us sheep. Reading a story like this, I am not so sure that he means this as a compliment. But he also calls us his sheep, and I know that he means this as a tremendous encouragement, for he is the good shepherd, the one who never faints or grows weary or ignores his flock to fill his stomach (Isaiah 40:28). To us he says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14,15).

December 14, 2009

Shortly after Aileen and I were married we moved to the small town of Dundas, Ontario. A historic and picturesque town, Dundas has made its way into a few movies. When we lived there, a movie called Haven (starring Natasha Richardson) was shot in its streets. We lived just half a block from the action so would sometimes wander on over in the evenings to watch what was happening.

One thing that fascinated and impressed me was how the filmmakers transformed the town to fit the setting of the film. The movie was set in the Second World War so for the sake of historical accuracy the town had to look like it had during the 1940’s. All the parking meters had to be pulled up and all the traffic lights had to be pulled down. The streets were suddenly filled with beautiful old antique cars. Many of the storefronts were little changed since the 40’s but of course there were some that had been built since and could not possibly pass the historic test. It was amazing to see what happened to these ones. In a matter of a couple of days the props people constructed false fronts for all of these stores. An ugly stucco building that was clearly a product of the 70’s or 80’s was transformed into a brick-built small-town general store from the 40’s. Nothing had changed inside, but the outside was given a fresh and entirely deceptive new face.

One of the climactic scenes of the movie has the lead character marching a large number of Jewish refugees through the town. They shot this scene and a few others and then, nearly overnight, the town was restored. The parking meters were put back into place, the traffic lights were strung back up, the old cars were hauled away and all those false fronts were torn down. The ugly buildings were exposed again, as ugly as ever. The movie, anti-American propaganda as it turns out, was awful. But that’s beside the point.

I was thinking about Tiger Woods this weekend and thought about the town of Dundas and all of those false fronts. I’ve hesitated to write about Tiger. First of all, his travails are reaching the point of media saturation, I think. His story has been glamorized and made into a sick form of entertainment. Of course it’s exactly the kind of entertainment our culture loves. We love reality shows which, by and large, are only pseudo-reality. We get to watch families fall apart on television and consider it entertaining. But even then the situations are only half real at best. But here we get to see a real family crumble. Their pain is our delight as we watch things turn from bad to worse. Yet here we are all seeing the ugly effects of sin and maybe it is a good opportunity to reflect for just a few moments on the nature of sin and the cost it demands from us. It proved an opportunity for me to think about Tiger’s situation and draw lessons from it.

Here are three lessons I have learned from Tiger Woods.

False Fronts Will Crumble
There is always this temptation to construct false fronts, to add a layer of respectability between yourself and the way you want others to perceive you. Tiger Woods wanted to be known as the all-American family man, a loving husband and doting father. His sponsors, the companies for whom he was a spokesman, needed him to be this kind of figure. And so he said all the right words and put on this veneer of respectability. In front of the cameras he played the role that was demanded and expected of him. And yet behind it all he was the opposite of so much that he claimed to be. Eventually and inevitably the false front collapsed and the truth was laid bare.

Imagine what would have happened in Dundas if the filmmakers had disappeared without tearing down those false fronts. Sure they would have stood for a month or two; maybe even a year or two. But before long they would have crumbled and fallen down. They were not build of sound materials and were not built on a solid foundation. They were made only to look the part, only to disguise the ugly and unfitting reality. All false fronts will eventually crumble and fall.

The lesson is, do not mask your sin behind a false front. Do not construct elaborate falsehoods to mask your sin and your shame. These false fronts cannot stand forever. And the shame and pain of the ruin of a life lived out behind false pretenses will be far worse than the shame and pain of just dealing with sin immediately and properly. The temptation to mask your sin is nearly as strong as the temptation to sin in the first place. But to mask it is just to compound sin upon sin. It is merely to delay the inevitable.

You Cannot Hide Your Sin Indefinitely
Sooner or later your sin will find you out. Just weeks before all of his sins were revealed and his life was laid bear, Tiger conducted an interview in which he insisted that family comes first in his life. “Family first and golf second. Always be like that?” asked the interviewer. “Always,” replied Woods. Yet even then he was in the midst of affairs. Even then he was telling bare-faced lies, thinking that he could get away with them.

The lesson is, you cannot hide your sin forever. Your sin is going to find you out. Your sin wants to find you out. I love how J.R.R. Tolkien displays this in The Lord of the Rings, how the ring puts the ringbearer under its spell but at the same time it wants nothing more than to captivate and expose and destroy him. Its beauty and desire is really a means to enslave and expose. And all sin is like this. It promises what it can never truly deliver. It offers the desires of the heart but delivers the most tragic and unexpected results.

Do not give yourself over to sin. Sin is a cruel, cruel master. Like that ring it will draw you in and like that ring it will chew you up and spit you out. And isn’t this what Satan loves? Wouldn’t he love to draw you into sin and then enjoy watching you suffer the downfall of that sin? Do not give yourself over to sin; inevitably you will find that it is impossible to hide it forever.

The Stage Will Be Bigger
Tiger Woods committed sins against God and sins against his wife and did so in a closed and private setting. Very few people knew about his sin and very few were there to witness it. The actual sins were committed in private on a small, intimate stage. But the stage for his fall is international. Where only the smallest handful of people knew about his sin while it was happening, today countless millions know about it. The other day in the grocery store I spotted his face on eight of the ten magazines by the checkout. People are calling this the sports story of the decade. It will follow him for the rest of his life. His family will never be the same. Surely he did not anticipate all of this when he indulged his sin.

The lesson here is that the stage for the fall is usually infinitely larger than the stage that was used to act out the sin. Private sins are so often publicly exposed. Think of people you know, perhaps in a church context, who have sinned against their families. So often they sinned in private but were exposed in public. So often their disgrace was so much wider than their initial pleasure. And again, this is exactly what we should expect of sin and of Satan. Sin’s pleasure is fleeting, its pain eternal.

Tiger’s sin teaches me that the Bible does not lie when it describes the cause of sin, the effect of sin and the inevitability of its exposure. Had Tiger just read the first nine chapters of Proverbs and applied those ancient but timeless lessons to his life, he would have known all he needed to know to understand where his sin would lead him. How much better would it have been for Tiger to be mastered by God instead of being mastered by sin.

December 11, 2009

The end of the year is drawing close and, if you’re like me, you’re already beginning to think about what you’ll do differently (and, hopefully, better) next year. When it comes to my daily devotions, I’ve been thinking about putting myself on some kind of a reading plan. I have only rarely done those in the past and don’t know that I’ve ever really stuck with one all the way through to December. But next year I think I will give it a go. I have also been thinking about daily devotionals—something I could read either by myself or with the family. I’ve drawn up a list of a few notable devotionals. There are hundreds available so this is represents a drop in the proverbial bucket. But I think if you are considering a devotional, you are likely to find at least one here that would appeal. Do let me know if you know of others that would be worth investigating.

Daily Readings from the Life of Christ by John MacArthur. This two-volume set is recently published by Moody and focuses on the life of Christ. “In this daily devotional by highly acclaimed author John MacArthur, your hungry heart will be focused on God and His Word. With insights on the life of Jesus, thoughts to ponder, and wisdom gleaned from years of careful study, this devotional will feed your daily walk.”

Voices from the Past edited by Richard Rushing. This volume, brand new from Banner of Truth, offers daily devotional readings from the Puritans. It does not follow any particular order (that I can see) in the Scripture passages accompanying each devotional.

Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon. This is a classic devotional that offers two daily readings, one for the morning and (you guessed it) one for the evening. Again, the accompanying Scripture passages do not follow any set order. If purchasing it as a gift for someone else, there are attractive gift editions of it available.

For the Love of God by D.A. Carson. This two-volume devotional contains a systematic 365-day plan, based on the M’Cheyne Bible-reading schedule, that will in the course of a year guide you through the New Testament and Psalms twice and the rest of the Old Testament once. To accompany the reading plan Carson has also written comments and reflections regarding each day’s scriptural passages. “And, most uniquely, he offers you perspective that places each reading into the larger framework of history and God’s eternal plan to deepen your understanding of his sovereignty—and the unity and power of his Word.”

Through the Bible Through the Year by John Stott. “John Stott has assembled a new book that will guide readers through the Bible according to the church calendar. Seeking to renew a Trinitarian approach to Scripture, Stott divides these daily reflections into three sections. From September to December, Stott focuses on how God the Father revealed himself in the Old Testament. From January through Pentecost, he focuses on the life of Christ in and through the Gospels. And between May and August, Stott looks at the Holy Spirit in Acts, the epistles, and Revelation.”

DayOne Publications has an ongoing series that offers readings from the writings of a number of well-known Christian pastors or theologians. Currently available are:

365 Days with Calvin edited by Joel Beeke (brand new).

365 Days with Newton edited by Marylynn Rouse .

365 Days with Spurgeon edited by Terence Peter Crosby (there are 4 volumes available).

There is also a volume with readings from William Wilberforce (edited by Kevin Belmonte) but it seems a bit more difficult to come by.

Walking with God Day by Day by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. “Walking with God Day by Day offers brief daily devotionals that engage the mind and the heart. You will not just find spiritual nourishment in its pages; you will learn about God and the great themes of the Bible. Robert Backhouse has compiled excerpts from choice passages in the writings of Dr. Lloyd-Jones according to monthly themes. By reading this devotional, you will grow in your understanding of God and learn to apply the truth of His Word day by day.”

Faith Alone by Martin Luther. “Freshly translated from the original German into today’s English, this book contains a treasury of devotionals taken from Luther’s writings and sermons (1513 to 1546), conveniently divided into daily readings to point readers to the Bible and a deeper understanding of faith.”

Daily Dose of Bible Knowledge. Though I have this book, I have not yet read through all of it. I mention it, though, because I really like the idea behind it. The book “helps you start every day with a fascinating exploration of the Bible. The book includes 365 inspiring one-page articles that delve into everything from the Ark of the Covenant to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The articles are grouped into 52 weeks, with each day of the week dedicated to a particular subject area.” So it is not a devotional, per se, but still a helpful day-by-day kind of book.

Tabletalk Magazine by Ligonier Ministries. If you’d rather receive a monthly publication than buy a book, consider Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk. In each monthly issue it offers daily devotionals along with a good number of articles written by many respected pastors, theologians, authors and the occasional Canadian blogger.

December 08, 2009

We set high expectations for our pastors, and rightly so, I think. Ministers of the Word have a high calling before God to be his mouthpiece, to bring his Word to his people. We expect that every Sunday we will sit under the pastor’s teaching and learn sacred truths from his mouth. We expect that he will spend his week studying Scripture and digging deeply into God’s Word so that he can teach us something on Sunday that will change our lives. We expect him to be true to Scripture, to make a good presentation of it and to keep us engaged all the while. It is a difficult and often thankless task.

What we consider less often, I think, is that while a pastor bears great responsibility in preparing for and delivering the Word of God each Sunday, the listener shares in the responsibility. The church has no place for an audience. We are all to be involved in the preaching, even as listeners. We may drive home on Sunday muttering about the pastor’s lack of preparation after a less-than-engaging sermon, but how often do we drive away reflecting on our own lack of preparation? How often should we trace our lack of learning or our lack of engagement right back to our own lack of preparation?

Weekly Preparation
Preparation for the worship service needs to begin before walking into church on Sunday morning. The Bible exhorts us in many places to pray for our pastors. In Romans 15:30-32 Paul begged for the prayers of believers. “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, … that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints…” To the Thessalonians 3:1 he writes “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored.” We should be in regular prayer for the pastor, asking that God will continue to work in his heart and illumine the Word to him so he can in turn teach us. The congregation cannot grow beyond the pastor, so it is crucial that he continue to learn and grow in his faith. At the same time we should pray that the pastor would not fall to the attacks of Satan who is always opposed to any fruitful ministry and who will work diligently to disrupt it.

Physical Preparation
When I was a teenager, I usually tried to sit in the back rows of the sanctuary along with my other friends. We took pride in being able to be the first person to fall asleep during the service. Often we had been up well into the wee hours on the morning the night before and were now looking forward to an opportunity to catch up on our sleep. And what better opportunity is there than when the pastor is speaking for thirty or forty five minutes?

One of the most important things congregation members can do is be prepared for the service. This means that we need to be well-rested and attentive rather than tired and glassy-eyed. Our minds need to be alert and both ready and able to hear the Word of God. As a child I was told that preparing for Sunday begins on Saturday night, the implication being that a good night’s sleep is an important prerequisite to attending a worship service. And I have come to see that this is the truth. Little wonder that Christians have often written prayers and hymns meant to be prayed and sung on Saturday night as a means of preparation. Little wonder that the Jewish Sabbath began at sundown rather than sunup! Going to bed at a reasonable hour on Saturday evening is one of the best ways you can prepare for a meaningful Sunday.

Personal Preparation
When we attend church we should do so with the eager expectation of hearing words that will challenge, convict and change us. We come expecting to hear Divine words. We should approach the service with these goals in mind. We should seek to allow the words of God, as summarized and explained by the pastor, to convict us of sin and shortcomings, to challenge our presuppositions and comfort zones and to begin the process of change in our lives. George Whitefield says, “Come to hear them [pastors], not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty. To enter His house merely to have our ears entertained, and not our hearts reformed, must certainly be highly displeasing to the Most High God, as well as unprofitable to ourselves.” Come eagerly, come expectantly, come excited.

Spiritual Preparation
Knowing that we hope to be challenged, changed and convicted during the preaching of the Word, we should be certain that we are spiritually prepared. Our hearts must not be filled with unrepentant and unconfessed sin. Prior to hearing the proclamation of the Word, we should take opportunity to repent of sin and to make sure we come before God with clean hands and pure hearts. This can be done before even leaving for church or during times of quiet preparation in the service. We should seek the Spirit’s illumination for the words we will hear. Psalm 119 models this as David prays “Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (verses 17 and 18) David asks the Lord to open his eyes that he might be able to truly understand and apply the words of Scripture to his heart. In the same way we should ask the Spirit to work in us so we can understand. Matthew 5:24 warns against coming to worship while harboring anger or bitterness against a brother. Again, that kind of disunity be reconciled and resolved, as far as is possible, before we come before the Lord in worship.

Pay Attention
This seems almost too obvious, but we should make sure that we are paying attention during the service. It is easy to look around, to chat with the person next to you or to count heads. It is even easy enough to get involved in a “righteous” pursuit such as reading the Bible. But we have just one hour or two hours a week to listen to our pastor so we should be sure that we are making the most of the time. It is not just a good idea, but is our responsibility. Listen, learn and grow. Take a pen, take your Bible and make a dedicated effort. This is a very good thing to pray for throughout the week and on Sunday morning, that God would give us both the desire and the ability to heed the Word as it is preached.

After the Service
Traditionally a portion of Sunday afternoons was dedicated to gathering as a family and speaking about the sermon and perhaps looking over notes taking during it. Many families would sit down together and re-read the passage of Scripture that had been preached on that very morning and would share what they had learned. It was an opportunity for the father to ask his children for their understanding and to help them make application. This is a custom that has largely been lost, but we would benefit, I’m sure, by its recovery.

Pray For Application
After the service, perhaps during some quiet time on Sunday afternoon, we would again do well to pray that the Lord would help work in us what we heard in the morning. We should ask that He would allow the words to continue to convict and change us and that they would not simply fall out of our minds and be lost. In Revelation Jesus said “He who has ears, let him hear.” Hearing goes beyond the ears, but into the mind, the heart and the life. Hearing involves application and application usually requires dedicated though, reflection, meditation. Who knows what application of truth God will draw out of us if we spend time reflecting on what we have heard.

Be Bereans
Our final responsibility is to imitate the Bereans of old who “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11). We need to be sure that we do not blindly accept what the pastor teaches us, but that we diligently compare his words to the Scripture to ensure that “these things are so.” If your pastor is a godly man, he should be willing and eager to answer questions you may have, and be humble enough to accept correction when he has erred. I do not know of a pastor who would claim he has never made mistakes from the pulpit. When we do detect (or think we detect) error, we should approach the pastor humbly and prayerfully, going to him with our questions and not first to others.

Conclusion
While the responsibility of the preacher cannot be underestimated, the listener is also responsible before God. We, as those who sit under the preaching of the Word, are to prepare ourselves even during the week. And on the Lord’s Day we are to listen attentively, to search the Scriptures and to apply what we have learned to our lives. I fear that far too often we expect the pastor to do the work and while we coast along as the beneficiaries of his hard labor. It is time for us to take seriously our role in the preaching of the Word of God. I post this article on a Tuesday. Perhaps it is worth asking: what are you doing today to gain the greatest benefit from the sermon you heard just two days ago? And what are you doing today to prepare yourself for the sermon you will hear just five short days from now?

December 04, 2009

This is the fifth and final part of this series on leadership in the home. You can read the first part here, the second part here, the third part here and the fourth part here. Having looked at the husband’s responsibilities in leadership and protection, we turn today to provision.

December 03, 2009

This is the fourth article in a series dealing with leadership in the home. You can read the first part here, the second part here and the third part here. We’ve seen a brief defense of male headship and we’ve seen that God calls men to be leaders in the home. Today we look at the husband’s role in protection.

December 02, 2009

This is the third article in a series dealing with leadership in the home. You can read the first part here and the second part here. As we saw yesterday, a husband is called to lead his wife. Though this is an unpopular statement in this day and in this culture, it is one that Christians must affirm. Male headship is taught so clearly in Scripture that to deny it leaves us prone to fall into any number of other radically false teachings. If we can read the Bible and walk away denying male headship, we can walk away denying any doctrine that offends our sensibilities.

December 01, 2009

Yesterday I began a series dealing with leadership in the home (read part one). Today I want to continue the series by providing a brief (and undoubtedly inadequate) defense of male headship.

November 30, 2009

This is a series about leadership in the home. It is geared specifically to men and I hope it will be of some use to guys of any age though perhaps it will be most at home in the hands of young men—those who are newly married or those who are to be married in the near future. I hope it is also the kind of series that a wife can pass to her husband and say, “Honey! Read this and tell me what you think of it…” When the series is complete I will put it together into a PDF file to make it easier to share in that way.

November 16, 2009

A few days ago I was talking to some friends about fatigue. It is a popular topic when you’re in the stage of life that includes young children (though, from what I’ve overheard, it also seems to be a popular topic as you begin to hit old age). I got to thinking about the topic and found something I had written about fatigue a couple of years ago, apparently after a particularly tough night.

*****

I got to bed just a little bit later than usual last night. But when I settled into bed, I felt that kind of comforting fatigue—the kind that is not so overbearing that I’m exhausted, but the kind that means I’m really looking forward to a good night’s rest. You know the kind, I’m sure. It’s the kind of tired that makes stretching out between the sheets a real pleasure.

There was one false start before I got to sleep. I was just drifting off when I heard the bedroom door rattle and Abby walked in. She told us that she couldn’t sleep. Aileen got up and tucked her back in, turning on a light to make sure she wouldn’t be scared. A few minutes later we were all asleep. But then, probably around 1 AM, I heard Abby calling for me. She was scared again and was crying. I have no memory of what happened next, but I guess I must have tucked her back into bed, convinced her that everything was fine, and crawled back into bed. A couple of hours later it was Nick’s turn. He marched into our room and woke me up, telling me that his ear was hurting so badly he couldn’t sleep. All things pain-related are Aileen’s department, so she dosed him with some kind of medication, put some hot cloths on his ear, and we went back to sleep. An hour later Michaela was awake, scared by the sound of the strong winds blowing through the trees outside our window. We awoke to her cries of “Mommy!” She ended up in bed with us—all twenty five hot, pointy, squirming, fuzzy pounds of her. At this point I turned off my alarm and figured I’d just have to let myself sleep in so I wouldn’t be completely comatose all day. And so the night went. I awoke at seven in the morning (which is sleeping late for me) feeling not the nice kind of tired, but the exhausted kind of tired that comes from too little rest; too little sleep. It’s the kind of tired that leaves circles under my eyes and requires an extra kick of caffeine to be able to go about the usual routine. It just wasn’t a very good night.

A few weeks after Nick was born, our first child, Aileen and I were facing the exhaustion that comes with a newborn baby. We were just learning to be parents and still assumed that every cough and every sigh meant he was dying. He was a restless baby and didn’t settle into good sleep patterns for a long time. Aileen and I both spent many nights pacing the floors with him. I remember talking to my mother around this time and the words she said stuck with me: “The next time you feel well-rested, you’ll be in heaven.” They may not have been particularly comforting words, but they were realistic. Mom said that, by the time the kids really settled into good sleep patterns, I’d be too old to sleep well anymore. When we had that first child I guess I threw away any hope of really feeling well-rested.

It’s worth it, of course. I wouldn’t trade my children for any number of good night’s sleeps or any amount of rest (though if you asked me in the middle of the night I might occasionally answer differently). But as I lay in bed last night, in those moments where I was just too tired to get to sleep, I began to wonder about heaven. What will it be like to feel really, really well-rested? What will it be like to be able to feel one hundred percent? Will there be fatigue in heaven? Will there be rest? Heaven will, of course, be rest…but will there be sleep?

As I tend to do when I’ve got questions about heaven, I opened Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven this morning and, sure enough, he had some things to say about this. He says:

Our lives in Heaven will include rest (Hebrews 4:1-11). …

Eden is a picture of rest—work that’s meaningful and enjoyable, abundant food, a beautiful environment, unhindered friendship with God and with other people and animals. Even with Eden’s restful perfection, one day was set aside for special rest and worship, Work will be refreshing on the New Earth, yet regular rest will be built into our lives.

To be honest, I am a little skeptical when it comes to Alcorn’s reasoning here, but he does make an interesting case. But what really stood out to me were his next words:

Part of our inability to appreciate Heaven as a place of rest relate to our failure to enter into a weekly day of rest now. By rarely turning attention from our responsibilities, we fail to anticipate our coming deliverance from the Curse to a full rest.

“Make every effort to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11). It’s ironic that it takes such effort to set aside time for rest, but it does. For me, and for many of us, it’s difficult to guard our schedules, but it’s worth it. The day of rest points us to Heaven and to Jesus, who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary … and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Rest is innately good. God Himself rested after completing His work of creation—a perfect being resting after completing the perfect work of creating a perfect world. God built rest into this world. And God gave us one day to practice rest—to learn how to rest. How good it is to set that day aside and to use it just to rest. But beyond that day, God also gives us little glimpses of the rest that is to come. When we used to own a cottage, one of my favorite things to do was to head out alone over the lake in the canoe. And halfway across the lake I would just sit back with a Coke in one hand, a book in the other, and the sun shining on my face. And I’d just relax and let the water take me where it wanted. It was such a beautiful time of peace and rest. And maybe it was a foretaste of the rest that is to come. Today a similar feeling comes as I kick back on a Sunday afternoon with a cold Coke, a good book and a comfortable couch. It is rest and it is good.

I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that only rarely will I really feel anywhere close to one hundred percent while on this earth. To be an adult, to be a parent, is to be tired. But as life goes on, I begin to look to those moments of rest as more than just a chance to rejuvenate. I see them also as a glimpse of what is to come. I see them as opportunities to learn how to rest—to learn how to enjoy the rest that will come with the new heavens and the new earth. They are a taste, even if only a faint one, of the true rest.

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