Dedicated to The Bible Church of Little Rock

About four years ago, during what I thought was a time of personal trial, I sat at my desk and mused, Elizabeth, what do you know about God that will help you through this?

You know all those “Attributes of God” sermons and series that churches do over the years? We sometimes give a little internal sigh when they’re announced, don’t we? I’ve certainly been guilty of that a few times. But as my pastors knew would be the case, it’s what I know about God that has gotten me through every struggle in my life.

So, that day in 2011, with thunder and lightning booming outside, the metaphor of a storm seemed to fit and I began writing as I asked myself these questions: What things about me get me into trouble? What am I tempted to do when times are hard, when I’m uncertain, or when I don’t like what God’s doing? What attributes of God answer those things? 

The answers led to a kind of give-and-take in each verse; I have to give these up to God, and in return, take of the wonderful gifts He offers in Himself.

Well, much, much harder times have followed since I wrote it, in my life and the lives of brothers and sisters in my church. God is teaching our little body to love one another well through deep pain and loss. BCLR, I could not be more grateful for what you have been to me, and what I have watched you be to one another.

With love, I would like to officially dedicate this to The Bible Church of Little Rock, specifically the Oxner and Tittle families.

Give Him the Storm

Give Him the storm of your prodigal will
Lose not your way on the steep of the hill
Give Him your failing and faltering feet
Take of His guidance and follow the Street

Give Him the storm of your thoughts in the wind
Fret not for the thundering battle within
Give Him your weary and uncertain plan
Take of His strength and then cling to His hand

Give Him the storm of your questions and cares
Sink not away into suff’ring and snares
Give Him the sorrowing sighs of your soul
Take of His joy and by it be made whole

Give Him the storm of your anger and tears
Dread not the time though it linger for years
Give Him the flood of your frustrated cries
Take of His patience and worry not why

Give Him the storm of your violent unrest
Faint not for the lightning and downpour of tests
Give Him the strain of your weakened resolve
Take of His Words and His Wisdom recall

Give Him the storm of your anguish and grief
Cast not away all your hope for relief
Give Him the depth of your darkest despair
Take of His peace and be able to bear

He holds the storms of the earth and the seas
He raises those who have sunk to their knees
He is the One who has called you His own
Take of His courage and trust in His throne

Elizabeth Howell – 8.March.2011

Walking worthy…on and offline

At long last, I have come to realize that I do not love people very well at all. In general and especially online. Naturally, some of the reasons I don’t love people well in general are ripple effects of the fact that I simply spend too much time on the web: primarily Facebook, and reading articles linked there.

There is certainly a place for those things, and you don’t need me to repeat what my betters have already blogged, posted, and shared on the subject. But I must finally admit that I have a twofold problem: too much time online, and a misuse of that time.

To first address the misuse of time online: 

As I finally turn a more critical eye on the frequency and content of my Facebook posts, I have seen an unsettling pattern. I seem to be on some kind of crusade against lack of discernment in Christians, mistaken Christian teachers, and Catholicism. Always trying to make some point or harp on some cultural trend.

None of my views on these matters have changed, but it’s time I realized a few things:

1) It is not up to me to effect the growth and change of those I love through sharing just the right article that’s finally going to convince them.

2) It is not my job to make everyone aware of every issue that I deem crucial to good discernment.

Many of us love to share something we find enlightening, etc., and again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I tend to love making truth known in the face of error in ways that possess neither winsomeness nor humility. I often take a superior tone which betrays the pride in my heart and dilutes the message.

Even worse, sometimes my motive is more akin to “I have to make sure my Facebook friends know that I’m on top of this issue theologically and haven’t been taken in. Others need to know that they’ve been taken in, and they won’t know unless I share this.”

How’s that for prideful? As if I were their only source for that material and God needed me to click “share” lest anyone miss it. And…as if I were always right.

Does that mean I don’t think God would use something I shared in the life of an unbelieving friend? No; it’s always possible that He would. My point is, I need to lay off the frequency and correct my attitude.

There must be a balance, and it may take me a while to find it. In the meantime, I plan to do much less “sharing” (with those extended excerpts you know I love) and use my Facebook time for more encouragement and less tutelage.

To address the amount of time online: 

Others have already said this better than I can, so I’ll keep it brief. I’ve allowed myself to fall prey to the smart-phone addiction, big time. Checking and re-checking to see if new  comments, notifications, messages, or texts have arrived or new photos been posted by certain pages or groups. . . it’s bad. My eyes (and brain!) tire from screens all day at work and screens for most of the evening, and on and on it goes.  Yet I notice how little certain of my friends are on Facebook and I want to follow their example. Their lives are in no way diminished by their “absence” from it and indeed, they have more time for far better things!

So, the biggest concern? You guessed it. All those things I don’t get done because of wasted time. The cooking & cleaning, laundry, letters to friends, serving others, photo album, cross-stitch, calligraphy, writing, drawing, time outside, and a half-dozen projects left unfinished. And the READING! Oh, the reading. What a list! Most of the things that lend true richness to life, right? I deprive myself of blessing others and much of what makes my walk worthy of Christ.

“Walk worthy” . . . sweet Bethany Rehrer would remind me how precious is the time we have here.

Lately I’ve begun to journal more and more, and I find that the time spent at my desk with the low lamp on, candle lit, and pen scratching across real paper (ah, my first love!) to be incredibly sweet. It is cathartic and healing; getting my thoughts out, recording events, expressing prayers and frustrations. You journaling people have known that for years. Well, I can be a very slow learner.

One big thing I did accomplish recently (this is mostly for any Heart for Home study ladies who may be reading). . . in the weeks before Christmas I buckled down and completely rearranged and reorganized my room, selling and moving various pieces of furniture (thanks Becca!) until there was actually room to maneuver in there. After the New Year a free headboard and perfect little desk from church friends made a huge difference, and now there are pictures on the walls and everything. Yay! Very close to “a place for everything and everything in its place” at last.

Please pray for me. These are big changes to make, and I’ve neglected self-discipline for too long. It’s been difficult to swallow my pride and admit this, since it spent a long time on the list of things I thought I’d never struggle with. (A word to the wise: don’t make that list.)

And now it’s time to log off.

I’m Not Right, I’m Redeemed: The Paradox of the Free Slave

I love being right. Even more, being proved right. We all do! (Am I right?) Especially when somebody thought we were wrong. Vindication is like hot cider on a snowy day, sending a shot of warmth right down to our toes and, more often, straight to our puffed-up heads.

So if we already battle this pride in being right (and known as right), how much more difficult (and dangerous) is that battle for we Christians who enjoy confidence that we are “right” in our faith and belief in the Bible? It can get ugly, can it not?

Let us not be like those of whom Jonathan Swift said “have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”  Love need never require the sacrifice of theology, Scriptural clarity, or proper adherence to the biblical injunction to be discerning and rightly divide what is evil from what is good. But it’s imperative that we sacrifice self-righteousness and pious superiority of attitude. I definitely struggle with such pride! Jesus said the world would know His people by our love, not our religiosity nor even our fervor. If we have not love, we are merely clanging gongs, yes? (Perhaps, viewed in that way, social media can be called the loudest place in the world.)

I know a gal here in Little Rock who is part of a group of Christian women that regularly visits ladies backstage at local strip clubs; they talk, get to know them, give them little gift bags of necessities, and talk about Christ. Through simple kindness and by consistently coming back to maintain and grow these acquaintances, she and her friends have gained the trust of the club owners, and of the women, who have actually said to them, “We don’t refer to you as Christians. Christians don’t treat us very well. We call you Christ-followers.”

What a testimony.

That should tell us something about how Chstians are perceived by those who need the message with which we’ve been entrusted.

How I desire my presence to be a breath of fresh air to any unbeliever! I know that doesn’t mean they’d never be offended by the truth; the most lovingly spoken truth is always offensive to sinful pride, until the moment the Holy Spirit softens the heart hearing it.

One thing that may help is to remember that it’s NOT that we are “right” at all. I didn’t look at everything out there and decided that the best course of action was to become a Christian. It’s not that I’m right; it’s that my dead, unresponsive heart had been quickened by the Creator. We’re new creations! That means it was necessary for us to be utterly re-made. Salvation is no cosmetic makeover, but renewal from the inside out.

As we converse with unbelievers and plead with them to recognize their state as sinners before a holy God, I think we too often leave out the very important element of “I used to be exactly where you are!” You see, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking to a murderer while the worst thing we ever did was snitch an extra bite-size Milky Way from our co-worker’s desk – because our state without Christ was the same: destined for eternal separation from God in a real physical place called Hell. That point is the point at which all human lives are identical: the intersection of sin and grace. This should bring a powerful humility to our attitude with unbelievers and with each other. The Gospel isn’t about saying “look at everything that’s wrong about you and the way you live!”  It’s about “Look at what a sinner I was, and see what God’s done! See how He’s forgiven and changed me! I was condemned and I deserved it. But see something wonderful: God is not only a righteous Judge, but also a kinsman Redeemer, willing to give all of Himself to buy us back from the grave. All He requires is a simple, true-hearted repentance.”  We are not “right”. We are redeemed.

If you’re a Christian, no matter what your life has looked like, the inner core of your salvation story is the same as mine, and it goes like this:

One day as I’m thinking about the Gospel I’ve heard, the Holy Spirit arrests me, brings me into a big courtroom and stands me up before the judge . . . God. I look sideways across the aisle, and who is the prosecutor? God. The offended party? It’s Him. The jury box? God is there too. The court reporter, the witnesses, the bailiff, all of them. Every position in the courtroom is filled, but God and I are the only ones present. The massive stack of evidence against me is readily called forth, and He finds me guilty. I know there’s nothing I can do to refute the evidence. All is lost. Consistent with His perfect justice, He reads a sentence of physical and eternal spiritual death.

Then, the Gospel tells me to look and see who’s standing by my side.

God is also my lawyer.

Jesus Christ, fully God, the second member of the Trinity, is my Advocate!

His head, hands, and side are bleeding. Standing between me and the bench, He speaks. “Holy One, Your judgment of this defendant is righteous. You know also that I have lived in perfect obedience to You, and suffered scourging and death already to pay far more than this convict’s offenses are worth; to pay for the sin of the world! If she will but repent and ask Us, You can put her sin to My account, My righteousness to hers, and set her free.”

Can this offer be real?! I repent! He is my only hope.

The accounts are adjusted. I have been bought with a price, now a bondservant of Christ my Savior.

But oh, I am free!

Unglaublich! Incroyable! Ongelooflik!

Instead of several Facebook posts sharing these videos as I lately came across them, here they are in one go…

The city of Paris as seen from the back of a white-tailed eagle when he jumps off the Eiffel Tower: 

This May Be The Most Insane Bike Ride Ever Attempted. And It’s Incredible To Watch.

Aerial sunrise views of Cape Town, South Africa, and the sharks below:

Watch: This Stunning Aerial Footage Of Cape Town, SA, Will Absolutely Take Your Breath Away

And lastly, the coup de grâce, the bide-ride to end (or inspire) all bike-rides! The scenery alone is astounding. 

This May Be The Most Insane Bike Ride Ever Attempted. And It’s Incredible To Watch.

I think I got an adrenalin rush just from watching that one!

Holy Land Photo & Info Resource

While showing this website to a co-worker today, I thought I’d post it up here for anybody who doesn’t know about it — http://www.BiblePlaces.com  is the most amazing repository of photos and information about the land, locations, structures, and even animals mentioned in Scripture. Everything from Genesis to Revelation, the Negev to Patmos.

I’ll start you off with a link to the page about En Gedi! It’s the hidden oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea, where David hid himself from the murderous King Saul. Scroll down to see beautiful waterfalls, pools, and caves . . . you can just picture the shepherd and future king resting from arduous desert journeys and close escapes!

http://www.bibleplaces.com/engedi.htm

And this is Mount Gilboa — on these slopes King Saul fell on his sword as he saw his army defeated. Read 1 Samuel 31 as you look at the picture . . .

Mount Gilboa from the west

Lakes and Loons and Loony Larks

I miss lakes. Lakes were a big part of my childhood, when I think about it. I learned how to swim in a lake (Silver Lake, right?…Gina, Emily, Abby, Stephanie, remember the crazy-painful hot metal slide we played on? Is it still there?), had T-ball practice next to lakes, learned how to make loon-calls on lakes (North Star Lake), how to fish in lakes, how to ice-skate on frozen lakes, went to church baptisms at lakes, steered boats on lakes (White Bear Lake), fell fully clothed into lakes (several lakes)…

…and then I moved to southern California. No lakes for seventeen years. In terms of me and lakes, these were the years of the Babylonian Captivity. (What about the ocean, you say? Me and the ocean is a whole different story.)

Then I moved to Arkansas. Hey, there’s quite a few lakes here! But seven years later, I’ve been to more lakes in other countries (in desert regions!) than I have in Arkansas. 

Time to have a lake day. With fishing. And loons.  

Loons really add a special something. A lake without loons is almost no lake at all. I miss getting out on a boat just before the sun rises, weaving through the mist still crawling over the water, and talking to the loons…

Running (and breathing) in Circles

I love to run. It’s relaxing. A time to be outside and think and pray, and I love the feeling of spent energy, enlivened muscle and increased blood-flow that comes afterward. But there’s a weird little almost-vicious cycle I experience while running, that is super uncomfortable and threatens to stop me from training for another marathon. =(

Usually my asthma — very minor by the way, I’ve never had an attack — is strictly exercise-induced. I run for a while, I feel myself pass the out-of-breath stage and settle into the breathe-steady-and-just-keep-going stage and everything’s great! Here we go! This feels good! Ugh, but then it’s like switch is flipped and suddenly breathing seems to have no affect. Must stop and walk a bit! Let the lungs open up again. 
When I stop running, another minor condition kicks in; a POTS-like malfunction of the autonomic nervous system that means low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, randomly “forgetting” to breathe. etc. These involuntary systems don’t self-regulate the way they should. So, while actually running/exercising, it’s the exercise itself that keeps my blood pressure and heart rate pushing along steadily at a good rate to maintain the exercise. But as soon as I stop, when it’s supposed to all put itself back to normal rates, instead it goes kind of haywire and BP drops and HR just rushes along as though I’m still running and it just takes an extra few minutes for things to get back into place. 

Once all THAT is over with, I can quit the walk-break pick up the pace. Every run I go on is broken down into those sections.

Run, get asthmatic, slow to a walk, BP & HR go kind of nuts, wait ’til I’m not woozy, run again, repeat. 

Some days, like this afternoon, it happens when I’m not exercising at all and in the opposite order. I’ll “forget” to breathe, suddenly feel like I’m going to suffocate and realize, “Hey, it’s been a little bit since I took a breath. I should do that.”  Deep breath, then feel asthmatic (like no air actually got in). But deep breaths make me woozy so it goes around and around like so:

Hey numbskull, breathe!
Oh! Yes, yes of course.
Whoa, woozy.
But it doesn’t feel like I gut much air. Deep breath again.
Whoa, woozy.

Etcetera. All the while my heart kind of pounds, though not any faster than usual. 

Asthma treatments contain albuterol, which shoots the heart rate up. Since mine doesn’t regulate like it should, my cardiologist says no albuterol for me, because hey, why wear out my heart early by making it run hot all the time?

Not much they can do for the other condition either, because it’s not bad enough to require (or qualify for?) the usual treatment for POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). They said if I was actually fainting when I got lightheaded, I’d officially have POTS. Well, I’m certainly grateful that I don’t faint, though I’ve come close a few times if I stand up too fast.

I love to be active, to work out and to climb things and run races. And to sprint! Going as fast as I can is a major rush and absolutely love it! However since this stuff began, the reaction is a lot worse after a good hard sprint. Upon stopping I feel terrible, nearly black out, am asthmatic for an extended period of time, and my heart rate doesn’t go below 130 for hours.

So, I need prayer for patience. I need to proactively figure out an exercise routine, and hopefully running schedule, that will work for me instead of against me. And I need to make an appointment with my doctor to see about alternative asthma treatments that don’t affect heart rate (that I’d be comfortable taking).

Oh, and why did this suddenly start happening a few years ago? I’ve had the sports-induced asthma from childhood, that’s nothing new. But I asked my cardiologist why on earth an autonomic nervous system suddenly goes haywire! He said, “Well, it can happen after a patient has suffered a severe, prolonged fever. Have you had one of those?” 

Swine Flu, fall of 2009, a few months before I started getting major woozy spells while simply sitting at my desk. 

Yay. =/

Who’s In Your Cloud?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
— Hebrews 12:1-2

The writer of Hebrews had just been delineating the incredible sacrifices and suffering of past heroes of the faith. They are the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.

Perhaps those we knew personally who have passed into glory were not martyred, and did not suffer for their faith. But we knew them, and loved them, and they have gone before. Their faith instructed us. Their love challenged us. Their joy encouraged us. And so much more. They are part of our cloud of witnesses.

Thinking about the fact that people I actually know, people I hugged and loved and laughed with and sang with and cried with, are actually experiencing Heaven at this moment, makes Heaven so real to me. It’s there! They’re there! Heaven is a place.

In fact my friend Jody wrote a song called “Heaven is a Place”. I listen to the CD and hear her sweet, somewhat husky alto voice singing, and tears always come. As the musicians begin, she calls out to the audience (I and my family were their for the live concert recording), “Are you ready to go to Heaven? I’m excited to go there because that’s where we’ll finally meet the King! Face to face. There will be fullness of joy, and pleasures forever! Maybe tonight. I’m ready.”  Then she sings. How her heart longed to be there. And on September 30, 2006, her desire was fulfilled.

There are others in my cloud. Those that I knew on at least some personal level. The first was my dear grandpa, Jess Vanderpool. I loved him so much! And there is Lynda, Bethany, Jody, Claire, Jasmine, Greg, Chris, Rob, and Tori.

Mrs. Claire Clint was my 2nd grade Sunday school teacher at Grace Community Church. She could have been my grandfather’s teacher, too, if he’d grown up near her. Because she was born six months before the declaration of the Spanish American War in 1898, and was 14 years old when the Titanic sank I sang in choirs with her great-great-grandson. She once told me she still remembered how she felt upon seeing the newspaper headlines. Between Grace Community and her former churches, Mrs. Clint taught Sunday morning classes for 80 years.

Talk about faithfulness.

Jody’s talent was music, and her gifts were never underused. Nether were her gifts of encouragement, speaking the truth in love, and helping others set their minds on things above. Bethany’s exhortation to all of us was always “walk worthy!”. She so desired herself and her fellow believers to walk worthy of our calling.
Tori was all about others. How she could serve, how she could pray, how she could help. She offered to talk any time I needed to . . . wanting to be of any consolation to my sore heart that she could.

I think God has been teaching our little church here in Little Rock how to love suffering people well. How to love, how to be grieving people. We have experienced a great deal of loss in the last several years. Our cloud grows, while we mourn. However, instead of a dark, heavy cloud, this cloud is full of light, joy, and anticipation. They now know that fullness of joy unspeakable, and they eagerly await the day that we will join them.

And we want to! It’s the Christian’s sanctified death-wish. We want to be with our loved ones, those who spurred us on to love and good works, and whom we loved so dearly. Even more we want to be with our Lord. They, with Him, are waiting for us. Let it be soon! Or come quickly, Lord Jesus.

It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.
– Ecclesiastes 7:2

No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever! 
— Revelation 22:3-4

Listening to the Sound of our Mourning

This week I am grateful for melancholy music. Not for wallowing, but for the cushion it seems to place between my emotions and the cold hard ground.

Music’s ability to aid the feeling and expression of sorrow is amazing. Although ultimately for the worship of God, with the advent of sin, misery and tragedy He allows us to use its great power help us make it through the depths.

In the darkness of my own trials, or when anguished for others like the Tittle family, why would I listen to doleful music when I’m already sad? It’s not for everyone and each of you knows whether or not it helps or hurts. Nor is it for every stage of those emotions. There’s a time and a place. Certainly there are times when any music at all may feel like a mockery to the sufferer of intense grief.

For me, as an avid lover of choral and orchestral music, those are my musical refuge when sadness overwhelms.

Author J.K. Rowling put it this way in one of her books, when after the death of an important character the grieving friends hear a Phoenix singing in the distance, with terrible beauty and an unearthly quality that they felt must be
“their own grief turned magically into song, and it seemed to ease their pain a little to listen to the sound of their mourning.”

To somehow hear my heartache, bound up in a lovely sound, and thereby let go of it teeny tiny bits at a time. The poignancy of certain musical sounds seems to draw the grief out of me like a gentle syringe.

The following pieces are my go-to for such times. Pieces with lyrics that don’t match the specific circumstance of a particular struggle are chosen for the arrangement of the music itself.

  • Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” — simple string quartet. Full string section versions are gorgeous as well, but the exposed, raw quality of just the four parts better suits its nature, to me.
  • “Agnus Dei” — choral version of the above. Barber chose to set the Agnus Dei text to his haunting melody.
  • Eric Whitacre’s “Sleep” — choral.
  • Eric Whitacre’s “When David Heard” — choral. A stunning piece representing King David’s grief upon hearing of Absolom’s death. It’s about 15 minutes long and worth every moment.
  • Joseph MacKenzie’s “Mansions of the Lord” and end credits of the film We Were Soldiers — choir and orchestra.
  • Puccini’s “Crisantemi” — for string orchestra. Written for the funeral procession of a noble.

 

Courageous Discernment

In the Heaven is for Real film preview, Mr. Burpo tells his young son that some people might be afraid to believe him.

However I fear that multitudes of people will be afraid NOT to believe him, because of genuine belief that “you can’t and shouldn’t just write off someone else’s experience”. Very many kind, sweet, strong and otherwise godly people do and will hold this view.

But on the contrary, we should and must have the courage to discount anything that doesn’t agree with the divinely inspired Words our Creator has already given us. They alone are trustworthy and they are final. Neither myself nor the preachers I quote are out to make our fellow Christians look or feel stupid. Instead we beg them to step back, search the Scriptures, and seek after priceless wisdom.

You may be thinking, “Look, even if we ourselves can’t confirm whether or not the kid’s story is true, why is it so bad to at least consider the possibility? What’s wrong with just acknowledging that maybe God allowed this experience, and let it give people hope?”

Because it feeds the notion that God’s revelation isn’t complete; that we can depend on something outside His Word to give us hope. David Platt says it thus: “Why, why do we buy this stuff when we HAVE the Word of God? Let’s minimize the thoughts of man, magnify, trust, bank our lives and our understanding of the future on the truth of God. On the other hand let’s lay aside our traditions and submit to God’s Word. None of us want to believe something is true about Heaven or Hell just because it’s what we’ve always been taught. There’s too much at stake for that.”

With superhuman intelligence and thousands of years of practice, Satan is extremely good at his primary goal: deceiving people. He is the Father of Lies.  Originally created the chief of all God’s angels, he is cunning. A master of subtlety. He delights most in using lies that sound like truth (hence Catholicism, etcetera). They’re the most effective kind, after all.

In a video clip from a sermon of David Platt’s that is going around Facebook (the same from which the above quote comes), Mr. Platt quotes a man I know from our 17 years of residence in California, preacher and editor Phil Johnson. I wholeheartedly recommend his words for your consideration. (Copied farther below.)

Input from men like this, whose scriptural acumen and faithful perspicacity in their efforts to always be “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) is exceedingly valuable. God has provided us with gifted expositors of His Word, but they won’t do us any good if we are failing to obey Hebrews 5:12-14 and feed ourselves with the solid food of truth — not just milk! — and exercise ourselves to be discerning.

(All of the following is excerpted from Phil Johnson’s blog post “The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine” which can be found on the Grace To You website http://www.gty.org/Resources/Print/Blog/B121018)

“Only four authors in all the Bible were blessed with visions of heaven and wrote about what they saw: the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, and the apostles Paul and John. Two other biblical figures—Micaiah and Stephen—got glimpses of heaven, but what they saw is merely mentioned, not described (2 Chronicles 18:18; Acts 7:55). As Pastor MacArthur points out, all of these were prophetic visions, not near-death experiences. Not one person raised from the dead in the Old or New Testaments ever recorded for us what he or she experienced in heaven. That includes Lazarus, who spent four days in the grave.

Paul was caught up into heaven in an experience so vivid he said he didn’t know whether he went there bodily or not, but he saw things that are unlawful to utter, so he gave no details. He covered the whole incident in just three verses (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

All three biblical writers who saw heaven and described their visions give comparatively sparse details, but they agree perfectly (Isaiah 6:1-4; Ezekiel 1 and 10; Revelation 4-6). They don’t agree with the Burpo-Malarkey version of heaven. Both their intonation and the details they highlight are markedly different. The biblical authors are all fixated on God’s glory, which defines heaven and illuminates everything there. They are overwhelmed, chagrined, petrified, and put to silence by the sheer majesty of God’s holiness. Notably missing from all the biblical accounts are the frivolous features and juvenile attractions that seem to dominate every account of heaven currently on the bestseller lists.

Evangelical readers’ discernment skills are at an all-time low, and that is why books like these proliferate. Despite the high profile, high sales figures, and high dollar amounts Christian publishers can milk from a trend such as this, it doesn’t bode well for the future of Christian publishing—or for the future of the evangelical movement.”