Book Review – “All Things New” by John Eldredge

all things new

For a few years now, I have been very interested in understanding what will happen in the end according to Christian theology.  I am not talking primarily of various eschatological views, but of our eternal future in the end.  Several authors, such as N. T. Wright, Randy Alcorn, and even Dallas Willard have contributed to my understanding that what we normally think of as “Heaven” falls far short of what Scripture seems to say.  In reality, we are not going to live somewhere “out there,” but right here, on Earth.  A new Earth with no weaknesses or sin, to be sure, but Earth all the same.

When I saw an offer to preview and promote John Eldredge’s new book All Things New, I jumped at the chance to read and review it.

Eldredge’s main point is that we must have an accurate understanding of what eternity will be like if we hope to have it influence our lives here and now.  He tackles what Earth will be like, the fact that evil will be overthrown, and what we will do forever once everything is restored.  And he does so in a very readable way.

Let me address those who have read much on this before.  For those who have studied the issue, you will probably not find anything strikingly new here.  You will also not find as much Scripture referenced as you would in a book by Alcorn, for example.

What you will find is what, in my opinion, Eldredge is known for: painting a picture in a very elegant way.  Where other books offer perhaps a deeper, more theological and Scripture-saturated understanding of the future, Eldredge also uses movie and story references and takes a cue from them to help us imagine what things will be like.  That is not to say that he never uses Scripture; he does.  But it appears that Eldredge wants us to take more time to dream and imagine about what everything will be like, to get us to desire it from what we imagine it will be like.

It is here that Eldredge succeeds.  Let me provide just one example from the book:

“If you woke each morning and your heart leapt with hope, knowing that the renewal of all things was just around the corner–might even come today–you would be one happy person. If you knew in every fiber of your being that nothing is lost, that everything will be restored to you and then some, you would be armored against discouragement and despair.  If your heart’s imagination were filled with rich expectations of all the goodness coming to you, your confidence would be contagious; you would be unstoppable, revolutionary.

“Friends–don’t let anyone or anything cheat you of this hope; it is your spiritual lifeline. You have barely begun to take hold of it. Do not let anything diminish the beauty, power, and significance of this hope above all hopes. Jesus lived the way he did in this world, for this world, because his hope was set beyond this world; that is the secret of his life…” (p. 200; emphasis in original).

Amen!  One can’t help but be stirred by the above.  And that is Eldredge’s claim to fame, in my opinion: the ability to stir us up in our imaginations and get us excited again.  Whether he is writing about prayer, the heart, holiness, or, now, the renewal of all things, Eldredge has a way of making us desire again.

I believe the best way to develop our understanding of the future is to take the more theological works and combine them with the imaginative ones, blending them together to create a Scripture-founded hope that resides deep within us.  Eldredge’s new book is a great addition to this goal.

*Note: I was provided a complimentary advanced copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


Book Review – “Four Views on Hell”


Zondervan’s “Counterpoints” series is a great series.  It allows readers to learn about multiple views on an issue with each presented by a proponent of that view followed by responses from the other authors in the book who hold to different views on the same topic.  This give and take allows strong representatives of the various views to have a small discussion for us to read and consider.  Recently, Zondervan released an updated version of a previous book, Four Views on Hell, and I requested a copy from BookLook Bloggers to read and review.

The four views presented (with the author who presents it) are eternal conscious torment by Denny Burk (the traditional view), terminal punishment/annihilationism by John G. Stackhouse Jr., [Christian] universalism by Robin A. Parry, and a protestant understanding of purgatory by Jerry L. Walls.  Preston M. Sprinkle provides an introduction and conclusion to the book.

I certainly feel I have a better understanding of the various views after reading the book.  Each viewpoint is well presented, and the responses are very well done.

I do feel that Denny Burk’s responses were the least kind.  It’s not that he was outright rude, but whereas the other authors seemed to try to find as much good as they could in the other contributors’ essays, Burk did so almost dismissively before jumping into his refutation of their views.  Stackhouse, Parry, and Walls seemed much more generous in their responses to each other.

I also have to admit that the essay on purgatory seemed out of place in this volume.  As Walls explains it, purgatory, from a protestant perspective, is strictly sanctifying, and is only for believers who are already destined for Heaven.  Walls admits that his view on Hell is essentially a view of eternal conscious torment, if I understood him correctly, as it has the clearest Scriptural support and the longest tradition in the history of the Church.  In his explanation, the other views on Hell would bear the burden of proof to overturn such a longstanding view.  Perhaps purgatory was included in the book because some mistakenly associate it with Hell and punishment, but once it is explained, it seemed very out of place.

What I liked is that all the authors are clear that they believe that some aspect of Scripture supports their view.  They are all Christians, all believe Jesus is the only way to God, and all turn to Scripture for support.  None of the views are entirely devoid of Scriptural support, although some rely on Scripture more than others.

If you are looking for a balanced book to help you understand the various Christian viewpoints on Hell, this book, though far from exhaustive, is a great place to start.

*Note: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  

Book Review – “The Story of Everything” by Jared C. Wilson

story of everything

Ever since I read Randy Alcorn’s Heaven, I have been extremely interested in deepening my understanding of eternity and how the current world fits in to God’s plan.  The Story of Everything by Jared C. Wilson is an excellent addition to my library and my thoughts in this area.

In the book, Wilson examines multiple aspects of the world to arrive at a theological understanding of how it all fits in to the story God is telling.  He examines history, creation, politics, culture, evil, pain, fun, and marriage (along with sex and family).  By looking it at from the view of a story God is telling, he manages to unify these things and tie them together with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He also points out that all of these aspects will ultimately not be overturned in total, but will find their fulfillment at the end of all things, when all things are made new.

I found the book to be very biblically sound and gospel centered.

I think my biggest takeaway is the chapter on “God’s Plan for Romance, Marriage, and Sex.”  Wilson does a tremendous job of examining how the gospel orients husbands and wives and provides that guidance and union necessary to make a marriage work.  He reminds us that marriage is a covenant, not a contract, and that, as such, we can love no matter what, just as Christ has loved us despite our shortcomings and failures.  The entire chapter is a pointed reminder that ultimately we are to serve our spouse rather than being served, and that ultimately our marriage is about God:

“The story that God is telling with the world calls us back to a radical reshaping of what we think marriage is for.  Personal happiness and romantic fulfillment can be the by-products of a healthy marriage, but the husband’s and wife’s primary purpose in marriage is not happiness and romance.  The primary purpose of marriage is giving God glory by bearing witness to the gospel. The primary purpose of marriage is to make Jesus look big.” (Kindle location 3135)

If we could keep this in mind, really if we could memorize the whole chapter and live it out, our marriages would be transformed.  To me, the chapter on marriage alone is worth getting the book.

So, what do we do with the information in Wilson’s book?  We remember this quote and live it out: “Jesus is indeed making all things new. The purpose of life now is to live in such a way that everything we do with everything points to his remaking of everything.” (Kindle location 3665)  We orient our lives so that we are constantly living out the reality that everything is working toward a renewal that God will bring about.  Imagine how attractive the gospel will become in our lives if we live this out daily with everyone we meet!

I would strongly encourage everyone to pick up this book and read through it slowly, soaking it in.  You won’t regret it!

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway through their Blog Review Program in exchange for my honest review.


Time Flies

clock 2

Sometimes we need a reminder of how our time flies.  I had such a reminder the other day as I was reading the Scriptures.

Psalm 39:4-5 says, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you.  Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” (ESV)

Somewhere along the way we get this idea that we have unlimited time.  We get the idea that we are immortal, and that there is always tomorrow.  James 4:13-15 warns us about this.

Perhaps it is a result of our desire to ignore death; if we ignore death’s reality, then certainly it will never come to us, right?  But the reality is that death comes whether we want it to or not.  Unless the Lord returns, we will all face death at some point, and we do not know when.

The psalmist asks God to “let me know how fleeting I am!”  He wisely wants God to remind Him of how quickly his life will pass.

He describes his days as “a few handbreadths.”  A handbreadth equaled about four inches.  The idea being that in the grand scheme of things, his life was not very long.  He then says that “all mankind stands as a mere breath.”  The word for “breath” is a word meaning “vapor.”  Think about going outside on a cold day and breathing out.  The breath that you see disappears quickly; it is a vapor.  That is the idea of how long (or short) our life is on earth.

In light of these things, we should consider how we are living.   How are we using the time that we have, fleeting as it is?  What things are we doing to ensure that we are “making the best use of the time”? (Ephesians 5:16, ESV)

Are we wasting it on things that won’t ultimately matter?  Are we investing it wisely in spiritual growth and time with family and friends?  Are we using our time to bless others?  Or are we selfishly hoarding it all, always waiting until later to use our time wisely?

There was an old saying that I remember hearing Leonard Ravenhill say, although I don’t think it was original to him.  It says, “Only one life; ’twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

How true that all is.  We only have one life on this earth, and as the psalmist reminds us, although in different words, “’twill soon be past.”  The only things that will last are those things done for Christ.

Now this doesn’t mean that we can do only “spiritual” things (like reading the Bible, praying, etc.).   But whatever we are doing needs to be done to God’s glory.  And we do need to think about how our time is being spent.  Perhaps there are some better ways we can be using our time.

This life is a gift from God, and we will never regret the things we have done for Christ. Let us be sure we are using our time wisely.  After all, it is “a mere breath.”


A Few Thoughts on Work, God’s Original Intent, and the Abundant Life

I’m sorry I have not posted as frequently lately.  Things have been hectic and crazy.  Work is keeping us very busy with teaching, planning, grading, meetings, talking with parents, and so on.  Even when we leave work, work seems to follow us.  I guess it’s the life of a teacher.  Actually, it’s the life of most of us when it comes to our jobs.

I want to head off this post by stating clearly that not much of what I am saying here is original.  I am indebted to authors like Randy Alcorn, Tim Keller, Ted Dekker, and others for much of what follows.

I also want to state clearly that I do like my job.  This is not a rant against my job in particular in any way.  I have a great principal, wonderful coworkers (more like family), and a very fulfilling role as I try to pour into the lives of my students.  This is not a veiled attack on what I do.  Rather, it is an exploration of something common to all of us, I believe.

Contrary to what many think, work is not a result of the fall.  Work preceded the fall.  Genesis 2:15 tells us, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (ESV)  Work was part of God’s original good design.  We were created to work, to create (as sub-creators imitating the original Creator), to continue God’s ordering of the world.

The fall did not introduce work into the world; the fall made work difficult and trying (see Genesis 3:17-19).  In those verses, we see the introduction of pain, thorns and thistles, and sweat.  Where the original intention of work was to be a blessing and fulfilling for Adam and Eve, it would now be a struggle.  It would still be beneficial, as it yielded food for them, but it would be beneficial through the frustrations.

That is where we are today.  Work is beneficial.  It still allows us to sub-create.  It still lets us use our gifts and talents.  It still provides our means by which we eat and have shelter.  And while many of us may not deal with real thorns and thistles or sweat at work in our air conditioned buildings, we still understand the concept of pain and toil and stress and frustration.

We often work for the weekends (the days of rest) or the holidays (holy-days?).  We look forward to the times when we can enjoy God and family and friends.  We may still do work on those days, but it’s often the work and hobbies we want to do; the work we enjoy doing all the time.  Again, that is not to say that we hate our current jobs, but we do dislike the stress and strain that goes with them.  So we do those things that are less stressful to us on our down time.

Interestingly, and possibly without realizing it, we are living in small ways every week what we are to eventually live in all eternity.  We are going to enter into an eternal rest with God, where God “will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, ESV)  I believe, with Alcorn, that we will still work in Heaven.  It is an active place.  There will be things to do in God’s kingdom as we serve Him for all eternity.  But it will not be stressful.  It will be specially matched to our longings, desires, and capabilities.

We will no longer have issues with coworkers or customers or bosses.  We will no longer be looking at a clock, exhausted from a hard day’s work, longing for the time when we can go home and kick our feet up and rest.  We will no longer struggle with the greener-grass issue, wondering how life might have been different if we had picked a different career.

We will be content for all eternity.  We will love every aspect of our assignments, working joyfully alongside others who also have been freed from any remnants of sin and the fall.  We will have the best boss we could ever ask for, God Himself (and we know that the best boss on Earth now cannot compare with Him).  We will never again struggle with the frustration of being discontent, wondering if our work truly is making a difference.

There is a reason that we are to live in hope of eternity.  We are to wait expectantly for Christ’s return (or for the day we fall asleep in this life, only to awake to life unending with Christ).  We are to long for Christ and Heaven.

Even so, we also have another promise.  Christ promised in John 10:10 that He came that we might have abundant life now.  We are supposed to have an easy yoke and light burden now, as we follow Him in this life (see Matthew 11:29-30).  When we think of eternal life, we tend to think primarily of living forever in Heaven.  That is true insofar as it goes.  But it is an eternal kind of life that begins the moment we turn to Christ to follow Him and continues into Heaven after we die.  It doesn’t wait until then to start.

Let’s do two things to help ourselves as we work in this world now.  First, let’s live in the abundance of life we have through the Spirit’s dwelling in us and leading us to become more like Christ now.  Second, let’s look to the hope of a future when all remnants of the fall are done away with for good, when the foretastes of Heaven we experience on Earth now reach their fulfillment in eternity, never to be disrupted again.  And let’s apply all of this to our work as we serve our King.


What Are You Longing For?


Today we started a study on the book of Revelation in our Sunday School class.  We are focusing on the big themes of Christ’s return, the victory of good (through Christ) over evil, the rewards of those who serve God (even in the midst of suffering and persecution), etc.  It truly got me thinking about what it is I long for.

Some people long for more money.  Some for fame.  Some for that special someone to spend the rest of their lives with.  Some longings are good, while some are bad.  But what should we, as Christians, ultimately be longing for?  According to Scripture, it should be Christ, His appearing, and being with Him for eternity.

Now, I would admit that I want that . . . at least in theory.  But sometimes I honestly don’t live as if I do.  I live as if I want to remain here.  I know there have been times in my life where something good was coming, and I found myself almost dreading Christ’s return.  I didn’t want to miss out!  Perhaps I am the only one who has struggled with that backward thinking . . . the thought that being taken into eternity with Jesus would mean missing out on something here (getting married, watching my kids grow up, etc.).  In reality, staying here is missing out!  I just need that solidified in my mind and heart.

As Christians, we should be longing for Christ to come back.  We should be praying for it.  We should be expectantly waiting for it, like a bride waiting for her groom to come get her.  Let me bring out some Scriptures to back this up.

When Paul was writing to Timothy, he pointed to the fact that he would be rewarded with a crown of righteousness.  But he explained that it would be awarded not only to himself, but “to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8, ESV).  The NIV says these people have “longed for” His appearing.  Can we say we are truly longing for his appearing?  Are we, with the rest of creation, “groan[ing] inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”? (Romans 8:23, ESV)  Are we crying out “Our Lord, Come!” like Paul? (1 Corinthians 16:22, ESV)

I admit, I want sin to be done away with (both sin in general and the specific sins and temptations that I struggle against).  I want health and wholeness for eternity.  I want to live with no sorrow or sadness.  In other words, I can at least admit I want the benefits of Christ’s return or departing from this body.

But do I long to be with Christ?  Someone (I don’t recall who, but it is not an original idea of mine) once asked, “If you could have all the benefits of Heaven but God and Christ would not be there, would you want to go?”  It is an interesting question to ponder.  Our treasure should be Christ primarily, and only secondarily what He gives.  Don’t get me wrong, it is not bad for us to want the blessings that come with being with Christ.  Those treasures are good things, and we are told to store up treasures in Heaven (see Matthew 6:20).  But if we value the gifts more than the Giver, our affections are off.  If I return from a trip, and my children are happier to see what gifts I have brought them than they are to see me, something is wrong.  The same is true for our longings.  We can be excited for the gifts of God, but we should be more excited to be with Christ.

This has really been hammered home to me lately as I have been reading through Philippians.  Paul is facing the possibility of death, and he considers death to be “gain” (1:21), and says “[his] desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (1:23, ESV)  To die and be with Christ was not just good, but was “far better” than remaining alive!

I want to have that view.  I want to long for Christ’s return (or my departure in death) that much.

I have decided to seek for this perspective in prayer and reading of God’s word.  Won’t you join me?  Let’s seek to long for Christ more than anything else.  He is worthy.