What’s Heaven Like?

I was driving home from picking my two youngest daughters up from Kenpo this week, and we had a hilarious exchange that got me thinking:

 

My 6-year-old: When I get to heaven, the first thing I want to do is go swimming.

Me (trying not to laugh): Really? Why swimming?

Her: Because swimming is awesome and it will be awesome in heaven!

My 10-year-old: Well, when I get to heaven the first thing I want to do is hug Jesus!

My 6-year-old: Okay, hug Jesus first, then swimming!

 

First of all, it was hilarious. Kids can be so funny!  Secondly, though, it amazes me what kids think about God. Specifically, her thoughts about heaven and what eternity will be like amaze me.  And you know, she could be quite right that there will be swimming in heaven; if there is, I bet it will be awesome. (yes, I know Revelation 21:1 says there is no sea…it does not say that there are no swimming pools!)

 

Revelation 21 says that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and that the new Jerusalem will be amazing. In Genesis 1:31 God says that the creation was “very good,” so I am betting that the new one will be even better! But notice that there is not only new heavens, but a new earth. It seems that in eternity there will be an earth, and it will be populated. In Luke 19:17 the returning master gives his faithful servant authority over cities (plural), meaning there will be government and apparently an economy. There will be jobs! (not sea-based jobs, apparently) 

 

This reflects the perfection of the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve had vocation and responsibility. It seems this is how eternity will be as well.  That encourages me, even though when we’re all perfect and holy and filled with God’s grace without sin, I will have to find a new vocation! It doesn’t seem that heaven is sitting on clouds and singing in an angel choir for many. If not, and if we will have vocation there, then my job today can be a reflection of the kingdom of God if I will commit it to Christ and work at it like it is His plan for me.  And that, I will do, as well as I can.

 

How about you? When you close your eyes, what does heaven look like? What are you most looking forward to doing when you’re in the perfect eternal state of joy?

A Dose of Courage

Laura and I went to see the movie “Courageous” on Sunday with some of our best friends.  Here’s the trailer.

All I have to say is wow.  Alex and Stephen Kendrick did a great job on this movie.  It is quite apparent that with all the money they made on “Fireproof,” the directors took some of it and bought the cast some acting lessons! Smile Laura and I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and quite literally gave it an ovation at the end.

At its’ heart, “Courageous” is a movie about 4 guys (3 of them cops in a small southern town) trying to figure out how to be good dads and honor God in the process.  It isn’t smarmy or too cliché, but the message comes through loud and clear.

The Good:

This movie is filled with good.  The  main characters honor God.  They strive after Him and clearly, the theme is that fatherhood is vitally important in the lives of our children.  I teared up several times.  The moral message is pitch perfect.

I also really liked that the movie didn’t hit the “Jesus angle” too hard or too directly, though the Gospel was pretty clearly presented in the course of the movie.  I would feel quite comfortable bringing friends who aren’t Christians to it, and it is a must for church men’s groups for sure.

I also loved the humor.  This movie was a bit of a tear jerker, and it would have been tough to watch without some humor.  The humor in this movie is just amazing.  It’s not, “Ha ha” funny in places; it’s “holy cow that is stinkin’ hilarious” funny in all the right places.  The laughter breaks up the serious message just enough that you don’t feel like you’re being browbeaten, and that is very helpful in this movie.

I love the way that this movie deals with tragedy and grief.  The pastor gives some of the best advice that I have ever heard on screen to a grieving man, and that came through loud and clear.

The Bad:

Really, it’s hard to nitpick.  As a gun nut firearms instructor I thought that their portrayal of tactics was suspect, but my friend who is a policeman told me that it was pretty accurate for rural forces in the south.  Okay, but I would have filmed the sequences of police work differently.  It didn’t ruin the movie, but it made me shake my head a little.

I guess I also felt like all the loose ends were tied up a little too conveniently and neatly at the end.  Everything worked out great, even though (without spoiling it) there is one letdown.  That said, God wins and the dudes love their sons and all is well.  It’s a bit tidy.

The Verdict:

Go see this movie.  You will be glad you did.  It was well written, well acted, and fun to watch.  It made me want to be a better dad.  It was a great date with my wife, and I think that every church in America should promote it!

Recalibration Needed

It’s been FOREVER since I posted a thought on ABF.  It’s been a month of transitions, and just by way of explanation I thought I would post the text of an email I sent our church family this week. Hopefully this explains some of my absence from the blog, and gives you some insight into where I am in life right now.  I would love your prayers and your thoughts on how to get even better.

““For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? ” (Luke 9:25)

Hi everyone!
 
Just a quick update from me and some clarification.  I feel like I may have been misleading the past couple of weeks and wanted to make sure that I am communicating well.
 
I think that I may have put across the idea that we are not doing very well as a family.  Allow me to say, that is not the case at all!  In fact, I would say that now we are doing better than we ever have.  What the realization over the past month has taught us is that we were spread way, way too thin.  Between my many activities, the kids participating in lots of different stuff, and Laura’s many duties we were so thin that you could see right through us.  And that meant that we didn’t have the time to be together and love one another well.  It meant that we were always rushing to one place or another with no time to just enjoy one another.  It meant that the house was always a mess and that Laura felt like she couldn’t keep up with all of the demands of school work for the kids, house work, her doula clients (which is a huge passion of hers), AND be successful as a follower of Christ and wife and mother.  She realized it, but I was experiencing the same without really realizing it. (she’s always been more self-aware than I am)  And we all finally came to the realization that there were a lot of tasks and activities that are good in themselves, but in the end took us away from who we want to be.  So the past few weeks have been our attempt to clear out the stuff that matters least so that we can focus on the stuff that matters most.  To us, what matters most is that we love God and each other, and we are trying to do that more effectively.  And I think that God is using that in great ways, and with our “margins” and boundaries on our time re-established we are really having fun as a family.  In fact, I think that we are as joyful as we have been in a long, long time.
 
So that said, we cleared those margins not to get away from our church family; just the opposite, really! We want to spend more time together with you.  We want to have our family in Christ in our home, and grow closer with the people who matter most to us.  Yeah, that is primarily Laura and me keeping our marriage strong and healthy (which it is!), and helping our kids love God and love people.  This is why you’ll see us head out camping more, why James and I bought dirt bikes recently so we can do that as a father and son, and just being home more.  It’s brought back joy in my life in fixing stuff around the house, because I have the time to do so and because it is fun again to make something work correctly.  I have room in my mind for it!  It is also building healthy, transparent, growing relationships with our church family.  So look for that in our lives in the coming weeks and months as we focus on the things that matter the most to us.
 
All that to say, the Correia family is doing great.  We are through the “holy moley, we need to change some stuff” time and into cementing those changes to have some room in our schedules and in our hearts and heads to really just be present where we are.  So, please don’t think that we are in a dire straight or coming apart at the seams.  In fact, I think that we are more whole than we ever have been, and it’s been lots of fun to be in our home listening to laughter and talking and getting involved in what matters to our kids. (Laura told me last night that while she and James were cooking enchiladas he told her ALL about the Star Wars Lego world he has built, and all the characters and cities and everything that are in it…I know you’re jealous!)  I want to publicly thank Pastor Mike for being so instrumental in helping us make some of these realizations as a family, and continuing to help us relate effectively and communicate our hearts to one another honestly and clearly.
 
What does that mean for you? 
 
Keep loving us as a family.  We value transparency and authenticity, so we are just living life with you.  Don’t wonder what’s going on or worry that you’re intruding.  We’ll say so if we need space.  And don’t worry you’ll say the wrong thing or that you can’t just have small talk with us.  That’s what we want! Help us enjoy life a little by having lunch with us after church; we might forget to ask, so come ask us!  Let us get involved in helping you find those boundaries as well and make the main thing the main thing in your life.  Talk to us about the little things…we love that stuff.
 
Thanks again for being an amazing church family, where the pastor can just be a regular guy who occasionally needs to recalibrate.  It’s good to be healthier.

The Details

It’s funny how God can reveal himself to us through little things that we might not even be thinking about.  For instance, I certainly wasn’t really expecting a revelation of any kind a couple of weeks ago when I took my son dove hunting.  However, since we went God has shown me the intricacy and beauty of His creation in new and interesting ways.

Dove Hunting
It was James’ first time hunting birds, and frankly I hadn’t been in forever.  I am just getting back into hunting in reality; I hunted birds and varmints as a teenager during the summer, but moving around in the Navy and being occupied with work and babies and seminary just didn’t leave time for much recreation.  Now I am trying to make some quality time with my son, and hunting gives us whole days together while allowing me to rekindle an old passion. 

What I have noticed about my renewed interest in hunting is how much more observant I am while out in the world.  We have birds that come near our house because we are near a park, and before we went hunting I just thought of them as birds.  However, now I find that when I see a bird I wonder what kind of bird it is.  (when dove hunting it will not do at all to shoot a killdeer!)  Even within the dove family there are different species that can be discerned by their tail feathers, their colors, their call, and their flight patterns.  How fascinating to see, and how wonderful!  I noticed the same when we went hunting for squirrel and rabbit, in that all the small details began to be important to me.

Now, even when I am not hunting I am paying attention to the animals around me.  While running yesterday I got to see about 3 dozen dove (3 different species!), 2 cotton-tailed rabbits, and a small covey of quail!  Plus I saw killdeer, woodpeckers, sparrows, and a hawk.  I got to thank God and remember what He has told us about His world:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Psalm 19:1, NASB)

 
I thought about this today in other areas as well.  How often are we unobservant about not only God’s creation, but God’s people?  How many times do we walk right by someone who is hurting and in need of God’s love, and because we are so preoccupied with our own lives we walk right by without noticing.  How many times do we not know of a ministry need in our church because we are not paying attention to the details?
 
This comes to a real head in Bible study.  As Christians we are told that God’s word is useful to make us who God wants us to be (2 Tim 3:16-17), and that it pierces us to the soul to see what our heart is (Heb 4:12).  When we study it, though, are we really paying attention or are we just confirming our already existing biases? 
 
In A Scandal in Bohemia, Mr. Watson marvels at Sherlock Holmes’ uncanny ability to solve cases using seemingly scant evidence.  When Holmes replies that he uses only what is plain for anyone to observe, Watson retorts that he sees the same things as Holmes and yet cannot solve the case.  Holmes’ reply is telling, “You see, but you do not observe.” 
 
God is showing me through doves and quail and rabbits that the small details matter, and that there are details all around that I have been missing.  My prayer for you today is that you would stop a moment and recover the ability to observe.  Stop today and read your Bible.  Don’t just see it; observe it and see what it truly says.  Stop today and pay attention to what’s going on around you.  Look at your spouse and what’s going on in their life and really observe them.  Same for your kids, and your coworkers.  Do that today and this coming week, and I am willing to bet that you will begin to observe details that will cause you to come to the same place that I have this week.

Happy Father’s Day!

To all of the dads out there who read ABF, I wish you a Happy Father’s Day!  I hope you get a large hunk of beef critter, place it near open flame until it is appropriately flame-seared (which would be medium-rare for the record), and then get to enjoy it thoroughly with your family.  Soon enough I will be doing just that!

I was reminded this week in my study of 2 Timothy 1:1-10 that God’s definition of a dad and ours doesn’t always match up.  I am also reminded that this is a very, very good thing!  Allow me to explain.  First, Paul thinks of Timothy as his son:

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. ” (2 Timothy 1:1–2)

Paul calls Timothy his “beloved son” in 2 Tim 1:2.  We know from 1 Corinthians 4:17 and Philippians 2:19-24 that Paul and Timothy were very close friends and ministry companions; we also know from Acts 16:1 that when Paul met Timothy that he was already a believer in Christ and an adult.  So Paul is not biologically related to Timothy!  Nevertheless, they were so close that Paul considered him a son.

So God’s definition of a father is not always the world’s definition.  Whereas the world says that a father is the man who gives us our genetic code, God says that a father is a man who cares for us, encourages us, leads us, and provides us an example of godliness regardless of genetic links between us.  The biblical definition of a dad does not require blood relation, but care and love and commitment. 

I am really grateful for this.  The man who donated his genes to me is a stranger to me.  He and my mom divorced when I was a baby, and I haven’t seen or heard from him since my 5th birthday.  I was in a position to be a statistic (such as the fact that about 85% of men in prison effectively have no father), but in my case I was never without a father figure who could provide that example for me.  We lived with my grandparents when I was little, so my grandpa provided a great example of dad for me.  My uncle filled a need for a loving man in my life for a long time.  And then in the best example, my mom married a wonderful man when I was six who actually adopted me as his own and even gave me his last name! 

This is God’s true picture of fatherhood; it’s more about adoption than it is about flesh and blood.  We all begin life alienated from God and hostile to Him (Colossians 1:21).  However, when we trust Christ we are adopted by God as His children (Galatians 4:5)!  He takes those who were not His children and adopts Him into His family (Ephesians 1:5), giving us a spirit and a position in His family by which we can call Him our Father (Romans 8:15).  God is our adopted Father who loves us unconditionally and gives us everything we could ever ask for as children.

What does that mean for us?  Well first of all, make sure you talk to your Heavenly Father today and thank Him for your adoption and for His love for you.  Take some time and thank the Lord for His care for you and love for you, bringing you into His family and blessing you with every blessing you have. 

Secondly, this understanding of biblical fatherhood really speaks to those of us who do not have great fathers here on earth.  Whether your “real” dad is a good example or not, you have been adopted into the family of the King!  Even when our earthly fathers fail us, our Heavenly Father never will.  And if your dad hasn’t been a great example, you can likely point to wonderful, godly men who have filled that role in your life and been sent from God to help you live for Him.

Finally, if you haven’t found a man who can be this in your life, rest in God today that He loves you unconditionally, and also rest in the truth that He wants you to have a man in your life who you can relate to as father.  Then set about finding that man so you can have an earthly relationship that mirrors your heavenly one.

Happy Father’s Day, dad!  Also, a Happy Father’s Day to some other men who have been fathers to me:  Grandpa Bob, Uncle Jeff, Dr. F. Olden Pittman, and Dr. Fred Chay.  I appreciate you men more than you know.