Tag Archives: Heaven

What’s on your bucket list—and why?

The idea of a “bucket list” was popularized by the 2007 film, “The Bucket List.”  It’s a list of things to do and places to go before you die, i.e., “kick the bucket.”  For example, I would love to visit Alaska, a state extolled for its transcendent natural beauty, but one I have only seen in pictures.

I should, however, clarify that I have very little to complain about concerning the life experiences enjoyed and amazing places seen.  By God’s graceI’ve experienced the magnificent majesty of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park, enjoyed the beaches of Southern California, Bali, and Phuket, trod the Great Wall of China, eaten armadillo in the jungles of Bolivia, visited the Bavarian and Austrian Alps, wandered the north woods of the upper Midwest, paddled in the crystal clear fault lakes of the Canadian boundary waters, seen the corals of the Great Barrier Reef, swam in the bracing cold of the Great Lakes, seen the Holy Land, the Coliseum in Rome, the Tower of London, the ancient ruins of the Seven Churches in the book of Revelation . . . .  The list could go on, and yet, I’ve still never been to many breathtakingly beautiful places in Europe, Africa, Russia, New Zealand, or even outer space.  Given my age and income level, it’s likely I won’t see most (if not all) of them before I die.

Even if I had the time and money, however, the sheer size and majesty of this world (not to mention the universe), would make it extremely hard to “see and do it all” in a single lifetime.  Seeing the obsessive passion with which some people create and pursue the fulfillment of their bucket lists, I can’t help but wonder if certain assumptions lie beneath the fervor to see and experience as much of the world as possible before death.

Probably the primary motivation is that since “you only live once” (which is true), you can only enjoy what this world has to offer before you die (which is false).  The materialist assumption that lies behind the drive to do everything possible before death suggests that once you die, you simply no longer exist.  We should therefore “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32).  But if we are made for eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and have trusted in Christ, we can confidently anticipate a gloriously indescribable future beyond this fleeting life that will be spent forever in a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21-22).  Even the most breath-taking experiences we can muster in this passing life are mere faint and shifting shadows compared to the unimaginable magnificence of the life that is to come.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see the many splendors of this world that God has made.  He has, after all, created it to reflect His own majestic beauty and bountiful wisdom.  The heavens really do declare His glory (Psalm 19:1).  Creation is a dim but very real reflection of the glory of our God and Maker, making it a many-splendored thing, worthy to be explored and experienced with awe and gratitude.

The drive to both make and complete a bucket list, however, can cause us to forget that as wonderful and beautiful as the things of creation are, they ultimately pale in comparison to what we will know and experience in eternity.  Even if you never fulfill your wanderlust, even if you never have all the thrills and experiences that our existential age promotes as essential for fulfillment (you assuredly will not), it is a profound and concrete comfort to know that these longings are merely meant to remind us that we are ultimately made for another (and magnificently better) world.

As C. S. Lewis so beautifully put it in Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.  If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably, earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”

Here is how John describes this magnificent world in Revelation 21: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, . . .  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”

I’m putting this destination, accessible through faith in Christ alone, in the pole position of my bucket list.  And thanks to Jesus, when I finally do kick the bucket, it’s a place I will never have to worry about missing out on.  After all, He will be there in all His unmasked glory, and I will finally see Him face to face.


The Longing to Be Whole


The Best Years of My Life?

I was often told by well-meaning adults that the years of my youth would be the best of my life.  But in many ways, these years were anything but wonderful.  Although things at home were Christ-centered, stable, and supportive, life at school was positively miserable.  I remember vowing to remember what it was really like when I was young.  Life was full of formidable hardships and hurts.

Now that I’m older, it is much clearer that every life-stage is filled with tests, trials, and tribulations. They are inherent to the fabric of life within a fallen world.  For many, however, it is all too easy to see the past through rose-colored glasses, only recalling the joys and few, if any, of the sorrows.  In retrospect, the years of youth particularly seem like a time filled with wonder, strength, and beauty.  We long to be young again.

The Price of Wisdom

Part of this longing, I think, is produced by the physical reality of aging.  Herein lies a study in contrast.  On the one hand, with age comes wisdom.  And for this reason, I would not want to return to the foolish naiveté of youth for anything.  But wisdom comes with an unavoidable price—the price of both physical and emotional injury.  And while the emotional toll is immensely important, it is to the physical my thoughts have turned lately.

With time comes decay. Eventually, our bodies wear out and stop working well.  Ever since the fall, physical pain and death are an inevitable part of life.  In some way, shape, or form, we all experience the debilitating effects of sin and our bodies start “giving up the ghost.”  For some, that relinquishing comes sooner and exacts a greater cost.

Properly understood, this can help us contemplate the fleeting and fragile nature of material existence.  My early-onset deafness and chronic back and neck pain (for example) have forced me to face my mortality.

The Longing to Be Whole

In the midst of it all, we often find ourselves longing for the bodies of our youth when we heard and saw with unaided clarity, when we woke up without a morning backache and aching joints, when we had rock-hard stomachs and baby-soft skin.  In short, we long to be strong and young and whole again.

The world also has this God-given longing, but without any real prospects for a permanent reformation. The best they can hope for are more painkillers, a shot of cortisone, a botox injection, a tummy tuck, and a facelift.

The Source of Real Hope

In blessed contrast, believers are given “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . ., an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, reserved [for us] in heaven” (1 Peter 1:3-4).  There, we will see without glasses, hear without microcircuits and air-zinc batteries, and live without pain.  There will be no more death, agony, or aging.  Thank God, we will finally and unceasingly be whole.

Home Forevermore

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I said goodbye yesterday to some friends we met on sabbatical.  Sometimes it feels like my life is one continuous goodbye.  Of course there are constants for which I am profoundly grateful.  God is always with me and Barbara has been my ever-faithful life companion through these past 26 years of marriage, but in some seasons of life, the goodbyes seem to engulf the greetings.  As we prepare for our return to Singapore, it feels like this is one of those seasons.

We are saying goodbye to our children, a new son and daughter-in-law, extended family, friends old and new, and so much more.  Of course, new beginnings bring new hellos and new opportunities, but the pain of saying goodbye is still very real and takes time to work through and move beyond.  If I’m honest, there is sadness in excitement and sorrow in anticipation.

In reflecting on these feelings, part of the longing to never again have to say goodbye is rooted in the great hope of heaven where we will finally find ourselves face-to-face with God and join in the sweet communion of the saints in a way we have never known before.  It will never be goodbye again.  It will only be an exultant, spectacular, and unending reunion.

I am reminded of the words from an old Degarmo and Key song:

“It’s gonna be a family reunion when we see the Lord

At the family reunion we’ll be home forevermore . . . home forevermore”

Whenever God calls, I’m ready to be home forevermore and never have to say goodbye again.