Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book Review: Things Unseen by Mark Buchanan

If there is is a passion for me right now, it would have to be the Kingdom of Heaven.  For someone who spent years (decades) as a political junkie, I think many who have known me are surprised how much my "politics" have transformed themselves from "things below" to "things above". But "things" have a way of changing  when you move from a theology of "getting from here to Heaven" to "getting Heaven to come here". I realized that many of my "good intentions" not only failed to help bring God's Kingdom to Earth but actually inhibited it's coming at all.

It's in this new environment for me that a pastor friend from Colorado recommended, Things Unseen: Living in Light of Forever by Mark Buchanan.  It has been said that "some people are too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good."  Buchanan's premise is that without a proper fixation on heaven, you "earthly good" will be all but crippled.

Rather than paint Heaven as the great "Here After",  Things Unseen reveals a heaven that we can have written in our hearts.  A heaven that guides our actions and decisions here and now; and when the time comes that we do move on into eternity, we simply transition into the fulness of what we had already been living in. 

This "Heavenly-mindedness" says Buchanan, "is sanity.  It is the best regimen for keeping our hearts whole, our minds clear.  It allows us to enjoy earth's pleasures without debauchery.  It allows us to endure life's agonies without despair.  It allows us to see things from the widest possible perspective and in the truest possible proportions.  If anything can give us a true scale of values- one that enables us to sort out the disposable from the precious, the trinkets from the treasures, the surface from the substance- heavenly mindedness can."

Much of the book's strength rests on Buchanan's gift at spinning a phrase that makes our understanding of an issue more passionate and inspiring.  Take for example "holiness".  Any preacher announcing he will do a series on "holiness" will usually generate a collective groan from the congregation.  "Holiness" in Buchanan's hand however comes out like this:

"God intends the holy life to be an odyssey of wonder.  The religious impulse tends to make it into a journey both dreary and heavy, perilous and plodding.  But God designed holiness to be invigorating, the discovery of life so abundant that if He didn't unveil it for us, we would forever lack the imagination even to ask for it."
 See what I mean?

So if you are looking on getting a clearer view of Heaven before death rather than after, Things Unseen, should go on your "to read" list!


Bob said...

Good recommendation Steve. Thanks. Why is it that so many Christians believe eternal life doesn't start until we die?

Michael said...

Awesome. I'm teaching a class on kingdom (here, not later) right now and this sounds like powerful inspiration.

Steve H. said...

Bob: The question you ask is driving me lately

Hey Michael: good to hear from you! When are you going to blog again?

Bob said...

Yes Michael . . . when indeed?