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    HEAVEN

    In my first film series, "Focus on the Family," I shared a story about a 5-year-old African-American boy who will never be forgotten by those who knew him. A nurse with whom I worked, Gracie Schaeffler, took care of this lad during the latter days of his life. He was dying of lung cancer, which is a terrifying disease in its final stages. The lungs fill with fluid, and the patient is unable to breathe. It is terribly claustrophobic, especially for a small child.

    This little boy had a Christian mother who loved him and stayed by his side through the long ordeal. She cradled him on her lap and talked softly about the Lord. Instinctively, the woman was preparing her son for the final hours to come. Gracie told me that she entered his room one day as death approached, and she heard this lad talking about hearing bells. "The bells are ringing, Mommie," he said. "I can hear them."

    Gracie thought he was hallucinating because he was already slipping away. She left and returned a few minutes later and again heard him talking about hearing bells ringing. The nurse said to his mother, 'I'm sure you know your baby is hearing things that aren't there. He is hallucinating because of the sickness."

    The mother pulled her son closer to her chest, smiled and said, "No, Miss Schaeffler. He is not hallucinating. I told him when he was frightened -- when he couldn't breathe -- if he would listen carefully, he could hear the bells of heaven ringing for him. That is what he's been talking about all day."

    That precious child died on his mother's lap later that evening, and he was still talking about the bells of heaven when the angels came to take him. What a brave little trooper he was!

    Focus on the Family, September, 1993, p. 3.


    We know very little about heaven, but I once heard a theologian describe it as "an unknown region with a well-know inhabitant," and there is not a better way to think of it than that.

    Richard Baxter expresses the thought in these lines:

    My knowledge of that life is small,

    The eye of faith is dim,

    But it's enough that Christ knows all,

    And I shall be with him.

    To those who have learned to love and trust Jesus, the prospect of meeting him face to face and being with him forever is the hope that keeps us going, no matter what life may throw at us.

    James Packer, Your Father Loves You,  Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.


    As I get older, I find that I appreciate God and people and good and lovely and noble things more and more intensely; so it is pure delight to think that this enjoyment will continue and increase in some form (what form, God knows, and I am content to wait and see), literally forever. In fact Christians inherit the destiny which fairy tales envisaged in fancy: we (yes, you and I the silly saved sinners) live and live happily, and by God's endless mercy will live happily ever after.

    We cannot visualize heaven's life and the wise man will not try to do so. Instead he will dwell on the doctrine of heaven, where the redeemed will find all their heart's desire: joy with their Lord, joy with his people, and joy in the ending of all frustration and distress and in the supply of all wants. What was said to the child -- "If you want sweets and hamsters in heaven, they'll be there" -- was not an evasion but a witness to the truth that in heaven no felt needs or longings go unsatisfied. What our wants will actually be, however, we hardly know, except the first and foremost: we shall want to be "always...with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:17).

    What shall we do in heaven? Not lounge around but worship, work, think, and communicate, enjoying activity, beauty, people, and God. First and foremost, however, we shall see and love Jesus, our Savior, Master, and Friend.

    James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.


    Anonymous writer, about an American tourist's visit to the 19th century Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim:

    Astonished to see that the rabbi's home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and a bench, the tourist asked,

    "Rabbi, where is your furniture?"

    "Where is yours?" replied the rabbi.

    "Mine?" asked the puzzled American. "But I'm a visitor here. I'm only passing through."

    "So am I," said Hofetz Chaim.

    Christopher News Notes.


    We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning Heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about "pie in the sky," and of being told that we are trying to "escape from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere." But either there is "pie in the sky" or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or no.

    C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain.


    We are afraid that Heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. 

    C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain, Christianity Today, p. 46.


    In 1991 a Gallup poll showed that 78 percent of Americans expect to go to heaven when they die. However, many of them hardly ever pray, read the Bible, or attend church. They admit that they live to please themselves instead of God. I wonder why these people would want to go to heaven.

    In an article title, "Are We Ready for Heaven?" Maurice R. Irwin points out that only 34 percent of the American people who call themselves Christians attend church at least once a week. He says, "We sing, 'When all my labors and trials are o'er, and I am safe on that beautiful shore, just to be near the dear Lord I adore will through the ages be glory for me.' However, unless our attitudes toward the Lord and our appreciation of Him change greatly, heaven may be more of a shock than a glory." 

    Daily Bread, July 31, 1992.


    There is an old legend of a swan and a crane. A beautiful swan alighted by the banks of the water in which a crane was wading about seeking snails. For a few moments the crane viewed the swan in stupid wonder and then inquired:

    "Where do you come from?"

    "I come from heaven!" replied the swan.

    "And where is heaven?" asked the crane.

    "Heaven!" said the swan, "Heaven! have you never heard of heaven?" And the beautiful bird went on to describe the grandeur of the Eternal City. She told of streets of gold, and the gates and walls made of precious stones; of the river of life, pure as crystal, upon whose banks is the tree whose leaves shall be for the healing of the nations. In eloquent terms the swan sought to describe the hosts who live in the other world, but without arousing the slightest interest on the part of the crane.

    Finally the crane asked: "Are there any snails there?"

    "Snails!" repeated the swan; "no! Of course there are not."

    "Then," said the crane, as it continued its search along the

    slimy banks of the pool, "you can have your heaven. I want snails!"

    This fable has a deep truth underlying it. How many a young person to whom God has granted the advantages of a Christian home, has turned his back upon it and searched for snails! How many a man will sacrifice his wife, his family, his all, for the snails of sin! How many a girl has deliberately turned from the love of parents and home to learn too late that heaven has been forfeited for snails! 

    Moody's Anecdotes, pp. 125-126.


    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. 

    C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, New York, Macmillan, 1960, p. 119.


    The caricature of heaven as an eternity of idleness has no basis in Scripture. Instead, the N.T. conception unites the two thoughts of being with Christ and of service for Christ. This blending is definitely set forth in the last chapter of Revelation where we read of 'those who serve Him, and see His face." Here the life of contemplation and the life of active service are welded together as being not only compatible, but absolutely necessary for completeness. But remember that if there is to be service there, the exercising ground is here. I do not know what we are in this world for unless it is to apprentice us for heaven. Life on earth is a bewilderment unless we are being trained here for a nobler work which lies beyond the grave. 

    Alexander Maclaren in Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, K Hughes, Tyndale, 1988, p. 153ff.


    I once led a man to Christ who loved the sunny country of common sense, but he could not put up with the mysteries of godliness. He kept shoving common sense at me, while I kept trying to show him that the mysteries held the meaning of faith. One day he said, "Pastor, you know this new eternal life I have -- well, I've been thinking about it. What are we going to do all day long for eternity?" "We'll praise the Lord," I said. "Forever - for ten million years! --we're going to stand around and praise the Lord?" "Well, yes," I said, although heaven was beginning to sound like cable television. "For millions and millions of years?" he said. "Couldn't we just stop now and then and mess around a while?" I kidded him about his "dumb questions," but I have to admit similar questions of my own at times. How meager our understanding of praise -- and heaven! 

    Calvin Miller.


    A little girl was taking an evening walk with her father. Wonderingly, she looked up at the stars and exclaimed; "Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!" 

    Charles L. Allen in Home Fires.


    If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.

    C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.


    One day when George MacDonald, the great Scottish preacher and writer, was talking with his son, the conversation turned to heaven and the prophets' version of the end of all things. "It seems too good to be true," the son said at one point. A smile crossed MacDonald's whiskered face. "Nay," he replied, "It is just so good it must be true!" 

    Philip Yancey, Disappointment With God, Zondervan, p. 97.


    As Marco Polo, the famous Venetian traveler of the 13th century, lay dying, he was urged by his detractors to recant--to withdraw the stories he had told about China and the lands of the Far East. But he refused, saying, "I have not told half of what I saw."

    Source Unknown.


    In Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, stands a monument commemorating the great discoverer. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain's motto for centuries. Before Columbus made his voyages, the Spaniards thought they had reached the outer limits of earth. Thus their motto was "Ne Plus Ultra," which means "No More Beyond." The word being torn away by the lion is "ne" or "no," making it read "Plus Ultra." Columbus had proven that there was indeed "more beyond."

    Source Unknown.


    Two things will surprise us when we arrive in heaven: who is there and who is not. 

    John Hannah.


    A widely respected man known as "Uncle Johnson" died in Michigan at the incredible age of 120. Perhaps his advanced years could be credited in part to the cheerful outlook that characterized his life. One day while at work in his garden, he was singing songs of praise to God. His pastor, who was passing by, looked over the fence and called, "Uncle Johnson, you seem very happy today." "Yes, I was just thinking," said the old man. "Thinking about what?" questioned his pastor. "Oh, I was just thinking that if the crumbs of joy that fall from the Master's table in this world are so good, what will the great loaf in glory be like! I tell you, sir, there will be enough for everyone and some to spare up there."

    Source Unknown.


    Here in this world,

    He bids us come;

    there in the next,

    He shall bid us welcome.

    John Donne.


    An unknown author once said, "As a boy, I thought of heaven as a city with domes, spires, and beautiful streets, inhabited by angels. By and by my little brother died, and I thought of heaven much as before, but with one inhabitant that I knew. Then another died, and then some of my acquaintances, so in time I began to think of heaven as containing several people that I knew. But it was not until one of my own little children died that I began to think I had treasure in heaven myself. Afterward another went, and yet another. By that time I had so many acquaintances and children in heaven that I no more thought of it as a city merely with streets of gold but as a place full of inhabitants. Now there are so many loved ones there I sometimes think I know more people in heaven than I do on earth."

    Source Unknown.


    In one of his lighter moments, Benjamin Franklin penned his own epitaph. He didn't profess to be a born-again Christian, but it seems he must have influenced by Paul's teaching of the resurrection of the body. Here's what he wrote:

    The Body of B. Franklin, Printer

    Like the Cover of an old Book

    Its contents torn out,

    And stript of its Lettering and Guilding,

    Lies here, Food for Worms,

    But the Work shall not be wholly lost:

    For it will, as he believ'd,

    Appear once more

    In a new & more perfect Edition,

    Corrected and amended by the Author.

     

    Benjamin Franklin.

     


    In one of his books, A.M. Hunter, the New Testament scholar, relates the story of a dying man who asked his Christian doctor to tell him something about the place to which he was going. As the doctor fumbled for a reply, he heard a scratching at the door, and he had his answer. "Do you hear that?" he asked his patient. "It's my dog. I left him downstairs, but he has grown impatient, and has come up and hears my voice. He has no notion what is inside this door, but he knows that I am here. Isn't it the same with you? You don't know what lies beyond the Door, but you know that your Master is there." 

    A.M. Hunter, Christian Theology in Plain Language, p. 208.


    Following a campaign speech, a young man rushed up to Senator Everett Dirksen and said, "Senator, I wouldn't vote for you if you were St. Peter!" Dirksen eyed the young man for a moment, then said: "Son, if I were St. Peter, you couldn't vote for me, because you wouldn't be in my district."

    Source Unknown.