Tag Archives: heaven

Learning to die – Learning to live

Learning to die is such a curious thing.

On the one hand it is so foreign, even distasteful to us, we are usually afraid to approach the subject. We’ve never been to this place before and suddenly, ready or not,  here we are. Fear of the unknown sets in like an ominous fog that swallows up everything it encompasses.

On the other hand, death is indeed a natural part of the circle of life.  And we have been to this place before, in fact many times.

We learned to die to our way of living in the womb to the completely unknown and foreign world of breathing air. I wonder what grief a baby faces when they make that most amazing and painful transition from darkness to light, from a world of moistness to dry air, from relative quiet to a cacophony  of noise, light, and multiple sensations.

We learned, each of us, to die from being a baby to becoming a young child, from laying on our backs to crawling to walking and running. We died to our pacifier, blankie, and baby bed to more intricate toys and the “big boy (or girl) bed.” From the delight of childhood to the angst of teenage life. We died to high school and graduated to college, and from college we graduated to the completely new life of work and marriage and families. And so we all face the “final” death and graduate to a new life.

Oh for sure, this “real” death, the end of all life as we know it is indeed something quite different from these other life transitions and it does bring on such a frightful array of emotions. At least with previous “graduations,” we had others to assure us it will be okay. We learned from their experiences as they recalled to us what it was like when they were there. Wouldn’t you have loved to visit with Lazarus after Jesus raised him from the dead?! “Tell us Lazarus, what was it like?”

We call dearth “the final event.” But death is not the end. It’s turning the page of one chapter to the beginning of the next and final chapter of the story of life. Like leaving school, it’s our graduation to an exciting new life of unimaginable wonder and joy.* And we do have someone to guide us and teach us to navigate this narrow and seemingly perilous path. Much more than our guide, Jesus delivers us through this amazing gateway to our wondrous new forever-joyful life that awaits us on the other side. We can believe and trust him because his promises are  always and faithfully true. And if in my clearly imperfect life I can trust him, so can you trust him to guide you as your Lord and Savior through this life and death to the life ever after.?

Yes, God created us with an immensely strong desire experience life and we naturally grieve losing all we have known, all we’ve seen, heard, touched, tasted, and experienced. Of course we grieve being separated if even temporarily from those we love and cherish. We grieve the loss of physical and emotional comfort, the joy of being strong and being able to choose the many options the menu of life offers.

And yet our truly one great hope is in achieving the prize of our highest dreams, to graduate to heaven, our forever home of peace and joy.

It’s in embracing this choice of learning to die that we truly learn to live well.

*Footnote: I speak here of the transition from death to a wonderful and eternal life of “no more sorrow and no more pain that is freely offered by Jesus to any who follow him. There is, we are clearly told in God’s Word, the BIble, another death that leads to eternal pain and suffering and the lonely and forever separation from God and everyone we ever loved. Jesus says the choice is ours. “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. I Am the resurrection and the life.” While I respect the right of each person to make their own choice, I sincerely invite you to give Jesus a chance to be real in your life.

Choose well, my friend. Choose Jesus.

One door away from heaven

I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven in recent weeks, wondering what it will be like to step through the door from this life I know, to my new and forever life in heaven. Will I take one last look at this world I’ve enjoyed and then turn away to the welcoming arms of Jesus? Or will my eyes remain fixed on loved ones I’m pained to leave, bidding them to follow as I simply fall backward into the arms of my Lord and Savior?

What will it be like to walk through heaven’s door?

Of course, you realize there are also many doors between us and heaven’s gates. There is the door of realizing that there is a God, and we’re not him! There’s the door of realizing we need the saving grace of Jesus who paid the price for our sins. There’s the door of baptism, the public profession of our faith, not something hidden in the shadows of our life. There are doorways we cross over to learn patience, kindness, faithfulness, and other qualities we want to mark our lives. We walk through these doors once and continually evaluate the purpose and passions of our life as identified by that passage. Having passed through the door of salvation, how do I now live this “new life in Christ”? How is my life transformationally different because of this?!” After all, what is the point of passing through a door if I don’t intend to enjoy and participate in what’s on the other side?

There are doors of friendships that bring us closer to heaven. They open to reveal God’s grace and truth. In these relationships, we share life as it really is, without pretense. We encourage each other to seek the best, God’s best, and to live purposeful and rewarding lives as we wait for heaven. Chit-chat easily gives way to meaningful and cherished sharing of what’s most important to us. Who knows, the door of one friendship might be “One Door Away From Heaven.” Dean Koontz, author of the book by that name describes it like this:

“What will you find behind the door that is one door away from Heaven? If your heart is closed, then you will find behind that door nothing to light your way. But if your heart is open, you will find behind that door people, who, like you, are searching and you will find the right door together with them. None of use can ever save himself; we are the instruments of one another’s salvation, and only by the hope that we give to others do we lift ourselves out of the darkness into the light.”

I see it actually as God’s hand of grace and forgiveness that leads us out of the darkness, not our own doing. The gift of heaven comes only by faith in Jesus who offers it. But isn’t it also true that we all play a part in opening doors for those around us by our encouragement and daring to be real with them? Don’t these deepest of friendships open the door that is one door from heaven? I think it’s how God designed us to belong to each other as a community of caring people.

No doubt, we all have lots of speculation about what heaven will be like. While the bible doesn’t tell us everything, reading it reveals much about heaven that should appeal greatly to each of us. No more sorrow, no more pain. Sharing forever with the one who loves us most. Reuniting with loved ones who’ve gone before us. Beauty quite literally beyond our imagination – life as it was designed to be from the beginning.

More and more, I am discovering these truths from God’s Word bless my day in the most practical ways. Focusing my energies and passions on relationships that open doors to heaven keeps me from wasting my life on so much meaningless chit-chat and activity. I hope this for you too. Live with hearts open to the purpose and passion God speaks to you. Be intentional about the doors you open for others.

Who are you?


Recently, I’ve been thinking on what happens to our bodies, soul, and spirit when we die. We know the body goes to the grave and decays or is cremated and ashes scattered. But what should we think about the rest? Who will we be in heaven? And how does that relate to who we are now?

I confess that my early view of heaven was heavily shaped by popular media. The whole idea of ghosts walking around or being changed from humans to Angels, the bit about the fluffy white clouds and harps, the pearly gates was all I knew. Most of it came from wishful thinking. There’s a lot of things I wish were true. But wishful thinking doesn’t make them true. When it comes to our understanding of heaven or who we are now, we need to turn to the author and creator of both. It’s God’s view that matters, not our wishful ideas.

We learn from God’s Word that our soul and spirit go immediately to heaven (to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord). We read also that we will have resurrected bodies that are wonderful in every way. (Look in the mirror and imagine that!)

But in reading what the bible has to say about heaven, what piece of it we can know now, it occurs to me that I need to better understand who I am now. Like you, I was created and born into this world with mind, body, emotions! and soul. They’ve all grown and matured since those baby days, and continue to change in response to aging. I used to think that we all were spiritual beings living in a temporary earthly body, like hermit crabs, having a living organism inside a temporary shell- like body. But God’s Word persuades me to see myself as body, soul, mind, and spirit all completely intertwined, and that it will be this way not only from birth to death, but in heaven too.  It is what defines me both now and forever, except for the miserably corrupt parts from which will be removed when I die. But in the middle of this process…

Something changed!

As a teenager, I recognized my inability to conquer sin on my own and asked Jesus to save me and be my Lord. At once and over time, I became, as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 5:17, a “new creation.” “The old has gone and the new has come.” But even though I was now a “new creation” people still recognized me, and looking in the mirror, I seemed quite the same. As Randy Alcorn describes his own conversion experience, “I was a new person, and yet I was the same person I’d always been.”

Becoming a Christian doesn’t eliminate who we once were, it transforms us.

What was new was my way of perceiving myself and the world around me, along with my response to that new view. Seeing things through God’s eyes renews my minds and transforms my mind. But still, we continue through birth, salvation, life on earth, death, and resurrection as the mind-body-soul God uniquely created in us. We live one continuous life, destined toward God.

Thankfully, our minds and bodies will be perfectly redeemed in ways we long for but can’t understand. Joni Eareckson Tada explains: “Somewhere in my broken paralyzed body is the seed of what I will become. The paralysis makes what I am to become all the more grand when you contrast atrophied, useless legs against splendor out resurrected legs. I’m convinced that if there are mirrors in heaven (and why not?) the image I’ll see will be in mistakenly “Joni,” although a much better, brighter Joni.” Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, concludes: “Inside your body, even if it is failing, is the blueprint for your resurrection body. You may not be satisfied with your current body or mind but you’ll be thrilled with your resurrection upgrades. With them you’ll be better able to serve and glorify God and enjoy an eternity of wonders he has prepared for you.”

Think on that for a moment. In heaven you will become who you were always meant to be. God created you in a specific way and for a specific for a purpose, to enjoy and serve him now and forever in heaven. Who I am is not a compartmentalized collection of work, family, leisure interests, and spirit. We have just one life to live that connects who we are now to who we will be forever in heaven.  I want to live with that in mind. How about you?


Can you KNOW you’re going to heaven?


DL Moody said, “Soon you will read that I am dead, but don’t believe it for a moment. I will be more alive than ever before.” And he spoke on his death bed, “Earth recedes and heaven open before me.”


How was it that Moody knew he was going to heaven? And can you also have that same assurance? God says, “Nothing impure will ever enter (heaven) but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”‘(Revelation 21:27) Heaven is described as a wedding banquet that God invited everyone to come. But some said they were too busy to reply. They had marriages, and children and business to attend to. Heaven is a free gift but it demands a response. Have you returned the RSVP to God’s heaven invitation?


It’s a choice we make ourselves. Like the sale I neglected to attend and missed out on the special offering, if we put off making a choice about heaven, that is a choice in itself that bears eternal consequence. Consider the tombstone, somewhere in Indiana, that reads:

“Pause here stranger when you pass by,

As you are now so once was I,

As I am now so you will be,

So prepare for death and follow me.”


Someone suggested etching in a response:

“To follow you, I’m not content,

Until I know which way you went!” 🙂


John says we can know if we go to heaven: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13 We can know we are going to heaven  – not if we know Jesus lived, not if we believed he was a good teacher, not if we did enough good – but if we believe in the powerful and authoritative death defying name of Jesus Christ.


We are all sinners and all fall short of the glory of God. We have no grounds by which to defend ourselves but God provided Jesus to mediate for our sins and to present us as pure and blameless before God. Do you see yourself as Jesus does,  made worthy only through his sacrifice and undeserved grace? He marks our debt, “Paid in full.” You’re right to think you don’t deserve his forgiving grace. I don’t either.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”


If God wasn’t willing to forgive sin on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, heaven would be an empty place.” (Randy Alcorn, Heaven)


You can’t earn it by doing more good or less bad. Not by fame or generous giving, or great knowledge or philosophy. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” He adds, “Not every who says ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (I wonder how many self professed “Christians” will be surprised to find themselves “left behind” the Sunday after the rapture. ) So we find ourselves either as followers of Jesus, believing and living as he commanded and on the way to heaven, or as followers of ourselves, on the way to Hell. I’m just saying what the bible says. hAve you read it? It’s a choice we make, consciously or by default. As the knight in the Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade said, “Choose wisely.”


Here’s the interesting thing. We CAN know we’re going to heaven if we know our heart. We aren’t to and can’t judge others because we can’t know their heart at their final moment before God.  All we can do is present a biblically accurate view of heaven and hell for them to consider; ask them which eternal life they really want, and then ask what needs to change in order to make that a reality. The rest is up to them and God.


If I were planning a move out west, it would be a silly strategy to begin my journey with hundreds of miles going east. And so it is with heaven. If you believe you are going to heaven, have you adopted a heaven-based strategy for living?  Not just a “salvation prayer” but an intentional strategy based on building up “treasures in heaven” not “treasures on earth.” One that is focused on feeding the hungry, and visiting the sick like Jesus commanded us. If you are sure that you’re going to go to heaven when you die, live in a way that shows it while you’re here on earth!


Thinking about heaven


How often do you think about heaven? Often, occassionally, rarely? I’ve been thinking about heaven more and more over the past three years, and more so in recent months. It seems to me there are things “I know,” things I’ve “forgotten” and other great and wonderful mysteries that yet remain to be revealed.


It seems likely that people of all nations and cultures have dreamt of some sort of a life after earth. While our views of heaven may differ, typically we all view heaven as a place of great happiness, satisfaction, and reward. And while most of us might tend to consider heaven as some unknown and distant land, the Bible consistently refers to heaven as our true home, our “native land,” the place where we belong and were meant to be.


Furthermore, unless we are raptured, we all share a 100% mortality rate. We ought to be prepared! Some of us will have advance notice of the event with disease or other failing condition announcing the impending event. For many others, the moment we step from this life on earth to the next step in our eternal realm, will come quite suddenly and unexpectedly. It seems only prudent that we should think about and plan for that time and place when we will truly be home. I’m certainly not proposing that heaven is everyone’s eternal reward. God is quite clear in distinguishing between those who love and obey him and thus inherit heaven, and those who prefer to “have it my way” and either ignore or actively rebel against God’s plans, who will choose themselves a devastating place for all eternity. (The thought of death should be quite fearful for them but that’s a subject for other writings.) But for now, our focus is on heaven, the true home for those who love God and believe in his Son Jesus.


I’m reading Randy Alcorn’s book on Heaven these days and look forward to sharing my reflections on his extensive studies with you. More so, I hope these writings will stimulate your own appetite to think and live in an increasingly heavenly minded way. But how should we approach the subject of heaven, this real place with houses and rooms where we will be “at home with the Lord?” (2 Corinthians 5:6-7, John 14:2)


To me, it makes sense that we hold up whatever preconceived notions and fanciful thoughts we have about heaven against what the scripture says. After all, isn’t this the approach you take in your search for truth in any situation? If you believe, as do I, that the Bible is God’s true and infallible word, then it only makes sense to examine what God has to say about heaven and to let his thoughts guide us in our thinking about and preparing for our eternal home.


I say this because it is quite easy to ignore heaven and simply throw ourselves into the depths of our earthly existence. In fact, chances are you have a whole list of things pulling at your attention right now that threaten to keep you from living a heavenly minded life.


Alcorn retells the story of world renowned swimmer Florence Chadwick, who in 1952 attempted to swim the 26 mile distance between Catalina Island and the California coast. Her quest was a difficult one, looking out for sharks, battling fatigue, and then finally a thick fog that set in, preventing her from seeing the shore ahead of her. Exhausted and frustrated, she gave up and asked to be brought into a nearby guide boat. To her dismay, she discovered she was only a mile from the shore. She said had she known how close she was, she surely would have completed her journey successfully (which she did later that year).


What conditions bring a “thick fog” to settle around us, keeping us from seeing how very close we are to our heavenly shore? Let’s persevere and not give up. Rather, let’s set our minds “on things above,” (Colossians 3:2) and start to live our life in view of heaven’s shore. Maybe a practical way to begin, is to ask yourself about any frustration you currently face, “Does this really matter in the light of heaven?5

Is there time in heaven?


Time is how we measure our lives. it seems to sometimes pass slowly, and sometimes quickly, depending on our circumstance and perspective. While our measure of time remains constant, we perceive a different reality. As we pause at a cemetery tombstone we observe a person’s life summarized by a date of birth and a date of death, and perhaps a few words to describe the impact of their existence. Some have noted it’s the “dash” between those dates that really describe our lives; the days, years, and even solitary moments when decisions were made that marked and defined a life measured by time.


Will we experience the concept of time in heaven when “our time on earth” is up? What will heaven be like? Often, when there is no other alternative made available to us about great mysteries, we turn to popular explanations passed down through time. Movies, cartoons, and folklore portray heaven as an endless and meaningless time of sitting on clouds and playing harps. We think of the Pearly Gates where we stand in line to see if we did enough good deeds to outweigh the bad. Children are told by uninformed parents that Grandma and Grandpa are now angels who watch over us; in movies we’re asked to believe that some angels have to come back to earth because they didn’t do enough good deeds “to earn their wings.” In the absence of authoritative truth, we seem plenty comfortable to fill in the blanks with our own conjecture.


For believers, the Bible offers God’s authoritative Word on heaven, and yet even turning here there remain many things about heaven we don’t really know. We know from God’s Word that heaven is where God dwells. Have you considered that “Heaven on earth” may be where he dwells in the hearts of his believers? There will be no more death and no more tears in heaven. The old will have passed and the new order come. There will be no need for sun or moon because the “glory of God” will be our light. The way we measure time by our days and nights will be gone. Yet, as we are informed in Revelation 8:1, John’s vision indicated “there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” Whether that was John’s concept of time or heaven’s measure of time, we don’t know for sure.


How long will our eternal lives seem? Revelation 6 describes the martyered souls who cry out, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of earth and avenge our blood?” Their plea seems to indicate a sense of time after the end of this life. Revelation 22 speaks of the tree of life that bears fruit every month. With no light of the sun or moon, God himself will be the light that sustains life. We’re told that God reigns forever and ever which also indicates a passing of “timeless time,” quite different from our earthly measures. In the book of Genesis we read “in the beginning” and later on we learn God’s kingdom will not end. It will be timeless.  Jesus describes himself as the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. Does “the end” indicate to you an end of time as we know it, or the fulfillment of the time of our lives?


In the end of our search,  we find out there are many mysteries of heaven – and God – that we can’t fully understand. We have only God’s Word about it and our own fanciful considerations. I wonder, does this uncertainty unsettle you or give you great hope for an exciting life when God will make “everything new?”


Whatever we we know and don’t know yet, I’m excited about a life of redemption, restoration, and renewal that will go on forever in the presence of the one who created me, accepted me, loved me, and adopted me into his timeless joy. As we spend the time of our earthly lives of toil and frustration and passing celebration, doesn’t it behoove us to ponder on our endless time in heaven’s joy?


“Those who are victorious will inherit all this and I will be their God and they will be my children.” Revelation 21:5-7



Is heaven a bunch of malarkey?



Alex Malarkey, the guy who wrote “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven” has confessed. He didn’t die and he didn’t go to heaven. It was in fact a bunch of… well, malarkey. The repentant Alex said he wrote the book with his dad to get attention, and now admits that people should rely on the bible, not grandiose claims, as the source of truth about heaven.


I’m glad he repented and came clean about the hoax. And I’m glad he is advising others to read what the bible actually says about heaven to learn about the subject. I wonder how many will take him up on the offer.


I remember talking with one friend who said she didn’t want to be bothered with reading the bible; she just wanted to make up her own mind about things. She was in fact, one to judge a book by its cover, not its contents. I wonder if we too sometimes go on with assumptions about something without considering what God actually has to say.


When I was growing up, The Family Circle cartoon always portrayed relatives who died as becoming angels who watched over us. Movies like It’s A Wonderful Life portray angels like Clarence Odbody who needed to do a good deed to earn their wings or to pass through the Pearly Gates. Cartoons portray heavenly angels sitting on fluffy clouds strumming their harps and hell as a place where it is all Oreos and no milk.


Some have concluded that heaven will be boring, perhaps because they find church to be so. But God describes heaven as being like the great parties thrown when the woman found her lost coin, when the prodigal son returned home, and when the wedding feast was celebrated! (See Matthew 22)


Some people don’t think much about heaven at all, thinking they have plenty of time to get ready. In the parable about the wedding feast, Jesus describes three groups of people: those who refused to come to the banquet, those who ignored or put off the invitation because they had too many ‘more important’ things to do, and those who willingly came to the party.


Some put off thinking about heaven because they don’t consider themselves “good enough.” But the parable says that the invitation went out to everyone, “the good and the bad.” Though we like to think of ourselves as good people, the bible reminds us that only God is good. That is precisely why he sent us a Savior who died for us…”while we were STILL sinners.”


Some don’t think they need to consider heaven, believing that everyone goes to heaven. But the bible warns that some go to the wedding feast and others go “into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”


I suppose there are many other myths about heaven, made up just like Alex Malarkey’s story. And there is much we still don’t know about the truth of heaven. As Pastor David Jeremiah said about the subject, what we need most is:

1. To be ready

2. To help others get ready.



God IS the temple


The kingdom of God is within me. –  Luke 17:20-21


The Israelites worshiped in the temples of their making. We worship in churches of our making, but in reality we are the temples of God if His Spirit lives in us. (1 Corinthians 3:16)  But in heaven, God IS the temple. There will be no darkness because HIS light is all we need. No need to worry or fear because there will be no thieves in the night – in fact, no night at all.  No more shame. No more deceit. Only the glory of God’s presence and the revelation of His goodness. Consider the words of John:


“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:22-27)


The gate to the kingdom of God is within you. It is open to those who seek His presence – and His light – in their life. Enjoy it now and enjoy it forever.






I can only imagine!


Rolling Stones once wrote that John Lennon’s “Imagine” was the third greatest song ever written. To my ears, it is one of the most beautiful melodies of pop history. But as for me, I just can’t “imagine there’s no heaven.” Lennon hoped for utopia but I don’t think he knew how to find it. There will be such a world one day. Consider the vision of another man named John:


Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” (Revelation 21:1-7)


It is as Isaiah prophesied:

“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. 
The former things will not be remembered, 
nor will they come to mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)


Imagine, a new heaven and a new earth, untouched by human corruption. Even the memories of past evils will pass away and be forgotten. Tears will be wiped away; no more sorrow, no more grief, or pain. The One who always was, always is, and always will be will personally quench our thirst forever and we will finally experience the fullness of what it means to be children of a holy and merciful God.


I hope you will take some time today to imagine “there IS a heaven” and what it might be like to be constantly and fully at peace in the presence of God. Let ‘the old order of things’ pass away from your life and enjoy the process of God making ‘all things new’ in your life.


Imagine living this day with heaven in mind! (It’s easy if you try.)