Thank you for your kind words and prayers for my family. Dad is one step closer to heaven each day. But then again, we all are. Dad has heaven’s gates in sight and we are praying for his last steps to be peaceful and pain free. I went for a long walk the other day because I needed to spend some good time with the Lord. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves why we believe in heaven and why we are confident that is where we, and our loved ones, are going.
My sister, Lori, told me about a devotional she read authored by Henri Nouwen. The devotional spoke of someone standing on the shore watching two ships. One ship was headed out to sea and the other was coming into port. Nouwen said the scene reminded him of of what it meant for a Christian who was ending this life and beginning the next. As the ship sailed toward the horizon it disappeared. The fact it could no longer be seen didn’t mean it no longer existed – just that it was reaching its next destination. At the same time, the other ship came closer to the shore – and those on board were about to arrive and experience a new beginning. Lori said it reminded her of her own life right now. She is expecting her first grandchild in a couple of weeks, and our family is so excited for that baby to arrive. At the same time, Dad won’t be visible at our Thanksgiving table this year and we are all coming to grips with that knowledge. Two ships – and both are God’s perfect plan.
I’ve been asked by people who were going through a crisis, why I believe in heaven. We have been in ministry for more than thirty years. It has been a privilege to stand by the bedsides of people who knew they were going to heaven soon. Many would share how amazing it was to have such peace about dying. Some would tell us of dreams that God had given them, or verses and stories that the Holy Spirit had reminded them of during the tough moments. We have been watching God prepare people for heaven for a lot of years. Those memories serve as proof for us today.
God brings divine comfort to those who will receive his dying grace. There have been some difficult moments these past few weeks but it doesn’t take very long for us to step back from the moment and see the larger picture. The big picture is God’s point of view, and it is a picture of joy and peace because it is a picture of heaven.
Jim has had conversations with different funeral directors who have told him similar stories. They have said that when they have seen the faces of people arriving, they often sensed when a person was a Christian. The directors said there was a peaceful expression on their faces, even though their spirits were gone.
I am confident in heaven because we have heard thirty years of stories, that have convinced us. But those stories are not the main reason I believe in heaven. I find my greatest confidence in Scripture. Jesus looked at the man on the cross next to his and said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43). Jesus wanted to assure the man, through all of the pain and suffering of the cross, that Paradise was their destination. Paradise is the place where we will be with Jesus. Jesus completed his sacrifice and came to the moment when he was ready to surrender his earthly life. He said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46).” One day each of us will see God’s face and gladly give ourselves to the One who made us and loves us. He will be the One who saves us and takes us to Paradise to be with our Father – and with all of those who have made the voyage ahead of us.
I’m certain of heaven. I am glad that I am certain my dad is going there. I passed a lot of my neighbors that morning as I was out walking. They smiled, waved and had no idea that I was walking with my grief that morning. It made me wonder how many times I have passed people in that same way. So my challenge to all of you is my own challenge as well. Everyone you pass today either has a ticket for their voyage to heaven or they don’t. Let’s ask God to make us sensitive to the people around us. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to direct us to those we can encourage or speak to about our faith. I would love to think that one of the results of this hard time in my life was that a few people would be certain of heaven as a result of it. My dad would like that too. Thank you for your prayers. I’ll write again when I am able.