Thursday, February 20, 2014

Heaven 3

I have in this blog twice before written about heaven.  But this time, of course, is different.

In the past few years both my father and his brother passed away, and in both cases the grief of the loss was tempered by the joy of knowing that they were in a better place -- both were in heaven.  And, while I have an equal confidence that Jonathan is with the Lord, that reality seems to do little to soften the blow of losing my son. 

It may seem odd, but from very early after the tragedy of that day I have had a very specific image of Jonathan's new life.  I see him about six years old, running in a meadow with grass up to his waist chasing butterflies.  And, I see myself one day taking him by the hand and running with him.

For a very long time now, although I fear dying, I have not feared death itself.  It is not that I do not enjoy my life -- I do.  Like most people I look forward to being here for the important milestones in the life of my family.  I cannot imagine not being there to see Dani in her wedding dress or for the birth of Christian's first son or daughter.  I have great dreams of Pam and I growing old together.  And, I believe firmly in the call that God has on our lives, and that the work He has set out for us to do is far from accomplished. 

But there is also this part of me that is torn between this world and the next.  It comes, I suppose, from a confidence that heaven is real, and that eternity with God will be so much better than even the greatest part of this life.  The Apostle Paul expressed this very conflict in his letter to the Philippians:

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                                                Philippians 1:21-26

More so than before I find myself torn between this world and the next, knowing that only in the next will I be with Jonathan again.  It is only in the next that the pain of losing him can really be healed.

For the past several months my wife Pam has had on her heart a different kind of urgency that people know Jesus and know that heaven is real.  She has come to really grieve over the thought of anyone coming to the end of their life without the faith and hope that we have in Christ.

As a consequence, we had over the course of a couple of months focused much our prayer life on the salvation of the people we love.  And, a big part of that had been asking God to deepen the faith of our own children, so that there would be no doubt about their eternities.  As I have mentioned before, this was so deeply on Pam's heart that she insisted that I preach on "saving faith" on the very Sunday that Jonathan later went home to be with the Lord.  In retrospect, of course, we can see that this pull on Pam's heart in particular was no coincidence.

Since the events of that terrible Sunday, there have been numerous confirmations of Jonathan's salvation.  Among them, a pastor from Anchorage Alaska of all places sent Pam and I a note describing time he spent with Jonathan five years ago in which our son recommitted his life to Jesus.  We had no idea.

Others have described their own moments where God has reminded them of the reality of heaven.  At Jonathan's funeral my cousin Steve, with tears running down his face, described to me his own such encounter with God.  It brought me such comfort and peace that I asked Steve if I could share this very personal moment with you.  So, Steve sent me the following note recounting the experience.

Dear John:

I just hope this helps others as much as it has helped me. My father-in-law passed away several years ago, my father in August 2011 and my senior law partner Tom Murchison in January 2012. I teach Sunday School and one of my stronger members was going through a battle with cancer. It was a true roller coaster, in and out of remission. The cancer finally came back with a vengeance to the point she had a hole in her chest. It really weighed heavy on me as I hated to see her suffer. I was praying for some understanding and seeking reassurance in scripture.

My wife was doing all she could and even offering some of her Beth Moore Bible study material to read. I just could not find the peace I needed after weeks of consistent prayer. One night I had a vivid dream. Mr Tom Murchison (a Sunday School teacher and longtime Deacon) was in a corner of a bright room, one without walls. He was laughing as my Dad was pulling on his arm. There was someone behind them who I could not see.

They were SO happy. Dad and I hugged each other and he and I started walking down a bright hall with no walls. I asked him to tell me about heaven and he started to talk when I asked him to stop since I wanted it to be a surprise. He just smiled, nodded, hugged me and the dream faded away. I felt immediate peace but it was just the beginning. I woke up that morning and my wife was crying. I asked her why (I am crying as I type this) and she said she had a dream that night. Her Dad was in his garden in heaven and so happy. It totally overwhelmed me. We had not discussed this that night or even the day before. 

I know God was saying he knows we live in a crazy world where unexplainable things happen but there is a heaven and the Creator of the universe knows all and will ALWAYS be in control. Since this happened the things of this world have had a much smaller influence. May this help others find the Peace I was so desperately seeking. 

Love,
Steve

Let me leave you with this final note, which also appeared in my previous blogs about heaven.  Several years ago during a family trip to Montana Pam, the kids and I listened to a book called "Heaven is for Real" while driving out.  "Heaven is for Real" is a pretty amazing story about a boy who, just shy of his fourth birthday, had an encounter with heaven and lived to tell about it.  I know -- I have read a number of these stories about near-death experiences and encounters with God and I often approach them with the same skepticism as many of you do.  This particular story is a little different though.

First, the things the little boy saw in heaven seemed to have striking biblical support.  Although the boy is a pastor's son, many of the things he spoke about in simple terms were far too complex and specific for a child that age to have learned in Sunday School -- or even in a pastor's home.  Even more compelling -- without giving away all of the details -- the little boy came back from heaven with knowledge of things (particularly about his family) that he simply could not have known.  For example, he was able to describe in detail where his parents were and what they were doing while he was in the operating room.  Perhaps his most compelling revelation though was about the composition of his family.

One day long after his brush with heaven this boy apparently announced to his mother in a matter-of-fact way that he had two sisters.  When the mother corrected him that he only had one, he insisted there were two.  He said he met a little girl in heaven who looked a lot like his older sister, but with different colored hair.  He said the little girl introduced herself as his sister, and told him she had died in his mother's tummy.  The little girl said she did not have a name because his parents had not given her one.

The mother immediately began to cry.  You see, she had miscarried years earlier and she and her husband had never told the boy.  The parents apparently had picked out a name for a boy, but at the time of the miscarriage were down to two choices in the event it was a girl.  So, the little girl never had a name.

Following the deaths of my uncle and my father, thinking about what heaven is really like suddenly had a lot more practical value than I had previously realized.  It became clear to me that being able to speak about heaven with some specificity and being able to speak about it in clear terms can be a powerful source of comfort and encouragement for people.  Pam wants to give a copy of "Heaven is for Real" to everyone who has recently lost a loved one for that reason.  I highly suggest you read it ... with an open mind.


Oh, by the way, the little boy in the story met Jesus and described Him to his parents.  For some time after they showed him numerous paintings and drawings of Jesus.  But, he said none of them were quite right ... until he saw one painted by a little girl who is the subject of the link below.  You might want to check it out.

5 comments:

Donna Jones said...

This is very inspiring. I lost my son in June of 2013 and I am feeling the same way you are Pastor. I'm torn between this world and the next. I would love to know how to get a copy of Heaven is Real. Can you please let me know how I can. Thank you. I pray God continues to provide strength to you and your family.

john crews said...

Donna,

Here is the link for the book on Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Real-Little-Astounding-Story-ebook/dp/B004A90BXS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1392935274&sr=8-2&keywords=heaven+is+real. However, I would be happy to buy you a copy. You can email me at john.crews@theheartlandchurch.com.

God bless you. Praying for peace in your life.

Pastor John

vmeek said...

I read Heaven is Real after my Mother died 2 yrs ago. I've never had any doubt about heaven being real. I gave a copy of the book to my nephew when his daughter that was 17 in a car accidenf My daughter died in a tragic accident at 10 months old in 1973 that was a very dark time in my life, I know I will see her, Becky has her grandma, grandpa, my 3 brothers and my sister to keep her company till I get there to join my family

Unknown said...

I see Jonathan's face each night when I close my eyes. With a heavy heart, I read your inspiring words with gratitude! Praying for peace for all.

Anonymous said...

I read Heaven is Real when it first came out....It is a very inspiring book and I believe to be very real. Have given several copies to friends and family. Love you Pastor John

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