I see myself at heaven’s door
I can hear its hinges creak
Around its frame a light shines out
As it opens before the King
What have you brought He asks
From the life you lived on earth?
Oh not a lot I sadly say
As I struggle to begin
Well, there were the mission’s trips
And every day I prayed
And regularly I read your word
And all the tithes I gave
When I stopped – he paused and gently said
That’s not why angels sing
Those were not from your deepest heart
But just temporary things
But the forgiveness you gave your parents
When their divorce left you alone
And the love you shared with strangers
When you opened up your home
And the tears of repentance that you wept
And your confession in the dark
These are the things that I truly treasure
And for these there is a crown
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. Psalm 73:25
Hoping for heaven has sometimes been given a bad rap by the church. Some of this has been a push back on old hymns and past sermons that focused exclusively on heavenly bliss and ignored the importance of our time on earth. But neither our greatest victories, our worst failures, our highest dreams nor our worst sufferings can compare with what lies ahead for us in heaven.
When our boys were young they made for themselves wooden plaques with their names carved in them to hang over the doors to their rooms. It was their way of staking out their own personal territory. In the same way God has staked out a territory in heaven for each of us who have put our hope in Jesus Christ. He has engraved our name over the door of our home there. There is nothing wrong with that great joyful longing to be together forever with Jesus in the place He has prepared for us. We can say with David, “Who do I have either in heaven or earth but you Lord?” This hope of heaven strengthens our hearts in life’s storms and lightens our load so we can carry the burdens of others. This hope shines through any dark night and lights our path all the way to our home!
Most who know the song “I Rather Have Jesus” associate it with George Beverly Shea. In fact though he did write the popular melody, the words were composed by Rhea Miller in 1922. George Beverly Shea’s mother copied the words and left them by the piano where she was certain her son would find them.
The words from verse two tell us –
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause
I’d rather be true to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His holy name!
While everyone has heard of George Beverly Shea, almost no one remembers the woman who not only declared but lived out the line, “I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame!” Rhea Miller lived and died virtually unknown beyond her circle of friends and family.
Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20
Some few of us might, like George Beverly Shea, become internationally known, but most of us live in more like Rhea Miller while here on earth. Take this moment to close your eyes and ask yourself: Do you wish have a mansion on earth and yet be forgotten in heaven; or will you choose to live for him in a tiny house on an unknown street and have an address remembered in heaven?
For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6
Someone once said that we need to be careful to not be, “So heavenly minded that we are no earthly good”. But, God’s word is nothing, if not practical in dealing with life in the “Real world”. There is nothing at all practical about focusing only on the tiny patch of earth under our noses while missing the millions of stars lighting up the sky above our heads. Paul urges us in Ephesians to remember that God has taken hold of us and set us down by His side in Jesus Christ.
When I made my first cross country trip to the western United States I found myself at one point, driving through endless hours of flat uneventful Kansas wheat fields. As night fell I traded the wheel with my friend and fell asleep while he drove on into eastern Colorado. Sometime about daybreak I suddenly woke up and looked out the window in amazement. There before me, for the first time in my life I saw the mighty Rocky Mountains, standing up like fantastic giants painted with the colors of dawn.
There have been many dark nights in my life over the years that have passed since that time, yet I hold forever in my mind that picture of the morning light over the mountains.
Maybe because of discouragement or disappointment, you feel like letting someone else take the wheel in your life. Maybe it seems like nothing can ever change and that as night falls the flat-lands will go on forever. But God knows just what darkness we are pressing through in our lives. He has a hope for us that can come only from our being heavenly minded! God has an eternal morning promised and He calls us to look up, be amazed at the beauty on the horizon and be renewed in our courage to press on.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground Johnson Oatman Jr
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:2
Of course no one will capture on film the appearance of God’s Holy city but in small moments, in the blink of an eye we can begin to imagine…
Looking for a city, where we’ll never die,
There the sainted millions, never say good-by,
There we’ll meet our Savior, and our loved ones too,
Come O Holy Spirit, all our hopes renew. John Starnes
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:20
One night a few years a go we had a baptism service in which we witnessed an Egyptian, a Brazilian and an American being baptized one after another. It was an awesome experience seeing that three of the continents were being represented in our tiny church. In fact if you were to come and visit in their homes you would discover that though we all fellowship together, our worlds are quite different from one another. Meat and potatoes gives way to spicy rice and flat bread, to black beans, rice and yucca. Though you might discover a thousand small things that separate us from each other we are all here together in America.
That is the same idea behind Paul’s statement of citizenship in his letter from prison to his good friends back in Philippi. He wants us all to remember that no matter where we are from, we are all one day going to cross the frontier into our own nation where Jesus rules as king! In spite of the suffering that Paul was experiencing down here, he knew that the day was coming when the struggles of life would be a distant memory.
We all have the tendency to long for the familiar things that comfort us and give us a sense of our identity. When we travel in another country we often experience that uneasy feeling that something is not quite right. Something is missing and out-of-place until we go home. That is the same longing that God has planted in each of our hearts for Heaven.
Every time a loved one dies, when we cringe at the suffering of a child, or hear on the news another tragedy something in our hearts says, “But it won’t be like that when we go home!” Heaven is the place where God will wipe away every tear. Heaven is where the thief cannot break in. Heaven is where no one will hunger, grow old or be diagnosed with cancer. Heaven is where we will sit at the table will our King and see the face of Jesus. Heaven is our true homeland. We will cross the border into a kingdom where our names have already been recorded in the book. We will move into a home that Jesus has prepared for us. We will open a strangely familiar door to a place we have never seen and discover that it is the place where we have always belonged!