“All you good people can have the streets of gold and jeweled buildings,” Steve said. “Give me a vineyard and pasture surrounded by huge Valley Oaks and sycamores. Cattle grazing across the road and a river running by with all my friends and family. Simple meals, cold water to drink, and the ability to sit in the fading evening with all those I love, enjoying the product of my vineyard and garden.”
Steve’s idea of heaven is a lot like many of yours. Nothing fancy, just the “simple life”.
Periodically I see a Facebook meme posted with a painting of a small cabin by a stream, surrounded by tall pine trees and green grass, with smoke wisping from the chimney as a small fire provides warmth to those inside.
But not all my friends would agree. Where some see “pine trees and green grass”, others see “spiders and snakes”. They see a drafty little house with no Internet or cable TV. No running water, and no way to charge their iPhone. You’d have to stoke the fire, and that’s work.
One person’s idea of heaven can be another person’s idea of…well, hell. (Okay, that’s kind of extreme, but you get the point)
We use the word “heaven” to describe something that brings us peace and contentment, or perhaps provides happiness and joy. This place is like “heaven”. This tastes like “heaven”. This sounds like “heaven”. This looks like “heaven”. This feels like “heaven”.
Sermons I’ve heard on the subject have never really struck a “personal cord” with me. I know it will be greater than anything I can imagine, but it would still be nice to have a “sneak peek”. I wonder what heaven will really be like.
Let’s take a look through what may be, a slightly different lens.
In the 14th chapter of the book of John, starting in verse one, Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
First of all, how great is it that Jesus starts it off by saying, “Let not your heart be troubled “? If our hearts are troubled, perhaps we should listen closely to what He is about to say.
He tells us His Father’s house has many mansions, and you need to catch this next part…“I go to prepare a place for you”. (emphasis added) This is where we get the idea that we’ll each have our own “custom built” mansion, wonder what it will look like, and how big it will be.
Maybe… but why do we think of heaven as merely a “place”? There’s so much more than that! So let’s focus on the words, “prepare a place for you”.
How many of you, when guests are coming, do all you can to make their stay pleasant? You stock the refrigerator with their favorite food, purchase their favorite coffee, and plan activities you know will be fun. And if you’re not sure what their “favorites” are, you ask. You want their stay to be a memorable one.
You know what?
Jesus knows you’re coming, and He’s preparing a place for you!
How awesome is that!?
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:11)
Okay, that whole “you being evil” thing stings a little, but pay attention to what Jesus is saying here. If we desire to give good gifts, to do good things for those we love, how much more does God want to provide for us the best “Welcome Basket” ever!?
Seriously…let that sink in.
Satan wants you to believe Heaven is going to be like that hotel that ended up looking nothing like the one in the brochure. That upon arrival you will be disappointed, unaware of the construction next door, and find it doesn’t have all the amenities you were promised.
And I’m sorry (not really), but our church services can sometimes leave us with that same (not as advertised) feeling. Where’s the love? Where’s the joy? Where’s the passion? (at least we got coffee)
But it was in the brochure!
Prior to giving my life to Christ, I thought all Christians were “kill joys”, never had fun, and didn’t come out after dark. I’ve since learned those are mostly people who have a relationship with the giver of rules and regulations, and not the Giver of life.
I love music, and God used it to get my attention. The idea of an angel on a harp, accompanied by another angel on an upright piano doesn’t appeal to me at all. (not even now that I’m saved)
So He had a plan.
In the early 80’s, during “Christian Night” at Disneyland, I was headed toward Tomorrowland. From a distance I began to hear rock & roll with a little blues mix. As I made my way to the venue, I saw a large crowd of people standing, slowly waving their hands in the air. (Tomorrowland suddenly felt like Fantasyland) The Darrell Mansfield Band shattered the stereotype I had of Christian music once and for all.
So how do we know that “angel on the cloud” isn’t playing the most amazing guitar solo ever? How do we know it’s not two angels…dueling pianos from dueling clouds? Maybe it’s four in cowboy hats, straight legged jeans, and boots?
Know what I think?
I think God’s going to break all the stereotypes.
If your “streets of gold” consist of red clay dirt and pea gravel, I think that’s what you’ll get. If you prefer rustic gates over “pearly” ones, I think that’s what you’ll get too. The God who created you knows what makes you feel loved, brings you joy, and gives you peace. He knows how to stock the fridge, plan your favorite activities, and will have a fresh brewed cup of your favorite coffee waiting.
Why do I believe that? Because Jesus said he’s going to prepare a place for you.
And He knows you’re coming.
(I’ve attached a couple of videos to help tell this story. One, a little Country to expresses in song what Steve desires, and the other…my version of the angel and his “harp”)