It was a pleasant, sunny day, and the minister's wife was keeping herself busy tidying up the burrow. There was a knock on the door, so she put down her cleaning rag and answered the door. There stood three weasels who she knew lived nearby in the forest. These weasels were nice folks. she'd often chatted with them down by the berry patch. And she knew exactly what they were going to say because they did this every year. The conversation started with some chit-chat about family values. Then that one question came. "Would you like to live forever on the Earth?"
Without having to think about it, the minister's wife replied "no."
The weasel who was speaking stood stunned for a minute. Which was odd, since they'd had this conversation before.
"But it's going to be ideal." he said. "Family values will be paramount and..."
"Not interested." said the minister's wife.
"But... but... why?"
"Because I'm going to spend eternity with God in Heaven. Why would I want to live here when I could be with my God?"
As it did every year, that pretty much ended the conversation.

This story is true. Only the species have been changed to protect the innocent.

What is Heaven?
We actually don't know a whole lot about it. Even Jesus didn't speak much about Heaven. He spoke much more about Hell. I trust, though, that there is a good reason for this. God knows full well how we tend to get wrapped up in THINGS. If we had a snapshot of Heaven, a large number of us would probably make an idol of it.

However, it won't hurt us to know a few things about it. And it is my hope that if we have a decent picture of Heaven, it will increase our passion to see souls come to a saving knowledge of Christ.

So let's start with a few basic facts.
It is the dwelling place of God. (Matthew 5:45)
It is the "Capitol" of God's empire (Rev 4:2)
It was created by God (Gen 1:1)
It belongs to God (Gen 14:19)

But even more basic than that... the first thing we have to realize is that heaven exists. It is a real place. In Revelation, we read that it is the location of God's temple, of which the one on Earth is merely a copy. It is the dwelling place of the angels and it is where Jesus came from. In the gospels, Jesus tells us to store up treasures in Heaven by doing those things which garner eternal rewards. Jesus also says that in his Father's (Which, we have established, is heaven) are many mansions (or "rooms"). If it were not so, He would have told us. (John 14:2)

Not only is it a real place, but it has real people in it. (Rev 6:9, 7:9, 19:6)

And while this is only hearsay, I have heard many stories of Christians who have visited Heaven either in a vision or as the result of clinical death. These eyewitnesses reported seeing vast numbers of people there. One even witnessed a crowd of individuals who had all been aborted.

John, in his vision, saw a crowd so vast that when they spoke, it was like roaring water or thunder (Rev 19:5)

Not only are there people there, but people actually do things. Consider that you have people from every age of humanity who still have their original tallents, and in many cases, more besides. (Matthew 25:28) You will find people making things, creating art, learning, studying, inventing, and much more.

The music alone... Nearly everyone who has witnessed Heaven and heard any music while there agrees that the music defies description, save that it is incredibly beautiful. One man went so far as to say that some might find it offensive, as it seamlessly blended classical styles with modern rockish styles, as well as traditional instruments with computerized tracks. Yes, it would appear there are computers in Heaven. And why not?

One of the most frequently asked questions about Heaven is "Are there ......'s in Heaven?" Are there horses? Is there Baseball? Are there webcomics?

Let me answer these questions with a story.

Stephanie was a dog who liked to smell things. She especially loved flowers. She wondered whether there would be flowers in Heaven. She reasoned that because flowers had no souls, they couldn't go to Heaven like creatures with souls could. Over the course of several months, she became rather torn up about it. One night, in a dream, Jesus appeared to Stephanie. "Lord," she said to Him. "If there are no flowers in Heaven, I don't want to go."
Jesus was very understanding. "Make a list." said Jesus. "Write down all of the things you want in Heaven and I will be sure to include them."
Sophie set to work immediately. She wrote down everything she could think of, from Chocolate cake to circuses. After several hours, she presented her list to Jesus.
The Lord looked at her list and said "very nice." Then he took a scroll out from under His arm. "Now take a look at my plan."
When Stephanie saw Jesus' plans for Heaven, she took her own and tore them up.

1 Coringthians 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
Are there horses in Heaven? I think so. Baseball? I'm pretty sure. Webcomics? Sure. Waterslides? Donuts? Hi-def TV? No reason there oughtn't be. But those really become unimportant.

I am glad to have the things I have. The food is good at my house. I like raising fish and drawing pictures and playing Crono Trigger on the computer. But those things don't make the house a home. Having a family that loves me makes it a home. Likewise, being with a God who loves you is what makes Heaven Heaven. It's not about pleasures or possessions or being able to travel faster than the speed of light. It's about love. If we can't be content with God's love, no amount of material pleasure will ever keep us happy for eternity.

And it is for eternity. Now in Revelation as well as the gospels, we are told that Heaven and Earth shall pass away. That's true. But God has promised us a new Heaven which will never pass away. Heaven is forever. Does that mean it's boring? By no means. The population of Heaven, when it is full, will be in the billions. You could spend eight hours getting to know each of your neighbors and still be going after several thousand years. Then you could go back again and catch up with each one. You could pursue any number of hobbies. I hear gardening is very popular. But the number one pursuit, I've no doubt, will be learning about our infinite God.

Recently I was studying the Mandelbrot Set. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the M-set may very well be the most beautiful of all mathematical phenomenon. And it struck me that the Mandelbrot set shares many characteristics with God. It was not created. It is changeless. It is flawless. It is internally consistant. But most of all, it is infinitely complex. As C. Arthur Clarke said about exploring the set, "Our serious exploration of the mandelbrot set (is) a voyage which, in fact, could last forever and ever. Much longer than the lifetime of the universe."

Just as one could explore the M-set forever and always find something new, One can spend eternity getting to know God and never find out all there is to know.

Now, a few things Heaven is not...
Heaven is not Paradise. Paradise was a place where the righteous dead went to await salvation. It was emptied upon Jesus' death.
It is not the New Jerusalem. New Jerusalem is an actual city which, though prepared in Heaven, will exist on Earth.
It's not a prison. We aren't destined to be confined to Heaven for eternity. In fact, Samuel, Moses and Elijah are three examples of individuals who have stepped out of Heaven for a moment.
It is not a place where there is never any conflict. The very first war of all time took place in Heaven.
It is not quiet. When John witnessed a half hour of silence in Heaven, he thought it unusual enough to write about.
But most importantly, Heaven is more than just a place. Just as every country needs a population, Heaven isn't just a place. The kingdom of Heaven, first and foremost, is people.

When Jesus spoke about the kingdom of Heaven, He never spoke about the place. He spoke about who would be able to enter it. He spoke about how it grows. He spoke about the culture of Heaven in terms of the behavior of its people.

What are Heaven's people like?
Poor in Spirit (Matthew 5:3)
Willing to endure persecution for righteousness' sake (Matt 5:10)
Keepers and teachers of God's commandments (Matt 5:19)
Doers of the Father's will (Matt 7:21)
Great people (Matt 11:11)
Humble like children (Matt 18:4)
Unconcerned with wealth (Matt 19:23)

There's not much more that can be said about Heaven. We just don't know that much yet. But we will.

Now for this week's challenge.

If you are a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven, I encourage you to take Jesus' words to heart and display the characteristics of one of Heaven's people.

If you are not, you are hereby invited to become one. No one should ever have to miss out on life in Heaven for any reason. Not for pride. Not for fear. Not for skepticism. Jesus has paid a great price to get you in. He was tortured and killed so that you could be admitted. All you have to do is accept His sacrifice as payment for your sins and claim Him as your Lord to become part of His family and share in this wonderful kingdom.

I look forward to seeing you all there.

Pastor Oren Otter
June 23, 2006

Today's Reading: Matthew 22:1-10

22:1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,
2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,
3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.