“You have covered the heavens with your majesty…. When I observe the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You set in place, what is man that You remember him…? Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth!” (Psalm 8)
After the New Horizons spacecraft did a fly-by in the area of Pluto traveling at a comfortable 30,800 mph, I jotted down a few thoughts, which follow.
The rocketship sent back snapshots for our enjoyment.
Pluto is handsome and a little small for his age, but still quite the character. He’s definitely someone we wanted to know.
Pluto, we are told, is two-thirds the size of our moon. Its gravity is about 7 percent of ours. Its polar caps are made up of methane ice and nitrogen ice. A year on Pluto–one orbit around the sun–equals 248 of our years. (On Pluto, I would be not quite one-third of a year old!) Each day there–the time needed to rotate once on its axis–is the equivalent of 6.4 of our days. But that’s nothing….
On Pluto, the average temperature is a MINUS 365 degrees. Lordy!
Completely fascinating. I sat there watching the televised news conferences and a one-hour history of New Horizons in awe and wonder. I do love this.
Good music is written better than it can be played. –Anonymous
I’m on a Turandot kick right now. I’ve loved this Puccini opera for three decades after discovering how different it is from all the others, but without knowing why. No, I’m not a musician or a singer. Just a country boy who grew tired of all the music he knew and decided to check out classical and opera. That’s how I came to love the works of composers like Vivaldi, Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky, and the operas of Giacomo Puccini.
I like to think of opera as “classical with words.” (Okay, they’re mostly Italian words, but still….)
I used to wonder why Turandot was not as well known as Puccini’s other more popular operas (La Boheme, Tosca, and Madame Butterfly). Why fewer people had even heard of it. And I found out why.
“Cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).
“In thy presence there is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
If the atmosphere of heaven is joy and praise, then the noxious fumes of hell must be saturated with equal parts anger, complaining, bitterness and blaming.
Scriptures keep telling us that the atmosphere around the throne of Heaven is praise and joy and gratitude. In other words, worship.
–There is Psalm 16:11 (above) which is as good as we could ask for.
–In John’s vision of Heaven which we call Revelation, he tells us that near the throne stood “four living creatures, each having six wings…. Day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, The Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come’” (Revelation 4:8). Around the throne, the praise is continuous.
“And they sang a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood…” (Revelation 5:9).
John was surely fascinated by the sights and the sounds of that heavenly vision.
First, a quartet…
At first, John was treated to a heavenly quartet. The four angelic beings–were they seraphim?–of Revelation 4:7-8 burst into song, calling out, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty. Who was and is and is to come!”
Eat your heart out, Bill Gaither. No quartet ever sounded so heavenly.
And then we read, “They do not rest day or night, saying (this)” (verse 8).
Imagine that. An endless song.
Either seraphim must be amazing singers or the Lord’s patience is boundless to enjoy the same song over and over, forever.
My friend Rebecca is the mother of a son, 8, and a daughter, 6. Here’s what happened the other night.
I was asleep in the dead of night. Suddenly, I became aware that Mia, my six-year-old, had crawled into our bed and was talking to me.
Mia: “Mom, how old is Jesus?”
Mom: “Honey, Jesus isn’t any age any more.”
Mia: “Mom, did you find Dad and make him marry you? or did Dad find you and make you marry him?”
Saturday night in North Mississippi as I sketched couples attending the church banquet where I would soon speak, the woman said, “You are from Alabama?”
She said, “We’re from Alabama. Winston County.”
I said, “I’m from Winston County. Graduate of Winston County High School at Double Springs.”
She said, “We’re from Haleyville.” A much bigger town at the edge of the county.
We chatted about that, making connections. Afew minutes later, she was back.
“Your Facebook profile says you are from Nauvoo, Alabama.” A small town to the south in Walker County.
I said, “We lived five miles out of Nauvoo on a rural route. But I never lived in Nauvoo itself. We lived just inside Winston County, which meant we went to high school in Double Springs instead of Carbon Hill.”
Later, I changed the note on Facebook to say my hometown is Double Springs. Which it isn’t, of course. In one sense, I have no home town, having grown up in the open country, some 13 miles from Jasper, AL and 10 miles from Double Springs. And not only that….
“Heaven is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark.” –Stephen Hawking
I’m afraid of the dark.
If we’re talking about the endless kind of darkness that offers no light anywhere, no hope ever, and nothing but nothingness, who among us would not panic at the thought of that?
I expect people like Mr. Hawking simply find the idea of Heaven too good to be true, and thus conclude that it must be a product of man’s delusional yearning for “pie in the sky by and by.”
And yet, there are solid reasons for reasonable people to believe in the concept of a Heavenly home after this earthly life. Here are some that mean a lot to me. By no means is this list exhaustive. It’s simply my thinking on the subject.
“Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so, amen” (Revelation 1:7).
I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a few predictions about Heaven.
As with every religious charlatan who ever came down the pike, there’s no way to prove me wrong for the time being. But unlike the con men, I’m just thinking out loud here. After all, who among us does not like thinking about Heaven, our abode forever and forever?
The first surprise, I have no doubt, will be to find yourself awake. “Wow,” you think. “I died. I really did. I remember everyone gathering around the hospital bed and them all crying. And I recall that last surge of pain and then everything went black. And lo and behold, I wake up. How wonderful is that?”
“As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness. I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awaken.” (Psalm 17:15)
When I awaken. A given fact. It’s going to happen. But as much as we say we believe that, I’m confident the first sensation we will have on the other side of that curtain is to find our eyes open and the new realities of our situation setting in.
“I would have despaired had I not believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord. Be strong. Let your heart take courage. Yes, wait on the Lord” (Psalm 27:13-14).
I believe I will see.
I believe I will see the goodness of the Lord.
I believe I will see the goodness of the Lord (over there) in the land of the living.
Without that faith, I would have despaired.
Believe or despair. Those are the choices.
There are no other alternatives.
No matter how we try to dress atheism up as a noble choice of clear-thinking people, its only logical outcome is darkness and oblivion. The only thing such a philosophy produces is despair.
The Lord’s goodness will be on full display in the “land of the living.” This world is not the land of the living but of the dying. The land of the living lies just over the hilltop.
It awaits the faithful.
“…the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
We don’t begin to have a clue.
God is doing a zillion things He has not deigned to mention to us mortals.
It’s not our business to know, for one thing. He has reserved most of what goes on in the universe for Himself. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
All that we know about the operation of the created world is a sliver of the full story.
How can it be that before the world as we know it was formed, the Heavenly Father was already at work making plans for us to arrive and dwell with Him forever?
I do not know. Neither do you.
What unimaginable reality may we expect to find when we get to Heaven if Father has had all these eons to make it?
What does this say about pre-history, the story of what God was doing before the Big Bang of Creation.
We hang our heads in humility. We read the final verses of Romans 11 and say, “Yes, yes. This is how it is!”