Monday, January 26, 2009

Glimpses of Heaven

Back during the Christmas season, I mentioned discovering some new authors and books that the rest of you have probably been enjoying for years. I asked what else I might be missing, and several of you mentioned Randy Alcorn, particularly his book on Heaven.

It was interesting that several of you brought up this particular book, because my niece, Kristi, and I had been discussing it.

We've been talking a lot about Heaven, particularly how we Americans don't seem to be all that excited about it. Maybe it's because our lives are relatively easy in comparison to the rest of the world. Maybe because we're so grounded in materialism.

I've heard missionaries say that in lots of countries, particularly where there is persecution, Christians focus on Heaven. It's the promise that keeps them going. They picture it vividly and ponder it in their hearts.

I think we need to do more of that, ourselves, to keep up from getting so bogged down in the cares of this world. We need that reminder that the story is going to have a "happily ever after" no matter how bleak things are right now. But to do that, picturing some vague cloudy place where we sit around strumming harps all day isn't what we need.

The Bible is the best place to start, of course, to get the right foundation. But are there other authors and books out there than can help fire our imaginations, help us picture the world to come?

Lots of you mentioned Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven. I have read this book, but it was years ago. I was interested to discover a companion book called 50 Days of Heaven: Reflections That Bring Eternity to Light. Here's the description from amazon.com: "The devotional provides an easy-to-follow, 50-day program that reveals the biblical information on what a Christian's life will be like in heaven. Throughout this journey, the reader will learn and meditate upon the promises, rewards, and expectations that a believer in Christ will enjoy for eternity."

I also remember reading Heaven: Your Real Home, by Joni Eareckson Tada, several years ago. Particularly poignant was a dream she had at one point--which she was convinced was a true vision of heaven--in which she is swimming in a beautiful pool. (As most of you probably know, in this life, Joni is paralyzed.) A man is close by, watching, and she's struck by the complete harmony they feel as they look at one another. No distrust, no disharmony, no sin. (I hope I'm recounting the scene accurately. As I said, I read it years ago.)

Last year I picked up two books, one of which was 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, who was pronounced dead at the scene of a car accident and had an amazing experience during those 90 minutes. The other was called Glimpses of Heaven: True Stories of Hope and Peace at the End of Life's Journey by Trudy Harris. I found this one to be a little disappointing. Harris is (or was) a Hospice nurse and recounts experiences of patients and family as they reach the end of life, but the few stories I read didn't particularly inspire me about Heaven. Maybe if some of you have read it, you had a different experience you can relate.

A book I'm curious about right now is called The Slumber of Christianity: Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth by Ted Dekker, who usually writes thriller fiction. Here's what it says at amazon.com: "Dekker exhorts Christians to wake up and find genuine happiness in cultivating a deep desire for heaven. Although he argues that Christians should enjoy the pleasures of earth as a 'foretaste' of heaven, he cautions that these pleasures should not be mistaken for the real thing. Relying heavily on C.S. Lewis and the Apostle Paul, he makes a case for hope as the 'engine of life.' Satan, he says, has redirected our obsession away from God and heaven by filling our minds with earthly things."

Bingo!

Do you have other books or readings to suggest? Have you read any of the books mentioned and want to chime in? I think this is an important topic, and I'd love to hear from you!