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Heaven My Father's House
By Anne Graham Lotz
W Publishing Group
Copyright © 2001 Anne Graham Lotz
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLooking Forward to Heaven
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Knowing where you are going takes the uncertainty out of getting there.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
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Death is the great equalizer, isn't it? It doesn't matter if we have lived on this earth as: young or old rich or poor famous or unknown educated or ignorant powerful or weak religious or atheistic athletic or crippled healthy or sickly happy or depressed ... we all die.
Still, death can come as an utterly unexpected surprise. More than five thousand men and women went to work at the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, and began what they thought was just another routine day at the office. Many of them had likely gotten a cup of coffee, sat down at their desks, rolled up their sleeves, booted up their computers, and begun placing telephone calls. None of them had any indication that within the hour they would step into eternity. For them, death came as a thief in the night.
For others, death can come as a longed-for and welcomed relief. Within a three-week period, while I was in the midst of writing this book, I attended both the funeral of my husband's beloved brother, John Lotz, and the funeral of my father's associate T. W. Wilson, who was like a second father to me. John died as a result of a fast-growing, malignant brain tumor. "Uncle T" died from massive heart failure at the grand old age of eighty-two. For both John and Uncle T, death came as an angel of mercy.
Regardless of how or when it comes, death does come for each of us. And each of us wonders: When will it come for my loved one? What will it be like for me?
For the past thirteen years I have traveled all over the world in response to invitations to give out God's Word. There have been times, such as my first visit to India, when I have started out by climbing onto the plane with my stomach churning, my knees knocking, and my heart fibrillating-terrified because I was not sure where I was going, or who would meet me at the journeys end. But what a difference there has been in my attitude when I have had the opportunity for a second visit to that same place. I have left home with peace in my heart because I knew where I was going and who would meet me at the journeys end. In the same way, the prospect of death can fill you and me with terror and dread-unless we know where we are going. Knowing as much as we can about our final destination, and Who will meet us at the end of life's journey, takes the fear out of getting there.
Hope for Today
Picture an old man, living on a remote island. He is about ninety years of age, and he knows it will soon be his time to die. Like many elderly people today, he is isolated and lonely, cut off from family and friends at the very time of his life when he most needs them. He is frail and weak, facing the great unknown of eternity.
As incredible as it may seem, this man was one of the twelve original disciples of Jesus Christ. In fact, as one of the closest personal friends Jesus had, he was described as the "beloved disciple."
This was the apostle John, previously just a fisherman from Galilee. He and his brother James were the sons of Zebedee who earlier had been called the sons of thunder because they had such fiery tempers. But by the end of the first century, John was one of the most respected of all the disciples. And he paid a high price for his well-known and outspoken relationship with the One he believed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.
Exiled to the island of Patmos in the midst of the Aegean Sea, the apostle John knew he would be facing death in the not-too-distant future. This was the very moment in time when God chose to give John a vision of the glory of Jesus Christ! This vision included a tantalizing glimpse into Heaven, where one day God Himself will live forever with His people. This glorious vision has been recorded in the final book of the Bible, Revelation, because John was commanded to write down what he saw. The vision was to be not only for his own personal comfort and encouragement but for all people down through the centuries who, when facing daily challenges, extraordinary circumstances, or even when plunging to certain death, could do so with courage and with hope.
Hope for Tomorrow
Are you facing the future with eyes wide shut, teeth clenched, body tensed, dreading your tomorrows and what they may hold? Do you feel as though you are standing on the brink of a deep, dark abyss of helplessness and despair, caught up in events involving yourself or your loved ones that are beyond your control? Regardless of what those events may be, no matter your mental or emotional or spiritual state, God's vision of the future can fill you with hope right now ...
If you are elderly like John, If you are facing death, If you are lonely, If you are isolated, If you are cut off from friends and family, If you are in emotional or mental or physical pain, If you are facing the greatest unknown of your life, If you are hopeless for any reason ... or If you have a loved one who is elderly like John, If you have a loved one who is facing death, If you have a loved one who is lonely, If you have a loved one who is isolated, If you have a loved one who feels cut off from friends and family, If you have a loved one in emotional, mental, or physical pain, If you have a loved one who is facing the greatest unknown of his or her life, If you have a loved one who is hopeless for any reason ... or If you are spending time in a doctor's office or a hospital waiting room, If Alzheimer's has you trapped in a long good-bye or if divorce has you trapped in a living death, If you are going to a memorial service or you have been to a funeral, If you have wept at a gravesite or shed tears in the night, If you hear gunfire in the dark, or unknown footsteps on the walk, If you are an unemployed worker facing another day, or just a weary parent whose spouse is away ... or If you are a doctor or nurse, a caregiver or a funeral director, If you are an orphan or a widow, a single parent or a minority, If you live in poverty or obscurity, prison or pain, If you have been beaten or bound, bruised or broken, If you are disabled or abused, abandoned or accused, If you are lonely or confused, wondering or worrying, If you are despised or rejected, helpless or homeless ...
... then it is vitally important for you to be prepared for that moment in time when you step into eternity!
As I contemplate the deaths of my loved ones- and yours ...
As I contemplate our loss and the empty void in our hearts left by their absence....
I am more grateful than ever that this life is not all there is!
Praise God! You and I can look forward WITH HOPE! because we have the blessed assurance of Heaven, My Father's House!
Chapter TwoA Home in Heaven
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My Father's House is a home prepared especially for you.
If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
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Home for me will always be my father's house-a log cabin nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina with a light in the window, a fire on the hearth, and a welcome embrace at the door. As I make the four-hour drive from my home to my father's house, my sense of expectancy heightens. Three hours into the journey I have the first glimpse of the mountains-a glimpse that never ceases to thrill me as I begin to climb in altitude through the foothills until I'm enfolded in the valleys and peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. My journey ends on a winding, one-lane road with hairpin curves and switchbacks that lead me to the door of my father's house.
The old log cabin, the flagstone steps, the nail-studded door, and the well-worn wooden plank floor of the entrance are not what have quickened my pulse or caused me to make the long drive. My motivation is simply the fact that this is home!
Home! What does that word mean to you? For me, "home" is synonymous with love, acceptance, comfort, and security. It is a place where my needs are met. It is a place where I can take my burdens and lay them down. It is a place not only where I can find answers but where my questions no longer seem to matter. When I feel discouraged under the pressure of responsibilities, or overwhelmed by the problems of daily life, or disappointed by shattered dreams, my heart turns toward that mountain cabin and those whom I love who live there. To go home is to be refreshed in my spirit and refocused in my thoughts and renewed in my strength and restored in my heart. How I love home!
The story is told of an old missionary named Samuel Morrison who, after twenty-five years in Africa, was returning home to the United States to die. As it so happened, he traveled on the same ocean liner that brought President Teddy Roosevelt back from a hunting expedition. When the great ship pulled into New York Harbor, the dock where it was to tie up was jammed with what looked like the entire population of New York City. Bands were playing, banners were waving, choirs of children were singing, multicolored balloons were floating in the air, flashbulbs were popping, and newsreel cameras were poised to record the return of the president.
Mr. Roosevelt stepped down the gangplank to thunderous cheers and applause, showered with confetti and ticker tape. If the crowd had not been restrained by ropes and police, he would have been mobbed!
At the same time, Samuel Morrison quietly walked off the boat. No one was there to greet him. He slipped alone through the crowd. Because of the crush of people there to welcome the president, he couldn't even find a cab. Inside his heart, he began to complain, Lord, the president has been in Africa for three weeks, killing animals, and the whole world turns out to welcome him home. I've given twenty-five years of my life in Africa, serving You, and no one has greeted me or even knows I'm here.
In the quietness of his heart, a gentle, loving voice whispered, But My dear child, you are not home yet!
While I praise God for placing me in an earthly home that so clearly reflects my heavenly home, I am aware even now, when I visit that old log cabin, that I am not really home yet because of Jesus' promise to God's children: "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
Has your entire life been a series of struggles? Have you been ...
More sick than well? More defeated than successful? More tired than rested? More alone than accompanied? More empty than satisfied? More hungry than filled? More sad than happy?
Do you feel defeated because after a lifetime of struggle, all you have to look forward to is death and a cold grave? Look up! The Bible teaches us that God is preparing a heavenly home that "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived ... for those who love him."
Regardless of our circumstances or condition, we can look forward with hope as we glimpse Heaven, My Father's House, which is being prepared as an eternal home for God's people. For you and for me!
As a young girl, my vision of Heaven was framed by my mother's assurance that whatever was necessary for my eternal happiness would be there. So in my child's mind, that included ocean waves, mountain peaks, a favorite pet that had died, Sunday night Bible games with the family, sleepovers at my grandparents' house, Chinese food, and a smaller nose! Over the years, my requirements for eternal happiness have changed, but my dreams are still big.
What kind of home do you think is necessary for your eternal happiness?
Do you dream of a cottage by the sea? or a chateau by the lake? or a cabin in the woods? or a penthouse in the city? or a castle on the hill? or a tent on the desert? or a farm in the country? or a palace in the garden?
Several years ago, the apostle John's words describing the tantalizing vision of Heaven that God gave to him on the island of Patmos came to my mind, sharpening the focus of my "dream home." I was in Agra, India, standing in front of a reflecting pool gazing at
Excerpted from Heaven My Father's House by Anne Graham Lotz
Copyright © 2001 by Anne Graham Lotz
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.