Tag Archives: heaven

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Hope In Death

Let’s get right to the point –

Today, I watched a man die, and I’m happy.

At this point you’re thinking: “Who in his right mind would admit to being happy he saw a man die?” Well, without the proper context, only a sick man, that’s for sure!

But here’s the context: I was with a family from my church as a 51 year-old son, father, brother, and grandfather breathed his last breath, and I was able to rejoice with them in the hope of Jesus Christ.

Meeting Joey: the 1st Time

Joey and his dog, Willie

Several months ago, I was able to talk with Joey Armor for the first time. He was sitting on the tailgate of his truck, taking a break from welding. As we got to talking, he apologized for not coming to church more often, but he appreciated that I was the new pastor, and he hoped to become more regular. He also told me how sick he was.

Joey had battled with a lot of health issues over the last few years, and at that point he was not doing bad enough to keep him in bed. As a matter of fact, he was the type of person that not only avoided pain medication as long as possible; he never wanted to stop being active doing something, even if only a little welding here and there. The day I first talked with him, he was having a hard time breathing, but he was happy to be doing something he enjoyed.

Faith, Assurance, and Hope

The next few times I saw Joey Armor was in the hospital. It seemed that his body all of a sudden decided to give up, even though he was not willing to. The doctors had hope that he would recover, and for a little while it looked like he would, but it wasn’t long before things began to look dire.

The last few times I saw Brother Joey was when he was at home, a couple of times sitting in his recliner, a couple of times in his bed. On one occasion, I felt compelled to lead Joey through the plan of salvation. Because I had never seen him make a profession of faith, and since I could tell he was nervous about dying, I had to make sure he had an opportunity to accept Christ as his Savior.

Come to find out, Joey had indeed put his faith in Jesus, but he had come to the point where he was scared of what was to come. He had made some mistakes, not been perfect, and now he was facing death head-on. He needed to be reassured God did indeed love him and was faithful, as He always is, even when we are not.

Another time I took a communion kit, and with a deacon from our church I shared with him the elements and together rejoiced in the goodness of our Savior! We talked about Christ’s body and His blood, how each was given for us, and how by taking part in communion we proclaim his death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:24). Even though he could barely swallow anything (he even had a feeding tube inserted into his abdomen), he took the little piece of matzoh and the tiny cup of grape juice and consumed them both. It was a special moment, indeed.

Talking About Home

The last time I saw him before today, the Holy Spirit had placed in my heart the urgent desire to go talk with him about Heaven. Joey new he was going, and he knew it wouldn’t be that long. So, I wanted to go by and encourage him with the facts about the place he was about to see. He asked for his large-print Bible so he could read along with me.

First, I turned to John chapter fourteen:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye 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 unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.” – John 14:1-3

These verses deserved a little amplification, and I knew Joey would appreciate it. I focused on the words “mansions” and “place.” Jesus wasn’t telling Peter he would have a four-story house of gold in Heaven; Jesus was telling him not to worry, for even though he’d mess up by soon denying Him, there was already a place in His Father’s house prepared – a room of his own! Compared to here, that room might be a mansion. But how much more wonderful is the promise that God wants us to live in HIS house with HIM forever??

And when it came to the word “place” (τόπος tópos), heaven is more than spirits floating on clouds; it is more than a feeling; it is more than being absorbed into the infinite: Jesus said it is a PLACE! I said, “Just like Chicago or Atlanta, Heaven is a place just like any place on a map down here. It is a place, and you are going there!” 

Next, I turned – we turned – to Revelation 21 and 22. There, within the verses of those chapters we read of a holy city, a heavenly city, that God has prepared for those whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Joey listen as I read, awake, but with his eyes closed, resting.

I said, “Well, Joey, I guess it’s about time we get out of here and let you rest.” He nodded.

Then, with weak voice and a slight smile, Joey said,

“I’m looking forward to seeing what my Father has for me.”

Today, around 12 p.m., my brother in Christ, Joey Armor, exhaled one last time, only to inhale for the very first time the celestial air of his new home.

I am glad his family was able to be there. I’m glad I got to see him off.

He’s seeing what his Father has prepared for him, and even more importantly, he’s hugging Jesus.

I’m happy for him!

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, Family, General Observations, Life/Death, salvation

After Christmas: Proof We Need Redemption

So, how was your Christmas?

Was it everything you dreamed it would be? Did everything go as planned without any family drama?

Were all the decorations beautiful?

Have you been listening to Christmas music since the day after Thanksgiving? Have you been drinking egg nog for the last three weeks? Have you spent hours shopping while listening to Salvation Army bells ringing?

Are you glad it’s over?

Are you a little tired of the parties, the celebrations, the concerts, the pageants, the tons of gift wrapping, the crowds, and the never-ending tunes about lights, bells, joy, and Santa?

Fact is if you are tired of it all and are ready for life to get back to normal, then you’re human and not an elf, and that’s an important truth to consider.

Celebrating Christmas has completely worn me out. I’ve had my fill of carols, smiles, joy, and jingle bells… even eggnog. I need a break.

And believe it or not, these feelings we have after Christmas – the weariness of celebration –  point to the fact that we have not been fully redeemed; our bodies are still waiting for that final transformation.

[We] also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. – Romans 8:23b CSB

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruption. Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality. – 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 CSB

So, just imagine how difficult it would be to survive heaven for more than a day or two?

Not only will we need new bodies that never grow old, get weak, and want to go to bed before sundown, but we will need to be set free from all the chains of this mortal flesh – everything that turns an elf into a Grinch around December 26th or 27th.

Our corruptible minds and bodies must be exchanged for that which is incorruptible, else we won’t be able to endure the eternal and glorious celebration that is to come.

Without being changed, heaven would be full of worn-out billion-year-olds leaving the dirty dishes for the angels to deal with.

Heaven will be a celebration of the Redeemer by the redeemed.

So don’t be surprised when I say, “You must be born again” (John 3:7 NLT). 

If the corruptible got in, heaven wouldn’t stay heaven for long; it would feel like hell.

Think about it: Are you ready for Heaven?

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Filed under Apologetics, Christmas, clothing, salvation, the future, worship

Alone As Hell?

It was just after midnight, and I knew where my children were (if you’re old enough, you know what I’m talking about).

It was just after midnight, and I also knew where my wife was (thank heaven life isn’t a country song, right?).

It was just after midnight, and believe it or not, I pretty much knew where everybody I love was – and they were not here with me.

Just yesterday I drove from Georgia to South Carolina to pick up a cute little puppy (a chorkie -that’s a dog) that was a gift from our oldest daughter, Alicia. The little puppy was meant, among other things, to help alleviate the pain of the empty nest. But another reason was so that when my wife is out of town there’d be some sort of living being at home to welcome me when I came in the door (mice – and we don’t have any…anymore…don’t count).

You see, I hate being alone. I hate it that the people I love most in the world are not with me. Up until the end of July, the sound of “daddy” (or other versions of it) was a word I heard every day for the last 25 years. Not any more. And then, with everybody out of town last night, I had only 8 ounces of tea-cup cuteness to keep me company… and it wasn’t the same.

I was alone.

Praise the Lord for FaceTime! Can I get an “ amen!”?

But think with me for just a moment. When Jesus spoke words of comfort to a troubled Peter, what did He say to encourage him? Jesus told Peter that he would always have a place in His Father’s house, and most importantly, Jesus would be there with him!

The picture Jesus chose to describe heaven was an eternal home where one would never be alone.

So what is hell?

Hell is a place NOT prepared for us, but for Satan and his demons. It’s not a home; it’s a prison.

With hell there is no hope of Christ’s return or to be received into His welcome embrace. No, it is a place where one is sent, away from the presence of love, to be alone…forever.

No One to speak in our defense. No One to never leave us or forsake us. Only darkness, damnation, and desolation.

Sure, the fires of hell will torment, but how much worse when one is totally, mercilessly alone?

Even if there should be no flame, would not eternal, infinite loneliness qualify as hell?

Here on this earth I am never truly alone, for God is with me. I’m never alone.

But for those who don’t have Christ, no earthly loneliness could ever compare to a place where not even the Spirit of God convicts anymore.

Sure, I may be lonely right now, like I was a little before 1 a.m., but thank God I’m not alone as hell!

Jesus is here.

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Filed under Family, General Observations, Jesus, Life Lessons, Parenting, Struggles and Trials

My Allergy Will Be Gone!

Since I had nothing original written for today, I typed in “random” to the search bar to see what might pull up from previous posts … Here ya go!

It’s from around 2 years ago…

But just in time for tomorrow’s sermon on heaven 🙂


My daughter Katie is allergic to a list of things, and although the list is not a long one, it does include bacon, so she does deserve our pity.

On the other hand, our young and uber-talented pianist at church, Olivia, has list of allergies longer than the strings on a Steinway concert grand! Seriously! Let’s just put it this way: just listening to the song “99 Balloons” could kill her.

But for me, I’m allergic to nothing… well, almost nothing. I’m not allergic to any foods, liquids, or chemicals; I don’t reach for an EpiPen whenever I see a bee; nor do I provide a list of medicines that could kill me should I visit a doctor.

I am, however, allergic to one thing… PAIN. The following are symptoms I experience when I receive a dose of pain, each one varying based on the length or intensity of exposure:

  • Immediate onset of watery eyes, the accumulating result being streams of salty fluid running down my face.
  • Widening of the eyes.
  • Convulsions of the hand and fingers, usually in conjunction with flailing arms and connecting concussions with inanimate objects.
  • Mental delusions, temporary insanity, and near-death experiences.
  • Random bouts of temporary-onset Tourette Syndrome.

Some people say “pain is weakness leaving your body.” To those people, I say, “Go eat a worm.”

Unfortunately, barring being put into a coma – and that’s no guarantee – I will have to suffer with my pain allergy until the day I die. There is no known cure on this earth, only items meant to temporarily mask or lessen the effects of the allergic reaction.

But someday… one day… I will have a new body! No more pain allergies for me!

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. – Rev 21:4 KJV

No allergy shots in Heaven!

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Filed under Life/Death

Viewing Home

There’s a place I used to go when I was younger, when I was in much better shape, and when my family still lived down by the river (but not in a van). It was a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge, right above where we lived.

Just the other day, as I walked out of the cardiologist’s office, I saw in the waiting room a photo on canvas, a photo of the very place I used to hike to as a kid. Emotions took my breath away.

I moved a chair out of my way and used my phone to take a picture – this picture – of the picture.

There it was, the view like no other in Tennessee, like few in the world. It was the view of my home from on top of that rocky outcrop that I’d gladly hike for a few hours to reach.

Oh, how I’d love to go there again, except this time with my wife and girls! I would love for them to share in the awe and grandeur of God’s perfect river view.

If you were to sit on the edge of the rock, to your left you would see the Tennessee River flow down from the direction of Chattanooga. Below your feet would be a hundred-foot drop to the tops of maple and oak trees. To your right would be (as you see here) the river on which we’d fish, ride in a boat, and watch the rains from every storm approach us like a white wall.

This was Cherokee country. This was moonshine country. This was the place where my great grandfather immigrated to after hobo-ing a train out of Rainbow City, Alabama. This is where my grandfather married a half-Cherokee woman and built a house out of rough-cut pine that he and his father cut at the saw mill. This is where my dad and my uncle would sneak across the river at night to take food to my grandpa Baker who was hiding out from the revenuers.

This was where my dad got his first and last whiskey still at the age of 14, but gave it up after the plum whiskey nearly killed him.

This is where we would later live after my dad met my mom, gave his heart to Jesus, and displayed what it really looked like to be changed by the Gospel.

This is where I learned to shoot, hunt, fish, and be proud of my “hillbilly” roots. It’s also where my cousin and I snuck what we thought were .22 cal. blanks out of my uncle’s gun cabinet and then proceed to shoot at each other across a field at night. Actually, I had the blanks, but Danny had the bullets.

I can say with all certainty, he missed.

This is where I would accept the call to preach at age 16.

This is the place I used to call home, but no longer. Even if I wanted to move back there, the millionaires have bought up much of what used to be my stomping grounds, at least what’s not now part of the Tennessee River Trust. I’d never be able to afford a place to build a campfire, much less a house, even if the old family property was available.

But that’s OK.

Sure, there’s a sentimental ache in my heart to stand on that bluff again, to look down on my old home. But the older I get, the more I have a longing to see someplace else, someplace where I’ll be welcome forever… A place I’ve been reading about in an old Book.

From what I’ve been told, well… the view there is spectacular! Even infinite!

And there’ll be no cardiologist waiting rooms, either.

 

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Filed under Family, General Observations, Life/Death, places, wisdom

After Christmas Is Proof We Need to Be Redeemed

As I was thinking about some things I wanted to write this morning, a thought popped into my head which was far more profound than my original idea correcting other peoples’ spelling…

The feelings we have after Christmas point to the fact that we have not been fully redeemed. Our bodies are still waiting for that final transformation.

[We] also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. – Romans 8:23b CSB

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruption. Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality. – 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 CSB

What does this have to do with “after Christmas“?

Celebrating Christmas has completely worn me out. I’m tired of carols, smiles, joy, and jingle bells… even eggnog. I need a break.

So, just imagine how difficult it would be to survive heaven for more than a day or two?

Not only will we need new bodies that never grow old, get weak, and want to go to bed before sundown, but we will need to be set free from all the chains of this mortal flesh – everything that turns an elf into a Grinch around December 26th or 27th.

Our corruptible minds and bodies must be exchanged for that which is incorruptible, else we won’t be able to endure the celebration that is to come.

Without being changed, heaven would be full of worn-out billion-year-olds leaving the dirty dishes for the angels to deal with.

Heaven will be a celebration of the Redeemer by the redeemed. If the corruptible got in, it wouldn’t be long before they felt like hell.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christmas, clothing, salvation, the future, worship

Ranting About Realty

The following is a rant I’m making on my cell phone via talk-to-text. I’ve just got to get some things off my chest, even if I have to talk a lot. Forgive me.

Here we go…

Today is the day we close on a house. Oh, don’t get me wrong, however. This is not a house that we are buying; it is a house that we are selling.

Let me further clarify, the house that we are selling is not a house that we are going to be profiting from; it is part of a trust for which I am the trustee. And let me tell you, this has been more of a pain than I ever thought it would be.

Honestly, the whole process of buying and selling property, especially an older house, has been enough to make me never want to buy a house for myself! Sure, I guess if I ever get rich enough to do so, I can have other people do everything for me. However, if I have to go through all this stuff again, I might go insane! I’d rather rent, or live in a van down by the river!

Regardless, all we’ve gone through up unto this point – the day when the papers are to be signed and everything is finalized – has made me think of my future home, the one in heaven.

Just think about it for a moment. Up there we won’t have to deal with contractors, sales people, home inspectors, and realtors. There will be no commissions, no closing cost, no concessions, no negotiations, no allowances, and no last-minute repairs before anyone can move in.

No, when I finally get to move into my heavenly home, I won’t have to worry about a title company getting my name spelled correctly, collecting all the keys and garage door openers, or signing on any dotted lines. I won’t have to worry about any upkeep, any unfulfilled promises, or property taxes (hallelujah!). When I get home, it will be my home, bought and paid for by my heavenly Father!

And I won’t have to sign any more contracts, or revisions, or even more revisions of more contracts… My name has been written in the Lambs Book of Life, and that’s all that matters.

I’m through ranting, now.

Be blessed, y’all 🙂

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Filed under General Observations, Struggles and Trials