What a funny question to ask!

Have you ever wondered.....?

I might as well admit it. I really enjoy playing my button accordions, and one of the things that I've often regretted is that I don't have more time to spend playing. I mean, I'm not that old, just 37 going on 38 at this writing, but I know that the day will come, much too soon, when I will play my last tune. We all will. What happens then? Well, most people believe we will be sent to Heaven or Hell. But what does that mean? Have you ever given it much thought? Believe it or not, I know plenty of people who only want to go to heaven because its the only other alternative to hell. Maybe you think that way. I'll confess that I've felt that way. Why is that so? Isn't heaven supposed to be our eternal reward? Isn't it supposed to be some great place where everything is perfect? So why don't we want to go? I mean if we really wanted to go, we'd probably try a little harder to get there, wouldn't we? I should think so. I mean, there are times in my life where I've tried harder to catch a green light than to get into heaven. Sorry, but its true!

No accordions. That's the reason, simply put. Yes, you read it right, no accordions. You knew that didn't you? I mean, you knew there were no accordions in heaven, right? Of course you did. Everyone knows, we sit on clouds, wearing flowing white gowns, with wings sprouting out of our backs and halos on our head. If you want music you strum a harp and sing church songs with angelic voices. Of course, all of this is done in some sort of disembodied, spiritual state. And here's the icing on the cake - you get to do this FOREVER! Yes, that's right, an eternal church service, except that since you're sitting on clouds and have no real body, your butt never gets sore! Sign me up!

Am I offending your sensibilities? If so, I'm sorry. Don't get me wrong. I don't want to go to hell. I mean that's far worse, eternal torture and burning flames, sulphur smell and brimstone. No fun at all. I definitely am not advocating hell. I definitely prefer heaven to that, even if it is boring. But here's the thing, I just wish there were another alternative. See if you agree. I wish heaven would be a place where we could live in actual bodies. Bodies that are super healthy and maintenance free. Fit, no diseases or infirmities, not too fat, and not too thin. Not too old and not too young. Strong and energetic, oh, and good looking. And rather than clouds I wish there would be solid ground with beautiful landscapes. Mountains, oceans, plenty of forest. Rivers, meadows, flowers, grass, lakes, waterfalls. Are you getting the picture? Right now, you're probably picturing a place very much like the world we are living in. Well yes, that's right, but lets make some adjustments to that picture. Let's get rid of death. We should all be able to live forever without fear of death. Lets get rid of crime and hatred. Let's get rid of pollution and slums. Lets have peace, and lets make it so that people truly love each other without envy, lies, pride, jealousy, greed etc..

This is sounding better isn't it? Next lets do something about boredom. What if we could occupy ourselves in an endless number of activities? Exploring, enjoying nature, reading, writing, building, inventing, creating art, making music, travelling, visiting friends, cooking, eating (cheesecake anyone?), drinking, planting gardens, dancing, singing, working. Now we're talking. In fact, this is like living in the world, except that the world is perfect, and we get to enjoy it forever. That's my idea of heaven. In my heaven, if you want to play accordion, you have that option. Not only that, but you have eternity to perfect it. Of course, if harp really is your thing, that's cool too.

Now, here's the dillema. I can't be the only one who would prefer this kind of heaven. I mean it seems like we're all inclined to want that kind of existence. But if God is all-knowing, why doesn't he realize that we don't want the kind of heaven with the clouds and wings? And if he's all-powerful, couldn't he make any kind of heaven he wanted? And if he loves us, wouldn't he want to give us the kind of heaven we long for? Is the reality that life is short and then you die and float in some kind of spirit world for all eternity with all these unfullfilled dreams and longings? Am I justified in ignoring my wife and kids and shirking as many responsibilities as possible so that I have time to play accordion before I die full of regrets? Do you really only go around once in life, trying to grab as much as you can? Why is my vision of heaven so different from the heaven that we all have been told about our whole lives?

Well, I have some good news, and some bad news. The bad news is that the heaven with the clouds and the halos and wings and harps....it doesn't exist. If that's what you've been hoping for, I'm sorry to break it to you. You have been decieved. There is no such place. When you die, you will not get wings and a halo. You will not become an angel. It doesn't matter how good you were, or how nice a person, or what you believed, or how often you went to church, it just doesn't exist except in your imagination. More bad news. Hell, does exist, and as bad as it sounds, the reality is worse than you can imagine. Now the good news. The heaven that I describe, the one that I long for, it will exist, and you can go there.

I've just asked you to accept a whole different concept from the one you've known your whole life, and I can understand if your head is reeling a bit right now. So while you're getting your bearings let me just say that I believe that the bible is the written word of God. His owner's manual for our lives. It is absolutely true and trustworthy, and in it, he has told us everything we need to know to live life fully and then enter heaven and live forever. The bible can be proved in so many ways, unless of course you start out refusing to believe it in spite of the proofs. I challenge you to look in the bible and find the cloud, halo, wing, harp heaven. You will not find it. What you will find is the heaven that I have described. Incredible as it may seem, this is the heaven we have to look forward to. Why is it that so few people seem to know that? This is a heaven worth striving for! The other heaven is a myth, and a tragic one at that.

I hope you do decide to go. I'll be there, I have a place reserved already. I'll be the one with the accordion on. I'm not 100% sure diatonic accordions will be available there, but I am 99% sure, and if not, I hope one or more of you accordion builders will be there to make some. Otherwise, I'll have to learn how to make the perfect accordion over the next century or so, and the following millenium or so learning to play. In my spare time, I might also learn some other instruments like Hurdy-Gurdy, bagpipes, or bandura. So here's my plan. I'm not going to neglect my wife or kids, or be peevish when family duties cut into my accordion time. I will put relationships first, because I know that I will have all the time in the world (and then some) to enjoy my pleasant pursuits in the eternal kingdom of heaven. My kids and my wife have eternal souls. They will live forever (one place or the other). It is my job to do everything I can to make sure that this brief time I have in the unperfected world with them will be spent in loving them onto the path to heaven. Once there, we will have all eternity together, and no regrets, and I will have time to relax and enjoy life fully and eternally, accordion by my side! Maybe we can jam together! I can tell you how. Here is the key to heaven:
  • First you must realize and accept that you are a sinner, a fallen, imperfect human. It matters not that you are better than most, or pretty good compared to other people. The reality is that you are not perfect and God is a god of perfection. You fall short of that standard and there is nothing you can humanly do to be perfect enough to enter the presence of God in heaven.
  • Second, you must confess your sins and shortcomings with a humble and honest heart. Come to God and confess that you have sinned and need his help
  • Third, realize that God has made a provision, knowing that no man is perfect. The result of sin is death. It always has been and it always will be. Its a law, like gravity. God does not want you to die. Instead he sent his son, Jesus, to die for you, in your place. Jesus gave up his life for your sins, in fulfillment of your death sentence, which you chose when you sinned. He willingly went to the cross in your place, and his blood was spilled so that yours could be saved.
  • Fourth, ask Jesus to come into your heart, into your life, and fill you with his spirit. Give up your life to him, as he gave up his life for you. It seems hard, and burdensome, but that is a deception. Once you are there and have given up your life to him you realize that it is easy, far easier than living life without him. You aren't really giving anything up. Nothing worthwhile, anyway. While we're here lets just clear something up. Religion and Christianity are not the same thing. Religion is all about rules, Christianity is all about freedom. The church that I attend (Trinity, in Omaha) is about the most free place on all the earth, and the place is filled with the spirit of God. I'm not going to give you a specific prayer to pray to ask God into your life. You can manage that on your own (if you think about it, and you should), and it will be much more genuine. You see, the secret is not in some specific formula of words or certain motions, or emotions for that matter (that is a religious spirit). The secret, if you can call it that, is in coming to Jesus with genuine repentence, seeking a relationship with him, in which you are willing to submit your life to him.

This is the key to heaven. It looks scary, and it seems like it would take all the fun out of life, but that is so wrong! Just the opposite, you trade in all the shallow, unfullfilling so-called fun for genuine, deep joy and fun. Not that life suddenly becomes easy, and all temptation goes away. We are still weak, imperfect people. But we have the long view. The eternal view. The view that allows us to see all the little bumps in life for what they are, little bumps that just jostle us on our way to eternity. In spite of my long view, and the knowledge that I'm going to heaven where I can play forever if I like, I still pick up my accordion and play for fun, when time allows. But the pressure is off, and if anything its even more enjoyable, because I know that my journey is just starting, not halfway over.

All of this is so much deeper than I can explain on one page, though the basics are here. I can do no better than to point you towards resources which cover these topics in much more depth than I.
  • first and foremost a good study bible is God's guidebook to life, you should be familiar with it.
  • On the topic of heaven, Randy Alcorn has written a very readable 516 page volume titled simply, Heaven which greatly expands what I have introduced here, complete with supporting references to other theologians as well as the bible itself. ISBN 0-8423-7942-8
  • The writings of the famous author, C.S. Lewis are extremely understandable and reliable and are written from the viewpoint of a former atheist turned Christian.
Many other sources exist, too many to list, but these would be a great start and would point you on the road to further reading. I hope you honestly examine all that I have said, and allow yourself to at least consider that I might be right. As always, I'd be happy to hear your comments or questions.

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