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Death, Heaven and Back
A year ago yesterday, February 16, 2008, I died. But, on the same day I was either raised from the dead or I was allowed to rejoin the living. Either way you'd like to state it, I'm alive today because of the grace of God, the prayerfulness of my friends and family, and the love I have for my wife.
In the past year I've lived with the specter of having the cancer which assaulted my body in 2007 return. I've also had to learn how to manage a body that is dramatically different than the one I used to live in prior to my ordeal with Stage IV oropharyngeal cancer and the treatments that took place in an attempt to save my life. Further, I've undergone a dramatic transformation in how I look at life (the way I live, the things I desire and my relationships with others). To say the least, this has been a year of changes.
Visiting Heaven Changes A Person
During the past 12 months I've been privileged and honored to have met several people who claim to have had a 'Heavenly' experience. With the exception of only a couple I believe that they too have truly walked in 'the other country' just as I believe that I did. The primary reason I believe them isn't because our testimonies of what Heaven was and is like is similar (although they are) but, rather, because of how they and others they know tell me that their lives have changed since they visited Heaven.
In each and every case, the number one change has been that we all desire a more personal relationship with others. I know that this is certainly the case with me.
Prior to dying I used to have a desire that truly bordered on lust for new 'things' and more 'stuff.' Oh, without a doubt, I wanted good relationships with people -- at least in so far as I wanted to like people and for people to like me. But now, after my experience in Heaven, I can say without fear of contradiction that I truly desire and covet relationships above all other things in this life.
A good friend of mine, after hearing my testimony for the first time in June of 2008, told me that what he had 'gotten' from my description of Heaven is that 'Relationships are the currency of Heaven.' I couldn't agree with that statement more. I truly believe that this statement is true because, as I read the Bible, everything in it speaks to me of relationship(s):
His (God's) relationship with us
The relationship we have with Him.
Our relationship with each other.
Throughout the Bible I find that relationship is an (perhaps THE) overarching theme. Obviously the canon of Scripture has as it's main focal point the person of Jesus. That being said, Jesus' main focal point was and is US (His creation). We find in the beginning of Genesis that God was already experiencing the perfect relationship in the form of the Trinity. As Pastor Mark Wyatt says (paraphrased), "God was so happy and content with Himself that He wanted to share this happiness with someone else." So, He created us to have relationship with Him. When we broke that relationship through sin it was He who decided to step out of eternity, to enter into our lives, to die for us on the cross of Calvary and then to raise Himself from the dead to prove, once and for all, that He had power over life and death. He did all of this so that we would clearly understand His love for us and that if we would simply accept His payment for our sin and live for Him that we could again have relationship with Him, the one true God.
I cannot think of a more perfect picture of a person who wants a relationship with others than that of Christ. So, it doesn't strike me as odd that as a follower of Jesus and as a person who has visited Heaven that I should desire having relationships with others above all else. Indeed, I think I would find it immensely strange if anyone who claims to have visited Heaven did not have such a desire. Of course, God could always place on a persons heart an overpowering sense of urgency towards a particular ministry in their lives (whether they've visited Heaven or not) but, still, I can't help but believe that the final result of their ministry would be a good relationship with others in some form.
In my own life, the desire to develop relationships with people has become a priority. As a minister and a pastor I want -- no, I NEED -- to have a good relationship with everyone I come in contact with simply because I NEED to show them a similitude of the love of Christ through the same.
I can personally attest to the fact that my family has been shown true Christ-like love during the past year and a half. Those who prayed for us and supported us in a myriad of ways (calls, emails, giving us a shoulder to cry on, allowing us to enter into your life when troubles assailed you, financial support, meals, taking me to and from hospital appointments, etc.) have burdened my heart (in the very best way possible) to seek out more and better connections with both those I currently know and those whom I have yet to meet.
So, I encourage you, if you are a follower of Jesus, to seek out a better relationship with Him so that you'll be able to readily develop and accept a good relationship with others regardless of their background, their ethnicity, their social or financial status, their sexual orientation, or any other factor that the world would claim as a barrier to a positive connection. Once you have developed a good rapport with others you'll be better able to serve them by showing them how to live in accordance with His ways. If they are 'living in sin' (as in the case of inappropriate sexual orientation or any other type of iniquity) your faith, shown to them by your deeds (i.e., how you live), will minister to them in a way that is impossible without your first having a personal connection with them.
If you are not a follower of Jesus I implore you to seek out a relationship with Him (Jesus) first. Knowing who He is and accepting Him as your Lord and Savior is the most important decision you'll ever make in this life and a decision to accept Him or not will impact both your temporal and eternal destinations.
There is no doubt in my mind that I (and everyone else) will continue to have trials and tribulations on this side of Heaven. In fact, we're guaranteed to have the same while we sojourn here. But, if we have a relationship with God, who is Almighty, He has promised to be with us and to prosper us once our time of trouble is over (Jeremiah 29:10-14). Certainly, as we read in Romans 8:35,37 neither trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or the sword is able to separate us from the love of Christ because we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.
Thanks for loving me and my family and please, please know that I LOVE YOU!
Recently, I (Rev. Lonnie Honeycutt) completed a book on my experiences (the diagnosis of cancer, going through cancer treatments, my death, my trip into Heaven (what I saw, whom I met, and why I returned), my subsequent resurrection, and my life afterwards... thus far. The book is titled, appropriately enough, 'Death, Heaven and Back: The True Story of One Man's Death and Resurrection.' It's available currently through Amazon.com and Createspace.
Death Heaven and Back
90 Minutes In Heaven
90 Minutes In Heaven by Don Piper
One of the initial 'proofs' of the validity of my experience in Heaven came to me after reading Don Piper's book '90 Minutes In Heaven' by Don Piper. Prior to dying I had never read his book and I will be eternally grateful for this because once I had read it I realized that he and I had had very similar experiences while in Heaven. To be certain there are major divergences in the stories we have to tell but, again, the similatude between our experiences left me weeping once I had read his book 90 Minutes In Heaven. If you haven't yet read 90 Minutes In Heaven by Don Piper I highly suggest you do so. You can click on the image below to order it now.