I’ve been thinking about something lately; well, for the last couple of days. A friend of ours, a preacher named Rick Stratton, went to Heaven when his body just wouldn’t function any longer.
Rick is quite a guy. We met him when he was a traveling evangelist. He was preaching for a pastor friend of mine so I went to hear Rick preach. Powerful word, good singing; and I think he blew all the finish off that horn of his. Our friendship began that evening and has lasted for over 25 years!
I don’t remember how many times Rick preached for me, but I know it was a lot. And there’d be times when he was just passing through that he’d stop in and visit a few hours. Always a delight to have around.
He loves music, and I can still hear him singing that old Rusty Goodman song, “Who am I?” I imagine he’s doing a lot of singing now; that great, booming voice of his can probably be heard clear across Heaven! He’s crossed the chilly Jordan, and is camping in Canaan’s happy land!
I know something about Rick that many preachers don’t, or are too embarrassed to mention.
The dude is a BEAST at ping pong! I had always fancied myself as a pretty good paddler. Hah! He humbled me big time. One morning, while he was holding revival services for us, he and I decided to get some exercise and play some ping pong. I believe he picked the game. I thought to myself, cool. How good could this guy be?
Well, we got warmed up with some volleys and then he went to his van to get his own paddle. I never knew anyone who had a paddle like his. We played at least 15 games that day. I was bound and determined to beat him, but I never did. He could make that ball do amazing things; and made me feel and look silly.
Things weren’t always fun and games, though. We both went through extremely tough times, but Rick was always a present help in time of need. Though we lived several hundred miles apart, his loyalty and friendship knew no bounds.
I wonder what his first day in Heaven was like? I would have loved to see the look on his face when his eyes fell upon the glorious face of his Savior; the One he used to talk so much about. I can imagine the sparkle in his deep, dark eyes as he beheld the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world; Rick’s included.
Rick was finally able to experience, firsthand, the verse – “death is swallowed up in victory!”
As time goes by, and the older I get, I find myself wondering, imagining, and reading more about Heaven. I know quite a few people who’ve moved to that holy place. I wonder what it’s like to have no pain, no sorrow, and to see clearly and completely God’s unending love. I dream of family members and old friends whose bodies were so emaciated with that hellish disease called cancer, but now move about freely, majestically in their new, eternal body.
What is it like to live in a place where there’s no longer an enemy on the loose? Just how marvelous is it to reside in a land where no one grows old, nothing decays, and where sin and rebellion have been permanently removed? What is it like to experience more than just the guarantee of our inheritance; to actually realize our complete inheritance called eternal life.
And what does it feel like to not miss your smart phone?
There are a lot of people left here on earth who are missing him like crazy. That’s understandable. But there’s coming a day, yes, a great and glorious day…!
We will know as we are known. We’ll know, just like Rick knows.
And it will be grand!
So, in the meantime, we make it our aim-
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened – not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-10 ESV)
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 ESV)
Rick Stratton has only moved. He has moved to the “gain” side, after living the “Christ” side. Rick allowed Jesus to live in his world, now Jesus has Rick in His. Guess who ended up with the best deal. “Called” a child of God here; the process completed there. “Hope” here; seeing Him as He is, there.
“Unknown” by the world here; known by all there.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)
Yep, I’ve been thinking a lot about Rick, about Heaven, about my walk with Jesus, about all those around me who don’t know the Savior’s love…
…and whether or not Rick is still the ping pong pro!