Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Bill Cutrer Believed about Heaven

After a long day during a 1995 Mexico ministry trip,
Bill fell asleep on top of a pick-up cab. In Lethal Harvest, he
 compared dying to going to sleep after a long, tiring day. 
In addition to being a seminary professor and medical doctor, Bill Cutrer was a novelist. In this excerpt from our first of three coauthored works of medical suspense, Lethal Harvest (Kregel)— a finalist in the suspense category for Christian fiction's highest award—Dr. Bill provides his view of the afterlife. He does so through the character of Ben, a medical-doctor-turned-chaplain, who delivers a funeral message for a colleague. 

Ben began again, slowly opening his Bible. “Dear family and friends, you have come today out of respect for the life of this man and love for one another. You look for answers, a sure word, something you can trust. We can find that certainty, the true comfort that reaches to the soul, only in God's word. Life and death, joy and mourning are so familiar to us. Yet in such moments our footing seems unsure. We can't understand.”
Marnie felt for a moment as though she were someone else, observing it all but not believing it was her own reality. She brought herself back by hugging Emily to her side. Emily, who had spent her Sunday mornings watching cartoons, had never been part of anything like this. She sat politely in her new navy blue dress with a full petticoat, her feet sticking out several inches beyond the edge of the pew. At the moment, the red-pencil picture she drew on her program consumed her attention.

“In Ecclesiastes 7:2,” Ben continued, “Solomon, the wisest of all men, wrote, 'It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of the mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.'”

Ben continued. “How can Solomon say it's better to go to a house of mourning? What can we learn in the midst of such pain? The anguish, the tears of a wife who lost her husband, a mother who lost her son, a sweet child who lost her daddy? How is a sad face good for the heart? How does this wisdom come? Where do we find anything positive in such tragedy?”                           

Marnie looked up at the stained glass windows, self‑conscious at this point that Ben's words had directed the crowd's thoughts to her and wanting to stifle a sob when Ben said the word “daddy.”  

“When the Bible speaks of passing from this life into eternity, we see several beautiful word pictures,” Ben explained. “Death is likened to three things—striking the tent to prepare for a journey, going to sleep, and going home.

“Now, most of us have a great sense of joy as we prepare to go on a journey, especially if we look forward to our destination as a beautiful, safe place.”

Marnie's thoughts drifted back momentarily to the time in Hawaii she and Tim had spent last Christmas. Lately she'd kept remembering not the big events they'd shared, but the little details about Tim. Like on that trip how they'd been so amused to have rented a red convertible to buzz around on Maui only to notice that all the other tourists had done the same. They'd seen as many red convertibles there as yellow cabs in New York.

“Heaven is such a place. In beauty beyond our imagination, heaven is a place where there is no death, no tears, no need ever to mourn again,” Ben continued.

Marnie hoped such a place really existed and wondered whether Tim had made such a journey. She looked admiringly at Ben, feeling compassion pouring over the crowd in his voice. Standing behind the podium, he looked strong, exuding confidence. He really believes what he's saying. She realized she was surprised. She had never heard someone as educated as a physician say anything like this, and she found comfort in his words. She hoped they were true. Emily's fidgeting in her seat brought Marnie back. Having covered the program with scribbles, Emily began looking for a new project. Her mother reached in her purse and pulled out a note pad.

“ . . . and going to sleep at the end of a long, tiring day,” Ben said. “Nothing sounds better. Dying for the child of God has been described—accurately, I think—as being like when a child falls asleep in front of the television. She awakens the next morning in her own bed, not knowing how she got there, but rested, refreshed and at home. Now, we know that her mother or father had gently picked her up and carried her to her bed, pulling the covers over her and tucking her in securely. So it is when one of God's children passes from this life to awaken in the next. We can trust in the tender care of our heavenly Father to transport us safely there, home with the Father in heaven.”

Marnie dabbed her eye as she remembered the last time she had seen Tim carry a slumbering Emily to bed and planted a kiss on her forehead.

 “Perhaps the most familiar and beautiful picture of this life's end is that of going home. Is there any sweeter phrase in all of language? Going home. Ideally home is a place where love and security abound and surround each family member."

Home. What am I gonna do about the house? Huge payments. Insurance. Stocks. Bonds. Investments. Marnie felt her anxiety building again momentarily. Tim handled all that on his computer, and I don't even know his password. Emily slid out of her seat to stand on the floor. Marnie gently patted the pew and shot her a stern look.

“Finally, Jesus said, 'In My Father's house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you,'“ Ben continued. “Some translate this as 'mansions.' But whatever the heavenly abode looks like, we will find it perfect for us.” Ben continued reading. “'I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, so that where I am you may be also.' We have it on the authority of Jesus, the Son of God, that God has a place prepared, and safe passage promised for those who have trusted in Him, in Jesus, the Lord and keeper of our souls.
“Why does Solomon say to find wisdom in the house of the mourning? Because in the sad times, the hard times, we look into the faces of those we love who have lost loved ones. In those times, we remember and we consider our own frailty—our own mortality. The passing of Tim Sullivan reminds us that this life is a vapor. It's here and so quickly gone. Are we prepared for that journey? Are we certain of our heavenly home? You can be certain, secure that when the time comes for you to strike the tent, to slip into sleep, that you are going home to the promised, prepared place in the Father's house.”

Read what he said about finding God in the darkness.
Read what he said about mourning, loss, and the human response to crisis
Follow this link to the SBTS audio resources featuring Dr. Bill. His talk on grief is particularly timely, as is his message on Psalm 121.
Follow this link to hear him speak on Philippians 4 (scroll to 2/17). 

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