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10 Things You Should Do Before Going to Heaven
Practical ideas for living a more complete life this side of eternity.
by David Bordon & Tom Winters*
Heaven. If you're a committed follower of Jesus Christ, it's your final, glorious destination. But there's a life to live "down here" in the meantime, and too many of us drift through it without any real sense of purpose or joy. While this world is full of heartache, God still wants us to be people of faith and hope (Rom. 12:9-21). We are, in a sense, living advertisements for the abundant life He desires everyone to experience (2 Cor. 5:20). In their new book, 101 Things You Should Do Before Going to Heaven (Warner Faith), authors David Bordon and Tom Winters present an inspiring list to help us live life to its fullest. In this exclusive excerpt, we offer ten doable ways to make each day count for eternity.
*1. Give Away Something Valuable *
If you had to evacuate your home and had one hour to pack your car with everything that was valuable to you (above and beyond your family, pets, and old tax returns!), what would you choose to save?
Sometimes, items are of value simply because of the wonderful memories they represent. On the other hand, some of the possessions that own a piece of your heart may be more tied up in self-centeredness than sentiment---that stereo system, that jewelry, that new car. It may even be the home that houses all of your prized possessions. The truth is, when you go to heaven, none of these things will be going with you. So why not start loosening your grip on them a little early?
You don't need to start big. Donate something to charity that's not broken or worn out. Give something to another family simply because they need it more than you do. God never said owning things was wrong. However, He did say it was harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle (Matt. 19:24). The less tightly you hold on to your possessions, the more contentment you'll have here on earth.
2. Reconnect with a Long-Lost Friend *
If you misplaced a hundred-dollar bill, chances are you'd turn your home upside down to find it. But when friends get misplaced along the road of life, all too often their names are simply crossed off the Christmas list and relegated to conversations that begin with "I wonder what ever happened to..."
Don't let an address change or the passing of time erase someone from your life. Invest in future joy by reconnecting with people from your past. Conduct your own friendship "search and rescue" by typing a friend's name into your favorite Internet search engine. Call mutual friends and ask the "Do you know whatever happened to...?" question. Send a note to a friend's last known address, asking whoever currently lives there for help.
Once you think you've located your friend, drop him or her a note. Share a few favorite memories, a little about what's happened in your life since you last saw each other. Chances are, your friends will be as excited to reconnect with you as you are with them. What's more, your timing in tracking them down may be God's timing in meeting a need.
It takes time, energy, and love to make a friend. Don't squander that investment. And when friends do wind up "missing," don't wait until heaven to reconnect with them. Reach out now. True friends are treasures whose value increases with time.
3. Spend a Day Alone with God *
Suppose God gives you 70 years to live on this earth? That means, before your departure to heaven, you would have 25,550 days to explore, enjoy, and make a difference in the world around you. Out of all those days of opportunity and adventure, dedicating a single day to spend totally focused on the One who gave you the gift of life itself seems like a small thing. And it is, especially in light of eternity.
*4. Touch an Untouchable *
In the Hindu caste system, some people in the society are viewed as "untouchable." These individuals are deemed intrinsically inferior from the womb to the grave. Although the caste system is now illegal in India, its practices are still widely accepted. Members of the lowest caste are still regularly shunned, insulted, and oppressed. You may feel a tinge of superiority because you don't believe anyone's untouchable. Or do you?
Take a good look at how you feel about different groups of people. Bikers. Manual laborers. Teenagers. Panhandlers. The elderly. Unwed mothers. Immigrants. People with aids. The physically handicapped. People with tattoos and body piercings. Individuals with a different skin color, religion, or even gender. Who's on your personal list of "untouchables"?
Before you get to heaven, banish any internal caste system that's preventing you from opening your hands and your heart to others. Begin with prayer. Ask God to bring situations into your life that will allow you to get close enough to reach out and "touch" an untouchable. You may feel uncomfortable at first. You may even feel like a hypocrite, that your actions are not sincere. But the desire to do the right thing can be a genuine motivation for love. The more you put your love into action, the easier it will be to see how God has woven His image into each and every person, making it impossible for anyone to ever be an "untouchable."
*5. Dance with Abandon *
Polka, samba, hip-hop, salsa, waltz... or just put on some music and get your body moving to the beat. Dancing is fun, freeing, and good for your health. While you can learn plenty of formal steps, simply getting into the habit of being able to respond to music in a physical way is something worth doing before you get to heaven. After all, there likely will be plenty of dancing there. In the same way that David danced before God to express his joy and gratitude (2 Sam. 6:14), you'll get your chance to dance with abandon before the Lord in heaven. Why not get into the habit here and now?
*6. Refuse to Retire *
Just because you retire from your job doesn't mean you have to retire from life. One way to keep going and growing is to pour yourself into someone else. Become a mentor. Share your woodworking skills with the kid on the corner. Meet with a young mom who could use your years of parenting experience to help her survive her daughter's "terrible twos." Volunteer to be a Big Sister or Big Brother. No matter what stage of life you're in, others could benefit from your experience. Ask God to lead you to someone who needs what you know. Then simply be a friend with a focus. Share what you've learned. Listen as much as you talk. Ask questions. Encourage. Stay open to God's surprises, and you may learn as much as you teach.
*7. Change Churches for One Sunday *
Before you get to heaven, it's a good idea to get to know a few of your future neighbors. Not the ones you usually hang around with, but the ones who are different from you. The ones whose worship services are too contemporary or too traditional, too loud or too staid, too charismatic or not charismatic enough. These neighbors may live in a different part of town, dress in a different style, speak a different language, or have a different skin color than you do---but you're going to be worshiping side by side with them one day in heaven. And on that day, no one's going to be debating denominational differences.
Until that time, catch a glimpse of heaven by visiting a different church some Sunday. Choose one that is a different denomination from your own. Then, walk into the service with an open mind and an open heart. People may welcome you warmly---or not. How they respond to you is irrelevant. Your example of spending one Sunday expanding the borders of your church "box" may encourage others to do the same. Focus on what you have in common instead of on what sets you apart. Take a risk, and you may learn something new about God, worship, and the beauty of the place all of Christ's followers will someday call home.
*8. Select a Life Verse *
The Bible is filled with great verses. Verses that challenge, convict, encourage, and ultimately draw us closer to God. While being consistent in reading the whole of Scripture is important, applying what you learn is even more so. One way to do that is to take God's Word to heart. That means getting intimate with a portion of Scripture by studying it, memorizing it, turning it over in your mind, and putting what you learn into practice. It means weighing your life against God's truth.
Choosing a life verse can help you do that. Think of it as a mission statement for your life. What do you see as God's primary purpose for your life? It may be to love others as you love yourself, to proclaim God's message through every aspect of your life, or to serve God by serving others. It's true that God asks you to do all these things, but what one area does God want you to become an "expert" in? What characteristic does your heart cry out most deeply for? Mercy? Purity? Truth? Humility? Find a verse that captures your most heartfelt cry to God.
Finding that verse may take some time. As you read through the Bible, write down every verse that summarizes the kind of person you want to be. Live with each verse for a while. Think about it as you go through your day. Ask God to help you apply it in life-changing ways. After a while, you'll find one that strongly resonates with you. Use it as a flashlight during dark times, a scale to weigh who you are against who you long to be, and a promise of what God can do as you wholly lean on Him.
*9. Bake Bread from Scratch*
Here's something that sounds like a waste of time and energy. Instead of going to the grocery store, visiting your favorite bakery, or using your own handy-dandy bread maker, make a loaf of bread from scratch. Knead it. Let it rise. Then, bake it until it's golden brown.
Why, you might ask, should you go to all the trouble? After all, the task not only promises to be time-consuming and dirty-dish inducing, it doesn't even save you money. However, the truth is that when you make a loaf of bread, your level of gratitude has a chance to rise along with the dough. While you're mixing and measuring, consider how much it took just to get that flour to your mixing bowl. Grain had to be planted, watered, harvested, ground, packaged, and delivered to market. Consider all those who help bring clean water to your tap, and electricity or gas to your stove. Soon you realize that having the ingredients and tools to make a simple sandwich involves a major group effort.
If this is your first loaf of homemade bread, success isn't guaranteed. Getting the yeast to rise correctly can be a tricky business. But whether your bread rises or falls, browns or burns, cut yourself a slice after it cools. Sit down and eat it with God. Thank Him for the gift He's given you of community, even with those you may never meet. Thank Him for His daily provision. Ask Him to help you be heartfelt and sincere before every meal when you ask His blessing on your daily bread.
*10. Refuse to Act Your Age *
Your age is just a number. It's a label to help you keep track of time. Sure, it's true that your age can act as a sort of warning system, like a ten-minute buzzer reminding players that the end of a game is near. But it's just a reminder that every day takes you one step closer toward heaven. It's a cue to make the most of the days that lie ahead.
Focus more on the benefits of getting older than on the difficulties. Cherish the wisdom, discipline, and great memories that can be gained only through living long and well. Recognize the measure of a friendship or marriage that spans decades. Rest in the comfort of knowing that God will see you through the hard times just as He has always done in the past. Don't let a number bring you down. Let it spur you on toward making the most of every moment that lies between you and heaven.
/Adapted from 101 Things You Should Do Before Going to Heaven. 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC. Used by permission of Warner Faith, a division of the Time Warner Book Group./