The Ultimate Journey (30/11/02)
By Dr. Robert H. Schuller
These past weeks I've
been sharing with you stories from my new book released recently.
It's my autobiography which carries a simple title, My
Journey. It is an incredible story because I believe that
my life was a gift. I didn't ask to be born. I was given opportunities
and possibilities that I didn't ask for. And I'm sure that if
you look back on the positive accomplishments
of your life you
will probably come to the same conclusion that I have. At my age
of 75, I think I haven't done anything. I just showed up for work.
I did what I had to do. As someone once said, "It's amazing
what you can do with your life if you just show up."
When I wrote my book
I remembered journeys that I'd forgotten. When I stop to think
of all the trips that I've taken, my goodness, I've had some risky
ones. The scariest trip was in a Russian helicopter over the big
China Wall. I thought we were going to crash. I've traveled in
blimps, in jet airplanes, in the Concord. You name it, I think
I've done it.
One of the riskiest
journeys I ever took was when I was a Middler in seminary. I was
engaged to a girl from Iowa whom I would marry, Arvella, and my
classmate, Warren Heitbrink, was engaged to a girl in South Dakota
and we didn't get to see them except on vacations. And we were
not allowed to ever take a trip off the campus without approval.
Suddenly we were surprised one Friday morning when Dr. John R.
Mulder, the President of the seminary, announced to our class
that there would be no class on Monday because he was leaving
town for a lecture in another state. So we had Monday off. Mondays
were always long studies with Dr. Mulder in his classes. He was
a very, very tough, strict person, very unforgiving. If we were
late he would never tolerate an excuse, and no one ever offered
one. Well, after class that Friday morning, I said to Warren,
"Warren, Dr. Mulder is not going to be here Monday. We could
drive from Michigan to Iowa, get there in time to have a date
... a wonderful weekend ... and get back here before Tuesday morning.
When he returns he will never know we were gone."
I was a possibility
thinker ... and that can get you in trouble! So off we went. We
had a wonderful weekend and we came back late Monday night. We
sat in class Tuesday morning like a couple of young preachers.
We faked it. But then Dr. Mulder looked at me and he said, "Robert
I said, "Yes?"
He just looked at me,
but didn't say anything.
Again I said, "Yes?"
But ignoring me he
picked our warren Heitbrink and said, "Warren Heitbrink?"
Warren said, "Yes,
Again Warren answered,
Now he had our attention!
"Robert Schuller, Warren Heitbrink ... why weren't you in
class here yesterday morning?"
We said, "Well,
you were out of town."
He said, "No,
I was not. My lecture was cancelled. I was here." He said,
"You had no permission to go to Iowa."
I said, "How did
you know we went to Iowa?"
He pointed to our classmate
Chet Droog. "Chet Droog told me."
Ohhhh. We were in trouble.
We were called into his office and I'll never forget his opening
question, "Was it a weekend of unalloyed
enjoyment? What a clever adjective. He had many of them.
A weekend of "unalloyed" enjoyment?
I said, "Oh, yes!"
That was the morning
I was scheduled to give the prayer in the chapel with all the
students and the faculty. Attendance was mandatory. And I, Robert
Schuller, had just been caught into something that impugned me
with guilt. I have to get up and pray the opening prayer. I'll
never forget what I prayed ... "Dear Lord, help us to forgive
those who do something wrong ... and if we've done something wrong
help everybody here to forgive us ..."
That's a true story
from my autobiography My Journey.
As we come to the Christmas
season, I think of all the journeys of the people in the Christmas
story. We know all about the Journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth
to Bethlehem. Then there was the journey of the three wisemen
who followed the star. And there was the journey of the shepherds
who went to the city of Bethlehem to say they'd see the angels.
And, of course, the journey of the angels themselves.
But the Ultimate
Journey of all time was the journey
of Jesus from Heaven to Earth. God's big idea was to put
heaven on earth. Negative people look around and they say life
is hell on earth and for many that's true. But we are followers
of Jesus Christ and believers of the Book, the New Testament,
and we believe that Christmas is God's big move to put Heaven
One of the greatest
clergymen of American history died about 20-30 years ago. I'm
sorry I never had the opportunity to meet him. His name was Sam
Shoemaker. He was Episcopalian. Sam Shoemaker and Norman Vincent
Peale were very close friends. And the two of them were the spiritual
participants that helped Brother Bill put together the Twelve
Step Programs for Alcoholic Anonymous. AA didn't come out of secular
hearts and secular minds. It came out of the hearts and minds
of Norman Vincent Peale and Dr. Samuel Shoemaker.
Well, one of Sam's
greatest sermons that he preached was very dramatic. In fact,
very dramatic for an Anglican or Episcopalian. He told how the
time came in heaven when God called everybody for a special meeting.
And all of the angels were there and all of the departed souls
who were in heaven were present ... and the Son was there. God
said, looking at His Son, "Your time has come. It's time
for You to go." Then God said, "But I want You to know,
You will not go as a grown person, but as a little baby. It won't
be comfortable and beautiful like it is here. You'll be born in
a cow barn. You will not lie on clean napkins and clothes. You
will be lying on straw." God continued, "Jesus, I want
you to go there and just let people discover what I am really
like. Some people think I'm mean ... others think I love to punish
people who do bad things. I don't. I love to forgive people. I'd
forgive everybody if they gave Me a chance. They don't believe
in Me enough to take the forgiveness that I offer. So Jesus, it's
time for you to go."
But you will experience
something you've never experienced here. Here in heaven, all we
experience is glory and honor, but you will experience something
called shame. Naked, they will strip you. You will die between
two criminals. In our time in eternity it will only be like the
blinking of an eye, and then You will come back to life. You will
be resurrected. You'll make your appearances and a new faith will
bloom and blossom in the world that will never, never die. From
that time on, Jesus, you will have left behind You a bit of heaven.
This is our move to put heaven on earth. And it'll stay there
in the hearts of those who follow you. And Son, just give them
all MY love.
Yes, The Ultimate Journey
happened when Heaven came to Earth on Christmas
when Jesus was born.
is God's move to put Heaven on Earth
What is Heaven on Earth?
Heaven on Earth is different things to many people. Heaven on
Earth is when you are crushed with an incredible grief and something
comes back alive inside of you again that we call the Spirit of
Heaven on Earth is
when you are tempted to be doubtful, cynical, skeptical or bitter
and a new Spirit comes in and you turn off the negatives and hang
onto faith again and it works. That's Heaven on Earth.
Probably nothing is
more Heaven on Earth than when you've done something wrong and
you know you're a sinner and you are forgiven. No indictment,
no penalty, no court, no judgment, you're forgiven!
It's been my privilege
in my lifetime to be close friends to two of the greatest psychiatrists,
Viktor Frankl and Carl Menninger ... and also one of the greatest
theologian to live in our time ... Dr. Jurgen Moltmann from Germany.
Dr. Moltmann is known as the Theologian of Hope and we've had
correspondence with each other. I was looking through my letters
before I published my book and I read again this letter from him.
It's a beautiful letter; I share a few of his words with you.
Dr. Moltmann was born
and raised in Germany and when he was a teenager he was drafted
into Hitler's army as a Nazi youth. He writes, "As a teenager
I wore the uniform of a Nazi soldier. I was drafted for battle.
I was geared to kill. I grew up without faith in God. My father
and mother were pure secularists. I had never seen a Bible. When
I left for war, my sister gave me a book of the poems by Faust.
Moltmann writes, "came the hell of the Battle of the Bridge
of Arnheim in Holland where so many people died. I can remember
the horror of it. I can still see the enemy tanks rolling in with
guns blazing and my friend at my side was killed. I, only twenty-four
inches from him, did not suffer a scratch. There were dead people
all around me and I wasn't hurt. I called out, "My God, why?"
Why did I call out to God? I knew nothing about Him. I didn't
believe in Him. I was a secularist, an atheist, I was a brilliant
student in mathematics and physics. My heroes were Einstein and
Heisenberg. I had no respect for a thing called "God."
My dream was to become a great professor like they were. Here
I am alive and around me is death ... death ... death. But here
I am standing. I'm alive.
"The next thing
I know I'm a prisoner of war." He writes, "They shipped
me to Scotland where I saw for the first time in my life pictures
of Auschwitz, the concentration camp. The photos were put up,
but no comments, no words. The other German prisoners with me
said, 'It's all propaganda. Germans wouldn't burn people in ovens.
We all know that. It's all propaganda, that's what it is. Oh,
we may have killed a few but they killed a lot of us in Dresden
too.' And then other pictures were put up. Again, no comments
and no words. Finally, it dawned on us ... it wasn't propaganda.
It was the truth! We Germans had done it! Is that what we were
fighting for? To give Hitler the power to put more people in an
oven? Was that the meaning of my life?"
And Dr. Moltmann writes,
"It was a horror of horrors that I experienced that I'd never
experienced before. Shame ... shame
and humiliation ... nothing could save me from that. It was horrible.
"There was, in
this prison camp, a Scottish chaplain. He didn't speak German
very well but one day he came to me and handed me a book. I really
didn't understand him and he didn't understand me, but I took
the book. It was in German. It was called The
Bible. I'd never seen it before. I began to read the Psalms.
Then I began to read about Jesus. I knew nothing about Jesus.
Then I read how Jesus died on a cross. How in His dying he called
out, 'My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?' And then something
happened in me when I read those words. Jesus could understand
what shame was. He would understand what I was going through.
He could understand shame. I wanted to know more about Him.
"Then I noticed
how the guards in this prison were treating us. They did not add
to our shame. They did not accuse us of our sins or our crimes.
We wore the prisoner's patch on our back but they forgave us.
I could never tell you what that was like. To get forgiveness
when we know we deserve hell eternally. And I was forgiven. Nothing
like that happens in the real world. No. No. But it happened here.
They were forgiving me. And I deserved anything but forgiveness.
"They called themselves
Christians. Then I made a decision. I wanted to be like them.
That was the moment," Dr. Moltmann writes, "when I became
a Christian in my heart. I became interested in the Bible as the
Book of Love and in Jesus Christ. When I asked if I could enroll
in studies of this Book they said, Yes, we have studies,' So I
"Then one day
the climax of it all. The prison guards told us that there were
some young people visiting from The Netherlands. They had come
to witness to us. We all gathered in our prison hall wearing our
prison uniforms when in came these Dutchmen and the first words
they said were, 'We want you to know that we come from Arnheim.'
Ohhh, the horror of that statement. That's where the Battle of
the Bridge took place. That's where my friend was blown apart.
That's where I asked the question, 'Why, God?' Now here they are
from Arnheim. It filled me with terror. They said, 'We know of
the Gestapo terror. We know what you've done to our Jewish friends
in the concentration camps. We know how our bridge was blown up.
We came to tell you that we're going to build a new bridge. You
blew our bridge up, but we're going to build a new one. But we
came to tell you something else. There is a really special new
bridge we're going to build - between your heart and Jesus Christ
and that will be a bridge between your hearts and our hearts.
We forgive you, He forgives us, He is our Lord. He is our Saviour.'
"And at the end
of their testimony." Dr, Moltmann writes, "I, still
a teenager, a Nazi soldier, was really saved. I reached out to
the visitors from the Netherlands and they reached out to me.
They hugged me, I hugged them I forgave me. Now I was totally
saved." Hallelujah. What a journey.
Can you relate to something
in that? Jesus came to bring Heaven on Earth.
When you accept Jesus Christ it is not a religion. It is a new
relationship. Don't call it a religion like Christianity, call
it a friendship that you have with Jesus. That friendship will
carry you through life and into eternity.
Now say with me, "Jesus,
live in me where I work, where I ride, where I drive, what I read,
what I do, how I treat people who treat me good and how I treat
people who treat me badly. O God, Jesus, come into my heart, be
my Saviour and make me a little part of Heaven
Merry Christmas! Amen.