#197 (04/09/05)
The Ultimate Journey

The Message

By: Robert H. Schuller

Special Guest

Keith Black
He was 17 years old when he won the Westinghouse Award in science. He was born and raised in a family where he can tell you, his father was a prominent educator in a segregated school in Alabama. And so they had to take him to Tuskegee where there was the only hospital where black women could deliver babies. He is now one of the world's most talented brain surgeons known for working with the most difficult brain tumors. Dr. Keith Black, along with only a handful of other, averages more than 250 such operations a year. That's an average of 5 every week. And his patients come not only from the United States, but from around the world.

Special Music

"Joyful, Joyful…"
"In Heavenly Love Abiding"

"Great and Glorious" by Cathedral Choir
"All Creatures of Our God and King" by Dick & Mel Tunney
"Veloce" Flute Solo by Gregory Jefferson

The Message

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 Schuller?"

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, sir?"

"Warren Heitbrink."

Again Warren answered, "Yes?"

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.

THE Ultimate 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 on Earth.

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.

Christmas 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 God.

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.

"Then," Dr. 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 did.

"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 on Earth"

Merry Christmas! Amen.

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