The Religious Freedom Rally For Jack Phillips

Neal Pollard

It was my privilege to be in attendance at the “Religious Freedom Rally for Jack Phillips,” held on the campus of Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Colorado. If you do not know, Jack Phillips is the owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop, a business he opened and has operated since 1993. Because he refused to decorate a cake for a same sex couple, Phillips was sued. His case has gone through the various court systems and will be heard before the United States Supreme Court on December 5, 2017.

While the Event Center where it was held was not packed and overflowing, there were hundreds present. I met and walked in with a young man and woman from Sweden, who came to the United States primarily to cover this event for a Christian Magazine in their country. The rally’s speakers included the head of Catholic Charities, the managing director of Jewish values, a state senator, a congressman, part of Phillips’ legal team, university officials, Barronelle Stutzman (the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington, who was sued by Robert Ingersoll because she refused, out of conscience, to make a floral arrangement for the same-sex wedding of Ingersoll and Curt Freed), and others.  There were many poignant moments and memorable quotes. A team member from the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing Phillips, said, “America did not give us freedom of religion. Freedom of religion gave us America.” Mrs. Stutzman still does not know if her case will be heard by the SCOTUS, and she stands to lose everything financially. Yet, she was gentle, meek, and soft-spoken, though obviously full of conviction. The tone was cordial and respectful, from every speaker to everyone in attendance. The rabbi, Yaakov Menken, said, after talking about ancient, longstanding forms of “political correctness,” that “what is new and profoundly disturbing is the use of civil rights to trample civil rights.” Last of all, Jack himself spoke. It was understated, almost matter-of-fact. He spoke eloquently and simply about the importance of our being able to act in accordance with consciences shaped by Scripture. Everyone spoke of the importance of believing and behaving in accordance with convictions that are dear because they are true.

Today was a stark reminder of the reality of forces who are actively assaulting faith in God and His Word. These are willing to do whatever they can to prevent us from doing what God has commanded us to do—share the pure, unaltered will of the One who gave us life and saved us from our sins. They are not bound by biblical ethics, so they will deceive, distort, manipulate, bully, attack, suppress, and fight divine truth. We are bound by a higher law, but truth, kindness, mercy, and love, as taught by God, will prevail. If not now, if not under our government and institutions, then undeniably at the very end of all things. Don’t lose heart. Whatever else you may lose at the hands of those described by Jesus in Matthew 5:44ff, some things cannot be taken away from us! Hold onto to those things.

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Religious Freedom Rally For Jack Phillips

What To Do When Faced With A Sinking Ship

Neal Pollard

The ship is breaking apart. The timbers of civility. Crack! The planks of morality. Splinter!  The mast of critical thinking. Pop! As we hope to stay afloat, we cannot help but feel growing apprehension over the current state of our society. It’s not a matter of preserving or plastering over a past. It’s a matter of preserving peace in the present, but only if that means God’s people are serious about sharing the only possible remedy–Jesus! Yet, as it increasingly seems our country is ratcheted by prejudice, hatred, division, and rancor, we see the tranquility and calm from so many quarters threatened with the dark storms of violence and uncertainty.

In Acts 27, Paul was with 275 other passengers on a boat bound for Rome from Caesarea, and its captain decided to test the Mediterranean Sea at a turbulent time. A violent storm, known as Euraquilo, caught the ship and ultimately battered it to pieces. It must have been an apprehensive time for the passengers and crew. Luke says the wind was violent, the ship was driven, the sun and moon didn’t appear for days, violently storm-tossed, they incurred damage and loss, and that all hope of their being saved was gradually abandoned. I cannot imagine the helpless, vulnerable feeling they must have felt. At least not literally.

It would be easy to let our national unrest and storminess tempt us to act irrationally (like some on Paul’s ship were tempted) or to give in to fear. But, Paul did five things we should do as we try to respond to the current turbulence.

  • He listened to God (Acts 27:23-24). Nobody else had a better or equal solution to their dire problem. The only way to be saved was to listen to God. Paul sought to persuade the people of this. In the ruckus and tumultuous noise, listen harder to God’s Word! It’s an anchor in stormy waters.
  • He believed God’s Word (Acts 27:25). It’s one thing to comprehend something, but quite another to put your trust in it. What God promised must have seemed quite far-fetched, that this way would save everyone. But, Paul didn’t waver. He said, “I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told” (25). We are surrounded by people who need to witness our faith. As many as are persuaded will escape a shipwreck of faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:19).
  • He encouraged hope (Acts 27:21-26). Despite the foolishness of their leaders, these people were given a message of hope. Paul says, “Keep up your courage!” (22,25). Despite the frightfulness of the moment, Paul offered a possible escape. Right now, you and I are uniquely positioned to give the only true hope available. It’s like an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19)!
  • He warned the disobedient (Acts 27:31-32). There were those trying to break from God’s Word and will and do things another way. They were trying to take matters into their own hands. Paul spoke up against this! Such was defiance against the divine plan. What a message for us, who justify their sins rather than repent of them. We need to keep the message of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come before people (Acts 24:25).
  • He prayed faithfully (Acts 27:35). In this ordeal, Paul was a public example of prayer. Read every epistle of Paul’s and you’ll see his faithfulness in and dependency upon prayer. He appealed to the God he knew was the only hope for salvation. How much are we praying about the turmoil in our country (and world)? How much do those around us believe that we are dependent upon God?

Instead of focusing on the frightful winds currently blowing, let’s focus on the One who can calm the storm. Let’s get others to join us in that focus. Whatever happens to our nation, we must save as many souls as possible!

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Do You Believe In Goats?

Neal Pollard

With the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908, which year was near the end of Teddy Roosevelt’s second presidential term when there were only 46 United States and the first that Mother’s Day was celebrated in America, diehard fans believe a World War II-era “curse” has been lifted. Chicago tavern owner, Billy Sianis, “put” the curse on the Cubs when he and his goat were asked to leave game four of the 1945 World Series against the Tigers (imagine a goat even getting into a Major League park today). Fans point to strange, “inexplicable” events through time—most famously Steve Bartman in 2003—to support the “fact” of that curse (see more here: http://www.billygoattavern.com/legend/curse/).

For most of us, this is a fun and playful distraction that makes sports, particularly baseball, that much more fun. Superstition is a nuance that shows up in so many places: pitchers stepping over the foul line going back to the dugout, players not washing and re-wearing underclothes and uniforms, pre-game and post-game meals, etc. I would guess precious few actually believe there is real power in these rituals (on a personal note, my continuous practice of having to wake up wearing UGA apparel on football game days—begun in 1980—was once and for all broken in the midst of a bad 2016 season).

All joking aside, goats get negative attention in a place much more important than Wrigley Field. In Scripture, Jesus, in the last of five parables of preparation in Matthew 24-25, likens the lost to goats (Mat. 25:32-33). Commentators tell us that “their normal dirty state, it might even have been considered wise to leave it to the skilled shepherd to distinguish with confidence the sheep from the goats” (Nolland, NIGTC, np). In fact, throughout the Old Testament, sheep and goats were mostly interchangeable for milk, meat, sacrifice, and general use (ibid.). But, for the purpose of Judgment, Jesus is skillful and discerning enough to know with perfect discernment whether every individual is “goat” or “sheep.” No one is inadvertently mislabeled or misplaced. He will perfectly divide the saved from the lost.  Placement at Judgment will not be influenced by looks, wealth, popularity, education, or any other criteria the world embraces as success. Jesus tells us who both the goat and sheep are (Mat. 25:31-46).

Billy’s goat was not responsible for a “Cubs curse.” Yet, we should understand in a day when the world and even the religious are less inclined to label any activity goat-like, i.e., soul-condemning, Scripture makes it clear that Jesus has not lost any such ability to discern. In fact, He tells us most will be placed in the goat column (cf. Mat. 7:13-14). Let us love and respect God’s Word enough to avoid the curse He came to undo (Gal. 3:13; Rev. 22:3).

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DIVIDING OVER POLITICS

Neal Pollard

“Rancor” is synonymous with hostility, bitterness, spite, and vitriol. In Ephesians 4:31, Paul warns the Christian against “bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander [and] malice.” While it didn’t seem possible that this election cycle could produce more heat and saber-rattling than the last couple, it has already exceeded it. It is almost painful to watch the cable news networks, but we should expect the world to behave like the world. Yet, when I see brethren so vehemently defending their candidate and excoriating those who disagree with them, I am truly disheartened. Social media continues to pour gasoline on this already potent fire.

I try to imagine the apostles and early Christians, were they to have such an outlet, tying into one another and beating their chest as they debated each other over the merits of Claudius over Nero, devoting so much time arguing their points about which candidate would better favor the cause of Christianity.  Inspired writers had every opportunity to show such a participation and bias, but they are conspicuously silent. While I do not agree with the extreme that David Lipscomb took in his book On Civil Government, can we not, if we are not careful, veer toward the other extreme through blind allegiance to rulers who, when dispassionately and objectively viewed, honor and demonstrate evil over godliness? Whether it is foul language, deceit and dishonesty, and glorifying sexual immorality (a la Playboy!) or lying, pro-abortion, and criminal behavior, I am baffled as to why a Christian should get so invested in one candidate or exorcised at the other.  May we never prioritize America over our dear brotherhood or our heavenly goal. We gauge that priority by our thoughts, speech, attitude, and actions regardless of what we claim.

As a husband and father for whom the prospect of grandchildren may not be many years hence, I grasp with such personal investment the gravity of this year’s election and the current world situation. Yet, I can let the fear of that eclipse the infinitely bigger picture. What a glorious day it would be if we could steer our consuming passion toward Jesus and the mission He left us!

You may have a decided leaning toward the Republican or Democratic offering in this year’s election. Given this year’s choice, I don’t believe you can cling to either without your hands being very dirty. That being said, may we all be prayerful and imminently restrained in our interchange especially with our brethren and before the eyes of the world. Our unity in truth, our common mission, and our Christian example are eternally more important than politics. Period!

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Ready For A Trivia Quiz?

Neal Pollard

Here are the rules: Don’t use any resources to look up these answers.  This is a quiz to test your knowledge.

  1. What is Mark Zuckerberg best known for co-founding?
  2. How many regular season games are there in an NFL, MLB, and NBA season?
  3. What is the name of Apple’s media library, media player, and mobile device management application?
  4. What is Ree Drummond’s famous nickname?
  5. Captain America, The Hulk, and Iron Man are all part of a group of superheroes better known by what name?
  6. Which online social networking service restricts users to 140 characters or less?
  7. What is the name of the author of 50 Shades Of Grey?
  8. Name three different, major cell phone service providers.
  9. What is the name of the ABC television series that pairs professional dancers with celebrities who compete against each other?
  10. What is the name of the video-sharing website whose logo is a redbox with a play button symbol in the middle of it?
  11. What is the brand name of Wal-Mart’s generic line of food products called?
  12. What is the name of the website where users can upload, save, sort, and manage images (“pins”) and other media content in collections called “pinboards”?
  13. What upbeat 2013 song by Pharrell Williams lost its Oscar bid to the song “Let It Go”?
  14. What movie did the song “Let It Go” famously appear in?
  15. Name two major cable news networks.

Hopefully that was fun.  How did you do?

If you got 12-15 right, you are fluent in current culture.
If you got 8-11 right, you are passable in current culture.
If you got 4-7 right, you are possibly living on an Amish farm or serving a stint in solitary confinement.
If you got less than 4 right, you may not have a pulse.

(Note: measurements are strictly facetious and unscientific).

Now for a second quiz:

  1. In what Bible book is it said, “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out”?
  2. What was King David’s father’s name?
  3. Name two sons of Jochebed.
  4. Joel, Haggai, and Hosea are all books of the Bible from what literary genre?
  5. What was the name of the hometown of the apostle Paul? What was the name of his famous teacher?
  6. What two men were considered to replace the apostle Judas and which one did God select?
  7. What was the name of the town where Jesus was born?
  8. On what island was the apostle John exiled?
  9. Name two righteous kings of Judah.
  10. What were the names of the rivers Naaman preferred over the muddy Jordan River?
  11. Name the books of the Bible commonly referred to as “the gospels.”
  12. What is another name for the deliverers of Israel whose ranks included Othniel, Tola, and Ibzan?
  13. Who penned the words, “Pride goes before destruction”?
  14. What Jewish sect who opposed Jesus also did not believe in the resurrection?
  15. Who penned the book of Acts?

How did you do on that test?  We absorb so much of the culture because it surrounds us and demands our attention. We see it, hear it, and are in so many ways surrounded by it. The Bible is something we must be intentional about. We must go to it and spend time in it.  When we do, we’ll grow in more than mere knowledge (cf. 2 Pet. 3:18).  We’ll be nourished (1 Tim. 4:6), delighted (Ps. 1:2), enlivened (Ph. 2:16), protected (Ps. 119:11), revived (Ps. 119:25), and sanctified (Jn. 17:17).  We’re not trying to win a trivia contest.  We’re trying to overcome the world and go to heaven.  Bible reading, studying, and meditation is key to that!  Spend some time in The Word today and every day!

Answers To The First Quiz:

  1. Facebook
  2. 16, 162, and 82
  3. iTunes
  4. “The Pioneer Woman”
  5. “The Avengers”
  6. Twitter
  7. E.L. James
  8. Sprint, AT&T, TMobile, Verizon, etc.
  9. “Dancing With The Stars”
  10. YouTube
  11. Great Value
  12. Pinterest
  13. “Happy” or “Happiness Is The Truth”
  14. Frozen
  15. CNN, Fox News, MSNBC

Answers To The Second Quiz:

  1. 1 Timothy (6:7)
  2. Jesse
  3. Moses and Aaron
  4. Prophecy (particularly, “Minor Prophets”)
  5. Tarsus; Gamaliel
  6. Matthias and Barsabbas; Matthias
  7. Bethlehem
  8. Patmos
  9. Hezekiah, Josiah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, etc.
  10. Abanah and Pharpar
  11. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  12. Judges
  13. Solomon
  14. Sadducees
  15. Luke

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Gay Marriage, Miley Cyrus, Clive Bundy, School Shootings

 

Neal Pollard

The internet is such a great search tool.  Many, including Christians, use it on a daily basis to be informed, inspired, and intrigued. Yet, it seems to me in the years I have been blogging, and especially in the last year or two, that so many are most interested in provocative and salacious ideas.  Perhaps it is the same morbid curiosity that makes us rubberneck when driving past a wreck on the highway.  Yet, the metrics that indicates searches on my blog show a much greater interest in the political and social latest trends and topics than articles that are more straightforwardly biblical or doctrinal (i.e., grace, the judgment, worship, etc.).

Why are we so intrigued with marathon bombings, LGBT, missing airplanes, national tragedies, outrageous and outlandish behavior from athletes and celebrities, second amendment and other political and governmental topics, hot-button-issues in our brotherhood, or controversial topics?  Certainly, as we live in this world and particularly western culture, these are daily topics of conversation.  As we immerse ourselves in our technological tools (phones, tablets, computers), these are often the “trending topics.”

In our haste and zeal to slake our thirst for these things, let us be sure to also feed our souls on what will strengthen us and prepare us for the bigger fish we have to fry.  The blessed, righteous man is described as one “whose is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:2).  That in no way means the righteous person is aloof and uninterested in his or her world, current events, and even popular icons of the age.  The key difference is on what he or she meditates upon and delights in.  What thrills and appeals to us more? What do we more actively pursue?

The answers to those questions are dependent upon the individual.  One can be both informed about the world and more interested in the Word.  However, may we each be cautioned about what proper balance is as well as where our greater interest lay.  What draws our attention and attracts us?  Let us be sure it is hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mat. 5:6) more than anything under the sun!

 

BRENDAN EICH: A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE?

Neal Pollard

Sometimes the ones who cry for tolerance and acceptance can be most lacking in the qualities themselves.  Surprisingly little has been said in outcry against the forced resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich on April 3, 2014. Eich not only co-founded Mozilla, he also invented the programming language Javascript (www.huffingtonpost.com). He had proven his professional aptitude to hold this position.

Before being forced out as CEO, Eich had stated in an interview with technology news service Cnet, “I don’t think it’s good for my integrity or Mozilla’s integrity to be pressured into changing a position. If Mozilla became more exclusive and required more litmus tests, I think that would be a mistake that would lead to a much smaller Mozilla, a much more fragmented Mozilla” (Foxnews.com). He also told them, “If Mozilla cannot continue to operate according to its principles of inclusiveness, where you can work on the mission no matter what your background or other beliefs, I think we’ll probably fail” (ibid.).  He was referring to his widely known opposition to same sex marriage and more specifically a $1000 donation to the campaign to support Proposition 8 in California back in 2008.  This proposition, which over 7 million fellow-Californians voted for and which passed, was a state constitutional amendment to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry.  It was overturned by the Supreme Court last year.

It raises the question of what homosexual activists really want.  Is it merely acceptance and validation or forced approval?  If one can lose his job for stating a conviction against that lifestyle, does this suggest a move against the rights of anyone who wishes to articulate belief in the biblical view that homosexuality is a sin?  Could this foreshadow a time when those in churches preaching against the practice of homosexuality could lose their property, freedom, or worse?

On November 9-10, 1938, German stormtroopers and non-Jewish civilians, under pretense of an assassination in Paris of a German diplomat by a Jew, led an organized effort against the Jews in an event that came to be known as Kritallnacht or “The Night Of Broken Glass.” The official United States Holocaust Memorial Museum writes,

The rioters destroyed hundreds of synagogues, many of them burned in full view of firefighters and the German public and looted more than 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses and other commercial establishments. Jewish cemeteries became a particular object of desecration in many regions. Almost 100 Jewish residents in Germany lost their lives in the violence. In the weeks that followed, the German government promulgated dozens of laws and decrees designed to deprive Jews of their property and of their means of livelihood even as the intensification of government persecution sought to force Jews from public life and force their emigration from the country (http://www.ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1933-1938/kristallnacht).

It has been said that in our supposed age of tolerance people have the right to say and do just about anything.  Just about any fringe group can hold the most outlandish views and do so publicly.  It is unacceptable to discriminate against one for almost any reason.  However, the right to stand upon Christian principles, originating in Scripture, is eroding. To discriminate against Christian beliefs is growing in acceptance.  That’s not meant as alarmism or as an expression of a martyr complex.  But, reading the New Testament, we know that Christians faced persecution simply for believing and sharing God’s Word.  May God ever give us the courage and willingness to stand upon the rock solid foundation of Scripture.  No matter what.

The Shocking Truth Of The Alligator That Bit The Electric Eel

 

Neal Pollard

All puns aside, the event really happened in the Amazon back in 2010 and was captured on You Tube.  An unidentified Brazilian fisherman documents the rare, extraordinary event.  The electric eel can generate up to 600 volts of electricity.  A hungry caiman with a fatal appetite found this out too late to let go and live.  The best reports indicate that both creatures, intended predator and potential prey, lost their lives in the interaction (www.telegraph.co.uk).

While the fisherman had caught the eel and had gone to get a knife to cut the line, the caiman saw the eel thrashing and could not resist trying to make a meal of it.  Animals are instinctive creatures and thus such intellectual and emotional responses as lust, malice and forethought, or hostility did not drive its decision to dine.  Nevertheless, it was still a fatal food choice!

Think about the instances where we can get into even more serious, spiritual trouble than the aforementioned reptile.

  • The allure for a married person to have an affair or an unmarried person to have an illicit sexual encounter or relationship.
  • The decision to get drunk or high.
  • Provoked by the words or actions of another, unloading on the provoker with sinful anger expressed by ungodly words and/or actions.
  • Exacting revenge on someone, thinking it will be “sweet” and not “bitter.”
  • Sending that angry email without deliberating, praying, or consulting a trusted friend first.

Really, any impulsive reactionary word or act can create ramifications we cannot predict or anticipate.  So many, in a momentary heat of passion, have created longterm headaches and heartaches.  Before we give in to temptation, we need to give due thought to the consequences all the while appreciating that we cannot foresee them all or the extent of them.  Eve was the first to fail to do this (Gen. 3:6), but she was far from the last.  May we pray for and pursue the wisdom to mull before we munch!

 

The Truly Amazing Kwasi Enin

 

Neal Pollard

How often does the college application process for a single student make the front page of a national paper like USA Today?  It happened on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.  The feature centered around the academic ambitions of a Shirley, New York, Senior, whose academic future would seem secure and assumably provided for.  He made history when last week he opened an acceptance letter from Harvard University.  That alone is impressive, but that letter made it complete. Every single one of the eight Ivy League colleges formally accepted Kwasi Enin as a student.  It is amazing that Kwasi would apply to all of them, and almost unheard of to be “invited to attend them all” (Greg Toppo, 1 A, 4/1/14).   His guidance counselor said, “It’s a big deal when we have students apply to one or two Ivies. To get into one or two is huge. It was extraordinary” (ibid.).

So maybe our congregation does not have any academic prodigies like Kwasi Enin.  With all due and considerable respect, we have something even better.  We have a large repository of talent and spirituality in our midst among our youth and teens.  Their dreams are endless.  They dare to do great things, ask friends to services, stand up for their faith, share profound spiritual thoughts, and much more that we, as adults, find jaw-dropping.  They reach for the sky because they are too young to be bothered with such mole hills as worry, fear, and limitation!  They believe they can change the world and make it a better place and their faith in Christ can put some of ours to shame.

When Paul tells Timothy to let no one look down on him because he is young (1 Tim. 4:12), he is speaking to us, too.  Our youth have growing and maturing to do.  They will accrue wisdom and experience in the process of time.  But, may we help nurture their enthusiasm and stoke their optimism.  They need to keep it.  We need them to keep it.  With dark days ahead, we will depend on the faith and valiant efforts of today’s youth!  May we recognize how truly amazing they are and help them see how important they are to God’s work.

 

Heaven Really IS For Real

Neal Pollard
While so many in religion and even the media latch onto sensational tales of traveling to the “other side” and coming back with stories about heaven (they do not ordinarily wind up going the other direction), these individuals often claim (necessarily without proof) to have seen or heard things from God, Christ, and other heavenly inhabitants. Sadly, much of what they claim to have experienced is at odds with or even contradicts what God communicated to us through His Word. Despite the high-drama and mystical tales, these undoubtedly sincere folks are right about something incredibly important. Heaven IS for real!

The Bible describes it (Rev. 21-22). Jesus is preparing it (John 14:1-4). The Father lives there (Mat. 5:16; etc.). Those who travel the “narrow road” (Mat. 7:13-14) and are faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10) are going to be allowed to dwell there forever (cf. Ps. 23:6; Mat. 25:46; 1 Th. 4:13ff). The Bible communicates that it is a place reserved for those who believe and obey the will of God (2 Th. 1:5ff). It is not for those who refuse to submit to His authority (Gal. 5:19-21; etc.).

Heaven is described as a place where treasure is (Luke 18:22). It is described as a place where our citizenship can be (Phi. 3:20). It is a place where our hope can be laid up (Col. 1:5). It is a place where our name can be reserved (Heb. 12:23). It is a place where we can have an inheritance (1 Pe. 1:4). It is a place described as that which will be new (Rev. 21:1).

I suppose it is human nature for us to want to have blanks filled in and details more fully supplied. That’s why claims of going to heaven and back have long captivated people. Perhaps it strikes the chords of our hearts and imagination more than words, howbeit Divine words, on a page. Yet, those words produce living hope to those who are staking everything on the truth of those words (1 Pe. 1:3). They are neither fairy tales nor wisps of wishes. God has given us enough to know, as we measure the claims alongside His providence and answered prayers, that His Word can be trusted. We don’t have the full picture yet, but we know it will be more glorious and joyous than we are able to understand in this body confined by time. Thank God that Heaven really is for real!