My subject is "Heaven is Like a Tree House."
And please don't think I'm being funny or trite. I've got good reason for saying what I'm going to say. So bear with me.
"Let not your hearts be troubled—Ye believe in God. Believe also in me, In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:1).
What are the ingredients of a tree house? Well, in the first place, there's gotta be a tree ... a big tree with strong branches ... a climbable tree. Secondly, there's gotta be kids ... kids with a vision ... kids who want a tree house. That's about all it takes, but not quite all. Trees and kids need a dad who cares, who has the strength and know how, who can supply the materials, who can coordinate the effort. So let's make it three basic ingredients ... a tree... kids... and a father who cares. That's all you need for a tree house!
Heaven is like a tree house.
First, there's got to be a heaven. No heaven, no house. That's where FAITH comes in. Pity the kids who grow up never having been told there's a place called heaven. Who have no idea of the potential heaven presents.
Then, the next ingredient is the children, the ones who believe, the ones who see the possibilities, the ones who dream of a dwelling place. That's where HOPE comes in.
But to put it all together and to make the dream come true, there's got to be a loving Father who cares, who will supply the need, who will prepare the place, who will draw the children together in common cause. And that's where LOVE comes in.
Faith, Hope, and Love ... these are the ingredients of a tree house; these are the ingredients of heaven!
I'm talking to leaders of children, and I'm appealing to you to make a dream come true, to instill in our children a faith that is basic, a faith that inspires hope, a faith that sees the potential, a faith that lifts our kids from the treeless desert of a "this life only" attitude to the fact of heaven, to the dwelling place of eternal realities and possibilities.
Only when the fact of heaven takes on excitement in the minds of our children will they begin to hope and to plan, only then will they begin to talk about its glories and dialogue with Dad about making the dream come true. Given faith and the hope that follows ... life can be a succession of planning, participating, and final realization that spells an ongoing fellowship and joyous interaction that is the very character of heaven.
I have chosen the title "Heaven is Like a Tree House" because of an experience I had in Africa that taught me much about the source of joy and the character of heaven.
Our children all attended boarding schools which meant that the few weeks during the year, when they were home, was something very special. We made every moment count. We never laid aside our work. That would have said the wrong thing to them. It would have said happiness can be had apart from doing God's will. So rather than set aside our ministry, we included our kids in our plans and they learned to enjoy doing God's will with us.
But we did have time to play. And play we did. We took trips, we played games, we hunted, we read, we sang, we ate, we had swings, high jump poles, sand boxes, you name it, we had it. We even made a "fu-fi" slide. You don't know what a "fu-fi" slide is?
Well, this is how you make it.
Tie a heavy wire to the top of a tall tree, anchor it tight from the tree top to a stake driven down in the ground fifty or sixty feet out from the tree. Put a pulley on it with a handle you can hang on to. Pull the pulley with you as you climb to the top of the tree, grab the handle tight, holler, "Watch out below," and then swing out from the tree top on a rapid descent to the ground. But don't let go, because there's no one and nothing below to catch you. And try to land on your feet 'cause other parts of your body can become pretty bruised if you don't learn to ride a "fu-fi" slide properly!
But the most memorable of our adventures was the building of the tree house in the huge old "Kachere" tree just to the west of our big mud house. Its huge branches and easy access were an invitation to an architectural adventure, and we had all the ingredients ... a tree, kids, and a caring dad. You've probably never thought of faith, hope, and love as a tree, kids, and a dad, but that was one of the things I learned during that endeavor. Let me share some of my thoughts; it might help as we work with our kids to instill basic values in their lives.
I grew up in a home where heaven was never in doubt.
At our house, heaven was a fact... like the sub-zero winters in North Dakota were a fact, like doing chores morning and night was a fact, like going to church every Sunday morning was a fact, like freshly baked bread just out of Mom's oven liberally spread with butter and peanut butter was the best eating in the world was a fact, like hearing Dad pray at the oven door in the early morning while the house heated up was a fact, like morning devotions was a fact, like the Sunday afternoon Bible studies with the Brandts and the Kesslers were a fact, like the priority of God's will and God's kingdom in the minds of my parents was a fact. There was never a doubt. It was a part of my very real world, a shaper of my life ... not a fantasy, not debatable, not a figment of imagination, but real, so real that it never entered my head to doubt. As sure as there are trees, so sure was the fact of heaven to me.
I have watched with dismay the erosion of faith in our homes, in our schools, and even in some churches.
The confidence of our kids is being shaken. Seeds of doubt are being planted with devastating regularity in classrooms, over TV, and by parents who themselves have allowed doubt to creep in. It seems that every child these days goes through a doubting period. For them, heaven is a question mark. Life is a desert. Life is a treeless plain. Life is empty and meaningless. Life has nothing to build on ... nothing beyond to excite or anticipate. Faith has gone out of it. Only programs like BGMC that surround our kids with truth and the reality of God's existence and God's purpose can hold them steady when floundering fools in the form of educators and news commentators say, "You yourself are the judge of what is right and wrong ... there is no God to whom you will have to give an account."
Those "buddy barrels" hold more than pennies.
They are the depositories of faith, and every parent that believes in heaven is reinforcing the faith of the child who participates. Every time a penny goes in it shouts back, "Believe, Believe." Without faith it is impossible to please God, and we dare not sit idly by and leave the choice as to whether to believe up to our children. We must surround them with faith, we must make heaven apart of home conversation. Heaven is real. It's the tree that's there. It's the tree that invites climbing. It's the place of many mansions. Heaven, for your child, starts with faith, and it is your job to make a believer out of him.
But heaven has to be more than doctrine or theory.
It has to be inviting. It has to have potential. It has to be big enough to hold a house and to excite the minds of our children.
But you have to have more than a tree. Heaven is more than a place. It's people! A tree house requires kids. You can't talk about tree houses and not talk about kids. You can't talk about heaven and not talk about kids. "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." In a world that kills their unborn, that limits those who will be bom, that measures happiness by sex, but resents the results of sex, that doesn't want family growth ... it is important that we recognize the Father/family relationship of heaven.
Our Heavenly Father is a family man. He loves and wants children. Spiritual highs with God cannot be had without family in mind. Children must be the intent, if our deep relationships with God are to have satisfying and lasting meaning. Spiritual experience is not an end in itself... it must lead to family and growth. Father and family are an integral part of what heaven is all about.
I remember the days when the kids were away at boarding school. There was the tree. There was the tree house. But there was no activity around the tree. No noisy chatter. No squeals of delight. No bruised elbows or skinned knees. Silence. Macey and I were alone. We had the whole place to ourselves. Nothing out of order. That's not my concept of heaven.
Heaven is like a tree house. Heaven is a noisy place. Heaven is an active place. Heaven is a place of adventure. I'm looking forward to it and I want our kids to look forward to it.
I'll not forget the day we built our tree house in Africa. Talk about excitement. Our kids had brought their friends from boarding school and were looking for something to do. The fact of that big old climbable tree required no faith. It was there, but there for what? For shade, yes. For the tire swing that hung from its branches, yes. For the "fu-fi" slide anchored to its top, yes. For its big branches that invited climbing, yes. It was the center of the play area, but its potential had not been fully tapped, so now anticipation and hope entered in.
A tree house! What fun, what happiness! The thought of it was pure joy. So the kids put their heads together and came up with HOPE. They knew nothing about building. They had no materials with which to build. They hadn't the strength to get the job done. But they had the essential ingredients because the tree was there and wasn't going away. They were there and ready to help. Hope was there because they saw the potential. And best of all, Dad was home, and when you have a tree, and kids, and a loving father, you've got everything you need for a tree house. Faith, hope, and love. Heaven is like a tree house!
So Dad got in on the act, the kids got in on the act, and the old tree willingly received us all.
It was a thing of beauty, big boards, little boards, thick boards, thin boards, canvass, nails, and chatter, chatter, chatter. The future and the fun was all gone over in detail long before the first nail was driven. But there was never a doubt. The tree was there, the kids believed, and Dad promised! It was a "together" job and a "togetherness" is the essence of heaven. So we had heaven on earth before the reality took shape and before we set foot in it. Heaven is like a tree house. You don't have to wait until you get there to experience its joy. Hope gets the juices flowing, hope makes not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. The presence of Dad with a hammer in his hand and the know-how in his head is enough to send a pack of kids into hilarious anticipation.
In closing, let me talk a bit more about love as the third ingredient in my "Heaven is Like a Tree House" presentation.
I cannot over emphasize the character of heaven and how important it is that we parents convey to our children by our conversation, attitude, and lives just what that character is.
Faith, Hope, and Love.
Some people think of heaven as a "receiving" place. We sing ... "a robe of white ... a crown of gold ... a harp ... a home ... a mansion fair ... a victor palm .. . a joy untold are MINE when I get there." In other words, we teach our children that heaven is everything we've ever desired . .. that we endure doing without down here because we are going to get everything we want up there. By so doing, we are teaching the children that happiness is in "having" .. . and we miss the very thing that makes heaven, heaven.
Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Now think of what this means. If the character of heaven is "receiving," then heaven is a blessed place, but it is not "more blessed." The nature of tree house happiness is one of sharing and participation. The joy of heaven has to be that of "giving", of togetherness, of eternal interaction, of the giving of ourselves to each other. Joy is not having what others don't have. Joy is sharing hope, sharing work, sharing planning, sharing the use of the blessings. Heaven is like a tree house. The fun is in doing it together, the fun is the fellowship.
Tree house happiness should start here and now. It starts with a BGMC barrel. It starts with the sure knowledge of a tree .. . with FAITH. It draws us together in common cause and shared anticipation . .. with FAITH. It draws us together in common cause and shared anticipation ... with HOPE. And it continues throughout eternity in the unselfish giving . .. the very essence of LOVE ... the character of heaven. It is a kind of attitude and life that we teach our children now and continues in heaven.
Ah, Sunday school teachers, Pastors and parents, let's get the tree house fever and pass it on to our kids.
Let's get behind every program that builds faith, hope, and love. Let's do it together. Let's make it central to the life of our children. Let the tree be the center of our activity. Let our belief in God, in heaven, and in eternity spill over into our kids' lives. We'll only do it by joining together with them in activities that concern these realities.
Heaven is like a tree house. If you believe in it, if you are excited about it, if you are constantly talking its potential, if it is your first love, if it is the subject of your conversation, then I want to say again, heaven is like a tree house. If you see the tree, the kids will see it. If you recognize its potential the kids will get excited about it. If you love to think and talk about it, the kids will follow your lead.
Above all, remember they can't do it alone, they are looking to you to lead them. A tree, kids, and a loving dad, the three essentials for a tree house. Faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love. The fact of heaven, people who believe, and a Heavenly Father who cares and provides. Heaven is like a tree house.
© 2013 Morris Williams