Just Imagine

I saw the movie, “I Can Only Imagine” the other night. It’s a great biographical story about salvation and forgiveness. Writing movie reviews is not my thing, but I highly recommend this movie.

After seeing the movie, I began thinking about the title of the song and the movie, “I Can Only Imagine. Bart Millard, the man who wrote the song and the one that the movie is about, was imagining his dad in heaven as he was writing the song.

I started thinking about the imagination, especially when it comes to heaven and eternity.

What is the imagination?

(It’s) “the ability to form a mental image of something that is not perceived through the five senses. It is the ability of the mind to build mental scenes…”

The imaginary realm is not just the stuff of kids; for good or for evil, our imagination is a powerful force. For Christians, the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2) also refocuses our imagination and we begin to see God’s vision for man and the whole of His creation.

Being wheelchair-bound, hooked up to a pump that feeds me, and not being able to speak for the last 20+ years, I use my imagination much more than I did before ALS invaded my life. Even my vacations are imaginary, lived out vicariously through family and friends, or through Rick Steves on PBS.

Before making a commitment to follow Christ at the age of twenty-three, the rare times I even thought about heaven, the picture in my mind was bleak. Back then, I wasn’t sure that I even believed in heaven. But, to the extent that my spiritually confused mind could imagine a heaven, I pictured it as an ethereal place where disembodied spirits were floating around aimlessly.

Can I sign you up? No thanks.

After making a commitment to follow Christ, I, like all Christians (I hope), began reading the Bible regularly and a much different picture of heaven, the true picture of heaven, was formed in my reborn imagination.

Just imagine this exciting place – a very real place:

Disembodied spirits floating around aimlessly? No way!

Don’t believe most of what well-meaning people tell you at the funeral of a loved one; God did not “need another angel. But, Jesus tells us that we will “be like the angels.” And, we’ll be (physically) like Jesus Himself after He was resurrected from the dead (Matthew 22:30 & 1 John 3:2).

What were the bodies of the angels like when they visited earth? And, what was Jesus’s body like when He appeared to more than five hundred people after His resurrection?

If you said they looked like men, you’re right.

The Bible tells us that we wouldn’t know the difference between men and angels even if they were our house guests (Hebrews 13:2). (I suspect that I’ve been married to an angel for 32 years).

Just imagine a body that defies the laws of physics. A body that can appear and disappear in a blink of the eye, but a body that can eat real food and drink wine (Luke 24:36-43 & Mark 14:25). I’ll have to take it slow because I haven’t had wine or any drink containing alcohol in over thirty-two years – a champagne toast on our wedding day.

Just imagine a heaven on earth. A lot of people, even many Christians, don’t realize that the permanent heaven will be on a “new earth. (Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1).

Just imagine no more sickness, no more cancer, ALS or any other stinkin’ disease. No more heartbreaking St. Jude and Shriners commercials! No more need for feeding tubes and wheelchairs! (Isaiah 35:5-6 & Revelation 21).

“I saw a new heaven (earth’s atmosphere) and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away…And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” (Revelation 21)

After reading this, you might be asking, Bill, if you really believe this, why don’t you stop using your breathing machine and remove your feeding tube and move on to this beautiful heaven you’re talking about?

It’s a fair and logical question.

Believe me, there have been days, really bad days, days when pneumonia left me gasping for air. Days when my whole body was aching from the flu. Many days when I’ve wanted to die, even prayed to die, but…

I recovered…

And, I remembered that God still has a mission for me here. Like all followers of Christ, my mission is The Great Commission; persuading others, maybe even you, to join me in heaven for eternity.

Can I sign you up?

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9). 

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on July 2, 2018, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 101 Comments.

  1. Wow, this was an incredibly powerful read. Thank you so much.

  2. Such a beautiful message, Bill. Thank you for reconnecting. And to top it off, I wrote down 1 Cor 2:9 during my devotions this morning. I love how the Spirit weaves things and people together.
    Sending love and gratitude,

  3. Dear Bill, Shalom

    I do not want to disappoint you or pull your hopes down, but you and all people, like me, should hope for the better life God has prepared for us, which shall not be in heaven, but in a ‘heaven on earth’, namely in the Kingdom of God which shall be for most people here on earth (and not in heaven, where only the 144000 shall take place with Christ and God).
    I do hope and pray that we shall be able to meet each-other at that place where our pains and problems shall be for ever gone.

  4. I really needed to hear this today. I’m having a lot of pain lately, and sometimes he gets really discouraging. I needed to be reminded of what’s ahead. Beautifully written. Thank you, Bill.

  5. Every time I see one of your posts in my email, I smile. I confess I don’t always read all the posts I follow, but I always read yours! I can’t express adequately what a blessing you and your faith are to me. I can see by the comments that I am not alone. You have an incredible ministry that is much larger than I think you know. I tell people about you and your story all the time. So even those you don’t know are hearing about you and your “unshakeable hope.” The movie was wonderful. I’ve seen it twice. The song brings tears as I think of how glorious and wonderful it will be to praise our Lord in person. I look forward to meeting you and your angel-wife there someday!

    • Thank you so much for your encouragement, Laura. I follow so many blogs and I have guilt trips about not being able to read them all. Seriously, you and others are my friends, but I can’t keep up. I am trying to write more and am not online as much as I used to be. There are not enough hours in the day 🙂

  6. Bill, I smiled when I read: “I suspect that I’ve been married to an angel for 32 years.” I bet Mary smiled when she read it too. 🙂 Yes, dear brother, God still has work for you to do.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

  7. What a beautiful reminder. I’m afraid I don’t use my imagination enough, especially when it comes to heavenly things!! I look forward to seeing this movie too!

  8. I already signed up; but thank you for the word of encouragement. You are a blessing!

  9. Reblogged this on Leadership Insights and commented:
    With the Lord; In weakness we are strong!

  10. It is challenging to say what I feel sometimes because so many have said much of what is in my heart. God has indeed decided that you are His ‘instrument’..(for lack of finding the exact word I want)… There will be many souls in heaven that wouldn’t be there if they hadn’t heard or known you and your writing… I am so blessed every time I read your posts… Diane

    • Thank you, Diane. I hope and pray every day that I can draw people to Christ. The worst thing for me is to have eternal regrets – to enter heaven knowing I should have said something I held back. If people think I’m some kind of “Jesus freak” (like I used to think about people like me), who cares! 🙂

  11. Thank you Bill,
    That was beautiful, God bless you my brother.

  12. First, I love the fact that you see your wife as an angel–definitely as God’s gift to you. But your honesty in sharing the ongoing journey when quitting makes sense and suffering doesn’t is a testimony to your faith and faithfulness. God alone knows the number of our days. He gives life and ends it in His time. I’ve thought of this a lot as I’ve friends who suffer from diseases (ALS, like you) and cancer and all other types of things that can cause despair. God has given you a unique voice in this life journey. One of hope instead of despair, one of perspective instead of giving up. I’m truly grateful for you and how you encourage followers of Jesus to persevere IN LIGHT of their circumstances, not in spite of them.

  13. Bill,
    I saw the movie and was taken by it as you were. But to be honest, your post hit home even more than that incredible movie!

    My friend, I am joining you in prayer for readers who do not know the matchless grace and love of Jesus. I have a feeling you have touched many more lives than you can ever imagine or hope.

    I continue to hold you and your angel of a wife, Mary in my regular prayers.

    Many blessings,

    • Thank you for your encouraging message, Beckie. Thank you also for your prayers, I really believe the prayers of family, friends and even strangers, have sustained us through the most difficult times. Happy 4th!

  14. Tares, not tales: lousy auto correct:)

  15. Thank you Bill for reminding me so much. I too am in a wheelchair. Since the government has decided to pluck up the tales with the wheat, I am no longer able to take the pain medication that my doctor has had me on for the last 14 years, and I too have prayed to go on to our wonderful eternal home and new body. The Lord has given me beautiful dreams and visions of heaven and rapture, so I know in my spirit of its reality. But I too have a purpose and mission in life that I must fulfill before I can go home. In spite of the constant, 24/7 pain which God gives me the grace to endure, I must continue to declare the glorious revelation of His Word that He has given me to declare to a lost world. (Which by his grace have now been read in almost every country of the globe: every country, but not every soul, so the work goes on one day at a time.) By the way, I too am married to one of those Angels 😉 Be blessed my precious brother in Christ!

    • Thank you for your comments, Raymond. I’m sorry you’re in a wheelchair and especially for you being in pain. I’ve experienced a lot of pain over my years with ALS, but mostly due to falls and illness… ALS itself usually doesn’t include much pain. I’m thankful for that. God bless you, Raymond.

  16. I always light up when I see Unshakeable Hope on my Reader, and know its time for that quiet moment I get when I read the posts about your life and your persuasions. I so agree with you that our “reborn imagination” opens up to us when we read the Bible. Someone once said that the Word of God is about interpretation, and interpretation is about observation. And isn’t God so gracious and magnanimous that He allows the interpretation to meet us just where and when we need it, through His Spirit. Heaven allows the imagination to soar – it is going to be a fascinating place.

    • Thank you for your comments. I appreciate the work you do through your ministry. I like what you said about observation in regards to reading God’s word. I have become much more observant since becoming wheelchair-bound and maybe that has helped me to have a more vivid imagination 🙂

  17. thank you Bill. your testimony is beyond words, and your willingness to reach out in love to share the greatest love of all, awesome. ourLord is bigger than all of this, and by His grace, mercy, and love, you have a voice in behalf of Him. you speak so eloquently, it’s unimagineable to me that ALStookyour voice. i look forward to your posts, and remain touched in my heart and spirit each time you share. i found you only because the Lord wanted me to, and i am so blessed to see your love, faith, and obedience in action. May Abba bless you richly. no more sickness, pain sorrow or death. the former things have passed away. i pray you hear those words we long to hear, “well done, my good and faithful servant”.

  18. I’ve not seem that movie but it’s for sure on my list now! Thanks Bill for another heartfelt and inspiring post. Your ability to use imagination and reason to write such truth really resonates with me.

  19. Bill, after reading this post from you, I am reminded of several things: 1) I have missed reading blogs that I loved … like yours!!! … since I quit writing 4 long years ago. I am writing again and I am grateful to God for leading me back to it. 2) You are one extremely inspiring man of God. Thank you. Those words are not enough, but THANK YOU. The physical pain I endure with my disease is not on the same level as yours, but you remind me that we all have work to do while here no matter what we are living with. And 3) I am blessed to read your words as you do look to God’s Word for the truth. That seems to be rare these days, even among Christians. It is sad. *** God bless you, and thank you for all the years you encouraged me over at my 40YearWanderer blog. Thank you for sharing your heart in so many ways. —- Heather

    • Thank you for your encouraging message, Heather. I am glad to hear you are writing again despite your physical struggles. I know what a challenge that can be.

  20. Reblogged this on Serenaded Softly and commented:
    He has so much insight…a really great blog!

  21. What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing it!

  22. Loved the movie, too … and love this post, dear friend. Maybe imagination is a bit like unshakable hope. I think if we stifle one, the other shrinks with it. Someone recently said to me, “I think, I can imagine what I want my life to look like!” That statement was filled with hope for a good future! Thanks, Bill, for giving us all hope and stirring our imagination for eternity. Give my love to the angel in your life 🙂

    • Thank you for your comments, Heidi. Imagination is unshakable hope when, and only when, it lines up with God’s word. I can imagine what my future can look like, too – even a better future for Mary and me in this life. Nothing is impossible with God!

  23. Sign me up, Bill.
    A priest once said that we are put on earth for the benefits of others. If your illness can teach us a lesson on recovery on faith and health, that is grace. As for grace, when my friend died, she came into my dreams joyfully dancing and laughing. How can that be, I asked. You are whole! That is what I imagine heaven is. When she was alive, she lost her motor skills and became wheelchair bound. I do believe that we become whole again when we die. That is not an imagination,
    God Bless and always happy to see your post.

  24. We haven’t seen the movie yet either. Thank you for the recommendation. Years ago when “I Can Only Imagine” was first introduced, I saw a young woman perform a liturgical dance to the song. She so powerfully portrayed the wonder and ecstasy that many who watched surely had tears in their eyes. I did. Ever since, whenever “I Can Only Imagine” comes on the radio, I’m taken back to that experience of heightened worship. Such a glorious song!!

    • You will like the movie, Nancy. One of my friends told me he got sick of the song because it was so overplayed on the radio. I can see that, but, except for the rare times Mary takes me somewhere in the van, I haven’t listened to the radio in 20 years so I know nothing about songs being overplayed 🙂 I think the movie gives some context to the song and I told my friend he might like the song after seeing the movie.

  25. Debbie Johnson

    Bill, I always look forward to your posts and this one was wonderful! I’ve been wanting to see the movie for a while now, but haven’t seen it yet. I need to. I think the movie people and the singer need to use your blog for advertising! Love your perspective as always. I also agree with you … you are married to an angel. Thank you for writing what God puts on your heart. I know it is a lot of effort at your end to put these blogs together, but you are faithful to do it! You & Mary are wonderful friends and great examples for all of us. We love you both.

    • Thank you, Debbie. I really liked the movie and I think you guys will too. Mary enjoyed her lunch with you Saturday. She needs to get out more 🙂 We went to your church yesterday, via YouTube. Great message. Love you guys.

  26. A powerful and moving post, Bill. I enjoyed the movie “I Can Only Imagine”, too. Have a great 4th!

    Your friend,

    Anna <3

  27. :'( Excellent writing! Thank you for sharing!

  28. Bill, thank you again for sharing how the Lord continues to bless you. We are blessed as you relate His presence in your life. The Feast is a short article related to your experiences. https://godsgracegodsglory.com/2014/05/13/the-feast/
    Praying for His continued working in your heart and life to witness of your hope in Him.
    “Now to Him who is exceeding abundantly able to do more than we can ask or think, by the working of the power within us.” ~ Fran

  29. Hi Bill, I’ve been looking forward to reading another one of your posts. Full of truth and so up lifting. Another great film to watch is “Do You Believe” God bless to you and your family🙂

  30. Blessings to you, Bill, and the “angel” in your life. I give thanks for your imagination that breathes hope in Jesus to all, and look forward to celebrating His goodness with you and yours into eternity. 🙂

  31. I was happy to see you’d posted another blog! When I listen to I Can Only Imagine, my mood changes and my spirit soars in anticipation. Not of being in heaven, but being in God’s presence which IS HEAVEN!
    I’m very glad you mentioned you addressed why we need to persevere on earth. I’ve heard people have suicidal thoughts. Why not end it now. You’re right, Bill, we still have a mission and purpose while we’re living on earth.

    • Thank you, Karen. I know what you mean about your mood changing when you listen to worship music – it’s the Holy Spirit in us that brings us peace in times of rest, especially when listening to worship music.

  32. Reblogged this on thotsfromgeorge and commented:
    An enlightening, encouraging post, a benefit to all who read it.

  33. Count me in Bill! I am sure that one day you and I just might find ourselves fishing together on that new earth!
    Blessings to you my friend.

  34. Bill. It’s Jana. I’m so thrilled to find your blog! I LOVED this. I’m gonna be a loyal follower. Such positive inspiration is needed in my life (and everybody else I know). I love you to the moon!!

  35. What wonder of heaven gives me the most hope for it is love that is unfathomable, not just for me (for all who get to go there) but from me. What joy! Thank you, a lovely post. You are a bright light, you know?

  36. “Believe me, there have been days, really bad days … but I recovered…”

    Bill, more and more I read your words – more and more I read others – listen to others with “bad stuff” in their lives – read of those whose lives are so different – those who seem to have it all … Those who are as far apart on the pendulum of life as it is possible to get (from outward appearances)… They each – we each – all have one thing in common:

    “there have been really bad days … but I recovered”

    And, I think, maybe your “mission” is to allow each of us to see your inside rather than your outside … And in seeing yours – to then see our own that little bit better – and find we can each be a little more forgiving of ourselves and those around us.

    Thank you.

  37. Alaina Smith

    Bill, I remember hearing the song when my mother passed away and how it brought me comfort, so I could not wait to see the movie. It was well done and has a message for all of us. Happy 4th of July to you & Mary!

  38. Hi Bill, I sent you an email, check your Inbox. Another excellent post, I, like you, have tried to visualize but we’re always going to fall short because there’s nothing that we’ve experienced that we can compare it with. Many years ago when for unknown reasons God allowed me to be in His presence for a couple of minutes (saw nothing, heard nothing), there was nothing that could have persuaded me to leave, absolutely nothing. There’s no way to describe it other than maybe being covered in His love that once again defies all description. One day we shall be together at the marriage feast of the Lamb. And I, like you, long for that day. In the interim, we continue to draw close to Him and learn as He guides us. Grace and blessings to you and Mary and your blessed family.

  39. Bill, Every time I read your post I am inspired by your positive attitude. God bless you, my friend. Yes, heaven is real, and someday we, Christ’s followers will be there. Thank you for writing this excellent post. Blessings, Richard

  40. Bless your heart and thank you.

  41. Wonderful post, Bill. I have studied these, and other, verses on Heaven, and they are absolutely breathtaking. It is difficult to imagine, but I know it awaits those who have accepted Jesus into their hearts. By the way, I so much enjoy this “Imagine” blog and song so much better than the John Lennon version!

  42. Great post! And this movie was amazing…I agree!

  43. Great post! Great message! God bless!

  44. Bill, we all need encouragement to use your imaginations. Thank you so much for this post and the movie recommendation. I think God that he keeps you alive so that you can for fill your assigned role as a pointer to Christ as a communicator of truth about who Jesus is. May God continue to give you strength through his word for each hour.

  45. I have not yet seen the movie, but I’m hoping too!

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