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Tales that Tell the Truth: The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party: Joni Earec

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
December 23, 2022 4:15 am

Tales that Tell the Truth: The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party: Joni Earec

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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December 23, 2022 4:15 am

What if heaven's so much more than what we tell kids? Joni Eareckson Tada challenges myths in her new storybook for the Tales that Tell the Truth series.

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It's Friday. Christmas is around the corner. Oh yeah, can't wait. I'm excited. And we've got a great program teed up with Joni Eareckson-Tada that you're gonna love. You're gonna love it. And we know that you have a lot of great things and distractions ahead this weekend. Oh, just a few. But let me just plant this thought in your mind.

While you have just maybe a little bit of extra leisure time, I know that you moms don't, but if you have just a second, we would love for you to go online to Here's the good news. A community of supported friends banded together to create an amazing matching challenge. And I tell you what, I can't think of a better Christmas gift than this one. When you give a contribution, every single dollar will be doubled in size, having twice the impact until we reach the goal. At Family Life, we have all kinds of evidence that God is using this ministry to bring people into the kingdom. In fact, there's going to be scores of men and women at God's Awesome Forever Party who met him through Family Life.

And those moments are made possible in part because of people like you who give. So before the deadline next weekend, go to, while it's fresh on your mind. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at or on the Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. So I was 13 or 14 years old. I was pretty much on a path to copy my dad's life. I was chasing after girls. I was starting to drink. I was not going to church. I just— This sounds depressing.

I mean, it was. I mean, I didn't realize—I didn't even know the Bible said the sins of the Father will visit down through the third and fourth generation. I was on a path to copy my dad. I go to see my dad in Florida, who's now remarried. And I was surprised as could be when on a Sunday morning, he said, we're going to church. And I'm like, you go to church?

And we went to, if I can remember, it might have been Miami First Baptist, but it was a Baptist church in Miami. The pastor got up and introduced a guest speaker who I didn't know at the time, but her name was Joni Erickson, now Joni Erickson-Tada. And she spoke, and it changed my life. And I'm excited. We've got her on the broadcast today. Joni, welcome back to Family Life Today. Oh, Dave, thanks for inviting me.

And of course, everybody listening. And I tell you what, though, you made me sound pretty old in that intro. What year was that? Like, when was that, the 1980s?

You know what? Seventies. It had to be—yeah, it was the late— No, it was seventies. Seventies.

I would say 73. I don't know what age that puts you on, but I'll never forget, you came on and gave your story. And I know our listeners probably know a lot of your story, but I'd love you to give us a quick version of what you said that day, because I didn't tell our listeners how you walked up to the podium, but you can tell them. Well, I didn't exactly walk up to the podium. I wheeled up to the podium.

And real quickly, because I think many of our listeners probably know my story, I was 17 years old. It was a hot July day. I went swimming with my sister. I dove off this raft into what I realized real quickly was shallow water. My forehead thudded against the sandy bottom. It snapped my head back. It crunched my cervical vertebrae and severed my spinal cord. And weeks later, when my doctor told me, as I was lying there paralyzed in the hospital bed, Johnny, you'll never walk.

You'll never have use of your hands. I was devastated. Oh, Dave and Ann, I just—I'm sure every parent listening, they think, oh God, may that never happen to my child. And my parents felt the same, and yet God was giving me a strange, unusual grace, which at that point I don't even think my parents were able to appropriate. He gave me a grace to rise up out of that depression by drinking in every single word of encouragement from the Bible that my Christian friends offered me from my hospital bedside. I knew instinctively that if I was going to survive this somehow, someway, the answers were going to be in the pages of Scripture.

I didn't know where they were. I didn't know what God would do, my future. All I knew was this fear and depression was claustrophobic. I want out of it.

Even worse than getting healed. I just wanted to be free of the depression. So it was the Word of God that made the huge difference in my life. It's interesting because I had given my life to Jesus as a 16-year-old. I had never heard the Gospel.

And my sister had shared the Gospel for the first time when she had heard it, and I gave my life to Jesus. And so I had just gotten my driver's license, and somebody told me there was this thing called a Christian bookstore, which I was like, what? There's a store with Christian books in it? And so I remember walking into this store, and they had Christian music playing.

I had never heard Christian music in my life. And I thought, this must be what heaven is like. And then I saw this book, and it was called Johnny.

I bought it. I took it home, and I read it in two days. And that book, Dave, just as you said, like the story of your life, Johnny, and I was only 16, and you were 17 when this had happened to you. And so I remember thinking at that age, like, what if that was me at that age?

How could I go on? And you're very frank in your book that came out. What year did that come out, Johnny? The book came out in 1976, and just this year they issued the 45th anniversary edition. And honestly, Dave and Ann, you guys are parents.

Moms and dads are listening to you. And I'll just say, if your child is struggling with depression, discouragement, fear, some limitation, I'm sorry, I'm just going to have to recommend this, what they call a Christian classic, the Johnny book. It's just filled with, oh, I don't know, vulnerability, honesty, and also anchors from God's Word that can really help. Yeah, it was after reading that, because that was the year I gave my life to Jesus.

So it must have been new, because it was 1976, yes. And I read it, and it was the first time I said, I'm going to follow Jesus the rest of my life. If Johnny can do this in a wheelchair, and preach the gospel, and tell people about him in a chair, then he must be someone worth following. And so, I've been doing that since.

So, thank you. I think you've impacted, I bet every listener has a Johnny story that they would share. You know, my struggle when I was 13, 14, walking into that church that day, which I didn't want to go. I even judged my dad, like, okay, what are you doing going to church? But he had found Christ.

He was hoping to introduce his youngest son to Jesus. And I didn't give my life to Christ that day, but I remember walking out. My struggle was, I can't believe there's a God that would allow my mom and dad to get divorced, and my little brother to die.

And I'll never forget, as I got in the car to go home with my dad, I couldn't get your joy out of my head. Here's a woman in a wheelchair, and you were honest, and you shared the struggle, and your struggle even with God, but there was a joy that was real that convinced me, okay, there must be a God if he can give that kind of joy. And that was a seed planted that I found that God a few years later, and here we are. So thank you, Joni.

It's really been a moment that changed both our lives. Well, it means so much to me. I mean, although let me say, my joy is hard fought for.

I'm such a good example of 1 Corinthians, I think it's 10 16. I'm sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. You know, I have nothing, yet I possess everything.

I am so poor in spirit, yet I am so rich. So I live on that continuum of joy and sorrow kind of like mixed and mingled together. But I think that's what people relate to, I think.

Yeah. Well, you've written many books, but your latest book is a book for children called The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party, which is the best title. And then the subtitle is A True Story About Heaven, Jesus, and the Best Invitation. Did you come up with that title? I came up with that title. I thought, how can I describe heaven?

So there you go. It's really good and very descriptive. And it's beautifully illustrated as well. I wondered if you had illustrated it because you do illustrate and you've done a lot in the past. But this person that illustrated it, Catalina, she's really good too. She is, and she and I worked together on what those page layouts would look like and the design and the colors. So even though I did not have time to do 30-some-odd pages of illustrations, I was able to give a lot of input.

That meant a lot. Why this book, Johnny? Like, why a book on heaven for kids? Well, you know, as well as I, the messaging of our culture keeps insisting that children put themselves first, that life is all about them, their desires, getting what they want, doing what they please. And I think because of this, so many boys and girls, Christians or non-Christians, they look at heaven as as though it were a free ticket to Disneyland. There's going to be as many chocolate chip pancakes as they can possibly eat in the biggest water slide in the universe. But that kind of self-focus is totally foreign in heaven.

And that's what I wanted to get across. I wanted to lob a hand grenade into those myths and fantasies about heaven and help children get excited about heaven for the best reasons, for the reasons that will make them most happy on earth. And you and I were talking earlier, Anne, about heaven and how kids, probably the reason they think up all these myths is because they're so fearful that heaven will be boring. You know, they know as well as you and I do that if they sing their favorite worship songs often enough, it gets boring. And they tend to think, okay, are we going to run out of Scripture courses after a few thousand years?

Well, that's from an earthly perspective. But in heaven, self-forgetfulness will be second nature, and so nothing is going to be tiring or wearisome or boring. Praise, it would only be boring if we were able to stop and look at ourselves to see, oh, do I like this? How am I doing? Am I sounding good? Performing?

You know, what do I have to contribute here? But such self-consciousness will be totally unknown in heaven. There'll be no self-awareness or self-absorption. There will only be a total losing of ourselves in Jesus Christ. And so that's one good reason why heaven won't be boring. We're never going to get tired of praising Jesus, because with every word of praise we'll get wiser, younger, happier, we'll discover so much more.

I don't want to dominate here, but can I give you a quick example? I'm thinking of that passage, and maybe even many children know it from Isaiah chapter 6 where the seraphim, day and night, night and day, are saying, holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. And you think, oh my goodness, after 10,000 years, don't they get tired of doing that? But the truth is, they are most, they're probably looking at God, and they see some amazing passage of his, and they go, holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty, but then before they could even get that praise out, God has shifted and shown them some other amazing passage of his never before discovered character. And once again, oh my goodness, I did not know that, holy, holy, holy, but before they get that set in fact, again, God has revealed some other marvelous attribute. Oh, holy, holy, holy, so it's always and always a constant discovery of how amazing God is. And that kind of excitement and enthusiasm, man, I really want to grip kids with that desire to praise God for all of eternity.

Yeah, and you just hit on one of the, you know, misconceptions we have. I think even adults, I've had it, is, you know, we're going to sit on clouds with harps and sing, you know, and that's heaven, you know, which doesn't sound very exciting. It sounds boring. It sounds monotonous. Well, I remember one of our sons saying, I think he was maybe six, he says, are we going to sing in heaven all day?

I don't even like to sing. That's going to be the most boring thing ever. If they had video games, that might be better. I remember saying video games will be nothing compared to what heaven will be like, right?

Yep, yep. Every good thing that a child enjoys down here on earth, and I mean, I mean, pure good thing, you know, delightful good thing, things that honor God, every good, happy joy is only a sneak preview. It's only a hint, a slight whisper, an omen of even the grander, more glorious joy in heaven that the earthly joy only hints at, but only whispers about it. But the real joy is coming in heaven. And for me, I mean, I often think about my new body. What's that going to be like? I was going to say, Johnny, you sound excited when you talk about this yourself, and I can't help but think you're anticipating.

I sure am. I'm going to jump up, dance, kick, do aerobics. I can't wait to get rid of this wheelchair and just explore all the nuances of having a new body. And I think that's why I really like 1 Corinthians 15, because in that passage, we hear, we learn all about what our new bodies are going to be like. And in that passage, the Bible uses the analogy of a dead feed, and like a dead acorn, you know, that's got to be buried in the ground before it becomes anything. But when it germinates and comes to life first as a seedling, then it becomes this gigantic oak tree towering tall with huge branches and big leaves. Now, there's absolutely no way that that little acorn could ever possibly imagine himself as a tree.

Yet he is one and the same as that gigantic tree. But the promise of what that acorn will be one day, it's tucked within that little nut. And even though an acorn and a tree look nothing alike still, that acorn possesses the same DNA, and so it will be with our new glorified bodies. They're going to be so amazing, and probably Jesus gave a pattern of what our new bodies will be like when he indeed, after his resurrection, appeared, and he disappeared.

He could move through time and space, he could walk through walls, he could eat, he could fellowship with his disciples. So I think Jesus's resurrected body gives us a little hint of eventually what our glorified body's going to be like, and I can't wait. After 55 years of sitting still without use of my hands, I'm getting so excited. Well, I mean, I can't imagine, because I've had thoughts of a new body for me, and I'm able-limbed, you know. I mean, I'm not that broken down, and yet I think, man, what's it going to be like not to have aches and pains?

I can't imagine the angst and the joy that you feel at the same time sitting in a wheelchair for 55 years, thinking about a new body in a new world. Oh, praise God for Revelation chapter 21, where God's going to wipe away all the tears. No more death, no more sorrow, crying, no more pain.

That's going to be a wonderful thing, and I can't wait. Let me read this page in the book as we just described. It says, And Jesus will give you a new body. And on this page, you have someone in a wheelchair, and some people, one person's blind.

A girl has crutches that she's walking with, and it says, And Jesus will give you a new body. It will be shining and splendorous, and you'll run faster and be stronger than you thought possible. Blind people will see, lame people will dance, deaf people will hear, and peoples whose minds sometimes struggle will enjoy minds that work just right all the time. And so on that other page, you have the page where they're struggling, and then you see these new bodies in heaven in this glorious picture and page of light and brightness and yellows and every color.

They're dancing and leaping with joy. It's such a beautiful picture of what's to come. Well, you just described my favorite part of the book. Okay, so like Dave and Anne, I just finished memorizing some stuff in Ephesians, and at the last verse in Ephesians chapter one, it says that God has put Christ, the head over everything, for the church, quote, the fullness of Him who fills everything and every way. So that's why we are the fullness of Him who fills everything and every way. And when I put that together with the idea of heaven, this big, vast, empty universe with darkness and desolation and really not a lot of beauty except a bunch of galaxies, and I think this is just conjecture, but since God fills everything and every way through us, I think that we will be about beautifying the universe and bringing order and creating new worlds and bringing loveliness and design and beauty. And I think we're going to make this universe fill it with His beauty and design and art and lovely. We may well be about the job of creating Earths, who knows, making planets beautiful.

And I tell you, that sounds a lot better than sitting on your hands on a cloud all day long. I can't wait for, I don't know, maybe an assignment to beautify some corner of the universe that nobody's ever been seen before. And what a great thought that's going to be. So you're saying that we will be doing things that we were created to do even still in heaven, like our gifts and our passions will come even more alive.

Absolutely. Everything we do down here on Earth, everything has a direct bearing on our capacity for joy and worship and service in heaven. That's not a thought original to me.

Jonathan Edwards said that. And so there will be those who will be greater in the kingdom of heaven and those who will be lesser. The Bible speaks about that. And guys, I don't want to be lesser.

I'm not talking mercenary stuff here. No, I want to do everything I can to somehow enrich and enlarge my eternal estate so that I will have more crowns to cast at the feet of Jesus and thereby have a greater capacity for serving him in heaven. So the way we look at heaven has a direct bearing on how we live our life down here on Earth.

I think what C.S. Lewis said that this Earth is nothing but the title page of our lives and the real story of which this Earth only hints of is yet to be lived. And I just want to live it to the hilt. I know that I lost both my parents in the last few years, and they were in their 90s. But when I saw my granddaughter, who was at that time six, and she said, Nani, I'm so sad and sorry about you losing your parents. But she said, but Nani, don't be sad for too long, because can you imagine how happy they are now in heaven? And she said, she already knew that, Johnny. She goes, they're going to have their new bodies and their new minds. And she said, aren't you so excited to see them again someday? And I thought, isn't that so beautiful from a six-year-old that's already anticipating the joy of reunion of being with those that we love? Well, no wonder Jesus looked at children instead of such as the kingdom of heaven, right?

Yeah. We have that perspective. God bless her parents for cultivating that hope of heaven in that little one that goes to them. You know, as you think about families sitting down and reading this book, what's your hope?

What's your vision? Well, my hope is that through this book, children really will get excited for heaven. And I think that moms and dads can best prepare kids for heaven by showing them after they read this book, by showing them that every joy, every delight they experience, every pleasure, every aha moment that they experience has a direct connection to our heavenly father, the giver of every good and perfect gift.

So moms and dads listening the next time you're with your little one by a big thunderous waterfall or at the edge of the ocean or you're outside and you see shooting stars and they gasp and wonder, immediately draw a line to God and his glory, that that emotion of wonder that they're experiencing, that response from God to cultivate in your child an appreciation for all that joy, all those delightful things, finding their source in God. And in so doing, you will be preparing, nurturing his little heart to lay up treasures in heaven because in heaven it's not going to be the day of Sally and Bobby and Jessica and Joshua. It's not going to be the day of Johnny. You know, even if I do give back my hands and feet, which I will, that's only a fringe benefit to the real party where we're going to be invited to the coronation celebration of Jesus Christ being crowned the undisputed champion of the universe. It'll be the day of Christ.

And so I just want to get ready for that and I want kids to get ready for it too. Johnny, as you talk, I'm anticipating, I can see the joy on your face. And yet you've described how you've experienced pain. I know that you've walked through cancer.

You've been in your chair, you said 55 years. And yet, look at your joy. Tell me when you get to heaven, is it getting on your feet? What is it that you anticipate?

Okay, this is how I picture it. Okay, so I'm going to break the tape at the finish line like a marathoner. And I'll collapse to my hands and knees on the sandy shores of heaven, gasping and heaving.

Oh, oh God, thank you. I made it. I made it without dishonoring your name. And then I will roll over on my back and close my eyes, put my arms widespread in the sand, just relishing the freedom of being beyond the confines of my human body and its paralysis. And all of a sudden I'll open my eyes and Jesus over top of me will have stepped into my line of view and will say, welcome home G. G is my husband's term of endearment for me. Welcome home. G. It was a long haul, wasn't it? But you're home. Well done, good and faithful sir.

Hmm. I tell you what, it brings tears to my eyes because I'm going to do everything I can not to waste my suffering here on earth and prepare for that glorious moment. I hope it'll be just like that because when Jesus does say, well done, I'm going to immediately drop to my knees and I'm going to be paralyzed for a minute.

I'm just going to make myself not move for a minute. It'll be my last chance to give a sacrifice of praise. I could be jumping up, dancing, kicking, doing aerobics, but I'm going to have a little bit of paralyzed praise just for a minute. The sacrifice of thanking him for all the grace he poured out on me all these many years to keep persevering and holding fast to the word of God.

Honestly, Dave and Anne, it's been my meat and drink. I'm like, I'm like that person in John chapter six where Jesus says, eat my flesh, eat my flesh, drink my blood. That's me every morning ingesting Jesus.

Okay. Dave and Anne, you know how Paul told the Corinthians church that no temptation, no test, no trial has come upon you except which is common to man, but God will give you a way of escape so that you can endure under it. Well, I am convinced that quote way of escape are his Bible promises. I can't make it without his promises.

I live, I thrive on his promises. Um, what second Corinthians chapter four, verse eight, though we are hard pressed on all sides, we are not crushed. And sometimes our circumstances, they feel so crushing.

We, we just don't know how we're going to make it, but that's when I say, okay, emotions. Are you going to listen to yourself? Are you gonna listen to God? Because God says that I will not be crushed by this circumstance.

So you know what? You're not to be trusted feelings. I'm going to trust my God. And Anna and Dave, it's in that, it's in that moment of choice where suddenly God opens the floodgates and gives you this ability to endure and not just endure, but even smile through the hard times that makes you realize, Oh my goodness, this is not of me. This is of the Lord.

The battle really does belong to the Lord. So I don't know if moms and dads are struggling, that might be a good prescription for their pain. Yeah. Have you ever found yourself crushed and you thought, I'm not going to be able to get out of this one.

I'm just so low. I'm stuck. Yeah.

Okay. Here's the story. And it happened just recently. As you know, I'm paralyzed and when I'm in bed at night, I can't move and I deal with pain. So there was a caregiver who comes, you know, to give my husband a little time off and she comes in a couple of times at night, three times to turn me, to reposition me. Well, I was on vacation and my caregiver happened to be in a room way across this hall and there was like a monitor, a baby monitor in between our rooms.

Ken was at the far side of the house getting a little bit of respite and the monitor didn't work. And in the middle of the night, I wake up in searing pain and it's like 1 30 in the morning and I'm screaming and she can't hear me. And I said to God, I can't last till eight o'clock in the morning.

I cannot do this. So I thought to myself, but obviously you think I can until this woman wakes up. And so I can't think of anything better to do with my time than to start shouting Bible promises out loud in hopes that she'll hear me and this monitor will start working. So I'm screaming at the top of my lungs in bed. Oh God, you'll never leave me or forsake me.

Oh God, you are my ever present help and trouble. I am just my lungs are getting hoarse. I went on for about 30 minutes screaming every Bible promise I could think of until finally I heard a little electric click click on the monitor. She finally heard me, but I had such peace of heart and mind. God sustained me through that and his, his promises were my quote, way out. Oh Dave, there's so many times where I feel like this is impossible. This cannot be done, but God, you've got me in this situation. So you must think it can be done by your grace through your promises.

So I choose to believe you rather than me. And I'm going to move forward, trusting that somehow you'll give me that way of escape. And he's never failed me yet.

Never once. It's easy to look at our lives and think to feel sorry for ourselves of the pain or the suffering that we've walked through. But as you keep your eyes on Jesus, you inspire us to remind us what is ahead. And thank you for not only writing so many books that have inspired us and writing this new children's book about heaven, but just for your life as an example of one who is totally surrendered to the King of Kings and anticipates meeting him face to face in worship. Like, thank you, because it makes us want to do that as well. Oh, God bless you, Ann. That means so much. Thank you, friends.

Thank you. That's David Ann Wilson with Joni Eareckson Tada on Family Life Today. Her children's book is amazingly titled The Awesome Super Fantastic Forever Party Storybook, a true story about heaven, Jesus, and the best invitation of all.

Isn't that just amazing? You can get a copy at or by calling 800-358-6329. That's 800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. You know, I appreciate all that you have done to help make what we do here at Family Life Today possible as we reach and build others for the glory of the gospel. And the president of Family Life, David Robbins, and his wife Meg are thankful too. Yeah, Meg and I wanted to stop by and say thank you to those of you who listen and engage with family life.

And those words are not said lightly. We count it a privilege to get to join with you in what God is doing in your family and in families around the world. Yeah, I love this comment from a woman who'd been married 16 years, and she had been in Nashville at a weekend to remember marriage getaway and listen to what she had to say. Family life has helped me to realize our marriage is more than just loving and being loved and making a family. Together with our God-centered family, we can have an impact on the world.

Yeah. When you give to family life, you are giving to homes being transformed to go transform other homes. Would you consider partnering with us to have an impact on families around the world? When you give right now, the great news is that your gift will be doubled dollar for dollar, and your impact will be doubled, and the homes that will be impacted will be doubled. Thank you for investing in God's kingdom and having a heart for the family. Yeah, and thanks to some generous ministry partners, our matching gift fund is even bigger now. So every gift given up through the end of the year, including your gift right now, will be matched dollar for dollar until we hit $2.3 million.

That's for a one-time gift, or if you become a monthly partner right now, your monthly gifts will be doubled for the next 12 months. Again, you can give today at, or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329. That's 800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Do you ever feel like life is messy? Well, mistakes, hurt, and grief can overwhelm us, so what do we do with it? Well, next week on Family Life Today, Dave and Anne are joined by Noe Garcia to talk about using your mess for the good of God's kingdom.

On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. Have a wonderful weekend, and Merry Christmas this coming Sunday. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-23 08:28:05 / 2022-12-23 08:41:10 / 13

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