Somebody died and it wasn’t from COVID-19.

Sometimes we miss the passing of an important person because of the death of another. JFK was assassinated the same day C.S. Lewis died. Last Friday, the famed civil rights activist and congressman, John Lewis, died. That very same day, after 93 years, James I. Packer, New Testament scholar and author of the bestselling book Knowing God, went home to be with the Lord.

J.I. Packer spent the first half of his life in England, born into a lower middle class family where they went to church but never said grace. As a young boy, he was chased by a school bully into the street where he collided with a bread truck. As he put it, “The truck got the better of the exchange.” Brain surgery saved his life but left him with an indented side to his skull.

In this short documentary, you can watch as Packer reflects back on his career and ministry, and what he’s found to be the most meaningful work he’s done.

He was told never to play sports. At age 11 he dreamed of a bicycle but his parents gave him a typewriter instead.

No doubt God’s hand was already on him. Showing academic promise, he was sent to The Crypt School, where centuries before George Whitefield attended. Along with studying classics, his faith grew fervent. He taught theology in Bristol.

The later half of his life was spent in Canada, where he helped found an evangelical seminary called Regent College. In the 70’s he wrote a bestselling book that perhaps made him even more famous in America. The book was Knowing God. My wife still has her copy that led her to a strong faith in Christ in her twenties.

On two occasions I was able to give him a lift home after he quit driving. One Sunday morning, our newly ordained son, Peter, was visiting with some of the younger pastoral staff at St. John’s—Packer’s church in Canada where God used him to help lead a revival. I was telling Packer about how our son had just been ordained. He asked for an introduction. He waited patiently for a good ten minutes and after the meeting was made, he encouraged and prayed over Peter. This father’s heart was warmed.

I heard another story where someone saw him walking in the street and said, “A friend of mine told me you know the New Testament. Could you explain Galatians to me?” Packer suggested they drive to his house for tea. They did and Jim Packer spent the next three hours taking him through the Pauline letter. More than a scholar, Dr. Packer was a believer who was always ready to help others.

The current senior pastor at Packer’s church wrote the following in an email to the congregation, “Despite his astonishing global ministry, Jim was down to earth, had a wonderful sense of humour, was humble and always approachable. I have been in countless restaurants, where Jim engaged the waiter in ongoing conversation to the waiter’s delight.”

The world will never know Jim Packer. But God did. And the Lord led one of his saints safely home last Friday, his wife next to him and a younger pastor, reading Scripture aloud.

We’re under God’s wings.

“There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with full assurance that they have known God, and God has known them, and that this relationship guarantees God’s favor to them in life, through death and on for ever.”
J.I. Packer


As the leader of the Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” A former secular journalist, Charles has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He and his wife, Janet, have authored several books, including Missing Jesus. Charles’ latest book is Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus: The Real Story of God At Work.

Do all dogs go to heaven? I must admit, I don’t know.

But the question starts to matter when that dreaded day finally comes. It came for us at the end of last week when our funny-looking, half corgi/half border collie “Doctor” had to be put down.

When we first arrived in Southern California, we needed a new dog and we prayed for the Lord to give us the perfect one. He did. And for years, Doctor offered more love, affection, and protection than we could possibly ask for. He may have been unique in his appearance but he was the smartest, most loyal, loving dog our family ever had and he almost made it to 15 years.

Even though he couldn’t hear, couldn’t see, and suffered from arthritis and dementia, we tried to make that final day the best day of his life. Janet baked a chicken and he managed to relish a couple of bites. I played ball with him as long as he was able.

Together with our new puppy, who is now mourning with us, we took Doctor on his favorite walk, letting him dither and sniff.

Did our entire family cry? Yes.

Do we hope our pets are with us in heaven? Yes.

C.S. Lewis faced this dilemma for the first time when he was 4 years old. When his dog, Jacksie, died, Lewis decided to take on his name – Jack – and it stuck with him for the rest of his life.

In his books, The Problem of Pain and The Great Divorce, Lewis touches upon his belief that pets will join us in our next life. A friend of mine who has taught courses on Lewis wrote me last week saying, “I also have resonated with the teaching of Lewis on how those animals we’ve loved are assumed into our lives in heaven.”

Over the past week, Janet and I have found hope from a few passages of scripture as we’ve mourned the passing of Doctor.


  • From the very beginning people and animals have belonged together. Adam was told to name the animals in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 1, 2).
  • Isaiah prophesied that in the future world the lion would lie down with the lamb and the goat with the leopard (11:6).
  • Jesus pointed out that not one sparrow falls outside the care of the Father (Matt. 6:26).
  • God not only cares for animals, he includes them in his covenants. God instructed Noah to carefully preserve the animals through the flood. Afterwards, he made a covenant that encompassed “every living thing of all flesh.” (Gen. 6:18-19).
  • In Hosea, God made a covenant “with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground” (2:18).

God created the world for us as an act of overflowing love. In every picture he gives of the restoration of his creation he always includes the animals.

So will Doctor, our most loyal dog, be in heaven?

We don’t know. We’re just leaving it in the hands of our heavenly Father. But we do know he gave us this particular dog as a personal answer to our prayers for a wonderful pet. There’s no doubt that Doctor was a gift from God – from his one ear up and one ear down to his long, low body and the slow wag of his tail.


Our Father is a great giver of gifts and we have reason to hope that every good thing he’s given us in this world will show up again in the new creation.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals
Psalm 36:6

About the Author

As the leader of Haven Ministries, Charles Morris is always thinking of ways to lead Christians and non-Christians to Christ—hence the familiar slogan, “Telling the great story … it’s all about Jesus.” Charles is a former secular journalist, who has worked for United Press International, and as a press secretary for two former U.S. senators. He began working in the Christian world after seminary, coming to Haven as the fourth speaker in 2000. He and his wife, Janet, have written several books, including Missing Jesus and Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus.

2023 Haven Calendar

God has created Every Living Thing…

Animals and people have always shared a special connection. From the very beginning people and animals have belonged together. Only two verses into the Bible and we see God instructing Adam to name all the animals in the Garden of Eden. Many examples of God restoring his creation, including the animals fill the pages of Scripture. 

God created the world for us as an act of overflowing love. As with all of God’s creation, animals have a way of glorifying their Creator. Our Father is the great giver of gifts and I have seen him use our family dog, Clementine, to bring me comfort and friendship. So may we praise our Creator and Savior for the beautiful gifts he has shared with us through his living creatures. 

I’m home visiting my family in Seattle for a time. The only problem is, I’m a little homesick for Virginia. These days, when I think of home, I think of the near-constant drizzle of rain in the Pacific Northwest and the taste of steamed blue crabs in the Mid-Atlantic. But there’s also the sight of bright-colored leaves in the fall in New England that come to mind. And the smell of smoke from village fires in Malawi, Africa.

After growing up in Seattle, I have spent enough time in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Virginia, England, and Malawi to feel as if they are all home. The consequence of this is that no matter where I am, I am homesick.

I suppose this is one of the lessons God wants us to learn if He has called us to move often. Because if we are members of God’s kingdom, then no matter where we are on Earth, we should be homesick for our true home.

The writer of Hebrews spoke of our longing for heaven, after chronicling all the saints that have died before us:

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
—Hebrews 11:13-16

Our heavenly home is one where natural disasters can’t sweep away our houses, where busted water heaters can’t flood our basements, where we don’t need to store our valuables in locked safes for fear of burglary.

When times are good, we see a shadow of how much better heaven will be. And when times are bad, we are painfully reminded that we are pilgrims, journeying through trials along our way to the kingdom.

Let us keep this heavenly perspective as we travel; loving all that is good where we are and patiently waiting for the better place when we are wanting. Be all where you are and await the day with joy when those who love Jesus will see Him face to face.

All my life I’ve heard them talk of heaven
It’s a place where loved ones live while ages roll
And it’s been many, many years since sins forgiven
And I’m just a little homesick to go

Yesterday brought tears and made me wonder
If I’d ever walk upon those streets of gold
Oh, but Lord you gave me strength—I didn’t blunder
And I’m just a little homesick to go

But must I wait until the sun dries up the ocean
Or till the farmer goes to reap before he sows
I’ve set my eyes upon the sky for the slightest motion
Cause I’m just a little homesick to go

I’ve set my eyes upon the sky for the slightest motion
Cause I’m just a little homesick to go

Oh Lord, I’m just a little homesick to go!
—Kenny Hinson

About the Author

Lindsey M. Roberts spent years writing exclusively for secular journalism, including such outlets as The Washington Post, Architect, and Gray magazine, before she first tried to write about Jesus. She’s thrilled to explore in words how everything from cleaning the kitchen three times a day to delighting in the maritime history of Nantucket is an opportunity to meet and glorify God. Lindsey lives with her husband, a pastor and U.S. Army Reserve chaplain, and son in Virginia.

Home: How Heaven & the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings

Heaven Is the Home You’ve Been Waiting For

In this world of fear, trials, and loneliness we often feel adrift–like we’re still searching for a place where we can truly make ourselves at home. There’s a longing for something more, something that makes us feel like we belong, something that resonates perfectly with who we were made to be. This longing is no small thing to be brushed off and forgotten–it’s a guidepost letting us know we were made for another world. Earth is not our home. But it’s close.

What we long for is the new earth, the place God has been preparing for our eternity with him. In Home, Elyse Fitzpatrick explores heaven and the afterlife, demonstrating that our final destination is not some dull, featureless space in the clouds, but rather a perfected earth. It’s a real, physical place that we’ll explore with real bodies. A place of beauty and wonder and free of all death and decay.

As part of our monthly series on the Beatitudes, pastor Matthew Barker shares how the individual verses in Matthew 5:1–10 are to be seen in relationship to their whole: the Kingdom of Christ. 

I was awake one night because my heart was acting strange. It wasn’t beating—it was more quaking, vibrating so rapidly my ribs danced.

If I had been in the hospital, the doctors might have said I was hyperventilating. But I thought it was much, much worse. My mind raced: Is this what it’s like to die? Should I wake up my wife?

Eventually (it was surely only a minute or two), I realized I was having a panic attack. I tried to calm my mind and think happy thoughts and go back to sleep. That failed. I realized that what I needed was real aid: I needed Jesus. So I prayed. Gradually, slowly, I returned to something resembling normal sleep.

When I woke the next morning, though, I felt like a failure as a pastor. I had preached sermons on Philippians 4:6—”Do not be anxious for anything”—but here I was, so anxious that my body was physically aggravated.

There is no person on earth who is a stranger to fear, whether in the form of panic attacks like I had or simple anxiety or even terror.

And when we fall prey to fear, we Christians often think, I’ve failed my Lord Jesus!, which, of course, causes us to fear more. Because, as John says, fear has to do with punishment. Fear is what we feel when we believe our God is going to break out in vengeance upon us.

But I think fear is also at bottom a fear of loss: loss of reputation, security, pleasure, or even life.

Even our fear of punishment is fear that we will lose our relationship with the Lord. The good news of the Beatitudes is this: Our God knows that we are afraid and, in his amazing and infinite mercy, he gives us a blessing to meet it.

He addresses this in the first Beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Poor in spirit” is a phrase that comes from the Old Testament where being “poor in spirit” or “faint in spirit” means lacking courage. (You know, being afraid.)

So, in Isaiah 61:3, the Messiah promises to give his beaten-down people “the garment of praise instead of faint spirit.” God’s people were afraid to praise to him because they were captives and prisoners and very much in danger.

But the Messiah was going to come and en-courage them: He was going to give them the grace of courage to praise him in the midst of enemies. Passages like this could be multiplied many times over, because throughout Scripture God’s people experience fear.

Note, though, that what passages such as Isaiah 61:3 reminds us of is that our God knows that we fear.

Moreover, our God even knows what that fear is like because Jesus became incarnate and experienced it—those drops of blood at Gethsemane weren’t tears of joy! And to his people who are afraid, fearing the loss of all they have, our God promises this blessing to you: the kingdom of heaven is yours.

The idea here is that the eternal kingdom of Jesus belongs to you at this moment (notice its in the present tense).

  • Your home with the Triune God and his people in eternal bliss and happiness is yours, now.
  • Your home amongst his people in the church now is yours.
  • The peace of God himself which passes all understanding is yours.

Notice something else: The kingdom belongs to God’s people while they are afraid! Our God knows that we fear punishment and loss. He knows that we will face punishment and loss. So to encourage us, he promises us that the kingdom of heaven is ours now.

So when panic strikes, pray to Jesus and remember that the eternal kingdom of heaven is yours right now—at this moment—through faith in Jesus.

And don’t be afraid that you’ve failed the Lord if you experience fear after he delivers you from it. After all, our Lord pronounced a blessing upon his fearful people through Jesus, at the Sermon on the Mount, to assure you that no flutter of the heart will ever separate you from the love of God that is yours in Christ Jesus.

Previous posts in this series:
Introduction to the Beatitudes: The King’s Once and Future Blessings

Matt Barker is a pastor of Grace Reformed in Walkerton, Indiana. He married up to a wonderful wife who gives happiness and wisdom, and has a wonderful daughter who encourages fun and vigilante prayer.