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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Foggy morning in Lancaster 11/21/12
A foggy morning in Lancaster County
(Photo by Doris High)

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"Friends Below and Friends Above"

"For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

We enjoy singing the typical Thanksgiving hymns and one often associated with Thanksgiving, but certainly appropriate year round, is "For The Beauty Of The Earth". This year, when we sang it the Sunday before Thanksgiving, a line especially caught my attention though I've sung it many times. Since then I have been pondering the following underscored phrase,  from this stanza:

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child;
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

Bill Shibilo with Ester
On Thanksgiving Day Ester was reading notes from earlier Thanksgivings in which we, as a family, had written about our blessings over the previous year. One she read from the year 2000 stated, "I am thankful I got to see the tall ships and Brother Bill". Ester had written that note, as an eleven year old, referring to a trip we took into Boston where we saw the tall sailing ships and saw our dear friend, Bill Shibilo, who was in the hospital at the time. He went to be with the Lord shortly after our visit.

Bill and his wife Veda were very supportive members of the church we served in Massachusetts. Bill had a real servant's heart and was one the kindest persons I have ever known. The photo to the left shows him with Ester as he is turning over the soil in our small garden plot beside our church building. We stay in contact with Veda who to this day bears a prayer burden for Ester, for which we are very grateful. Veda served as my secretary practically the entire time we lived up that way and continues to serve in that role to this day.

"Friends below and friends above." The older you get the more meaningful this phrase becomes. We have many friends here below but an increasing number who are now above. We consider some of our very elderly readers who just may have more friends above than below!

Our daily text speaks of a future event all believers look forward to. It's a familiar passage dealing with the rapture. I want to consider especially these words,
"we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air."

This describes a great reunion unlike any other; a time when "friends below and friends above" will converge together with Jesus in their midst. It will be the ultimate reunion and will include several notable, distinct features, unlike any family reunion held here on earth:
  • It will include all who have lived for Christ (believers). Some have been missed at every reunion I've attended. Some had already gone to be with the Lord. Others couldn't make it due to schedule conflict. There will be no transportation problems getting to this reunion. No one will miss because they had to work. Sickness or disabilities won't hinder. No one will be limited by cost.
  • Our "family" will be greatly expanded. Those who followed Christ will be there from every tribe and language and people and nation. The redeemed from all the ages will be at this reunion. Our common bloodline will be the divine, redeeming blood of Jesus Christ! We finally get to meet many of you we have only connected with through email or on the web. We'll meet our courageous brothers and sisters contacting us from closed countries who currently experience real persecution.
  • It will be in the loveliest location. It will far, far exceed any destination reunion on this earth.  I've been to some mighty pretty areas as the Creator sure made a masterpiece on this earth, but this reunion will be in heaven. Though John the Revelator gives us a glimpse into the new Jerusalem no eye has seen nor can the imagination conjure up all that is in store for the believer.
  • We will be with Christ. Theologian R.C. Sproul writes, "Eternal life for the individual is not an empty human aspiration built on myth, but an assurance promised us by Christ Himself. His own triumph over the grave is the church’s hope for our participation in His life."
  • This reunion will be forever. No more tearful hugs of departure. No more, "See you next year" when that just may not be the case. No, in this ultimate reunion "we will be with the Lord forever." Notice that wonderful pronoun "we", which refers to both the dead in Christ as well as those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord. And it will include the abiding presence of the Lord. It doesn't get any better than that.
Won't it be wonderful there! So today I "encourage you with these words." as directed in the Scriptures.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray that You will capture our minds and draw our hearts to that which has been prepared for us. May we, with child-like anticipation, keep our attention drawn to the eternal truths of Your Word that remind us of our future inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  It will lift our face toward heaven; our future home where we will enjoy a sinless atmosphere, never-ending fellowship with our brothers and sisters and the majesty of Your presence forever. Amen.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"For The Beauty Of The Earth"  Video  
This is the hymn tune I am accustomed to singing and includes the lyrics on screen with beautiful photos.

"For The Beauty Of The Earth"  Video  This is not the hymn tune I am accustomed to but a more high church version that maintains the same lyrics.

"For The Beauty Of The Earth"  Video  Here's a beautiful instrumental version with the tune we are most familiar with. (This also used as the background for today's podcast.

"How Beautiful Heaven Must Be"  Video  Danny Funderburk

"When We All Get To Heaven"  Video  Gaither Gospel Group

"Won't It Be Wonderful There"  Video  Ordinary folks

Doris High's "Day to Day" photo collection from which today's foggy morning photo came from. She has some amazing bird photos. Doris is a local friend I met several years ago when I worked for a short time with Transport For Christ. Doris and her husband Cerwin also work in that ministry.

a message to Stephen & Brooksyne

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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