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Friday, November 30, 2012
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"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). "We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). "The time of my departure has come" (2 Timothy 4:6).
Today we write a follow-up to yesterday's message where we examined the theme of "Friends Below and Friends Above". We hope it will be a source of present encouragement to those who have recently "lost" a loved one as well as a "reserved" encouragement for the day you may incur such an event.
In the course of our ministry we enjoy hearing moving stories of people's faith and their acts of faithfulness. Yesterday a friend shared an experience his sister had in ministering to a dying uncle who was Amish. She had a real burden for his soul and wanted the assurance that he was spiritually ready to meet Jesus. As many of our readers already know, the Amish have restrictions regarding the use of technology and with rare exception, Amish families don't have CD players or any other approved means to share a recorded song.
But she had a song that spoke of going home to be with Jesus and she wanted to share it, so she took her cell phone to her uncle's sick bed and there she positioned the phone very close so he could hear and view a YouTube recording of "Going Home" written by Bill Gaither (we post a link to the video below). It was reported by our friend as a spiritually uplifting time resulting in the entire family being ministered to. Her uncle gave testimony that he had indeed accepted the Lord as his Savior and was prepared to die. He is now with the Lord.
Many years ago I heard a pastor share the following illustration to help us get a glimpse of the believer's homegoing:
Picture the scene of loved ones boarding a ship that is sailing across the seas to a faraway land. Due to the great love in their hearts for their departing loved ones they stand on the seashore for however long it takes to see the ship cross the horizon and finally fade from view. The family left on shore, in final resignation, say to one another, "There they go."
But far away on another distant shore are more loved ones anxiously awaiting the arrival of the same ship. As they see the ship approaching in the distance they exclaim, "Look! Here they come!"
This is an analogy of what it is like as a believer to reluctantly bid farewell to our loved ones on earth and consider that there will be other loved ones excitedly awaiting our arrival in heaven!
The apostle Paul's perspective on life and death is so liberating. After his conversion on the Damascus road he began experiencing the great joy that comes in living for Christ. He testified to those around him, "For me to live is Christ." His wasn't by any means an easy life but millions since have testified to the joy of serving the living Christ. Indeed "life is worth the living just because He lives."
And yet Paul also had the perspective, "to die is gain." The word translated "gain" has the sense of advantage. In fact a few verses later Paul says, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far" (Philippians 1:23).
Several years later Paul wrote his final letter to Timothy with this awareness; "the time has come for my departure" (2 Timothy 4:6). What solid resignation I see in these words as he faced the martyr's death and made this proclamation, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).
Today, what a joy it is to follow Christ and to have a deep, abiding assurance of His love. And when the time comes for our departure we "gain" and are better by far. That's what we live for! Praise the Lord, today I am a child of the King and so are all of you who have placed your faith in Jesus Christ!
Now the twilight is fading, the day soon shall end
Lord, I get homesick, the farther I roam
But the Father has led me each step of the way
And now I'm going home
Going home, I'm going home
There is nothing to hold me here
I've caught a glimpse of that Heavenly land
Praise God, I'm going home
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, as I live out my time here on this earth, I'm so glad that I belong to You. You hold my right hand and guide me with Your continuous presence and daily bread which is leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but You and I desire You more than anything on earth. My health may fail and my spirit may even grow weak, but Father, You remain the strength of my heart and You are my portion forever. My Refuge, my Fortress and my Deliverer, I will joyfully tell of Your mighty works until You call me to my eternal home. Amen.
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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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