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Thursday, July 14, 2022

Richland callalies
Bright yellow Calla lilies
Richland, PA

"Friends On Earth And Friends Above"

Message summary: Today we "encourage you with these words" as directed in the Scriptures. One glorious day "friends on earth and friends above" will all be together transitioning to their eternal reward with fellowship forever.

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“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).

Breakfast friendsYesterday some friends from the Lehigh Valley, Larry and Tina Kester along with Sharon Campany, stopped by for brunch and we sure enjoyed our visit. We are blessed with many friends; locally, distant, overseas and even in cyberspace, including those of you who drop us a line here and there as well as those who are readers but have not yet contacted us. As we get older we especially value our long-term friendships. But we also enjoy making new friends as well.

There’s a hymn many of us have sung with an interesting line. "Friends on earth and friends above". Do you recognize what hymn this line comes from? (We’ll tell you below!).

Most of us easily identify with the words "Friends on earth". We start making friends early in life and what a blessing to keep them for the long haul such as David, a friend from first grade or Wayne, a friend from college. We've developed and maintained friends from all along life's way; in churches we have served or attended, from our work and elsewhere. Some friends are like family such as the Lapps we often mention. This morning we will take Lizzie, whose 11th birthday is on Friday, to the restaurant of her choice and she chose "the restaurant that has 'barrel' in it!" Brooksyne quickly realized she was talking about Cracker Barrel.

We see some friends regularly, others less frequently. Social media has given us the ability to stay connected easier and in some cases connect again with long lost friends. But we still prefer old-fashioned face to face fellowship with our friends like we had yesterday around our outdoor table.

What a blessing friends are. A great line from the classic film "It’s a Wonderful Life" states, "No man is a failure who has friends".

But as we age we have more and more "friends above". The hymnwriter here is surely referring to those who have gone on to be with the Lord. Throughout life this lists grows till there’s a point our "friends above" exceed our "friends on earth". Our seniors at the nursing home tell us they have more friends and family in heaven than here on earth. We like the story about the elderly lady in the nursing home that was still living long on this side and was worried that her "friends above" would think she didn’t make it!

Ed and Jim are two friends now in their late 80’s and early nineties. They didn’t know each other most of their lives but in the last several years have become good friends. Of course we continue to develop new friendships along the way and expect that many of these will also become long-term.

Our daily text speaks of a future event all believers look forward to. It’s a time when "friends on earth and friends above" will gather together in heaven.

It’s a familiar passage dealing with what is commonly called the rapture. Today though we want to consider especially this thought, “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 gathering of family and friends who are redeemed; a time when "friends on earth and friends above" will converge together with Jesus in their midst. It will be the ultimate gathering and will include several notable, distinct features, unlike any gathering ever held here on earth:
  • This gathering will include all who have lived for Christ (believers). We are now separated by the time in which we lived (generation) and where we have lived (geography).
  • Our "family and friends" will be greatly expanded. Those who followed Christ will be there from every tribe and language and people and nation. What a joy it has been the last several years to get to know our Zimbabwean neighbors. We consider so many we have never met that would provide even more depth and richness to my life. The redeemed from all the ages will be at this gathering. 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 through this ministry. We’ll meet our courageous brothers and sisters contacting us from closed countries who currently experience persecution.
  • It will be in the loveliest location. It will far, far exceed any place we gather on this earth. We’ve been to some mighty pretty areas, as the Creator sure made a masterpiece on this earth, but this gathering will be in heaven. Though John the Revelator gives us a glimpse into the new Jerusalem no eye has seen nor can our imagination conjure up all that is in store for the believer.
  • We will be with Christ. "And so we will be with the Lord". 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 gathering will be forever. No more tearful hugs of departure. No more, "See ya 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! Today we "encourage you with these words" as directed in the Scriptures. One glorious day "friends on earth and friends above" will all be together transitioning to their eternal reward with fellowship together forever.

Be encouraged today, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, I consider the character traits that make a healthy friendship: loyalty, compassion, kindness, honesty, patience, forgiveness and a listening ear are just a few of the qualities that are evident in a good friendship. There are so many stories in the Gospels where these qualities are easily seen in the friendships Jesus had with the disciples and others. May the foundation of my friendships be based on godly traits as I come alongside my friends to encourage, challenge, inspire, and stimulate them toward good works in Your name. May I do only that which is helpful for building another up according to their needs through Christ Jesus our Lord in whose name we pray. Amen.

The line "Friends on earth and friends above" comes from the third stanza of the hymn, "For The Beauty Of The Earth".

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.

This was the title of our message yesterday and we will share the same song but a different artist!  Video   Children's Scripture Memory Hymns

"Won't It Be Wonderful There"  Video  Brian Free & Assurance

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Stephen & Brooksyne

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 make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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