All Aboard!

by Shirley Brosius

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven … 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.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NIV

Preparing for a trip excites me. To celebrate our 40th wedding anniversaries, another couple joined my husband and I for a cruise to Nova Scotia. For weeks, we discussed what to wear, what land excursions we might take, and how to avoid seasickness. As the date of departure for my first cruise approached, I got butterflies. But I focused on the destination and didn’t worry about what I left behind.

Perhaps that should be our attitude, as we approach our trip to heaven. After all, that’s really the trip of a lifetime, better than any cruise or vacation. It’s all been paid for by our Savior on Good Friday. And our passports are stamped by His resurrection on Easter Sunday.

If we lived in Old Testament times, we would slay a lamb and paint its blood over our doors at this time of year in remembrance of that first Passover. During the Egyptian plagues, the Israelites were protected from the death of their first born by the blood of that slain lamb (read Exodus 12:1-12). Until the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, the Jews practiced animal sacrifices. The blood of animals “covered” their sins but did not eradicate them.

But once Christ died, animal sacrifices were no longer required from those who believe. Our sins are erased, and we are made righteous by the blood of The Lamb. Our way to heaven is paid, so we can prepare for it with all the excitement we feel for earthly excursions.

Yes, it’s natural not to want to leave planet Earth. We lead good lives. We enjoy family, friends, food, and nice homes. We say God is good, all the time. And we mean it. Well . . . He is just as good when He calls us home.

Every birthday brings me closer to that trip. Closer to death. But closer to the resurrection as well. Paul says absent from the body is present with the Lord, referring to our spirits. And when Christ returns, Paul tells us, the dead in Christ shall rise first. These crippled, hurting, broken bodies will rise from the grave and be united with Christ in the air. If we’re still alive when He returns, we will be caught up with them.

So what preparation do we need to make? For starters, we want to make sure we feel comfortable meeting God. If we don’t, we can talk to a pastor or another Christian who can assure us through Scripture that in Christ our sins are forgiven. We need only recognize Him as our Savior. That is our trip insurance. Without Him to plead our case, we will be separated from God forever. We don’t know exactly what hell will be like, but we certainly don’t want to find out.

Once we’ve settled the spiritual issue, we can write out what measures we want others to take when the date of our departure draws near. We might jot down how we want to be treated (Hmmm . . . I like easy listening music and warm bed buddy wraps) and any final wishes regarding a sendoff (services, burial, cremation, etc.). Most importantly, I can assure my family that they need not grieve for me, because I will be on the trip of a lifetime!

Easter means far more than a new spring outfit and going to church, far more than egg hunts and marshmallow chicks. Easter means I will live forever in the Presence of my Savior!

Happy Resurrection Sunday! And BonVoyage!

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

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About the author: Shirley Brosius lives in Millersburg, Pennsylvania. She authored Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference and coauthored Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides. She and her husband Bill have two married sons and a daughter waiting in heaven. Shirley has fond girlhood memories of dressing up in new Easter outfits complete with hats and gloves. These days she enjoys keeping up with five young adult grandchildren.

You can find out more about Shirley at www.shirleybrosius.blogspot.comwww.shirleybrosius.com, or www.friendsoftheheart.us.

Join the conversation: How does knowing heaven awaits you affect your here and now?

Grief, Daffodils, and the Resurrection

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

The daffodils blooming in my front yard have a sweet history, a special significance. Before being transplanted to my Texas home, these bulbs spent a quarter of a century buried in the earth in my parents’ backyard about 250 miles away in Louisiana. Then two years ago, my parents’ failing health necessitated a move. We had to sell the house that had been their home for almost 50 years.

Although it wasn’t the right time of year to transplant bulbs, I couldn’t leave them behind – at least not all of them. I dug up a few dozen daffodil and iris bulbs, tucked them into a brown paper bag, and stored them in a cool, dry place. That fall, I planted them in the ground in my own flower beds and waited. They didn’t bloom the first spring, but the green leaves pushed out of the ground and grew tall, showing signs of life, and promising more to come.

This spring, the sunny spring flowers that adorned my mother’s garden for so long now brighten my own front walk. And God is using the daffodils’ presence to comfort me in my grief. My father passed away a few months ago and my mother suffers from the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. Although Mom’s body is living out her last days in a memory care facility, we really lost her a while ago.

I miss them both. But my parents loved the Lord and had placed their faith in Christ for eternal salvation. I know my father is with Jesus now and I know my mother’s eternal future is secure. And because I also have placed my faith and truth in Jesus, I will see them again. Like the burial of the bulbs was the prelude to new life, my parents’ death will also yield to life.

Jesus made this eternal life possible through His own death, burial, and resurrection. In fact, any of us who put our trust in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross will receive forgiveness for our sins and new spiritual life in place of spiritual death, eternal separation from God.

The yellow daffodils in my yard also remind me that Easter is near. Easter celebrates the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. These precious truths comprise the Gospel – the eternal, life-giving good news for all people of all time. The apostle Paul summarized the good news of the Gospel this way:

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved… that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV

The sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross paid the debt our sin deserves, providing our forgiveness (1 Corinthians 5:12). The miraculous resurrection of Jesus makes resurrection possible for all who belong to Him (Romans 8:11).

The next time you see a daffodil remember God’s eternal provision. Burial bursts forth in resurrection. Eternal life overcomes the temporary sting of death.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep…For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be made alive.   1 Corinthians 15:20, 22 NASB

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Kathy HowardAbout the author: Find out more about how to treat others with grace in Kathy Howard’s Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing.Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: How has the certainty of life after death impacted your life?

Trust

by Sheri Schofield

It was a late autumn afternoon when our family piled into the stations wagon and waved good-bye to Aunt Pat and her family. It had been a fun weekend, but we had a long drive ahead, and Grandpa wanted to get on the road. With four kids in the car, plus Grandma and Mama, he figured it would be easier to drive at night when all of us noisemakers were asleep. I was eight at the time.

The last thing I remembered was counting the blackbirds sitting on the electrical wires alongside the highway. Three days later, I awoke in a hospital. Dad was sitting back in a chair next to my bed, eyes closed, a look of exhaustion on his face. “Daddy?” I said.

Dad instantly sat up and leaned forward to take my hand. “Sheri! Sheri!” he said. He told me I was in a hospital about an hour and a half from home. The next thing I remembered was riding in an ambulance to the hospital two blocks from our home. I was still groggy with drugs to dull the pain of a broken arm and head wounds.

The hospital where I was taken was the one in which Mama worked. But Mama wasn’t there. The church where we attended was next to the hospital. The next afternoon, I heard the church bells ring. That only happened when there was a funeral. I suddenly became anxious. I rang for the nurse. When she entered the room, I demanded, “Where’s my mama? I want Mama!”

The nurse turned away, but not before I saw the tears in her eyes. She said, “Sheri, your mama can’t come right now,” and hurried out the door.

I was terrified. Suddenly, a man with curly black hair, wearing a long white robe appeared at the foot of my bed. Though he did not have wings, I knew at once that he was an angel. He came over beside me and sat down. “Sheri,” he said, “your mama and Donna and David are in heaven with Jesus now.”

Through a mist, I saw Mama walking across a beautiful, green lawn, carrying my baby brother, with my little sister, Donna, walking beside her, holding her hand.

The angel continued, “You are going to have to look after Mikey from now on. He’s going to need his big sister because he doesn’t have his mama anymore.” Then the angel held up a large, white Bible opened to Revelation 21. He showed me the letters, and they were pure gold. He read about how someday God would live among us, and he will wipe away all tears, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. He ended with “These words are true and faithful”.  Then he vanished.

Losing my family was not easy. But I never asked God why he took them, because I had seen them in heaven, where Jesus lives. I have not been afraid of death since then. Result? God has given me some difficult assignments that have required unshakable trust in him.

There is strength and power available to those who have faced tragedy and have chosen to trust God through it.  They become strong warriors to defeat evil in this world and to bring many to Jesus. They stand between the world and the schemes of Satan. Those who are not afraid of death are unstoppable.

I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap on behalf of the land . . . ” Ezekiel 22:30, NIV

 sheri schofieldAbout the author: Children’s ministry veteran Sheri Schofield was unexpectedly called on to save her husband’s life, a battle that took her to the Pentagon, Congress, National Security and the President of the United States. At her website, www.SheriSchofield.com, she shares this journey in her book One Step Ahead of the Devil. Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, will be launched June 1. It is designed to help parents lead their children into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Join the conversation: What has God shown you to prepare you to serve Him?