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?

I’ve Got a Mansion, Just Over the Grill-Top

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 NIV

I don’t believe it’s true, but someone once told me that a house perpetually and perfectly well-kept is a sign of an “uninteresting” life. Again, not true. But for people who believe it, I might be one of the most fascinating people they’ll ever meet.

Sometimes, to get inspired to get my house in order, I look up cleaning and organizing tips on Pinterest. Next thing I know, I’m thinking about D-I-Y-ing something amazing. It has nothing whatsoever to do with cleaning my house, but still. It’s not like I can’t use one more idea for building a grill gazebo—that will never, ever happen.

At some point I do realize I have to get real and tidy up. I was gathering shoes from the family room one time and chuckle-whined to my daughter, “Your dad has three pairs of shoes in here.” Then, “Mercy! Two pairs of your brother’s shoes over there. Ten man-shoes in one room!”

My daughter, who is always at home with the clever comebacks, answered, “In my father’s house are many man-shoes.”

Even at its tidiest, my house? Never uninteresting.

It’s even more interesting that, spiritually-speaking, we live in an ever-messy world. Not just a bit of disorder now and then. Not simply a little dusty here or there. Fallen. A place where immorality and depravity are a lot closer to the norm than right living and love for God. In all its messiness, our world doesn’t merely avoid loving God. There are those who are passionate in their attempts to remove His influence. It’s not exactly “mansion, sweet mansion” here.

Jesus really said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, KJV). It’s a passage that thrills our souls. Not the man-shoes—or even the mansions. It thrills because in the midst of dealing with the mess of this world, we’re reminded of the treasure of living in the presence of God.

I do love the thought of a place “prepared.” A clutterless place far removed from everything messy. Better yet, there’s a reception. “I will receive you to myself.” What will make heaven the sweetest home? We’ll be “received”—by Jesus.

In an untidy world, dirty little distractions can threaten to sidetrack those of us who seek to faithfully follow Christ toward that reception. It’s vital that we not allow any of the world’s mess to block out the glorious eternal.

A few verses later, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17, HCSB).

That’s how we focus and follow:  His remaining presence! The same Lord who promises to receive us indwells us by His Holy Spirit. Oh what a gift His presence is. For the hope of our glorious future. For life here and now.

For the organized—and also for those of us who are, let’s say, a little too fascinating.

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I’ve Got a Mansion, Just Over the Grill-Top – encouragement & humor from @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have just released a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What are you looking forward to the most when you get to heaven?

Expectations

by Fran Sandin

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit…” (1 Corinthians 2: 9,10 NIV).

Margaree Harbor—the name slid off my tongue like a spoonful of ice cream on a hot summer day. We were in a time before online reservations and photos, but the name on the advertisement had me envisioning a perfect get-away on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The details described it as situated on a hill facing the harbor. I imagined beautiful lights, moonlight shimmering on the water, and yachts skimming along the sea or peacefully docked in their berths. Yes! It sounded like the perfect romantic stop along our journey.

However, as my husband, Jim, and I arrived to our destination, we saw no people and no houses. We thought the city must be in the other direction, so we again tried to follow the map, all the while thinking…surely this is not the place. As gravel pebbles popped beneath our car tires, we viewed the “harbor”—a dried up ravine with an abandoned, rusty, fishing boat lying on its side, a string of colored Christmas-tree lights swinging from bow to stern. No water in sight, but lots of weeds.

Then we looked up the hill to a tall, narrow, frame house with dingy, white-flaking paint, the windows askew, and a sagging front porch. Jim, and I looked at each other and struggled to smile. We double-checked the address. Yes, this was it.

When we gained the courage to knock on the front door, a man in overalls answered and cordially showed us our room upstairs with a shared bathroom down the hall. The three-story monster was a 1927 farmhouse, filled with what were the original furnishings. Thankfully, no one else came to stay and share our bathroom. We endured one night there but enjoyed our other destinations.

From that vacation on, our experience caused me to be skeptical when reading travel descriptions.

But there is a travel destination, one worthy of our trust, described in the Bible. It is the perfect location, visited by reservation only. Heaven. The Bible tells us this special place is created by God Himself. Jesus is there now, preparing a place for us to dwell (John 14:2).

The Holy Bible contains no false or misleading information. Heaven is a real place, reserved for believers who have repented of sins and trusted in Jesus as our Savior, because He paid the penalty for our sins with his own blood. If we believe in our hearts that Jesus was the Son of God, died and was resurrected, then our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Acts 16:31).

God does not want anyone to perish, but all to be saved. With the life of the Spirit in us, we have already have eternity in our hearts today.

Dear Father, thank you that your Word is true and we can depend on it. In a world that is always changing and sometimes deceitful, YOU never change—We can trust you. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. In sending your dear son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins, we are given the opportunity to make a reservation in Heaven, a place of magnificence because we will gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. No disappointments there. Thank you, dear Lord. In Jesus’ name, A-men. 

fran sandlinAbout the author: Fran Caffey Sandin is a retired nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother in Greenville, Texas. She enjoys baking, flower arranging, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Jim. Fran is a church organist, a core group leader for Community Bible Study, and author of See You Later, Jeffrey, and Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faith. and has co-authored others. Jim and Fran are parents of two sons awaiting them in Heaven; a married daughter and son-in-law, and three fabulous grandchildren.

Visit Fran at her website:  www.fransandin.com

Join the conversation: What are you looking forward to when you get to heaven?

 

Photo by Éva Balogh on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

Why I Know We’ll Be Happy in Heaven

by Debbie W. Wilson

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I loved blue jeans and climbing trees when I was a girl. I’d shimmy up the trunk of a tall pine the neighborhood boy could only reach by standing on his bicycle. My trees were forts, castles in the clouds, and hot houses for daydreaming.

My arms and legs no longer scale trees or swing from branches. But I still feel the magic when I peek through leafy limbs.

A Crepe Myrtle growing beside our garage doors below our kitchen spreads its lovely branches in front of a bank of windows. When I look out from my kitchen table, my heart smiles. I’m living in a heated and air-conditioned tree house.

I wasn’t thinking about how much I enjoyed the view from trees when we picked out our house plan or when we planted the Crepe Myrtle. But God remembered.

Our round kitchen table, which doubles as my workstation, reminds me of happy times around my grandmother’s kitchen table. Max, my standard poodle, ties me to Pepper, another lost treasure from my childhood.

Jesus said, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:2-3 NLT).

When I recognized how God had restored these long-lost pleasures in my earthly dwelling I got excited. How much more will my heavenly home be filled with special touches that show God’s intimate knowledge of me? What deeper joys await us in heaven?

Not only does this help us face our own death, but also it softens the grief we feel when we lose a loved one. We know how much we’ll miss them. But when we remember they will be living the biggest dream of their lives, we can also rejoice for them.

Heaven will be better than all of our childhood daydreams combined. The landscape will beat any treetop view. And the air will be honeysuckle sweet.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”  1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson speaks, coaches, and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: In what ways has God granted you the desires of your heart? How does that boost your hope for heaven?