MY FIRST CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN

If your loved one, as is mine, is in Heaven this year then this bit of verse ought to encourage you, as it does me.
I can just hear Joann say, “Max send that poem out, it fits me just right.”
Read it and if it brings a tear, that’s alright.

“I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below

With tiny lights, like heaven’s stars, reflecting on the snow,

The sight is so spectacular; please wipe away that tear,

For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,

But the sound of music can’t compare with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you the joy their voices bring,

For it is beyond description to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me.  I see the pain inside your heart,

But I am not so far away, we really aren’t apart.

So be happy for me dear ones, you know I hold you dear.

And be glad I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I send you each a special gift from my heavenly home above.

I send you each a memory of my undying love.

After all Love is the gift, more precious than gold.

It was always most important in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other, as Jesus said to do,

For I can’t count the blessings He has for you.

So, have a Merry Christmas and wipe away the tear.

Remember, I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.”

No greater hope could we have than to believe that those who love Jesus are spending life with Jesus in Heaven.
Jesus said to His followers,  “Where I am, you shall be also.”  I am counting on that, aren’t you?

 

 

 

I WILL REMEMBER…

“I yawned as the organist began playing the Communion hymn, then my eyelids slowly dropped and I fell to dreaming. I dreamed I was there, at that first Communion service, two centuries ago. Because of the Passover, the streets were crowded, but I finally arrived at my friend’s house. Since I was late, I was afraid the meal might be over, but as I went up the stairs I could hear the murmur of voices.

The curtain was drawn over the door, so I peeked through the space between the curtain and the wall. I saw a group of strangers reclining around a table, talking and eating. The man at the head of the table stood out from the rest. He had a typical Jewish beard and dark eyes, but his expression was unusually sensitive and sad, and his mind seemed miles away from the gaiety of of the Passover season. He whispered something to one of the men, who got up and left. As he brushed by me, I saw a look of nervousness and amazement on his face.

The man at the head of the table picked up a large loaf of unleavened bread, broke off a piece, and passed the loaf to the others. “This.” he said, “is my body.” Then he held up a cup of wine and said in a loud voice, “This wine is my blood.” He told the others to drink from it and to think of Him whenever they did.

I guess I wasn’t the only one confused by these words. The gaiety of the group was gone, replaced by tense emotion, and eyes dimmed with tears. The next thing I knew I was being nudged by my friend, Derek, and I saw the deacon passing the trays toward me. Although I had missed much of this service, no Communion would ever be the same for me again, for I had been there, where it all began. I WILL REMEMBER as he asked me to.”

By Russell Cobb–Eldon, Missouri

Jesus instituted His supper for all His followers to participate “in remembrance of Him.” This supper is central in our worship on the Lord’s Day. It is not our supper, it is the Lord’s. He neither invites nor refuses anyone to participate. It is entirely up to the individual. Sometimes, because we as a body of believers keep the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, we are criticized that it will become too common. I say that is entirely up to the individual. It is blessing to remember our Lord’s sacrifice in this way. What a wonderful way to express our gratitude, to meet Jesus at His table sharing with Him His meal. Can’t you hear His words, “do this in remembrance of Me.”

HISTORY…

SOMEONE HAS SAID, “IF WE DON’T LEARN FROM THE PAST, WE WILL RELIVE IT IN THE FUTURE.”  It really bothers me to hear of tearing down historical statues, whether we agree with them or not.
They are reminders of our past history and we ought to allow them to remind us of those events.  Removal of historical statues may just be the beginning of dismantling of our America heritage.

I was not born in the South.  I wanted to be near my mother at birth so I was born in Owosso, Michigan.  I guess that makes me a Yankee by birth. But, I am a converted Southern and that is the best kind because those who were born in the South can’t help it.  The Mason Dixie line ought not divide us.  We are AMERICANS.

There is talk of tearing down the statue of ROBERT E. LEE.  This should never be done.  Perhaps a little history lesson concerning Lee would help.

Robert E. Lee was married to George Washington’s granddaughter.  He worked with Grant during the Mexican-American war and became a decorated war hero defending this country.  He believed slavery was a great evil and his wife broke the law by teaching slaves to read and write.  After the civil war he worked with Andrew Johnson’s program of Reconstruction.  He became very popular with the northern states and the Barracks at West Point were named in his honor in 1962.  He was a great man who served this country his entire life in some form or other.  Lee was very torn about the prospect of the South leaving the Union. His wife’s grandfather, George Washington, was a big influence on him.  He believed that ultimately, State’s Rights trumped the federal government and that is why he chose to lead the Southern army. He really agonized over this decision.

This is an interesting situation in Lee’s life.  His estate, Arlington, near Washington DC was his home and while away fighting the war, the federal government demanded that Lee himself pay his taxes in person.  He sent his wife but the money was not accepted from a woman.  When he could not pay the taxes, the government began burying dead Union soldiers on his land.  The government is still burying people there today.  It is now called Arlington National Cemetery.  Would some want to tear that up too?

It is sheer madness to destroy the statues and works of the past.  You burn my books and I’ll burn your books.  Where does that get us?   Nowhere… There are great lessons to be learned from the past.

I found this quotation from Rick Warren that may help us sum things up.  “Our culture has accepted two huge lies.  The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle you must fear or hate them.
The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense.  You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

I MEANT TO GO BACK

The Gospel of Luke, the 17th chapter, verses 11 through 19, tells the story of Jesus healing ten lepers. Only one of the ten returned with an expression of thanksgiving.  This poem suggests what might have been thought by one of the other nine.  It just may help us to have right thoughts in this Thanksgiving Season.

“I Meant to Go Back, I meant to go back, but you may guess, I was filled with amazement I cannot express. To think that after those horrible years, that passion of loathing and passion of fears, by sores unendurable, eaten, defiled, my flesh was as smooth as the flesh of a child.  I was drunken with joy, I was crazy with glee, I could scarcely walk and scarcely could see.  For the dazzle of sunshine where all had been black.  But, I meant to go back. Oh, I meant to go back.  I had thought to return when my people came out.  There were tears of rejoicing and laughter and shout.  They embraced me, for years I had not known a kiss; ah, the pressure of lip is an exquisite bliss. They crowded around me, they filled the whole place. They looked at my feet and my hands and my face. My children were there and my glorious wife and all the forgotten allurements of life.  My cup was so full I seemed nothing to lack.    But, I meant to go back.  Oh, I meant to go back.”               Author Unknown

Here is a story that tugs at our hearts, but with a great deal of uncomfortableness.  If we are sensitive in the least, we can feel the heartache of Jesus in this situation.  What disappointment rings in the words and voice of Jesus as He says, Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?   Luke 17: 17

Let’s pursue the question of Jesus, Where are the nine?  It does not say in scripture as to where they were.   That is not important. What matters is, where they were not.  Why weren’t they at the feet of Jesus?  Nine out of ten didn’t so much as return to thank Jesus.  What a tragic situation.  What a lack of gratitude on the part of man then and now.

There is no excuse for a lack of respect, courtesy, thankfulness.  How it must hurt and disappoint Jesus today, when those to whom He has given so much do not honor Him with thanksgiving and praise. It is sinful to be lacking in gratitude to God. Have you counted your blessings recently?  Count them, name them, one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.  Physical and material blessings abound for most of us.  But, those are not the primary blessings from God.  His infinite kindness is shown in His love for us, by sending His Son to save us.  Faith, hope, love, forgiveness of sins, peace of mind, member of God’s family, an eternal Home to come. These are the real blessings that matter regardless of how rich we are materially or how healthy we are physically.  We need to acknowledge that the real source of our blessings is God: He gave life, He sustains life, and He saves life.  Give Him thanks.

Gratitude is humanity’s minimum response to divine grace.  True thanksgiving is thanks living.

SIMPLY CHURCH

Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 “I will build MY CHURCH.”  The question I ask is, what is the original Bible name of the church?  GOD NEVER NAMED THE CHURCH.  You never need to name something when there is only one.   Paul writing to the church at Ephesus wrote in chapter one, verses 22 and 23:  “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”  Christians make up Christ’s church.

Max Lucado wrote this article recently and it really hit home to me.

“SIMPLY CHURCH”  “The church names we banter about?  They don’t exist in heaven.  because it is not the denomination that saves you.  And I wonder, if there’re no denominations in heaven, why do we have denominations on earth?
I know this is a crazy thought–but what would happen if all the churches agreed, on a given day, to change their names simply to “church?”  And then when people chose which church to attend, they wouldn’t do so by the sign outside, they’d do so by the hearts of the people inside.  And then when people were asked what church they attended, their answer wouldn’t be the label but just a location.  And then we Christians wouldn’t be known for what divides us, instead we’d be known for what unites us–our common Father.
Crazy idea?  Perhaps.  But I think God would like it.  It was His idea to begin with.”

Jesus prayed for it.  In John the 17th chapter which is really the Lord’s prayer, He said, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their (Apostle’s) message that all of them may be one. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

Our divisions are hurting the cause of Christ.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be known SIMPLY AS HIS CHURCH.

 

A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY

Edward Everett Hale wrote the story “The Man Without a Country,” It is about a young Army lieutenant, named Philip Nolan, who stands condemned for treason during the Revolutionary War. When the judge asks him if he wishes to say anything before sentence is passed, young Nolan defiantly exclaims, “Damn the United States. I wish I might never hear of the United States again.”
The courtroom is shocked and after a long pause, the judge soberly says to the angry lieutenant: “You have just pronounced your own sentence. You will never hear of the United States again. I sentence you to spend the rest of your life at sea, on one or another of this country’s naval vessels – under strict orders that no one will ever speak to you again about the country you have just cursed.”
And so it was. Philip Nolan was taken away and spent the next 40 years at sea, never hearing anything but an occasional slip of the tongue about America. The last few pages of the story, recounting Nolan’s dying hours in his small stateroom – now turned into a shrine to the country he cursed. Deprived of a homeland, Nolan slowly and painfully learns the true worth of his country. Without it, he was nothing.

The Hebrew writer describes the people of God by writing: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own…They were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13-16

We Christians, like Abraham of old, “look forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:10

How tragically sad to be a man without a country. A person, without Jesus Christ, is in that situation. They are homeless, nowhere to go, but to a dark hole in this earth. It does not have to be that way. God holds out hope for every person to claim, through faith in Jesus, that HOME in glory with Him.
Are you headed home?

Foreigners

A devotion from David Simpson, Minister – Lanier Christian Church, Gainesville, Georgia

“There’s a lot of talk in the news these days about illegal aliens, foreigners in our land. Without getting political, I am reminded that all Christians are foreigners.
1 Peter 1:7 says: “…live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” In addition, Paul tells us, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

This world is not the home we were meant for. The heaven that is to come is our real home. A land where there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more fear, no more evil, no more disasters, no more war, no more suffering, and no more death. That yearning for home should be our greatest desire as believers. With eager expectation, we should long for the appearing of Jesus to take his children home. Unfortunately, too many cling to THIS world as the answer to their every need. They place all their hope in THIS world to provide for them. But, what we have now is temporary. What is to come is eternal. What we experience now is temporarily satisfying. What is to come is eternally gratifying.

There’s an old gospel song that says it better than I ever could.

This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through;
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore;

So, while we live here as foreigners, there is work to be done. There’s a world around us that needs us to offer them Jesus, the hope of the world. In your words and deeds, offer Christ to those around you. There is no greater hope. Let’s do all we can to help others to see and prepare for that wondrous time when we will indeed be citizens of heaven, our real home!”

Agape, David

My friend, David, does a wonderful job in writing and speaking God’s Word. I found this devotional very meaningful. I hope you do too. Max

“Oh how much He cared for me”

My good friend, Bobby Awtrey, minister with the Light House Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia sent out this article.

“It is not difficult to sing when all is going well.  But often God gives a special song to one of his hurting children during the night times of their life.  Believers find new joys in their nights of sorrow and despair, and they discover a greater closeness with their Lord during times of deep need.  The Apostle John wrote  the book of Revelation while on the barren island of Patmos.  John Bunyan completed the classic Pilgrim’s Progress while in the Bedford jail.  Beethoven composed his immortal 9th Symphony while totally deaf.  Fanny Crosby once remarked, “If I had not lost my sight, I could never have written all the hymns God gave me.”

Charles Weigle’s song, “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus,”  was the product of one of the darkest periods of his life.  Weigle spent most of his life as an itinerant evangelist and gospel songwriter. One day after returning home from an evangelistic crusade, he found a note left by his wife of many years.  The note said she had had enough of an evangelist’s life.  She was leaving him.  Weigle later said that he became so despondent during the next several years that there were several times when he contemplated suicide.  There was the terrible despair that no one really cared for him anymore.  Gradually his spiritual faith was restored, and he once again became active in the Christian ministry. Soon he felt compelled to write a song that would be a summary of his past tragic experience.  From a heart that had been broken came these choice words that God gave to Charles Weigle:

“I would love to tell you what I think of Jesus since I found in Him a friend so strong and true;  I would tell you how He changed my life completely -He did something that no other friend could do-All my life was full of sin when Jesus found me; all my heart was full of misery and woe;  Jesus placed His strong and loving arms around me, and He led me in the way I ought to go…Ev’ry day He comes to me with new assurance, more and more I understand His words of love; but I’ll never know just why He came to save me, till some day I see His blessed face above…

No one ever cared for me like Jesus; there’s no other friend so kind as He; no one else could take the sin and darkness from me–O how much He cared for me.”

GOD DID

When our son, Dan, was just a young boy, his mother took him to the store to buy a bathing suit. The suit was purchased and when they got home, Jo noticed a tear in the cloth of the swimming suit. She was upset because she didn’t have time to return the suit nor to mend it.  At the meal time, Jo said, ” that she wished she had noticed the hole before she bought the suit.”  Dan said, “Well mom, you can’t expect to buy everything perfect.”

Jo answered, “No, but you don’t expect to pay the full price for something that isn’t perfect.”   Dan’s face got serious and then he said, “GOD DID.”

Listen to this scripture: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”   Romans 5:6-8

The PERFECT died for the imperfect.  The GODLY for the ungodly.  The SINLESS for the sinful. God so loved us that He gave His Son for us that we might have abundant and eternal life.

We ought to be thinking, I just can’t believe that. It is too good to be true. It is indeed a wonder. But, that is the GOOD NEWS. God loved His creation so much that He offered His Son to take our place in paying the penalty for our sin which is eternal death, separation from the presence of God. He wants us to be with Him. He is a Father and desires the best for His children. Accept His love and express your love for Him. Be a part of the family of God through accepting and living for Jesus.

FINALLY HOME

This song was sung by our Praise Team Homecoming Sunday at  Lester Road Christian Church.  It thrilled my soul.  So meaningful that I want you to read it.  Every Christian will find this at the end of our journey here in this world.

“Engulfed by the terror of tempestuous sea, unknown waves before you roll;  at the end of doubt and peril is eternity, though fear and conflict seize your soul.

Just think of stepping on shore nd finding it Heaven.   Of touching a hand and finding it God’s. Of breathing new air and finding it celestial.  Of waking up in glory and finding it home.

When surrounded by the blackness of the darkest night.  O how lonely death can be:  at the end of this long tunnel is a shining light, for death is swallowed up in Victory.

Just think of stepping on shore and finding it Heaven.  Of touching a hand and finding it God’s. Of breathing new air and finding it celestial.  Of waking up and finding it home.”

Composed by Don Wyrtzen

My favorite scripture verse to go along with this is found in John 14: 1- 3 as Jesus speaks:

“Do not let your heart be troubled,  Trust in God, trust also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.                                         And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”                                                                                                                                                                     New International Version