The New Year is around the corner and I usually take this time to reflect upon the events of the past year: to ponder how, once again, God was good, and as in years past, He did not disappoint. This year for me saw protection (God’s hand upon my life), good health, abundance, answered prayers, some struggles, spiritual growth, and guidance: yep, God is faithful; He is truly good. Philippians 3:13 comes to mind: “but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead…” 2017 is nearing its end and I am, prayerfully, looking forward to a most wonderful, most rewarding, most joyful and adventure filled new year!
My sister and I recently discussed her pastor’s Christmas day sermon; it was not about Christmas, or the birth of Christ, nor about gifts or anything like that: it was about death. Pastor Banning of Braeswood Assembly’s prayer is that God take him peacefully in his sleep. And driving to work today, Chuck Swindoll’s sermon on 105.7 KHCB radio was again not about the joys of Christmas, but of death, specifically, where we go when we die. Amazingly, this sermon was listed as one of Swindoll’s top sermons of 2017 and is titled What If You Were to Die Tonight? Not really the type of sermon one wants to hear right after Christmas, right after a season of celebration and for some a season of misery and depression and loneliness. Swindoll spoke of death and where we go when we die. His study notes even show graphically the pathway for believers and nonbelievers. Not a joyous sermon for the onset of a new year.
Death holds no fear for me. When I hear of someone leaving us, I am reminded of Psalm 116:15: Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants. I often think of those who have gone before us, especially those who have acknowledged Jesus as their Lord and Savior and find themselves at the pearly gates waiting for God to let them in. I think of those mansions set aside for us when we get home and of the streets paved in gold and of the rejoicing, the singing and the best voices harmonizing: all those voices sanging.
Once upon a time, I was told that when we die we are in heaven/paradise at our very best and I wonder what my best is and how my dad and grandmother will look when we meet again. I think of my girlfriend “G” who was brutally murdered at the young age of 42 and I wonder if she made it to heaven because I never really knew if she ever mouthed the words that would allow her to enter those pearly gates.
I’m thinking Heaven is kinda like a place you’ve visited that is beautiful, peaceful, architecturally savvy, with delectable food, laughter, extraordinary gardens, snow capped mountains, flowing rivers of clear, rippling water, magnificent waterfalls and fresh air: somewhat like the original paradise – the garden of Eden in Genesis. I don’t think Heaven is all spacey and angelic: I believe it’s a very real place, where we will be able to see, touch, feel, think, work, but without pain, disease, grief, anxiety and all that other negative stuff we contend with on the earthly side.
Maybe Swindoll’s sermon piece was somewhat depressing, but definitely thought provoking: Thoughts of those for whom you pray attempting to assure their salvation: those whose salvation you are not quite sure of. I often pray “Father, reveal you to those that did not ask. Father, open their hearts to receive you while there is time. Forgive us for our many sins against you, against others.” I think of the many Catholics I know (I was born and reared a Catholic) and I ponder the things they believe and what Bible they read and I wonder if its church has changed (do they teach the cross and the redeeming blood of Jesus) and will the Catholics I know make it to heaven along with the Muslims, Buddhists, the heathens and all those other religions and as I wonder, I pray for revelation.
In discussing salvation someone was told, “Well maybe Christianity is the not the saving religion and you chose wrong,” and the woman’s response was “Ok, maybe Christianity could be wrong the choice, but if it is, I am still a winner because of all the benefits that come with believing in Christ as Savior. Either way, I win for John 11:25–26 says “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”
With Christ, In Christ, there is no loss. Happy New Year to you and yours! May God command great blessings upon your lives each and every day!
Father, once again you held us up through another year and we thank you for it. We thank you for answered prayers, for giving us strength to go through whatever came our way. We thank you for your great mercies and overwhelming love. We thank you for the people in our lives, our jobs, businesses, ministries, discipleship, pastors, and churches. We thank you for the provision and for the supply. We thank you for the times we have been able to give and to help others and we pray that we are given more to do more.
Let this new year be the year that we give rather than receive: that we help the widows and orphans, those in jail and on their sick or death bed. Let us bring joy and encouragement to those in need and let us forever be conscious of the things we say; let us delight rather than offend; encourage rather than condemn; praise rather than complain; love rather than not love. Father, let your Word take root and blossom within our very being. In Jesus name, we so pray. Amen.