Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Longing for Heaven

This morning I was reading with my family about heaven.  We were talking about what people will be like when we get there and how different things will be.  Heaven is a perfect place.  It's the way God intended it to be from the beginning.  It's the way it was in the beginning.  It's the way it will be in the end.  It's the final destination we pray for for all those we know, love, and care about.  Heaven.  Perfection Realized.  Well, not quite realized.

I was reminded yesterday, yet again, that, as Steven Curtis Chapman says, "we are not home yet."  Heaven is the home of believers - true followers of Jesus Christ; and we are not there yet.  After yesterday, my longing for heaven increased tremendously.  I went over to my dad's house while I was in town see family for the holidays to check on it (it is currently vacant; and my brother and I are keeping up with its care - as much as we can while living in another town).  When I got to my dad's house, I realized it had been broken into, ransacked, and vandalized.  There were massive holes in the ceiling and in the walls; and there was debris everywhere.  It looked like someone or several someones had stolen all the copper from the house and in the process destroyed whatever they felt necessary in order to get what they wanted.  I'm glad my dad was not there to see it.  And so now the journey of police reports and insurance conversations and red tape begins.  And it all makes me long for home - our real home.  HEAVEN.  The place where all will be made perfect, just like the Creator.  PERFECT.  No more sin.  No more pain.  No more stealing.  No more disease, sickness, pain, snotty noses, crutches, disabilities, death, or anything thing else that causes physical, emotional, social, or spiritual heartache or trauma.  And we who are a part of God's family, we will be perfect, just as He who created us to be like Himself, is perfect.  Philippians 3:21 says our bodies will be glorified, like Jesus.  No more decay.  No more disease.  No more death.  No more disabilites or anything else negative that starts with the letter D. :)  The blind will see.  The deaf will here.  The dead will live again and will live forever.  Can I just tell you something? I'm longing for that day and for that place.  I am so ready!

I will be attending the funeral of a godly man in about two and a half hours from now.  I'm thankful that he's now experiencing the reality of heaven because He loved Jesus and lived his life for Him.  I'm sad for His family and hurt with them as they grieve; but I know they don't grieve as those who have no hope.  They grieve as those with hope - because of Jesus; who has made all things new for Jay McCasland.  Enjoy your appointed home, Jay.  I can't wait for the day when I get to join you and live in perfect peace and harmony for that place that God has appointed for all those who love Him, live for Him, and follow Him.  Jesus made the promise in John 14.  He said, "In my Father's house there are many rooms.  If it were not so I would've told you so.  And I am going to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, so that where I am, there you can be also."  Amen.  Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Come quickly.  As 2013 ends and another new year is embarked on, increase my longing for heaven.  The perfect home.  The perfect place.  I can't wait!             

Thursday, October 10, 2013

When Do You Need God?

The other day my family and I were sitting at the table discussing an activity from their Bible Study in Sunday School the previous Sunday to help us as a family know how to assimilate what they learned and put it into practice in their (and our) daily lives.  The activity said:  "Remind kids that God is with His people today.  Invite everyone to think of a time they need to remember that God is with them."  So we did.  I asked all four of my children, my wife and myself to think of a time that they needed to remember that God is with them.  Here's the six answers we came up with:

1.  When facing a temptation to sin.
2.  When facing a difficult or scarey situation.
3.  When taking a test, exam, or doing a project of some kind.
4.  When hurt or sick.
5.  When I have to make important decisions about ministry or family or personal matters.
6.  When afraid, anxious, or nervous about something.

Pretty good list, huh?  Can you identify with some or all of these scenrios of needing to remember God's presence?  So what would make your list?  When is a time that you need to remember that God is with you?  The cool truth is that no matter what the situation or scenario in your life, you need God; and He is always with you.  Whatever is important to you is important to Him.  He loves you.  And if you belong to Him (that is, if you're a part of God's family through a personal relationship with Jesus), you can be sure that God is concerned about the things that concern you.  And to go a step further, He's not only concerned about what is going on in your life; but He's always actively working to bring about His best and for your good in every situation.
When do you need God?  Always.  When do you need to remember that He is with you?  In every situation.  With every emotion.  In family matters.  Monetary issues.  Life and death concerns.  Parenting challenges.  School trouble.  Work.  Yes, in every situation, He knows about it, He loves you, and He's working to bring about His glory and your good.  His Word says it best in Hebrews 13:5b, "...He Himself (God) has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.'"  What a great promise.  But don't just believe it.  Access its truth in your life, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year!  You are not alone.   

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Importance of Encouraging Your Children Part 2

Honestly, it's easier for me to critique my children than to show them encouragement.  It's easier for me to question one B on a report card than to praise the six A's.  It is at times easier for me to look at the one mistake than the numerous successes.  The admonition of Scripture in Colossians 3:21 is convicting:  "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged."  

Barnabas.  His name means Son of Encouragement.  He was an encourager.  You can be one, too.  In Part 2 of Dr. David Jeremiah's message, he teaches about four simple acts that children need that will encourage them.  This message is adapted from his book, "Acts of Love."  


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Importance of Encouraging Your Children Part 1

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Two things stand out in this verse, and neither have to do with faithful church attendance, even though you should be faithful to join together with God's people corporately as often as you have the opportunity.  The first thing to consider is this ... First - how we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds, and second, how we encourage one another.  Spur one another on is another way of saying we need to encourage one another.  As I think about encouragement, here are some thoughts to consider:  (1) Everyone needs encouragement.  You need it.  I need it.  We all need it.  But what is it?  What is encouragement?  Well, according to the dictionary, encouragement is:  the act of giving hope or support to someone; also, an expression of approval and support.  So who can you give hope, support and approval to today?  Who in your life needs it?  That leads me to my second thought to consider about encouragement:  (2)  Nobody needs encouragement more from you than your family.  Moms/Dads - your spouse needs hope support, and approval from you today.  But as parents/grandparents, there's no one more important in your life that is in more need of encouragement FROM YOU (FROM ME) than your children/grandchildren.  How can you build them up?  How can you give them your approval?  How can you give them hope when things seem hopeless?  Well, let me encourage you to listen to Part 1 of a message from Dr. David Jeremiah (about 20 minutes or so) by clicking on the link below to begin finding answers to this very vital issue of encouraging your children.  As I was, I know you'll be challenged, convicted, and yes, ENCOURAGED.  Blessings,  John


P.S. - Look for Part 2 of this message in tomorrow's blog.  If you are unable to click on the link above, just copy and paste it into your web browser.  Click "Listen Now" when the homepage for Focus on the Family comes up.  Enjoy.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Date to Remember

I have a propensity to remember dates.  Birthdays.  Anniversary days.  Adoption days.  Important ones and insignifant ones.  Special days.  Happy Days.  Sad Days.  The obvious and the obscure.  I remember specific dates and the specific events that their tied to.  For example, my four children are all adopted; and with that, for each child, is attached numerous special days.  There's the obvious:  their birthdays.  But there's also this:  the day we met each of them; the day they came into our home and joined our family; the day their adoption became official.  I remember all four dates for each child.  Oh okay, I'll go ahead and prove it in the order that I listed those occasions above: 

Brandon:  1/25/2000; 5/21/2004; 6/1/2004; 10/8/2004
Bradley:  6/26/2001; 5/21/2004; 6/1/2004; 10/8/2005
Brenna:  1/21/2004; 4/21/2004; 4/21/2004; 7/1/2005
Bethany:  8/11/2005; 6/16/2006; 5/11/2007; 11/27/2007

August is a month full of important dates in my family that I remember well.  There's birthdays; Bethany (8/11), my twins Jonathan & Jenny (8/15); my oldest sister Patti (8/23); and my mom (8/28).  There's other dates I remember:  the day my twins passed away (8/16); and the day we buried them (8/19). 
But without a doubt there's two very important dates that are maybe the most important dates of any days that I remember from any month.  That first day is August 22, 1976.  That's 37 years ago today.  On that Sunday morning (probably about lunch time) at Terrace Hills Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, I trusted Jesus Christ to be my personal Savior and Lord.  Bro. James Dawson shared the Gospel in Children's Church and asked if anyone wanted to make the decision to become a Christian.  I raised my hand along with two or three other friends; and we stepped across the hall, where Bro. James took the Bible and shared with us God's plan for our salvation through Jesus - that we were sinners, and that Jesus died so that our sins could be forgiven and we could have a relationship with God.  And that if we trusted him by faith, he would come into our life forever.  I did, and Jesus kept His promise.  He saved me and transformed my life that day 37 years ago.  Wow!  One week later on August 29, 1976, I was baptized; making my profession of faith in Jesus public through believer's baptism. 
Ironically, when Bro. James Dawson passed away in 2004, it was in August.  August 2 if I remember correctly.  How ironic that in the same month that I became a follower of Jesus Christ, the man that was instrumental in helping lead me to salvation received the fulfillment of his eternal life - a forever home in heaven with Jesus Christ. 
Thank you God for your free gift of salvation that comes by grace alone through personal faith alone in Christ Jesus alone for whoever will call upon your name.  Thank you for Your faithful servant, James Dawson, who loved me enough, to tell me the truth about my need for Jesus as my Savior.  Thank you for using him to lead me to trust Jesus.  Thank you that because of this day, August 22, I will live forever in heaven; and oh, what a day it will be when that day becomes a reality.  Like August 22, 1976, it will be a date to remember.   

Sunday, August 18, 2013

11 years of Lessons Learned

This past Thursday I was in Longview, my home town, visiting in-laws and finishing up my vacation time.  There was also another reason for my two day visit to my hometown; and these are the words I wrote last Thursday, August 15, as I sat at Chick-Fil-A:

As I am writing today, it is August 15.  It’s a day that brings a smile to my face and an ache to my heart.  It’s a day that will impact me for the rest of my life.  It’s beautiful and painful.  It’s a celebration and a dirge.  It’s bittersweet. My first two children, Jonathan and Jenny, were born on this day, eleven years ago today.  It’s their birthday.  A day of great joy and great sadness all wrapped up into one.  It’s my own personal September 11, a day filled with incredible emotion, powerful memories, and intense grief.  I will go to their graveside side today and remember.  I will remember their brief life.  I will weep and struggle and hurt.  And I will thank God for this unwanted annual tradition.  But it’s necessary.  God uses this day each year to help me remember some invaluable truths as a result of this path He has allowed me to walk, some that I wouldn’t have learned or known otherwise, like these:
v Life is short. Don’t take it for granted. Tomorrow is no guarantee. (James 4:14)    
v Children are a gift from God.  Don’t take them for granted.  Love and cherish them.  Enjoy and give grace to them.  (Psalm 127:3-5)    
v God does not operate in the realm of fairness but faithfulness. (2 Timothy 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:7) 
v Time does not heal all wounds.  God heals in His time.  And complete healing will not be a reality until we get to heaven.  (Revelation 21:4-5)      
v Today is God’s gift to you.  Make it count.  Make every day count.  You’re not promised tomorrow.  (Psalm 90:12; Psalm 139:16) 
v Remember where God has brought you from and what He’s brought you through. And as you do, give thanks!  (Joshua 4:19-24; 1 Thessalonians 5:18)     
v I am not in control.  God is.  And because He is, I can trust Him.  And I will choose to do so today.  (Psalm 115:3; Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 3:5-6)
v God alone is enough.  (2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Psalm 73:21-28)
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works (Psalm 73:28).

The above list of lessons learned is not exhaustive.  God continues to teach me things about Himself each day.  Psalm 73:21-28 was a powerful passage of Scripture that God used throughout the loss of my twins to remind me that He is enough, no matter what.  And you know what, He is!  
Tomorrow will be the anniversary of the day I buried Jonathan and Jenny.  I remember that day like it was yesterday.  I'm so thankful that, despite the pain and emotion and struggle that it emotes, I know where they are.  They are not in the ground.  They are not in the grave.  That is just a place I can go to grieve and remember.  I know their home is heaven.  I know they are there because of Jesus.  And I know with certain assurance that, because of Jesus, I will see them again.  Revelation 21:5 says that Jesus will make all things new.  There'll be no more pain or sorrow or sadness or sickness or disease, and thank God, no more death.  We will be brand new.  New lives.  New bodies.  A perfect place - heaven.  God's Home.  My Home.  And the home of my twins, Jonathan and Jenny.  I know they are waiting; and I know they've already been made new.  And I can't wait for that sweet reunion one day soon.    
Thank you God, for reminding me that you are ever, and forever, faithful.  I love you.