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November 10, 2014

The Hope of Heaven

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  

Philippians 1:21 (NIV)

 From a prison cell in Rome, unsure of what the future would hold, the Apostle Paul was certain of two things.  If he was released, he would continue to live and serve Jesus, for Christ had become his life!  If he were to die, he would see Christ face to face!  Either way, for Paul, it was a win-win situation!  Do you face life like that?  When we talk about the future, we must consider the reality of our own mortality.  We will all ultimately face death.  The Bible says, “It is appointed unto men once to die….”  (Hebrews 9:27)  The real question is not if we are going to die one day, but what then?  The question the living ask is the same one that Job asked – “If someone dies, will they live again? …”  (Job 14:14 NIV)  Jesus answered this question at a funeral in John 11.  His good friend, Lazarus, had died, and Jesus told Lazarus’ sisters, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die.”  (John 11:25 NIV)  Then, Jesus proved it by raising Lazarus from the dead after he had been in the grave for four days!  Jesus went on to prove it again when He died on the cross and rose three days later.  There is life after death.  This world is not the end.  Heaven is a reality whether you believe it or not.  The Bible calls it our blessed hope!  If there is any time that we need hope in our lives, it is at death.  This weekend, Lee Strobel, one of our teaching pastors, shared a powerful message on the hope of Heaven, offering three practical benefits that it provides Christ followers today!  Each one encouraged me as I considered our future in Heaven one day.  The first benefit is that the hope of Heaven affirms our value!  Imagine it for a moment.  Outside of your immediate family, is there anyone that you want to invite to live with you for the rest of your life?  Johnny Carson used to say that houseguests are like fish.  They are okay for a few days, but then they begin to stink.  Consider how much God must love us to invite us to live with Him in His house for all eternity!  When Jesus spoke with His disciples about His death, He told them, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me. 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 14:1-3 (NLT) I don’t know what you’re facing today.  It could be unimaginable loss or grief beyond description.  Your hopes may have been shattered, and you may be questioning where God is in all of it.  You may have failed others, leaving you alone and too weak to find your way back to God.  If you’re there, I want to encourage you today.  The hope of Heaven affirms your value!  God loves you so much that His own Son came to pay the price for your failures and mine!  And, when He left, He promised that He was coming back to take us to His Father’s home where He has been preparing a place especially for us!  He wants you to live with Him forever!  Through Christ, your future in Heaven is secure!  If you’ve never received His free gift of forgiveness, receive it now.  Ask Jesus to become your life!