Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Kathy and I are in Alaska again. Our plane touched down at 2:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning after being gone on vacation for almost 3 weeks visiting family and friends. As I began writing this devotion on the plane, I “eagerly awaited” returning to my home in Alaska! My children and my grandchildren live in Palmer. I’ve missed them while I was out of town. My church family at St. John is also located in Palmer. And, while gone, I have thought of many of our people, praying and wishing I could be there to bring God’s love. I confess that I find joy and fulfillment in serving in the place where God has called me. After two weeks of vacation I was sort of “chomping at the bit” to be back doing the work God has called me to do. After 3 weeks I confess to “early awaiting” our return home . . . sort of.
The last two weeks of our vacation was in Gainesville, Florida. My dad lives in Gainesville and we spent time with him. We ate with my dad, ran errands with him, and worshiped with him while visiting. My brothers and sister also live in Florida. I saw most of them on this trip, as well as many nephews and nieces. God has blessed me with a wonderful extended family. I appreciate time spent with them in conversation, in worship, in recreation, just being family. In addition to blood family, while in Gainesville Kathy and I worshiped at First Lutheran Church, the church that has been the cradle of much of my faith as a Christian. In addition to my dad, there are many others at this congregation whom I know from when I was a child. We have a shared faith journey. It was good to visit family and friends, and it was also good to visit church family in Florida. I eagerly awaited my return to Alaska. But, in returning home, I had to leave family and friends in Florida.
Are you eagerly awaiting another trip, your journey to heaven? God speaks through Paul to give this promise to the Christians in Philippi, “20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20-21) Are you eagerly awaiting eternal life in heaven with God? If so, why do you eagerly await this journey?
That is a big question with multiple answers for each person. Some people are looking forward to seeing their Savior, face to face. I have met Christians who shared with me their fervent hope of meeting Jesus. Some people look forward to an end to the pain and suffering of this world. That can especially true for those who are ill, or those who miss loved ones who have passed on. Others look forward to life that lasts forever with no fear of death. Scripture gives us many reasons to do what Paul says, “to eagerly await our Savior.” Again, why are you looking forward to eternal life in heaven with Jesus?
You may ask, “Pastor, what does this question have to do with your visit with family and friend’s in FL, and your return home to Alaska? Yes, I am glad to be home in Alaska, but I was also glad to visit those in Florida. However, I am only human and cannot be in both places at once.
So, let me share some of the reasons why I eagerly await eternal life in heaven. I also fervently look forward to time with my Lord. But, in many ways I can’t imagine the “glory to be revealed” (Romans 8:19) when I meet Jesus. I also look forward to the end of pain and trouble of this world. Yet, life in this world also has many blessings. (Revelation 21:3-4). But, one of the big reasons I look forward to eternal life in heaven is that I won’t have to say “good bye” any longer. Actually, I’ve had this hope about heaven throughout my adult life. When I would leave family and friends for school, or when I would leave the churches where I was pastor to visit family and friends, I have regretted saying “Good-Bye.” In heaven, I won’t have to say “Good-Bye” anymore.
In fact, think of those whom God has called home. There are family members, friends, fellow Christians, who have died believing in Jesus and are now in heaven. There is no trip on this earth which I can take to spend time with those loved ones and friends who have died. Yet, in heaven, I can spend as much time as I want with loved ones and friends who have believed in Jesus, and, after spending time with them, still have time for others. With the gift of heaven, God gives eternal life. In heaven, I won’t have to say “Good-Bye” anymore!
William Shakespeare is famous for writing the phrase, “Parting is such sweet sorrow” in his tragic drama, “Romeo and Juliet.” I think I understand what Shakespeare meant. But, “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Thankfully, in heaven we will not have to say, “Good-Bye anymore!”
A Child of God, Thankful for the Promise of Eternal Life in Heaven,
P.S. Here are all the pictures from our vacation. https://photos.app.goo.gl/3Iz1u7xY2gq6UkP83
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.