Citizens of Heaven

Scripture Reading: Philippians 3:17-21

“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live accordingly to the pattern we gave you.  For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 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.”

My grandfather, Cleve Simmons, was a deacon in his church, he was a farmer, and he was a good Christian man.  I spent a lot of time with him as I was growing up – and he always had many stories about his life to share with me.  Although I didn’t realize it at the time, these stories taught me many valuable life lessons that help to guide me even today.  My grandfather was wise in the way that you should live your life in order to please God.

He had so much wisdom that he would pass on to me throughout my teen years.  He believed and had a deep faith in God, and he did not doubt for a second, that God was with him each and every day of his life. He believed in treating other people fairly, helping out those in need, and loving his neighbors as well as his family.  That was the kind of life that he tried to live out in his small farming community in Banks County.

My grandfather lived all of his 89 years in his beloved Banks County.  In fact, he rarely traveled outside of the state of Georgia.  Whenever I would ask him to take a day trip with us to Atlanta or to go on a short vacation with us he would always answer me the same way, he would say, “Son – I haven’t lost anything there – so there’s no need for me to go.”  He was a citizen of Banks County and the United States and he was proud of that.  But more importantly, he knew that he was a citizen of another place, a place that he couldn’t see but he knew that it existed.  He was also a citizen of heaven and that was one journey that he looked forward to.

He and I talked a lot about heaven.  He would tell me what he imagined heaven to be like and how he would be glad to see his parents and his brothers again as well as his son who had passed away from cancer at the young age of 39.  He was dedicated to living a good Christian life while here on earth and showing kindness and offering help to those less fortunate.

The book of Hebrews tells us, “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come.” And it is that promise of our future home that should help us become better people here on this earth.

I was with my grandfather on the night that he passed away and left this earth. He would be conscious one minute and then he would drift out on us the next.

When I walked into his hospital room that night, he opened his eyes and said “Hey son, it’s good to see you.”  He would continue to be in this world for a few minutes and then he would have visions of heaven which he would describe out loud to those of us present.  I knew that he was about to experience that beautiful heaven that he and I had so often talked about and wondered about.

He saw his brothers and he called them by name.  And then he drifted out on us again.   I have often wondered about his arrival in heaven and who was there to greet him among his family that had gone on before him.  I often wonder who was in his welcoming committee in heaven.

His last words to me were, “Son, it’s good to see you”, and I imagine that when he arrived in heaven he was also told, “Son, it’s good to see you, welcome home to the place that I have prepared for you, for eternity.

Prayer

God, help us to live like citizens of heaven while here on this earth. Help us to see what needs to be done around us and to live lives that are worthy of your kingdom.  Help us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Amen.

Just One Step

Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:34-40

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in , I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

In November of 2006, I had the opportunity to visit the country of Liberia, in West Africa. My home church, Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, had given some assistance to a church there outside the capital city of Monrovia. Commission Baptist Church is the name of that church in West Africa and it is led by a truly wonderful and loving pastor. At the time I visited the church, Liberia was just beginning to recover from a brutal fourteen year civil war in which many lives were lost. Most families in the church had to cope with the loss of one or more family members.

Our church had given financial assistance to Commission Baptist Church to rebuild the roof on their church. The roof was removed and the church was almost destroyed during the civil war. The church was very important to the congregation and they wanted to get their place of worship back in the best condition possible.

One of the first things that I noticed when we arrived at the church was a hand made sign that read, “Just one step and God will do the rest.” It was several days later however, that I really began to recognize the significance of those words to the people of Commission Baptist Church.

We were in a meeting with the deacons from Commission Baptist Church and some deacons from other area congregations. I started telling the deacons about how our church feels a calling to do mission work. I told them about the bread burners – a retired group of men in our church who decided to go out into the community feeding the hungry and sharing the love of Christ. I shared with them how several Sunday school classes volunteer to prepare and serve lunch at Our Daily Bread, for the homeless in our community. I told them about Touching Taliaferro with Love, the summer camp to help disadvantaged children in the poorest county in Georgia.

I told them about the group of church members that went to Louisiana to help people recover from the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. I shared with them the story of people in our church that volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.

Pastor Weah, the pastor of Commission Baptist Church, later told me, “That’s what I am trying to get my congregation to be aware of. We are called to move beyond the walls of this church and go out into the community and share the love of Christ with people that do not know Christ.” “We have to move beyond our comfort zone and be out among people who are different.”

This pastor was speaking to his congregation that had lost practically all of their possessions and who were struggling daily to feed their families. And their pastor was asking them to go out and help others – and share the love of Christ with their neighbors and with complete strangers. I’m sure that they had to wonder how they were going to be able to do that when putting food on their table each day was a major concern. Pastor Weah would later tell his congregation that it is not about what we as humans are able to accomplish, it is God’s will that will be carried out if we listen, obey and are faithful. We can’t be afraid of the unknown, or fearful of others who are different from us. We can’t let our own individual limitations stop us. Just one step and God will do the rest.

As followers of Christ we are called to help others and to show compassion to others. We learn to think less about ourselves and our own needs and more about the needs and concerns of others. And when you do this you have the promise of Jesus to “take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

Prayer:
God, help me to be more aware of how I can help my fellow human beings. Help me to not be judgmental and to be more loving, like the example that Jesus gave us to follow. Take away my selfishness and give me a desire to help others that truly need some love and compassion in their lives. Amen.

Peace of Christ in Today’s World

Today’s Scripture
John 14:27
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Today’s Message
These words from the Gospel of John speak of the inner peace that you can find when you come to know Christ. This peace that Jesus offers is real and present and available to all who call upon His name.

We are reminded daily that our world is filled with hate, violence, and destruction. As Christians, we are called to be a voice of peace and a giver of peace to those that we encounter each day. We can do this by being kind and compassionate to others even when they are not doing the same to us.

I meet people almost everyday who are angry and who are content being unhappy.I make it a point to at least smile and speak to those kinds of people because I know that they need compassion and understanding in their life. I may not get any type of reaction back from them, but I believe that eventually, they will remember that someone was kind and took the time to speak to them.

By doing this, we are sharing the peace of Christ with other that we encounter daily. Christ had compassion on all people and He expects us to do the same. So don’t be afraid, show some peace and love and compassion to those that you encounter on your daily walk with God.

Several years ago, I had a supervisor at work that would visit me a couple of times a month. He could be very intimidating and his language was usually very vulgar. I started repeating these words of Jesus about peace whenever this man would visit. I would recite this verse over and over to myself. As time passed I noticed that he was not as rude and hateful as he was at first. And his language improved to the point that he would apologize when he did slip up.

Reminding ourselves of the peace that our Lord and Savior offers us can help us through some difficult days and some difficult times in our lives. And sometimes, it can bring about a change in other people as well.

Prayer:
Jesus, help me to remember the peace that you offer to all that believe in you. And help me as a believer to share that peace with everyone that I encounter. Fill me with your love so that I can share that love with others that so desperately need it. Amen.

My Daily Journey With God in Athens Ga.