Seven things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving:
1) Jesus’ Work at Calvary
Every person is a filthy rotten wretch. Granted there are some who are worse than others, but compared to God’s standard of righteousness we are all rotten. Knowing this, God the Father required of His Son to leave His home in Heaven and take on frail human flesh so that the Jews, the Roman government and the multitudes could beat Him and crucify Him on a hill called Calvary. Calvary is Latin for Golgotha. It is the hill outside of Jerusalem that is shaped like a skull. It is where Jesus was brutally murdered. More specifically it is where Jesus became your sin and where Jesus made provision for your righteousness. Jesus’ work at Calvary made it possible for you to receive the righteousness of God.
2) God’s Gift of Grace
No matter how good a person is they cannot be good enough to be acceptable to God. Remember God’s standard for acceptability is perfection. Because of God’s goodness He bestows the gift of salvation on those who are willing to confess Him as Lord, those who live as though He is Lord. Grace is “unmerited favor.” You can’t earn it and you can’t buy it. It is only available to those who are blessed to receive it from God. By grace through faith followers of Jesus are adopted into the family of God and are given the full rights of sons and daughters. Not because of anything we have done but simply because we are called by Him to come and drink from the water of life. Grace we can’t earn it or buy it we have it because He chose to give it to us.
3) Our Church Family
We all have something in common here in the body of Christ at Ridglea. We are all needy. We need to be better believers than we are. We need more strength more grace, more wisdom, more knowledge, more faith more forgiveness! Through the church family, God is creating an environment in which we will be changed. The family of faith at Ridglea provides us with fellowship as we strengthen one another by sharpening each other day by day. Each of us has days from time to time that cause us to feel overwhelmed. By coming together we remind each other that we are not alone but that we are here for each other. We willingly carry one another’s burdens. We share the loads of life and that lightens the weight each of us has to carry as individuals. We also share what we know and have learned with each other whereby we are strengthened and are better equipped for the next battle. Sometimes we need to be like sandpaper is to wood with each other. Sandpaper smooths out the rough edges and pits off of wood. By listening to one another we are able to lovingly counsel each other through the rough spots of our lives and personalities.
4) God’s Sovereign Hand
As we try our best to be who we are supposed to be in Christ. It is good to know that our eternal security is not based on how well we do in life in respect to being a Christian. While there is a relationship between sowing and reaping ultimately God is in control of working everything out for His glory. We are to be who we are supposed to be and do what we know God would have us do. Then we rest knowing God’s sovereign hand will work everything out in His time and in His way. God protects us from the evil one and at the same time He provides us with whatever is needed to carry out His desires in our lives.
5) God’s Word
Maneuvering through the minefield is much easier if you know where the mines are buried. Life is like a minefield there are plenty of places to step, but there are plenty of places that if you step everything will blow up. The Word of God gives us the training we need to know how to avoid stepping on the mines. Reading and studying God’s Word enlightens us with wisdom for everyday life. Be thankful to God that the Holy Spirit guided the hand of so many to write God’s Word and then be thankful that God’s sovereign hand brought each book to the place where it would be included in the Bible.
6) The Holy Spirit
Immanuel is God with us. The Holy Spirit is God in us. He comforts us in times of distress. He seals us for the day of Jesus’ return. He guides us in our daily lives. He teaches us the truth of God’s Word. He intercedes with God in our prayer life. He convicts us of wrong behavior.
We are not here randomly. You and I exist because God Himself knitted us together in our mother’s womb. He knows your name and He is longing to have a relationship with you. He draws us to Him. When He created us He put a desire for Him in our heart. By His grace you have found your purpose for existence. You are here to bring Him glory by abiding with Him daily. The Psalmist writes, “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart’s desire” (Psalm 37:4). By pursuing Jesus you find fulfillment in accomplishing the purpose of your life and for that you can be truly thankful because the lost world has no idea what they exist for.
Heaven, Home for God’s People
When death occurs people wonder what happens to a person’s soul when they die? It’s an honest question deserving an honest answer. Some believe that when a person takes their final breath that is it; life is over. Some believe there is more; they believe the soul continues. What is the truth and how do we know? We can know because someone came from heaven and walked with us to show us that God and heaven are real. That person was Jesus. He came from Heaven to earth to show the way back to Heaven. He told people that heaven was a real place and that He would die to make a way for people to go there after death.
After paying a debt He did not owe Jesus made possible eternal life in heaven for all who believe. We know this because He lived, died and rose from the grave. Jesus had told His disciples He would go to heaven and prepare a place for them and when the time was right He would come and take them to be with Him there.
A young mother to be sits on a pier beside the calm waters of a lake. Inside her womb is a little boy who knows no language and has seen nothing with his eyes. To the mother’s delight the sun is slowing setting and it is one of those sunsets that are orange, red, purple and blue all at the same time. There are only a few clouds but each reflects the beauty of the sun’s rays. In a feeble attempt the mother tries to describe the majestic beauty of God’s painting to her unborn child. She uses words her son has never heard and comparisons his brain cannot yet reason. Nonetheless, the child senses the emotion and vastness of the beauty without a word by word description. His little mind is unable to comprehend what his mother sees yet somehow the mother’s emotions move the child to awake and kick her in excitement. Without seeing and without understanding the baby knows something indescribable is before him. The believer’s eyes cannot see heaven and our ears cannot hear nor can our minds conceive but by God’s Spirit we know that there is a place prepared by God that is vastly greater than this place we now reside. To us heaven’s beauty is much like the sunset is to the unborn child. We know it’s there but we can’t see it or fully comprehend it.
The Bible give symbols and statements designed to communicate the beauty and splendor of a heaven that we can’t see or fully comprehend. Yet by God’s Spirit, presence and Word we receive tiny snippets of its grandeur as we develop in our walk with Jesus. Heaven is God’s intended home for those who respond to His call of salvation.
A Place With God
Today you must have faith that God exists in order to see Him. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near Him, must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6) Initially faith is believing without seeing, but in God’s goodness He validated our faith by allowing us to see His effect in the world around us. Much like you cannot see the wind but you can see its effects. When a believer dies his faith is turned into sight. They no longer see God through eyes of faith but through eyes of absolute reality. Faith ceases to be faith because it is turned into site.
Heaven is the eternal place where God is always present with His people. “God’s dwelling place is with humanity and He will live with them. They will be His people and He will be with them.” (Rev. 21:3)…”They will see His face.” (Rev. 22:4)
In the beginning of mankind God planted a garden and called it Eden. It was the place on earth where God walked with Adam in the cool of the day. Adam was blessed to see God face to face and freely communicate with Him. God’s presence is a gift from God to His people. What a comfort it must have been for Adam to know that no matter what was transpiring in the Garden of Eden, God was right there with him. Adam could see Him, touch Him, feel Him, and smell Him. Unfortunately Adam sinned and that changed everything. God had to remove Adam from the Garden before he could eat from the Tree of Life. The terrible truth was that leaving the Garden would remove God’s physical presence from Adam.
Jesus is God become flesh. As Jesus God came and made His dwelling with men to show us who He was and that He would make a way for mankind to be returned to the physical presence of God. What heaven looks like is not the main thing we need to know. What we need to know is God will be there. He will be with us and we will be with Him.
A Place of Perfection
The world we live in is a hard place. It is a place where troubles and problems are ever present, a place of tremendous physical pain. Life is hard. All of these troubles, problems and pain are due to sin; my sin, your sin and everyone else’s sins. The world would be a much different place if everyone did exactly what God wanted them to do. If everyone did what God wanted them to do this place would be heaven, but it’s not!
Sin is acting on the thought that we know better how to live our lives than does God. There is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to death Proverbs 14:12). God’s way is perfect. In the Garden God said, “Don’t eat of the Tree of Knowledge for on the day you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). Adam and his wife, Eve, chose their personal desire over God’s instruction and their world, as they knew it, came to an end. Sin changed everything. But God who is rich in mercy has made heaven to give His saints a place to return to where sin is removed and He is physically present once again.
In heaven all is as it should be. Every person there does right always. Because that is the case, there is no need for tears of pain, no situations that cause grief, no dying, and no death. The perfect Utopia that existed in the Garden is once more a reality.
A Place of Joy
One of the things about life that gives us much unhappiness is not knowing the whole story. We know bits and pieces but never the whole circumstances. We know enough to make us worry because we don’t know how things will turn out. We don’t know what is going to happen. In heaven all the mysterious questions of life will be answered, our knowledge is complete. 1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully.” A song writer once put it this way:
Trials dark on every hand, and we cannot understand, all the ways that God would lead us to that blessed promised land; But He guides us with His eye, and we’ll follow till we die, For we’ll understand it better by and by.
By: Charles Tindly
Heaven is joyous because all the burdens of life are removed. Life is hard, but God has graciously removed the problems of life, so we are relieved and we worship Him in joyous praise.
Through Jesus’ struggles with life and death we can see that there is joy ahead. The physical death of Jesus was horrendous to say the least but He willingly presses through the time of His beating and crucifixion because He knew the joy that was to come. As David once said, “Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:56)
By the Spirit of God that indwells us we can endure life’s trial because we know that the joy of victory over sin is just over in heaven. Because God’s Spirit indwells, the followers of Jesus often get a sense of this future joy. By the filling of God’s Spirit a believer will sometimes experience overwhelming joy. Sometimes this occurs in times of worship, sometimes in times of prayer or even the in Bible study. This joy is only a glimpse of the joy that is in store for the people of God in heaven.
A Place of Service
There will be things to do in heaven. People need something to do. That is the way God made us. All the complication of work will end but work itself will go on. The Bible does not tell us what that work will be but it does tell us we will still be serving God.
“And there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His slaves will serve Him” (Rev. 22:3).
Even in Adam’s perfect utopia of the Garden, God had instructed him to work it and keep it. When God created us He built in our DNA a need to work. Solomon said, “There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand” (Ecc. 2:24). Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master and as His servants we find great joy and a sense of purpose in serving Him. We may not yet know what our service in heaven will be but we know it will be and that it will be perfectly achievable because everything will be as it should be and every servant will be doing what they are instructed to do.
A Place of Permanence
In life we are always saying, “Goodbye” to people we love. Job said, “Life is short and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Johnny Cash said, “Everyone goes away” in one of his last songs. One of the truly marvelous things about heaven is there will be no sad goodbyes. No one dies. Death is defeated and the people who have been resurrected to life live forever.
When Jesus rose from the grave He defeated death. He proved that the people of God would come to life even after they died. John says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist.” (Rev. 21:4) My dad used to have a saying that went like this, “As sure as death and taxes.” His point was everyone is going to pay taxes and everyone is going to die. Well I don’t know about the taxes but I know everyone dies. In heaven death has not only been defeated it has been abolished. It exists no more. There will be no more sad goodbyes.
A Place of Peace
Almost 3,000 years ago Isaiah the prophet describe God’s newly created heaven as a place where the wolf and the lamb will feed together, a place where the lion will eat straw like an ox. The wolf is not a friend to a sheep. His desire is to rip open the flesh of the sheep and destroy him. The lion is a meat eater, the King of the Beast and he wants to kill and eat. The symbolism here is that these nature wars will no longer exist. Nation will not be at war with nation. People will be at peace with one another and every human will be in a state of perfect rest with God. The peace of heaven is not just the absence of war and turmoil it is calm and filling at the same time. We will be emptied of our sin; worry and anxiety are fully enveloped by the God of peace. His knowledge will be our knowledge; His strength will be our comfort. His love will be our source of existence. Writing about peace is difficult because the peace I try to describe is a peace that surpasses all understanding. The only way one can comprehend it is to experience it and it cannot be fully experienced until we are heaven. Oh how we, the disciples of Jesus, long to be consumed by the perfect peace God has provided in heaven.
The Symbols of Heaven
God has placed many symbols of heaven in the Bible. These symbols are word pictures of absolute realities. When the Word of God says heaven has streets of gold it may mean literally that the streets are made of gold or it may be saying that the paths the people of God walk on are paved with a substance that has been purified by the trials of life. When gold is mined from the shaft it is a mixture of gold and rock. The gold is of great value but the rock is relatively worthless. By crushing the block of rock and gold and heating it over a fire the rock pieces will separate from the gold. These rock pieces or impurities are removed from the gold and then the gold is heated again. Through this process of smelting the valuable gold is purified. When we walk on the golden streets of heaven we will know that God has used the trials of this life to purify us, to make us pure and holy. Our trials and tribulations are preparing us for the day when we are the perfect representation of Jesus. Through life’s situations God heats up our daily life and methodically removes the dross from our person.
Another symbol used in Revelation to describe heaven is a pearl. There are twelve gates in heaven each carved out of a single pearl. The pearl begins as a piece of sand in an oyster or saltwater clam. That sand irritates the muscle in the shell and causes the muscle to produce a substance that coats the sand. Over a period of time a pearl is formed. Imagine the amount of irritation needed to produce a pearl large enough to make a gate a person can walk through. Again we see that the irritations and trials of life have produced something beautiful. Those columns are symbols saying life is hard but God is making you beautiful for your eternity in heaven.
The river described in Revelation lets us know that our thirst for God is quenched. Here in south Mississippi July is hot and humid. Just a few moments in the sunshine will dehydrate a body. Water is needed and desired by anyone who is forced to work in the heart. There is no better feeling than cool clear water on your tongue to satisfy the bodies need for water.
The symbols that describe heaven may or may not be literal, but each symbol does paint a picture of an absolute reality in a certain place that we are too week minded to fully understand. On that day when we stand in Christ complete we will know fully as does God. Today we are fully known by Him but on that day we will know Him and heaven fully.
Jesus The Only Way to Heaven
Jesus is unlike any prophet, priest or king who ever lived. He is fully human and fully God. He is the only perfect man to live on earth. That is why He alone was worthy to die in order to pay the sin debt of people. All people are sinners and are in need of God’s forgiveness if they want to go to heaven.
By dying Jesus makes forgiveness possible. While Jesus was on the cross of Calvary God poured out His anger on sin so that whoever would can come to Him in repentance could and would be forgiven. The truly wonderful news to humans is to anyone who will receive His grace God will forgive their sin. God, who is rich in mercy, is faithful and will wipe away all the sins of every person who calls upon the name of Jesus. No other person ever provided forgiveness of sin for people. In this Jesus is exclusive and that is why the Bible says, “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but through Him”(John 14:6).