Traditionally, today we celebrate The Ascension of The Lord! Who better than He to make a Graceful Exit? What a spectacular display of triumph over death! And while He entered the world somewhat hidden and through “ordinary means”-- as a baby born of a woman--He certainly did not leave this earth like you and I will.* And once He stated His final wishes and ascended on high, He did not stop there in His efforts to reach out to us. Oh no! He sent His Holy Spirit to be with us, dwell in us and to live through us. He sent us heaven on earth...He sent us His very self. “Heaven is a person: Jesus himself is what we call heaven.’” Pope Benedict XVI
My friend Mona has been given a tough diagnosis. Only a handful of months after burying her beloved husband whom she cared for through a long term illness for many years, has now herself been given “much to pray about”. Ironically, Mona had just finished writing a book called The Graceful Exit, 10 Things You Need To Know. It’s about facing reality, making wise choices and finding hope at the end of life. She now, by God’s grace, is getting to practice what she has so lovingly written and preached to us, her dear friends, over the years. She, like Jesus, is showing us all how to make a graceful exit.
What I know: Death is not the end, it is only a doorway we walk through to something more.
What I don’t know: When it will happen.
What I need to do based on the above: Be ready.
Knowing Jesus and what He has to say about the matter gives us extraordinary hope. We do not need to be afraid. Jesus has gone before us not only to show us how to live an amazing life here on earth, but also to show us how to die-- completely trusting in the love of the Father.
If you know Jesus and have this hope, He asks that you please share it! There are so many who live, and die, in fear. Below is a list of my top twelve comforting verses that if you or someone you love needs to draw strength in a time of fear or confusion, you can encounter heaven itself...while still here on earth. Enter into the Word of God and allow Him to help you. He will not only enable you to live a grace-filled life now…but, in the end, to make a graceful exit.
John 11:25-26 “Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?””
1 Corinthians 15:23 “But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when He comes back.”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Romans 5:8 ”But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
2 Corinthians 5:1-3 "For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven. For in this tent we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly habitation if indeed, when we have taken it off,we shall not be found naked. For while we are in this tent we groan and are weighed down, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a first installment."
Philippians 3 :20-21 “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.”
Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”
John 14:1-4 ““Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where [I] am going you know the way.”
Romans 8:16-17 “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
2 Corinthians 5:6-8 “So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord."
*1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.”
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 "For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do."
Thank you for dying and rising again! And with this, bringing me hope! Jesus I trust in You...in life and in death. Help me to trust in You more.
I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
*If He returns before we die...we will rise to meet Him! What a glorious thought!