THE FIRST TIME 9-15-19

The First Time…

September 15, 2019

Back on September 2nd I posted a request on facebook for people to share their answer to the question, “What FIRST in your life do you have vivid memories of?” I was blessed with quite a few responses. 

My friend, Kathy, who I went to high school with, said she remembers seeing the big Christmas tree downtown in Chicago, where we both grew up.  I, too, remember that when I was quite young, my parents would take me for a drive down Michigan Ave. after all of the Christmas lights were up.  Julie remembers going to the Wisconsin Dells when she was only two years old.  Not everyone can consciously remember events from when they were an infant or toddler, but even when we cannot, they do still leave their impression on our future.  While I don’t remember going to my grandfather’s funeral at the age of two, I do still remember some of the nightmares I had later on as a child because of it.  Thankfully, because of Jesus, I no longer have either nightmares or a fear of death.  Kate remembers seeing a color TV for the first time at the store and thinking it was like her dreams.  We are definitely showing our age if we remember our first TV sets as being black & white.  I confess, mine was too!  Carolyn commented that she remembers the birth of her son.  I am very thankful for that memory of hers, because he is now my wonderful husband!  Mary remembers her new baby sister, Carol, and Carol was happy to see that comment!  My daughter, Erika, remembers taking my son, Tommy, out for this first attempt behind the wheel.  She must have been a good teacher, because Tommy turned out to be an excellent driver.  I still remember him yelling at me once when I didn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign.  Jan remembers the first time she rode in an airplane.  I remember that, too, as I’m sure many people who have ever ridden in one do as well.  Betsy remembers being the first one to ride down the hurricane slide at Turtle Park at the age of 5, and because she was first, she even left her footprint in the cement.  Marilyn remembers going to church with her parents, and Violet remembers singing in Sunday School.  Hopefully we all have some good early memories associated with church, and are creating these for our children and grandchildren.

But not all of the memories that were shared were good ones.  John remembers his first accident, and tragically, Patty remembers the loss of her son in an accident.  My mother said she remembers going to her first funeral, which was for her cousin that drowned when he was 13, because 3 boys threw him in the lake.  Memories such as these are unplanned and unwelcome, but still a part of life, and leave their mark on us for the rest of our journey here.  God doesn’t always give us an answer when we ask “why?”, but does promise His children that one day we will understand, and he will take away our sorrow forever. 

In my sermon last Sunday I mentioned how the street my husband, Ed, grew up on was Center Street in Joliet and the street we plan to retire to is Center Ave. in Conneaut Lake.  It was his first street and will be his last.  Which made me think of Jesus, because while the title of last week’s message was “Jesus is our Center”, Jesus is also the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega, as we read in several different verses in the Book of Revelation, starting in the first chapter, and ending in the last chapter.  “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come - the Almighty One.” (1:8). “And he also said, ‘It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega - the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life’.”  (21:6). “’Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!  May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.” (22:12-13, 20-21).  The closing words of the Bible, God’s Word to His people. 

And now, there is one more important first I would like to mention.  And this ‘first’ will far outshine any and every ‘first’ that you, or anyone else, has experienced on this earth, both good and bad. 

For those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, repented of their sins, and put their faith in his atoning death and resurrection alone for their salvation, it will be their first day in heaven - the first time they lay their eyes upon Jesus, and feel His overwhelming love surround them in a way that goes far beyond  the very slight preview they felt here on earth when they first believed.   No words can describe the joy and peace that will fill that first day, as well as the rest of their eternity.  When Allison shared her memory with me, she said she remembered the first time her family took a vacation out west and they saw the mountains.  She said it felt calm, like home.  She said it was a weird feeling, but somehow made sense, and wrote how she would do anything to move back there.  That is how it is with heaven.  It is our home, and our spirits long to go back home.

However, for those who have rejected Jesus, who refuse to repent and to believe in Him for their salvation, it will be their first day in hell.  The total absence of love, the complete and overwhelming darkness, the stabbing sense of regret and guilt, the utter loneliness and desperation, will be so much more intense than any grief or pain they have felt here on earth.  And the worst part is that it will last forever. 

But there is still time, as every lover of rock ‘n roll knows, to change the road you’re on, to get off the Highway to Hell and start climbing the Stairway to Heaven.  May your last ‘first’ be your best!  Amen.

VIDEOS: 

"Love Broke Thru"  (TobyMac)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdeSYHfJkqA

"God Only Knows"  (For King & Country)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rymuIQvJ6t8