Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Grieving With Hope

Another shocking death rocked our community last Friday—a recent high school graduate. It seems like there have been an unusual number of fatal accidents and terminal diagnoses the last few months. They’ve affected both young and old. Death jolts us with finality; grief hangs over us like a cloud. 

No matter how old, we’re never ready for our loved ones to die. Even though we know it’s inevitable, death still surprises us. We wish we could have just one more day with them. We cry, we question, we rage, and, when we let ourselves, we work through the grieving process. Yet some people live with hope.

Our bodies are destined to die, but our souls live forever. For those who follow Christ in this life, there is the hope of eternity in heaven with Him. We still miss our loved ones, but we know it will only be a little while until we can see them, never to be parted again. 

Paul wrote this to the believers in Thessalonica:

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

What does all this mean? Here’s a bite by bite:

Death is not a permanent state. For the Christian, it’s a passageway to eternity with God. That’s why when a believer dies, no matter how sudden or tragic or young, other believers are confident they will see them again. 

Christians base their hope on the fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We are looking forward to the Rapture—when Jesus comes back to earth to gather His children and take us home. 

When He comes, He’s going to bring everyone who died as Christians with Him. What a reunion that will be!

This is encouraging news, even though we miss those who’ve died. We still ache to hold them; the bed still feels empty; we miss their laughter; and the holidays are never the same, but we have hope.

What about unbelievers? Not everyone who dies goes to heaven to be with Jesus. The Bible is very clear. God does not send people to hell; they choose it themselves when they turn away from Him. God will not force anyone to spend eternity with Him in heaven, who does not want to know Him while on earth. He gives us the freedom to choose. 

For the unbeliever, death is the entrance to eternity without God. Now is the time to decide—glorious hope, or uncertainty and despair? 

My dear friend, if you don’t know Jesus, I encourage you to check out His story in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John of the Bible and decide for yourself. 

Was He who He claimed to be? 

Did the prophecies about Him throughout the Old Testament come true? 

Could a mere man predict specifics about his birth, death, and resurrection and make them all come true? 

Do you want to be free from sin and guilt?

You can be. Ask Jesus to reveal himself to you. And learn what it means to hope even when you’re grieving.

#lifeafterdeath #grieving #whenJesuscomes #Rapture  #1Thess4:13-18

Thursday, June 14, 2018

What My Father Taught Me

One of my favorite commercials shows a boy riding in back seat of the car with his dad. The boy’s looking out the window while he’s on a work call, until his dad says, “No, I’m sorry, I just can’t do that. I may lose the account, but it wouldn’t be honest and I can’t do business that way.” The son listens. A lesson has been taught.

The next scene shows the son at school. There’s a pop quiz in class and he’s not ready. Another boy offers to let him copy his answers. He thinks about it, then replies, “No I just can’t do that. I probably won’t do very well, but it wouldn’t be honest.”

Dads are teaching, even when they don’t realize it. I’m thankful for all you dads out there who actively, purposefully teach your children right and wrong, and even more, for you who live it out day by day. I applaud your diligence and integrity.

My dad did both and I’m grateful for his influence in my life. Here are a few things I’ve learned from him:

How to laugh
My dad has a great sense of humor, but he doesn’t laugh at the expense of others. He laughs at himself, and the funny and ridiculous turns of life. I love to hear his laughter.

The joy of music
Music was Dad’s work, but it’s also his delight. There was always music in our home—from the stereo, or someone practicing piano, flute, saxophone, clarinet, or voice. He and Mom played piano and trombone for years, then tried their hands at piano duets. They sang in the choir and we sang as a family. Our two “Halleluia” rounds are my all time favorites, but so are the silly songs we sang on camping and road trips, “Bill Grogan’s Goat; I’ve a Pair of Fishes; Tumba, Tumba; and Senor Don Gato Was a Cat.

How to take care of your body
Dad has always worked out. When I was a child he would change out of his suit and tie into a white t-shirt and sweats to do his military calisthenics after work. He loved hiking and playing tennis. He’s still going to the gym and playing tennis several times a week in his 80’s. And even though we all share a great love for food, Dad eats a healthy diet to keep his weight down.

That humility is strength
My dad is human and he has made mistakes. But I think I’ve admired him most when he humbled himself to apologize for a wrong or overly harsh response. He willingly asks for advice and learns from others.

The value of work
Work is a positive thing in my family. Mom and Dad praised our efforts, even when they were less than perfect, and they encouraged us girls to get jobs as soon as we were old enough.Working and practicing good stewardship taught us how to handle money, and we took pride in doing our best even when no one was watching.

How to balance work and family
But it wasn’t all work. Some Saturdays we took off for the beach or a hike. We traveled, played games together, and watched movies. When we were together Dad was fully present in our conversations and set work aside to be with us.

The importance of putting God first
My dad says he’s not much of a reader, but he’s been studying God’s Word as long as I remember. A born teacher, he likes to discuss whatever he and Mom are teaching in Sunday school. Dad doesn’t attend church, read the Bible, or do the right thing just when he feels like it, but because he’s committed to living every moment for Jesus.

About spiritual leadership
Mom and Dad led us in family devotions—not every day and it was not always fun. But now that we’re adults, my sisters and I all love talking with them about God whenever we’re together. Dad was the spiritual leader of our home, not because he demanded it, but because he accepted his God-given role and rose to the challenge.

I’m so thankful for my Dad and all he’s taught me. I could say much more, but I want to give you the chance to share what your fathers have taught you. Click on the Comment button and share a favorite memory, or what your dad is currently teaching you. And be sure to share with your dad how thankful you are for his words and example.

Happy Father’s Day!

#Father’sDay #teachingbyexample #actionsspeaklouderthanwords #bettercaughtthantaught #godlydads #loveyoudad

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What Does That Mean?

Most of the Bible, especially the New Testament, is pretty straight forward. I love the narratives of people’s lives throughout the Old and New Testament. I learn from both their good and bad examples. But sometimes it seems like the authors of the Bible disguise their message in mystic symbolism instead of saying what they mean.
Western readers miss a lot, especially in the books of wisdom, poetry, and prophesy, because we think differently than those in the eastern culture. Living centuries later makes a difference too. It’s all still relevant, we just don’t have the same customs, clich├ęs, or live the same way they did at the time it was written. The more we learn about the original audience, the easier it is to understand the Bible. But we don’t have to do this alone.

This is where the Church comes in. When we get together with other believers and grapple with a passage or concept, it suddenly comes alive. Those who’ve read and studied can share their insights, others’ personal experiences can shed light on the topic. Both those who’ve read the Bible all their lives and brand new believers still finding their way around, have valuable input and questions—we’re better together.

That’s what happened in our small group Sunday morning. In the middle of our study on Revelation, we paused to discuss Psalm 131:2, “I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.” What does that mean anyway?

 “How does a weaned child behave differently with its mother than a nursing baby?” There were so many different answers!

“They’re more defiant?” 

“They learn the word, ‘No.’” We all laughed.

But that didn’t fit the tone of the psalm, because David was describing a positive action on his part. This verse stumped me for years. My commentaries didn’t say much about it, but after I nursed two babies, I saw the difference in our relationship after they were weaned.

Babies howl at all times of the day and night. Every hunger pang, wet diaper, emerging tooth—any discomfort—is the end of the world and needs to be fixed RIGHT NOW. But months of nursing nurture an intimate bond between mother and child. As they mature and begin to eat solid food, children become more independent, but still look to Mom (and Dad) to meet their needs.

The more they see how faithfully she cares for them, the more they love and trust her. A weaned child still looks to Mom for sustenance, but understands she will provide what’s necessary when the time is right. 

A weaned child comes to Mom just to be near her, even when there’s no particular need. Because of love. She’s the one who comforts when their out of sorts and don’t know what to do; she’s the one who wipes their tears and snuggles them when they skin their knee. With Mom, they laugh, explore, and express wonder.

Someone else shared a very important insight. Weaned children choose intimacy. The more independent they become, the less they need to rely on Mom. They can choose whether they eat the plate of healthy food she provides, or snack on dirt in the yard, crumbs off the floor, or hold out for junk food when it’s available. They can go to Mom when there’s a need, or hide their hurt and questions inside. They can trust Mom’s instruction, or believe their friend’s five-year-old wisdom instead. 

Which child are you? Do you howl for God to fix your problems and expect Him to do it RIGHT NOW? Are you still drinking milk? Or have you learned to trust Him and wait for His timing because you’ve experienced His love and faithfulness? Are you eating the meat of the Word? Do you come to Him, not just when you need something, but to snuggle and laugh, marvel at His creation, learn from Him, and tell Him how much you love Him?

I know which child I want to be. It’s not easy to grow up, but what a beautiful picture of the kind of relationship we can have with God—if we will still and quiet our soul.

#poetryanalysis #analyzingscripture #donenursing #motherchildbond #psalm131:2 #intimacywithGod

Thursday, May 31, 2018

While You’re Waiting

I hate waiting. Most of us do. It seems like a waste of time. It’s like sitting at the side of a trail instead of hiking. Your body aches to get moving, but you don’t want to waste time and energy traveling the wrong direction. So when God says to wait, you wait. And maybe pace and sigh a little.

But there’s one verse in the Bible I love, because it tells me I don’t have to just sit by the trail getting cold, my legs cramping from inactivity. It says: “Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts” (Isa. 26:8). In other words—while walking, we wait. Sound like a paradox? 

When we’re waiting on the Lord to give us directions about a financial decision, relationship quandary, work situation, or health choice, we don’t want to move ahead of His will, but we can be productive. There are a lot of things we can act on, and that feels really good since our feet are made for walking. We walk in the way of His laws—His decrees or commands. 

That means, while we’re waiting, we can:

Be Truthful
With God, others, and ourselves. We can align ourselves with God’s truths stated in scripture. We can move forward in truth, even while we wait for Him to guide us with specifics.

Be Pure
Other words that come to mind are virtuous, moral, righteous, ethical. These may sound too churchy for your taste, but this is what gets us where we need to go. What is right according to God? That leaves out immoral thoughts and behavior. Selfish ambition and greed are also rabbit trails that lead to dead ends, as well as questionable partnerships.

When the forest is dark and quiet and we’re anxious about getting to our destination, it can be hard to trust God to show up in time. That’s when knowing His character helps us hang in there. He is trust-worthy. He has proven himself in the past and He is never late. He knows what needs to happen when, before we do. So we slow our pace, take a few deep breaths, and enjoy the scenery. Relax in His arms.

Savor Companionship
Though it may feel like we’re all alone on the trail, there are in fact many other hikers around. They may be waiting too and glad of the company. Share some trail mix—you’ll need the nourishment to sustain you. Laugh together, share stories, and do some stretches while you wait for instructions.

Too many times we hurtle through life at a ridiculous pace and miss the beauty of the moment. My dad used to hike so fast that I barely had time to look around and enjoy the view, and if I did I ended up tripping over roots and rocks. But God loves it when we take time to worship Him. Even when we’re not sure exactly where we’re going, He surrounds us with beauty worthy of our praise and adoration. He is good and His plans for us are good, even in times of pain and uncertainty.

This is not a comprehensive list—just a few ways we can keep moving forward on this journey of life, even while we’re waiting. I encourage you to ask the Lord what He wants you to do while you wait. And be ready to move out when He speaks.

Happy trails to you. I hope to see you at the end of the road.

#keepmoving #whattodowhenwaiting #walking #obeyingGod #wastedtime #happytrails