From a Weight of Care to a Weight of Glory.

In the midst of Job’s suffering, he remarked, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).

We might sometimes lament, “Why does life have to be so hard?”

God didn’t originally create life to be so troublesome in Eden. But sin affected everything, from the people God created to the earth they lived in (Genesis 3). Humans had work to do before sin entered the world (Genesis 2:15). But it would have been something like working at your favorite hobby with nothing going wrong. However, after sin entered the world, part of God’s curse was that thorns and thistles would spring up and labor would cost sweat and pain (Genesis 3:16-19).

Besides daily work becoming hard, personal relationships would suffer because now everyone would have a sin nature. Misunderstandings, anger, selfishness, pride, and more would war in hearts and against others. The very first person born to Adam and Eve murdered his brother.

And human history went downhill from there.

Each of us has experienced the fallenness of the world.

From early childhood we fall and get scraped up, hear taunts, teasing, and put-downs from other children, get into trouble when we do wrong, feel misunderstood and mistreated.

As teenagers we either strive to get into the popular crowd and then not lose our place, or we lament that we’ll always be on the outside. Then there’s acne, puberty, hormones, questions about the future.

As adults we struggle to make a living against increasing prices. Workplace feuds and misunderstandings crowd out enjoyment in our jobs. Someone else gets the promotion we were due. Someone takes the credit for our idea.

We struggle against our own sin nature and lament the continual pull of selfishness.

As we get older, aches and pains take over our bodies. Sight dims, and we can’t do the things we used to.

Along the way, friends and loved ones get sick and die. Innocent little children get cancer. Car crashes maim or kill loved ones. Murders and wars increase.

We try to share our faith, but people mostly don’t want to hear it. Some will actively persecute us. There are countries where sharing Christianity and handing out Bibles is a crime and conversion is punishable by death.

We have needs. Our families have needs. Friends have needs. Our country has needs and opposite opinions about how to deal with them. Our church has needs. The world at large has needs. Orphans, widows, victims, medical research, so many needs that are more than we can even begin to manage.

When we feel the weight of a fallen world, we’re tempted to just crawl into a corner and wait for it to be over.

But thinking of that weight, Paul says, “ For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). In another place he says:

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Once when we came across this passage in a ladies’ Bible study, one of the women had been going through a terrible physical battle. She was a little hurt and angry that the Bible seemed to brush off her heavy affliction as light.

But Paul isn’t minimizing the affliction. He’s saying our glory will be greater than our affliction. Sin, tears, pain, mourning, loss, problems, as weighty as they are, will seem lightweight and short-lived compared to what we’ll experience when Jesus comes for His own. Speaking of that time, Paul tells the Thessalonians, “Therefore encourage [some translations say ‘comfort’] one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:8).

‘Well,” we might be thinking, “that will be great when we get to heaven. But is there no hope and help til then?”

There is.

Just before that section in 2 Corinthians, Paul says, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (4:16).

God gives grace and strength to meet every trial. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

God invites us to cast our care on Him (1 Peter 5:7).

God gives strength in our weakness. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Jesus sympathizes with our weakness and promises grace to help in time of need. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Okay, it’s a relief to know we have God’s help to get through this life. But what about joy? Do we just bear with life til it’s over?

No, God gives joy as well. He gives physical blessings: “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (Psalm 104:14-15).

He gives comfort in sorrow. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5b).

Joy is one aspect of the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit in believers (Galatians 5:22-23).

He gives us the joy of His presence: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God” (Psalm 43:4).

When the world is too much, we can’t hide our head in the sand. But neither can we solve the world’s problems. We’re not meant to. We only need to walk in fellowship with “God our exceeding joy,” take everything to Him in prayer, and do what He calls us to within our sphere of influence.

As the hymn says:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

From “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas Obediah Chisholm

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Welcome to my latest list of good online reads:

Every Need Is Not a Call. “As we try to discern the often blurry lines between good, better, and best, we should prayerfully consider our passions, priorities, and providential circumstances. When we walk in dependence upon Christ, we can learn to respond to needs faithfully rather than frantically.”

Losses of a Prayerless Christian, HT to Challies. “Though God is sovereign over all things, He ordains the means of prayer. There are some things He will not do unless we pray, though He always does all He purposes (Psalm 135:6). The mystery does not change this truth: You do not have because you do not ask (James 4:2).”

Never Underestimate the Value of Ordinary, Brief, Christian Conversations, HT to Challies. It’s so true that we minister to each other in small, brief conversations and not just in official sermons or lessons. I can still remember comments made in passing decades ago that directed my thinking in certain areas. it’s so important to be in God’s Word and filled with His Spirit so He can use us in those ways.

Is There Such a Thing as Bad Missions? HT to Challies. “Good motives do not overcome bad methodology. Make sure your missionaries know what they are speaking into before they speak.”

Defending Without Becoming Defensive, HT to Challies. “There is a difference between winning an argument and winning a person. Of course, it’s easy to forget this in the middle of a tense conversation. Emotions are powerful when the stakes are high.”

A Little Poetry Improves Life: How Verse Awakens Wonder, HT to The Story Warren. “I ask the class, ‘How do you know that God intends for you to understand and enjoy poetry?’ . . . It is gratifying to see how quickly someone comes up with the correct answer. That answer is that approximately one-third of the Bible comes to us in poetic form.” Leland Ryken dispels misconceptions and shares tips for getting more out of poetry, especially Biblical poetry.

‘Redeeming Love’ Irredeemably Exploits Actors and Viewers. HT to Challies. “Debates among Christians about the presence of nudity and sex in media are certainly not new. But it’s an important topic to continually reengage and thoughtfully consider—especially as the boundaries of sexual content on screen continue to be pushed. The release of a ‘sexy’ faith-based film like Redeeming Love offers a chance to revisit this discussion, albeit from a new vantage point.”

What Happens When a Believer Dies? HT to Challies. “Every person reading this article is dying. Perhaps you have reason to believe that death will come very soon. You may be troubled, feeling uncertain, or unready to leave. Make sure of your relationship with Jesus Christ. Be certain that you’re trusting Him alone to save you—not anyone or anything else, and certainly not any good works you’ve done. And then allow yourself to get excited about what’s on the other side of death’s door.”

I don’t often read The Babylon Bee and I don’t know any of these people, but the caption about one-line summaries of classic novels caught my eye. This woman’s father had multiple sclerosis, and in the last years of his life couldn’t do much but read. He set out to read as many classic novels as he could and then wrote these summaries of them. Some are pretty funny, like Dracula by Bram Stoker: “Vampire advantage—immortality; disadvantage—limited liquid diet.” Commenters try their hand at one-line summaries, too.

Happy Saturday!

What Are You Looking For?

What are you looking for as you go through life?

Peace?

Love?

Justice?

A good time?

Happiness?

We might find those in some measure. Some of them are God’s good gifts. Some are a foretaste of heaven.

But none will be perfect. This world is fraught with strife, selfishness, conflict.

And such characteristics are not just out there. They’re in our hearts as well.

Whatever troubles or pleases us about this life, none of it will last. Peter says some day “the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10b).

If we’ve staked all our hopes and dreams on this earth, we’ll be in trouble.

Since this earth won’t last forever, what should we do? Peter goes on to say, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:11-14, NKJV).

Others passages echo this truth:

For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Philippians 3:20-21, KJV).

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14, NKJV).

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation (Hebrews 9:27-28, KJV).

Other translations say “wait for” instead of “look for,” but the Greek definitions can be translated either way. We wait with expectation, with eagerness, looking for Him.

Only with Him will we find perfection. Only in heaven will there be no sin, no sorrow, no crying, no pain–none of the negative things that taint life here.

Is this just escapism from reality? No, it’s arriving at reality. We look forward to our true reality, our true home. C. S. Lewis called this life the Shadowlands. In The Last Battle, when the children and animals realize they’re in a new Narnia, the Unicorn says:

I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it til now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.

Aslan told the children, “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

It was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: now, at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Elisabeth Elliot has quoted George MacDonald as saying, “If you knew what God knows about death, you would clap your listless hands.” I remember reading somewhere that one reason God doesn’t tell us much about heaven is that we would look forward to it so much, we wouldn’t be able to get anything else done here.

I admit, there’s much I still enjoy and look forward to in this life. There’s much I’d like to do. One of the most important things I desire is to be a positive influence in my grandson’s life, and hopefully, at some point, in the lives of future grandchildren. God has given us a strong survival instinct. One preacher once said that one reason our bodies start falling apart as we get older is to ready us to let loose of them. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

I need the reminder that this life isn’t all there is. Imagine a rope stretched out east and west farther than we can follow, and let it represent eternity. The piece of the rope in front of us is taped off for a few inches. That taped part would represent the whole of life on earth for all time compared to eternity. Time is short. Eternity is long.

But before we look for Him to take us there, we have to look for Him here. Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV) says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” If you don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus, if you’re not sure of heaven, please read here.

We enjoy God’s blessing here. But we know this world isn’t all there is. Like Abraham, we “[look] forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

Are you looking for Him?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

I have a very short list of good reads found this week, but figured I’d go ahead and share them instead of having an overly long list next week.

Three Reasons God’s Strong in Our Weakness. “Culture teaches us to stay strong and overcome weakness because it just isn’t pretty. Yet, in my heavenly Father’s Kingdom weakness takes on a whole new meaning.”

You are NOT at the Mercy of Your Feelings. “Regular doses of gospel truth are far more effective than pumpkin spice in getting us through the fall doldrums.”

Sisters, You Have Permission to Lead an Ordinary Life. “Words meant to inspire often exhaust. Can I borrow a moment of your time to give you (and me) permission to lead a quiet, ordinary life?”

Kingdom Anticipation. “If we believe that our hearts are longing for something that we haven’t seen yet—a Home that we’ve never even visited—maybe we can expect a little less from this world and hope a whole lot more in the world to come.”

No fun videos today. 🙂 Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineHere’s my latest collection o good online reads:

The Song That Was Sharper Than Sting. This is a lovely piece of writing, referencing Tolkien and Lewis and the Bible about songs of Home that encourage us in the darkness.

Redemption May Be Closer Than You Think. “I have learned not to lose heart when everything around me crumbles. God is working. I can trust Him. It may be that what looks dead is about to spring to life.”

The Day I Scheduled God Out of My Life, HT to True Woman. “Your schedule will be different, and you’ll have a choice: to let your schedule dictate the depth of your relationship with Christ, or to let Christ dictate your schedule.”

Carrying a Knapsack, HT to Challies. Thoughts from Galatians 6 about what it means to bear burdens and carry our own load while relying on God’s grace to do so. “Problems arise when people act as if their ‘boulders’ are daily loads and refuse help, or as if their ‘daily loads’ are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry. The results of these two instances are either perpetual pain or irresponsibility.”

Be Quiet: Cultivating a Gentle Spirit in a World That Loves Noise. “Quiet, they claim, is weakness. Being still and speechless is no longer an acceptable option in a culture that values its own noise above all else.”

10 Awesome Art Appreciation Book Series for Your Homeschool (or to supplement whatever kind of schooling you do), HT to Story Warren. This is an area I wished we’d had more time for. These books would have helped.

Since we had two birthdays in our family this month, here’s Happy Birthday in 12 major keys and different styles:

Laudable Linkage

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Are you enjoying the last few days of visiting with family, as we are? Or chasing end-of-year sales or gearing up to go back to work on Monday? If you have some leisure, these recent online finds have much good to share. Maybe one or two will pique your interest.

A few related to Christmas:

Handel’s—and Jennens’s—“Messiah“, HT to Challies. I didn’t know that Handel only wrote the music, not the words to his famous oratorio, “The Messiah.” Here’s a look at the man who wrote the libretto and why he did.

An Idaho boy married the girl he sent an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox to, HT to Laura. Sweet story!

Competing with Christmas? I like this idea of leveraging the “fun” aspects of the season rather than seeing them as a competition for the spiritual side.

Wise Men: Gentiles Who Sought the Savior. I enjoyed this look at the Magi, the reminder that salvation has always been available to Gentiles, and the contrast between the reaction of Jews and Gentiles at Christ’s birth. I was particularly intrigued by the “bookends” Chris pointed out in the gospels. For instance, myrrh was a gift brought to Jesus at His birth and ointment was poured on Him not long before His death; He was called the King of the Jews by the wise men but not called that again until the crucifixion. I had known those as separate facts but never thought of them as bookends.

When Love Is Hard to Give, and Harder to Receive.

A Weary Mom Rejoices. When the world seems too much, it’s good to rest in the only One who can do anything about it.

That Might Preach, But…it might be not accurate, or the main message of the text. HT to Challies. “In our desire to make Scripture ‘preachable’ we import uncertain meanings into the text, while ignoring glorious truths that are actually there.”

A Fragrant Offering, HT to Challies. “It is through our willingness to bear the sufferings of others that people will see Christ. As we do, we become a pleasing aroma to God and the ones we love. The prevailing aroma of Christ pours forth in and through us.”

Still Looking for That Better Country, HT to Challies. Really interesting perspective from a missionary living in a country she’s not a citizen of, comparing that to our living in the world yet being a citizen of heaven, warning herself against the settling-down that can take place as she comes to her own country.

To Serve God in Heaven Will Be a Great Reward, HT to Challies. I’ve often wondered about that phrase concerning serving God in heaven. “Service is a reward, not a punishment. This idea is foreign to people who dislike their work and only put up with it until retirement. We think that faithful work should be rewarded by a vacation for the rest of our lives. But God offers us something very different…”

‘Advertising breaks your spirit’: the French cities trying to ban public adverts, HT once again to Challies. Yes! I can’t condone public vandalism in the name of stopping advertisements, but I agree with pushing back against being assaulted by advertising in every nook and cranny.

And finally, interesting footage of a seagull who stole someone’s GoPro. I’m amazed the owner got it back!

Happy Saturday!

Heaven is not a lesser answer

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Some years ago, our church was fervently praying for someone’s healing. When that person passed away, I was heartsore and disappointed. Someone mentioned that this person had received “the ultimate healing” in heaven. In my immaturity, I thought that sounded like rationalization, putting a positive spin on it.

In God Is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, Jennifer Rothschild described a friend’s death during a cruel assault. When Jennifer lamented to her father that she couldn’t understand why God let her friend go through such a thing, he responded that she didn’t go through it, she went from it. He went on to explain:

God delivers us in different ways. Sometimes he protects us from awful things so we never have to endure them. Other times God delivers us by rescuing us or healing us. Sometimes God brings us through hard things —that’s also a form of God’s deliverance. But then there are the times that God, out of his great care for his children, delivers us out of the horror and into glory.

God compassionately took Regina out of her tragedy and into his presence. She was delivered from it —out of it —and into glory, where there are no tears, no crying, and no pain, and the only scars are the ones on the hands of Jesus.

Heaven is not a rationalization or a positive spin on unanswered prayer. Heaven is not a lesser answer to prayer than healing.

If we look at the death of Christians from God’s standpoint, He’s gathering His children to the home He has been preparing for them for millennia.

It’s fine to seek and pray for healing, and we rejoice and praise God when He allows someone to remain with us a little longer. Healings were a major testimony to the reality of the power of God and the validity of Jesus’ ministry in the Bible. God has implanted in us a strong will to live, but living “the American dream” of a nice house, good family, and 70+ years of excellent health is not the “ultimate.” The ultimate is being with Him in our new home in heaven some day.

Once I saw a video in which the speaker had a long rope that extended all the way across the stage and then past the curtain beyond sight. That rope, he said, represented eternity. The speaker held the end of the rope wrapped in a few inches of red tape which represented our time here on earth. Our few decades that we value so much are so short, and eternity is so long. How shortsighted we are that we put so much emphasis on the one to the neglect of the other.

A full Biblical study of heaven would take more space than we have here, but here are just a few aspects of heaven:

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. John 17:24

There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. Job 3:17

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also…Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:1-3, 6

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:3-4

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. Philippians 1:21-23

What should we be doing in relation to heaven before we get there? Here are a few things:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. 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, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (KJV uses “comfort” in place of “encourage.)

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation. 2 Peter 3:11-15a

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you. Colossians 3:1-5a (followed by a discussion about what earthly things he is talking about, like immorality, covetous, and lying, and what things to put on in their place).

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

In Frank Houghton’s biography, Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur, he tells of a time when one of the little ones at the Dohnavur compound died. Amy was comforted by the words of Samuel Rutherford written to a grieving mother over 200 years before Amy’s time:

You have lost a child. Nay, she is not lost to you who is found to Christ; she is not sent away but only sent before, like unto a star which going out of our sight doth not die and vanish, but shineth in another hemisphere: you see her not, yet she doth shine in another country.

If her glass was but a short hour, what she wanteth of time that hath she gotten in Eternity; and you have to rejoice that you have now some treasure laid up in heaven…Your daughter was a part of yourself, and you, being as it were cut and halved, will indeed be grieved; but you have to rejoice that when a part of you is on earth, a great part of you is glorified in heaven…There is less of you out of heaven that the child is there.

We grieve when someone we love leaves this life, and that’s perfectly normal. Even Jesus grieved. We’re sad whenever we have to be away from our loved ones for an extended time, especially without the ability to converse with them. But we remember that this life is short, that those who die in Christ are in His presence, fully healthy and without pain. We could not wish them back, and we know we’ll see them again. and in the meantime we live, as an old song used to say, “with eternity’s values in view.”

If you don’t have this sure hope of heaven, please read here for more information.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth)

Laudable Linkage

My round-up of exceptional online reads discovered this week:.

It’s OK to Choose Grace and Space. “There’s no Goals Police or Resolutions Monitor waiting to slap your hand if you don’t produce.”

Wherein an Anthropomorphic Tree Upends Me. HT to Story Warren. Beautiful.

What If Motherhood Was Meant to Be Hard? HT to Story Warren.

Letters to Taylor: On New Beginnings. HT to Story Warren.

Being Lazy Is Actually Good For You sometimes.

And, finally, I’ve always loved this quote:

Watching angels

When one of my sons was a baby and was intently staring at the ceiling, as babies are wont to do, my mother-in-law remarked that she thought when babies did that, they were looking at their guardian angels. We smiled – I think we even chuckled. I think she got a little embarrassed, but insisted, “No, really, I think they do see them!” We always kept that as a sweet memory of a sweet thought, and often when we saw a baby staring at the ceiling, we’d observe, “There they go looking at their guardian angels again” with a smile.

When we brought my mother-in-law home from the nursing home four years ago, we thought we were bring her home to die. She was down to 90 lbs., very fuzzy-minded, and not very responsive. But one-on-one care, especially in relation to feeding, and getting her off the narcotic drug we had not even known she was on until we brought her home, all improved her general condition dramatically. She’s 89, though, and one can’t stop the ravages of time. After maybe her first year or so at home, she began to decline more and more, moving less, sleeping more. Over the last year or so, she has become less interactive. She stopped speaking about a year ago, but we could tell by her eyes that she recognized us and followed what we were saying. She’d smile, nod, or shake her head. Though sometimes she still does, more and more lately there’s no light in her eyes when she looks at us, no response.

As we got her ready for bed last night, I noticed her staring intently at the ceiling, and that old sweet thought came back: maybe she’s watching her guardian angel.

Who knows what little babies and elderly people actually see when they fixedly stare at some point like that. I don’t know if each person is assigned a guardian angel, but the Bible does say that God sends angels to help us in various ways. Our pastor saw angels before he passed away, and I’ve heard similar things from others.

There is a sense in which all who know the Lord are getting closer to heaven every day, but the older and more frail one gets, the more imminent it seems. “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:2, ESV). Some day she’ll cast off this silent, crumpled frame and see, not just angels, but the One she has loved and faithfully served for decades, the One who loved her, died for her, redeemed her, and made it possible that she and the family she so loved and prayed for could be with Him.

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

 

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:53-57, ESV

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5, ESV

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(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Glimpses, Literary Musing Monday, Wise Woman, Tell His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Porch Stories, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday)

Eternal Glories Gleam

Our church was stunned and heartbroken yesterday to learn that our dear pastor has cancer of the liver and pancreas and is only expected to live 6 months to a year.

He had been losing weight over the past few months, had been really sick the past few weeks, went to the doctor – thankfully a member of our church and long time friend – last week for tests, where it discovered both his liver and pancreas are full of cancer. The pancreatic cancer is incurable and inoperable. He is having biopsies this week to confirm it, and there is a small chance that what they saw on the scans is not cancer, but everything else points to it. They are planning to start chemotherapy in hopes of slowing it down to some degree, but of course that carries its own set of problems.

He is in his early 50s with a wife and three daughters, two of whom are getting married this summer, and the youngest is schedule to go to college in the fall.

He has been preaching through the book of Romans, and providentially we were in the latter half of chapter 8 yesterday, which was so applicable to his situation. As he spoke to us yesterday, one of his concerns was that we think in a right way about his situation, that we not think God is mean or unfair or unkind. He had different men from the church read passages like Psalm 23 and II Corinthians 4:7-11:

.But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

And II Corinthians 4:16-18:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

And II Corinthians 12:9-10:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

We know and love and take comfort in those truths but sometimes we tuck them away for “some day…”

Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” Not that there is anything inherently wrong with feasting or celebrations: God created some for the Israelites to enjoy, and Jesus attended a wedding. But when someone faces death, certain truths crystallize into sharp focus. All of a sudden the petty irritation that was bothering me that morning wasn’t important. I was reminded that death comes to us all, sooner to some than expected, but God’s grace so wonderfully provided that we can be forgiven; that heaven is real; that this life really is but a vapor; that however good it is, heaven is better. I was reminded that we weren’t promised a life free from suffering on this earth; in fact, the Bible gives us plenty of warning about it and promises God’s help for it and assures us that He really, truly is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Last night a line from a hymn kept coming to mind, “Eternal glories gleam afar.” I couldn’t remember what hymn it was from, so I looked it up this morning and was surprised to find it was from “I’ve Found a Friend,” a song I haven’t heard in ages. The stanza containing that phrase says:

I’ve found a Friend, O such a friend! All pow’r to Him is given,
To guard me on my onward course, and bring me safe to heaven.
The eternal glories gleam afar, to nerve my faint endeavor;
So now to watch, to work, to war, and then to rest forever.

In situations like this, those eternal glories aren’t quite so far off: they are up close and personal.

This is going to be a heart-wrenching journey, especially for this man and his family, but also for our church as a whole. I know you all have your own churches and issues and prayer lists, but if you feel led, I’m sure all involved would appreciate your prayers.