"Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Tale of Two Sermons...

On a recent Sunday morning I heard two sermons that keep playing through my mind.  The first one was from a famous television preacher.  Kyle was flipping through the channels and decided to listen in.  I was sitting downstairs with him, so I put my book down and listened as well.  This man is well-known for his “prosperity” gospel, and on this particular morning, he was on his game.  His passage was Heb. 11:6b, “…anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  Honestly, much of what he said was very true.  God does want us to seek Him and He does promise to reward those who do.  He does promise to do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine.  I am totally in agreement with these beautiful truths.  But what I also heard this preacher say was that God will reward us with prosperity.  Even though he did not say that we would get rich by seeking God, that idea was constantly intimated.  As an example of how God rewards those who seek Him, the minister told us about an oil man whose life was falling apart.  His business was failing and his marriage was on the rocks.  One Sunday morning, this man and his wife came across the preacher’s television show, listened in, and decided to start flying to this particular state every weekend in order to attend his church.  Soon after that, the oil man’s rigs struck oil!  Now he and his wife are incredibly wealthy and their marriage is strong.  Wow!  God is good, indeed!  The minister promised his congregation and those listening on TV that if we seek God, God will bring us places we’ve never imagined.  He’ll bless us in ways we never thought possible.  

A couple of hours later, Steve, Kyle, and I went out to the services at Red Rock Dam.  It was a gorgeous morning to worship under the trees.  The speaker this morning was a man from central Iowa who farms and also has an insurance business….a man of faith who simply loves the Lord and has a story to share.  He read Psalm 24 (“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it…”).  He talked about having faith in God and trusting Him no matter what happens in our lives.  Then he shared with us how God has been growing his faith this past year.  His middle son (30-something) died less than a year ago.  He was diagnosed with acute leukemia and died three days later.  In his death he left behind a widow and three young children, as well as his parents, two brothers and their families, and scores of others who loved and respected him.  As an elementary teacher and a coach of various sports, he impacted many lives—not only in his life, but also in his death.  This young man loved the Lord and was not afraid to let others know this.  His dad shared that their family is simply trusting in the Lord, knowing that He is God and He is good.  He testified that God’s love is sustaining them through the worst thing this family has ever had to endure.  No glitz.  No promises of riches and prosperity.  Just an honest acknowledgment that the places God brings us are not always glamorous and delightful.  But we can be assured that no matter where God brings us, He is there.  And He is enough.

These two messages stood out in such sharp contrast in my mind.  When God promises to reward those who earnestly seek Him, it so often looks very different than what we’d expect.  When He promises to bring us places we’d never imagined, it might be a place we would never, ever choose for ourselves.  I love the way Laura Story addresses this in her song, “Blessings”.  http://www.youtube.com/artist/Laura_Story?feature=watch_video_title

“Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise.”  (Laura Story)

Life on this side of heaven will bring tears and trials; but out of these might come our greatest blessings.  What if the trials of this life… are Your mercies in disguise.  That’s honest faith.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

online support group...

Wow!  Two blog entries in one day!  Well, I guess one was last night -- late.  I couldn't sleep and just needed to write.  I usually feel better after I get things out of my head and on to paper.  Anyway, this will be a short one, I promise.

If you're a Christian parent of a child (of any age) with a disability (of any kind), there's a new online support group I would invite you to check out.  It's part of The Network, an online forum which seeks to connect people in various ministries.  This support group came out of a discussion that was posted in the "Disability Concerns" forum.  The specific link is http://network.crcna.org/forums/disability-concerns/parent-parent-support.

Check it out and pass the word along!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

on death and dying...

 Kyle and our beloved pet, Marshmallow

On Tuesday we put our precious pet, Marshmallow, down.  Marshy has been a part of our family for almost 15 years.  When Katie was nine years old, she convinced us that we needed this little white ball of fluff to complete our family!  Marshmallow, a Bichon Frise, was aptly named.  She was white, soft, cuddly, and extremely loyal.  Life and age took a toll on her, though, and the time came to make a very hard decision.  We will all miss her so much.  Kyle tells me over and over how much he misses her.  My heart aches for him as he struggles to make sense of this loss.

As painful as this is for our family, it seems almost insignificant in light of two other deaths in as many weeks.  A former classmate of my daughter died suddenly…taken by his own hand.  It’s almost too much to wrap my mind around.  What pain was in his heart and life that he simply couldn’t bear anymore?  I’m so thankful Abba can see our hearts.  We can only see the outer shell, the actions…and we just don’t understand.  Our Father, with His deep love and compassion, understands all.  He knows what silent pain lurks in the hearts of his broken children.  What hope we have in knowing that the sacrifice of His Son is sufficient for all who believe in Him.  He hears each one who calls out to Him in love…or in despair.  And He promises that nothing will snatch a child of His out of His palm.  In the swirling confusion of such a death, family and friends cling to this precious hand of hope.

The second death was that of my uncle.  Uncle John lived a long, full life -- 84 years on this earth.  A tiny speck of time compared to the eternity he’s now entered.  I was honored to be asked to play piano at his funeral, and I asked the Lord to let love flow through my fingers.  It was a gentle service, honoring a man who had lived many years.  I enjoyed hearing stories of my uncle from my cousin who spoke during the service.  Though the family was not shocked by his death, there was sadness and tears.  A much-loved husband, dad, grandpa, and friend had died.

Death.  “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  (I Cor. 15:26)  No wonder we instinctively hate death.  It is Christ’s ultimate enemy and therefore our enemy, as well.  Whether the death of a young person in the prime of his life, an elderly man in his winter years, or the death of a much-loved pet, we cry and grieve over what was and now is no more.  

We were created for LIFE and we know it!  God has such a way of turning things right side up.  He takes that which seeks to destroy us and makes it the very thing which ushers us into LIFE!  It’s only in dying that we will truly live.  Our hope lies in this mystery.  When a child of God passes from this life to the next, he never really dies!  Those who die in the Lord are more alive than ever!