I Can Only Imagine

I just finished watching the movie, I Can Only Imagine.  I don’t think it’s an accident that the next adult Sunday School lesson I’ll be teaching is from the book of Romans and titled “The Transformed Life.” God does that to me all the time! Bart Miller’s story is one of transformation, redemption, forgiveness, hope and most of all music.  His father was abusive and angry, his mother left, and for young Bart, music anchored him, lifted him up, and gave him a dream.  I won’t say more, because you should see this film for yourself.  You’ve probably heard the song, but it’s worth another listen:

 

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Remembering Those We’ve Lost

“But we do not want you to be uninformed brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as those 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.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

The most recent issue of The Ambassador, our denomination’s magazine, contained an article by a pastor who remembered his grandfather, and all the things he had done for him and meant to him.  One of the best things about being a Christian is, we believe the friends and loved ones we have lost through death are not lost to us forever.

My grandfather is also one of the people I remember and know I will see again in Heaven.  He is the person in my childhood who loved me, helped me go to college, and had confidence in my ability to do whatever I wanted to do in life.  That’s a great gift, and one day I didn’t fully appreciate as a young person.  I’ll be able to thank him for that one day.

Then there are the two Christian women who joined our church.  One was ill when she began attending, the other became ill shortly after.  I know if circumstances had been different, we would have become fast friends.  We would have worked hard for the Lord together.  We would have spent joyful times in fellowship, if only we had had more time.  One day we will have that time.  Our friendship will blossom as it should have.

There are so many things I now wish I had taken the time to ask older relatives about.  What were there lives of my grandparents and great grandparents like?  Who did they love?  What did they like to do?  I’ll still be able to ask those things some day (that is, if they are still important to me).

The list could go on.  The point is, life is not over for those who are in the Lord.  We don’t have to have regrets about all the things we didn’t say or do with them or for them.  Who wouldn’t want that comfort?

Who do you remember?

 

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Remembering

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Encouraging Words

“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.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13

I just got home from a funeral.  Yes, the man was elderly.  Yes, he was suffering.  Still, he was a father and grandfather, he had family and friends.  People will grieve his death, and that’s okay.  The Bible doesn’t tell us not to grieve, but it does tell us that as Christians, we will grieve differently than the rest of the world. Because of the resurrection, we grieve the loss of our loved one now, but not without the hope that we will be with them in Christ at some point in the future.

When our daughter, Kate, was fifteen she went to Germany for a year as an exchange student.  To be separated from our child for a year seemed like a long time.  We were discouraged from making a lot of phone calls because she needed to adjust to her new environment.  It was hard.  I missed her.  However, I knew she was having an amazing experience and that in time, we would be reunited.  That took some of the “sting” out of our separation.

For Christians, death has lost it’s sting (1 Cor. 15:55) for some of the same reasons. Right now Art, the man who died is in the presence of God.  I know it’s a wonderful experience.  In the Book of Revelation the apostle John tell us:

“He (God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore because the former things have passed away.”

His Christian family and friends will see him again, and share in his joy. Because of the resurrection, our separation is not permanent. “… Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 15:56

Life after life after life…

 All of us have had the experience of being reborn.  I was thinking about this on Sunday, after hearing a sermon on the life of Joseph (the one in Genesis with the coat of many colors).  Joseph’s life took some drastic turns.  He went from being the favored son of Jacob to slavery; from slavery to imprisonment; from being a prisoner to being the right hand man of the Pharaoh of Egypt! Surely some of those changes must have felt like a kind of death and rebirth.  He “died” to his family.  He “died” to having special status.  He even “died” to being free.  Who could have predicted the final outcome?

 Most of us do not suffer such extreme changes in our life or status.  But we can still identify with Joseph.  Sometimes our life changes in a positive way, a way we have planned.  We may get married, have a child, or receive a promotion that causes us to move across the country.  Other things just happen:  we develop an illness, lose our job, our spouse or child dies.  Each important change causes our way of life to dissolve, and eventually a new life takes its place.  The result is unpredictable.

 In the midst of Joseph’s deaths he never lost faith in God.  He told his brothers:

 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today”.  Genesis 50:20

 He couldn’t foresee what his new birth would be, but he trusted the Lord.  Jesus also trusted His father when he went to the cross.  What looked like a horrible death, became life for us.

 What death is going on in your life?  Do things look hopeless?  Have your plans gone awry?  God is still in control.  Your life is in His hands.

 “…. For those who love God all things work together for good.”  Romans 8:28

The Sacrifice of Separation

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” Psalm 22:1

At our Good Friday service last night we looked at the bare wood of an altar that had been stripped of all the usual ornamentation, and we heard about the special sacrifice Jesus made for us.  One we don’t think about very often.  When Jesus took the sins of the world upon himself, he was temporarily separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit.  He was stripped of the companionship that He had enjoyed since birth.  He became in one final way like us:  separated from God.  He was utterly alone.

Although I have often heard about the physical sufferings Christ endured on the cross,  I  don’t think I had contemplated this deep emotional pain before.  Think about it.  Even when the earthly friends of Jesus did not understand Him, or deserted Him, He had his union with the other two persons of the trinity to comfort and sustain Him.  Now he lost that, too.

I’ve been married for 44 years, so I have become accustomed to this union with my husband.  When we are separated for just a few days, I feel uncomfortable.  I want to talk with him and I can’t;  I need some help and he is not there;  I long for a hug and he is out of reach.  If my husband were to die, I would experience deep grief and pain. Probably greater than any other pain I can imagine.  Multiply that many, many times and it still doesn’t come close to how Jesus felt. His union was perfect and continual.  Jesus knew this would happen.  He contemplated it in the garden. Yet He still submitted to His Father’s will.  He made this sacrifice for me and for you.  How does this make you feel?  What are you willing to give up for the one who sacrificed so much for you?

“Although He was a son, he learned obedience through what he had suffered.  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, …” Hebrews 5:8-9″