Gone Home

GONE HOME

1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (NASB) “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

A few weeks ago I wrote about the near death experience of Lora. It was powerful. The joy that she had was indescribable. She did not have adequate words to fully express the encounter. The best she could say was that she had been born again, again. She was not claiming healing or some miracle of deliverance. She was totally mesmerized by the glory of God. Her love went to multiplied levels. She was ready for healing or to be taken home.

She was taken home.

Death has a sting. It is a sting that wounds for eternity. Paul says the sting of death is sin. Sin, the transgressions against the perfection of God. Sin, the affront against God, not honoring Him, cursing Him, not believing He exists. Sin, the ultimate expression of independence against the creator. Sin, the disregard for other humans or even self in destructive behavior to self or others. The sting is the deception that leaves the person in a state of separation from God and the ultimate consequences of that separation from God while thinking everything is fine. The sting is the participation in the rebellion and attempted coup of Lucifer, either consciously or unconsciously. No matter, the result is the same. The sting is that most never know their fate until it is too late.

We all have strayed from the truth. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Yet, most never face that truth. The passing of someone brings all that in a sudden, crashing realization that life is short. Life is tenuous. It can end suddenly, unexpectedly. However, no one will escape that moment when this phase of life ends and the next begins. Choices made in this phase determine how the next phase is lived. 

All our temples, houses, bodies will give out at some point. All those who received healings will eventually pass. Even Lazarus who was raised from the dead, died again. It is appointed for man to die and then face judgment. It is so designed.

1 Corinthians 15:57 (NASB) but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The sting of death is removed in Jesus. Embracing Jesus removes the stinger, heals the soul, and ushers the person into eternal life with God. The victory was won at the cross and in the resurrection. The victory was at the cross and the victory lap was the resurrection.

Grieving is good. Separation from someone we love is hard. It makes us think. It underlines our own mortality. While many come to pay respects, support the family, it is those who are close that ponder it the strongest. Everyone has to ask the question, where am I in this process? Is the stinger still embedded in me? Or has it been removed by Jesus? You cannot fake death with a religious facade. Death knows when it still has the stinger in you. You might fool people around you, but death is not deceived nor impressed. Only when Jesus removes the stinger can you experience the true freedom of life.

The stinger had been removed and the glimpse of glory in that near death experience allowed the testimony of eternity to be shared with family and friends and we were encouraged, blessed, lifted up, challenged, and comforted because it was a short time till going home.  -P. Bill

Hijacked

HIGHJACKED

Turn off the lights. Take the decorations away. Remove Santa. Silence the music. Refrain from the pursuit of gifts for everyone. Take it to bare minimum. It is Christmas. Bare bones Christmas. What do you have? For some, there would be nothing left. Paper, tinsel, yard decorations, all gone. They would have nothing.

It was that way, nothing. The shepherds were just doing their job when heaven interrupted. Mary was going about her life when the angel Gabriel appeared. Zacharias was on duty in the temple when he was approached by the angel. Joseph was approached in a dream and given command. Caesar Augustus was just interested in raising government funds that sent a nine month pregnant girl on the back of a donkey to Bethlehem. No parades, no lights, no decorations. Magi endured hours of travel, following a star of unprecedented brilliance. No media. No silver bells. The quiet of the desert was their companion.

In some ways the world has highjacked Christmas. Very little is quiet and reflective. Very little focuses on Jesus. Family, food, football, festivities have usurped the solemnity and miracle of the day. Oh, family is great, we love being together. Gifts are good, they tie us to the one who gave in a pleasant, memorable way.

But here is the truth. It is a miracle of epic proportions. A God-Man was born defying all the natural laws established by God himself. The Word became flesh. It would be called the Incarnation. It was the moment that answered the despair of man. It was the moment where the effects of the Fall would be rectified for those who would believe. He is the great light that has shone upon mankind. Darkness, spiritual darkness, death darkness, would no longer reign.

To as many who believe he has given the power of an eternal life. Not only eternal life being future, but life abundantly, now! The impact of the God-Man’s life has not lost its affect, its power, its presence. The God-Man has imparted his Spirit to each who calls on his name. This time of year is to remember the incarnation, the break through to humanity, the introduction of hope.

I encourage all to take some time to reflect, to be silent, to meditate. Remember, it is the incarnation. The word became flesh!! -Pastor Bill

Celebration

CELEBRATION

The Holidays are wonderful and hard. They are joyous and grievous. They illicit joy and sadness. For some it is anticipation and for others, dread. Some want it to last all year and others cannot wait till it is over. And for most, it is a mix of the two extremes.

Memories pile up as the years go by. Just like Scrooge in Charles Dickens book, A Christmas Carol, there were good times in Christmas Past. There were good relationships, good parties, and celebrations and fun. Time and circumstance had jaded him into a miserly, miserable person. The stewarding of memories is important. Selecting good ones keeps a person healthy in many ways. Sad memories or tragic memories can dominate our minds and spirits. Holidays can trigger those tragic memories and how we handle them are important to our spiritual and mental health.

While the celebration of Christmas is meant to remind us of the birth of the Savior, we can often make the holiday anything but about Him. It is easy to get caught up totally in the whirlwind of gifts, recitals, plays, scenes, trees, snow, dinners, family gatherings, and any other traditions developed. We can be stressed about money, time, family gatherings, and splitting time with relatives. We can become ouchy, grouchy, and touchy.

With the passing of time, Christmas changes. For some loneliness sets in because all the family then known have passed. Grandchildren are grown and families take on their own celebrations. Now, instead of hosting the family, you become the guest. Or worse, you have nowhere to go on that holiday. For some, it becomes a charity meal in a public place where a few serve the homeless.

Yes, this is a time of celebration because God provided someone to take away our sins, our loneliness, our depression, our meaninglessness and give us life, hope, joy, and meaning to our lives. We celebrate the gift of a Savior which the world had long waited for. To have the burden of sin removed and death defeated is the greatest gift given to all who will receive. We must lift our heads and attention away from the tragedies of life and focus on the eternal gift given. All the frills of celebration removed, there is still this glorious event that was carried out in the most humble of circumstances in order to give us the greatest gift of eternity, Jesus the Christ.

I am forever grateful! -P. Bill

ODE TO JOY

ODE TO JOY

So I have my ear buds in listening to classical music. I chose Beethoven and the first selection that played was “Ode to Joy.”Now there is an illusive item, concept, emotion. We read the joy of the Lord is my strength. To have that flowing in us seems so fleeting. We may try to capture it, but to no avail. We try to confess it and it becomes simply a mantra repeated. Often when it comes, it is unexpected. It is like a friend running up behind you and jumping on your back with affection, or the simple action of a child that pulls fond memories from the archives of the mind and there comes the joy of the present and the past mingled in the moment of joy.

Part of the Christian experience is the expectation and promise of joy. Jesus endured the cross for the promise of joy set before him. We are promised that joy comes in the morning after a night of agony. We are told of joy unspeakable. Some kind of joy that is so deep that it has no verbal expression; it is the kind of joy that resonates in the spirit only. Joy may not be expressed as jumping around, leaping up and down, running with exuberance. Joy might be quiet, reflective, meditative, peaceful. Regardless of the expression, you know when the joy has come.

Joy has to be found in small things. We often speak of stopping to smell the roses or the coffee. The macro issues of life will dominate every breathing moment if we are not mindful and purposeful. The glaring, demanding issues of existence, family, finances, world affairs, political wrangling, social media, bullying, dating, marriage etc. will squeeze the life out of you. Those things are like a Boa Constrictor slowly squeezing the life out of you. Joy, in contradiction to the macro issues, looks for the finer things of life. The small, the joyful, the little things of childhood, nature, friendship, touch, flowers, animals are the micro moments that engender joy. Who has not watched a stallion run with tail whipping in the wind and not watch in amazement? Who has not looked at a rose closely and not been inspired by the intense color, smell, and intricacies of the petals unfolding? Who has not watched a baby take its first steps and not thrill at the boldness and effort?

That same kind of joy is meant to fill our hearts and spirits when we look closely at a manger, a baby is swaddling clothes, a gift given from a loving father. The joy comes when you know the human condition and the amazing promise lying there. For the next 33 years, this gift would continue to be unwrapped till the final meaning of it all was realized on the day of Resurrection! -P. Bill