death (7)



I have been working on a book on the warnings of Jesus concerning difficult times that are coming. However, a recent doctor appointment gave me a different perspective on my cancer. This has changed my approach to a number of things in my life including my work on this book. Although I am still not sure how quickly the drink offering of my life is being poured out to God, I believe I need to walk more wisely in relation to time.

Ephesians 5:15-17 speaks pointedly to this.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

I believe it wisest, concerning the book, to write snatches of what I believe God is pressing upon me, and post them in my blogs rather than worrying about layout and presentation for the book. 

So beginning this week, I will post something on praying in the Spirit which would come much later in the book but has come together in my mind.





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Pray for a college student, N. After openly hearing the gospel from his professor, he sent the professor a video of Islamic arguments doubting the historical death of Christ. The professor answered all 30 of the points made. Today, N told the professor that he was so glad to have a knowledgeable person telling him about Christianity in a way he had not heard previously. Pray for his salvation, especially during this month of Ramadan.
Pray that as our friends read the Qur'an over Ramadan, they would have a greater curiosity for the Bible.  Pray that they would be open to reading it and that would have the courage to do so.
Here you may find links to movies defending the faith:
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After the cross, and especially the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the lives of the disciples were radically changed. One aspect of the change the Holy Spirit of God brought in their lives was the perspective of Hope. Who could have walked away from the crucifixion of Jesus without shaking their heads and asking, “What possible good could come of this?” But after Jesus rose again they saw their lives and in fact all of history from a different point of view. They rejoiced in the most dire circumstances, because they had seen the resurrection.

The Perspective of History

Their perspective was radically changed because of how they saw all of history.

In the short time before He was to be stoned to death Stephen, the first martyr to the faith, certainly with some inkling about what he was stepping into, reminded the people of what God had done down through the ages with the Children of Israel. He was able to see and show them all these things clearly because now he saw Jesus standing above all history and eternity.

The Perspective of Jesus

When we see Jesus clearly we come to a great assurance of hope. He did not simply conquer the world in spite of the evil around Him. He conquered through evil itself. James Stewart the powerful Scottish writer and preacher of the 20th century wrote these words.

“They nailed Him to a tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to His feet. They gave Him a cross, not guessing that He would make it a throne.
They flung Him outside the city gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up the gates of the universe, to let the King come in. They thought to root out His doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy.
They thought they had God with His back to the wall, pinned helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God Himself who had tracked them down. He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it."  

The Perspective of Eternity

Understanding that Jesus really rose from the dead has transformed the lives of people who followed Him all through the ages. They could minister in the midst of plagues at the risk of their lives. They gladly died to help their neighbors, and loved ones, and people that didn't even know. They were willing to stand for the Bible and the truth of the gospel even in the face of martyrdom.

We see this the death of Stephen. He could even pray for the men stoning him, “Don't hold this sin against them.” And he could pray, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit,” because he knew the Lord was there to receive him. And in fact itas not a unique testimony as he was dying, “Look, I see the throne in heaven and the son of man standing at the right hand of God.” I cannot help but wonder what they might have seen if they had looked. Stephen was certainly convinced they would see Jesus as he saw Him.

The Perspective of Prayer

My heart throbs at the simple prayer of Stephen, and so many others who have died from whatever cause, with prayer in their hearts and on their lips. When you come to know a risen Savior it radically changes the way you pray. And such prayer gives you hope in the face of life or death.



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I was talking with some friends today about medical issues. I told them I had heard people say they didn't want any extreme measures if they were critically ill. But I said, “I want extreme measures.” Life is precious. And it is good even if I am in pain or debilitated.

Immediately one of them gave the common answer that I was reacting against in the first place.

“Well,” he said, “you don't want to live if you don't have quality of life.”

I did not answer him, but I have been thinking about what gives quality of life. I don't believe it is comfort or freedom from pain.

I believe quality of life has to be related to purpose. As writers you know something about purpose. But in fact, any believer in Jesus Christ should be aware of divine purpose. If you are still alive God has a purpose for you on this Earth. God has a purpose for you even beyond this life. And knowing hope beyond this life ought to make us want to fulfill every purpose God has for us until we step into eternity.

If you do not know God's purpose for your life, you need to seek earnestly to learn what He is doing around you. Even if you don't know all that God wants to do through you, you can begin by obeying Him in small things that you know to do.

Among other things, this will shape your prayer life. I have frustrated some loved ones by telling them, “Every time I have prayed for God to heal me, I have sensed Him reminding me that it is appointed unto man once to die. In fact, I have seen a kind of healing. I am still alive years longer than my doctors thought I would be. But I still have cancer.

Earlier one of the friends I was talking to said, possibly in jest, that he wouldn't want to live if he couldn't play golf. Particularly as a writer I know I can still enjoy things I can no longer participate in. This really relates to being an intellectual. I don't think being an intellectual necessarily means you are smart. I have explained it like this for years. I would rather hear or tell a story about a boy hitting a homerun than to hit a homer myself. I have enjoyed fly fishing for a long time. I am afraid I can longer negotiate the rough stream banks. But I can still enjoy fishing in my memories and imagination.

So how do I pray for my cancer, and my life for that matter? I pray what David prayed in Psalm 138. “Lord, fulfill your purpose for me.” If God allows me to live when I can no longer write, then I hope I can still pray for people around me. And I pray that He will be glorified in me however He brings that about.



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Our hope, God's hope is personal. In his 1939 Christmas message to the nation King George VI read Minnie Louise Haskins’ poem, God Knows, given him by his daughter, Elizabeth.

“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, "Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.’

While we look forward to life beyond this life, our hope is more than what we think of as life. We certainly hope for all that we can understand of gates of pearl and streets of gold, but the heart of our hope in and beyond this life is the person of Christ.

In Titus 2:13 Paul explained our hope by saying we are,

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.”

He is our blessed hope.

Hebrews 6:19,20 calls us to Jesus.

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

I have cancer, and I don't know how long I will live. In all that I do I am preparing to enter the dark corridor of death. It is uncharted territory for me. But I know Jesus has passed this way before me. He is our forerunner. He knows the way. And He is holding tightly to my hand.

This is not the cold map of doctrine. This is His personal direction. He continually whispers through His word, “Trust me. Follow me. Depend on me. I will lead you home.

Relationship with Him promises continual novelty and dynamic security. I will always be held in His hands whatever we face. His wonders will be new every morning for ever and ever.

As I pen these words I am on an airplane. As exciting as technology can be, I am glad this flight is not completely automatic. We have a competent pilot. We have been told that there are thunderstorms in and around our destination. But our pilot has assured us that he will avoid them wherever they arise when we get there.



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In the week that we set aside to celebrate the cross and the resurrection of Jesus we remind one another of importance of the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul reminds the believers in Corinth, and a thousand generations who would follow, of the gospel that transforms lives. Verses one through three read,

"Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures."

The gospel is not just the starting point of the Christian Life. It is crucial to everything we are and do. We can rejoice all of our lives that Jesus died for our sins. Our eternal hope is in the gospel. Paul reminded the believers that this is what he preached to them. He reminds us that this is what we received. The good news fulfills all the Law and the Prophets. This makes sense of everything in our lives. Upon this truth we stand!

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Waves of Grief

Most of us have heard about the stages of grief. I think there's denial, anger, depression...and I can't remember the others. So far I've definitely experienced those three. I remember at my brother's funeral I kept telling people, "This is wrong. We are not supposed to be here. My brother is NOT supposed to be in that casket." The day after the funeral I went back to the grave and just stood there, staring at it, trying to make it sink in. But it wouldn't. That's denial. For me anyway.

The next day at church, anger hit me full force. I wasn't mad at Rusty. I was mad at God, not so much for allowing Rusty to die, but for allowing all the other stuff to happen that made it that much harder. (We had a couple of people show up behaving very inappropriately at the funeral, among other things.)I was angry for a lot of reasons. My pastor talked to me that morning, and I said everything one should probably not say to one's pastor: "I'm angry at God; I'm angry at all the stupid people that come out of the woodwork during something like this; I don't care if my anger hurts them. And, just to top it all off: I can't pray." (That last one I probably shouldn't include in a post on a network about prayer, either.) He was very loving, but also helped me understand why you can't stay in that place of anger. You have to choose to move from it.

Then there was depression. My least favorite stage. At least with anger you feel something. With depression, you just feel numb, listless, you don't care about anything. In the past, I had to be on medicine for depression, and so I recognized that stage as soon as I got there. I didn't care what I looked like. I didn't care about getting the kids' school work done. I just didn't care about anything. And I couldn't cry. That was the worst part. I wanted to cry, and I knew I needed to, but I couldn't. It was like a dam was holding back the tears.

But what I'm discovering is that they're not stages that are set in order. And just because I was angry 2 weeks ago doesn't mean I'm done with it. In fact, yesterday I had to deal with anger all over again. Just because I seem to be doing well this week does not mean I'm on the uphill path from now on. No, what I have discovered is that grief comes in waves.

The initial wave hits you at the moment of impact. For me, the moment my mom's words sunk in over the phone "Rusty's dead." was my moment of impact. For a moment, it loomed up in front of me, very large and terrifying, and then it crashed down over me and all around me, engulfing everything near and dear to me. In those first few days, that initial wave was all-consuming. I couldn't find my footing in the aftermath of that wave. If it had not been for the support of our friends and church families in those first days, we would not have been able to keep our heads above water.

The waves right after that all hit you with a cold, sharp impact that can take your breath away. But then, the waters ebb. The waves seem to stop. You're still standing in waist-deep water that you have to slog through, but at least you're able to gain your footing. You can take a deep breath. Maybe you're going to make it after all.

But now, 4 weeks later (gosh, can it really already be 4 weeks? How is that possible?), what I'm learning is that the waves still come. Sometimes they come one right after another. Sometimes they are spread out. Some of the waves are small and gently wash over you - you feel it's presence, but it's almost a comforting grief. (There's an oxymoron. But really, if you've lost a loved one, in those moments of acceptance of what's happened, you want to be sad. They are worth grieving over, and knowing that you're still feeling that is, in a way, comforting. It's sort of like a reassurance of the bond you had with them.) Other waves are strong and hit hard, knocking you off your feet all over again.

Anything can trigger these waves - whether it's a memory of the one you've lost, or suddenly realizing a particular dream has died with that person, or even just a disappointment that has nothing at all to do with your loss. From last Thursday through Sunday, I was having a succession of those hard waves that knock you off your feet. By Sunday, I was a wreck and cried more that day than any other day since Rusty died, I think. Then today, just as suddenly, those waves have subsided, and I'm trying to slog through just the "regular" grief.

But here's what I know. My Jesus has authority over these waves. He will not let them consume me when they wash over me. In fact, if I let Him, He may even teach me how to walk on them.
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