Hope Even in Death Because of Jesus

It has been 10 years already, but sitting with my father while he died is an experience I will never forget. I had spent most of his last weekend on earth with him. It was the end of a year I will also never forget with experiences such as helping him make peace with God through Jesus, and him asking me to read the bible to him and pray each time I visited.

The morning that he went to his eternal home with Jesus, I woke up early with a song in my spirit-Life Goes On. It is a song about how our lives go on in heaven after we die. Waking up with that song in my spirit, I knew what God was telling me. I had already gotten ready and was driving to his nursing home when they called me to tell me he was unresponsive and to get there soon.

He was an avid rose gardener, so it was fitting that as I read about the resurrection and our promised resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 that he breathed his last breath and died as I read:

“When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.”

That passage is in reference to when we die, it is like our bodies that have died are like seeds planted in the ground. The seed then grows to new life. It is an analogy for the resurrection.

I had such peace about the fact that he had gone to heaven to be with Jesus that the afternoon of finalizing details for his funeral was calm. I had so much peace that I taught my class that evening.

Going through that day, evening and the funeral week made a passage from the bible very concrete for me from 1 Thessalonians:

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”

As I celebrate the resurrection of Jesus tomorrow, I will be thankful that those who have died we will see in heaven and we will know them. Death has been defeated by Jesus.

So yes it has been 10 years, but it has been 10 years since I told my father, “see you again” not goodbye.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

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Because Jesus Knew…….

One of the experiences that will be forever etched in my mind and soul was spending time with my friend from South Korea from the time he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in February 2006 to the day he died in June 2006;

I will never forget the day he was diagnosed. I received a call asking me to come to the hospital. I went up to his room. His friends from Korea left the room, so my friend and I could talk. The first thing he shared with me was his concern for his wife, two children, and his third baby that he and his wife were expecting.

Up to the day before he died, he expressed his concern to me about the well being of his wife and three children. I was with him when he died. His wife, two of his little girls, myself, and several of his friends were there singing to Jesus and praying. Shortly before he died and while he was comatose, I leaned down and whispered in his ear that I would help his wife and children. He smiled. It was his last earthly smile.

Before people die. they think about their loved ones. Plans are made. Good parents do as much as they can to help their children prepare for the inevitable death of the parent.

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Jesus knew he was going to die. He knew that he would be crucified to pay the penalty for our sins, things we do wrong, so we could be brought back into relationship with God. Jesus knew what was going to happen. He shared with his followers to help them prepare. One such conversation Jesus let them know that he would come back for them in John 14:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Jesus knew where he came from and where he was going to. Jesus knew how wonderful heaven is because he came from heaven. He shared with his followers that if he goes, he will come back, so they could be with him where he is.

Jesus is preparing a place for all who believe in him. That is the reason he came and died for us, so we could be with him in heaven.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- Revelation Song Featuring Kari Jobe and Singers from 10 Languages

I read a post by a blogger I follow about how blessed she felt to listen to someone sing a worship song in Spanish. Dawn’s blog is drawingclosertochrist.com and her post was God’s Love Speaks Through Every Language.

Her post got me to thinking about the various languages I have had the privilege of worshiping with starting in Romania in both Romanian and Turkish, in France in French, in Mexico in Spanish, in Brazil in Portuguese, and in my home city in Arabic, Karen, Spanish, Ukranian, Zomi, Korean, Chinese, Nuer, and Vietnamese.These experiences have broadened my understanding of how God’s love and kingdom spans across all cultures.

It also causes me to reflect on what Hebrews 12 says about Jesus:

“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”

This Easter week, I am reflecting on the meaning of that passage. Jesus scorned the shame of the cross but he endured it because of the joy set before him. Yes, that includes being at the right hand of God the Father in heaven, but he came from there.

The other part of that joy was having his most cherished creation, US, being able to be with him in heaven because of his death on the cross and his resurrection. The joy he would experience from having people from all cultures expressing their love for him.

I wanted to share this video of Kari Jobe’s Revelation song with you. She does not enter it until the end. I hope you watch it as singers from multiple languages sing praises to Jesus expressing their love. It is a glimpse of the worship we can experience in heaven one day as people from every language stand before Jesus on his throne. I hope this video blesses you as much as it blessed me.

Thank you for reading. God Bless

Steps Forward/Steps Back- Where Does It Lead?

The old saying two steps forward, one step back is one that hasn’t applied to me the past several months. It has been more of a maybe 1 step forward, get knocked down, 2 steps back, get stuck there and wonder what will happen.

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Anyone living with chronic illness will relate to that.

But yesterday something different happened. I sure hope it continues. Wednesday night was my first night with a new medication. I spent most of the day Thursday with no widespread pain. I only had pain in my injured right shoulder and my bad knee. A day of almost no pain. It was a gift. SERIOUSLY a gift!!! I have lived with chronic pain and fatigue for so long that I do not remember not having pain.

I relate so much with 2 Corinthians 4:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

God has given me wonderful opportunities to share his love with the nations living in my city. It is a treasure I carry in my jar of clay. Chronic illness strikes me down, but has not destroyed me.

But there is something to look forward to beyond all of it. God has promised an eternal home with Jesus. It is 2 Corinthians 5 that gives me so much hope.

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

Here is hoping for more days like yesterday of minimal pain. But whatever each day brings in this life, my focus is not on this life. It is on my eternal destiny and my desire is to help as many people as I can to experience the great love of God in Jesus.

When You Look Back and See God at Work Through It All

I had one of those moments of clarity as the Rheumatologist went over all of my tests and x-rays with me. He asked me if I ever had a neck injury and it sparked my memory back to when I was 19 years old and on a hay rack ride with a college group from the church I was going to at the time.

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We hit a bump hard and I fell off the bale of hay onto to gravel road hitting the back of my head. It knocked me out for a few seconds. I got up and shook it off. I did not get checked out because I figured I was okay.

As that memory sparked, I also realized how God had spared me that night.

It could have been much more serious. God spared me for some reason just as he has so many times in my life. He has a purpose for me and until that purpose is finished, I will be here in this life. It makes me think of Ephesians 2:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

God has had a plan for me since before I was born for me to reach out and show his love to people from all over the world. Every experience I have had, has led me to who I am now and what I am doing now. The health battles, growing up with an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother, the desert times in my life trying to seek God’s will, EVERYTHING led me to who I am now and my ministry. The truth of Romans 8 has been so evident in my life:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God takes all of our experiences and works them together for the good. Whether it be the ultimate good of being in heaven with Jesus for all of eternity or for the good in this life, God works it all together.

So dear reader, I write this as I am in the early stages of getting treated for my latest diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, have had help with depression and anxiety, have found out I have Celiacs, and have been through a major health crisis that I was close to dying from. I am sharing in hopes it encourages you that whatever you are going through, God can work it out. There is hope especially eternal hope with Jesus.

Have you ever looked back at your life and seen moments God worked in your life?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

A Toy Car Reminds Me of Jesus’s Teaching?

Saturday mornings I teach a friend from Brazil some beginning English. She comes bringing her little boy with her and he plays with his toys while we study. He loves to bring his toy cars with him. Last Saturday, he forgot one of his toy cars.

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I messaged my student to let her know I had the car and would bring it today. Her son might have thought his prized possession was lost. I remember when I was his age how important my matchbox cars were to me. 🙂

If I had not found it and messaged right away last Saturday, he might have searched for it thinking it was lost.

Jesus taught about things that were lost to explain a spiritual truth for us in Luke 15. He started with a parable-story- about a man who lost a sheep and searched for it, When he found the lost sheep he invited his friends to rejoice with him.

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Then he talked about a woman who lost a coin and when she found it she asked her friends to rejoice with her that she found the coin.

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The famous part is about the Prodigal Son who left his father’s home, wasted his life with a party lifestyle, and returned home. The father celebrated his son’s return hugging him and ordering a feast celebration. The father’s emotional reaction to seeing his son again and powerful.

Kind of like the reunion videos we see of returning military being reunited with loved ones filled with hugs and tears.

Jesus shared something about what happens in heaven when one person comes to know him.

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

When anyone comes to Jesus, heaven rejoices, I envision high fives, joy filled laughter and smiles, and clapping.

The three stories share the themes of something or someone precious being lost, being found, and then a celebration, Jesus shared these stories to illustrate for us how precious we are to God. We were lost, Jesus found us, and heaven celebrates. That is what it means to follow Jesus. 🙂

Bottom line is that you dear reader are so precious to God, to Jesus, that you are celebrated over if you follow Jesus. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

Looking to an Eternal Future Gives Hope

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This was the view from outside my building yesterday. It snowed Friday evening and Saturday morning. It was a good snow for making a snowman. I did get out for a little while, but spent most of the day relaxing after a busy first week back to teaching after my winter break. During a cold snowy winter day, people often wish for spring to come and bring things back to life.

When we have something to look forward to, it can help us to not get too down about the problems of our current situation.

A post I read yesterday caused me to think of the passage in Hebrews 11:

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

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If I were to only look at my present situation, it would get me down and perhaps I would stay down. But thinking about my eternal future in heaven and how I want others to join me there, gives me the motivation I need each day to get out of bed, put up with the pain and stiffness throughout my body, and not focus on other problems. There are refugees and immigrants in my city who I want to share the love of Christ with.

The post I read was by a new blogger, Grace and Pink. It was a bit of a light hearted reflection on the fact that heaven awaits those of us who have come to Christ. You can read it by clicking on- The Log.

Jesus taught that we should invest in our eternal future, not to earn it because it is the gift of God to anyone who will come to trust in Jesus, but rather to store up for our eternal future. Jesus taught about in Matthew 6:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Everything in this life is temporary. I remember when I received my van in 2009 how excited I was to be blessed by others donating it for my ministry. Now it is 13 years old and wearing down. But I did put it to good use giving people rides to church, rides to the airport, and helping people move. I also took people to the Immigration Office for U.S. Citizenship test. So though the van is wearing down, the lives I was able to touch because of it will be remembered. Hebrews 6 says:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them”

So then the question is really more about what my focus is on. Is it on my current circumstances? The daily pain? The financial struggle month to month of being in ministry? The struggle with depression? Oh my, if my focus is on those things, throw in the towel.

But my focus is on the Lord. He has blessed me with a life full of meaning and purpose. He has forgiven me. He has changed my life. Best of all, I have an eternity in heaven with him and all of those who know him. That makes getting out of bed and facing the day and the problems in life worth it all.

Thank for reading. God Bless

 

 

The First Christmas- The Perspective of the Angels

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Imagine that you are one of the angels created by God and stayed faithful to God. You have seen Jesus on his throne in heaven. He is the one who created you. He is the one you have worshiped since he created you. He is the one that has sent you to do his bidding to serve human beings, sinful human beings.

As an angel you have seen Jesus in all of his power and glory and you know he is the creator God.

Now imagine coming to the manger in Bethlehem where Jesus is a human baby who has just been born. If I was one of the angels, it would BLOW MY MIND. The all powerful Son of God who created everything is now a human baby.

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The angels were perhaps astounded by it all. He left his throne to become one of the humans that dared to sin against God and who are weak and vulnerable and yet God loves them so much that sent Jesus to be their Savior. You are well aware that there is no Savior or salvation for the fallen angels.

Perhaps you are one of the angels sent to be the announcement choir to the shepherds, lowly men who smelled bad because they were with the sheep all day every day and God chooses to announce the birth of the one you have seen on his throne in heaven to these shepherds.

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Is it any wonder that Peter wrote of the angels in 1 Peter 1:

“Even angels long to look into these things.”

What things? The things pertaining to the gospel our salvation according to the context of the chapter.

They long to understand it all.

But they are not created in God’s image. Only human beings are. They are not called God’s children. Only human beings who have received Jesus are.

I think if we stop and try to comprehend the true first Christmas from the perspective of the angels, it will amaze us.

John tried to describe what he saw when he was taken up into the throne room of Jesus in heaven in Revelation 1:

 “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars,and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance”

 

No wonder John’s reaction was:

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.”

Fortunately for John, Jesus put his hand on John’s shoulder and said It is me don’t be afraid.

That is the Jesus the angels had seen for thousands of years on his throne in heaven. No wonder they long to understand how Jesus could become a human baby to be our Savior. That is the core of the gospel. Because he loves us, Jesus left heaven to be born to grow to die for us and defeat death for us through his resurrection.

If you take time to ponder this, please share your reaction.

Thank you for reading, God Bless.

Music Mondays- How Many Kings by Downhere

Situations and experiences in life can leave us wondering if anyone cares. Depression can cause people to feel isolated and wondering if there is hope. Addiction can leaves us feeling trapped. Losing a loved one leaves us grieving. Divorce leaves us feeling betrayed and abandoned. Family problems can leaves us frustrated, hurt, and wounded.

I love the message in this song about the real Christmas. As I listen to the lyrics, I am filled with wonder at the extent that God showed his love at Christmas and continues to show his love. The questions the song ask in the lyrics are so beautiful to ponder:

“Cause how many kings step down from their thrones
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?”

The message of the song is all about how Jesus gave it all up for us because of his love for us. That is the true whole message of Christmas.

It is easy to feel warm around a baby. Christmas is in a way a non-threatening celebration because focusing on a baby does not require a response from us.

But the whole story is that Jesus is our creator. He left his throne in heaven to be born as a baby for the purpose of growing to be a man to die for our sins on the cross. Then he defeated death for us through his resurrection. He ascended to heaven and will come back again.

The true Jesus, the whole story, requires a response on our part. Will we receive him or not?

Reflect on Jesus. Because of his love, he left it all to come to us. There is no leader in world history, no religious leader in world history, that gave up what Jesus gave up to come to us. He did it because of one reason- HE LOVES YOU AND ME.

That kind of love, the all consuming self sacrificing love, is what I long to be filled with, surrounded by, healed by, and embraced by. The older I get, the more I realize I need Jesus and his love for me. The greatest comfort there is for me as I struggle with autoimmune problems is that one day I will be with Jesus because of his love and grace not because of me. That encouraged me when depression set in. Jesus wants me with him forever. That is the reason I get out of bed in the morning. I want to share his love.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

Whatever the Problem, It Is Not Permanent.

It is coming. Two weeks from tomorrow it is coming. What is it? My next doctor’s appointment. What’s the big deal?

I have what doctors refer to as white coat syndrome meaning when I see a doctor, I feel anxious. Something about hearing doctors say things in the past like, ‘your liver test is not good’ or ‘your cholesterol is 413’ or ‘we don’t know what us causing your pain, we need to run more tests’. Something about going to seven different specialists in one year, or having lost memory because of being sick etc etc.

This life is full of ups and downs. For some there are not as many downs and for some, like me, it can seem like one prolonged down. I understand being sick, regrouping in life, having depression, wondering what the future will hold and how to get there.

I can’t imagine going through what I have in my life without Jesus being with me. He is the reason I get up and get moving on a day that isn’t a good one. He is the one I seek in prayer for strength to show his love to refugees and immigrants.

I am learning not to focus on the down times or the problems such as waking up with a neck so stiff I need a heating pad for an hour before I go teach. I wish I could say I always manage to not focus on it, but then I would be lying. But there is another focus that is stronger. JESUS.

In any situation, Jesus is greater. Sometimes he moves the mountain and sometimes he helps us over it. Ever situation in this life is temporary. The only permanent reality is our eternal destiny with Jesus. That mindset is what has been the most helpful for me to remember that whatever happens, it is temporary. I have an eternal home to look forward to. I am just passing through this life hoping to bring others with me to the eternal home. I love how Hebrews 11 describes the people in the Old Testament.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them”

They had their eyes on their eternal home and that kept them going through all kinds of difficulties.

Whatever we face in this life, it is temporary. I like the way Kristina Kuzmic put it in one of her videos regarding the struggles she went through in life. She told herself this isn’t permanent, it is only right now. It was her way of reminding herself the pits in this life are not permanent.

So dear readers, if something starts to feel overwhelming, maybe take a breath and tell ourselves this isn’t permanent. Maybe I will try that at my appointment. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless