The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: Personal (page 1 of 5)

Stormy

That’s what my daughter named her.  Missy called her Stormy.  Or maybe it was our granddaughter, Moriah, who did the naming.  We had given her the 20-year-old grayish-white quarter horse-Arabian-cross as a gift.  She and her mom then rode together, each on her own horse.

That was 16 years ago.  Stormy’s back eventually couldn’t bear riders.  She ended up in our “back pasture” where she spent her last two years.  She grazed and nosed around, but mostly waited for her next meal:  feed for breakfast, apple at lunch, feed for supper and “horse peppermint” mashed up and mixed with water as “bedtime snack”.  After pushing her mouth in the peppermint bucket, Stormy had pinkish lipstick.  She loved it.

Stormy was a gentle, contented old girl—except when her stomach-clock told her supper was a little late.  Then she’d start whinnying.  Not the excited whinnying when she knew somebody was coming with food.  Impatient whinnying like, “Hey!  Don’t forget me!”  Then if no one came, she’d run, just to be sure we knew she was still there.  Around and around the pasture.  Back and forth along the front fence.  A 36-year-old horse running so fast we were afraid she’d fall and break a leg.  She never did.

Then, last Sunday night, she was in distress.  The vet could do nothing.  Tearfully, with grieving hearts, we put her down, surrounded by people who loved her.

Now our back pasture stands empty.  Lois and I look out still expecting to see her.  We were greatly blessed to have her and to help give her those good two years.  But we miss her.  Our hearts are sad.  Especially since death is so final.

So comes the question:  will there be animals in heaven?

To some, it’s a sentimental question on the lips of children.  But Scripture suggests there’s more to it.

First, remember heaven isn’t our final destination.  When believers die we go to be with the Lord in heaven.  But after Jesus comes, he will bring into being the new heavens and new earth.

“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).  “His promise” comes from Isaiah 65:17–“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”

Forget about floating forever on white clouds.  The new earth will be as solid (but not sinful) as this one.  Seeing our destiny that way, it’s reasonable to expect animals to be there, since God created animals on this earth . . .

“God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25).

Not only did he create them, he preserved them through the flood.  “Bring two of every kind of animal into the ark.”  They would replenish the after-flood renewed earth.  Why should we not expect animals to fill the new earth?

That raises the “soul” question.  That is, does an animal have one?  Certainly not a human soul.  But at least the higher animals (dogs not tadpoles) have a sense of self-consciousness.  Furthermore, when God created Adam he breathed the breath of life into him.

“The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

The same Hebrew word for “breathed” (nephesh) is used for both animals and people.  Animals and people have “the breath of life” in them (Genesis 1:30; 2:7; 6:17; etc.).

J.P. Moreland (philosopher, theologian, Christian apologist) observes, “It wasn’t until the advent of seventeenth-century Enlightenment, that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization. Throughout the history of the church, the classic understanding of living things has included the doctrine that animals, as well as humans, have souls.”

Animals and humans are different.  But, since God created animals and breathed into them the breath of life, is it too much to think that his new earth will include life-breathed-into animals?

See what Paul wrote . . .

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:20-23).

Does “creation” mean just vegetation?  Or, as animals were included in Eden where “creation was subjected to frustration”, might animals be included in “the creation [that] will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God”?  I think we have good ground for saying YES.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Very few animals indeed, in their wild state, attain to a “self” or ego.   But if any do, and if it is agreeable to the goodness of God that they should live again, their immortality would also be related to man . . . “

In a poem about the world to come, John Piper wrote . . .

And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life.  I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog old Blackie, fast
As she could come.  She leaped the stream–
Almost—and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye.  I knelt to drink
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy.  And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.

And John Wesley commented on the animal kingdom’s restoration:  “And with their beauty, their happiness will return . . . In the new earth, as well as in the new heavens, there will be nothing to give pain, but everything that the wisdom and goodness of God can give to give happiness.  As a recompense for what [animals] once suffered . . . they shall enjoy happiness suited to their state, without alloy, without interruption, and without end.”

Oh, by the way, in his prophecy of the new creation, Isaiah saw a wolf, a lamb and a lion.  It’s in the Bible.

“The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox .  . . They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 65:25).

Maybe they’ll even talk!  Strawberry had pulled a London carriage on Earth.  In C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew, he watches as Aslan declares the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve to be his kings and queens in Narnia.  Strawberry had labored under his master’s whip.  Now in the new Narnia, Strawberry says, “My old master’s been changed nearly as much as I have!  Why he’s a real master now.”

All the people celebrate.
All the animals rejoice.
Aslan, Lord of all, is pleased.

So, Stormy, we’ll see you again one day.  You’ll be young.  But not only young;  you’ll be new!  If you’d like, we’ll ride you again.  Maybe we’ll talk along the trail.  And, don’t worry:  we’ll bring the peppermint.

*All quotes from Heaven, by Randy Alcorn.

 

 

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I Need You, Lord

So I’m sitting in my wheelchair talking to my air conditioning guy.  Well, he’s more than an A/C guy.  He’s a friend and my brother in Christ.  Anyway, he’s telling me about his two-year affliction.  He never felt closer to the Lord.  All he could do was read God’s Word.

So I’m feeling convicted.  By my A/C guy!  He didn’t know it, and I didn’t admit it.  But he was the Lord’s preacher for me.

See, it was another day I wasn’t feeling well, not feeling God close but wondering where God was.  So I got convicted.

Earlier that day I had read a few chapters in Job.  One “comforter”—Eliphaz—pointed his indictment at Job:  “Because he has stretched out his hand against God and defies the Almighty, running stubbornly against him . . . “ (Job 15:25,26a).  Suddenly, I felt the indictment and wondered, “Am I being stubborn against the Almighty God?”

What I mean is, I want to walk.  I hate this Primary Lateral Sclerosis.  I’m done with this wheelchair.  I’m weary of remembering all the things I can’t do any more.  I want to walk along the ocean with my beautiful wife.  Play baseball with my grandson.  Feed the horse in our pasture.  Paint the bathroom (really).  I loathe being so dependent on Lois.

Two weeks ago, my brother-in-law (with whom I speak weekly by phone) asked me if he should pray differently for me. Forever daily, and every week with me on the phone, he’s prayed for my healing and was ready to keep on.  But should he pray differently?   I asked him to continue.  I hardly had the faith to pray for healing; I needed him to do it for me.  He promised he would.

But now I wonder if I’m just being stubborn.  Should I (and he) pray for grace, for Christ’s power to rest on me, so that in my weakness I can be strong (2 Corinthians 12:9,10)?  Is that what God wants?  Not to reveal his power to heal of my weakness, but to reveal his power to be strong in weakness?  I don’t know.  Or am I just being stubborn?

Here’s what I know for certain.  It’s what this song says.  I need you, Lord!  I need him to raise me above my feelings of loss that rule my mind.  I need him to heal me.  Not even the impossible is impossible for him, right?  But, if he chooses not to heal me, I need him to rest in Christ’s power on me in weakness.  Not mostly so I can feel better.  But mostly so Christ can be seen in me, for his sake.

I’m confused.  But I know this . . .

I need you, Lord.  And I suspect others do too,  So:  we need you, Lord . . .

 

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Though You Slay Me

So I was feeling pretty discouraged today.  I know.  How can that be when I’m for the second time reading through Tim Keller’s book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, and getting great grace from the Lord through it.

And, not only that, I’m blogging an overview of it.  So I’m forced to think deeply about the book’s message.  And, not only that, I’m often writing my response, which means I’m personalizing the message.

Recently, one of my daughters said, “Dad always was a half-glass-empty kind of person.”  Ouch!  And true.  Many years ago I took a personality test that confirmed it.  Besides, like Paul I sometimes feel like the chief of sinners whose sin-nature easily gains the upper hand.  (I’m earnestly hoping you’re saying, “I relate.  I, too, often fall under the dominion of discouragement.”  I hope you’re saying it because I don’t want to feel like some kind of freak.

Here’s how bad I am:  just about every day I allow thoughts of what I can’t do anymore due to my disability.  Today for instance, lurking there in my subconscious playing over and over was the thought (complete with subconscious image) that I’ll never even walk again.  Do you know how many things you can’t do because you can’t walk?  I could easily list a dozen; but that would only deepen my discouragement.

So  a cloud hangs over me.  It’s so dark my wife, Lois, asked why I was mad at her.

Then I found an email from my daughter–an email with a song her husband and she had found and thought of me.  (My two daughters do that all the time–hear a Youtube song and email it to me, hoping the Lord will use it to bear me up.)

Invariably when I listen, tears stream down my face, because the song, given in love by my daughters, becomes a gift of God’s grace to me.  The song below is one of those.

First, it convicted me.  I know its message.  So I should have filled my mind with it.  Instead, I let Satan control my subconscious.  But, then, I let the song speak to me.  My discouragement lifted.  The cloud drifted away.  God’s gift of grace filled me again.

Maybe the song will do the same for you.  Or, maybe it will ready you for the next time the dark discouragement cloud drifts near.  Listen to God’s grace . . .

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Perfect

God is perfect.

Repeatedly Scripture declares that God, or some attribute of his character, is perfect.  A few samples . . .

  • He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he (Deuteronomy 32:4).
  • As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him (2 Samuel 22:31).
  • O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things . . . (Isaiah 25:1).
  • Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
  • Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
  • For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever (Hebrews 7:28).

The Old Testament Hebrew word for “perfect” can also be translated “without blemish” and “whole”.  The New Testament Greek word can also be translated “complete” and “fully developed”.  The English “perfect” means “as good as it can possibly be, faultless, flawless, the best.”

God is perfect.  My blog is not–nor is my now former web hosting company–which is why you’ve received all sorts of posts lately, or none at all.

Theoldpreacher.com has over 7000 subscribers (though some are “junk”).  That means it took 30 hours to send one post to all of them.  Since the web hosters never notified me, I kept on sending out new blogs.  Naturally, the whole system backed up.  It was a Chris Christie-caused George Washington Bridge traffic jam online!  I apologize for the problem.  (And don’t expect to run for public office soon.)

A huge THANK YOU to my son, who spent hours over many days resolving the issue!  I don’t know what I would have done without him.

So, we’re back up and running.  I can’t promise no occasional little “bugs”.  After all, only God is perfect.  He is “a faithful God who does no wrong.”  Whose word is “flawless.”  Who has done “marvelous things.”  Whose will is “perfect.”  Whose Son is “perfect.”

Therefore, we who are so imperfect, are wise to trust the only perfect One!

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What I’ve Learned Lately

I’m 73 and still learning.  Got Primary Lateral Sclerosis and still learning.  By “lately” I mean at my age with this disease in the last month or so.

In the Sermon On the Mount, Jesus asks his followers why they worry about food and clothing.  Instead, they should “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to them” (Matthew 6:33).

Then he urges, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34).  Tomorrow’s worries, that’s what Jesus is addressing.

From this we get the familiar:  “Just live for today!” and “One day at a time” and other such slogans.  When I was younger and healthier “do not worry about tomorrow” usually evoked one of two responses.  “Sure, no problem.”  Back then I lived under the illusion that I had things pretty much under control.  I could “control” tomorrow just like today.  No problem.

Or, “But I have to plan.”  I justified worrying about tomorrow by being responsible for the future.  But I was conveniently discounting Proverbs 16:9–“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”  And worse, I was assuming that my plans would “work out”.  (That’s because, at that point in life, they mostly did.)

Now “do not worry about tomorrow” has taken on a whole new dimension.  At 73, I’ve never known more clearly that “we’re not guaranteed tomorrow”.  And with this disease, “Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  I’ll spare you the details, except to say I’m wheelchair-confined (so physical activity is severely limited), retaining water in my feet and legs (which ache from the pressure) and finding myself generally weak (a weakness I can feel).  Other symptoms plague me, but this isn’t a pity-me party.

I’d like to say that my faith has grown or I’ve become wiser. But I have to confess:  mostly I’m too troubled with today to worry about tomorrow, too weak to take on tomorrow’s weight.

It’s liberating not to worry about tomorrow, I guess.  “I guess” because even in weakness, my stubborn, sinful nature rises up:  How bad will I suffer before I die?  Will I become bedridden?  Will my mind my affected so I can’t read and write?  How will I bear Lois’ grief if I die first?  See, I’m stronger (in a wrong way) than I think.  And even in weakness, I find faith and obedience as hard as walking on these legs.  How I need God’s mercy and grace!

And the bigger issue:  Can I today seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness?  You’d think that should be a snap.  But usually I find myself seeking first God’s healing.  Which raises an ominous question:  Is healing an idol?  Do I love good health more than our Lord?  Can I be content in him if my condition gets worse?

Now, contentment in him.  That’s a high mountain to climb.  Especially when I find myself blaming him.  My reasoning runs something like this:  God is sovereign; therefore, he has sent or allowed my illness.  Conclusion:  my illness is his fault.  More:  If part of God’s purpose in this condition is my spiritual growth, what’s the point?  I’m too old to still be growing.  Besides, when I see Jesus I’ll be instantly made like him.  Even without suffering, the end result would be the same.  So contentment in him is a high mountain for me to climb when he’s “wasting me away” in my body.

I’m ashamed.  So many others waste away so far worse.  This is a pity-me party after all!  But, you see, that’s how I sometimes think.  How I need God’s mercy for my sin and grace for contentment!  This too I have learned lately.

And this:  despite my foolish thinking, my heart remains soft to our Lord.  I can’t listen to the accompanying song without tears and without my body fairly trembling in worship to him.  So I wheelchair up to the manger.  Slide down to the ground and wobble onto my knees.  Without tottering over,I try to raise my hands.  I can’t.  But that’s okay, because my heart is worshiping.  Inside I’m worshiping as much as my eyes are raining tears.  He knows I love him.  In spite of all my doubts and questions and anger and depression, he knows I love him.  And I know he loves me.  This too I’ve learned lately in ways I’ve never known before.

 

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Feeling Forsaken

I admit it.  Not infrequently these days I feel as if our Father has forsaken me.  I believe in my head, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).  But that’s not what I feel.

No need to detail the symptoms of my Primary Lateral Sclerosis.  Suffice to say it’s a progressive, incurable neurological disease.  Symptoms are inability to walk, swollen and aching feet, terrible body weakness, and a foggy headache that makes clear thinking nearly impossible.  There are more, but that’s enough.  I’m mostly confined to a wheelchair and can’t do virtually anything physical.  Prayers have been answered, “No” or, at least, “Not yet until the resurrection.”

Writing my blog has become a battle, every sentence, it seems, squeezed out of a groggy, hurting head.  And this my only ministry since PLS forced me to retire from pastoring after 44 years.

I’m dragging my way through Timothy Keller’s excellent book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.  I hope to eventually write a blog series about it.  But I came upon a valuable insight he noted as I thought about the now-limited effect of my life for the Lord.

Keller refers to Joni Ereckson Tada, who became a quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident at 17 years of age.  She was later devastated when a friend died after a bout with multiple sclerosis which had left her paralyzed from the neck down.  How, Joni, wondered, could such a life meaningfully glorify God?

Another friend pointed her to Luke 15:10 where Jesus tells of angels in heaven rejoicing over a repentant sinner.  Then to Ephesians 3:10—“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” 

Joni realized her friend’s life wasn’t a waste:  someone—a great many someones—was watching.  Keller concludes:  “There is an unimaginable but real spiritual world out there.  Everything you do is done in front of billions of beings.”

I can’t pastor any longer.  Some days I can’t write my blog.  But what I do and what I say is being seen and heard.  Within my limitations, I can bring glory to God in the heavenly realms.

Still there are people who see and hear me:  my wife, my children and my grandchildren.  Do I glorify God in my suffering before them?  To be honest, I’m aware of what I do and say before my children and grandchildren.  I don’t want to wound their faith by my unfaithfulness.  So I’m “up” for them.  It’s not hypocrisy; it’s a genuine attempt to glorify God before them.  I want to fortify their faith for their suffering.  I want to be an example the Holy Spirit can use and they can emulate.  For good or ill, my life still influences my most-loved family.

I must remember that when it comes to Lois.  She gets me unvarnished.  Have I wounded her faith with my complaints?  I pray not.  She encourages me, prays for me, waits on me, loves me unconditionally.  But I want to glorify God before her.  I pray he will strengthen me to strengthen her.

 I don’t want to end this implying I’m doing fine.  Often I’m not.  Often I’m feeling forsaken.  I ask “why, God?” knowing he’s already answered in Scripture.  I just don’t like his chosen path for me.  And some days I do feel forgotten by him (though I know that’s not true).

So my “revelations” written here (that I can glorify God before billions of beings in the heavenly realms and I can glorify God before my family and for their highest good) are weapons for my fight of faith.  Not two pills that relieve my emotional pain.  Weapons to fight against the lies of the evil one and of my sinful nature and its corrupted feelings.

I share this with you because you suffer too, or will.  Maybe you’ve already learned what I’ve written here.  But if not, I want to be honest about my struggles, so that you know Christians have them too.  (No “triumphalism” here!)  But also that you might learn from them and be equipped to fight the fight of faith when you feel forsaken, when you feel that your life has little significance for God’s glory.  So, there’s my heart.

I finish with a promise to which my sometimes-feeling-forsaken soul clings . . .

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

 

 

 

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Weapon-Words

Someone, undergoing tests for possible cancer, recently asked me for Bible verses.  I hunted up the ones through which the Lord spoke to me when I was facing anxiety-producing surgery.  Here they are in the “no-particular-order” I first wrote them . . .

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7).

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isaiah 26:3).

“Peace I [Jesus] leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

” . . . God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Hebrews13:5b,6).

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11b-13).

Now, what to do with them?  I found memorizing best.  Memorizing helped me think deeply about the words, not simply skim them.  (A special problem with familiar verses.)  Memorizing forced me to think word-for-word.  Work?  Yes.  But worth it!

Memorizing also let me take God’s words with me wherever they took me for surgery-prep (and where a Bible or even piece of paper was verboten).  Mostly, they were waiting-for-the-next-step times.  Especially before my first surgery.  In “the holding area.”  A dozen of us lay there.  Strangers.  Waiting to be knocked out and cut up.  A great time for anxious thoughts.  But with words like these–the very words of God–in my head, I could fight the good fight of the faith.

Lois and I have a niece who’s suffered through literally dozens of surgeries, all major.  I remember assuring her once, “The Lord will be with you.  Not only that, he’ll be waiting for you in the operating room.”  She told me later how much peace it gave her knowing Jesus was waiting for her there.

That’s true for all of us who are his, whether it’s an operating room or whatever suffering we face next.  The Lord is not only with us, but waiting for us as we step into the next “whatever”.  With Scriptures like these we can add one more promise of the Lord-with-us:  with his specific words in our minds and the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we bring him with us.

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'” (Hebrews 13:5b).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Retirement & Infirmity: Secondary Deaths

My body is dying.  Nerves from brain to legs are already dead, so I sit in a wheelchair.  Other members are in the dying process. Cause?  Aging, which leads to dying, which is God’s curse on our sin.  Primary Lateral Sclerosis is a specific cause.  Not terminal, but incurable and progressive.

A few days ago, that truth turned on like a light in a dark room.  For our devotions now, Lois and I are reading Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s book, Mourning into Dancing.  “Wangerin is widely recognized as one of the most gifted writers writing today on the issues of faith and spirituality” (Amazon).

Wangerin postulates that we experience many Secondary Deaths before we die absolutely.  Retirement, he writes, is one of those Secondary Deaths.  I think he’d agree disease or disability are two others.

When I read aloud what I’ll quote below, I struggled to continue.  I was weeping.  There I was on the page.

I’ve written quite often of my condition.  (Really?)  Not because I’m self-absorbed (I hope), but because, in this case, so we might better understand and help someone we love caught in this Secondary Death.  And so we might be better prepared for our own.

Here’s what I read from Mourning into Dancing . . .

The third time when we are most vulnerable to this Secondary Dying, the sense of futility at the end of things, comes when we enter what society calls “retirement.”  (I’ve been in it 2 1/2 years now.  Little, if anything, about it is “golden.”  Actually, I suspect “retirement” was concocted by an alien government to make us virtually useless and generally impotent.)  Worker after worker, however he might have looked forward to the freedom, is astonished by the sorrow that seizes his soul.  Sorrow?  Why, gloom and a bitterness too, which seem to have no cause.

Grandpa sits in a chair and stairs at the wall.  He’s healthy.  He’s sharp.  He’ s able.  He’s free!  And yet he is so sad.  Worse, when we try to help him he scolds us, as though we did something wrong.  But we love him!  He’s sad and he’s mad when he should be happy.  We do not understand the man.

Well, but his hands are empty.  And so is the self.  And so is the world, therefore.  All at once the man is not doing anything he considers genuinely important.

That which used to authenticate his being, and his being here, has been torn from him.  He has been sundered from his reason to be, his worth, his purpose, his name, his repute, his glory.  Can we stress enough the separation that is death to him?  He is like “Adam,” whose name means “soil”, who was sundered from the soil, the stuff of his work and identity.

Grandpa is not suddenly peculiar.  It doesn’t have to be Alzheimer’s Disease.  Don’t dismiss him as senile and cantankerous.  First seek causes not in his  mind but in his spirit:  he has died.  He is grieving.

Wangerin doesn’t sound very Christian, does he!  Doesn’t he have a timely Bible verse to hit Grandpa upside the head with?  Like, Paul:  ” . . . it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not at all be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  For me to live is Christ and to die is gain . . . My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:20, 21. 23b).  Wangerin will reach the good news of “The Drama of Redemption” in final chapters.  For now, he’s explaining why Grandpa is grieving.  And maybe help us understand and offer sensitive help to ones grieving over a Secondary Death like retirement.   If we or a loved one grieves over retirement (or chronic poor health), the Holy Spirit will enable us to grieve not as those who have no hope.  ” . . . we do not want you to . . .  grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

What “hope”?  Paul writes to Titus:  He refers to this time “while we wait for the blessed hope– the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ . . . ” (Titus 2:13).   He , ” . . . by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).  Using the broken-body-parts metaphor, at his coming Jesus will fix the brokenness and put the now-working parts back together.  But this will be no repair job.  No Gorilla Glue or Duct Tape.  This will be transformation.  No, it will be glorification of dying bodies into ones that will never die, age, sneeze, stumble, or have to be laid in the ground or cremated to dust.

This is how it will be when the dead are raised to life. When the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised, it will be immortal. When buried, it is ugly and weak; when raised, it will be beautiful and strong. When buried, it is a physical body; when raised, it will be a spiritual body. There is, of course, a physical body, so there has to be a spiritual body. For the scripture says, “The first man, Adam, was created a living being”; but the last Adam is the life-giving Spirit. It is not the spiritual that comes first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first Adam, made of earth, came from the earth; the second Adam came from heaven. Those who belong to the earth are like the one who was made of earth; those who are of heaven are like the one who came from heaven. Just as we wear the likeness of the man made of earth, so we will wear the likeness of the Man from heaven.

What I mean, friends, is that what is made of flesh and blood cannot share in God’s Kingdom, and what is mortal cannot possess immortality. Listen to this secret truth: we shall not all die, but when the last trumpet sounds, we shall all be changed in an instant, as quickly as the blinking of an eye. For when the trumpet sounds, the dead will be raised, never to die again, and we shall all be changed. For what is mortal must be changed into what is immortal; what will die must be changed into what cannot die. So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!” “Where, Death, is your victory? Where, Death, is your power to hurt?” Death gets its power to hurt from sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:42-57, GNT)

 I’m grateful for Secondary Death insight, though I don’t regard it with delight to say the least.  Grumbling escapes my mouth; discouragement darkens my heart.  But by God’s mercy in his Son, I have a hope, a future, when every Secondary Death, and even Absolute Death, will die—and I will live!  (Anybody interested in a used wheelchair?  Available soon.)

 

 

 

 

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Vote?

I’m obsessing over voting.  I don’t know what to do.  Both the Republican and Democrat candidates are shameful.  What has happened to America that Clinton and Trump are our only choices?  If there is ever a sign that this country is in decline, these two are disgraceful proof.

So:  how to vote, or not?

Long ago I swore, “Never Trump!”  But now that there are no other Republican candidates on the crowded stage, and Hillary is the only alternative, I’ve switched my “never” to her and reconsidering.  My alternatives, as I see them now are:  (1)  vote against Hillary by voting for Trump or (2) don’t vote.

My single vote (or absence of it) will make no difference.  Mine won’t decide who will sit in the Oval Office, I know that.  I could quite easily reject both candidates and just stay home.  Neither one deserves my vote; neither is qualified for the highest office in the land.  Yet I want my voice to be heard, although in the votes of millions, it really won’t be.  Yet if Paul told us to pray for those who rule (1 Timothy 2), certainly he’d want us to vote for those who rule.

I’ll not waste time by citing all the vices of both candidates.   Here are just a few that have grabbed my attention as I’ve followed this bizarre election cycle.

Trump is vulgar and crude.  Probably a misogynist and racist.  Disinterested in studying what he doesn’t know and doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and doesn’t care.  He thinks it’s all about him.  He’s untrustworthy.  He claims to be a Christian, but his life shows the fruit of an ignorant, arrogant unbeliever.  He seems the epitome of everything I as a Christian don’t value.

Hillary is a congenital liar, untrustworthy in every word and deed.  Her thirty years in public life have contributed very little if anything to the country’s good.  She’s a progressive who will move America further to the Left (away from biblical values), increase the size and role of government, raise taxes, fight for taxpayer-funded abortions anytime anywhere and become Obama on steroids.  All her scandals, especially Benghazi, disqualify her for office.

If neither are fit to serve, my dilemma should be easily solved:  don’t vote.  But here’s what drives me to the voting booth—our next president will nominate one, or as many as three, Supreme Court justices who will serve for decades and whose decisions will affect America for generations.  Hillary’s nominee(s) would almost certainly turn the Court a sharp Left and give us more justices who see the Constitution as a  “living document” and find in it laws that simply aren’t there.  (Even this Court found same-sex “marriage” lurking somewhere in the spaces!)  Decisions will be made, then, not on the basis of what the framers intended, but what politics demand.  We will have moved further from a nation based on constitution law and closer to a nation based on political and societal trends.  I can’t think of anything more dangerous for this country.

With Hillary, we know what the Court will become.  With Trump, at least there’s a chance he’ll appoint conservative constitutionalists as he’s said.  No guarantees; I know that.  But maybe . . .

Let me be very clear, as our current president is fond of saying (usually when he’ll end up being anything but):  I’m not supporting Trump.  I’m not one of those Christian leaders who jumped early on “the Trump Train” and schmoozed up to him like he was the Second Coming of Jesus.  My first thought about some of them:  they just want to stand close to the Man in the limelight.  How could a Christ-centered leader stand with a man whose life and values contradict everything we stand for as Jesus’ followers?  I’m not supporting Donald Trump.

Thinking of Christian leaders makes me wonder if there’s a Christian position to take?  The only one I can see is this:  look at the candidates’ values, history and policies and pick the one closest to the faith.  Or, in this case, the one least distant from it.

So right now with a month to go, I’m leaning toward voting against Clinton by voting for Trump.  If I do vote against Clinton by voting for Trump, I’ll do it believing God is sovereign and will cause his will for America to prevail.  I’ll do it eternally grateful that, because of his grace in Christ, I belong to the kingdom not of this fallen world.  My future well-being doesn’t depend on the occupant of the Oval Office.  But while I’m here I want to promote righteousness, or at least at this point stave off the rising tide of unrighteousness in this country.  And I’ll vote praying God will show his great mercy to America.

Also, vote Republican for the down-ballot candidates so Hillary can be controlled.

(Please read Wayne Grudem’s fine blog on the matter—http://townhall.com/columnists/waynegrudem/2016/10/09/trumps-moral-character-and-the-election-n2229846).

 

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Holding Up Weak and Weary Arms

I don’t normally do this, but to all my praying friends please, please, please pray for my dad.  He has had tremendously rough 24 plus hours with his health condition and needs our prayers.  Thank you a million times!”

My younger daughter posted that yesterday on her Facebook page.  Beneath ran a scroll of 50 (50!) replies promising prayers (plus 77 “likes”).  Staggered.  Overwhelmed.  Grateful.  I showed Lois and remarked with tears streaming down my cheeks, “Look how many there are!”

Regular readers have heard ad nauseum  about my primary lateral sclerosis—a neurological disease that weakens legs, then progresses upwards, carrying with it other loathsome symptoms,  It’s not fatal, but feels as if it is.  My last 24 hours i’ve developed unrelenting headaches and dizziness.  I hit bottom.  That’s why my daughter’s posting and all those pray-ers unleashed grateful tears.

I thought of Moses . . .

The Amelakites came and attacked the Israelites as Rephidim.  Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amelakites.  Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands,”  So Joshua fought the Amerlakites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.  As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were wining.  When Moses’ hands grew tired, they ook a stone put it under him and he sait on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—-so that his hands remained steady till sunset.  So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword (Exodus 17:8-13).

I couldn’t pray yesterday.  Beaten down, I had no strength (or faith?) to ask God for anything.  I was, in fact, depressingly angry with God.  But I couldn’t lash out at him.  Could plead with him.  I needed someone to come and “hold up my weak and weary arms.”  And came they did

Thankfulness for my daughter overflows my heart—and thankfulness for her friends and their prayers.  I’m marginally better today, but healed in my heart by their awesome love.

A lesson:  when someone asks for prayer, I’ve got to pray a prayer from my heart—then write a quick reply so the one in need knows I’m “holding up” his/her arms.  Then I become a channel of God’s grace for someone I might not even know.

I’ve been prayed for often, especially in the last several years.  But no prayers touched my heart like those yesterday.  How our Father will respond to them, I can’t be sure.  But I know this:  he answered in a way probably no one intended when a lovely daughter and many unknown believers held up my weak and weary arms.

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