ALL Things Through Christ

It is kind of a catchy saying to plaster across a Christian school’s gymnasium wall.

I know the one who decided to put it there meant well.  But “I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength” is absolutely NOT about lifting weights, running an extra lap or hitting a ball out of the park.

No. No. NO.

Can we just look at it in context, please?

I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.

Phillipians 4::12-14 MSG

Paul was thanking friends for their concern and aid.  But he didn’t want them to think he was desperately needy.  He was assuring them that because he had found utter fulfillment in Christ and through Christ and that he could be content no matter his outward circumstances.

But there is something else here too-another tidbit overlooked in our desire to lift verses out of context.

While Paul was content in his circumstances, while he was at peace and settled in his soul, he was also deeply grateful that his friends had remembered him.  He was encouraged that they had sent aid and lifted prayers and inquired as to his well-being.

Being content does not preclude discouragement.  

I can feel both deep peace and experience confusion over my present circumstances.  

It’s just then that I need faithful friends to remind me that I’m not alone and I’m not abandoned.  That is precisely the moment my spirit cries out for compassionate companionship.

This life is not meant to be lived alone-even in a prison cell.  

It’s meant to be lived in community with others who come alongside and call courage to our hearts.  

word of encouragement is the fuel for hope

 

 

 

Repost: Dig the Well BEFORE You are Thirsty

I am not a fan of church signs.

Most of the time they try to be cute and reduce eternal truth to a few words that often leave room for [mis]interpretaion.

But I saw one today that I DID like:  “Dig the well before you are thirsty”.

Read the rest here:  Dig the Well BEFORE You are Thirsty

Bereaved Parents Month Post: The Love of God

God is love.  ~I John 4:8

I don’t remember when I learned this verse.

It’s been part of my understanding of Who God is and how He works in the world as far back as my mind can travel.

But I freely admit:  He may BE love, but I don’t always FEEL loved.

Read the rest here:  Monday Musings: The Love of God

Made for Relationship

I’ve always taught even very young children straight from Scripture because I believe there is no better way to introduce them to Jesus and God than by the words the Spirit breathed into the world through the pens of chosen men.

In preparation for sharing with the children of our community this week at VBS, I’ve been studying the Bible verses chosen for each day.

When I study, I look up parallel verses and use several Bible translations and some paraphrases to try to get a better grasp of everything God may be saying.  I don’t use commentaries because I find them distracting and because I am convinced that the Holy Spirit can lead me into all truth.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 14: 26 KJV

Since I’ll be busy these next five days, I thought I’d share my study notes with you.

the relationship begins

The first day’s theme is “The Relationship Begins”:  

Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that every thing was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20 PHILLIPS

Jesus is God made visible!  Selah

(Pause and think about that!)

The eternal, omnipotent God of the universe chose to clothe Himself with flesh and enter His creation as a creature.   He subjected Himself to the same forces of nature I’m subject to.  He walked like I walk, talked like I talk, was hungry, thirsty, happy, sad-just like me.

But He is also utterly unlike me.

He was before ALL things.

He MADE all things.

His power keeps all things TOGETHER.

He made me and as my Creator, He has the absolute authority to direct my path.

“Life from nothing began through Him, and life from the dead began through Him”-He is the Author of physical life and the Author of eternal life.

There is no life apart from Him.

Whether or not I acknowledge this truth doesn’t change that it IS truth.

Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

John 14:6-7 MSG

Christ’s sacrifice and His blood make it possible for me to dwell with God eternally.  He is the propitiation for sin, the payment in full for the penalty I deserve.

For that reason He is justly called, “Lord of all”.

God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honor beside the great God of heaven.

Hebrews 1:3 TLB

 

radiance-hebrews-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is My Son My “Guardian Angel”?

It’s really hard to wrap my mind around what exactly Dominic is doing now that he’s not here with me.  Sometimes I try to create a narrative or a scene or a story line that gives me something to hold on to.

It’s not easy though.  

So I absolutely understand why some parents think of their missing child as their “guardian angel”.  But that just doesn’t correspond to what Scripture tells me about what happens after death.

I firmly believe that there is a heaven and that my son is there, in the presence of Jesus and the saints that have gone before.

We are confident, then, and would much prefer to leave our home in the body and come to our home with the Lord.

I  Corinthians 5:8 CJB

He’s not an angel nor has he been assigned to look out for me down here with some kind of supernatural power to intervene and make things happen-either good or bad.

He is worshiping with other believers at the feet of Jesus, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.

lay their crowns

And honestly, that brings me more comfort than the thought that he is watching me suffer his absence down here.

Dominic loved me-still loves me, I believe-and if he were aware of the deep pain his absence causes it would be torture for him.

But in the presence of Christ there is only joy.

You teach me the way of life. In your presence is total celebration. Beautiful things are always in your right hand.

Psalm 16:11 CEB

So he cannot know my pain.

It would break his heart.

It is great consolation in this journey to realize that he is beyond ALL pain and sorrow.

I am deeply thankful for that.

better is one day in your courts

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s Holding on to Whom?

I have three surviving children.

And every time I don’t hear from one of them when I expect to or I can’t reach them on their cell phone I have to take a deep breath and speak truth to my heart.

God began to do a good work in you. And I am sure that he will keep on doing it until he has finished it. He will keep on until the day Jesus Christ comes again. Philippians 1:6 WE

 

I have to talk myself out of plunging headlong off the precipice of dark “What ifs” that is always at the edge of my concious thought.

 I have to remember that even when I am right there with them, I am not in control.

I am not the one who orders their days and determines their steps.

You see all things; You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb; Every detail of my life was already written in Your book; You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it. Psalm 139:16 VOICE

all my days written

Losing Dominic suddenly, unexpectedly and violently has shaken my faith. All the verses I recited and underlined and “claimed” now bear witness against my doubting heart.

So I remind myself that God had a plan, He has a plan and that He worked His plan through Dominic and is now working it through me.

“Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; [and] he was buried with his ancestors” Acts 13:36 NIV

Here I am, a bit more than two years later, and I can say this:

If my grip on Jesus was the determining factor in staying connected, I would have fallen into the pit long ago.  If MY hold on hope decided whether or not the rope slipped through my hands, I would be lost.

But while I can muster the strength (sometimes) to grab desperately at a thread of His garment, I am not the one who holds Him.  He is the One who holds ME.

no one can snatch them

Jesus said:

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand.”

John 10:28 AMPC

I still have work to do, and I don’t want to be immobilized by fear of what might happen.  I don’t want to waste the days that I am given by worrying about the ones that might be taken away.

gods workmanship good works

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]. Ephesians 2:10 AMPC

So I recite truth to my heart.  

I sing courage to my spirit.

I remind myself that while  I am not in control, but I am loved by the One Who is.

loved by the one in control

 

Why Not?

I cannot bring Dominic back-I cannot have my child once again in my arms.  I cannot undo the damage death has wrought and the great gash loss has made in my heart.  

And so I am left with my pain and my questions.

“Why?” is not a particularly fruitful question (although I ask it still).

 “Why not?” is probably more helpful.

If I consider the lives of all the people God chose as examples of His faithfulness and grace there is not one who escapes heartache.

Not even one was allowed to walk this sod untouched by suffering that forced them to lean hard into the only Hope that lasts for eternity.

Adam and Eve reaped the consequences of their sin, were cast from the Garden and buried one son murdered by the other.

Noah watched the world descend into unbelievable wickedness around him and then witnessed the destruction of all flesh on earth.

Abraham left the familiar, trudged for years in a land promised but not given, had a son that he loved but had to send away because he was begotten outside the plan and will of God. He finally received the son of promise but was aked to sacrifice him.

He grew old without the blessing of possessing much of what God had promised him.

Jacob reaped the reward of his deception but lived a complicated and heartbreaking life.

Joseph enjoys a happy ending,  but it was a long lonely path that led him there.

David, Moses, Paul, the apostles, Elizabeth, Hannah, Mary, Esther, Ruth-all were called to walk in sorrow as vessels of God’s glory.

Only recently in human history have we been able, in small pockets of abundance, to mistakenly assume this mortal life is as wonderful (or, dare I say it?) MORE wonderful than the promised eternal life provided by God through the ultimate and complete suffering and sacrifice of Jesus.

I want victory without war.  

I want harvest without planting and working the fields.

I want to be happy and satisfied here yet still have a heart for heaven.

It is impossible to have both.

Only in light of eternity am I free to live a life set apart for God’s use in the here and now.

Only as a recipient of God’s grace can I be a conduit of that grace to others.

Only in deep sorrow can I find the true value of Christ’s promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Only alone can I fully appreciate the gift of God’s constant companionship.

Only when I am truly hungry can I taste the bread that satisfies my soul.

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope].

John 6:68 AMP