Saturday, June 20, 2015

Where Is Your Sting?

Death often brings a clarity to life.

This has been a difficult week on multiple fronts - the needless and merciless deaths in a South Carolina church, saying farewell to a legendary and godly woman, Elisabeth Elliott, and much closer to home, releasing a close friend and fellow teacher to his eternal destination.

Death is a certain and expected outcome for all of us, but as a friend stated this morning, "it always takes us by surprise." We know it's coming, but then we are shocked when it is suddenly upon us.

Though I don't know without a doubt, I believe all of the aforementioned souls were those who had put their faith and trust in Christ. If this is indeed true, death was not a thief - stealing life from them, rather it was a doorway to true life - union with Jesus Himself.

As Jesus comforted Martha after her brother's death, he said: 

“'I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”" - John 11:25

"All true life is in Christ. 
In Him is lodged everything that is essential to life, 
in its origin, its maintenance, and its consummation, 
and all this is conveyed to the believer in his union with Him. 
This life is not affected by death. 
'Every believer is in reality and forever sheltered from death. 
To die with full light, in the clear certainty of the life which is in Jesus, 
to die only to continue to live to Him, 
is no longer that fact which human language designates by the name of death."1

"To die only to continue to live to Him." This is why we were created - to live to, in and through Him. 

Because Jesus is indeed the Resurrection and the Life - death is no longer our enemy. Instead, death removes any remaining barriers between us and Jesus.

"For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'
'Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?'
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 
- I Corinthians 15:53-57

Are you ready to live, to really live? Death is a portal to life - true life, life eternal, the life we were created to enjoy forever with the One whose very name and essence is Life. 

Let us not mourn with despair those who have been promoted to unceasing, undivided union with Jesus. They would not want us to. Instead may their earthly departures clarify what this mortal life is most definitely about - a platform to step into eternity, our true home, the destination and union for which we were created.

Vincent's Word Studies

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

He Remains Good

There are a lot of good things to share from Uganda, but not every day is easy. Yesterday is one example...

Love the island sunsets and the visual reminders of God's goodness.

As I walked home from one of my classes, tears filled my eyes. They were tears of frustration, doubt, and questioning.

I was disappointed by my students' apparent disinterest in the Biblical teaching being presented to them. I tried to separate my personal feelings from the knowledge that God and His Word were not being given the honor and respect they deserve.

Since last fall when the school and community passed through an intense spiritual battle, another type of warfare has emerged. I have encountered more behavioral problems among my students than I can recall at any other time in my nearly six years of teaching. If Satan cannot trip up our students spiritually, he will try for other loopholes.

To be honest, sometimes the challenges faced here are really illogical. Yesterday I typed a report for our water and sanitation team, which in April visited 13 different island villages. Many of those villages had been freely given a water purification system (worth $1000 each) to help provide clean and safe water for their communities. Yet, some were not using the system because one person had dominated and personally profited from it, or there was discord in the oversight committee or the village members. Huh?

Water-borne diseases plague the people who live on the lake - making it difficult to go to school or to work and causing them to repeatedly spend hard-earned shillings on medicine, so why in the world would an individual or community refuse to use a free system that provides good water?

Or why does a sponsored student, whom you have helped for the last 3+ years, decide in her senior year not to return to school and is rumored to be pregnant? Why? Why? I don't understand.

Why do students sleep or appear disinterested in class when their teachers are imparting important knowledge and skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives?

These questions make me think of how the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders responded to Jesus and later to the apostles when they presented the clear Gospel truth. The Light of the World was right in front of their face and yet they were too blind to see Him.

The Truth they spent their lives searching and waiting for was within their reach, but their minds were too dark to embrace Him.


Yet, in my own life, I too have believed lies and embraced shadows rather than receiving light and truth from Jesus.

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God." John 3:19-21

Satan loves darkness, confusion, oppression, illiteracy, what is illogical, etc. At times on the islands and in Uganda, it seems we are fighting an uphill battle. It gets tiring and discouraging and sometimes, like yesterday, I want to quit and go home.

But it is not my battle I am fighting and it is not up to me to ensure victory.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:5

When I become disheartened and the world seems to have more darkness than light, I take hope and courage in knowing that God remains good, faithful, victorious. In the many times I have hurt, disappointed and sinned against Him, He continually displays mercy, grace, forgiveness, and redemption. He is relentless in His pursuit of us and He never gives up.

Yesterday, I looked at the bright sun and marveled at the mercy of God - how the sun continues to rise and set and the rain to fall - on both the righteous and the unrighteousness. We certainly do not deserve such care, protection and provision, but God continues to bestow it because He remains good.

In the last days we are promised that evil and all its fruits will grow and accumulate, but do not lose heart, we serve the One who has overcome the world.

"'I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.'" John 16:33

"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." I John 4:4

P.S. Forgive me if this post sounded like a rant. Rather I'd ask you to join me in continued prayer for God's Spirit to move in the islands, opening hearts and minds to Jesus and His life-changing truth. Thank you.