Death Defeated!

He is RisenWhen I actually think about death, I admit that I’m a bit afraid. I have not been around a lot of people as they died, but I really miss several people who have already died. I think the reason that there is some fear in my heart, it’s because it’s unknown. I’ve never met anyone who has died and came back to tell me what it’s like. I was speaking with someone just yesterday who’s spouse battled cancer for nearly 10 years before dying. There are lots of questions I have about death that I can’t find the answers for. My journey with the Lord has made my questions a lot smaller and less significant because I do believe that He will be with me – even in death.  I think the thing that makes me a bit fearful is because death is not a respecter of age. People of all ages die. While I’m alive here on earth, this life becomes all-consuming and I lose perspective that eternal life is the big prize! This life is a prerequisite to eternal life – there is no death there.

The big difference in believing in Jesus rather than other religions is that He defeated death. He died as part of a plan to bring forgiveness to everyone who believes in Him. None of the other religious leaders have that claim to fame. Jesus actually didn’t come to reinforce a religion; He came bringing us a direct relationship with God, the Father.  When Jesus died on Friday, His disciples were despondent and disillusioned. When Sunday came, everything changed. Check this out….

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.” (Matthew 28:5-10 NLT)

As I get older and ponder death, I realize that I can’t really know what to expect. I have to hold on tight to the Lord as I walk through that valley. I also must remember that I have given my life to the One Person Who defeated death. I think the older I get the weaker my fear becomes. The last time I checked the death rate is 100% here on earth. Jesus faced death. Jesus completed His mission which culminated in death, but then He defeated death once and for all when He came back to life.  I want to live and walk through this life with confidence in the One Who took the sting out of death by defeating death. I want to grow closer to Him as I walk toward that transition from this life to the next.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

God’s Perspective

For God so loved the world... God holding world with crossI have a perspective that is somewhat unique to others. My perspective is based on a lot of factors. For example, my perspective about where I live is different from someone who has never lived anywhere else. I was “born and raised” in Kentucky. I lived in Tennessee for 6 years after graduation from High School. I moved to Carroll County, Georgia in February 1986. I’ve been here ever since. I love where I live, but I see it differently than people who have never lived anywhere but here. I also think it’s cool to talk to people who moved here from the US west coast or up in the north-eastern US. They have a totally different perspective on living in Georgia.  I can’t help but look at things through my view, because it is from my experience. My experiences are the window to my world view.

As I journey through the Word of God, I’m constantly reminded of God’s perspective on my little life. I often think that my life is really about me, but the longer I live, I realize that He has much bigger plans for my life than I have.  I don’t always understand why things happen in my life, but I believe that the Lord is the Creator of my life and my world. He will give me direction and He imparts wisdom to me.  If I stop and review things from His perspective, they look a lot different. Jesus had just had a conversation with His disciples asking them who do people say He is. They said that He was the Messiah. Then He told them what was coming next.  Check this out…

31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead.32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.

33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s. (Mark 8:31-33 NLT)

It takes work to see things from God’s perspective. When I look back at the victories and the struggles of my life from His perspective, I can now see how He was building me. In the middle of the struggles or success, I don’t always see that. Recently, I’ve been convicted that I should see everything that I do as bringing glory to God. Even if something bad happens – all glory to God. Even when my kid has to fight cancer, God can be glorified. Even if my kid falls from a tree and is flown to a Trauma 1 center – God can be glorified. Even if my brother-in-law is diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and has to fight that horrible cancer of the bone marrow – God can be glorified. There is more to this life than my comfort and happiness when I rise above my life and see things from God’s perspective. His goal for my life is preparation for eternity. I believe He wants my life here to be full and abundant, but not all encompassing.

I want God’s perspective on the little things that happen in my life along the way as well as the big events. I want every facet of my life to bring glory to Him. He owns it all, I’m simply managing on His behalf.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Prove It

Mature Judge Pounding In The CourtroomIt is not always the easiest thing to do to prove something you say is true. I do believe that there are facts that reveal lots of truth or expose lies. For example, I can’t say I was one place and the GPS on my phone reveals that I was somewhere else. There are video cameras everywhere it seems and the time stamp shows that I was downtown on the square, then it would be foolish to claim that I was at home. I’ve never had to prove my whereabouts, but there are ways to make that happen through investigation.

I came across this word from the teaching of John the Baptist. It got me thinking, was there enough evidence that I’m a committed follower of Jesus. Check this out…

Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.  (Luke 3:8 NLT)

I talk lots about my faith. I write about my faith. Living out my faith in my everyday life is the real test of my faith. Talk is cheap and I can fill a room with cheap talk. The truth of my life is revealed by my behavior, which comes from my heart. I grew up learning to behave. I’ve recently been learning just how critical my heart is to my behavior. I can fake my faith with my behavior – going to church, singing songs, giving gifts. The Lord knows the desires of my heart. He knows the truth about me. He’s the One, I need to prove my repentance too.

The truth always seems to work its way out. I really do want to be a devoted follower of Jesus, but I have my moments of failure. I do want my heart to be pure and committed to Him, no matter what my circumstances. I admit that I fail miserably at times. I’m so grateful for His Grace and Mercy during my times of absolute failure. I’m determined to repent and run after Him no matter how many times I fail. I want the desires of my heart to be for His honor and His glory and not my own. I want my actions that come from my heart to prove that I love the Lord.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Death

 

death Grunge TextI am not a fan of death. I recently experienced the death of a dear aunt and then two weeks later, her son died. Death is so permanent relative to my life here and now. In relationship to eternity, it more like a new chapter. I see eternity as “the long game” or “the big picture”. While death is the end of this life, it moves us squarely into eternity. The way I understand scripture, this life determines the destination in eternity.

This morning I read about the death of Jesus from John’s perspective. John was probably the closest of the 12 disciples to Jesus. He was standing at the foot of the cross when Jesus breathed His last. The death of Jesus “felt like” the end, but it certainly wasn’t. Jesus came to earth to fulfill His mission to conquer sin and death. His death on the cross accomplished both. He died for the sins of the world. His death was made even more significant because of how He lived, His teaching and His ministry here on earth. He was the promised Messiah and many missed that. Check this out…

25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.”27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on, this disciple took her into his home. 28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:25-30 NLT)

I’ve read the other accounts of Jesus’ death and they are a bit more dramatic. John’s version is pretty simple. I think John’s is feeling a lot of the weight of the earthly family of Jesus. His death was very public and at this point probably pretty humiliating. It’s hard to have the perspective that He is the Savior of the World during this dark afternoon.

I honestly dread death. I’ve been trying to prepare myself for that eventual “ending” to my life here on earth. I decided years ago that my best response to death was to connect with the Creator of Life and live inside His Plan for my life. He has given me opportunity to invest in others. I am blessed with 5 amazing kids who also desire to know the Lord deeply and understand His plan for their lives. I also know that my life here can “live on” through my relationships and my “investments” into eternal things rather than just temporary things. Not one human being on the planet can escape death, so I’m taking the route of planning for it and leaning into it. I want my life and influence to count for years to come through my investment into my children; their children and anyone who will listen. The Word of God is true and He gives a clear plan for “retirement” from this life – total trust in Jesus. I’m putting my hope in Him!

All My Hope Is In Jesus – Crowder

Pressing On!

Dwayne

If Only

 

ApathyI have used those two words together way too often. I used these two words mostly to “second guess” a decision or choice that I made. “If Only” often carries with it regret over something that was left undone or unfinished.  If only is related to “looking back” and how I can have 20/20 vision. If only comes along when I have new information and new options that either I didn’t have or didn’t see previously.

Jesus came to the earth as a baby born of Mary a virgin and He was raised in a Carpenter shop. He began His earthly ministry around the age of 30 and set about teaching and hanging out with a select few for the purpose of bringing glory to His Father. His actions were often misunderstood or misinterpreted then. We have the privilege of seeing His actions as well as the reasons behind them. This is nearly impossible when things are happening in “real time”.

Jesus’ friend Lazarus had recently died. He had gotten word that Lazarus was sick, but chose to stay where He and His team were ministering. Mary, Martha & Lazarus were dear friends and He often stayed with them when He was near Jerusalem. They lived in Bethany, a few miles outside Jerusalem. He then headed toward their place. When He was just outside the village, Mary & Martha got word He was coming their way, so Martha goes out to meet Him. Check this out…

20 When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”  (John 11:20-27 NLT)

The first thing Martha said to Jesus was “If Only”. She was grieving and hurting. She had been with Jesus and knew of His healing power because she had seen with her own eyes. She believed that Jesus could have healed her brother. Jesus had more than “healing” in mind. He was about to “blow their mind”.

This is the first time that Jesus calls Himself “the resurrection and the life”. This is a bold claim for sure, but Martha that she believed that He was Who He said He was. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He took His ministry to a whole new level. He also explained that He was hear for the Glory of God. I haven’t always understood how God can uses hard times, hardship and suffering for His glory. He can use the sudden death of a friend for His glory. I don’t always understand this, but this truth is woven throughout the pages of His Word. He is always pointing to eternal life as the “end goal”, not just life here on earth. We are here for His Glory, not our own. It’s hard to understand this concept when we haven’t “been there and done that”.  Eternal life is a mystery to us. It is not a mystery to the Lord. I can’t always explain the reasons things happen, but I do believe that I can find a way to give the Lord honor and praise in every situation. I don’t want to call on Him in regret (if only), I want to call on Him with respect and trust to help me walk through any circumstance that I face.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Safe & Protected

 

LKR032459I have a security alarm in my home so that if someone comes into my home during the night, I will be alerted. If it is one my family members, they know the code to bypass the alarm. I have to admit that I rest better at night knowing the home is secured. I do have “other means” of security as well, those will remain private.

A few nights ago, the security system mal-functioned just after midnight and I wasn’t home. At that point, it became an irritating and obnoxious system. It needed a “reboot”. It is now working fine.

Jesus explains His position as the Son of God and the keeper of His sheep (followers, disciples, believers). He is like a farmer who knows his livestock and gives them each a name. He feeds them and provides for them. He watches out for the sick or weak. Check this out…

24 The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. 26 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.” (John 10:24-30 NLT)

As I walk out my faith daily with the Lord – He and I talk a lot. We talk about everything. We talk about the little things and the big things. We talk about whether I should eat that piece of candy (sometimes I don’t listen) or not. I want Him involved in every facet of my life. He gives the best counsel. He gives the best directions. He leads me where He wants me to go. I’m also listening to Him so that I can say what He wants me to say.

I feel safe and protected wherever I am and whatever I’m doing because I know that the Lord is with me. I don’t worry because I’ve surrendered to His Will and His Way for me. I want my life to bring glory to Him and not to me. I want Him to be noticed in how I live. He keeps me safe and protected for Himself. If I were to get sick, hurt or killed – I want those events to draw attention to my total trust in the Lord. I will die one of these days and He alone knows how or when that will happen. I want my life and my death to bring glory and honor to Him. Having my total trust in Him is the ONLY way I feel safe and protected.

Pressing On!

Dwayne